I have recently been spending time with a Sadhu (India Holy man) in the Indian Himalayas, learning his yogic practices, and it has reminded me of the healing power of pranayama (the breathwork aspect of yoga). He says quite passionately that all disease can be healed using pranayama.
The sadhus teaching on this reminded me of when I first learnt about the power of pranayama: about 10 years ago in Farnham in the UK, I walked into a clothes shop owned by an Indian couple. We struck up a conversation and they enthusiastically shared with me the fact that, only a few years ago, the Indian lady had suffered from severe diabetes and various other illnesses. She was so ill that she was on 30 pills a day. She then learnt from an Indian guru about 3 breaths (pranayama). This guru also said to take away one third of what you eat and replace it with salad and fruit. She said that she practiced those 3 breaths ‘religiously’ for about 1 hour a day and also took a third of all her food away and replaced it with salad and fruit and now she no longer has diabetes and is on no pills as she is free from all disease now.
There in the shop that day, the Indian couple showed me the three breaths. I practiced them myself for some time after that and now I am returning to pranayama again here in India. There are various pranayama breaths but the 3 breaths that the Indian couple practiced are as follows:
Sit cross legged on the floor, back-straight, or sat in a chair with your back straight:
1. Hold your right nostril with your thumb and breath in a full breath, then close both nostrils, then release your right nostril, keeping you forefinger over your left nostril, and breath out of your right nostril. Breath in the same nostril (the right) – full breath. Then close both nostrils. Exhale through your left nostril, then breath in. And continue.
2. Not holding either nostril, breath in and out through your nose – full, deep breaths. Keep breathing full breaths – all the air you can take, at a slow deep rhythm.
3. Bellows breath: exhale in a short staccato rhythm, using your stomach jerked inwards to push the air out, breathing through your nose. Your stomach will automatically suck air back in as it pushes back out to its normal position. This pushes the air out of the bottom of your lungs and diaphragm.
The Indian lady said to practice each one for 10 minutes a day for mental and physical well-being and prevention of disease, but if you are ill, to do 1 hour a day.
Whilst I have been travelling in India, I also met a gutsy American lady called Naomi. She had just finished a yoga teachers training course in India. She said that when she began it, she was really overweight, and had fibromyalgia so badly that she walked with a stick. She said that she is now practically free of fibromyalgia – just 3 months down the line, and has lost several stone in weight. Her healing has been so dramatic that she plans on returning to her home in Florida to set up a ‘not-for-profit’ yoga school, to bring low-cost yoga classes to people in Florida with fibromyalgia and depression, as, she says there are so many women in Florida that are very depressed, and she knows that regular yoga classes could transform them into happy, healthy people.