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 Discussions on AYP Pranayama, Mudras and Bandhas
 When inhaling, does the energy move up? Or down?
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Ben_DD

Germany
2 Posts

Posted - Feb 22 2024 :  10:57:04 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Message
Hello folks,

I am a practising Yogi who also started teaching yoga recently (finished my 200h-teacher training but aiming for a 500h course as well). It seems like I've finally found a forum ressourceful enough to help me with some issues, so here we go:

During my studies of yoga, perhaps no second topic has been as full of contradictions and therefore frustrating as the question about the course of prana within you during the breathing stages.

I came across scholars and sources who tell very different things about the direction of energy when you inhale - but vice versa, of course, also when you exhale.

There are the ones who say that energy moves upward when inhaling and downward when exhaling.

Then others say the exact opposite - that energy moves downward when inhaling and upward when exhaling. (At least here the direction of energy would be alligned with the direction of the physical air, coming down into your lungs when inhaling and getting pressed upward again when exhaling...)

And then others say that it all depends on your visualization, just like the sutra saying that prana follows citta.

I came across some more pieces of information to add to this puzzle:

- Applying bandhas, especially mula and uddiyana, and holding them during kumbakhas (breath holding) always seems to direct energy upward. On that, all sources agree.

- Apparently, one also must take into account that there are various subbranches of prana, the so-called vayus: 1. Prana, 2. Udana, 3. Samana, 4. Vyana, 5. Apana Vayu. According to information, Prana Vayu always moves up during inhalation, und Apana moves down during exhalation, yet applying mula and uddiyana bandha is supposed to reverse the course of apana while exhaling, therefore now moving energy upward during exhalation as well.

So what am I going to do with all these fragments of knowledge? What is the ultimate truth behind this? Call me nosy, but as an aspiring yoga teacher I'd just feel like a fraud as long as I cannot answer this question in a satisfying and scientific way.

Thanks!

Christi

United Kingdom
4414 Posts

Posted - Feb 23 2024 :  10:53:42 AM  Show Profile  Visit Christi's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Hi Ben,

Welcome to the forums!

Generally, when someone inhales, prana rises in the body, and when they exhale, prana falls in the body. There can be a slight time delay between the movement of prana and the movement of the breath, and this time delay can occur in both ways. In other words, prana could begin to rise and then the inhalation begins a second or two later, or the inhale could begin and the rise of prana follows a second or two later. Or, they could be in synch.

Someone could override this with their will power. In other words they could force an exhalation whilst prana is rising, or force an inhalation whilst it is falling, but it will generally feel uncomfortable, and the prana will attempt to right itself quite quickly, to come back into line with the breath. Someone could also hold the breath, whilst prana is rising and falling in the body, although breath retentions tend to cause prana to slow down, or even stop all together. So, again, the prana will tend to come back into line with the natural flows relating to the breath.

What we are discussing here is a particular flow of prana in the body, a flow that is connected to the breath. There are also other flows of prana in the body, related to various functions in the body such as digestion, excretion, menstruation and so on. These are separate from, but connected to, the flows of prana that are connected to the breath. There has to be a certain degree of apana for example for digestion and defecation to occur. Apana is not the same as the downward flow of prana connected to the breath. If the flow of apana is weak, then someone could experience very slow digestion, and may experience constipation.

Practices such as mulabandha, siddhasana and shambhavi mudra can affect the flows of prana related to the breath and also affect apana and the other four major vayus that you mentioned. So, advanced yoga practices can cause the slowing down of digestion and potentially cause constipation. This is why yogis eat a light diet in general and use practices like basti. These practices could also strengthen the rising and falling currents of prana related to the breath, and bring about breath suspension (both internal and external breath retentions). It is true that prana follows attention, but there are limits by which someone could alter the flows of prana in their body by using their attention. These changes would also be limited in duration. Once the attention goes to something else, the flows of prana will return to their usual course.

So, as you can see, flows of prana are complex. In general AYP treats most of it as "under the hood" as there is no need to know all about the various flows of prana in the body in order to practice AYP and become enlightened. On the AYP teacher training courses we do have a class on the 5 major pranas (vayus) and also on the 5 minor pranas (vayus).


You may find this lesson useful on which way prana flows generally with the breath:

Lesson 46 - Which Way is Up in Spinal Breathing?


And this lesson on Heart Breathing which uses a reverse flow of the attention between the heart and third eye:

Lesson 220 Opening the heart chakra


With heart breathing, love and light is being visualised as moving in through the third eye and flowing down into the heart, even as prana is rising up through the body with the inhalation. And then impurities are visualised as being released from the heart and flowing out of the third eye, even as prana is flowing down the body with the exhalation. And of course the physical air is flowing down the windpipe with the inhalation and up the windpipe with the exhalation. So, many things can be flowing at once in different directions.

Don't forget that scholars are not a primary source of information in yoga. Knowledge gained from practice is worth a thousand times more than anything that can be read in a book. Books are useful, but they can also contain mistakes, be altered over the years, be misinterpreted, mistranslated and misunderstood. So, they should be treated with some caution.
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Ben_DD

Germany
2 Posts

Posted - Feb 23 2024 :  4:15:21 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks for replying.

What you write about these delays that take a few seconds is indeed new to me. You see, when I notice something subtle after 15 minutes of ujjayi breathing including all bandhas and both kumbakhas, it is usally heat rising up. Sooner or later, my whole head feels like a lightbulb to me then, all glowing and shining. So the whole practise certainly moves some sort of energy up, yet I wonder if it's just primarely one of the breathing stages (puraka, antara k., rechaka, baya k.) that caused this - or the interconnection of all of these.

You are right when you write that practical experience surpasses any theory by far. Which why I was hoping some people could tell me their experiences with pranayama and spinal breathing, specifically their "eureka-moments" of pranayama, where they would experience something related to this topic so clear and defining that it could not be attributed just to imagination.
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Christi

United Kingdom
4414 Posts

Posted - Feb 24 2024 :  12:21:26 PM  Show Profile  Visit Christi's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Hi Ben,

The heat that you are experiencing and the sensation that your head is glowing and shining, is caused by a general increase in prana rising to the higher chakras. This is the prana that is one of the five major pranas, the upward flowing current that generally flows in the body. This is a common effect of ujjayi breathing and can even happen without the addition of bandhas, or breath retentions. Bandhas and breath retentions will increase this effect.

As for which aspect of the breath produces this effect, it is all of it. Inhalation, exhalation and retention, all contributing in different ways.
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Dogboy

USA
2229 Posts

Posted - Feb 25 2024 :  03:03:06 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Hello Ben

I have attended a few asana classes where the teacher had to inhales going down and the exhales going up, which never felt right because of the belly and the feeling of air (or lack of) inside the body. With SBP, on the inhale the body fills up, the belly extends, there is stimulation and integration, and gentle attention rises naturally on the breath. In the exhale, there is integration and radience (outward); our belly contracts, the attention is felt strongly there and in the lower chakras. To have the inhale/exhale in reverse, my natural attention would seem divided, IMHO.
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