A little exploratory introduction on prana in posture and asana

Here is an explanation for your own experience into the introduction of prana and its effects in posture and how posture effects prana and via vs in biomechanics of posture.

If you were to be standing in tadasana. That would be just standing as if you were about to do a sun salutation. The subtleties of prana can be explained pretty easy for this posture.

Take a breath. Notice where the breath goes and how you are breathing. You can also try to notice where the energy or prana goes.

Now step wide as if you are stepping on the outer edges of a man hole cover. Take another breath and notice the difference.

Now step with your feet together like you are taught in pretty much every yoga class and repeat the same breathing and noticing? What is the difference. Where does the breath go and where does the prana move to?

Now step about the same width as your hips and repeat the whole thing. What is the difference?

You should be able to feel the following:

When you just stood and breathed most people breath through their scalenes. Those are muscles in your neck that are secondary muscles of respiration. The prana is most likely moving upward toward your head.

When you stepped wide like the man hole cover, your breath should have dropped down into your belly or diaphragm and the prana should of moved downward.

When you stepped with the feet together, the breath should have moved back up into only breathing with the scalenes and the prana moved back up into the head.

Try the entire three situations again but this time try to feel the mind. What do you notice?

You should notice that when you step your feet together the prana moves up into the head and the mind starts to go off spinning and ungrounded. When you step the feet wide apart the mind calms.

It is not just the mind but the whole body feels grounded when you are stepped wide and the opposite when stepping together.

If you don’t feel anything that is okay. Most people do not have a clue about these things and don’t feel due to trauma (another post, not this one) but with a little attention and guidance what to look for, the awareness of energy becomes obvious. It is a different world.

When the scalenes become the primary muscles used for respiration, the blood pressure goes up and stress chemicals like cortisol, noradrenalin, ephinephrine, norepinephrine, and adrenalin are released. The respiration is limited to the upper lungs. This is the fight response, the sympathetic nervous system is engaged.

When you step wide and the respiration drops down to the rest of the lungs, the parasympathetic nervous system is engaged and the relax response is happening.

Interesting huh?

Here is another one:

Inhale and sit down to the floor and feel. Then stand up with the exhale. Do this slowly so that you can feel. Notice that this is the same breathing that is taught in western exercise theory like if you were to be doing a squat.

Now do just the opposite, exhale as you sit down and inhale slowly to allow the breath to cover the time that it takes to stand up all the way. In other words, breath in slowly to stand up. This would be the opposite breath that you would be taught to do while doing a squat.

What was the difference?

As you inhaled to sit down, the inhale moved the prana upwards. You might have felt weird or as if it didn’t feel right. The prana was moving in the wrong direction as to the movement you were doing.

Exhale to stand up. Notice you might get light headed. This in western lingo is because if your blood sugar. It is not. It is because you were breathing the opposite once again as to the movement you were doing. Prana was trying to move downward and you were moving upward. The result is that Vata or prana was disturbed and although you were breathing to make prana move down you forced it upward, hence the head rush.

On breathing out to sit down you should feel quite comfortable and relaxed. Sitting there might feel just right.

When you breathed in to stand up notice there was no head rush unless you breathed in quickly then held your breath to stand, this is very common. Funny thing is that is there is no low blood sugar going on but yet that is what the head rush is attributed to. You should have also felt how easy it was to stand as if you were being picked up or as if many pounds of weight had been lifted off you.

Funny how all of this is opposite to what is taught with Western exercise theory. The reason why is that there is no understanding of prana in western exercise theory or western science. When there is a knowledge of prana in the western world it is only this obscure concept and no actual embodiment of it exists. We think that everything is energy so what ever we do is okay. nothing works like that and so no deep knowledge is had. There is no actual experience when it remains a concept of the mind. This goes for everything. There are no actual feelings or emotions when it is all in your mind. Just reactions and identification to them.

If you were to now conceive that all of this goes into every asana that you can do, that it is more important to move the prana in the correct manner than anything else, it opens up a whole new realm if understanding what asana is about. Every asana has its proper movement of prana or pranic focus. just doing an asana does not at all mean you are actually doing what is supposed to be happening in that pose.

