Wednesday, February 10, 2010

spinal breathing pranayama

It has been a little over a month now since I began my yoga practice, and I have to say that it is really going well. The first couple of weeks, I focused solely on the technique of deep meditation, and after I became comfortable with that, I added the next limb of the Yoga system to my practice: spinal breathing pranayama.

Prana, which is another name for the "life force," is the energy that gives rise to the Universe. It is the basis for all creation, both physical and non-physical. It is what Yogani, author of the Advanced Yoga Practices, says is the "first manifestation" or "first unit." All prana comes from God itself - which is pure awareness, in other words. And deep meditation is used to cultivate that still awarness in the human being, resulting in the eventual attainment of enlightenment.

Pranayma means "restraint of breath." It's a breathing technique that deals with the life force as it manifests in the world through a person's breath. With the idea of the spinal cord being the "main highway" of the life force, this is the area of the body that is worked with. Pranayama assists deep meditation in purifying the neurbiology of the human in order to make the physical body more receptive to, and a better vehicle for, that still awareness.

There are lots of techniques of pranayma, but in the AYP writings, spinal breathing is believed to be the most effective.

Sitting upright in any comfortable position, you begin to breath slowly, without strain. It is preferred, if one is able, to breath only through the nose. To begin, you place your attention on the perineum or "root," which is the spot between your genitals and anus. On inhalation, with the spinal nerve visualized as a tiny thread or tube shape, you glide your attention from the root, up the spinal nerve and then forward, ending at the point between your eyebrows, aka the third eye. Then with exhalation, you move your attention back down the spinal nerve to the root. And this process is followed repeatedly for the entire session. When you notice your thoughts wandering or you begin to experience different sensations, just come back to your focused breathing. When your practice is new, all that is necessary is your visualization - but as time goes on, and the "prana highway" becomes more energized, direct perception of the spinal nerve is said to occur.

It should be done twice daily, right before your deep meditation sittings for five minutes to begin with, and then ten minutes once you've adapted to it.

As with the time increase, there are four other additions that can be done to help maximize your pranayama efforts, once you're settled in to the routine:

1. Full yogic breathing - which is deep, diaphragm breathing.

2. Gentle lifting of the eyes - which is moving your eyes upward and placing your attention on the third eye, in concert with your regular spinal nerve visualization.

3. Making an effort to widen the air passage when inhaling, and restricting it when exhaling (which, again, coincides with the focused attention along the spinal nerve).

4. Noticing the sensation of cool currents as you inhale and the warm sensation as you exhale, following them up and down the spinal nerve.

I'm now up to ten minutes of pranayama before my meditations each day, and I've incorporated three of the four listed above.

Since beginning the meditation and pranayama, I have felt a remarkable difference. There is an inner spaciousness that seems to hold me, similar to the feeling of floating in a warm body of water; it's not a sensation of heat or liquid - but it is restful in that way. It is an ever-present, energetic pond that I'm a part of. I'm aware of it underneath my thoughts and physical doings, and am able to sense how it extends beyond me. I can clearly sense how it is also supporting others - which is something that has surprised me; I didn't expect to notice it "outside" myself. I am able to witness the tensions and ease around me and literally feel how superficial they all are, compared to the vast interconnection that lies beneath them and between us.

2 comments:

  1. Excellent blog post. It really helped answer some questions about some amazing sensations I'd encountered in my own "explorations" of my energetic self.

    Recently, I'd found I could consciously "expand" or "stretch" the feeling of the tube that I've felt connected from the crown of my head all the way down to the base of my spine/perinium area. I got so excited from how energetic that expansion felt that I stretched particularly hard in the area around the center of my torso... and I felt something "snap." More honestly, it felt like a tearing. From there, I began to experience something truly profound. It was as if the "real me" inside of myself was now leaking out through the physical body. I began to somewhat hallucinate what happened next, but I will share it with you and maybe you've had similar sensations... but I was instantly "surrounded" by energies or entities. I felt them do what I thought was "invade" my body... and I was very unhappy with that. I thought I was experiencing some form of possession, but then I suddenly felt very sleepy. I went to bed and when I woke up, that painful sensation in the middle of my chest was gone. Also, the prana tube from my crown to my root was no longer as "stretchy" as it had been.

    I'm still not sure how to interpret this all, but after writing this to you today, I'm suddenly of the opinion that what I experienced was a type of "Spiritual Intervention" that may have saved my life.

    Or at the very least, it kept me here in my body, implying that I'm still working on my "purpose" of being here in the first place. Either way, I've decided to be more "thankful" to whoever or whatever stepped up rather than feeling that I was being harmed. For some reason, such an attitude seems ungrateful.

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    1. Hey, Robert. Thanks so much for writing and sharing, man! I agree with the word you chose: your experience definitely sounds profound.

      I didn't go through what you did, as far as that possession feeling goes, so I can only imagine how it must have felt, how painful or scary, so just take this for what it's worth - but I honestly don't think it is something to be afraid of or overly concerned with. I say that for a couple of reasons. In the AYP writings, the author mentions that as we're doing these yogic exercises, our nervous system and energetic body is getting cleansed or purified. And during that process, we're told that all sorts of sensations might come about; it makes sense that some of them might be pretty gnarly. And of course, many are sublime. But he encourages us just to stick to the mantra or the visualization or whatever we happen to be working with at the time, and not to give attention to anything that comes along to distract us. We're told just to regard it as scenery and return to the exercise. Knowing that intense, crazy experiences are likely along the path has made them easier for me to deal with as they've come.

      Are you familiar with Mooji or Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta or any of those dudes? In the past year, I've felt a strong connection with Mooji and have spent hours in Satsang with him via YouTube, and the consistent invitation we're given by these teachers is to inquire in to the Self, the sense of the unidentified "I AM." The reason I mention that is because whenever you go directly to the source of who and what you are, everything else is seen to be passing phenomena. So whenever we're going through our lives and having whatever experiences we're having - even the hellish ones - we can notice that Who We Really Are is greater than that. I AM the witness to these sensations. I AM witness to these thoughts. I AM witness to these energies and entities. And for me, when I do that, it brings me a lot of comfort. I'm no longer identified as the scariness that's happening seemingly around me. I hope that makes sense. What I'm trying to convey is that at your core, you are God Itself. And as that Pure Space that gives rise to all that you perceive how could any entity or passing fear have any true power over you?

      I don't know if this was at all helpful, but they're pointers that have helped me, so I thought I would share. But regardless, I couldn't agree with you more. As long as we're here, we've got some purpose, some contribution to Reality.

      I'm with you: gratitude feels right. <3

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