“A warrior, on the other hand, is a hunter. He calculates everything. That’s control. But once his calculations are over he acts. He lets go. That’s abandon.”
Carlos Castaneda

Journey to Ixtlan

Asana & Pranayama – An Energy Process

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There is a fuctional relationship between Asana & Pranayama. Understading it is useful in putting both Asana & Pranayama practices in context and draws them together into a fuller understanding of Yoga.

I’ve been looking for a metaphor to demonstrate this relationship for some time until I remembered to revisit the engine metaphor which I had already called on, but this time with a different focus.

A combustion engine (which is what you will typically find in cars) is a mechanisms that literally transforms explosions into orderly movement. A typical engine block has numerous cylinders and in each cylinder is a piston. An explosion is typically created in the cylinder by mixing fuel and air and igniting the mixture – creating an explosion. The explosion pushes the piston out of the cylinder. I found a great animation of this on Wikipedia:

The pistons in the engine block are connected to a crankshaft in such a way that when they are moved in a synchronized way the crankshaft rotates. This synchronized movement is achieved by precise timing of the explosions in the cylinder. And once again Wikipedia provided a nice animation of this process:

I’ve never really noticed (until now) that it is possible to divide an engine into two logical systems. One system creates explosions using fuel injection, air intake and ignition. The other system creates physical movement using pistons and a crankshaft. They come together in the cylinders and  together transform raw explosions (which have no particular direction or even use) into rotational movement.

In Yoga, Asana practices are the 1st system – the one that creates explosive energy. This is what physical practices are intended to do. It is easy and inviting to relate Asana which involve physical movement with the 2nd system of physical movement, but that is a common misunderstanding. Yoga postures are designed to move energy and do so by moving the body. Movement of the body is the means by which energy is moved.

Pranayama is the 2nd system which regulates the flow of energy that is created in the 1st system. Without Pranayama, Asana practices are like misdirected explosions. If you don’t hook up the pistons  to a properly placed and maintained crank shaft then you have an engine that simply creates explosions – which, rightfully, seems pointless.

This raises the question – can Pranayama be practiced without Asana? One important difference between a car’s engine and ours is that ours runs all the time. So yes it is possible and recommended to practice Pranayama even if you don’t practice Asana. But Asana practice does  support and enhance Pranayama practices. Have you ever noticed that sometimes when mechanics check your car they rev-up your engine? There are some things about an engine you can only see when it is rotating fast or as it settles back down again. Asana is kind of like that – it places effort on the system, invigorates it and then lets it settle back down (which is why very often Asana practices end with a posture like Savasana).

A final interesting parallel to draw between a combustion engine and ours is the cylinders where all this magic happens – where the two system connect. The pistons needs to be a perfect fit inside the cylinders – tight enough so that nothing leaks out of the cylinder and lubricated enough so the piston can move really fast in and out of the cylinder. In our engine we can think of the cylinders as our Nadis – channels of energy. Energy “explodes” into the Nadi in Asana and then their flow is regulated with Pranayama.

With this in mind we can make some applicable observations about Asana, Pranayama and their relationship.

  • If you have limited time and have to choose between Asana & Pranayama – Pranayama will probably serve you better (remember: your engine is running all the time!).
  • If you practice only Asana make sure you run your engine properly (don’t push it too far too fast) and remember to let it settle at the end of the practice … oh … and please add Pranayama to your practice.
  • If you are practicing both Asana & Pranayama – asana should come first and Pranayama second. Pranayama will will both help the system settle and will be more effective when the energy is coursing through you and malleable.
  • Pranayama expands your breathing capacity, refines the quality of your breath and articulates your understanding and control of your breath. This will support you in your asana practice, it will give you an increased range of practice … which in turn will empower your Pranayama practice in a never ending feedback loop of expansion and refinement.
Posted in Asana, Energy, Pranayama, Yoga | You are welcome to add your comment

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-12-26

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  • @zenpeacekeeper thinking of #30daysofyoga u may enjoy/benefit/be-inspired by this book http://bit.ly/eQeyVy (by my teacher @YogaStudies ) #
  • @Shuliji yes c u there 🙂 #omcru #
  • @lifeinromania doesn't look like we are going to make it … but we wish you a pleasant gathering tonight 🙂 #
  • what to do when Firefox crashes and does not restore all of the tabs you had open (ouch!) http://bit.ly/f0hr7P #
  • @Shuliji don't forget to remember and leave room for the things you don't know you don't know 🙂 #
  • "Mandate of Infinite Variety" – doesn't that sound like mathematicians trying to describe Brahman? http://bit.ly/hYQdgY #
  • 1of the most brilliant albums I've ever heard "An Introduction to the Story of Spedy Sponda" by Oren Marshall http://bit.ly/ghKeXE #
  • @fredwilson just sent you an email with information on rare performance in Israel tonight! #
  • combination of holiday and time differences twitter is so quiet, feels as if I have this huge space all2 MYSELF …myself …self …elf #

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Playing DVD’s on Ubuntu

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I took it for granted that DVD’s should play on Ubuntu … and sadly discovered earlier today that they, by default, often don’t. If you have a favorite player and it’s not working don’t bother trying other players – they probably won’t work either.

