“There is nothing but love here for you. We welcome you and cannot wait to hold you in our arms. We support your life, whatever you need. We are here to love and honor you. We will be here for you no matter what. You are safe.”
Sunni Karll

Sacred Birthing

Anuloma Ujjayi

n

Anuloma is a recommended technique for getting started with Pranayama breathing practices. Anuloma breathing combines Ujjayi breathing, timing and counting breaths, reading a Pranayama breathing practice and nostril control (this article assumes you are familiar with both) so it is an accessible step-forward from Ujjayi.

The breathing cycle in Anuloma Ujjayi is:

  1. Inhale with both nostrils open using Ujjayi (throat conrol).
  2. Exhale through the left nostril (closing the right nostril by applying pressure to the thumb).
  3. Inhale with both nostrils open using Ujjayi (throat control).
  4. Exhale through the right nostril (closing the left nostril by applying pressure to your ring finger).

IMPORTANT: never use two breath control techniques at the same time. In this case when you inhale using Ujjayi, both nostrils are open; when you exhale using nostril control you release the Ujjayi – DO NOT use Ujjayi when using nostril control. This is true for all Pranayama techniques. Ujjayi and nostril control both act as valves to affect the flow of breath – only use one at any given time.

If your practice includes holds then add them where necessary. Please notice that one round of Anuloma Ujjayi is made up of two breaths. When practicing this means you should always do an even number of breaths – so that the practice remains symmetrical (unless you’ve been given specific instructions by a qualified teacher).

Here is a practice to get acquainted with Anuloma Ujjayi. It begins and ends with regular Ujjayi breathing and in the middle the technique is changed to Anuloma Ujjayi. Find yourself a comfortable seated position and do the following practice sequence :

1   –   0   –   1   –   0   (x4 – Ujjayi)

1   –   0   –   1   –   0   (x4 – Anuloma Ujjayi)

1   –   0   – 1.5 –   0   (x4 – Anuloma Ujjayi)

1   –   0   –   1   –   0   (x4 – Ujjayi)

Posted in Breath, Pranayama, Yoga | You are welcome to add your comment

My Enemy – My Beloved

n

In Hebrew the words “Enemy” and “Beloved” are very similar:  “Oyvi Ahuvi”. I met Shai Dayan through my work with Shahar. Being in his presence is soothing and magical. A couple months ago Shahar facilitated an opportunity for us to spend some time together in a studio. On the way there, Shai told me about this song. A few days later it was in my inbox and now I am sharing it with you. The words are taken from a poem by Marcia Kreisel, composition, performance & production by Shai.  (lyrics in Hebrew, Arabic & English).

click to play My Enemy My Beloved

My Enemy – My Beloved / Marcia Kreisel
I will call no man my enemy,
For he can only be my beloved brother,
Whom my heart has forgotten.
But I promise you my brother,
That I will know you again,
And falling to my knees in gratitude,
I will learn to love you,
my enemy – my beloved,
In the same way
as I am learning to love myself.
I will no longer call myself, my enemy.
For this can only be my child, my soul,
Who cries to me from within.
But I promise you , little one,
I will know you again,
And embracing you in compassionate understanding,
I will learn to love you,
My soul, my inner child,
In the same way as I am l learning to
love, Another.

My Enemy – My Beloved / Marcia Kreisel
I will call no man my enemy,
For he can only be my beloved brother,
Whom my heart has forgotten.
But I promise you my brother,
That I will know you again,
And falling to my knees in gratitude,
I will learn to love you,
my enemy – my beloved,
In the same way
as I am learning to love myself.
I will no longer call myself, my enemy.
For this can only be my child, my soul,
Who cries to me from within.
But I promise you , little one,
I will know you again,
And embracing you in compassionate
understanding,
I will learn to love you,
My soul, my inner child,
In the same way as I am l learning to
love,
Another. (or – My brother)
Posted in Enjoy, Expanding, inside | You are welcome to add your comment

Pranayama – Nostril Control

n

PLEASE NOTE: This article assumes that you are familiar with the prerequisites for practicing Pranayama: being able to sit effectively and comfortably,  familiarity with Ujjayi breathing and the four parts of the breath, the tools and knowledge for timing and counting your breathing and understanding a written breathing practice.

What is Pranayama?

Pranayama is a collection of practices that are usually referred to as breathing practices. While it is true that the practice takes the form of breathing it is aimed at the subtle substance called Prana. Prana is associated with the animating principle of Purusa (Cosmic Spirit) described in Samkhya philosophy – a life force.

