When was the last time you exercised your mind? In the words of Minister William Edelen, “Our sense of the sacred is awakened when we use the mountain as the focus of our meditation. The gold of sunlight on a distant summit can awaken the fact we live in a world of glorious beauty and mystery, absorbed with all of our senses awakened.”
Pranayama – regulation of breath – is one way to reach this awakening. A series of Hatha yoga breathing practices, pranayama seeks a connection with the life-vitalizing and life-sustaining force, called prana. The exercises can be done sitting still or while moving through different yoga positions. Yoga master Max Strom, in one of my favorite reads, A Life Worth Breathing, says that benefits of conscious breathing include:
a healthy heart and diaphragm
a calm nervous system
identification and healing of emotional wounds
Try it. My favorite pranayama is the 3:3:3:3. Sit straight, legs crossed, with your mouth slightly open. Imagine making the sound of fogging your sunglasses as you inhale (take air in) and exhale (let the air out). Breathe deeply into your diaphragm, or lower belly, and exhale. Repeat the sequence three times. Next, expand the ribcage as you inhale deeply. Expand into your sides and your back as your breastbone rises. Repeat the sequence three times. Next, inhale deeply as you expand the lungs under your collarbones. Repeat three times. Your last sequence is to visualize the breath moving through your body like a wave. Think 3:3:3:3. Move the breath through the diaphragm, into the ribcage, and under the collarbone, creating a wave of upward motion. Repeat three times, gradually allowing your exhalations to take longer than your inhalations.
This winter Sol Fitness Adventures offers guided desert hikes with pranayama breathing practices. Guests at Amangiri may request the Desert Journey, which couples the hiking meditation with a Dead Sea salt float tank treatment. The goal is to connect with our desert surroundings, to be open and receptive to what this prehistoric place, Lake Powell, Utah, has to offer us. The result is rest and rejuvenation, healing, and individual inspiration. Wherever you are – try it. The world will thank you.