Martyn Jackson on Pranayama Practice

In 1981 I was introduced to Pranayama practice in Martyn Jackson’s teachers course. We practiced pranayama for one hour every morning before asana practice. This practice created the greatest shift in my own asana practice.

Shelley Piser: You say often that Pranayama, is the most important part of your practice.

Martyn Jackson:  I feel so. If I can get you practicing pranayama, you’re taking sufficient oxygen throughout the body so that’s giving you much more clarity in the brain so you can become much more truthful so that when you look at a person, you don’t look at the outside of the person, but you are penetrating inside. You are looking at the inside. The inside is where the truth is. Not the outside. The outside is the unknown, the outside is just where you just put a little bit of powder, put on a nice dress and that’s the outside. And that’s the unknown, but the inside is the truth. If the inside is beautiful then you know that that is the person that you want. So this is important to, that’s what I feel, to be a leader.

SP: Talk about pranayama a bit

MJ:Pranayama is something again that we in the west really don’t understand it.Pranayama is a Sanskrit term.I don’t like using Sanskrit terms.If you are in the country where it is used, that’s wonderful, but here, again it is like an ego trip, it’s like showing people that you are more knowledgeable then they are.So I like to work as my friends, you know have an open collar neck and just like a slave, and when I say slave, I don’t mean somebody who is beaten, but I mean an ordinary person, an ordinary worker.I like to be like that.To start talking in Sanskrit terms is lifting yourself up and putting yourself as something more special then what they are.You talk to them at their level. Talk to them about pranayama is how you breathe.But they’ll say, ‘but I breathe ok,’ but then you can talk to them and show them that they are not breathing at all. All they are doing is just taking in sufficient to keep them at the level they are at the moment. You start encouraging this breath, which is the life force.You can go without food indefinitely, you can go without water or drink for three or four days, but with the breath you breathe about three minutes for the average person before you do any brain damage.So that’s the totality of breath.

We have a brain, which we use like 2 1/2 percent and if you oxygenate it, you can then build up that strength to stimulate more of that brain. If you stimulate more of that brain you have better insight of things we do for better understanding so that’s when you lift to different levels of life. So that’s the reason you do pranayama.

There are many, many methods of pranayama. You shouldn’t delve into too many. So I teach the Nadi Sodhana pranayama, which is again balancing the polarity of breathing through individual nostrils so you are getting one nostril the left nostril, the same balance as your right and visa-versa. And then the kumbhaka breath.

The Kumbhaka breath is the breath retention. Whether the lungs fill up and then you retain it or when the lungs are empty, you retain them empty. But you must watch the rhythm of the heart also. The oxygen we breathe, you don’t just breathe through your nose, you breathe through the pores of your skin, as well. And that’s vitally important. And also, it makes you a different person; you feel if you had normal, natural control of your breath, Then you would breathe normal natural, because breathing is tidal and if you learn to utilize all of the lungs, and if you learn to stabilize your breath and that is going to stabilize you as a person, because if you breathe haphazardly you are thinking haphazardly. So that is the importance of a little bit of breath control understanding. I mean don’t go into it too drastically, otherwise you are going to drive yourself crazy and you are libel to damage the central nervous system. But gradually allow yourself to become aware of the breathing and you can see then, yourself personally just how untidal that you are breathing. So you say to yourself, “I am going to attempt, I am not going to try, (trying is negative) I am going to attempt to balance five cycles of breath and you’ll find that by the time you get to the fifth, as a beginner, you will find that you are puffing. So that is the importance of pranayama is the stability, stabilizing. When you start that and you feel that you are getting a benefit and that’s when the functions are beginning to happen and you are beginning to reap the benefits and then you will pursue it more. But don’t change. You can build up your ratio but don’t go on to another pranayama. Unless there is something drastically wrong, and then just experiment quietly.

©shelley piser 2009

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