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Lesson 407 - Pranayama for Relaxation or for Kundalini Awakening?  (Audio)

From: Yogani
Date: June 1, 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?"

Q: I am confused about pranayama, particularly breath suspension, as it relates to kundalini awakening. In cases where there is kundalini awakening, pranayama and breath suspension may be a cause of it, and also a cause of over-the-top symptoms, discomfort, etc. In other cases, pranayama with breath suspension may be offered for relaxation, tension reduction, etc. Which is pranayama, a relaxation technique or a kundalini awakening technique?

A: It is both, depending on circumstances.

There is a distinction to be made between breathing practices (including breath suspension - kumbhaka) performed without deep meditation, and breathing practices performed in sequence with deep meditation, with increasing results found through consistent daily practice over time. This distinction accounts for the relaxation effects of breathing techniques (with or without breath suspension) when practiced alone, versus the powerful kundalini awakening affects of similar methods when used in a routine that includes deep meditation. It also may account for why breathing techniques used as stand-alone, while good for relaxation, are not very progressive as spiritual practice.

As we have discussed in the early lessons (see Lesson 39), pranayama prepares (relaxes) the soil of the nervous system so the seed of inner silence may sprout from it. Obviously, both the cultivated soil and the seed must be present for this to occur. Likewise, when inner silence is rising as a result of deep meditation, the soil of the nervous system becomes much more porous (activated). This gives rise to the dynamic where prana easily moves to compensate for a slight oxygen deficit in the nervous system resulting from pranayama (and breath suspension). This dynamic of pranayama, along with the application of mudras and bandhas, is at the heart of the systematic cultivation of ecstatic conductivity (kundalini). In the case where pranayama and deep meditation are integrated in the practice routine, excessive pranayama (especially with breath suspension) can lead to energy overloads, often coming as a delayed effect, days or weeks after the overdoing occurs. So prudent regulation of practices is necessary.

There are many who have verified this relationship between pranayama, meditation, inner silence, kundalini awakening, and overall spiritual unfoldment. It is why we put so much emphasis on self-pacing practices, and why we have relatively few kundalini crises occurring in applications of the AYP baseline system. It is important to be aware of the causes and effects of these powerful practices in our individual application of them. If we are consistent and prudent in our practice, there is much to be gained.

It should be noted that breath suspension for some will not be the same as breath suspension for others, depending on the degree of inner silence and resident sensitivity (energetic porousness) that is inherent or has been cultivated in the nervous system. Self-directed spiritual practice therefore requires a balance between the practices we are using and the ongoing process of purification and opening occurring in the nervous system. The idea is to stimulate maximum progress with minimum discomfort. It seems to be working for many.

Prior to the development of a daily spiritual practice at that level of integration and power, pranayama (with or without breath suspension) may be used as a relaxation technique. Indeed, many healthcare professionals offer breathing practices to their patients for this purpose, with good results. But that is entirely different from advanced yoga practices. It is like throwing an arrow, versus shooting it with a powerful bow. The arrow by itself may be useful for picking our teeth and other tasks that do not involve launching the arrow with a powerful bow. But we would not attempt to perform such tasks with the bow shooting the arrow. Likewise, once we have undertaken deep meditation, spinal breathing and other powerful spiritual techniques, integrated together on a daily basis, we will find our relationship with the breath changing, and we will be compelled to adjust our point of view about pranayama. We will be moving our point of view from relaxation to realization. In this case, mild forms of pranayama, like alternate nostril breathing (without breath suspension), may still be useful for relaxation. But we will find that more rigorous forms of pranayama will have a much larger stimulating effect, due to the rise of ecstatic conductivity in our nervous system. We will know it when we see it, and self-pace our practice accordingly.

The guru is in you.

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

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