Intermediate/Advanced Pranayama Practice

Here is one final practice based on the ideas from the Donald Moyer class of a few weeks ago. I stress “based” as many of the instructions are my own, though the format of balancing the abdomen, diaphragm and upper rib cage is all Donald’s.

The Rocking Of The Pelvis As We Breathe


When we breath, there is a natural rocking action of the pelvis that happens as a result of the movement of the pelvic floor. As we inhale, the diaphragm contracts and moves down, pressing into the abdomen which then expands out and down. The pelvic floor, something of a diaphragm itself, expands and moves down, but because it is bounded in the front by the bones of the pelvis, it cannot expand forward, only back. The tailbone then moves back and the whole pelvis tilts forward, the pubic bones rocking forward and down as a result. The reverse happens as you exhale and the pelvis tilts back, the pubic bones moving back and up. This is a very small movement that can be limited by tension in the pelvic floor.

Those who have a forward tilt of the pelvis are often tighter in the front of the pelvic floor, while those who have a backward tilt to the pelvis are often tighter in the back of the pelvic floor. This can mean that the motion in one direction is less obvious than the other. Forward tilters seem to be more aware of the forward movement and backward tilters the backward movement, though it is possible that you are unable to sense the movement at all, especially if this is new to you. If this is the case, then simply imagine the movement rather than forcing it. Any imagery you choose will serve to instruct the body in what is being expected of it and will encourage it to comply.

The Sequence


Shoulder stretch at the wall
• Come into a right angle with a block between the hands and the elbows/forearms flat on the wall.
• Lift the pubic bones up off the tops of the thighs and stretch the pubic symphysis and legs down.
• Broaden and strengthen the lower border of the rhomboid wall and take it out into the stretch of the outer armpits.
• Broaden and strengthen the upper border of the rhomboid wall and the inner armpits and balance them out with the lower border/outer armpits.

Pelvic rocking
• This simple exercise is designed to help you coordinate the movement of the pelvis with the breath. Take care not to make it overly muscular. Keep the movements as small and gentle as possible.
• Take a mat, blanket or towel and roll it up evenly and firmly.
• Lie back with the roll across the sacrum. This is going to be the fulcrum of rocking, so you might need to play with the position to allow the movement to be even in both directions.
• Take a few moments to relax and tune in to the breath.
• Starting with very small movements, begin to rock the pelvis forward, so that the pubic bones move away from the head and down towards the floor as you inhale, and back in the opposite direction as you exhale.
• Interlock the hands behind the head and, keeping the rhomboid wall broad, increase the movement gently to include the entire spine, extending it as you inhale, the head falling back as the pubic bones rock away from the head towards the floor, and flexing it as you exhale, the head and neck curling up as you exhale and the pubic bones rock up into the body. Take care not to turn this movement into any form of abdominal crunch.
• Do this for a minute or two and then rest.

Supta Baddha Konasana
• Take a fully supported variation of the pose over a bolster, with the legs belted and the thighs supported by blocks or blankets.
• With the breath completely soft and unforced, turn your attention to the exhalations, allowing the lungs, diaphragm and abdomen to release completely.
• Turn your attention even deeper to release the psoas, the iliacus and the inner face of the sacrum.
• Stay in the pose for at least 5 minutes.

Child’s Pose
• Take a fully supported version of the pose with a bolster and/or blankets under the full length of the trunk. It is important that the shoulders be higher than the hips to let the weight sink into the pelvis and legs.
• With the breath soft and unforced and the head turned to the left, take a moment to soften the right sternocleido-mastoid muscle. This is the bone that runs from the inner tip of the collarbone alone the side of the throat to the bone behind the ear.
• With that softened and the head heavy, send the breath into the right side of the rhomboid wall. Broaden the upper border of the rhomboid wall along the tops of the shoulder blade into the biceps and the crook of the elbow. Broaden the lower border of the rhomboid wall, level with the bottom tip of the shoulder blade, into the triceps and tip of the elbow.
• As you inhale, allow the rhomboid wall on that side to lift and separate off the ribs and deeper muscles, moving closer into the skin. As you exhale, allow it to separate away from the skin and settle into the ribs.
• Hold this position for around 3 minutes and then repeat with the head turned the other way.

Shavasana
• Take a fully supported Shavasana, with a low lift under the trunk and head, and a lift under the knees. Have a belt on hand for use in the pranayama.
• Take a few moments here to settle into the pose and initiate your Ujjayi 4 breath (simple expansive inhalations and easy extended exhalations).

Ujjayi 4 (abdominal awareness)
• Take your belt and loosely wrap it around the lower abdomen just below the navel, giving you good contact with the entire circumference of the abdominal wall. The belt should be just tight enough to give you feedback, but not so tight as to inhibit movement.
• As you inhale, allow the abdomen to expand three-dimensionally into the belt. Allow it to retract away from the belt three-dimensionally as you exhale.
• Once you have this established, become aware of (or begin to visualize) the simple rocking that happens in the pelvis as you breath: the pubic bones rocking away from the head as you inhale and towards the head as you exhale.
• With the awareness in the abdomen, take care not to bear down forcefully into the belly. If you find the abdomen becoming strained, take a moment to bring the awareness back into the rib cage.
• Sustain this breathing for 3 to 5 minutes.

Ujjayi 4 (diaphragm awareness)
• Take your belt and move it up around the floating ribs to become aware of the movement around the diaphragm. Again, the belt should be just tight enough to give you feedback, but not so tight as to inhibit movement.
• Take a few moments to balance the movement into and away from the belt around the diaphragm.
• Once you have this established, become aware of (or begin to visualize) the simple rocking that happens in the pelvis as you breath: the pubic bones rocking away from the head as you inhale and towards the head as you exhale.
• Become aware of the spine where it comes into contact with the belt. This will most likely be at vertebrae T12 or L1. Visualize the pubic bones moving away from T12/L1 as you inhale and towards them as you exhale.
• Sustain this breathing for 3 to 5 minutes.

