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Advanced Yoga Practices
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Lesson 379 - Swallowing Air  (Audio)

From: Yogani
Date: January 27, 2010

New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the archive, as previous lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why This Discussion?"


Q: As you have indicated in previous lessons, part of advanced yoga practice consists of a natural circulating air through the digestive system. I have been growing comfortable with pranayama and nauli, and now find I am starting to swallow air without really intending to, which then circulates in the digestive system with little of it coming back out. Are you familiar with this? What has been your experience with it? Can you help me understand what is happening?

A: The presence of more air in the GI tract is a normal part of the neurobiology of the rise of ecstatic conductivity (kundalini). It has been described in Lesson 304 on the "nectar cycle," and elsewhere in the lessons. Air plays a vital role in the nectar cycle, mixing with food and sexual essences in the GI tract, where a higher form of digestion occurs, producing refined substances that advance the neurobiology of ecstatic awakening. It is a natural process that arises in us as we advance with inner purification and opening cultivated by our daily yoga practices.

Air enters our GI tract through an increasing porousness in all the tissues of our body, brought about through spiritual practice, particularly pranayama. If we find that we are swallowing some air, this can be natural too. It means that the demand in the GI tract is there and air coming in through the tissues is not quite enough, so we are compelled swallow some.

Taking in air before the awakening of ecstatic conductivity can be counter-productive. It is not necessary to create a "Buddha belly" filling ourselves with air to become enlightened. This is true for many of the energy-stimulating yogic and tantric practices. They are only effective when there is sufficient abiding inner silence in the nervous system and ecstatic conductivity is ready to awaken. The cultivation of abiding inner silence via deep meditation (and later with samyama and relational self-inquiry) is the primary prerequisite for ecstatic awakening. If the lessons are taken in order, we will find the suggested sequence by which many practices can be brought into the daily routine to accomplish this in a systematic way.

Pranayama, asanas, mudras, bandhas and tantric methods have to do largely with the aforementioned process of ecstatic awakening, which is a key component of the enlightenment process. Pranayama methods are particularly important in this, including moderate utilization of kumbhaka, for systematic purification and opening of the neurobiology. This stimulates the rise of ecstatic conductivity, and infuses the increasingly porous body and GI tract with air. This will happen naturally as overall progress in practices advances. For example, automatic breath suspension is common during deep meditation, and this is related to this natural overall process of awakening.

As ecstatic conductivity advances, occasional automatic swallowing of air may occur. This is not to be confused with intentional ingestion of air, which may not produce an ideal outcome. The role of air in the GI tract is in the higher biochemistry, involving the mixing air, food and sexual essences, leading to the production of a refined product of digestion we call "soma," which rises up to the brain, where it is further processed to become "amrita" (nectar) to come back down through the sinuses and nasal passages into the GI tract, to be recycled again, and so on. This is the "nectar cycle," which leads to the radiation of ecstatic bliss from within the body. The agent of this radiation is called "ojas," which can sometimes be detected on the skin as an oily substance, sweet scent or shining radiance.

Along with that comes a natural flowering in conduct. The result in daily living is abiding inner silence, ecstatic bliss and outpouring divine love in all that we do. We also call this "stillness in action." It has far-reaching implications for all of humanity. This is why we do yoga, for the evolutionary result it brings in daily living, which can uplift everyone.

It should be mentioned that deliberate swallowing air is not instructed or encouraged in the AYP system, though its automatic occurrence is recognized. Such a deliberate procedure is not regarded to be in the best interest of many practitioners. We have plentiful results occurring with the practices that have been employed, and it is not necessary to embark on a deliberate practice of swallowing air, which could be unhealthful if taken to the extreme.

In my case, air ingestion was an automatic yoga. It happened over a several year period about 25 years ago, along with many other things associated with the rise of ecstatic conductivity. At certain times, I could not help swallowing air, and the effect was much ecstasy and radiance emanating outward from the GI tract, as well as quite a lot of overdoing which required prudent self-pacing. So, for anyone who finds themselves swallowing air, self-pacing will be the first order of business. Prudently limiting the ingestion of air will not delay us on our path. Less is more.

Shatkarmas (cleansing techniques) also play a role in the development of the higher neurobiology in the GI tract. See Lesson 312.

Keep in mind that with the refinement of ecstatic conductivity, air comes into the GI tract through the surrounding tissues, so the need for swallowing air becomes less. Refinements like that are what happens with all advanced yoga practices over time. They tend to become resident and refined to the point of near invisibility in us as purification and opening occur in the nervous system. At the same time, it becomes obvious to us, and those around us, that something profound has been happening.

This is what is referred to as the rise of "whole body mudra," a refinement of many elements of our yoga practice occurring quietly underneath in everyday living, making for a life lived in constant ecstatic bliss. There is still structured daily practice occurring, but it is not necessary to be as intense as when pathways were initially being opened. It becomes much easier and automatic as the neurobiology goes to higher functioning. Less becomes more. Then we find ourselves to be more inclined toward self-inquiry and service (karma yoga) leading to a greatly increased flow of love and the rise of the non-duality/unity experience in daily living, which we also call "stillness in action." All of the refined neurobiological activities continue to go on automatically in the background.

The suggestion is to focus on cultivating inner silence, and bring on the energy cultivation elements more or less in the sequence in the AYP lessons, according to your inclination. Ingesting air may or may not happen, depending on how much is being absorbed through our increasingly porous body tissues. Not to worry about it. There are no hard and fast rules. Asanas, mudras, bandhas, kumbhaka, and tantric sexual methods are more than enough to get the job done, swallowing air or not. Do what comes naturally.

Remember, there is no one thing in yoga that will do everything. It takes an effective integration of methods that will stimulate all aspects of our inherent capability for human spiritual transformation.

The guru is in you.

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Note: For detailed instructions on spinal breathing, see the Spinal Breathing Pranayama book.  For detailed discussion on the neurobiology of the "nectar cycle," and the relationship to diet and shatkarmas, see the Diet, Shatkarmas and Amaroli book. Also see AYP Plus.

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