Note: For the complete lessons,
with additions, see the AYP
Easy Lessons for Ecstatic Living Books.
Lesson 378 – How Does Pranayama Awaken
Date: January 13, 2010
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
Q1: How is it that pranayama causes a suction of prana from the pelvic
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 and to "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.
Q2: How 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?
A2: 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 the key.
The best 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.
Q3: What 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 good results.
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?
A4: The 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
Q5: 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
A5: 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 also 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.
Yes, with 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.
Practice wisely, and enjoy!
The guru is in you.
Note: For detailed instructions on spinal breathing pranayama,
see the Spinal Breathing Pranayama book.