In the AYP approach to practices we begin with deep
meditation. So no matter where we may have begun our practices in the past,
if we choose to utilize the AYP baseline system, deep meditation will be the
suggested starting point. Once we are established in twice-daily deep
meditation, the entry into additional practices may follow flexible sequence
and timing, according to individual inclinations and experiences. The
sequence of doing a full practice routine, with suggested time and order of
learning indicated, looks something like this:
- Asanas (10 minutes learned sometime after deep meditation and spinal
- Spinal Breathing Pranayama (10 minutes learned second, after
- Chin Pump (2-3 minutes learned sometime after spinal breathing)
- Spinal Bastrika (2-3 minutes learned sometime after spinal
- Deep Meditation (20 minutes learned first)
- Core Samyama (10 minutes learned after deep meditation and spinal
breathing, when abiding inner silence is recognized)
- Yoni Mudra (2-3 minutes learned sometime after spinal breathing)
- Cosmic Samyama (5 minutes learned sometime after core samyama)
- Rest (5 minutes or more included at the end of all sittings)
Other practices, such as sambhavi mudra, mulabandha, siddhasana, and
kechari mudra can occur at the same time as some of the practices listed
above, particularly spinal breathing pranayama, which is the best place to
start with them. These can be learned according to preference sometime after
we have become stable with spinal breathing pranayama. Later on, elements of
these practices may occur naturally at other times during our practice
routine, and even during daily activity. See
"automatic yoga" below.
Finally, as our practices and their results
advance over time, we may be naturally drawn to less-structured practices
outside our daily sittings, during our normal daily activity. These may
include devotional activity according to our preference (bhakti), non-dual
self-inquiry, and a natural inclination to engage in service (karma yoga).
None of these are structured, and much a function of
natural inclinations we may find coming up. An exception would be
introducing the self-inquiry sutra
core samyama practice (Lesson
351), which promotes spontaneous self-inquiry and an impulse toward
service in daily activity.
We do not undertake all of these practices
in a week, or in a few months, and not even in a year. It will take years to
build a full practice routine. And, according to our preference, we may
never use certain practices. It takes months at least to assimilate each of
the categories of practice listed. Within each category there are multiple
elements of practice which can be implemented over time, so the list here is
simplified to provide an overview. Detailed instructions can be found in the
many previous lessons for all of the practices, including their refinements,
variations, and enhancements.
Deep meditation and samyama are
primarily for cultivating inner silence. Spinal breathing pranayama, asanas,
mudras and bandhas are primarily concerned with cultivating the energetic
side of our neurobiology, leading to the rise of ecstatic conductivity.
Together, inner silence and ecstatic conductivity form the two essential
building blocks of enlightenment. It is the merging, or marriage, of these
two that fulfills the promise of yoga, which is union, expressed as Oneness
or Unity the actualization of stillness in action in everyday living.
The above-listed sitting practices comprise a compact twice-daily
practice routine. In addition, our normal daily activity constitutes part of
practice also, for this is the time we are naturally integrating what we
have gained in our sitting practices. It is one thing to be cultivating
inner silence and ecstatic conductivity during practices, and something else
to be stabilizing these qualities as we go about our daily business in life.
So keeping an active life is very important.
Besides engaging in
daily practices and keeping active, we will find additional methods and
behaviors cropping up in our life that will further enhance our progress. We
will find them rising as natural tendencies as we develop more abiding inner
silence and natural ecstatic radiance in our life. They come generally under
the yamas and niyamas in the Eight Limbs of Yoga, and may include:
- A reduction in harmful action
- Increasing honesty in all dealings
- The preservation and cultivation of sexual energy
- A lighter more nutritious diet
- An urge to engage in internal bodily cleansing
- Spiritual study and non-dual self-inquiry
- Intense desire for God/Truth
- Greater inclination to serve the needs of others
- More equanimity and contentment in life
- A reduction in suffering, regardless of any adverse circumstance
This is not to say all of these things will be experienced or undertaken
in a systematic way, or that they will happen all at once. It is through our
own choices that these things will have a greater likelihood to become more
a part of our life as our consciousness expands. We will find them creeping
into our life naturally as we go about our activities between our daily
practice sessions, and our choices will be affected by natural enhancements
in our own seeing.
