I have been taking a new class and this new experience has taught me a few things about myself. Although I have allowed myself to calm down a bit, it is usually on my own terms. Learning to be comfortable, calm, and relaxed in new situations feels like a new test, one that I am embracing wholeheartedly. The first big test for me is what the teacher calls circular breathing. This is basically breathing normally, but taking out the natural short pauses after the inhale and after the exhale. So the practitioner is always either inhaling or exhaling - no breaks.
At first, this breathing technique made me a bit panicky. I always dive deeply into the pause, finding comfort and quiet in the pause. I don't necessarily hold the pause for any longer, but I like the silence and quiet that comes in the pause. (try it sometime!!) So when the teacher said that this type of breath was relaxing, I was shocked. Relaxing? I feel panicked!
Then I asked myself, "is the technique making me panic, or am I making me panic?" That is when a door opened up. I started to observe myself. What was causing these emotions? Is there something I am doing that is making me feel this way? Is there something else going on?
Well, after some observation, I realized what I was looking for. Because I took out the pause after the inhale, I was rushing to get to the exhale, causing me to speed up the exhale. And also speeding up the inhale after my exhale. My heart was then beating a bit faster, making my body curious about what was going on. My breath was making my subconscious think there was something wrong. It went into panic on its own - as it traditionally would in such a situation.
It just goes to show that Pranayama is a very conscious practice. We have to always ask questions of our self - pinpoint what we are feeling and why. And also allow ourselves to stay with that feeling to understand what and why. My first response was to blame and judge the technique, when in fact it was me that I needed to look at.