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Pranayama in Water

All known swimming styles are varieties of natural Vinyasas, and hy drodynamic laws determine their techniques. These movements have been thoroughly studied and practically adjusted in sports swimming that it is hard to add something to them. And it is possible to see that the last word in the most effective movements of swimming techniques belongs to professional sportsmen.

Therefore, the best thing that can be done to achieve purely yogi goals is to borrow technical methods of sports swimming and combine them with Pranayamas and other psychic-energy Yoga exercises.

From the very beginning, it is necessary to remember that sports swimming and Pranayama in the water are oriented towards different goals. The main goal in sports swimming is speed, but when practicing Pranayama in water, a yogi does not aim at swimming fast. The speed factor is not critical, but psychic balance and the timing of the inhalations, exhalations and breath delays are the most important factors.

To master the initial water Pranayama level, first it is necessary to master the breaststroke and a hyperventilation technique. (This is a synthesis of Bhastrika Pranayama with a «complete yogi breath through the mouth») and Ujaya Pranayama with breath delays after inhalations and exhalations, combining it with Mula, Uddiyana and Jalandhara Bandhas.

The initial-level training may begin by purely a warm-up, swimming in any style. Thereafter, it is possible to attempt «breath mountains» which are usually practiced on the basis of breaststroke swimming on the water surface with delays of breath for different time periods after the inhalation. At the beginning, the duration of such delays gradually increases, thereafter, it decreases in the same gradual fashion. This is how the «breath mountain» is formed. The duration of a breath delay is measured by the number of arm strokes taken without raising practitioner’s head above the water level. Therefore, during breath delays practice become a kind of diving on the water surface.

After the «breath mountains» (breathing warm-up), it is possible to begin a series of dives under water surface with maximum delays of the breath. These develop the life capacity of the lungs. And the training may be ended with swimming distances in any style.

The technique of using the breaststroke during the practice of «breath mountains» with a breath delay, for example, for three strokes, looks as follows:

1. Normal inhalation above the water surface, breath delay.

2. Three strokes with the breath delayed, head down in the water. The front part of the neck is fixed in Jalandhara Bandha («throat lock»).

3. Exhale into the water at the fourth stroke.

4. Normal inhalation above the water, breath delay, etc. The technique of «progressing dives» (maximum) looks as follows:

1. Hyperventilation — fast and deep breathing with the mouth for 20 — 30 seconds standing by the side of the swimming pool.

2. Right after hyperventilation: deep inhalation, breath delay and shallow dive into the water.

3. After the stroke, it is not necessary to hurry and to make another one but should stretch in the water while the body moves on inertia. This saves energy and allows practitioner to delay breathing for a longer time and swim underwater for a longer distance.

If the distance of the dive is longer that the length of the pool, turn underwater without emerging on the surface and try to press the chest and abdominal cavities as little as possible, so as not to break the breath delay or cause psychic anxiety.

During the dive, it is important to pay special attention to psychic balance, avoid anxiety and stay calm. It is necessary to psychically join with the element of Water and «dissolve in the peace of it».

4. If the breath delay and the dive are completed somewhere in the middle of the pool, it should emerge without stopping and reach the end of the pool, swimming in any style. Then take a rest before to go on to the next dive.

The Pranayama training in water at the initial stage may look, for example, as follows:

¹ Exercise Distance Style Note
1. Warm-up 200-400 ì Any -
2. «Breath mountain» 8 x 50 ì «brace» -
- - 50 ì - No breath delays
- - 50 ì - Post-inhale breath delay for 1 stroke
- - 50 ì - Post-inhale breath delay for 2 stroke
- - 50 ì - Post-inhale breath delay for 3 stroke
- - 50 ì - Post-inhale breath delay for 3 stroke
- - 50 ì - Post-inhale breath delay for 2 stroke
- - 50 ì - Post-inhale breath delay for 1 stroke
- - 50 ì - No breath delays
3. «Distance diving» 4-8 x 50 ì maximum «Brace» Dive after 20-30 second hyperventilation
4. «Swimming» 200-800 ì Any -

In the course of developing your training form, you can increase the duration of breath delays up to 12 or more strokes and practice several «breath mountains» during the same training cycle rather than just one.

It is important to remember that excessively forcing the water Pranayama program during the training does not show effects immediately, but could eventually result in particular breath organ disorders or diseases: colds of the nasopharynx, bronchi, ears, etc. Therefore, water Pranayama should not be treated as sports training, and when practicing it should practice with regularity, gradation and caution.

In the course of developing advanced levels of Pranayama in water, the practice should include various Bandhas and Mudras, and more attention should be paid to the psychic-energy aspects of the training.

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