If you are not creating balance with the prana in the asanas with awareness of what you are doing you will be creating just the opposite. This creates disease.

I will just put in here as well that some people think that “my practice or what I teach is much too idealistic”. I would like to point out 1. the ignorance in that statement when you realize that your practice is actually harming your health from the very lens of yoga, not from a western lens. 2. The ignorance of the people that we consider teachers only after Yoga teacher Trainings are 200hrs then they are set free on the world with some identification that thry know something. This is how much respect we have for an ancient science. We think that someone with only 200 hours of training can teach… this much less anything else. 3. Then you have these “yoga teachers” changing what the path of yoga is due to their own ignorance and thinking that the path they are now leading will actually produce the effects that the real path of yoga will? On top of this, how many of these teachers have ever spent any time or studied the culture of India? Understand that yoga is at best practiced by only 5% of all of India. Okay, off my box and back to the article.

Prana is Vata. Vata is the name of one of the three Doshas in Ayurveda. It is one of the three humours or what we call the constitutions, which is not correct. Doshas are “that which is imbalanced”. To be a dosha it is an imbalanced. In balance the dosha would not exist. The doshas are like a buffering system. They move out of balance due to our ignorance and also the elemental changes in seasons and they also change due to the elemental change throughout the day.

Vata is broken down into the five pranas or sub doshas of Vata. They are the same pranas that we know and use in yoga. This is what asana is all about, balancing the pranas. They are in past articles if you wish to understand them better. They are responsible for all the motor and sensory functions of the body’s workings. Basically they are what makes all you physiology work properly together. So you see that balancing the pranas creates health of the physiology. Just doing mindless and ignorant asana will create disease. Nothing in yoga is about getting high and blissed out. That is actually the feeling that happens when you create an imbalance in prana. What you feel like when you balance them correctly is grounded. You feel stable and rooted to the earth, yet balanced and expanded at the same time. You will feel pulled together, not pulled apart and blissed out.

For an example, have you ever felt like you could not walk straight or unstable after a yoga class? Felt like you were high? Could not remember things like what you had to do after class? Maybe even constipated? These are all very obvious signs that you created an imbalance in the class you just did. This is also the reason for most yoga teachers being air headed and incredibly excessively talkative and ungrounded. That is not spirituality, really. It is the facts that this knowledge is not taught in any yoga trainings out there. I have never heard not seen any yoga teacher understand prana except from the point of view of concepts. If you have, please have them contact me. Seriously. They are in a incredibly small handful of people that prana is not some concept of the mind only. Really.

This all puts another spin on all the injuries that happen because of yoga. If this knowledge was followed there would be no injuries in yoga at all. It is only a blockage of prana that causes a knee, neck, or back injury or a ll those other injuries that are sustained. If this knowledge was followed, balancing the pranas would create health and in time get rid of any blockages. This also puts the breath as the most important thing to understand for asana. In balancing the prana, the body releases naturally, not thru force and becomes healthy, flexible, and strong at the same time.

Please question what you think you know. Specially you “yoga teachers” out there. And don’t believe what I am telling you either. Experience it for yourself. This is only the very basic 101 understanding of this and it goes very deep. Yoga is a totally different world from what you have been taught. There is so much depth and detail to all of this. The beauty is in the complexity, think of an orchid or anything beautiful. Only the complexity of it makes it beautiful. It is your complexity that makes you beautiful. It is only when we get our ego in the way of believing we know something that all that beauty stops. The path is tread only with judgement used to create discernment. That discernment is what knowledge is created with. That knowledge embodied creates wisdom and that wisdom is the only thing that is true teaching. The rest is a hamster wheel.

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5 thoughts on “A little exploratory introduction on prana in posture and asana

  1. What do you have to say about Krishnamacharya and Iyengar? I learn asanas from Light on Yoga, I like doing them a lot as I’ve become quite strong. I have skimmed over Yoga Makaranda by Krishnamacharya (I believe that’s what it’s called) and he seems to know all about these things.

