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 Asanas - Postures and Physical Culture
 Development of experiences of asanas
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Posted - Dec 29 2022 :  12:04:01 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Message
Hi there,

I thought I write about this topic because other newbies of the skeptical sort (like myself) could find encouragement/motivation to try out AYP after reading about my experiences. I'm also curious about feedback or suggestions, and could give more details on the specifics of the asanas if anyone is interested.

I'm a scientist by profession and quite a skeptic. I found to AYP through the "Wim Hof Method", which shares (maybe just superficially) certain aspects of AYP: My Wim Hof routine consisted of 10 min "Wim Hof Breathing", followed by a few (maybe 5) minutes of meditation, and then stretching using the three poses you see in the attached screenshots from Wim's video course . The first asana is Mahamudra. I don't know the name of the other poses but they involve extension and flexion of the spine. All three poses felt very good after sitting in meditation. And so I kept doing them after switching to AYP, where I finish off my 30-40 min AYP sitting practice routine with these three asanas (after the rest phase).

I think it is likely that I would never have ended up at AYP if it wasn't for Wim Hof (catering to a more skeptic crowd and thus to me). His breathing technique offers immediate proof that controlled breathing can very powerfully affect ones state of mind (e.g. his 10 min youtube video puts you into a different state of mind while going along with it for the first time, and without having to practice). That's why I started to be curious about pranayama, Kriya yoga, and finally landed at AYP. There is quite a lot woo-woo there (too much for my taste). I understand that this might provide the necessary motivation for some people. It would be interesting to discuss in a separate thread how a woo-woo-free version of AYP could look like, or if it serves a necessary purpose. However, since AYP works, I learned to live with the woo-woo. This brings me to the topic of the thread: how do we know that AYP works? How do we track progress? There are of course plenty of benchmarks that Yogani talks about, and I'm not going into those here. But some of the crucial ones indeed have showed up for me after 6 months: definitely ecstatic conductivity and to some extent inner silence are experiences that I encounter now in daily life. But these things are difficult to benchmark, even though they are the most important changes.

I found with the three Wim Hof asanas interesting benchmarks to first notice and then track progress of inner sensuality (controlling pain and pleasure, hearing internal sounds) and subtle control of muscles, in short well-defined daily repeated situations. I started doing those asanas during my Wim Hof Method phase for maybe 6 month, and during that time the experience of these asanas did not noticeably change. They were basically the same from day one (which is one of the amazing feats of Wim Hof: to come up with techniques that produce immediately interesting "scenery" that kept me going and searching for more). But then after switching to AYP these 3 asana experiences did noticeably change. Let me go into the details:

1) Mahamudra. Wim Hof instructs to pay attention to the pain in the leg tendons that is induced by stretching, and then with the help of some breathing and breath holds, I dissolve that pain into a diffuse bliss. So right from the beginning, the stretching pain and its manipulation/transformation has been my main focus during Mahamudra, which I understand is quite unusual. At least in all yoga books I have studied this is never mentioned. Now, what has changed with AYP? After my "third eye" has become active, I noticed that the positioning of my head crucially determines my ability to transform the pain. It's as if my third eye is controlling the quality of the pain and it is more efficient in that controlling if my head is aligned with the leg just like in the screenshot I shared. Turning my head to the left or the right "untethers" the third eye and the pain immediately feels more normal again. So there seems to be a way to control pain with my third eye and, strangely, the head position matters. (The third eye also boosted my ability to deal with cold showers which I also still do. It is fascinating to experiment with the cold.)

2) Spine extension. Wim Hof again instructs to do a mild breath hold during the stretch, to dissolve the slight pain in the lumbar/sacral spine the stretching induces. A few months after starting AYP I noticed during these brief breath holds that the slight pain would transform into an orgasmic feeling (with actual orgasm if I wasn't careful). Of course, it has been quite fascinating to discover (after several decades alive) that there is a new way of reaching orgasm which doesn't even involve any touching (it's quite reproducible and it also works lying on the back, in which case I would arch my back off the ground and have less mess). With AYP practice I have increased inner sensuality and gained a better control over muscles I didn't even know I had, which leads into interesting pleasure feedback loops, like the one I accidentally discovered using Wim Hof's asana of spine extension. In both cases, Mahamudra and spinal extension, I apply the same breath hold and mula bandha.

