Finding Kumbhaka - it's not easy to 'pause'

Yet this is known to be where the magic happens. All over the planet we are forced in some shape or form to pause in our lives - it looks different for everyone as some still at work are busier than ever, some are restricted from usual activities or employment and bored, some are financially strained, some fighting to keep business afloat, some are relishing in new found spare time learning new skills, entrepreneurialism, creative practices or exercising - but for everyone some aspect of our lives has paused for the now. Nothing we can do can change it except for the simplest act of survival 'stay home (avoiding the unnecessary), stay well, stay safe'. We are getting to see our patterns and how we respond when things are out of our control. This awareness is a beautiful thing, but how can we possibly enjoy it and rest in it when there is so much change, stress and unrest going on around us? We are being challenged more than ever before to learn how to be ok with the pause.

The practice of Yoga was created thousands of years ago to help move us from the place of forgetting who we are, the suffering, the disconnect, to remembering the pure consciousness within this vehicle. Our true nature is ever joyful, infinite, creative, insightful, blissful and full of vitality. Signs that we have disconnected from our true Self are fear, anxiety, depression, stress, anger, excessive distractions, lethargy, lack of motivation, obsessive or addictive behaviour, boredom. It is much easier to get 'busy' and not to face these symptoms.

But what if this global pause is the ultimate opportunity for each us to be honest with ourselves and discover how to be ok in the pause? What if the symptoms above don't have to dominate your life any longer? We can learn how to let go of the busyness and the distractions. To acknowledge these symptoms whenever they arise, and they always will, to embrace them as aspects of ourselves and merely a sign we are forgetting who we are. They are the perfect reminder to reconnect, to remember who we are and find the peace amongst the madness, the learning from the suffering, the love and faith beneath the fear.

One of my favourite practices of Hatha Yoga is in Pranayama (breath work) where we use breath retention or pausing between the breaths - Kumbhaka. Kumbhaka is the Tantric method of intelligently bringing up the subconscious mind so we can acknowledge what is there and liberate ourselves, become stronger, more resilient and revitalised. This practice allows us an opportunity to find what is 'uncomfortable' within ourselves, which is ultimately where the suffering comes from, creating the veil over our true nature. In the pause we will notice the mental clutter, emotions, fears, negativity and the above symptoms. We will want to avoid them...... but we stay, here in the pause, without strain or force, with patience, noticing without judgement. Then we move onto the next breath, the next Kumbhaka. In these pauses we will find our fears arising so it is important we go gently, without force, with love.

I suggest you begin this practice with guidance from your teacher. If you are feeling mental instability begin with a grounding Yoga asana practice prior to meditation with Kumbhaka. It is important to know there is a difference between pausing on the breath in, or on the breath out. A teacher can advise you on both physiological and psychological effects and whether appropriate for you. The pause after the inhale is 'Kumbhaka Pooraka' - notice if you feel restricted here, possibly relates to a fear of your own power, feeling unworthy of receiving and living to your fullest potential. The pause after the exhale is 'Kumbhaka Rechaka' - notice if you feel restricted here, possibly relates to a fear of letting go, of death, of not being in control.

With a regular practice of an extended Kumbhaka we develop mental and emotional stability, a discerning mind, we know our fears but are no longer driven by them, we find a deep unwavering connection to our true Self. For me it's definitely where the magic happens - and I think we could all do with a bit of magic right now.

I am sharing a beginners Viloma Pranayama practice below where you can explore a very subtle Kumbhaka - notice how you feel in mind afterwards, you may feel more clear, open and energised. You can trial my online Yoga studio for 3 days and join me for;

  • Live stream class - Monday 27th April 8.00-9.30am Hatha Yoga with Meditation (exploring an extended Kumbhaka in practice)

  • Viloma - Lung Expansion Breathwork

  • So Hum Meditation I & II

“It’s the pausing and the stopping, perhaps going backward and losing some time, not being able to do everything we’re supposed to do, that serves the Soul. That’s the enchantment that feeds the Soul.

Thomas Moore

Inspya Yoga Therapies with Nic Whiteman

Tel: 0434 417 261

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