How to keep track of how many rounds of pranayama (breath control exercises) you’ve performed or how many mantras you’ve chanted?
All you need is your hand!
Counting on the fingers is an ancient Indian ritual used for recitation of mantra and pranayama. One does so by placing the thumb in various positions each time we breathe in during pranayama exercises, or start a mantra. In fact, because of this tradition, as Mr. T.K.V. Desikachar says, “It is said we should take at least twelve breaths in any one session of pranayama.” For me, learning this technique years ago in India has been indispensible.
Just how to count on the fingers varies slightly. One way is in rows knuckle by knuckle, finger by finger. Another commonly used method is to move the thumb around the knuckles in a more circular manner. I’ve provided diagrams of both techniques.
Try today and see what method works best for you. You can do so by practicing at least 12 rounds of ujjayi breath (see my recent blog), and/or nadi shodhana/alternative nostril breathing. If you’re familiar with mantras, repeat on 3, 5, 7, 11, or more times while counting on your hand.
Note: In the Hindu and Buddhists traditions, mala beads are also used as a counting mechanism. Traditionally, a mala has 108 beads, or a divisor of 108 (i.e. 27 or 54).
Sophie Herbert is an alignment focused yoga teacher (and perpetual student), a singer-songwriter, and a visual artist. She has lived, studied, and volunteered extensively in India; teaches yoga in Brooklyn and Manhattan; and recently released her first full-length album, "Take a Clear Look." Please visit her website at SophieHerbert.com.