3) Spine flexion. There was nothing to be done in Wim Hof's instructions but to relax (i.e. no breath holds or bandhas). So I didn't expect anything to change with this "boring" asana. But after a few months of AYP, I noticed the most interesting sounds while being in that posture. Most of the time it starts with what could described as a pleasant version of chirping of crickets. But then listening to it more closely it usually morphs into all sorts of sounds. It is very different from the occasional ear beeping I experience at random moments during the day which usually affects only one ear. These sounds are "stereo" and contain a lot of interesting structure. I had never before experienced these sounds. And it is now, like the other two asana experiences, reproducible for me.

I understand that these three cases of boosted experiences of asanas are not the usual AYP benchmarks, and might be considered in AYP lingo to be mere "scenery" one should not aim for (since I'm doing them after a standard AYP practice I feel that's ok). They are very specific to my coincidental habit of using these three asanas in my practices before AYP and sticking to them with AYP.
But it is beyond doubt (for me personally) that AYP is responsible for how these asana experiences have changed. Of course, many more fascinating things have happened in the mean time with mudras and bandhas I only learned from AYP lessons. But AYP teachings have not suggested any of the experiences during those three asanas. This is probably why I am so fascinated by them. They are like little discoveries: repeatable and not suggested by anyone. They make me want to go on, curiously awaiting what wonderful things will happen next, and very likely the experience of these 3 asanas will continue to morph.

Edited by - TensorTympani on Dec 29 2022 12:06:38 AM


467 Posts

Posted - Dec 29 2022 :  6:19:45 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
TensorTympani, Thanks for sharing your experience. I am also a science minded person and a skeptic. I did play around some with Wim Hof cold exposure a few years ago and was impressed with the physiologic changes it induced but ultimately gave it up as I don't like the shock of getting into the cold. I can relate to your learnings from paring of more than one practice. I had explored self hypnosis before learning AYP and have found them complimentary. Given both practices are experiential I don't need anyone to tell me they work. Yogani repeatedly cautions about combining practices as he has dealt with a lot of people over the years who have had problems with energy overload. Based on my understanding of AYP this is all scenery. It is scenery that can motivate continued practice, thus a good thing.
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4170 Posts

Posted - Dec 30 2022 :  12:57:04 PM  Show Profile  Visit Christi's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Hi Tensor,

Welcome to the forums.

Thanks for sharing your experiences with asana practice. All the things you describe are normal experiences that come on the path of yoga. The word "ajna" means control, in Sanskrit. So, the ajna chakra gets its name because, once activated, it gives us a certain amount of control over the flows of prana in the body, and therefor over experiences that happen during practice.

Experiencing orgasmic states, and states of full-body ecstasy, are also normal on the path. And the same goes for hearing inner sounds, such as crickets chirping, or a constant ringing sound.

Just to mention, when it comes to science, AYP is not based in the scientific method. Yoga does not assume that empiricism, or realism, or rationalism are true. It also does not hold that they are not true. These methods are all based on axioms, and those axioms could all prove to be false. So, they cannot be relied on, when it comes to the ontological issues, of the kind that yoga is involved with.

"When the five senses and the mind are still, and reason itself rests in silence, then begins the Path Supreme." [Katha Upanishad]

That is the reason why it would not be possible to create a version of AYP, based in the scientific method. At least, not at the moment. It is possible that science may evolve in the future, to move beyond empiricism, realism and rationalism, and we may be beginning to see this happen in some corners of the scientific community. But, it is early days. We need to see how science develops from here.

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5 Posts

Posted - Dec 31 2022 :  12:08:36 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Hi interpaul,

that's sounds really interesting to experiment with self-hypnosis. In fact I wonder to what degree practicing yoga, especially yoga that has this clear subjective feeling of "working", involves self hypnosis.

One quick comment on the "shock" aspect of Wim Hof's cold exposure. If I understood the Wim Hof lessons correctly, the aim is not get shocked by the cold, rather to learn how to remain in the cold comfortably. That is, it is ok to very slowly dial down the temperature in the shower from warm to cold and try to maintain comfort throughout. The same is true with the stretching "pain" in Mahamudra and spinal extension stretch; just get to a point where it is slightly uncomfortable and see if you can undo the discomfort with your mind and body (e.g. with internal breath hold, mula bandha, shambavi, concentration on both the third eye and "pain" with a sensation of those two becoming one), and then slowly increase the stretch while maintaining that balance.

