January 30, 2008
Pranayama in Sagada: the Superman-Effect
Location: Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines
Making Something Old, New Again
With the start of 2008, my main focus seems to be looking for new ways to do the same old things...to breathe new life into a predictable routine. Mountain biking? Yeah, I've been doing this for years now, but lately, I'd been experimenting a lot - doing night lone races, planning on doing an epic ride (I don't do epic rides. I'm more of a technical single-track rider) and not just riding, but constantly pushing it with every pedal stroke on flats and climbs (thanks to UPM Danny for that advice). I've also been doing multi-day hikes loading my backpack with the most weight I can carry (it's good training). Food? I make sure I can recycle leftovers into a new delectable dish indefinitely until it gets finished. With this paradigm, everything old is new again...like getting a new lease on life...of discovering something new in something that's been in front of me the whole time.
Yoga? Hmmm....since I got the Bryan Kest dvd, it has always been a choice between any of his 3 programs. It's come to a point it's already mechanical...a mindless motion of poses and breathing. Furthermore, I don't think I have progressed with my yoga. At best, I have maintained where I am. To put it bluntly, I'm in a yoga rut...time for a change...time to go back to basics for a refresher and regain perspective. I went back into my Sivananda Yoga book and started reading it all over again. It's a good place to start. I came upon the pranayama section and was intrigued. Hey, why not just do pranayama? no asanas, just pranayama from the basic Kapalabhati to the advanced Bhastrika?
What is Pranayama?
Prana is what the yogis call the subtle life energy that sustains us. Pranayama is the methodical breathing process that optimizes ingestion, retention and absorption of prana. There are specific techniques from beginner to advanced. The yogis make a dire warning though of practising advanced pranayama when the practitioner is not ready. Think: a 9-volt bulb experiencing a 30-volt surge.
"...a seeker who dares to awaken the kundalini power without the grace and guidance of a guru might become insane, succumb to diseases, or even die."
Kinds of Pranayama
While seated in a half-lotus facing the mountain ridge, I started off with the Kapalabhati...something I'm already used to...then progressed to the Anuloma Viloma, Brahmari then Sitkari. It was after the Sitkari that I started having the chills (don't ask me why). I had to pause, fix myself a hot drink and continued my session, this time, wrapped in a bundled blanket. I proceeded with Sithali and went on to the advanced breathing exercises: the 3 Bandhas (Jalandhara, Uddiyana and Moola), Ujjayi, Surya Bheda, Samanu and finally the Bhastrika.
Throughout the process, I went through a menagerie of breathing techniques and varied sensory perceptions - fully emptying the lungs, breathing through the nose, expanding the chest then the abdomen, retaining the breath, exhaling through the left nostril and inhaling through the right, vice-versa, rapid and forceful exhalation, inhaling and contracting the perineum muscles, breathing with chakra visualization, exhaling and then pulling up the abdomen and back towards the spine (see cover picture), etc.
At the end, I was left exhausted. I'd been essentially hyper-ventilating for nearly half the day. Upon doing one final pose, the corpse (mandatory in yoga), I fell asleep and woke up a few minutes after. Feeling completely relaxed, I took a walk. Surprisingly, my energy level was topped-up. Despite my fitness and regular workout habits, it's not everyday I get this energy level. I saw the Igorot stone-walls and suddenly, I wanted to do parkour (the informal name of a relatively new underground alternative sport movement, combining martial arts, gymnastics, breakdancing and other performing arts to create an "aesthetic blend of flips, kicks, and twists.")!
Riding to Banguitan
(Feb 6, 2008) It was uncanny that this suppressed energy remained inside me, days after my pranayama. I never acted on it, but after one week, still feeling this mounting energy 'banging at the gates', wanting to come out, I decided to take an epic bike ride to Banguitan, just to find out if this energy was real, or just a feeling. I didn't hammer going there, but on the way back to Sagada, that's when I put it to the test - push really hard, all the way to my limits and see which breaks first. Me or the bike?
Just for perspective, the last time I rode this route on a bike, I used my granny (lowest gear) on the steep climbs and I even bonked, dismounting and walking the last 50 feet before reaching the downhill section of Danom. Let's see how I do this time. From the Banguitan junction, I timed my start: 3:56 pm. From there on, I hammered hard climbing fast across Besao East, Besao West, Payeo, Kin-iway and unto the main road to Sagada. Long and steep, this is where I succumbed to attrition and bonked the last time. Now, I was steady on my pace, doing rhythmic breathing and keeping smooth circular strokes with no sign of fatigue.
