Inhale or Die!
Question: have you ever had an irrational panic attack like you're about to die, while in fact you're safe? If so, what was the context? Roller coaster? Snorkeling? Kapotasana, anyone? These are the things that made me panic.
After a week of Tim Feldmann's workshop, I've also added Pranayama to this list.
Yeah, the very thing that is supposed to calm you down - breathing, if not practiced and developed. Well, holding the breath to be exact.
Tim taught us some techniques that he learned from Lino Miele. Years ago, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the legendary Ashtanga teacher, would introduce Pranayama once a practitioner got into Intermediate Series (now Sharath teaches it after its completion).
The basic pranayama consists of several cycles of ujjayi with equal inhalations and exhalations, and additional cycles where you retain your breath, after an inhalation or an exhalation. The exact sequence is to be taught to a student directly, so sorry - I cannot disclose the sequence online.
The absolute mental torture is the retention of the breath after the exhale. Every second feels like someone is punching you in the face. "Inhale immediately!" - but you hold it. "Inhale or die!" - but, hopefully, you're still holding (I gave in once). Tim was trying to reassure us saying that "No one ever died from Pranayama." That was good to know but couldn't help the irrational fear rising inside my chest.
And just like with asana, the more it is practiced, the better you manage to tame the animal within and somewhat let go the fear of death.
Again, there's nothing esoteric about it. Everything is based on biochemistry.