This subtle distinction between air and Prana is useful in understanding the purpose of Pranayama. Unlike air which moves in and out of the body, Prana is a fixed and limited resource – a pool of energy that resides within the body. Prana flows in channels called Nadis. Pranayama practices have a potential to clear these channels and facilitate better flow of Prana throughout the body. This can bring about a change in the quality of Prana – it creates a collected and tightened field of energy, an increased vitality.

Though there are many forms and variations of Pranayama practices the one thing they all have in common is using the nostrils to control the breath. Why the nostrils? There are two primary channels called Ida (associated with the moon & feminine energy)  & Pingala (associated with the sun and male energy). Ida & Pingala are associated with the two nostrils – so by using nostril control we are manipulating the flow of Prana in two primary Nadi and through them with the entire energy system.

Nostril control, as we will soon see, requires the use of the right hand. Therefore Pranayama is an independent practice and cannot be performed as a part of an asana (physical) practice. Ujjayi breathing, which is used extensively in asana practice, is not considered a Pranayama because it does not involve nostril control.

Nostril Control

Nostril control is performed with the right hand (the left hand is reserved for counting). The index and middle are folded out of the way into the palm of the hand.

pranayama_fingers01

Then the thumb and ring finger are brought closer together and form a dynamic vice we will use to control the nostrils.

pranayama_fingers02

The hand is brought up to the nose and the thumb and ring fingers are placed on it – the thumb on the right nostril, the ring finger on the left.

pranayama_fingers03

The picture above demonstrates a common tendency to leave an unnecessary tension in the little finger. You can and should release it and let is rest below the ring finger. The little finger is not involved in nostril control.

pranayama_fingers04

The fingers should be placed right below the bridge of the nose – the soft area right below the bone. In this location you will need very little physical movement to apply control. If you place the fingers at the end of the nose – you will be required to make larger movements which are less effective and unnecessary.

pranayama_fingers05

In practice the fingers do not need to be taken off the nose at any time – all that is required is a subtle change in pressure between the two fingers.

pranayama_fingers05b

The arm should be slightly active and distanced from the body. This may cause some discomfort at first, this will pass with practice. Please pay attention to your wrist joint – it should be flat – a relaxed continuation of the arm.

pranayama_fingers06

Because of the asymmetric position of Pranayama practice there can be a tendency, during practice, for the head to twist to the right. This happens when the right arm tires and instead of being placed lightly on the nose, weighs down on it – it is an escape for the arm at the expense of the head, neck and back. When you are starting out with Pranayama it can be useful to open your eyes once in a while and gaze down to make sure your head remains centered.

That’s a lot of details to contain and we haven’t even started to breathe. Pranayama is a subtle practice – some say it is an art. A correct and effective practice will serve you for a long time. Cutting corners now will raise obstacles to your progress and will require more effort and attention to correct later on.

Coming next – Anuloma Ujjayi – a first Pranayama practice.

Posted in Breath, Pranayama, Yoga | You are welcome to read 12 comments and to add yours

1st Degree Burns

n

I studied for my BA in a distance learning program – which meant that I did a lot of reading and summarizing. I specialized in nothing – most of the courses I took belonged to social sciences, and because I wasn’t on a fixed track I tasted from as many disciplines as I could. I was coerced to study because people who cared about me felt it would open up career opportunities (I think work and money were implied) for me. It didn’t.

Ever since then I’ve had a pile of books following me around. Over recent years I tried to unload them and donate them to someone who may benefit from them. That didn’t work out – I got silly replies – like there’s no room in the library, we don’t have time to pick them up. When we moved to our current house I decided this would be their last transition – so they never made it into the storage room.

Shortly after we moved, it came to me that the books were taking up not just physical space, but also mental and karma space. So I decided it was time to free that space and make way for new knowledge and new experiences. when a huge pile of dried wild-growth branches was ready for burning and set on fire, all of my books and summaries joined in. The following day these image occurred (some higher resolution images are presented as StillCreation):