I didn’t research to deep into the cause of the problem (it seems to have something to do with zones and to have legal repercussions which prevent Ubuntu from making it work out-of-the-box) – but I was happy to find an easy solution (here) to make it work. It takes to command line commands to do correct it:

sudo apt-get install libdvdread4


sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread4/install-css.sh

… and you are good to go 🙂 enjoy!

Posted in outside, Tech Stuff | You are welcome to add your comment

In Pranayama Quality Trumps Quantity

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Pranayama is the most regular practice I’ve taken up since returning to a regular morning practice routine. I am currently practicing once a day with my current morning practice – where the crown posture involves a krama on the exhale (exhaling 8 seconds, holding 4 seconds, exhaling 8 more seconds and holding for another 4 seconds).

I’ve noticed a recurring pattern over the last two weeks. The right nostril has better flow and less congestion and facilitates a much smoother exhale. The left side is more congested (though improving) and there is more tension and resistance on the exhale.

A more prominent expression of tension is at the end of the second exhale and manifests as a shortness of breath – as if there is just enough to complete the exhale. It is interesting to note that this does not necessarily effect the second hold whicih may be peaceful even following an effort on the exhale.

A more subtle sign of the tension is in the first part of the exhale. In my mind there is an awareness that I need to “preserve” my breath and let it out in such a way that there will be enough left over after the first part of the exhale for the second part – it’s a somewhat economic thinking. Yet my experience has been that this awareness is counter-productive. Trying to “hold on” to enough breath simply does not work. In fact it gives birth to tension since the very thought of “holding a reserve” carries a subtext of “expecting a shortage” – and mind delivers both.

Instead of focusing on “holding it in” when I feel tension arising I focus on quality of breath. In practice this means making the breath more soft and steady – refining the flow. This affects both mind and breath. Mind responds to softening and relaxes some of it’s hold on rationing the breath. At the same time a refined flow of breath actually leaves more breath available and in doing so achieves what an assertive mind failed to achieve.

So the right nostril offers a meditative and flowing experience and the left nostril offers a teaching experience. They work well together 🙂

Posted in Pranayama, Pranayama Journal, Yoga, Yoga & I | You are welcome to add your comment

Mandate of Infinite Variety

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I’ve been re-reading a book I’ve had for many years Chaos: Making a New Science (which is now offered in a newer edition). It’s a different read this time – I am seeing Yoga & Samkhya and spiritualism all over it. The book tells the story of a young branch of science & mathematics that was developed in the 20th century

Anecdote1: Insolvable Equations – Mathematicians didn’t take to Chaos because it dealt with equations that can’t be solved. My education included a heavy dose of mathematics and I can confirm, as the book suggests, that everything I was taught was ultimately about solving equations. The thing is that equations that can be solved represent a very small part of the field of mathematics – most of it is made up of equations that cannot be solved. That’s where the magic of Chaos was hidden.

Anecdote2: It’s Just Mathematics – Meanwhile physicists didn’t really take an interest in it because it had no real-world applications – it was “just mathematics”. It took a dedicated mathematician to create and experiment for 2 years with a 1 millimeter sized capsule as a testing apparatus to unknowingly provide a real-world example of chaos at work. So, the field of chaos was dormant for many years until eventually some scientists and mathematicians begun stumbling on to strange discoveries … and eventually on to each other.

Anecdote3: Exploring instead of Solving – The mathematics of Chaos is founded on processing equations rather then solving them. Any equation, no matter how complex or unsolvable can be plugged with numbers to see what happens (sometimes using fairly basic math skills). In Chaos such a process of calculation is executed over and over until beautiful images appear carrying illusive and inspiring messages.

Anecdote4: Simplicity describes Infinity – A wondrous quality of these images-of-chaos is that they can be described and precisely defined with very little information (less then half a page’s worth of text) – yet when they are processed they lead to patterns of infinite complexity. Following is one such image image created from one of the most famous mathematic mechanisms called the Mandelbrot Set (<- checkout this link for more cool images or search google images) named after another dedicated mathematician that was ignored for many years:

But what prompted me to write this post was the following quote from the book:

… used a brilliant chain of new mathematics to prove that every floating molecule does indeed hang on a filigree that binds it to all the rest, a delicate web springing from tiny outcroppings on the main set … The mathematicians proved that any segment – no  matter where and no matter how small – would, when blown up by the computer microscope, reveal new molecules, each resembling the main set and yet not quite the same. Every new molecule would be surrounded by it’s own spirals and flame-like projections, and those inevitably, would reveal molecules tinier still, always similar, never identical, fulfilling some mandate of infinite variety, a miracle of miniaturization in which every new details was sure to be a universe of its own, diverse and entire.

Doesn’t that sound like mathematicians dancing around Brahman?

Posted in Books, Enjoy, Expanding, inside, Yoga & Life | You are welcome to add your comment