Back to pranayama: the continuation of my post from Tuesday.
Alternate nostril breathing: I found this breathing technique to be the most difficult and the one I least wanted to practice. Now that I use Flonase spray and a Neti pot regularly, I get more and better airflow through my nostrils than I ever have before in my life, but alternate nostril breathing still somehow made me feel like a stuffed-up kid with a cold. One nostril almost always felt very clogged, and practicing the breathing technique never seemed to help; it usually seemed to make the clog more pronounced. Usually by the end of nine rounds of alternate nostril breathing, I feel like I’m gasping through my clogged nostril, and it’s always a relief to breathe normally again. This technique was not enjoyable to practice and never really got better over the course of the month. On a practical level, I often found it difficult to remember where I was in my breath count, too, which of course is a sign that my mind isn’t quiet enough, but I still found it hard to count the rounds of breath accurately until I started counting on my fingers. I know that I should persevere and continue practicing alternate nostril breathing, but without it being an actual assignment, I’m not sure that I will.
Summary: Overall, I did enjoy the pranayama exercises this month. Some of the techniques were physically difficult, and as always I had trouble calming my mind and keeping it calm, but I did enjoy the practice and often found time to incorporate it naturally into my day (although pranayama is much harder to do in tight jeans). Practicing before bed seemed to help me to sleep better, or at least it helped me fall asleep more quickly. Also, and most importantly, I think the pranayama practice improved my overall mood this month. A lot of good things have happened in my personal life this month, but also some stressful things (like buying a house) and not-so-good things (like a car accident and my husband being injured after a fall). I think ordinarily under such circumstances I would be more stressed out, more worried, and more tense, but this month I’ve mostly been pretty serene, and I’ve been able to be a good support to my husband. In the kitchen the other day, he told me that I seemed really happy and together lately. The cause of that positive energy could be the many good things that have happened counter-balancing the stressful things; it could also be the warm weather, since I know I am always happier in summer and sunshine; but it could also be the pranayama practice. It might be a combination of all of these, which seems most likely. Since it’s very possible that the pranayama is helping me to be a calmer, happier person, I don’t really want to take a chance and stop doing it! I’m glad to have one more tool in my arsenal to help me deal with stress (and with cold and bad weather when the time comes again). I will do my best to keep finding time for pranayama practice, even alternate nostril breathing.