Throughout the AYP writings, instructions have
been provided for these additional behaviors and means. Techniques are
provided for the preservation and cultivation of sexual energy (the tools of
tantra, adaptable to any lifestyle preference heterosexual, homosexual,
solo/masturbation or celibate), diet principles and guidelines (including
Ayurveda diet suggestions), shatkarmas (internal cleansing techniques),
amaroli (urine therapy), principles and practical guidelines for
self-inquiry, the methods of bhakti (use of desire and devotion), and the
principles of karma yoga (action in service to our highest ideal).
there is a wide range of activities that are affected in our life as we
undertake daily spiritual practices. Everything, in fact.
What is the
return on all this?
Peace and happiness!
And we have to do
very little to bring it about. Once we have mustered the desire and a
commitment to engage in deep meditation for a few minutes morning and
evening, the rest is practically automatic. Once stillness is rising and
moving within us, everything will be moving, and we will do as we are
inclined to do. All of the resources are available for us to take advantage
of as we see fit. That is how self-directed spiritual practice works.
With a twice-daily routine of practices, we place
ourselves on a fast track to enlightenment. It is potentially so fast that
it is essential we develop skill in regulating the practices we are doing
each day, measuring duration in time or repetitions, depending on the
practice. We adjust practice duration as necessary to maintain smooth and
steady progress without incurring excessive discomfort due to too many
obstructions being released in our nervous system.
This regulation of
practices is called self-pacing, and it too is a practice one of the
most important in the entire AYP arsenal. For, without good self-pacing, we
are not likely to get very far on the road to enlightenment.
aspect of practices is the prudent handling of experiences, whether they are
mundane, dramatic, or extreme. This is a path of enjoyment, and we are
entitled to enjoy the scenery we encounter on our journey to
enlightenment. However, the scenery is not what will advance us on our
path. It is our practices that will move us ahead. So, after an admiring
look at the passing scenery, no matter how beautiful or attention-grabbing
it may be, we easily go back to the practice we are doing. If spiritual
experiences come while we are in our daily activities, as they certainly
shall, we can then continue to enjoy the experiences, or go back to whatever
it is we are doing.
If experiences become extreme or uncomfortable,
either during practice, or afterward in our daily activity, the advice is to
scale back our practice in order to bring things back in balance. For
example, if we have gotten carried away with our deep meditation practice
and are meditating for too long in our twice-daily routine, it is possible
that we will experience headache or irritability during our daily activity.
It can also happen if we are getting up too quickly after practices,
without an adequate rest period at the end. There is a direct cause and
effect between our practices and our experiences in daily life. If we are
finding discomfort, then it is time to reduce practices sufficiently and
make sure we are taking adequate rest at the end to restore balance. If we
have been practicing a normal amount and find some imbalance, then the
scaling back can be temporary. As our adverse symptoms subside, then we can
creep back to our normal level of practice. However, if we have been
overdoing to the extreme, and suffering the consequences, then we should
adjust our practice times to levels that are reasonable, so we can continue
to live a normal life, while naturally integrating the benefits of our
practices into our everyday activities. This will yield the best long term
results for us.
Likewise, when time is
short, we do not have to drop our spiritual practices altogether. Our
routine can be trimmed to fit just about any time period, even only a few
minutes. See the guidelines for fitting a daily practice into a busy
schedule in Lesson 209.
We always have a
choice. Spiritual life is not something that must be hijacking us from
ordinary life. If it is, we have probably been engaged in excess, either
recently or at some time in the past, and establishing a stable routine of
practices can correct this. And neither do our practices have to
by a busy schedule. Where there is the will, there is always a way.
Spiritual life is something that can be cultivated in a self-directed way to
bring fulfillment to our activities in everyday life, whatever they may be.
It is not all or nothing. The wise path is in the middle. We are free to
live our rising spiritual experiences in a way that is compatible with our
needs. It is our life, our journey, and our enlightenment. We have no one to
become but our Self.
