The idea that ‘all men are created equal’ is a gift to the world from the American Indian
A speech given in 1867 by Ten Bears a Comanche chief:
There are things which you have said to me which I do not like. They were not sweet like sugar, but biter like gourds. You said that you wanted to put us upon a reservation, to build us houses and to make us Medicine lodges. I do not want them.
I was born on the prairie, where the wind blew free, and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures, and where everything drew a free breath. I want to die there, and not within walls. I know every stream and every wood between the Rio Grande and the Arkansas. I have hunted and lived over in that country. I lived like my fathers before me, and like them I lived happily.
When I was at Washington, the Great Father told me that all the Comanche land was ours, and that no one should hinder us in living upon it. So why do you ask us to leave the rivers, and the sun, and the wind, and live in houses? Do not ask us to give up the buffalo for the sheep. The young men have heard talk of this and it has made them sad and angry. Do not speak of it any more. I love to carry out the talk I get from the Great Father. When I get goods and presents, I and my people feel glad since it shows that he holds us in his eye. If the Texans had kept out of my country, there might have been peace. But that which you now say we must live on is too small.
The Texans have taken away the places where the grass grew the thickest and the timber was the best. Had we kept that, we might have done this thing you ask. But it is too late. The white man has the country which we loved and we only wish to wander on the prairie until we die. Any good thing you say to me shall not be forgotten. I shall carry it as near to my heart as my children and it shall be as often on my tongue as the name of the Great Spirit. I want no blood upon my land to stain the grass. I want it all clear and pure, and I wish it so, that all who go through among my people may find peace when they come in, and leave it when they go out.
There are two kinds of heat we can experience in a Yoga asana practice: a peripheral heat and a core heat. A similar (and easier to achieve) experience can be found in food. Spices like black pepper create a peripheral heat that can be felt in the bodies extremities (hot face, runny nose, sweat, etc). Then there are spices such as ginger which create a heat that is felt in the abdominal area (also considered good for digestion).
One of the motivations for the alchemy of breathing in asana experiment is to experience these two qualities of heat in practice. If you review the breathing patterns in the experiment you will find that the variations are based on the holds – the pauses between inhaling and exhaling (the inhale and exhale remained consistent througout the experiment).
The hold after the inhale (Antah Kumbhaka) is a stimulating practice that generates peripheral heat. When challenged, and the breath runs out, most people gravitate automatically towards holding their breath after the inhale (partly because it can be forced!). A common symptom of the peripheral heat is of-course sweating.
The hold after the exhale (Bahya Kumbaka) is a centering practice (attention is placed on the abdomen). This generates a core heat, felt mostly in the abdominal. It is a concentrated heat that purifies. Though it also has stimulating qualities – it is more about containment. This hold cannot be forced (try!) – instead it offers a practice of surrender. Advanced Yoga energetic practices place an emphasis on the exhale and the hold after the exhale, and centered around the abdominal area.
These qualities comes into play when designing a practice. Asana sequences can be used to both stimulate energy and bring it to the center – using a combination of postures and breathing formulas. Pranayama regulates energy flow and meditation directs it. The overall practice would vary for individual practitioners and life circumstances, and a relevant mode of practice.
This post will describe an experiment that will enable you to experience the workings of the fire within. To proceed with the experiment effectively you should be:
The expriment is about performing the same sequence of asana’s using different breathing patterns. The breathing patterns are selected to evoke different energetic affects. It is advisable to do one sequence a day, under similar conditions (same time and place in your usualy daily schedule). Take time after each practice to observe the effects of the practice. You may also want to write down some impressions. If you have a familiar practice sequence you may use that. Alternately you may use the sequence described at the end of this post.
Following are the breathing formulas for the experiment. The formulas are offered in multipliers – so please apply them to your own length of breath. Some of the formulas may be quite challenging to perform – therefor you may wish to work with a breath that is slightly shorter (~75%) of your full capacity. For example, if your base inhale is usually 8 seconds, you may consider practicing with a 6 second inhale instead. I invite you to use the breathing formulas in the order they are offered:
- Equal inhale and exhale, no holds: 1 – 0 – 1 – 0
- Hold after the inhale: 1 – 0.5 – 1 – 0
- Hold after the exhale: 1 – 0 – 1 – 0.5
- Both holds: 1 – 0.5 – 1 – 0.5
- Optional Extended hold after inhale: 1 – 1 – 1 – 0.5
When I was first introduced to this experiment it was on retreat in a group setting. It was very useful to share my experiences and to hear what other people experienced. I invite you to come back to this article and to share your experienceand observations with others.
As promised, following is a short sequence of standing postures and some counter-postures you are welcome to use for this expriment. If you do, you may want to review reading practice illustrations. You can click on the image to enlarge it and you can download it as a printable PDF you can take to your practice space.
Let’s have a look a sequence that includes alternation between two sides – a simple upper raised leg posture:
This illustration says:
- on inhale raise your arms
- on exhale bring your arms forward and raise one leg up
- on inhale bring raise your arms again and return the leg to the floor
- repeat this 8 times alternating between the two legs (so each leg will be raised a total of 4 times, but alternating).
- on the 9th exhale bring your arms back alongside your body
A shorthand, generic version of this illustration may be:
As we explored in the sequence explanation – it would be up to you to decide how to perform this sequence: (1) alternate between sides using the entire sequence – including a return to the starting position; (2) alternate just the legs and then come back to the starting position – as described above.
Finally, see if you can you tell the difference between the two illustrations above and this next illustration:
This illustration describes a sequence without alternation. Each leg is lowered and raised 4 times consecutively. So there is a total of 8 lifts but on each leg separately. This variation may be more physically challenging – because there is a longer consecutive effort for each leg.