PRĀṆĀYĀMA by Sundernath
PRĀṆĀYĀMA The Practice of “Breath Control” and The Art of Listening.
The Janeu Mantra (The Prayer of the Sacred Thread) describes the art of listening within,
“By raising the sound Auṃ, one removes suffering and gains accomplishments. The accomplished one brings the thought of sound to a point. Then the sound of the moon and the sound of the sun stay completely within the body – in the heart, in the mind, in the soul. The soul is small yet the immense is smaller than that which is the smallest. Therefore sound (Nāda), point (Bindu) and the Yogin have the same nature…. Nāda is the field of the body while Bindu is the path of the body, and the one who encompasses these two, the Yogin.”
This profound analysis has many implications for the practitioner: the first is that the practice of prāṇāyāma has little to do with the process of breathing. Prāṇāyāma is the complete cessation of respiration which brings about the rise of sound. The entire journey of enlightenment can be viewed as a step by step refinement of prāṇāyāma by practical application over a long period of time. Before beginning the practice of prāṇāyāma it is important to understand the real significance of a term so often misrepresented as merely the practice of ‘breath control’. According to the Pāśupata Sūtra of Kauṇḍinya,
‘Prāṇāyāma Kṛtvā – breath control is done for the purification of the nāḍīs (the body)….. Prāṇa is the wind which flows out through the mouth and the nostrils. Control (āyāma) is the restraint or suppression of that breath. This breath control is to be regarded as voluntary, for it is preceded by knowledge, desire and effort. It should be practiced according to ones ability and strength.’ (I.16)
After performing Sankalpa, facing either East or North, and sitting in Padmāsana one should raise the neck and begin with either inhalation or exhalation, practicing until the breath is under control and one enters the state of trance. The state of trance is attained when the body is full with its own inner life wind and no longer needs to draw in the external nor release out the internal. Only then can the breath be considered to be under control.
The root an – means to breathe. The aa – in āyāma indicates the limitations inherent in the bodily posture and the need for its continuous adjustment and the constant destruction of the impurities it generates. The root yam means to tie or bind, indicating that the vāyus (winds) must be bound. Kr means to do (practice). The suffix tva is an indication that the process is to be repeated in a reverse order. This combination of references indicates that the process referred to is the practice of Nāḍī Śuddhi by which the senses are purified and the breath controlled. When this is achieved one hears an unbroken flow of the unstruck sound, the Anāhata Nāda. Through this process the states of Dhāraṇā, Dhyāna and Samadhi are traversed and at its end the unification of NAD-BIND-YOGIN achieved (as described in the Janeu Mantra).
The purpose of the natural suspension of breathing is therefore the complete internalisation of sound since the heavenly sounds cannot be heard within while one is still reliant on the flow of respiration. The Janeu mantra goes on..
‘The one who knows how to pierce the one pointed sound does it alone, becomes one with Śiva and enters his eternal dwelling, the twilight zone where the Siddhas (the accomplished ones) who are the masters of their string instruments (their bodies) are assembled through the successive ages.’
Nāḍī Śuddhi involves the gathering together of all the sounds that are scattered across the inner and peripheral bodily realms into a single point (Bindu). This explains the nature of the knowledge which (together with desire and effort) Pāśupata Sūtra I.16 states must precede breath control. This is the knowledge of the field of those sounds. This field consists of the 52 scattered sounds that reside in the peripheral body, the corresponding sounds within the central chakra systems and the sixteen important nadis or sound corridors through which these scattered sounds are gathered during Nāḍī Śuddhi prāṇāyāma.
It is of the utmost importance that the desire required for breath control is also of the right nature since the path is full of pitfalls and obstructions that result from learned habits and misunderstandings. The effort referred to here is that required to cultivate the processes of respiration – pūraka (inhalation) and rechaka (exhalation) – through the practice of asana. Specifically it refers to the attainment of the correct seat for Nāḍī Śuddhi prāṇāyāma – Padmāsana.