The methods of
yoga have been derived over the centuries from the natural capabilities for
spiritual unfoldment contained within every human nervous system. Yoga does
not determine these inherent capabilities. It optimizes the application of
As we embark on a path of daily practice, it will not be
unusual for us to experience various expressions of our inner capabilities
for purification and opening. We are stimulating the spiritual neurobiology,
so it is natural for there to be some response. Ultimately, the response
will be wide-ranging, because the connectivity of yoga exists between every
organ, nerve and cell in our body. With systematic stimulation in daily
practices, the connections will awaken and there will be movement.
The movement may come in the form of rising interest in all things spiritual
a desire to study and do more to enhance our progress on our spiritual path.
It can also come in the form of an inner ecstatic energy flow, or other
The movement can also be quite literal at times, in
the form of physical movements and postures that may occur automatically
during our regular routine of practices, and sometimes outside practices.
These physical manifestations of yoga connectivity within us are referred to
as automatic yoga.
Some symptoms of automatic yoga may include rapid
breathing (bastrika) or a slowdown or stoppage of breath (kumbhaka), the
head going forward, back, or around (forms of jalandhara), the torso of the
body going forward and down during sitting practices (yoga mudra), or a
subtle integration of our mudras and bandhas into one holistic
inner embrace (whole body mudra).
Or we may experience other spontaneous visible mudras or bandhas during or
after sitting practices, vibrations in the body, rapid movement of the legs
or arms, vocalizations of various kinds, and many other things. Or there may
be nothing at all. Just gradually more inner silence, energy and happiness
occurring in daily living.
Those who have experiences of automatic
yoga are not necessarily more advanced or gifted than those who do not.
Automatic yoga is part of the process of inner purification and opening
occurring as a result of yoga practices, and nothing more than that. For
some it will be more pronounced than for others. Those who are not shaking
all over the place will be purifying and opening within in ways that are
appropriate for the unique matrix of obstructions that is present in their
nervous system. Some are purified through study, some are purified through
increasing devotion or other sensations that express the inner divine, and
some are purified through physical movements.
Regardless of the symptoms
that may be occurring, or not, all are purified and opened through the
systematic application of daily yoga practices.
movements or other symptoms are occurring within our practices, or outside
them, what are we supposed to do? In practices, it is the same as any
thought, vision or sensation that may occur. When we notice our attention
has drifted off the practice we are doing, we just easily come back to the
practice. If we are doing deep meditation, we easily come back to the
mantra. If we are doing spinal breathing pranayama, we just easily come back
to tracing the breath between root and brow. If we are engaged in asanas, we
just easily favor the posture we are doing.
If automatic yoga becomes
overwhelming, we can ease off our practice for a few minutes and let our
attention easily be with the sensations we are experiencing. This will
usually settle the energy down. Then we can go back to our practice. If
physical symptoms continue to be intense, we can lay down and rest for a
All purification passes as openings occur, and all symptoms of
energy movements will settle down in time, as our nervous system gradually
becomes a purer conductor of the vast inner energies we are awakening with
yoga practices. While automatic yoga during normal daily activity is less
common, it can happen sometimes. In that case it is the same as any other
spiritual experiences we may have. We can allow the experiences while
observing them without excessive anticipation, participation or judgment. We
can go on with our daily activities, knowing that we are alright. In time
all such symptoms will smooth out and become synonymous with the divine flow
of our life. It has a lot to do with our opening and acceptance of our
divine condition. We always have the choice. Automatic yoga can only
dominate us if we engage it with fear.
In some systems of practice
there are certain times when automatic yoga in the form of physical
movements may be permitted to occur as part of the practice. In the AYP
system of practices, this may be more
likely during samyama when stillness is more inclined to be moving us
physically, and to lesser degrees during other sitting practices, where we
do not fight against swaying and other occasional spontaneous movements that
might occur during the normal course of our practices. This does not mean we
depart from our practice and focus our full attention on the automatic yoga.
This can be counterproductive, leading to overdoing, particularly with
changes in breathing or suspensions of breath.
It is good to keep in
mind that automatic yoga is not going to be cognizant of our limit for
accommodating purification and opening in a given period of time. Rather,
automatic yoga is an impulse to have it all right now. This is not possible
without a high probability of undergoing extreme discomfort, and then not
being able to continue. In yoga it is always best to let common sense have
the last say, particularly when the impulses that will lead us into excess
are stirring. So we always favor our predetermined structured routine of
practices, come what may, and then we will be assured of good progress with
the least amount of disruption. This is how our process of inner
purification and opening will continue to move forward. We always easily
favor the practice over the experience.
