Advanced Yoga Practices
Lesson 50 - Managing the Time in Pranayama
Date: Wed Dec 17, 2003 2:07pm
Q: I love my pranayama and meditation, but there is so little time. I leave for work at 7:30 in the morning and don’t get home until nearly 6:00 at night. It seems impossible. What should I do?
A: It has been said, “Where there is a will, there is a way.” Near the beginning of these lessons we pointed out that desire is the essential ingredient. It is really the key. We can have all the knowledge in the world, but if the will to use it is not there, it is for naught. What we choose each day will determine our path, and the results. If we find ourselves in a situation where we are not able to act on our most cherished desires, then, sooner or later, the situation must change. With continuous desire, i.e., devotion, and a commitment to act, we will find ways to work around every obstruction.
How do we find a way to practice twice a day? There are lots of options. It requires flexibility to take advantage of the opportunities we have. The current routine is ten minutes of pranayama and twenty minutes of meditation. With the rest time at the end, it adds up thirty-five minutes or so, twice a day. With a long workday like yours, this may be too much. Not too much practice, but maybe too much time, particularly in the morning. You have the option to make it shorter. It’s not the ideal thing, but much better than no practice, or getting frazzled trying to do too much in too little time. It is very important to do “some” practice twice a day – in the morning and in the evening. Two short sessions is much better than one long one. In the morning, time may be at the greatest premium, while in the evening you may have more time, but maybe you are tired then and don’t feel like doing anything, even meditation.
Decide how much time you have in the morning, no matter how little, and work with that. Maybe it is twenty minutes, or maybe only fifteen minutes. Whatever it is, work with it. If it is twenty minutes, do five minutes of pranayama, ten minutes of meditation, and five minutes of rest. If it is only fifteen minutes, do a few minutes of pranayama, ten minutes of meditation and a few minutes of rest. A strategy that can work for you is to do your practice in bed as soon as you wake up, before you get up. That puts your practice first on the list in the morning, and not likely to be missed. When you wake up, just prop yourself up and begin pranayama. Then do your meditation. You can have your practice done before you get up and spring out of bed fully charged with pure bliss consciousness.
In the evening, you may have more flexibility on the time. If you are tired, know that pranayama and meditation will rejuvenate you. This will be especially true when we add on the next few layers of advanced yoga practices. Make it a habit to get to your meditation seat as soon as you can when you get home from work. If there is no time before dinner, do your practices an hour or two after dinner, or right before bed if you have to. This is not ideal, but much better than no practice in the evening. If you can, take a full thirty-five minutes in the evening. But don’t try and compensate for a short session in the morning with an excessively long one at night, not at this beginning stage. It could create some discomfort. Later, when you have more experience, and your nervous system is more purified, you will be able to engage in longer sessions without creating discomfort. At this stage, in the current situation, do the best you can to get in as much of the thirty-five minutes of practice, morning and evening. If you don’t have the time, design a shorter twice-daily routine for yourself. It is in your hands.
In the meditation Q&As, we discussed ways to do meditation while traveling, or otherwise stuck somewhere away from our regular meditation seat at home. These suggestions also apply with pranayama added on to the front end of our session. Pranayama can be done discreetly in public places. It looks the same as meditation – a person just sitting there with eyes closed. We are relaxed while doing pranayama. Our slow deep breathing is barely noticeable to an outside observer. So it is possible to do our entire routine in a public place. We probably won’t be crossing our legs in a public place. That’s okay. It’s not a perfect world.
What about while driving the car? Many of us are spending an hour or more sitting in traffic going to and from work every day. It is a big slice of time out of our day. Can we be doing anything useful with it? Not with eyes closed. That’s for sure. That leaves meditation out. But what about pranayama? It is best to do pranayama with the eyes closed. However, it is possible to derive some benefit doing pranayama with the eyes open, because it is a physical practice. Doing it while driving the car is far from ideal, but it can be done with some benefit. You may want to try doing some slow, deep breathing for ten minutes or so while driving home from work. You can also trace the spinal nerve up and down with the rising and falling breath, with your eyes open. Keep your attention on your driving. Be aware that pranayama is secondary. Be easy about it. Pranayama with the eyes open is less distracting than listening to the radio. It is your first responsibility to drive safely. There can be some pranayama there too; going on in the background.
If you are doing pranayama in the car, don’t overdo it. When you get home, sit and mediate for at least ten minutes to sow the seed of pure bliss consciousness in your fertile pranayama field. We don’t want any weeds taking root in those beautiful cultivated nerves of yours. If you are committed to your spiritual transformation, it will be your job to get in two sessions of practice every day. There are many ways to do this. Be creative, and always be safe in how you do your practice.
Of course, the ideal situation is to have all the time we need in the morning and evening. People who are self-employed or retired can give advanced yoga practices the time necessary to cultivate the maximum benefit. As they become experienced, they also have the option to gradually increase the time of practice to accelerate progress even more. Advanced practitioners who have a regular job also have the option for extended practice on holidays and weekends, and perhaps even on a daily basis before and after work. There are many ways to skin the cat. Later on, we will be discussing options for extended practice you can consider as you advance along the path.
Managing the time of advanced yoga practices is an important area of consideration, both for establishing regular twice-daily practice in the beginning, and for extending practice as more advanced stages of transformation are coming on. Be mindful about the time you have available in this life, and make the very best use of it you can.
The guru is in you.