According to the source of All Truth in the Universe (aka Wikipedia), Prāṇāyām (Sanskrit: प्राणायाम prāṇāyām) is a Sanskrit word meaning “extension of the prāṇ or breath” or, “extension of the life force”. The word is composed of two Sanskrit words, Prāṇ, life force, or vital energy, particularly, the breath, and “ayām”, to extend or draw out. (Not ‘restrain, or control’ as is often translated from ‘yam’ instead of ‘ayāma’).
Since December, I have struggled through these concepts. First, in the Yuppie Asshole sense of being a good little yogi, on my thin little mat, on the beach on Koh Samui. And now, more practically, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, trying — quite literally — to catch my breath.
The trouble is, I went to bed angry last night. I woke up furious this morning. First, I’ve got this stupid “blizzard” on my hands. Those close to me know that — at a cellular level — I loathe severe weather. “Snowstorm Nemo” (aka “Winter”) was one of two things that caused a disruption to my travel plans for next week, which wreaked havoc on a packed schedule I had docketed for five days in London.
I truly loathe three things: severe weather; disruptions to my schedule over which I have absolutely no control; loud noises.
So last night, I was in bed; in a snit over the weather and the schedule changes, when the guys next-door began kicking up such a racket that I nearly had kittens.
My new-ish neighbour “works in fashion.” Which doesn’t mean that much to me, except that he has a constant stream of people coming in and out of his apartment at odd hours, and there are constantly people lingering in the hall outside of my apartment door. The building is pre-war; generally quiet; but the hallways are tiled and so what happens in the hallways can be heard in each and every apartment.
For what it’s worth, not much ever happens in the hall. Except for last night.
The people outside woke me up twice. And as the storm brewed, so built and dropped the pressure in my head, to the point where I couldn’t take anymore. At one point, I leapt out of bed, threw open my front door, and screamed at two people just…sitting…on the floor outside of my apartment.
It is MIDNIGHT, I shouted, I can hear every goddamned word you are saying. You are not still at NYU. Shut up, get out of my hallway, and either go inside, or…get out of here. Do you understand me?
Are you SMOKING? Are you smoking in my hallway? I drew in a deep breath, insofar as I could breathe. Get out of here, I said quietly. I don’t care where you go, just get out of here.
The offenders were two hipster girls, seated half-lotus on the tiled hallway floor. The bespectacle’d one cocked her head to give me the stink-eye with her perfect, ice-blue Zooey Deschanels. She and her companion rose in one motion, slim cigarettes bobbing between their lips, and clattered on unreasonably high heels into Fashion Guy’s apartment.
I want to make it clear that I am not a total stick-in-the-mud, or a jerk, or completely intolerant of noise. On weekends, I never utter a word about the noise emanating from anyone’s apartment. And the former occupants of the place next-door were a couple who fought at high-volume — I never dared interrupt.
It is simply that the constant buzz and chatter and people in the hallway nonsense is wearing me down.
(Also, I was already in a horrible mood.)
But how do I remember how to breathe through these things? How do I recall the sound of the waves and the furious tropical rain now that my lungs are swollen and my mind is running circles around Manhattan? How to I reconcile the storms that are preventing me from getting to where I want to be with the storms that pelted me on New Year’s Eve, washing away the old year and ringing in the new?
Why did I welcome that then, and I am resisting this now?
Maybe I am losing something in the translation. Pranayama is the life force. It is the energy; the breath; the extension. It is not the control.
Right now, I have absolutely no control.
(As evidenced by losing my shit at those hipsters…)