If there are a few surges,
bends, jerks or ecstatic inner caresses occurring along the way, this will
be normal, as will be the lack of them. It is all part of our natural
The Hazards of Forcing Practices
In life, we
have all had the urge to "go for it" at one time or other, to push hard to
reach our objective. In many fields of human endeavor, it is considered a
virtue to follow this impulse the proverbial race for the finish line in
whatever we are doing. It is the stuff that heroes are made of.
not in yoga, where the hero is the one who is able to let go of acts of
desperation in practices and allow the natural process of purification and
opening to occur with the least amount of disruption.
practices leads to excess in symptoms of purification and the associated
discomforts. If forcing has been extreme, particularly when jumping too far
ahead in undertaking advanced practices, then the discomfort can be
extensive, to the point where practices must stop.
overdoing in practices are due to excessive purification occurring in the
nervous system related to premature awakening of kundalini. The symptoms can
be mental, emotional, physical, or any combination of these. Kundalini, the
source of great ecstasy within us, can also bring great discomfort, if
approached carelessly. The consideration of kundalini, its symptoms of
excess, and associated remedies, is a broad and complex subject that is
fully covered throughout the lessons. If yoga practices are applied in a
logical sequence with prudent self-pacing, the excesses and discomfort
associated with a premature kundalini awakening can be largely avoided.
When symptoms of inner energy imbalance become excessive, then special
measures are necessary to recover before the spiritual journey can continue.
In this way, forcing our practices can lead to a significant slowdown in our
spiritual progress, not to mention the unnecessary discomfort. While we are
recovering from overdoing, the clock will continue to run.
forcing and overdoing in practices will not produce immediate uncomfortable
symptoms, leading instead to a delayed reaction that can be quite
severe. This is especially true with pranayama and breath suspension
(kumbhaka) methods. In fact, there can be pleasurable symptoms when first
overdoing, inspiring the practitioner to take the overdoing to a further
extreme. And then, wham!
So it is very important for us to establish
a stable routine of practices that we can sustain over the long term, adding
on in small steps from time to time when we are sure that we are ready. This
measured approach is the fastest and most reliable way to cultivate
If we are driving too fast in our car along a
winding mountain road and fly off a cliff, we will be hard-pressed to reach
our destination in a timely manner. On the other hand, if we are prudent and
drive our car skillfully at a safe speed, slowing down when we go through
the rough patches, we will be sure to reach our destination in a timely
Grounding for Stability
If we have overdone it a
bit in practices, we will know to scale back on our practice times until the
imbalance of our inner energies has been resolved. An important part of this
relates to our daily activity.
Even with a stable routine of sitting
practices, our daily activity is very important. The inner silence we
cultivate in deep meditation and the inner energy awakening we stimulate
with spinal breathing pranayama and other practices must be stabilized in
regular daily activity. This is very important so we can integrate these
inner spiritual qualities in our everyday life. It is natural for inner
silence and the inner energies to seek an outer expression in the world.
Whatever we are doing during the day between our practices will become that
path. So it is essential to maintain an active life according to our own
inclinations. Then our inner qualities will become increasingly stable in
all that we do, bringing a peacefulness, creativity and energy to all
aspects of our daily activity.
So grounding is fundamental to all
spiritual practice, though we may not call it that as we are going about our
When there is an excess of inner energy due to
overdoing in our yoga practices, or for other reasons, it is wise to scale
back on practices temporarily, and ramp up our grounding activities. This
can mean regular physical exercise, more engagement in social activity,
chores around the house, digging in the garden, doing a daily Tai Chi
routine, eating a heavier diet, whatever it takes to ground ourselves.
During such times, it will also be wise to scale back on spiritual study,
self-inquiry and devotional activities, which can also over-stimulate our
All of these will be temporary measures, until we
find our balance in daily living again. As we do, we can gradually restore
our practices and adjust our daily activities according to what is necessary
to maintain steady long term progress with comfort and safety.
The guru is in you.
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