Without Padmāsana, the processes of Cālana, Mathana and Melana are not possible. These three acts belong to the advanced practices of Khecarī mudrā. Cālana refers to the action of the tongue when it enters the nasopharyngeal region above the hard palate and behind the uvula. Mathana is the churning action carried out using the tongue during the different phases of the breathing cycle. Melana means to gather together into a single point all the substances churned up.
Clarity about the required procedures, the appropriate tools and their use will allow one to tread the path of self-cultivation with the minimum of setbacks. Confusion will result in the multiplication of these setbacks, and the accumulation of injuries and disappointments will eventually result in the collapse of ones undertaking.
The mastery of Prāṇāyāma leads to the innermost depth of ones soul.
The next article will continue with the subject of Nāḍī Śuddhi prāṇāyāma.
Announcing the HATHA YOGA FILM
A Documentary Film Project by Emma Balnaves.
HATHA YOGA FILM delves into the essence of Hatha Yoga and gives an understanding of the true potential of the yogic journey. Filming started one year ago and Emma is returning to Nepal with her film crew later this month to complete additional interviews with accomplished practitioners in their fields. Post-production is planned for 2018 and a crowdfunding campaign will launch in early 2018 to support the completion of the film to the highest possible quality and enable the widest possible distribution.
Please check out www.hathayogafilm.com and join the new HYF mailing list to stay in touch and stay tuned in. Help us build a network of support for this important documentary. Please share our project with your social networks. Lending your voice to our cause is greatly appreciated.
December 8 – 17: Individual Practice February 3: Hatha Yoga Lecture February 5 – March 3: Individual Practice
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January 2 • Full Moon
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January 31 • Full Moon * days are for UTC, please check for your area.
ASANA by Sundernath
The first limb of Hatha yoga is Asana and is classified as bahiranga sadhana (external practice). Though Asana means ‘seat’ or ‘to sit’, it also has a dynamic aspect. Before one is able to sit in a light and unobstructed manner for prolonged periods of time, one must first practice dynamically to overcome the restrictive patterns that have arisen in previous stages of life.
‘Since the acceptance of a refined regimen is preceded by unrefined methods, the regimen for yoga is first prescribed in order to eliminate the regulations intrinsic to the previous stage of life and to make known the regulations intrinsic to the transcendent stage of life’.
– Pashupata Sutras, Commentary on Chapter One.
This verse suggests that a change in mindset is crucial since one cannot embark on the path of yoga with the mindset that served a completely different state of affairs. There is also an implication that a method exists that will enable a smooth changeover of these mindsets without disruption. This method is Sankalpa (lit. the will of determination) and when this is correctly implemented, a spontaneous flow of the divine desire floods the entire system. It is through this will of determination that the mind is harnessed and both mind and body brought under control.
Sankalpa usually follows a short prayer paying homage to the Guru and a plea for safety during and after sadhana – its full title is Sankalpa Mudra and Nyasa. Mudra and nyasa are hand and finger gestures utilised in touching the energetic sites on the body while mentally going through the different layers of energetic paths and sites within. This process (kriya) takes between 15 and 20 minutes, usually concludes with a healing mantra uttered 27 times, and leads into the practice of asanas.
Sankalpa is a powerful tool that demands of the mind that it remain concentrated and alert within the energetic fields of the body complex. The method of Sankalpa is imparted to a student when he or she is mature enough to start working with it. It is inappropriate while the student is still rough and their practice mechanical. Sankalpa is never given but must be earned. The content of Sankalpa varies from lineage to lineage according to geographical and cultural differences.
The dynamic asanas develop the skills necessary to govern the energetic fields of the mind/body complex. Additional benefits include the restoration of the body’s health, the gaining of flexibility, lightness of structure, an unobstructed flow of the life force as well as strength and endurance. These accomplishments are also important in preparing the individual for the internal practices (pranayama, bandhas-kriyas-mudras et al). The most important matter during this process is that one does not confuse these auxiliary benefits with the goal. The goal is achieving the final state of yoga, freedom through enlightenment.
