Advanced Yoga Practices
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Note: For the Original Internet Lessons with additions, see the AYP Easy Lessons Books. For the Expanded and Interactive Internet Lessons, AYP Online Books, Audiobooks and more, see AYP Plus.

Lesson 250 - Balancing Practices with Advancing Experiences  (Audio)

AYP Plus Additions:
250.1 - Sudden Samadhi  (Audio)
250.2 - Sleep and "Sleep Techniques"  (Audio)
250.3 - Overdoing AYP and then Going on a Vipassana Retreat?  (Audio)
250.4 - How to Increase Meditation Time Effectively and Safely  (Audio)

250.5 - Overdoing Practices Leading to Sleep Deprivation  (Audio)

From: Yogani
Date: Sat Jan 15, 2005 4:34pm

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

Q: I've been practicing Integral Yoga, off and on, for 35 years and your teachings have helped me tie up all those loose ends of how the various practices blend together and help in the rise of bliss consciousness. Especially on how to tie the Pranayama and Kundalini with deep meditation. Spinal breathing is a powerful exercise. I'm 51 and I'm disabled with neurological damage and I'm on my own as far as therapy goes. That's one of the reasons I started practicing yoga again. I gave the western doctors a chance and they shrugged. I get around physically all right. I just don't have the stamina or memory I used to. What this also means is, I have all the time to devote to my practice as I can handle. 

I have been doing 1 1/2 hours of Hatha, followed by about a half hour of Kundalini/Pranayama exercises and then 30 minutes of meditating on samadhi. In the evening I just do a Kundalini warm up and then go right into my sitting. I also work my philosophy into my life, Karma Yoga, and do walking meditations, witness to people and read uplifting scriptures. 

About two weeks ago I decided to take my sitting meditation past the half hour mark because my body was spontaneously coming out of trance after about 20 minutes and I wanted to break that compulsion. I lovedit and I started meditating for a hour or more at a time. The silence became absolutely profound and my brain started giving up trying to interrupt me. I was getting so into the Now that I couldn't tell howlong I was sitting once I got past the 30 minute mark. Then I had this experience; My whole consciousness, not just my focus, traveled down my spine and came out the bottom of my root chakra. I was trying not to put any words to the experience but I had a vision of these intertwined dancing figures unfolding towards me kaleidoscopically. Then I was in this field of wildly dancing Shiva's, then I gained some distance and I saw my whole root chakra lit up and covered with these waving cilia like things. (I think they were nerves radiating off the root chakra.) I was moving back up the sympathetic system and the whole root was lit with a yellow light with a blue aura around it. I slowly drifted back up my spine and as I entered the brain I could see my whole cerebral cortex lit up with the same light. It was quite awesome. I wasn't able to sleep at all that night but didn't feel that fatigued either.

I am making very good progress I think, and I've backed off a bit because of a couple of problems. My sleep patterns have become completely erratic, my mind is so stimulated I don't sleep for morethan an hour at a time. I go into the dreamless state and its like as soon as I start to dream I wake up. But if I get up and start moving around I still feel fatigued. It's like part of my mind is active and part wants to sleep. Breaking ingrained habits upsets the flesh. I get up for an hour then go back to sleep for an hour. 

I was just going to accept the change in sleep patterns but then my crown chakra started to open. I've had it open before so I knew when I started feeling dizzy all day and I started to feel it tingle thatI was overcharging myself. I've read your discussion on crown chakra and have had those Revelatory explosions before too. I've also been involved with what one could call, shamanistic ecstatic practices, and my nervous system is proving very sensitive to this process.

My question is mainly about pacing and the effect of meditation on sleep patterns though. I have friends that have lucid sleep and are aware of themselves sleeping and dreaming. Their awareness is a witness to them sleeping. How or when should someone lengthen the amount of time spent in samadhi? Is it too unsettling to the system to meditate for and hour one time and a half hour the next? I feel consistency is preferable and have gone back to half hour sits. Should one expect to develop that lucid sleep?

I know I am on the right path, I've always felt that a balance between the ecstatic and ascetic was the best path. This system works extremely well for me and I can feel the rising ecstasy inside me. Part of me feels I should just sit until I attain nirvana, but the other 95% says, "You'll be pushing yourself too hard again." 

Thank you for your teaching and advice. You are truly a blessing to us all. Ahimsa Om

A: Thank you for your kind note and sharing of your wonderful experiences of growing enlightenment. I'm very happy you have found the lessons to be helpful. 

No matter how far along we are in yoga, we have to consider the principles of self-pacing. I always knew this was true for me. Since the AYP lessons and correspondences have been going on, it has become clear that self-pacing applies to everyone. Yoga practice is a balancing act between the desire/bhakti that drives us to do more practice and the ability of the nervous system to purify and acclimate to ever-increasing levels of energy. Since these lessons have been underway, practitioners at all levels of experience have confirmed this many times over. Prudent self-pacing is a necessity for everyone. 