    If you aren’t familiar with Light On Yoga, Iyengar has about a 3 year long course of asanas. Would you say these generally balance the pranas properly? When I properly practice a full ‘series’ from the book I definetly feel great and not ‘blissed out’, so to speak.

    • Hey, Lucas, Thanks for your comment.

      First, I would ask what does my opinion have to do with anything really?
      Then I would say that it is nice what both of them have brought to the Western yoga scene.
      and then I would ask when did yoga become asana only?

      I do not consider anything but shastra to be valuable. That would be my answer to your question. One of my teachers once said, I would much rather follow a path that has been walked by many and have been proven as well as handed down by rishis than follow the path of idiots of today.

      Iyengars Illustrated Light on Yoga book is nice, but the course does not balance prana. His stuff is not about that. And once again, when did yoga become asana? Asana is not built off the western lens, sorry. So as far as I can see with his stuff, it is all about the Western masses. Which of course offends anyone who has any attachement to that, huh? and then i would add, why do all the top Iyengar teachers have anger problems? Just maybe do you think it might be something with the practice and the prana not being balanced? Just maybe?

      Yoga is not asana. Ever. Even when asana is being practiced from the framework of prana and understanding the jyotish and all of the vedic knowledge around it, it still is not yoga. It is just dealing with the physical body and if your not getting past that????? Self absorption.

      On the other side of things, where would anyone find all of that knowledge these days, specially when all we have is the mass marketed books to follow and would not know the difference if it bit us in the arse. I am very glad you feel great from it and not blissed out. Fantastic! Because that IS the goal of yoga after all. Right??????????

      • Okay. Thanks. I am asking your oppinion because you seem quite knowledgeable on these topics so I was just curious. I also am really only interested in learning from the Shastras. One of the earliest books I’ve read was Hatha Yoga Pradipika put out by Yoga Publications Trust. I liked it a lot and that’s mainly what got me interested learning more about hatha and the subtle body. I’ve read Sri Shiva rahasya where all it says about Hatha is the balance between ida and pingala. I just want this knowledge and apply it properly so I can have a meaningful sadhana.

        Why I’m looking for others opinions is because HYP doesn’t have a “practice” section (the reason for that I’m probably already aware) in it and without a guru I’m not sure what to do with it. Which I suppose is the entire point.

        I just picked up Hatha Yoga by Swami Sivananda and will look at the back and see what course he has. I enjoyed Kundalini Yoga by him. In all honesty man, I just feel helpless without having anyone with real knowledge teach me this stuff. Well, that’s what the guru is for.