The development of the right skills for the un-imposed control of the mind-body complex through the will of determination is the goal of Bahiranga Sadhana. Impatience is the biggest pitfall on the way of yogic sadhana. One must work with patience and consistency and without break, never exceeding ones natural capacity. The asanas are of many different kinds and types including squatting, standing, sitting, lying down, face up, face down, sideways, head down, turning, twisting, jumping, pumping and weighing. However one should not focus on mastering hundreds of asanas. Indeed the oldest texts on Hatha yoga give very few asanas to practice. This is because each asana has mild, medium and intense variations and those that are knowledgable utilise them appropriately. For instance forward and backward bendings must be stabilised with balancing asanas to overcome the one-sidedness of those positions. The dynamic asanas conclude with supine positions like supta trivikramasana and anantasana followed by the inverted positions.
The beginner always starts with a fixed arrangement of dynamic asanas which may be termed Angahara (arrangement), Vinyasa Krama (step by step placement) or Sukshma Vyayamas (subtle restraining drills). These sequences range from primary through intermediate to intense (or advanced). These systematic courses carry the hidden message that one must not attempt to go beyond ones limit. It is wise if one stops at the asana which is not accessible and does not go further until one has gained mastery over it. These systems vary from master to master so it is vital that one stays where one has begun and sees it through. ‘Shopping around’ will only cause confusion and produce a jack-of-all-trades and master of none.
Advanced practitioners who have mastered the different levels of intensity, no longer need fixed sequences. They create their own based upon the needs and requirements of the time. Until they are able to function in this free manner they have not mastered the craft of the dynamic practices; all they have gained is a partial ability. When mastery is complete, a feeling of revulsion arises with regard to fixed patterns. This is the sign that one is ready for the practices of pranayama which must be conducted at sunrise, noon, sunset and midnight if one is to make progress towards samadhi, the equanimous state beyond the mind-body complex.
The Sanskrit term Kalitasanam, refers to a formed seat. This seat has been formed by what has preceded it. Since it is formed, karana (cause) and karya (effect) are united in it. Since it is formed one may rest (aste) in it. Thus the yogin with his own will and by his own power governs (adhyaste) the effect which is in his/her power.
Mastery of the dynamic sphere opens the gate to the unknown mysteries of mind/body function. Beyond this gate is Antaranga Sadhana, the internal cultivation of the life wind. Here one encounters the hidden aspects of fear, anger, aggression, dependence, heart rate increase/decrease, addiction, submission, and flight. The currents of the life wind must be purged of these emotional ailments by Nadi Suddhi Pranayama.
Guru Goraknath in his Shatakam, and his guru Matsyendranath in his Samhita, only give one asana for pranayama – Baddha padmasana (bound lotus posture). Nadi Suddhi pranayama is alternate nostril breathing. Here is some food for thought.
The static asanas will be discussed in detail in the next article which deals with pranayama.
August 24: Yoga for Women with Emma
August 25-27: Shadow Yoga with Shandor and Emma
September 7- 10: Asana Angahara level 2 (FULL)
September 11-17: Individual Practice (FULL)
New York, USA
September 29 – October 1: Shadow Yoga with Shandor and Emma
October 3: Hatha Yoga Lecture with Shandor
October 5-12, 2017: Shadanga Yoga Retreat (FULL)San Luis Obispo, California, USA
October 19-22: Asana-Angahara Level 2
October 23-29: Individual Practice
Visit www.shadowyoga.com for a complete list of workshops with Sundernath & Emma and additional information.
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Quarterly Newsletter HATHA YOGA: The Misconceived High Road of Tantric Science
The Misconceived High Road of Tantric Science.
It is well established that Matsyendranath, Gorakshanath and the rest of the eighty four great Siddhas (Adepts) were all Tantrika Gurus. They practiced a Hatha Yoga interwoven with the process of worship, a dimension almost completely absent from the contemporary practice of yoga in both India and the West.