Posted in Images, Photography | You are welcome to add your comment

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-08-23

n
  • Vedic Philosophy – Vedanta – what starts a cycle of existence? http://www.iamronen.com/?p=1697 #
  • RT 150 is a useful number! can u c thin line separating makers of software from users of software? @ronenk 150 Tools http://bit.ly/jtVrm #
  • RT 🙂 @gotoAndSmoke: Is a cheap circumcision.. a rip off? #
  • Care is the underlying issue, it's been an issue with business before the web, and like many things online it has escal… http://disq.us/1xbm #
  • a wish has come true 4me, in one month I will be playing this fine Shakuhachi: http://twurl.nl/26xjib #
  • RT @KathySierra: w/a few exceptionns useful "self-help" books are those not found in Self-Help. TheyR in Music, Astronomy, Gardening, etc. #
  • Sowdi Arabia – really enjoyed listening to this guy: http://twurl.nl/venpun #
  • RT @ronenk: יש מילים, שאומצו לשפה העברית ע"י קהילת הבלוגרים, שאני ממש שונא. מילים כמו שאפו וקודוס. תעשו לי טובה ותדחפו אותם לחורים עמוקים #
  • is Thunderbird 3b3 stable enough to use (=upgrade) ? #
  • another Shakuhachi recording: http://www.iamronen.com/?p=1703 #
  • Vedic Philosophy overview nearing it's end – Kasmir Saivisim http://www.iamronen.com/?p=1709 #yoga #
  • How to choose a seated posture that is good for you in #yoga: http://www.iamronen.com/?p=1717 #
  • 22:44 I bid you farewell, I don't know when I'll be back #
  • is there a pleasant and more enlightened substitute for the word "Wife"? #
  • RT sounds like an order of beef at the butchers doesn't it? something with more spirit & space? @kfirpravda: @iamronen better half #
  • The 4 parts of the breath http://www.iamronen.com/?p=1731 #yoga preparing for #pranayama #
  • listening to "Windmills of your mind" ♫ http://blip.fm/~c0ezi #
  • unbelievable how much bullshit/misapprehension is out there about Yoga, its a challenge for me to embrace and c the light in that! #
  • RT hmmm, better… but academic/technical… more heart? @kfirpravda: @iamronen spouse #
  • refining #yoga asana with breath – movement within breath: http://www.iamronen.com/?p=1755 #
  • silence sounds different after playing Shakuhachi #
  • RT @photomatt: My thoughts on starting a bank: http://ma.tt/2009/08/starting-a-bank/ #
  • @ronenk looks like a deep breath is in order 4 u 🙂 in reply to ronenk #
  • someone spent 15 minutes reading at my blog about #Yoga … that has to be an attention record! #
  • so nice when people have something clear to say and say it clearly ♫ http://blip.fm/~c26y6 #
  • Hush child, I can't help the look of accusation in your eyes In your eyes ♫ http://blip.fm/~c271h #
  • conclusion of Vedic Philosophy: Kasmir Saivism – how Spirit & Matter came to be: http://twurl.nl/cpcihy #Yoga #
  • part 2 of preparing for #Pranayama – how to count and time breaths: http://twurl.nl/j75a6k #yoga #
  • image of Kakimaze Pilot Playing Shakuhachi: http://twurl.nl/s8uk2t #
  • RT @JangalaRetreat: RT @zakaraya Life is a foreign language; all men mispronounce it. —-Christopher Morley #
  • My teacher Paul Harvey talks about What is Yoga: http://twurl.nl/7ny5s0 #
  • if Judaim and Buddhims share ancestry then it feels like Judaim pursued the mind part & Buddhism pursued the heart! #
  • 3rd and last part of preparation for #pranayama – a sample practice: http://twurl.nl/rcbzr0 #yoga #breath #
  • Namaste can be interpreted "I recognize the eternal that is you" so great to be able to say that, and in 1 word #
  • soul is addicted to mind, mind to senses, senses to nature, nature is soul #
  • silence tastes different after playing Shakuhachi #

Powered by Twitter Tools

Posted in About, Twitter Updates | You are welcome to add your comment

A Sample Breathing Practice

n

Now that we can communicate breathing formulas and have the tools to time and count in a breathing practice let’s try a sample breathing practice. Here is the practice structure:

1   –   0   –   1   –   0  (x4)

1   –   0   – 1.5  –  0  (x4)

1   – 0.5 – 1.5  –  0  (x4)

1   –   0   –   1   –   0  (x4)

The number indicates in the parentheses at the end of each line tells you how many breaths to breath in each formula. In this case, to keep it simple, each formula is applied 4 times.

Let’s transform that into a personal practice, this time using a base duration of 6 seconds:

6   –   0   –   6   –   0  (x4)

6   –   0   –   9   –   0  (x4)

6   –   3   –   9   –   0  (x4)

6   –   0   –   6   –   0  (x4)

Reminder:  we count the seconds in each part of the breath (6,3,9) using the metronome, and we count the number of breaths in each formula using our left hand!

Please remember to apply and use YOUR base duration to formulate your own practice. A Yoga teacher can help and guide you through a gradual process of growth and expansion using breathing practices.

Posted in Breath, Pranayama, Yoga | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Paul Harvey Interview – What is Yoga

n

A 1986 radio interview with Paul Harvey (one of my two Yoga teachers) that does a great service to Yoga. Click here for the full transcript.

