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Lesson 229 - Spinal Breathing in Inner Space  (Audio)

AYP Plus Additions:
229.1 - Brahmari (Bee Sound) Pranayama

From: Yogani
Date: Sun Aug 22, 2004 10:33am

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 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 rising up.) 

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 flowing down.

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 forcing. 

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 silence. 

Click here for instructions on Brahmari ("bee sound") pranayama.

The guru is in you.

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Note: For detailed instructions on spinal breathing, see the AYP Spinal Breathing Pranayama book, and AYP Plus.

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