10 powerful reasons why breathing is considered central to a yogic practice in which cultivating awareness is the goal.

Being aware of the gap between two thoughts can be the door to our true nature. This alertness is usually short and fragmented due to the constant chatter of our mind.  Yoga can increase the quality of this alertness  by reducing the involvement of our mind.

This alertness between two consecutive thoughts is a door to choiceless awareness.  Choiceless awareness is our awareness projected back on itself.  It is free from thoughts and stimuli of external world.  Some call it emptiness while others call it our true self.  It is our true nature.

  1. Correct yogic breathing keeps yoga centric to the cultivation of this awareness. For example, if you are doing the bhrastrika pranayama without being aware of breath, thoughts can  creep in and pranayama will not remain central to the cultivation of awareness.Without awareness of breath the pranayama then will become just another kind of exercise and you might miss the whole point. If done correctly, yogic breathing by it’s very nature, can help cultivate higher states of awareness and energize the circulation of body’s vital forces.

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  2. When you start becoming aware of the breath at the entrance of nostrils, thinking stops and awareness remains.  Constant awareness of breath,  renders awareness without interference of thoughts for longer and longer periods of time.
  3. A point comes when thoughtless awareness that is focused on breath at nostrils becomes independent of breathing.  Awareness reverses focus on itself and remains independent like an island.  Awareness becomes choiceless, even if for a short time.  It only remains to be recognized correctly and lived from moment to moment. 
  4. Cultivation of choiceless awareness and circulation of body vital forces is complementary to each other.
    Correct yogic breathing patterns cause vital force to circulate in a manner that supports process of cultivation of choiceless awareness.  For example, bhrastrika pranayama, done sedentarily, causes circulation of excess of oxygen in body to get converted to vital force.  Kapalbhati pranayama (bellow breath) propels this vital force in to specific channels in spine and activates solar plexus in the navel and nerves of heart.  Alternate nostrils breathing balances two hemispheres of brain, improves concentration and thoughtless awareness.
  5. Yogic breathing patterns when synchronized with postures (asanas), locks (bandhas) and gestures (mudras) brings about further refinement in the body. More space is created for vital force to circulate in the body.  Body dimensions can become congruent to higher levels of vitality.  Circulation of body fluids is optimized.
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  6. Recognition and it’s application while living is the best way to cultivate choiceless  awareness rather than depend on any techniques.  However, yogic breathing can be applied as technique to acquire first hand experience of choiceless awareness. It is similar to a floating device used by novice swimmer to learn swimming.  The fact is that these breathing techniques were recognized and systematized by ancient yogis as they explored the depths of their own choiceless awareness.
  7. In advanced stages of yoga the breathing patterns are allowed to happen in synchronicity with postures, locks, and gestures.  These breathing patterns influence body at deeper levels (at levels where body is autonomous and you have no voluntary control over it).  For example, alternate nostril breathing when done in a certain manner influences equilibrium between the two brain hemispheres.Expelling out air after doing certain patterns of breathing will enable you to influence movement of your stomach and intestine.  Influencing body at such subliminal level renders it vulnerable and on the edge.  Hence advanced yogic breathing should be learned with caution and under supervision of a good experienced teacher.
  8. Sexuality is very potent expression of life force. Sexuality is bidirectional.  In one direction it becomes passion and in the other direction it can become meditation and choiceless awareness. Yogic breathing pattern influences sex centers in the body. These breathing patterns, if done correctly, can potentiate, divert and propel sexual energy in to higher centers of nervous system in the uper body.For example expelling out air after certain series of breathing creates vacuum in abdomen and causes sexual energy to get drawn in to this vacuum.
    This phenomenon eventually with practice and discipline, can be harnessed to influence dormant centers in brain in order to liberate awareness from gravity of the mind and ego.  However, this relation of yogic breathing  patterns to sexuality should be explored with caution, conservation and discipline in sensual indulgence.  Celibacy therefore becomes necessary.  This play with sexual energy is unnatural and unnecessary.  However it remains a potently interesting example of ability of yogic breathing to breach the autonomy of the body
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  9. Because of it’s inherent power over your body and psyche, yogic breathing should be employed with a lot of caution.  Yogic breathing should be a means and not the objective.  It is a means for cultivation and recognition of choiceless awareness.  Arousal of vital force by yogic breathing is momentary help to clear the sky of choiceless awareness by removing the clouds of mind.  Once the purpose is served, true recognition is enough.  True recognition comes by relaxing and surrendering the ego, your identity as a personality.
  10. We are born without mind and ego.  By birth we have tendency to approach every moment without preconceived knowledge.  By birth our awareness confirms to itself rather than knowledge or ego.  By birth life is perceived as a mystery.  Society gives us all the knowledge and mental conditioning later in life.  Then choiceless awareness is forgotten and awareness is swayed by mind and surrounding world.  Yogic breathing can throw us face to face with that choiceless state of awareness which only has to be recognized as our true nature.

