Note: For the Original
Internet Lessons with additions,
For the Expanded and Interactive Internet Lessons, AYP Online Books,
Audiobooks and more, see AYP Plus.
Lesson 239 - Spinal Breathing Pranayama and Asanas (Audio)
AYP Plus Additions:
239.1 - Clarifications and Enhancements for Spinal
239.2 - Spinal Breathing: Undertaking Full Yogic
Breathing too Soon (Audio)
239.3 - Clarification on Ujjayi in Spinal Breathing Pranayama (Audio)
239.4 - Deep Breathing Versus Full Yogic Breathing (Audio)
Date: Mon Dec 27, 2004 0:34am
New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the web archive, as previous
lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why
Q: I have read your lessons on Pranayama, and I have some questions. I have
long since been practising a different kind of Pranayama - we inhale deeply
& slowly, and at the same time imagine that we are inhaling in from an
energy pool of prana, then holding it for sometime, then exhaling it slowly,
and at the same time imagining that we are leaving out all negative
emotions, anger, worry, etc. We don't bring the spine into picture at all. I
read from your lesson that after sometime we will also be holding the
breath, so that part of my doubt is cleared. But my question is concerning
the visualization we do as we inhale & exhale. Have you heard about the
method of Pranayama I just talked about? If yes how does it compare to your
method of Pranayama?
And another question. There are so many physical yoga asana exercises,
aren't there? Does your Advanced Yoga Practices cover them all? Or do they
cover only meditation, pranayama & a few sitting posture exercises? Maybe it
is not necessary to practise them all to move on the spiritual path but they
definitely keep the body fit & energetic don't they?
A: Thank you for writing and sharing. There are as many varieties of
pranayama as there are teachers, it seems. The degree and kinds of
visualizations are many. Underneath it all is the "restraint of breath"
which is the engine inside that produces the majority of pranayama effects.
The visualizations are often given the credit for what the basic restraint
of breath (including slow breathing and kumbhaka) produces. Which is not to
say visualizations are ineffective. There is no doubt that attention
combined with pranayama will move prana. But to what end?
Spinal breathing is in a separate class from other visualization methods
during pranayama. It comes from the tradition of kriya yoga, and other
ancient sources, and is directly linked with the purification and opening of
the sushumna, the main spiritual nerve in us (it is also the third eye on
the upper end). Spinal breathing is, in fact, not a visualization once
ecstatic conductivity begins to rise in the nervous system. It is the actual
blending of rising and descending pranas. This blending is directly promoted
with attention and observed as the joining of the shakti and shiva energies
within us. So, rather than consciously manipulating impurities and human
emotions, spinal breathing is about fostering the pranic (ecstatic) aspects
of the process of enlightenment within us, and leaving the rest to that.
Deep meditation as taught in the lessons works in a similar way -- going to
samadhi straight away and letting that aspect of our nature (inner silence)
do the work. Many forms of meditation don't do that, opting instead to
micro-manage the contents of the subconscious mind. The latter is not deep
yoga, which is found by bringing the mind repeatedly to natural stillness.
Even though spinal breathing, in its essence, is very simple and powerful,
it is often embellished by cultures and traditions, sometimes to the point
of distraction. There is a lesson on this (#206)
that you might find interesting.
One of the best tests of spinal breathing is its known curing influence on
kundalini imbalances. I have lost count of how many folks who have come here
with kundalini imbalances (some very serious) and had them relieved almost
immediately upon beginning spinal breathing. I had that experience myself
many years ago, after having worked with many types of pranayama and
kumbhaka. I have found that spinal breathing is by far the most advanced
pranayama out there, whether it be the basic version, or variations
involving other elements of practice such as yoni mudra kumbhaka, chin pump
(with or without kumbhaka), spinal bastrika, etc.
None of this is to say your practice is wrong or that you should change
anything. Your experience is your best guide, and you should proceed
accordingly. It is always good to keep our eyes open to possibilities that
may enhance our results. That is good science.
On asanas, the primary focus in the lessons has been on sitting practices
because there has not been much written on the development and integration
of sitting practices. We have taken some good steps toward filling in the
gaps on that in the lessons. It has really needed to be done. Asanas have
not been ignored - only put in perspective in relation to the full range of
yoga practices as summarized in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. What we are seeking
is a balance of all the best methods to achieve maximum progress.
There are thousands of skilled instructors teaching asanas these days, and
hundreds of excellent books and tapes on the subject. The subject seems to
be well-covered. Even so, people keep asking here about asanas. So, the
upcoming AYP book includes a basic set of asanas to do before sitting
practices to help get people started. Then additional instruction in asanas
can be obtained as desired. In AYP, asanas are a warm up for sitting
practices. In other systems of practice, asanas may be an end in themselves,
even though they represent only one-eighth of the eight limbs of yoga. It is
our culture, you know. It is changing, going more and more toward our inner
divinity, and bringing it back out into the world. Physical activity is
essential for yoga to fulfill its destiny. Asanas help us on the way in
before we do our pranayama and deep meditation. When we are back out in the
world, a healthy amount of physical activity and useful endeavors in our
daily life are important. Both our sitting practices and daily activities in
the world are what cultivate a steady condition of ecstatic bliss and divine
love. Asanas have a special role to play in this - aiding the nervous system
in its daily journey from outer activity inward to inner silence and
ecstasy. In time, all of life becomes permeated with these divine qualities
we cultivate first as an inner experience...
Click here for
clarifications and enhancements for Spinal Breathing Pranayama.
Best wishes on your path. Enjoy!
The guru is in you.
See this complete instructional lesson, and all the expanded and interactive AYP Plus lessons at:
Note: For detailed instructions on spinal breathing, see the
AYP Spinal Breathing Pranayama book.
Mudras and Bandhas book for
illustrations for beginning an asana routine,
and AYP Plus.
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