It took some years to come across a teacher to whom I could relate and a teacher I felt could relate not only to me as a person but also to my Western Psychology. There are many teachers around who are willing to teach you, but I wonder if they are asking you to be as they are rather then respecting who you are

If we interpret Yoga just by looking at the form an Easterner is adopting and then trying to match ourselves to that form, we’re misunderstanding Yoga.

“For me the breath really is the tool which allows you to understand what’s happening on the mental level and what’s happening on the emotional level, and it also allows you to measure what’s happening on a physical level”

“Life must always go on and Yoga is not about an escape from life. Yoga’s about a way of dealing with life more effectively; to be able to involve oneself with one’s family, one’s friends, one’s social commitments, one’s job and at the same time maintain one’s center.”

Posted in Getting Started, Yoga | You are welcome to add your comment

The Thomas Crown Affair

n

Witty, sexy and entertaining movie time and again. Enjoy 🙂

Posted in Enjoy, inside, Movies | You are welcome to add your comment

Kakimaze Pilot Playing Shakuhachi

n

I found this image here. It’s the last one on the page and it is labeled “Kamikaze pilot playing shakuhachi – 1943″. Anything I say (and I tried) falls short of the capacity of this image – so I won’t say anything. Enjoy 🙂

kamakazeshakuhachi

(Courtesy of Tom Caperton)

Posted in inside, Photography, Shakuhachi | You are welcome to add your comment

Timing & Counting Breaths

n

Breathing practices involve counting (which is also one of their meditative qualities – you need to focus on the counting to stay with the practice) of two things:

  1. Timing of each part of the breath – the number of seconds in each part of the breath.
  2. Counting a number of breaths.

We are going to need a few simple tools & techniques to help us do this.

Timing Breath

As we saw in the 4 parts of breathing – Pranayama  practices are based on timed breathing – the length of each part of the breath is indicated in seconds. So for an effective practice you are going to need something that makes an audible sound every second. The simplest tool is a simple mechanical clock that makes an audible clicking noise every second. Another popular alternative is a metronome.

There are plenty of metronomes on the market – some are mechanical, most are digital. I used to have this Wittner mechanical metronome until it fell and now has an interesting off-beat which isn’t very useful. I now use a digital metronome that I chose because one of it’s sound options feels natural & pleasant to my ear (I don’t like the digital sounds most digital metronomes make). I couldn’t find a reference for it online because it’s not a well-known make – but I did find this one which looks similar. If you go digital I suggest you visit a music shop and find something that suites your ear and budget.

You can also try this metronome application.

Counting Breaths

We will be using the left-hand to count breaths. We can use this technique to count to any number up to 12. We do this by moving and placing the thumb over 12 numbered areas on the hand.

handcounting

You begin a counting sequence by placing the thumb on the first location. Then every time you begin a new breathing cycle by inhaling you move the thumb one position forward. With some practice you will become familiar with the association of numbers and fingers. This way you know which breath you are on by the position of the finger and your mind is free to focus on counting the seconds in every part of the breath.

samplecount

Posted in Breath, Pranayama, Yoga | You are welcome to read 5 comments and to add yours

Kasmir Saivism – Tattvas

n

The transcendental aspect of nature is called Parasamvit (“vid” = to know) which means Pure Consciousness. Since something cannot come from nothing, Pure Consciousness is a logical necessity that must contain all things in their fullness.

Caitanya is used to describe the eternal substance in which all things inhere. It is defined as Sat-Cit-Ananda (Being-Consciousness-Bliss). It represents the perfect condition of the supreme ideal, when Nature rests in Herself, when there is no feeling of a want to be satisfied, when there is no feeling of a need to go forth. It is by definition without parts and therefore unproduced, indestructible and motionless. It must also be eternal, all-pervading, with no inside or outside; it is without attributes (Nirguna) and therefore beyond space and time; it is beyond the mind and therefore no a subject of knowledge. It is a principle of pure experience and realized only by spiritual illumination.

To manifest means, by definition, to appear or become evident – which implies the perceiver and perceived. Consciousness becomes visible to itself as subject (Aham = I) and object (Idam = this). These two aspects of consciousness appear simultaneously and are eternally related. During the period of universal dissolution, they are in a condition of equilibrium. When the balance is upset and the process of cosmic evolution begins their duality appears. These are the first two Tattvas – Siva Tattva & Sakti Tattva.

