Advanced Yoga Practices
Main Lessons

Previous  |  Next

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 378 - How Does Pranayama Awaken Kundalini?  (Audio)

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 State  (Audio)
378.4 - Kumbhaka: The Finer Points of Exhalation and Inhalation

From: Yogani
Date: 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 This Discussion?"

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.

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 produce them.

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 desire.

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.

Click here for lesson content on the "breathless state," natural vs. intentional kumbhaka (breath suspension), the biochemistry of prana, and more.

Spinal Breathing Related Lessons Topic Path
Kundalini Related Lessons Topic Path
Prana Related Lessons Topic Path

Discuss this Lesson in the AYP Plus Support Forum

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

Previous  |  Next