Hi Christi,

Thanks for your reply and welcome! It's also good to hear that nothing I experience is out of the ordinary here. That's really comforting to know. Explaining the same things to friends and family would certainly raise some eye brow

About the science aspect of AYP. In fact I had the opposite idea when reading the lessons and books by Yogani. Yogani describes himself as being a "spiritual scientist" on the first or last pages of all his books. Another quote from the introduction to the "Advanced Yoga Practices" book 1: "What is the essence of effective yoga practice? Are there ways to optimize our practices to maximize our progress? This is the perennial question. It is a question that calls for a scientific investigative approach." and on the same page "It is a flexible, scientific approach, rather than a rigid, arbitrary one."

I agree with Yogani that his approach is largely scientific: he developed AYP with the goal of being reproducible, effective and predictable in any person practicing it. This is highly non-trivial given that the object to be manipulated by yoga and the measurement device that can detect any possible effect is the human being itself. That's beautiful empirical science. On the other hand Yogani casually talks about past lifes (e.g. lessons 85 and 199) as if this was common sense, just as an example. I don't think it is necessary for AYP to work. In fact I was thinking about compiling a "stripped down" version of AYP, that only deals with instructions and empirical matters, and completely removes any "theorizing" especially if it might be a turn-off to skeptics. I think it's worth discussing this in dedicated thread
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United Kingdom
4170 Posts

Posted - Dec 31 2022 :  1:40:32 PM  Show Profile  Visit Christi's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Hi Tensor,

Yes, it is true that some scientific methods are used in AYP. Observing cause and effect, for example, and seeing how that applies to many people, engaged in practices, over a long period of time. And, as you mention, observing predictability and reproducibility, in terms of methods and results.

But, ultimately, knowledge, in yoga, is not derived from the senses, or the mind. It arises by transcending the senses and the mind, and coming to know the truth of who we are, directly. It also is not concerned with experience, but rather, with transcending all experiences. So, it is not in line with the empirical method which relies on sense observation or subjective experience. You could call yoga "post-empiricism". In yoga we also do not derive ultimate knowledge from using the rational mind. So, you could also call it "post-rationalism".

So, this is why I would say that AYP is not based in the scientific method, because science does not yet recognise transcendence of the objects of the senses and the mind, as a method for the attainment of knowledge. This is the reason that the theory in yoga is important. It is there to help people wake up. You could think of the scientific method as operating within a dream, and yoga as the method to awaken from the dream. Operating within a dream is quite easy, we only have to stay asleep. But waking up from the dream, is much more difficult. Very few people manage it.

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5 Posts

Posted - Jan 02 2023 :  1:51:28 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Hi Christi,

Your ideas about what yoga ultimately aims for, or is, seems quite removed from my own ideas I got from reading the AYP lessons. How can yoga not be about experience? Or what is this "beyond" experience supposed to be? I hope not the absence of all experience, which (I guess) is how death "feels like". I believe there is nothing to experience once you are dead. Something you can get a taste of while being under general anesthesia (compared to sleep you don't feel like any time elapsed, you were simply absent for a while).

For me, yoga is so interesting because it delivers a fuller, wider, more varied and more pleasant experience. Of course, it is ok, if along the way my reasons for doing yoga will change to something which I currently can't comprehend (e.g "transcending experience").

About your dream analogy, my personal view (as a scientific it comes very natural) is that there is an objective reality "out there" and we are experiencing part of it. Furthermore I believe there is a one-to-one correspondence of our experience and what goes on in this physical reality (mostly brains and what it is directly attached to, our bodies). So in my view yoga doesn't wake me up of anything dreamlike, rather it makes me more awake within this reality by affecting my brain and body short and long term.

Edited by - TensorTympani on Jan 02 2023 3:00:55 PM
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Posted - Jan 02 2023 :  3:25:48 PM  Show Profile  Visit Christi's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Hi Tensor,

Being "beyond experience" is not the same as having no experience. It is about not identifying with experiences, or the objects of the senses, or the objects of the mind. This is discussed in the AYP lessons, especially from around lesson 323 onwards. It is also discussed in the Self-Inquiry Book and the Liberation Book.

The idea that there is an objective reality "out there", is a belief. Someone may believe that, or they may not. Beliefs can be useful on the path of yoga, as they can serve to motivate us to practice. But, ultimately, they are simply beliefs, which are transient objects within the mind, that arise and pass away. If we observe carefully, we can see that they are not there all of the time.

That particular belief, the idea that there is something objective "out there", and then, by inference, something subjective "in here", is actually one of the main subjects of inquiry within the practice of yoga. It comes in, during advanced level practices, within the field of jnana yoga, the yoga of knowledge.