Siva Tattva

Siva Tattva is the first factor in the process of cosmic evolution. Consciousness in this condition is called Cit (there is no English equivalent for it) – the static aspect of consciousness in the manifest world. The Siva Tattva accounts for the Subject (Aham) of dual relationship of universal manifestation – it is the subject, knower, experiencer. It is pure consciousness – the ideal universe of perfect equilibrium has vanished and consciousness has begun to stir. It is dependent upon the active aspect of consciousness to bring it into being.

Sakti Tattva

Sakti Tattva is the second factor in the process of cosmic evolution (“sak” = to be able, to be capable of). It is the kinetic aspect of consciousness. It accounts for the Object (Idam) of the dual relationship of universal manifestations. It is the universal stream of consciousness that brings all things into being and destroys all things at the end of each cycle of time. It it the universal energy that brings all things into being, and as such is considered as the feminine aspect of Nature, the Mother of the universe.

Sakti it said to have three principle modes that follow in logical succession: the power of will (Iccha); the power of knowledge (Jnana); the power of action (Kriya).

Sadasiva Tattva (Will-aspect)

Sadasiva Tattva is the third process of cosmic evolution (“sada” = always; “siva” = happy/prosperous). This stage is also called the Sadakhya Tattva – the state in which there is the first notion of being. It is the first evolute (a produced thing) of consciousness – therefore it must have parts – those parts are the dual relationship of “I am this” – emphasis is placed on I (Aham).

I AM THIS

The subject (Aham) is said to become aware of itself in relation to its object (Idam). Sadasiva Tattva accounts for the Will aspect of Sakti – it is the condition that precedes any determinate action. It is destructible, and therefore not eternal. As the first evolute produced in the process of the evolution of consciousness, it is the last evolute dissolved in the involution of consciousness.

Isvara Tattva (Knowledge-aspect)

Isvara Tattva is the fourth process of cosmic evolution. This tattva is postulated to account for that condition when the Subject (Aham) recognizes the object (Idam) – here the relationship is “this I am” – emphasis on This (Idam). It is the stage of self identification.

THIS I AM

It is the Knowledge-aspect of Sakti. It is pure awareness without reaction. There is no desire to go toward or away. It is the knowledge that precedes ultimate action.

Sadvidya Tattva (Action-aspect)

Sadvidya Tattva is the fifth process of cosmic evolution – it means to have true knowledge (“sat” = true; “vid” = to know). It is postulated to account for the complete unity in the dual relationship of “I am this” – without emphasis o either the Subject (Aham) or Object (Idam).

I AM THIS

It is the Action-aspect of Sakti. In it consciousness was lost in the ecstasy of divine wonder while embracing Itself as the subject (Aham). Consciousness has been overcome by exaltation while gazing as Itself as the object (Idam). Consciousness looks first at Aham (I) and then at Idam (This) – which necessitates movement – and is therefore said to manifest that aspect of universal consciousness that creates all things.

The first five Tattvas from Siva to Sadvidya are called Pure because the dual relationship of subject and object is a single unit – the object is seen as part of the subject.  In the condition to follow, the subject and object are separated, so that the object is seen as something separate and apart from the subject. The force that separates them is another form of Sakti – called Maya Sakti – the power of consciousness to separate and divide.

Maya Tattva and its Evolutes

Maya Tattva is the sixth process of cosmic evolution, it means “delusion” and is used to mean the veiling and obscuring force of Nature. It displays universal consciousness as a duality. It accounts for the manifestation of form out of formless. The same principle was mentioned in Vedanta but there it was not real nor not-real. In Kasmir Saivism is it considered the gross aspect of consciousness. During Pralaya (universal dissolution) it is in its subtle aspect – dormant. At no time is it ever non-existent.

Maya is that which limits the universal conditions of consciousness and produces the state of limited experience. Maya appears due to a law of Nature that every period of action (in this case Sadvidya) is followed by a period of rest. When Nature goes to sleep after experiencing Universal Manifestation, the five evolutes of Maya (Kancukas) appear – therefore the world of limited experience is the cosmic dream of nature.

Kancukas

Kancukas (“kanj” = to bind) come into being as a result of contraction (limited aspect) by the Power of Maya of the five universal modes of consciousness (the first five Tattvas mentioned above).

  1. Siva Tattva  >>> Kala (Time)
    Kala limits the universal condition of Eternal Existence – therefor it is the origin of Time.
  2. Sakti Tattva >>> Niyati (Space)
    Niyati (“ni-yam” = to regulate/restrain) is the power that limits the universal condition of All-Pervasiveness – therefore it is the origin of Space.
  3. SadasivaTattva >>> Raga (Desire)
    Raga (“ranj” = to color) is the power that limits the universal condition of All-Completeness; therefor it is the origin of Desire.
  4. Isvara Tattva >>> Vidya (Limited Knowledge)
    Vidya (“vid” = to know) is the power that limits the universal condition of All-Knowledge – therefore it is the origin of Limited Knowledge.
  5. Sadvidya Tattva >>> Kala (Limited Power)
    Kala (=a small part of anything) is the power that limits the universal condition of All-Powerfulness – therefore it is the origin of Limited Power.