3 UPM Faces
Strange, but I was seeing 3 faces in my head, all looming figures in the realm of fitness (all UP Mountaineers) - Danny Dematera, Daddy-O and Coach Kiko....and they were all taunting me.
- Danny: "...you're not drooling yet...you're not pushing it hard enough"
- Daddy-O: "I haven't seen you do 18 gruelling hours on a bike in the cold at night...I'm not impressed"
- Coach Kiko: "ha-ha....you wanna join our ranks? Can you do a 100K marathon?"
Wired and Pumped
When I caught myself, I was nearly sprinting the uphill. I was so pumped I bombed down the Danom section passing 2 trucks and squeezing everything I could out of the bike. I haven't gone this fast in this section, but I wasn't even afraid...the confidence was high and the energy level was surging. When I finally reached the Sagada church bell, I looked at my time: 4:53....less than an hour from Banguitan? I practically traversed a mountain range! I was in disbelief. A month before, I would have said that's impossible. Not only that, I managed without touching the granny. I was hammering on the tallest gear I could manage. If that's not strange enough, I was still pumped, but I couldn't stop. It felt like I would explode if I just stopped. The energy was just gushing out, wanting to tear down a city wall! Wanting to deplete my rushing energy, I still did a weight training workout. But I wasn't getting tired! Finally, it felt safe to stop - but I never got tired. Following that, I cooled down with Pranayama.
That was a rush and a scare. Still, this energy kept lingering for up to 2 weeks before it simmered down. But I didn't dare test it again. It was scary. Dealing with so much energy felt like juggling nitro glycerine - it was so volatile that it could explode anytime.
Reinventing something old to make it new again...a phoenix rising out of its ashes...life never ceases to fascinate...the more I try to find out, the more I learn and the more I'm left insatiable. With that morning pranayama experience, I was given a glimpse of just how powerful this undertaking is. With mindful breathing, a focused goal and an openness to inert forces (just awaiting a re-awakening), life has once again thrown a morsel of its magic.
Finally, this strange energy surge...where was it coming from? Was it from me? Was it from the air I regulated? Or did I somehow tap into an unfathomable reservoir of energy within this universe? I'm really intrigued by all this strangeness. Am I on to something I have yet to know about? Whatever it is, my doors are wide open to let The Flow take me where it takes me.
--- Gigit (TheLoneRider)
YOGA by Gigit | Learn English | Travel like a Nomad | Donation Bank
ps - If you want me to participate and write about your yoga studio or your yoga practice, email me. For my complete yoga profile, you can visit this page: YOGA by Gigit
(Apr 30, 2014) Naku, yes, all this is really not a joke and when you do the breathwork or do the poses, all of those really create effects in the body and depending on how ready you are for the changes you either get exact or, "averse," effects, all of which you need to be ready for -- actually, you should know what you are getting into and are guided accordingly. hindi lang talaga sha JUST a pose or a breath -- it really creates effects! yes, luckily my guru was there to guide me cos mejo scary pag sumobra talaga! kailangan tamang-tama lang for your level and you are guided kasi, "as within, so without / as without, so within," as you clean the outer, the within is also, "cleaned," out / "dredged," so you need to know and be guided regarding what you can expect.. that is why in our programs we make sure we raise awareness of what the students are doing, more than just have them do the poses, "blindly," -- kasi it's THEIR body, not just ours, so it would be good they appreciate and understand what they are doing, engaging in full awareness..
What you said about knowing what kind of light-bulb / wattage(make) you are is key din. i remember a lecture guru gave us before about DOMINION.. Dominion is knowing what you are, what you are not.. who you are, who you are not.. what you can, what you cannot do. You have a certain make and inclination so stay within that, honor, act/think/come from there, and that is dominion. Staying within that "wattage" is key kasi tama pag sumobra puputok ang fuse or angbombilya and siempre you don't want that! tama at sakto lang. Parang yung mga FB post lang -- "be yourself, cos everyone else is taken :-))" ang tanong kasi eh kilala mo ba ang sarili mo? :-)) ayun na. hehehe. So mag-workshop na tayo muna para malaman. Hehehe. Guru would always get "angry," / guide us back.. BE "NORMAL!!!" WAG SOBRA!!! TAMA LANG!!! eat meat, drink alcohol.. be ascetic, be vegetarian, all for a purpose, have reason, not for the sake.. otherwise what is the point? you need to know. nagka-intestines ka pa di mo pa naman pala ginagamit eh aanhin pa yan?? Live! what else are we here for??? Anyway, haba na. haha. thank you for your article and the opportunity to share!! ra ra ra!!
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