The discussed processes of arousal and regulation of vital forces, diversion of sexual energy, and exploration of choiceless awareness are not isolated.  These processes are intermingled.  These processes appear complex if done mechanically or with titillation seeking mind.  Hence it is necessary to have good experienced teacher, discipline, dedication, mental purity, and enough time.  However these processes become easy and spontaneous if allowed to happen as a natural consequence of staying in seamless choiceless awareness after recognizing it correctly.

Gratefulness diary

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We all have one of those days: its hard to get up. The blankets feel so heavy, your body even more heavy and your mind is cloudy. Everything seems gray and not really worth while. Your work seems irrelevant to you and it feels as if the whole world is conspiring against you, blocking you from an easy light and happy life. Yeps, you are having a little depression.

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Many ways to deal with this. You can just drag yourself throughout the day,waiting it to pass by, you might dig yourself deeper into your blankets and just watch some movies. Maybe you call your best friend to share your sorrow. Or… you might want to take things in your own hand and decide to make this day as much a beautiful day as others, even though the start wasn’t as shining and stunning as others. What helps on those days is to get your body moving, to make the blood circulate and ‘the energy’ flowing. ROlling back your shoulders, opening your chest, jumping little up and down can make a surprising change to your mood.

Another thing that does magic is reading through your Gratefulness Diary. This requires some prior work though. THis is a little book in which you write five things that you are grateful for that day. Now the trick is that you write down five new things every day, and this is where the magic happens. It is easy to repeat kind of obvious reasons to be happy for but if you have to come up with five new things every day it is amazing how subtle and beautiful events come to your mind. It helps you first of all on that very day to look back with a positive mind and this diary helps you appreciating what you have and what beauty the world has to offer you on days that your mind is a little cloudy.

8 essential rules for a simple and effective yogic self practice?

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Yoga can be learned at home by following instructions from authentic books or CDs.  Yoga is kind of exercise that needs synchronization of body, breath, and awareness aimed towards health and self transformation.  However, while trying to learn yoga at home by oneself, emphasize should be laid more on personal safety than on anything else.  Each yogic exercise needs attention to details for it to be effective and safe, however, certain rules and principles can be adopted as general guidelines for safe and effective self-learning of yoga.

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1.  Confirm that you are not suffering from any acute or chronic medical condition.  Do not learn yoga without consultation unless you are physically fit.  Seek advice if you are too young or too old to learn yoga.

2.  Yogic exercise should be practiced 4-5 hours after meal with an empty stomach.  Do not eat or drink anything 2 hours before and 1 hour after exercise.

3.  Avoid doing yoga if you are constipated or completely sexually depleted.

4.  Do not attempt advanced yogic exercises before adapting your body to the basic exercises.

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5.  Preferably try to have vegetarian diet on the day of doing yoga exercise.  Vegetarian diet being lighter, facilitates easier adaptation of visceral organs to the changing body postures.

6.  On the physical level, celibacy increases suppleness of core muscles and sensitivity of body to exercise.  Hence observing celibacy is essential at least during the initial practicing phase. Avoid intoxicants of any kind as they dampen body vital force just as fog dampens the luminosity of light.  Vital force is a nurturing force of the body and is hampered due to intoxicants and sexual depletion.

7.  Yogic practice involves body, breathing, and awareness.  Mind and emotions are disturbance to the practice.  Practice yoga when mind and emotions are at peace and you are not in hurry. Give enough time to each exercise.

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8.  Do light aerobic warm-up exercise like jogging, walking, swimming etc before yoga exercise.  Warm-up exercise increases your breathing capacity, oxygen consumption potential, and suppleness of body.  Ideally yoga should be practiced in fresh air and clean environment.

9. Any yogic exercise, whether it is breathing, postures, locks, or mudras, should be done without haste and in a relaxed manner with total awareness of whether body is experiencing pain, discomfort, or pleasure.  Any kind of pain, discomfort, or effort while or after doing exercise indicate that the exercise is not right for you at that time and body is being harmed.