The result of Maya and it’s evolutes (Kancukas) is the production of Purusa and Prakrti. At this stage the Subject (Aham) and the Object (Idam) are completely severed and look upon each other as mutually exclusive. Here the dual world of the mind and matter is permanently established.

Posted in Yoga, Yoga Philosophy | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Matt Mullenweg’s Bank

n

It’s a great article by a visionary person about a future bank. There is one phrase that I couldn’t figure out:

SafeBank couldn’t raise VC or anything like that because having any sort of exit expectations would completely kill the safety story

Though I agree with the statement I  am not sure why/how it applies uniquely to safety. It seems to me that Venture Capital inherently threatens any interest that does not directly align with making a substantial profit – which pretty much squeezes the heart out of any VC funded undertaking. Granted Matt’s company Automattic seems to be doing good even though it’s VC funded. Matt knows something!

Read and enjoy

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

Yoga & Breath – Movement in Breath

n

There is wonderful potential for refinement of the relationship breath and movement. One concept that opens up endless potential for refined practice is to place movement within the breath. Breath becomes a sheath, a kind of wrapping in which movement takes place. To demonstrate the idea we will use the simple posture that has brought us this far – lyign on the back, feet standing and the focus of movement is  in the arms.

motioninbreath

When we begin to inhale there is still no movement in the arms – there is only breath. Then movement begins in the arms (while breathing, of course, continues). Then movement ends but breath continues – we are still taking in air. Then the inhale is completed. The return journey is similar – breath begins before movement and ends after it.

You may notice that practicing in this way creates a space of physical stillness. This can be a great opportunity to place all your attention on the breath, to observer the qualities of the breath and to pay attention to the transitions between inhaling and exhaling.

Consequently, the time during which there is movement is shorter. If, for example, an inhale lasts for 6 seconds, then movement will now be 4 seconds because 1 second is spent in stillness when movement begins and 1 second when movement ends. This means that we may need to move faster then before – we have less time to execute the same range of movement.

Try it and see what happens 🙂

Posted in Basic Movement, Breath, Yoga | You are welcome to read 2 comments and to add yours

Four Parts of Breath

n

This series of articles is a preparation for a series on Pranayama – Yoga’s breathing practices. Before we delve into Pranayama we need to get acquainted with a few general qualities of breathing and a few personal qualities – things that are unique to every individual. This article assumes you are familiar and capable of breathing using Ujjayi technique.

Your Breath

Let’s start with a short practice to determine your breath capacity. This will give the ideas in this article a personal context – something that is unique for you. The practice is to sit comfortably and count the number of Ujjayi breaths you take over a period of 5 minutes. To do this practice you will need a timer to time 5 minutes with some kind of audio signal when the time is up (or use this – do a test to make sure your speakers are working and the volume is set).

Welcome back 🙂 Now we will do a little basic math:

  • The duration of the practice as 5 minutes = 300 seconds.
  • Divide the 300 seconds by the number of breaths you counted.
    For example – if you counted 28 breaths – then 300 divided by 28 = 10.7. This is the average length of your breath – almost 11 seconds.
  • Then divide that number by 2.5.
    For example: 10.7 divided by 2.5 = 4.3.
  • Round that number down to the closest even number.
    For example: 4.3 seconds is rounded down to 4 seconds.
  • This will be your base breathing duration (which we will soon explain further and put to good use).

There are two numbers to take away from this practice:

  • The length of your breath – in this case ~ 11 seconds.
  • Your base breathing duration – in this case 4 seconds.

Structure of Breath

Two parts of breath are fairly obvious – inhaling (taking air in) and exhaling (pushing air out). The two others are always there but we are not used to acknowledging them – these are the holds or stops that come in between the inhale and exhale. In Sanskrit they are called Kumbhaka. The hold after the inhale is called Antah Kumbhaka (or A.K. for short) and the hold after the exhale is called Bahya Kumbhaka (or B.K. for short).

partsofbreath

We will use this structure to communicate breathing practices. For example: inhale 4 seconds, hold 2 seconds, exhale 7 seconds, hold 2 seconds. A shorter way to communicate this would be to simply say breathe 4 – 2 – 6 – 2.

breathpractice_num

The limitation of this notation is that it indicates a specific length of breath. What if we wanted to communicate the same idea – but in a way that you can apply the practice to your breathing capacity. Fortunately there is a way to do this. We communicate the breathing practice in multipliers instead of numbers. Like this:

breathpractice_mulThe base duration in this example is 4 seconds. The inhale is “1” meaning [ 1 x 4 seconds = 4 seconds]. The A.K. hold is 0.5 meaning [ 0.5 x 4 seconds = 2 seconds] and so on. So the same breathing formula, in this example “1 – 0.5 – 1.5 – 0.5” will result in different durations – depending on your base breathing duration. You can try to apply this formula to your breathing duration.