      • Lucas,
        So to start i would say this about Iyengar, he was great. I would also say that he spent maybe 2.5 years studying with Krishnamacharya before he was sent to a hospital in Pune where he studied Western sciences like anatomy and physiology and that itself shows in his teachings from the view of anyone that knows the difference. I can tell you from being with my teachers for 24 hours a day for long periods that a lot can be learned, but i can also say that it takes much longer than 2.5 years, give or take, for anything to really be taught of depth.
        Also, to add, Iyengar died of renal failure and heart failure and yes, it was at 90 but he did not reach samadhi and died of disease rather than old age or passing as a high level spiritual guru would. Now that is just fact about it all and not my opinion. I would expect if the path was actually the path, it would have been different, would it not? results show. That being said, he was great and has done a lot to bring what is yoga today in the masses to what it is today in the masses. So as much as I appreciate him I also have eyes enough to see what is what. I also know what eating and lifestyle changes happen when someone becomes rich.
        I appreciate the comment of your thinking i am quite knowledgable in this stuff. I can tell you that there is so much that I do not know and have not experienced. My teachers would laugh. Me too. But thanks. My hopes with the blog is to allow people to realize there is more than what is being touted out there.
        Advice for you, go learn sanskrit if you do not know it already. Without a guru and without the knowledge of sanskrit i can only wish you well on your journey. everything is hidden (codified) and noting is sanskrit is written in our linear modern world fashion in the texts and nothing at all is gleaned except more concepts that get you stuck in the mind with reading translations to english which are butchered anyway. I would explain that like this, so you have some idea of ida and pingala, but did you know there is so so so much more and the idea you have, is it just a concept in your mind or is it experienced. if not experienced there is no progress. What we are looking for here is the experiential knowledge.
        and then i would also ask what the lifestyle and what the life that you live is and if it is actually conducive or is it a modern life? And then there is culture as well which is a paradigm that one cannot get out of and yoga is not conducive to the modern paradigm.
        What is a sadhana? another great conversation. An asana practice is not a sadhana. what is a sadhak? If not a real sadhak, not a real sadhana. These are things to understand.
        and then if this is really a path to choose that fits with the life, i would learn sanskrit for sure and then start to study the upanishads and get into all of the vedic literature. Alot is lost without the knowledge that is only within the cultural context. Which might mean actually going to India and finding a real guru, not a foreigners spiritual tourist ashram. All of this as you can see is all different levels and they all are totally okay. They just are not the same and will not have the same end results. Anyone can be happy and live a moderately healthy life by going to a modern yoga class every day and doing stuff that is pretty absurd by the view of knowledge of what the yogic path is.
        And once again, it all is just what it is, it is all karma. If you have the stars for it, it will be.
        Don’t bother with Sivananda except for more information. I don’t want to discourage you from reading stuff, just know that that is basic stuff and written for the Western world. Just know what it is that you are reading and the level it is made for and talking to. You can even read Swami Vivekananda’s work which is great and I would push you that way in fact. Read the four yogas so that you understand. This is also out of culture and written for the wester/modern world. Truly, It is not like someone just picks a path, the path is already aligned for them or not. This is shown in someone’s jyotish chart. Those four types of yoga are shown there. And yet, everyone is an individual. But you have to have the combinations of the planets for them.
        I also get it, you’re saying you feel helpless without someone to teach you this stuff. You’re in the position that not a lot of people get to.
        As i say to the select few real serious students i have, “ask yourself who you are and in that is a lot more than that question alone.” What is there is to know what your wanting, what you’re actually truthfully willing to do because the actual yogic path is one of fire, not getting in shape. Where do you want it all to go? Why? All of this is actually really important to know. Understanding it allows one to then move forward with clarity.
        and then again, i would say that just going to India and going to someone who teaches “yoga” in Mysore or something like that is fine too. Asana is not yoga, but that is what someone might want out of all of it.
        Hope that helps a bit.
        And one more little, well actually big, addition….. “Om Gurave Namah”. Do at least one round of 108 every AM. It will bring you your guru if it is meant to be. Also, whatever practice you are doing at this moment. Light a ghee candle and then chant the following….. then do your practice. See what changes.

        Shiva Panchakshari:

        Nagendraharaya Trilochanaya
        Bhasmangaragaya Maheshvaraya
        Nityaya Shuddhaya Digambaraya
        Tasmai Nakaraya Namah Shivaya ||1||

        Mandakini salila chandana charchitaya
        Nandishvara pramathanatha Maheshvaraya
        Mandarapushpa bahupushhpa supujitaya
        Tasmai Makaraya Namah Shivaya ||2||

        Shivaya Gauri vadanabjavrunda
        Suryaya Dakshadhvara Nashakaya
        Shrinilakanthaya Vrushhadhvajaya
        Tasmai Shikaraya Namah Shivaya ||3||

        Vasishhtha kumbhodbhava gautamarya
        Munindra devarchita shekharaya
        Chandrarkavaishvanara lochanaya
        Tasmai Vakaraya Namah Shivaya ||4||

        Yakshasvarupaya Jatadharaya
        Pinakahastaya Sanatanaya
        Divyaya Devaya Digambaraya
        Tasmai Yakaraya Namah Shivaya ||5||

        Best wishes

      • Thank you, your words are comforting. I will learn those mantras. I am trying to make my life conducive to the path, I’m just stuck. It’s hard but I’m trying. I think I will email you soon. The stuff you say about the planets and charts is a little daunting but not discouraging, haha.

        What is the difference between ‘Namah’ and ‘Namaha’, if any?

        Thank you.

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