Pranayam is a suite of short encounters with different types of active breath. The word pranayam literally describes ‘a harnessing of the life force’. Each movement is based on a specific breath pattern commonly used in yoga practice.
Dirgh is a three-part inhale, expanding the belly, diaphragm and chest in succession. Kapalbhati is the ‘skull- shining’ breath, made up of short, sharp exhales interspersed with moments of suspension. Nadi Shodhan is the ‘alternate channel’ breath, exhaling and then inhaling through alternate nostrils. Simha is the ‘lion’s breath’ – a powerful, audible exhale to release tension. Ujjayi breath is the ‘victory’ breath, sometimes also called the ‘ocean’ breath because of it’s audible wavelike sound, intended to keep energy circulating inside the body during the practice of yoga.
If you know these breath patterns, breathe along*. The music is designed to support your breath. If you don’t know the patterns, just imagine what they might feel like in your body. In a typical pranayam practice, you would stay with each breath much longer — so think of this work as a tiny pinhole view into an ancient transformative practice — or just a gentle reconnection to your breath in the midst of this constantly swirling world.
*(it is not lost on me that the only person in the room who won’t be able to follow these breath patterns is the oboist!)
Pranayam — Anqi Zhou, oboe; Elias Dagher, piano
Tanglewood Music Institute, July 29, 2023
Special Performance Requirements
(audio guide forthcoming)
Pranayam was premiered on July 26, 2022 at the IDRS Convention in Boulder, Colorado by Toyin Spellman-Diaz (oboe) and Hsiao-Ling Lin (piano).