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Note: For the complete lessons,
with additions, see the AYP
Easy Lessons for Ecstatic Living Books.
Lesson 229 - Q&A Spinal Breathing in Inner Space
Date: Sun Aug 22, 2004 10:33am
New Members: 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
Q: I would like to ask for clarification about spinal breathing. When we talk about
tracing the spine during spinal breathing and bhastrika, is it necessary to have an actual
visualization? And if so, is it important for the visualization to be either from outside
the spinal cord/shushumna nadi looking in or, alternatively, visualizing from within
shushumna and travelling along its passage? My usual experience is to notice a slight
kinesthetic sensation of pressure moving up the spine during inhalation, and the flowing
warmth down the spine during exhalation. (I'm not currently experiencing the coolness
And, as long as I'm full of questions today, I'd like to ask your opinion of another
version of spinal breathing that I had learned -- 12 count inhale, 3 count kumbhaka, 12
count exhale, 3 count kumbhaka. The kumbhakas feel very natural and quieting, but I wonder
if you feel that the counting is too much division of attention? With this form of the
practice, I have been able to experience the coolness rising, as well as the warmth
Thank you for your patience and generosity in answering all of our questions.
A: It is everyone's tendency to begin spinal breathing looking from the outside, imagining
the tiny thread of a nerve between the perineum and brow. Over time it internalizes due to
the rise of inner sensory experience. The experience of the cool and warm currents is the
beginning of that, an excellent "handle" to bring the attention inward during
spinal breathing, and that is why it is discussed in the lessons (#63).
On our journey from external to internal, we can imagine being inside, but not to the
point of strain, as this will detract from the natural flow of spinal breathing. It is
like meditation in that sense - we just easily favor the direction we want to go in, not
There are many forms of spinal breathing (lesson #206). This is
acceptable because spinal breathing is not nearly as delicate a procedure as deep
meditation due to the physicality of breath, which regulates the overall process. So,
there is room for variations while maintaining effectiveness. This is not so with deep
meditation, which involves the management of attention only. That is why we are
"stingy" with our attention in meditation, always favoring the easy procedure of
picking up the mantra and letting it refine naturally to stillness in the mind.
In spinal breathing, as long as we are slowing down (restraining) the breathing and
cycling the attention with it going between the brow and the perineum, it will work. Due
to this relative sturdiness of spinal breathing, we are able to introduce and stabilize
into habit many of the other practices in the lessons. It is relatively easy to
incorporate new practices while doing spinal breathing without disrupting our practice
excessively. Of course, if we shift to the crown instead of the brow in our attention
cycle with breathing, all bets are off. That dramatically increases the risk of
instability of our inner energies.
Kumbhaka on either or both ends of the breathing cycle in spinal breathing is a further
degree of restraint of breath. If this works for you, that is good practice too. Keep in
mind that adding kumbhaka into spinal breathing, and later adding more with yoni mudra and
the chin pump will be a lot of kumbhaka, and you should be prudent in your self-pacing of
practices if the resulting purification and experiences become excessive. You can use the
counting during spinal breathing if you like, though I think you will find later that the
cycling of breath, kumbhakas, etc. becomes a natural and organic process. Then the
counting will not be necessary. So much the better for letting the attention do what it
does best - soar in inner space!
When you get to kechari stage 2, and beyond, all of this will take
off, as kechari takes the experience of spinal breathing much deeper. That is why kechari
means, "to fly through (inner) space." By the time it gets to that stage we are
definitely inside, traveling the infinite expanses of pure bliss consciousness between our
third eye and root source. Externally, it is a journey back and forth between sambhavi and
mulabandha/asvini with uddiyana/nauli in-between. But we don't even notice that when we
are inside our infinitely big little nerve, reveling in ecstatic bliss (lesson #52).
It is a metaphor for all of physical life, really, and an emerging reality for the
yogi/yogini. The rise of internal sensory experience does, in fact, gradually become the
reality of our outer life too. What seems so limited through our outer senses now is seen
to be infinite when we purify and develop our inner senses. We are "That," and
everything inside and outside is joyfully dancing in That.
As it says in the Upanishads: "I am That. Thou art That. All this is That."
What is "That?" It is pure bliss consciousness, of course -- our own inner
The guru is in you.
Note: For detailed instructions on spinal breathing, see the
AYP Spinal Breathing Pranayama book.
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