It’s very unlike me to take rest from my Ashtanga Yoga practice, even on traditional rest days of Saturday, the new moon, and the full moon. I rested on Wednesday, to heal my injury. And I completely intended to practice today, on the new moon, but I hit the snooze button until six o’clock AM (that was four extra hours of snoozing – yes, I’m nuts and rise early) whilst curled into a very sweet cacoon with my little Kangaroo Joey (aka Gwendolyn), and we’ve been going nonstop ever since, until right now, at 9pm, and something about this bottle of organic Argentinian wine, our fresh most delicious sushi dinner in waiting, and our recent, very thin waif-like aesthetic says, “Go on. Observe the moon holiday. You’re in a really cool place with your practice. And with your life. You can afford the rest.”
This made me think about why I’m practicing, at this moment in my life. Sure, I adore how yoga makes me look. Adore it. I’m thin! But even more so? It’s my medicine slash preventative care. This is why I get my butt onto the mat daily for very long, challenging, monotonous sessions. Because it is my healthcare. I’ve blogged recently about the scientific value of so many poses, but today I want to share something so very divine that I read in Lino Miele’s ‘Astanga Yoga’ regarding specifically the breath.
We all maintain individual, very personal reasons for practicing yoga. Athletes want to stretch it out. Skinny girls want to be stronger. Chubbies want to slim down. Some of us want friends. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera. None of that applies to me, at this time. At this time, I want to be like the 200-year old man in Lost Horizon. I want to make my life as the highest quality, grade A as possible, for a super long period of time. I want to be the cleanest, the purest, the most angelic… I want to be perfection. And this seems to be the secret…
According to Indian tradition, there are five elements, namely: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. In the manifest, empirical world, however, these elements are so mixed that none exists in its pure, original nature. Like everything else, even the air we breathe is a composite of all the five elements.
Normally, it is the function of the Vishuddha Chakra to purify the air that we breathe. But when we perform Pranayama, the Vishuddha Chakra becomes activated and fully purifies the external air in such a way that it enters the system in its original, pure form. This pure air is called Prana. The word Pranayama is a combination of two words: Prana, or pure air, and Ayama or development or progress. Taken together, the practice means developing the Prana or vital powers.
Human beings have a life-span of about 100 years. The gods live 100 years and Brahma lives 100 years. But time, as we know it, is different among human beings, pitrs, gods and Brahma. One year of a human being is equivalent to one day of a pitr, and one year of a pitr is equivalent to one second of a god, and one year of a god is equivalent to one second of Brahma. If the four yugas of human beings are repeated 1000 times, this is just half a day in the life of Brahma. This idea is expressed in the Bhagavad-Gita.
The span of 100 years for human beings depends on the strength of their sense organs and the number of breaths each person takes in a day. On average, man breathes 21,600 times a day. If we allow our senses or our mind to go without restraint, or if we indulge in excess eating or sex, our life-span will be reduced. On the other hand, with moderate living and elongated rechaka-puraka-kumbhaka, we can reduce the number of our daily breaths and elongate our lives.
Suppose a man is destined to live for 80 years; he breathes 21,600 x 365 x 80 in his lifetime. The duration of the breathing of ordinary persons is short and so this man’s 80 years is also comparatively short.
If he does Pranyama regularly and controls his breathing process and if this becomes a matter of habit, the duration of his breathing will be elongated, and his life span will be 21,600 (elongated periods) x 365 x 80. That is to say from the point of view of the ordinary man, he can live for 160 years or 242 years or even more depending upon the duration he brings to his breathing process using Pranayama.” (Miele, Lino. Astanga Yoga, Including The Benefits of Yoga Chikitsa I & II Series, pp 1756 – 15. 2000).
I am so deeply inspired. By the science of yoga. By the new moon. And by breath, our most fundamental and vital act.
The alarm is set for 4am, and we shall not ignore it.
Have a good day, and namaste.