Advanced Yoga Practices
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How Does Pranayama Awaken
AYP Plus Additions:
378.1 - The
Biochemistry of Prana, and Beyond... (Audio)
378.2 - Natural vs.
Intentional Kumbhaka (Breath Retention) (Audio)
378.3 - The Breathless
Kumbhaka: The Finer Points of Exhalation and Inhalation (Audio)
January 13, 2010
New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the archive, as previous
lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why
Q1: How is it that pranayama causes a suction of prana from
the pelvic region upward?
A1: It should be clarified that
the reduction of oxygen intake through pranayama does not directly produce a
physical upward "vacuuming" of prana from the pelvic region. Rather, it is a
biochemical drawing up, similar to how a food fast stimulates the drawing of
nutrients from the fatty tissues of the body. In both cases, there is inner
purification and opening, which is why both fasting and pranayama are
regarded to be spiritual techniques. As we have said in
Lesson 204 and elsewhere, the nervous system has a natural ability
whereby the restraint and regulation of breath leads to an "awakening" of
the vast storehouse of life-force located in our pelvic region sexual energy
that is drawn upward through the body to compensate for a reduced intake of
oxygen when the breath is gently restrained. This upward movement is not
only physical. It is biochemical, and leads to a higher neurobiology
emerging in the body that which we call the awakening of ecstatic
conductivity, or kundalini.
about when breath is suspending automatically during deep meditation and
spinal breathing pranayama? In this case, the suspension seems to be more
effect than cause. What is causing the suspension?
Awakened inner vitality can reduce the need for oxygen as ecstatic
conductivity expands. All practices that contribute to the rise of ecstatic
conductivity play a role in this, including spinal
breathing pranayama. Breath suspension is also caused by a natural
reduction in metabolism, particularly during deep
meditation. This is a common experience for those who practice deep
meditation. So, both inner silence and ecstatic conductivity contribute to
the phenomenon of respiration slowing down.
We do not
make a goal of breath suspension in our practices. It is a natural result of
inner purification and opening. When it does occur, we regard it as any
other sensation, emotion or thought, and easily favor the procedure of the
practice we are doing.
In a few
practices, prudent voluntary regulation of breathing can be utilized in
practical ways a comfortable intentional slowing of the breath during spinal
breathing pranayama, and short periods of kumbhaka (breath suspension)
during yoni mudra and chin pump.
These encourage the awakening of the inner energies, which in turn, may lead
to reduced respiration. In these, the breath suspension is not the goal. The
resulting inner energetic awakening is the objective, with moderation being
way to take advantage of the natural relationship between breath and prana
within us is to practice daily, building a balanced routine gradually over
time, with self-pacing applied as needed. Then the technical details that we
may have concerned ourselves with will gradually be forgotten in a sea of
abiding inner silence and ecstatic bliss.
does Paramahansa Yogananda mean when he says that pranayama "purifies the
blood" by removing carbon?
A3: In his
day (early 20th century), Paramahansa Yogananda asserted that
pranayama "purifies the blood" by removing excess carbon. This would be the
reverse side of the same dynamic
we have been discussing. Reducing oxygen
intake via pranayama would initially increase carbon dioxide concentration
in the blood, and perhaps the subsequent (biochemical) drawing of prana from
the pelvic region stabilizes this: thus, "reducing carbon in the blood."
Science will have to answer that one. Perhaps Yogananda felt it would be
less controversial to describe the effects of pranayama as a purification of
the blood, rather than a deprivation of oxygen leading to a pranic
awakening. The truth is that these explanations are two sides of the same
dynamic occurring during pranayama. Either way it is viewed, the beneficial
effects of pranayama are well known. We don't have to know all the inner
workings of the machine to put it to good use. The actual internal workings
will finally be revealed by scientific research, not in intellectual
debates. The important thing is that we are practicing daily and gaining the
Q4: Why is it that some styles of pranayama are
practiced for hours every day with no extreme effects, while with AYP
pranayama, more than 10-15 minutes will often be too much?
main difference between hours of pranayama not being enough, versus 20
minutes of pranayama being too much, is deep meditation after pranayama in
the second case. In the AYP
system, each of these two practices
greatly increase the power of the other, and that largely accounts for the
difference in results, and the time it takes to produce them.
Sometimes when my breath suspends during meditation, I do not feel the need
to breathe for quite a long time. Should I stay with this and favor not
breathing? I feel an intense desire to take it to the limit in these
practices. It is as though I am possessed by divine desire.
The reason you do not feel oxygen-deprived during natural kumbhaka (breath
suspension) is because the
metabolism during deep meditation is low and
the awakening inner prana is
compensating. It will be best to stay with the
procedure of the practice we are doing. Be careful about overdoing with
breath suspension. It can lead to excessive purification and imbalance, with
recovery time being necessary. It can occur in a delayed reaction after
excessive breath suspension, days or weeks later. In this way, going too
fast can slow us down, as we overdo, wait to recover, overdo, wait to
recover, etc. It is much faster (and comfortable) to keep a steady
sustainable pace that does not lead to the excesses. Therefore, it is very
important to keep a moderate well-rounded practice routine, balanced with
good daily activity for integrating it all into everyday living. Much more
fun that way too.
practices we become possessed by the force of divine evolution longing to
express through us. It is natural. For anyone on the path of yoga it becomes
obvious. Yoga is derived from the natural evolutionary capabilities observed
within the human nervous system. We provide structure and self-pacing in an
effort to make the journey to enlightenment practical for everyone. It is in
all of us. It is only a matter of evolving practical approaches to stimulate
and manage the process of our purification and opening in ways that bring
maximum progress with comfort and safety.
wisely, and enjoy!
is in you.
Click here for lesson
content on the "breathless state," natural vs. intentional
kumbhaka (breath suspension), the biochemistry of prana, and more.
Breathing Related Lessons Topic Path
Kundalini Related Lessons Topic Path
Related Lessons Topic Path
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Note: For detailed instructions on spinal breathing pranayama,
see the Spinal Breathing Pranayama book,
and AYP Plus.