featured posts

CUBA IS THE FUTURE FOR LATIN AMERICA AND PERHAPS THE WORLD

CUBA IS THE FUTURE FOR LATIN AMERICA AND PERHAPS THE WORLD On my way out of Cuba, from La Habana, on COPA airlines flight to Panama, I w...

mercredi 30 décembre 2015

YVES BERTHOU AND PRANAYAMA: AN ANTHROPOLOGIST IN BRITTANY, FRANCE

YVES BERTHOU AND PRANAYAMA

Most people in the west are now aware of the Yogic Breathing, Pranayama, which is used for relaxation as well as treatment for some of the ailments. It forms a fundamental part of the Yogic Breathing practice.
The first person to teach me the fundamentals of Yogic Breathing was Vandana Yadav, who had worked as a Flight Attendant for Singapore Airlines and who suffered for years with Asthma. On leaving Singapore airlines and taking up Yoga as a full time practitioner she was able to throw away her nebulizers and bronchodilators.
That story came to my mind when I was told that Yves Berthou, one of the leading proponents of the Breton traditional instrument, Bombarde, had suffered from Asthma as a young man and once he took up playing Bombarde on arrival in Brittany from Lille where he had been born, the Asthma did disappear as he had to train his breathing to play this rather difficult double reed wind instrument.

In medical school they had taught us that professional trumpet players do develop Emphysema which is ballooning of the saccules that exchange air in the lung as they loose their elasticity. There is some controversy to this, first it was thought it was blowing against the pressure and then it was thought that it was due to the contaminants in the air that caused the inflammation. The generally accepted wisdom now is that wind/brass instruments do not cause Emphysema. It is curious that it had been observed in 1874 but the myth persisted over the next 130 years!
Annual reports on diseases of the chest, Volume 1
By Horace Dobell and it was written in .......1875.


After a small gauge had been inserted into the mouth at one of its angles various wind instruments were tried trained performers only being used for the purposes of experiment and the pressure exerted being only just sufficient for the production of an average orchestral tone The greatest difference between the highest and lowest note was found in the clarionet these requiring fifteen and eight inches of pressure respectively It was noted that the force required was in general small not exceeding or indeed attaining the pressure of a fit of sneezing or of coughing and it was therefore concluded that wind instruments are very unlikely to injure the lungs or to produce the emphysema erroneously attributed to them. London Med Eec Oct 7 1874
There is no doubt that Pranayama can cure or alleviate asthma and related conditions.
Int J Yoga. 2009 Jan-Jun; 2(1): 22–25.
doi:  10.4103/0973-6131.53838
PMCID: PMC3017963
The effect of various breathing exercises (pranayama) in patients with bronchial asthma of mild to moderate severity
Tarun Saxena and Manjari Saxena
A  ASTHMATICS DOING PRANAYAMA, B ASTHMATICS DOING MEDITATION
Deep breathing (deep inspiration and deep expiration): subjects sit in sukhasana and perform deep inspiration and expiration through both nostrils.
Sasankasana breathing: subjects sit in vajrasana with their hands back, holding the right wrist with the left arm, with inhalation the person bends backward and with exhalation bends forward touching his/her forehead to the ground.
Anuloma viloma: common breathing practice, in which subjects breathe through alternate nostrils while sitting in sukhasana.
Bhramari chanting: sitting in sukhasana subjects inhale through both nostrils and while exhaling produce sound of female humming bee.
Omkara (modified): commonly used for meditation, but not included in regular breathing exercises, is an important exhalation exercise. Changes to this exercise, keeping in mind the asthmatic expiratory difficulty with air trapping, were made so as to strengthen expiration. Patients were advised to sit in sukhasana and to inhale deeply and then while exhaling produce Omkara with maximum force and to continue until further exhalation is not possible.
During conventional Omkara, Omkara is pronounced as ooooo…mmm, but patients were advised to practice OOOOOOOOO…MMM (high pitch/forceful) with prolonged exhalation.

First three breathing practices were to normalize the breathing, while Bhramari and Omkara are expiratory exercises.


Who is Yves Berthou and what is the instrument he plays?
Yves Berthou is a well-known Breton traditional musician who just celebrated his 50 years of playing the Bombard. He is a familiar figure at the various Fest Noz, the traditional Breton music and dance get together in the many scattered, isolated villages of Brittany. He has also represented France as its cultural representative in various international musical encounters including China, Scotland, Lebanon and Algeria.
(photo from archives showing a breton talabarder playing the Bombard)
The bombard (Breton: talabard, ar vombard, French: bombarde) is a contemporary conical-bore double-reed instrument widely used to play traditional Breton music. The bombard is a woodwind instrument, and a member of the shawm family. Like most shawms, it has a broad and very powerful sound, vaguely resembling a trumpet.
Bombards in their most traditional setting are accompanied by a bagpipe called a biniou kozh ("ancient bagpipe"), which plays an octave above the bombard. The bombard calls, and the biniou responds. The bombard requires so much lip pressure and breath support that a talabarder can rarely play a sustained melody line. The biniou plays the melody continuously, while the bombard takes breaks, establishing the call-and-response pattern. Prior to World War I, a given pair of Soners would typically cover all of the weddings, funerals, and other social occasions within a given territory, which would be jealously guarded from other performers. This duet of bombard and pipes, also occasionally accompanied by a drummer in past centuries, has been practiced for at least 500 years in Brittany in an unbroken tradition and must be considered the heart and soul of this instrument's place in Breton culture. (From Wikipedia)
From my limited understanding and watching the bombard being played by large number of people over the course of hours, there seems to be a larger expiratory effort, much as seen in Pranayama.
Scientific studies do show that instruments that require greater respiratory efforts, such as the double reed instruments, have beneficial effects on the health of the player (such as lower rates of Sleep Apnoea)
Keeping the scientific facts away, it is so wonderful to be immersed in the ambience of Fest Noz still practiced in Brittany after centuries, the repeated coupled instruments or voices of the players and the trance atmosphere. So both the player and the listener benefits. It is relaxing for all. I also noticed that the bombard players were on stage only for three songs at a time, and most of the couples performed only once during the night
              (all night the music plays and there is breton traditional dancing, the steps varying with the region of Brittany from where the music came from)

The idea to write this blog came to me, after meeting Yves Berthou at a Fest Noz in Poullaouen deep in the heart of Brittany.
My informant who had known him for over 50 years told me that Yves had suffered from Asthma as an adolescent and it disappeared when he took up Bombard on discovering his ancestral music from Brittany.
He was also intrigued by the similar sounds in the countries he had visited. Since we now know that the ancient people of the European continent, among whom Bretons can be counted, originated in the Middle East perhaps even further east.
 A DOUBLE REED INSTRUMENT FROM THE MIDDLE EAST
(a sacred double reed instrument from South India)
This has piqued my interest in the history of the Breton people and the peopling of the European continent. Certainly there has been a southern and northern movement of people in or around 10 000 BCE, originating in the Middle East taking the southern route across the continent to the British Isles, the northern routes taking in the middle European and northern European countries.