Posted in Breath, Pranayama, Uncategorized, Yoga | You are welcome to read 15 comments and to add yours

Sitting in Yoga

n

Having a good seated posture is very useful in Yoga. As your practice develops you may find yourself sitting for breathing and meditation practices. In this article we will work our way through a series of sitting variations – starting from a classic seated pose and then progress through more accessible variations. You may use this to find a posture that is relevant for you. How will you know you’ve reached a relevant posture?

  • You should have a strong and stable base – no wobbling around – legs fixed on the floor.
  • You should be able to keep your spine straight and shoulders relaxed.
  • You should be able to relax your stomach muscles (if you are using them to hold the posture – the posture is not relevant for you).
  • You should be able to sit comfortably for a duration of 10 to 20 minutes (as a starting point).

One of the key obstacles to choosing a seated posture is a stubborn ego. I’ve seen too many people insist on sitting in postures they cannot hold because they are too stubborn to relax their conceptions of what sitting should be. As a result:

  • They sit in postures that are beyond their capabilities
  • They place unhealthy strain on the spine
  • They are so busy maintaining the  seated posture that they can barely pay attention to the breathing or meditation practice. Choose wisely.
  • Their sitting doesn’t improve

Choose your posture wisely!

The classic sitting pose is called Padmasana – the Lotus pose.  For most beginning practitioners (and many advanced practitioners) this pose is not accessible. If you want to you (though not everybody) can train intensively to make it accessible. People tend to work the ankles and knees when actually the pose is strongly affected by the hip joints.
padmasana
The first variation is releasing one of the legs down to the floor – this is called a half-lotus.

ardvapadmasana

The next variation is releasing the second leg – so that you are sitting cross-legged on the floor. Check that you can both keep your spine erect and have a solid base. If you find your knees are raised high above the floor then keep trying the next variations.

sitting_crosslegged

The next variation includes using a support accessory – sitting blocks. There are sitting blocks made of all kinds of materials and sizes. First make sure that the block is wide enough for you to site comfortably. Then you may find it useful to get two relatively short blocks which you can stack one on top of the other – so you have an option for two positions – one block high and two blocks high.
sittingblock
Another low sitting variation you can try is with a meditation stool. The sitting position is as if you were sitting on your knees – the legs are tucked in below the sitting surface of the stool. The stool takes pressure off the legs & provides better support for the spine.

stool

Last but definitely not least – there is the option to sit on a raised chair. Though this doesn’t have the appeal of the classic Lotus pose it is just as effective if this is where you experience a quality sitting experience.

sitonchair

By choosing a sitting option that is relevant for you, your are creating a positive and spreading affect on your practice. Your breathing and meditation practices will improve and in turn affect your physical-asana practice. This in turn may affect your spine, hips, legs, knees and other muscles – which in time may improve your sitting further.

Posted in Basic Movement, Breath, Getting Started, Meditation, Yoga | You are welcome to read 4 comments and to add yours

Kasmir Saivism – Introduction

n

Kasmir Saivism is a system of idealistic monism based on the Sivasutra – which was supposedly revealed in Kasmir by Siva himself. The purpose of the Sivasutra was to preserve man the principles of monism which had existed in the literature called the Tantras. According to tradition these principals had existed sine time immemorial in the minds of the ancient rsis (Seers) who were the repositories of all spiritual knowledge. With the appearance of the new age, Kali Yuga, came the disappearing of these enlightened minds and the vanishing of their knowledge.

Kasmir Saivisim accepts the fundamental premise that pure consciousness is the spiritual substance of the universe. However it differs from Samkhya and Vedanta in its interpretations of the three basic problems: (1) What is the nature of ultimate reality? (2) What is the cause of its first movement? (3) What is the nature of its manifest form?

What is the nature of the Ultimate Reality?

Samkhya postulates two independent realities: Purusa and Prakrti – and thus creates a dualism. Vedanta postulates a single ultimate reality – Brahman and then supports this through the principle of Maya – which is neither real nor unreal – so it too is tainted with dualism.

