With only a few weekends left of Yoga Teacher Training, we’re entering the final stretch. This past weekend’s classes were a wonderful after our weekend off. It actually all started on Friday night, when Darren led our advanced pranayama class focused on pranic breathing. Pranic breathing is very similar to other techniques known as Kriya Yoga, Holotropic Breathing or Rebirthing. Earlier the training, Darren had mentioned a night when we’d have a very long meditation — though I don’t think any of us quite knew what to expect.
Earlier in the week, Darren sent us a list of instructions which resembled a pre-surgery checklist. We not supposed to eat or drink anything several hours before class. We were not supposed to consume any intoxicants 24 hours before and after the class and caffeine should be avoided. I couldn’t imagine what this was going to entail.
Once we were settled in class, each of us had a blanket to lie on, a bolster to use as a pillow and an eye pillow to help block out the light. Darren taught us the basics of the breathing technique which we were going to use, which was very straightforward — deep breaths through the mouth, sighing on the exhalation.
By continuously focusing on this breath throughout the meditation, regardless of what happens, was the only other instruction. We did this breathing for about 5 minutes and then were told to do a breath retention technique known as Kumbaka until the moment it became uncomfortable. Immediately after this first hold, I had noticed a tingling in my arms and legs. We continued in this fashion for 2 more holds, each time I felt more and more relaxed when I regained my breath.
And when I say more and more relaxed, I literally felt as though things were getting even darker and I had less and less actual sensation in my body. Everything just let go a little more each time. After the third hold, we were then focusing our inhalations and exhalations on people we cared about in our lives for several breaths followed by another hold. At this point, I started to become somewhat emotional as did many other people in the class. You could hear that some people were starting cry.
This continued into the next hold and when I regained my breath I slipped even deeper and my eyes started to tear up without any real reason that I was consciously aware of. I then started to have a shortness of breath, as if I was balling — though the tears wouldn’t quite come. I could hear other people in the room become much more emotional, some people sobbing very loudly. I am fairly certain I was making some sort of noise myself. Keeping with the long slow breath was getting quite challenging, though I had known this was my sole task.
We then continued through several dedications of our breath which only got myself and others even more worked up. Once we were done with the breathing exercise, Darren guided us into savasana — or corpose pose — to help us relax from this intense journey.
It was at this point that I had noticed that there was music playing in the background. What was strange, though, was that I could hear a hissing in the background of the soundtrack. It was as if there was a blank cassette tape being played — just that quiet white hissing noise. The noise continued to get louder up to the point where it was actually louder than the music. I assumed this was part of the song, though I later learned I was the only one that heard this.
When we were guided back into consciousness, I remember sitting up with my eyes closed and practically falling over. We had been in this practice for about an hour, though it felt as though it was maybe 20-30 minutes at most. When we opened our eyes, I was in a state of shock — quite literally. I was confused and rattled. I looked at my friend Tiffany next to me, and I feel as though I gave her a “where am I?” type look — because she immediately gave me a very compassionate hug. Things didn’t make sense — though I wasn’t quite sure what I was trying to figure out. It was just this general haze. I had a hard time forming sentences.
I felt as though I had just been in a car accident or maybe woken up from surgery and was still under anesthesia. Several other people had experienced similar effects after waking up, and listening to everyone else’s experience was just as interesting yet completely different than mine. I had plans to go out that night — which were immediately canceled. I was trying to figure out if I was going to be able to drive home.
I felt out of sorts most the night and even the next morning was a little blurry. I don’t know what happened. I can’t explain it. But I know one thing for certain… There is something very powerful about the breath. You may be still be reading this and think this all mumbo jumbo. I would too. But having experienced this first hand, I now know for certain that pranayama, and even yoga as a whole, is incredibly powerful.