10. Comfort, ease, and pleasure while doing exercise indicates that the exercise is right for you at that time and body is being benefited.  For example, if you are trying to touch your feet with legs straight, see to it that you feel the urge and pleasure in your involved body parts and attempt to bend only as much as it is easy and comfortable.

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11. RELAX in the bent position for as long as it is pleasurable  and comfortable.  Any indication of pain, effort, or trembling should dissuade you from continuing with the posture.  Similarly for doing back bends, or inversions etc… see to it that your body has BUILT the instinct and urge to take those positions.

12. Lastly, Do not make it your goal to conquer any particular body position, rather, try other exercises fluidly.  Keep your practice goalless and explore exercises that you feel like doing instinctively. Listen to your body.  If you cannot do any particular exercise at all, do not approach it directly.  First hang around and master easier exercises that will eventually make it easier for you to do that particular exercise.  You do not have to do same exercise daily.

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Give time for your body to adapt to the exercises.  Learning yogic exercises slowly will teach you patience, awareness, egolessness, and how to follow a natural course, the qualities which can be applied in your day to day life.

Though this style of self-learning is time consuming, it is safe and effective in the long run.  Let the practice remain playful leisure activity rather than strict regime.  After all, yogic exercise is natural process of breathing and wallowing harnessed instinctively to heal your body and psyche.

Join Our month long intensive Teacher Training Program so you can deepen your Yogic Practice with experienced teachers, like minded fellow students and in the wonderful natural surroundings in India. (Goa, Dharamsala and Lonavala)

Written by Chetan More for parimukti.com

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The dangers of practicing  yoga at home without a proper instruction

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“Yog” or popularly known term “yoga” means union or process of joining.  Yoga is joining of awareness which is otherwise fragmented due to constant interference of thoughts emotions and ego. With integration of awareness, yoga brings about corresponding integration in body and it’s chemistry.  Thus yoga works on you not only on physical level through exercises but also on level of mind, ego and awareness.

Yoga touches your body at deeper level.  Yoga touches your mind, ego and awareness at it’s core.This makes yoga a very powerful yet complicated and double-edged tool for self transformation.  Yoga can influence deep and subtle levels of your existence positively as well as negatively.  Hence it is advisable to learn yoga through a good and experienced teacher.

 

A novice may purchase book and CD and try to learn yoga by themselves without proper guidance.  Such self help method of learning yoga is fraught with risk of self deception and damage to body and psyche.  A self learner may remain under illusion that they are learning yoga whereas in reality they are learning postures and exercises.  They may learn what they see, hear and read while fail to learn the meaning of cultivation of health and choiceless awareness, freedom from mind, ego and desires which are true goals of yoga.

Learning yoga by oneself will not teach you what is suitable for you and what is not, when to start and when to stop, when to be aggressive and when to be passive, how to be sensitive to ones body, what disciplines are needed and what are not.  It is difficult to learn these nuances however not without mishaps and risks.

Approaching yoga with an unrestrained mind which is full of greed and desires can inflict harm that is irreversible and subliminal.  Yoga may trigger phenomenons of body  and psyche that are new.  A novice without experienced adviser may get excited and ensnared by such phenomenon.  Such phenomenon can entice learners to trespass the limits of their body and mind and thus inflict harm to themself.  Maturity, self restraint, and a balanced self is necessary to handle yoga especially the advanced aspects of yoga.

To learn yoga a learner needs to adopt lifestyle and discipline that is tailored according to their needs.  Yoga needs discipline in the matters of food, sleep, celebacy, intoxicants etc.   A experienced teacher is best to guide a learner through such disciplines in a balanced manner.  Otherwise,without such discipline, a novice learner may harm themselves if not learn yoga.

A simple exercise of paschimotanassana (forward bend while sittiong on buttocks with legs straight) can be done by a novice without taking in to consideration that it can harm him or her if they are suffering from depression or back problems.

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Without guidance, such novice learner may fail to under stand that they need to approach this posture indirectly by first learning to sit straight on their buttocks with legs straight rather than directly forcing themselves in to the forward bend in case of their body dimensions are not suitable for direct approach.  Without guidance, novice may fail to understand that they need to do intense aerobic warmup before approaching such exercise.

Without guidance, novice may also fail to take in to account whether they need to or do not need to do backward bends as a followup up exercise in order to balance out the forward bend.  There are many such subtleties associated with different yoga exercises that makes yoga a complicated science as well as art like a timeless dance.  It is difficult to learn necessary finer nuances of yoga by oneself without exposing oneself to mishaps and risks.  Hence a good and experienced yoga trainer make process of learning yoga smoother, faster and safer.