I certainly don't blame you for wanting to forge ahead. Challenging circumstances have a way of spurring us to new heights. If we have the time, we would like to do practices all day. But, contrary to the stereotype of the yogi meditating in his cave for months and years on end, it doesn't work quite like that. The nervous system needs to cycle between practices, activity and sleep to achieve the most efficient transformation to higher functioning. It is a lot like athletic conditioning. If we are a runner, we can't expect to improve our running ability if we run 24 hours a day, with no periods for rest and rejuvenation -- integrating the effect of our workouts into our body functioning in a stable way. It is like that in yoga. If we are doing practices all the time, or even just a bit too much, the nervous system can get out of balance. The result will be too much energy running around inside, which can take a toll on sleep and other aspects of our life. Then our ecstatic bliss can get a bit frazzled. It will be time to slow down, as you have done. 

But still, we can and should increase our practices if we are called to from within, if we have the time in our life to do it without shortchanging our responsibilities. 

The best way to increase practices is in small steps -- baby steps. With each new step we look to find a stable platform of practice that we can sustain over the long haul. Jumping back a forth between long and short practice routines is not usually conducive to long term progress. The nervous system likes a steady diet of whatever we are feeding it practice-wise, and it can get used to a very large diet of practices if we train it up gradually. The athlete analogy applies in this case as well. 

So, if you are wanting to increase your time of meditation, try adding on 5 minutes at a time, and wait a week or more before stepping up again. The same goes for other practices. With each step, the best measure will be in how we feel in daily activity. If activity is smooth and radiant, well, that is just right. Give it a week or two to be sure you are stable, and then think about taking practice up another notch. If you go too far, it is not the end of the world. You can step back a step or two in practices and wait for things to settle down. In that way you can gradually find your maximum comfortable routine.

I should also add that in "retreat" mode it is possible to increase practices beyond our norm for days, weeks or months, and bring them back down when we are coming off retreat mode. In retreat mode we don't increase our practice times in each sitting. Rather, we do more sittings during the day with light activity in-between. See lesson #193 for more on this. 

Samadhi is something we are gradually cultivating as a full-time experience. It is promoted primarily by meditation and samyama, and secondarily by pranayama and other methods. As inner silence (samadhi) comes up, we become more a silent witness to our other three states of consciousness -- waking state, dream sleep state and deep sleep state. It happens as our nervous system becomes more purified and we find our "self" to be inner silence present at all times. Then the "lucid sleep" you mention becomes a normal part of life. It is also called "yoga nidra." In the early stages, witnessing during sleep might feel like sleeplessness, because we are always awake (aware) inside. Too much energy running around in the head from overdoing practices, or doing them too close to bedtime, can also feel like lucid sleep. The difference between witnessing sleep and too much energy in sleep will be felt in daily activity. With witnessing, we will feel refreshed during the day. With too much energy running around, we will feel a bit tired and frazzled, even as the energy keeps going on -- time to ease up on the gas pedal in that case. Of course, it is possible to have a mixture of inner silence and energy excess during sleep also. Regardless of the reason, if we are getting behind on our rest due to our yoga, self-pacing in practices should be applied. 

The witnessing experience will come up naturally with daily practices over time, and there is not much more to do about it in the AYP approach. Some traditions focus on developing lucid (witnessing in) sleep. In AYP we just let it come up naturally over time as part of the overall rise of inner silence. Then we have it all the time, and it is no big deal. It is the first stage of enlightenment. See lessons #35 and #85 for a review of enlightenment milestones.

These are some of the fine points on dealing with advanced experiences of inner silence and ecstatic bliss. When it comes to optimizing our practices, it boils down to good self-pacing whether it is "day 1" of our practices, or "day 10,001." That is how we keep going forward along the road to enlightenment. Our nervous system is the car, the methods of yoga are the easy-to-use controls, and we are the driver. 

An unmistakable indication of our rising enlightenment is when we get up from practices and forget about our luminous inner experiences altogether because we are too busy helping others. That is when the energy is pouring out from us in the form of pure divine love. Then, for us, all the world is illuminated with ecstatic bliss, and we know ourself and everyone to be That. Then the journey we are on as an individual has become the same journey humankind is on, and it is about love, love, love! That is coming into unity, the third stage of enlightenment. 

It is a great honor to have you here. I wish you continuing success on your chosen spiritual path. Enjoy!

The guru is in you.

Self-Pacing Related Lessons Topic Path
Samadhi Related Lessons Topic Path

Sleep Related Lessons Topic Path

Discuss this Lesson in the AYP Plus Support Forum

Note: For detailed instructions on building a balanced daily practice routine with self-pacing, see the Eight Limbs of Yoga Book and the AYP Retreats Book, and AYP Plus.

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