Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pranayama & the Puerto Rican Blue

As I move through my fourth season here in Rincon, I think of how blessed I have been to be so close to the ocean and how when I was back visiting family in Quito, Ecuador at 10,000 feet above sea level, I never missed it more.

These waters of the Caribe have a healing power, a flow, a rhythm that can’t be replaced by any antihistamine; it works as a natural netty treatment for those into panchakarma of aeurvedic medicine. For surfers, it can serve as their connection with that higher energy or as my husband Ricardo says “I go to church every day, I sit in silence with the greater being and ride its waves with respect and joy”.

So having this respect and love for the ocean and all of her beauty, I came to think how my yoga practice of Pranayama has allowed me to find a deeper bond with her. As a lover of snorkeling, especially at the Reserva Tres Palmas, I find that I feel one with the reefs, exploring the detail and listening the coral fish crunch away, as they sway from side to side by using my breath. In order to do this, I control my exhales to last as long as possible and sustain my inhalation, allowing me to free float or go deeper until it’s time to come back up for air. Something I know my back home California Abalone divers can appreciate since tanks aren’t allowed and the best Abalone tend to be under those deep rocks between the seaweed forest.

Sustaining your inhalation, prolonging your exhalation, sounds a lot like Pranayama Ujjayi and Kumbhaka yogic breath, and that it exactly what it is. Controlling that internal breath, slowing your heart rate, controlling the mind activity will allowing the breaths to be smooth, strong and more potent. I’m sure the tank divers joining our local Taino Divers crew on their excursions to Desecheo or the snorkelers chilling with Katarina Sail Charters know a thing or two about this, but for those first timers who tend to use up their tank fairly quickly, not allowing them to get their full days’ worth, here’s an exercise that may just help you soak in that Puerto Rican blue:

Close your eyes for a moment

Exhale all of the old oxygen out of your lungs, feeling your lungs contract as your belly button folds inwards

Slowly, relaxing your shoulders, opening your chest and elongating your spine, inhale smoothly through your nose, expanding your belly button outward (you can count the length of your inhalation if it helps)

As you sustain that breath, without tensing your body, become aware of your heartbeat, which tends to become amplified under water

When you feel the urge to exhale, allow the breath to release out of your nostrils or mouth slowly lasting longer than your inhalation for about 3 to 4 seconds.

You can practice this either before you move into the water from the boat or from the shore. You can practice this upon meeting eye to eye with a manatee or sea turtle or maybe even a whale if your are that blessed. Join your heartbeat with that graced animal of the deep and be one of this healing medium we live in connection with. You an practice this on your way home on the flight, reminding of your new friends, the sand between your toes, the sun on your back and current swaying your from side to side.

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