Ujjayi 4 (rhomboid wall awareness)
• Take your belt and move it up around the top chest and shoulder blades.
• Take a few moments to balance the movement into and away from the belt around the ribcage.
• Once you have this established, become aware of (or begin to visualize) the movement of the rhomboid wall into and away from the belt as you inhale and exhale.
• Sustain this breathing for 3 to 5 minutes.

Seated Pose
• Come into any comfortable seated pose, even against the wall or in a straight-backed chair if necessary.
• Bow the head without straining the neck into a simple chin lock (Jalandhara Bandha).
• Take a few moments to establish your Ujjayi breathing.

Ujjayi 8 (abdominal awareness)
• Take your belt and loosely wrap it around the lower abdomen just below the navel.
• As you inhale, allow the abdomen to expand three-dimensionally into the belt. AS you exhale, allow it strengthen inwards away from the belt, providing a natural upward support for the spine and ribcage. The quality of the movement will be a little different from the reclined position.
• Once you have this established, become aware of (or begin to visualize) the simple rocking that happens in the pelvis: the pubic bones rocking forward and down as you inhale, backwards and up as you exhale.
• Sustain this breathing for 3 to 5 minutes.

Ujjayi 8 (diaphragm awareness)
• Take your belt and move it up around the floating ribs to become aware of the movement around the diaphragm.
• Take a few moments to balance the movement into and away from the belt around the diaphragm.
• Once you have this established, become aware of (or begin to visualize) the simple rocking that happens in the pelvis: the pubic bones rocking forward and down as you inhale, backwards and up as you exhale.
• Become aware of the spine where it comes into contact with the belt (T12/L1). Visualize the pubic bones moving away from T12/L1 as you inhale and towards them as you exhale. With the exhalation, strengthen the vertebrae at the back of the belt to allow the spine to lengthen up towards the ceiling.
• Sustain this breathing for 3 to 5 minutes.

Ujjayi 8 (rhomboid wall awareness)
• Take your belt and move it up around the top chest and shoulder blades.
• Take a few moments to balance the movement into and away from the belt around the ribcage.
• Once you have this established, become aware of (or begin to visualize) the movement of the rhomboid wall into and away from the belt as you inhale and exhale.
• Sustain this breathing for 3 to 5 minutes.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana
• Broaden and strengthen the lower border of the rhomboid wall and take it out into the stretch of the outer armpits.
• Broaden and strengthen the upper border of the rhomboid wall and the inner armpits and balance them out with the lower border/outer armpits.
• Lift the pubic bones off the thighs as you strengthen the pubic symphysis and stretch down through the legs.

Shirshasana 1
• Broaden and balance the upper and lower borders of the rhomboid wall.
• Send the outer rhomboid wall down into the outer armpit and the outer armpit down into the elbow.
• As you broaden the upper border of the rhomboid wall (the one closest to the head), lift the inner armpits up off the elbows.
• Lift the pubic bones towards the thighs and the thighs towards the ceiling.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana
• As above.

Sarvangasana 1
• Deepen the notch between the collarbones into the body and roll the collarbones towards the head.
• Broaden the upper and lower borders of the rhomboid wall evenly.
• Lift the back of the armpit and descend the front.
• Without gripping the buttocks, strengthen the pubic symphysis and stretch the legs up towards the ceiling.

Halasana
• Deepen the notch between the collarbones into the body and roll the collarbones towards the head.
• Broaden the upper and lower borders of the rhomboid wall evenly.
• Lift the back of the armpit and descend the front.
• Without gripping the buttocks, strengthen the pubic symphysis and stretch the legs up towards the ceiling.

Pashchimottanasana
• Support the head with a bolster or blankets.
• Lift the pubic bones up off the tops of the thighs.
• Deepen the notch between the collarbones and roll the collarbones away from the head.
• Broaden the upper border of the rhomboid wall into the inner armpit, the biceps and the crooks of the elbows.
• Broaden the lower border of the rhomboid wall into the outer armpit, the triceps and the tips of the elbows.

Shavasana

Related Posts
Intermediate/Advanced Class with Donald Moyer 1/4/08
Intermediate/Advanced Marichyasana Practice
Intermediate/Advanced Twist and Arm Balance Practice
Intermediate/Advanced Backbend Practice
Intermediate/Advanced Core and Arm Balance Practice
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Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: The Full Series

Please Here's a breakdown of the full Intermediate Pranayama Series.






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Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 28

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





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Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 27

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 26

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 25

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 24

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 23

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 22

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 21

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 20

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 19

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 18

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 17

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 16

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 15

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 14

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 13

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 12

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 11

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 10

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 9

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 8

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 7

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
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Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 6

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 5

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
|

Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 4

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
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Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 3

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





Read More...
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Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 2

Please remember that pranayama is very subtle and powerful. It’s best not to practice pranayama without some in-person instruction beforehand. NEVER FORCE THE BREATH.





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Intermediate Pranayama Cycle: Day 1

I was away for a couple of weeks in the San Francisco Bay Area staying with friends and taking part in Donald Moyer and Mary Lou Weprin’s Summer Intensive at the Yoga Room. The Intensive was excellent. Six days of six hours of yoga each day. (I hope to be blogging a little bit about some of the ideas Donald was working with over the next few weeks.) I came back energized and revitalized. I managed to practice 3 hours a day for about five days and then I crashed. All I’ve been able to practice for the past couple of weeks has been pranayama, which has been great. So here are the pranayama practices I’ve been doing of late.
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