This integrated path outlined by the ancients is no longer utilised and the ignorance of this path and its requirements renders the efforts at least 98% of modern day practitioners fruitless from the very beginning. As Guru Gorakshanath states in his Text of Eternal Speech;
‘Where there is hope, there is disappointment. Where there is doubt there is sorrow. These cannot be avoided without initiation. Both are great ills.’
This description captures the mindset of the vast majority of present day practitioners who are driven by all kinds of aversions and desires. The pursuit of flexibility, power, health, or alternative lifestyles leads nowhere and is as far removed from the true state of Yoga as Mars is from Mecca.
The ancient Gurus outlined procedures designed to help each individual clear their own path towards the wisdom of enlightenment. This is a world away from blindly following the institutional formulas of fools who render lip service to a wisdom they have never lived. The procedures of Tantric Hatha Yoga outlined by the ancient Gurus are the Bahiranga, Antaranga and Paramantaranga Sadhanas. Each of these three fields of activities has a particular set of tools and skills necessary for success. If an honest seeker reflects carefully on this threefold system they will realise how far modern understanding has strayed from the source and how the impoverished schools of this age utilise barely one third of the first limb (Bhairanga Sadhana).
The skills set out in these three fields require a full knowledge of Yogic anatomy and physiology, including the map of the 16 subtle corridors of the life wind, a good understanding of the 107 vital junctions of the body and an apprehension of the daily changes impelled by the constant waning and waxing of the moon. This knowledge was imparted to the novice at the time of initiation and it is this knowledge which Gorakshanath refers to in the first verse of his Initiation Sermon (which follows on from the text above).
‘Study yourself! Distinguish between proper and improper law! Know the mystery of mysteries! Fulfill needs and expectations! (Duty)’.
Self study is only possible if one has been initiated into this knowledge of the maps and procedures of the fields of action. To distinguish the proper from the improper refers to the discriminating faculty within. The gaining of knowledge of the influences of the moon is the beginning of the unfolding of wisdom and comes through the revealing intelligence that manifests during practice. This faculty takes a long time to surface and one must not try to force the process but learn step by step, each of the required layers of the Sadhana.
When one understands the nature of these requirements one will see that the path is not about any particular ability (which can help or hinder progress) nor is it about a particular lifestyle. The process of wisdom requires that one goes beyond all the notions that have arisen from likes and dislikes and which have bred the underlying fear that in turn breeds anger, lust, violence and greed, that all lead only to exhaustion and illness.
Bahiranga Sadhana (the external practices) are comprised of Asana – both dynamic and static, the Shatkriyas (six cleansing processes) and Nadi Suddhi. The mastery of these allows progress in the internal practices of the Antaranga Sadhana – Pranayama, Mudras and Karanas. The Paramantaranga Sadhana (beyond form or formless) is comprised of Khecari Vidya (the science of roaming), Khecari Mudra, Vajroli, Amaroli and Sahajoli Mudras and the crowning process of Shambavi mudra. These are the outlined forms of the activities that pave the path of wisdom so one can serve at the feet of the formless one.
Due to ignorance of these practices, their requirements, relationship and appropriate applications modern day Hatha Yoga has become an impoverished make-believe exercise system that leads only to the grave. So what is changed by a recognition of this situation? Nothing! unless one is prepared to tread the suggested path with patience, endurance and full faith in one’s own undertaking leaving hope and doubt to those who lack vigorous bearing and prefer to be followers.
Article from Sundernath (Shandor Remete)
Editor, John Evans
NOTE: succeeding sections of this newsletter will cover Asanas – Dynamic and Static Shatkriyas – Six cleansings Nadi Suddhi – Kapalabhati, Naulikriya and Bandhas Pranayama – Mudras and Karanas Yantra – within the system of Hatha Yoga Mantra Khechari Mantra Obstacles and diseases – due to the practice of Khecari Khecari Vidya – the Yogic discipline for its attainment The States – of Vajroli, Amaroli and Sahajoli mudras Shambavi Mudra
Adelaide, Australia – May 25 – 28: Asana-angahara Level 1
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