Learning yoga at an institution will with a group exposes you to subjective and objective process of learning yoga and enhances your understanding.  You will also the support and resources necessary to learning.   At home you may not have necessary cushions, blocks and ropes to use that facilitate learning of yoga.

Exercise like handstand cannot be learned at home as effectively as it can be learned when there are people to support you while you garner your awareness of core muscles in order to learn to balance yourself on head without risk of injuring your neck or abdomen.  At home you may not be the best person to counsel yourself and clinically assess yourself so that you can do and not do exercises that are indicated and contraindicated for you.  For example you may attempt to do kapalbhati pranayama without taking it in to consideration that it is contraindicated for you if you have hernia or suffer from breathlessness and chest pain due to underlying heart condition. Consideration to such risk factors is particularly warranted when it comes to learning yoga in it’s advanced form.

Besides a self learner can miss the inspiration and motivation from a yoga teacher.  A self learner will miss the experience of being in communion with a yoga teacher who has traveled the ladder from position of learner to a higher level of awareness, relaxation, egolessness and self mastery.

Written by Chetan More for parimukti.com

to be safe check out the

8 essential rules for a simple and effective yogic self practice?

day 27: celebration time

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yeah, we all made it!! so proud of everyone. we are now yoga teachers! thanks to merel who made this great experience possible, she is a very special woman. it was a great course and i learnt so much more than i even dreamt of. i cannot even grasp it yet, guess i will realize everything in the plane tomorrow. i feel not happy having to leave this amazing place, but i am blessed for the new friends i made – especially cari, who will have a place in my heart wherever i go. ❤️

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day 26: 2 out of 3 are teachers! CONGRATS!!

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today morning and afternoon both, ryan and cari held a hatha class instead of our teacher mandi. so also mandi’s regular students were coming and attending the session. both did a very good job, ryan was doing his own personalized variation of a vinyasa in his hatha sequence and was talking very confident. cari was well prepared and spread a very warm and relaxing atmosphere in her traditional hatha class.
we celebrated with a big munch of ice cream, cake and fruit dream and finished off our evening at the open mic at dylan’s. tomorrow afternoon is gonna be my class, followed by our ceremony. so keep your fingers crossed!

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day 25: exam day

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we had our exam today, it was really nice – i felt prepared, and so all 3 of my group passed. i didn’t have to study too much because the whole topic is so interesting to us that we would talk about that stuff anyways in the evening or weekends. never thought i would make it to “the good students” in my life anymore, but it obviously depends on what you are studying and if you like it. i loved it, all of the past 4 weeks.

tomorrow morning ryan will teach his class and in the afternoon carina. i am excited for them already! today cari & me played the students for ryan, he was doing a great job! i would definitely go to his class!

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day 24: study, relax & resume

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the time has passed fast, almost 4 weeks intense yoga classes, tomorrow we have the written exam. today we had hatha with mandi, then awesome breakfast, satsang with rajee, the guru, whose followers fall to his feed after his speech. in the lunch break we sat together & prepared for the exam, later i was swimming in the ocean and layed in the sand, feeling one with nature. then intense ashtanga class with mandi – thanks to him i am able to perform a headstand all by myself, it is an awesome feeling (letting go of the fear to fall)!

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day 23: join my exam on saturday! :)

the sequence for my hatha class, fixed! saturday afternoon 4pm at blue pyramid – join if you have time! :)
our theoretical exam will be on thursday, so i still need to study a whole lot. but i guess i got a basic understanding, this should help too.
there is still anatomy lessons with merel going on as well as the satsangs with rajee.
i cannot believe in 5 days i am leaving beautiful arambol, but maybe i’m come back soon..

day 22: study & preparation time starts

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the last week of the training started, on saturday morning i am going to teach my first drop in yoga class. today i arranged my sequence and thought about warm up, meditation and chanting parts and tomorrow the teachers will have a quick look at it.
i actually start to feel comfortable with the poses and the teaching. i didnt start the training with the intent of becoming a teacher, but to learn more about yoga for my own benefits. now i cannot wait to teach my boyfriend, so we can do yoga together on the beach, my mom, who has diabetes or brother with slip disc problem. since i am on the beginning of my travelling, i see this teacher certificate as a possibility to earn money when and wherever needed.

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