When it comes to experiences, of course, when people begin the practice of yoga, they often believe it will improve their life in some way, which is why they take up the practices. So, ideas such as yoga bringing about better, more interesting, and more varied experiences, are not uncommon. But, that is not actually what the practices of yoga are designed to do. The word yoga means "union", and the practices are designed to bring us into a state of union. What this union is, is something that we can only discover as we practice, because it cannot be understood by the mind.

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467 Posts

Posted - Jan 03 2023 :  06:24:10 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Tensor, Thanks for the details about cold exposure. My experience with hypnosis and yoga suggests they are very similar in terms of activation of areas of the brain, ie. they feel nearly identical. It is impossible to know how much is related to cross pollination, i.e. I've learned both during similar times so they have interacted. Sutras released in samyama feel very similar to words used to induce trance. Ultimately it is the intention behind your practice that breaths life into it. I believe my experience with hypnosis primed me to appreciate the power of samyama.
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Posted - Jan 04 2023 :  05:43:30 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Dear Christi,

Thanks a lot for your further clarifications and references to books and lessons. I haven't read these two books yet (I'm currently through and working with the first four books and the related lessons). I agree with you that believing in a world "out there" is just a belief which can be transcended. However, believing in a world "out there" is what keeps us alive long enough to produce offspring. So it's fairly firmly evolutionary implanted. Even if you don't believe in a reality "out there", you act as if it was true (otherwise you would have long been killed by something). So I'm wondering, if yoga could change my belief in such a way why would I then still act as if there was a reality "out there"?

Hi interpaul,
I would be very interested in exploring this topic more. I have been hypnotized be friend once and it was very intense and weird. So I know how effective it can be. The problem I feel exists with hypnosis is that it is not a priori aligned with yoga. For instance, one could be suggested an experience that is contrary to what yoga would naturally give rise to. A concrete example would be to train somebody to laugh out loud whenever they think "I Am".
But it's interesting what you say about samyama being maybe such an "aligned" hypnosis.
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Posted - Jan 04 2023 :  2:33:10 PM  Show Profile  Visit Christi's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Hi Tensor,

If we look at the statement: "Believing that there is a world "out there", keeps us alive long enough to produce offspring." it is useful to remember that that is also a belief. Do, we have any evidence that it is true or not? That belief is based on the assumption that there is an objective world "out there", with things in it that will kill us, if we don't believe they are separate from us.

It can be interesting to ask the question: "If there is a world "out there", and therefore, a separate world "in here", where does one world stop, and the other world begin?".

Does our "inner world" stop at our skin? Is our body part of this "inner world", and the chair we sit on, part of the outer world? What happens when we eat something? Does something move from the "outer world" to the "inner world"? Or, what happens when we go to the toilet? What happens when we breathe?

What happens when light enters our eyes? Does the light move from the world "out there" to the world "in here"? Or, what happens when light entering the eye causes electrical signals to move to the brain? Is that the point of transition between worlds? And what happens if we have a feeling, and that feeling produces a thought, which causes an action, that then affects another person? Does something from the "inner world", cause a change in the "outer world"? And at what point does it cross the barrier between the worlds? Can we point to a place and say: "That is the place where the two worlds meet."? Or, do the two worlds somehow interpenetrate each other? And if they do interpenetrate each other, to what degree do they do this?

So, this is a part of the process of self-inquiry practice. Beginning to question some of the assumptions that we make about the world, and ourselves, and to ask the question of whether these assumptions are true or not?

These are advanced aspects of yoga practice, that are suitable for people who have cultivated a sufficient degree of inner silence in the mind. Without sufficient inner silence being present, this kind of questioning can simply lead to ideas producing more ideas, which can lead away from liberation, rather than towards it. So, the recommended course of action, is to first of all engage in meditation every day, until inner silence is strong, and then, if you are drawn to it, to add self-inquiry onto your practice.


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Posted - Jan 05 2023 :  04:04:48 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
You are right of course that my talking about having a past (e.g parents) is assuming that my memories are a reflection of the world "out there". It just seems to be only framework to make sense of my memories. The world "out there" includes our bodies and in particular our nervous system. So there is no strict border between me and not-me. Certainly hair and skin are a good approximation to that. Of course, this doesn't explain why that volume of space I occupy feels the way it does, and why it feels like anything at all (Chalmer's "hard problem of consciousness"). So I'm very curious what introspection using self-inquiry will suggest for the solution. Still need to work on that inner silence/witness a bit more though. I definitely feel it coming up sometimes during the day or sleep. But it's not as much as I feel ecstatic conductivity.
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Posted - Jan 06 2023 :  11:32:26 PM  Show Profile  Visit Christi's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
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