Kasmir Saivism postulates a single reality with two aspects – one Transcedental and the other Immanent (existent). Both are real – but final proof of them can be had only by the spiritual experience of Samadha (union) attained through the practice of Yoga.

What is the cause of it’s first movement?

Samkhya sais that it is due to the association of Purusa and Prakrti without giving any reason for what causes this association. Vedanta claims that only an intelligent agent can set universal consciousness in motion and postulates Brahman to account for it. Neither explain the cause.

Kasmir Saivism teaches that consciousness eternally alternates between two phases – rest (transcendental) and action (immanent). The transcendental phase is a period of potentiality called Pralaya (dissolution and absorption). It is the passive phase of consciousness. During Pralaya all manifestations are dormant in the same way that the characteristics of an oak tree are dormant in an acorn. After a latent period, the universal seeds of potentiality begin to  germinate and consciousness becomes active.  The active phase is called Srsti – the creation of the universe, also referred to as Abhasa (“bhas” = to appear or shine). A complete cycle of Srsti  & Pralaya is called a Kalpa and is said to last 4,320,000,00 years – after which another cycle will follow – a periodic rhythm of consciousness without beginning or end. The movement is governed by the Law of Karma (for every action there is a reaction). Brahman (the Ultimate Principle according to Vedanta) is governed by Law of Karma – cause of the initial impulse.

What is the nature of it’s manifestations?

Samkhya contends that there are two independent realities – Spirit & Matter – the manifest world is the appearance of unconscious matter as an independent reality. Vedanta contends there is only one ultimate reality which never changes – therefore the manifest world is merely an appearance.

Kasmir Saivism contends that there is only one reality, but it has two aspects, therefore the manifestation is real. The world of matter is only another form of consciousness.

Kasmir Saivism postulates 36 categories to explain the process of cosmic evolution. The first 24 (Matter -> Earth) are the same as those postulated by Samkhya. The remaining 12 show how Purusa (Spirit) is derived from higher principles. The stages are called Tattvas – thatness, truth, reality.

Posted in Yoga, Yoga Philosophy | You are welcome to add your comment

I Shakuhachi – August 19, 2009

n

Another Shakuhachi recording – this time from late at night. When the initial phrase came out it completely took over me.

click to play

Posted in inside, Shakuhachi | You are welcome to add your comment

Vedanta – First Motion

n

Introduction

Vedanta means “the end of the Vedas” – “anta” = end. The central topic is the Universal Spirit (Brahman) – so it is also referred to by the names Brahmasutra and Bhramnamimamsa. The central them is the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads concerning the nature and relationship of the three princinples – God, world & soul.

It is an effort to balance all knowledge – and contends that we have no right to disregard the findings of any seer; we are morally bound to examine the teachings of all minds that have attained enlightenment and find what is common – for that is likely to be the Ultimate Truth. Differences are due to various viewpoints, different stages of development and training, as well as social and hereditary backgrounds; therefore, the same Truth will vary according to the capacity of each individual for insight.

Vedanta accepts every though, idea and concept as a step forward. It evades nothing, and encompasses everything; it discards nothing and collects everything that is within the realm of human experience. However it does not accept anything as final, dogmatic, or as the last word; instead it investigates, analyzes and criticizes all alike, forcing every proposition to verify and substantiate itself according to the rules of logical inquiry.

Vedanta maintains that the human intellect can never fathom the nature of the Ultimate principle – it can only be known by direct intuition never logical inquiry and analysis. The laws of logical inquiry are only to be used for removing apparent contradictions in the Upanishads but never to reveal the Ultimate. Reasoning can only be used with certainty in secular matters to remove doubt, never for transcendental matters .

Never can there be certainty, doubt always remains. Study of the Vedanta can remove these doubts. The teachings are said to fortify the mind with the necessary arguments and reasons so strengthen our position until we grow firm in our understanding. To do this we are required to pass through a discipline which consists of:

  1. Viveka – right discrimination between the eternal and non-eternal, the real and the unreal. This comes from proper study.
  2. Vairagya – right dispassion and indifference to the unreal and transitory. This consists of renunciation of all desires to enjoy the fruit of action both here and hereafter.
  3. Satsampat – right conduct which consists of:  control of thought, control of conduct, renunciation of all sectarian religious observances, endurance of opposites, faith & balanced mental equipoise (freedom from too much sleep, laziness and carelessness).
  4. Mumuksutva – right desire – earnestness to know the Ultimate Principle. This will come when one dedicates his life to this single goal.

Philosophy

The principal question raised by Vedanta is “What is the cause of the Primal Motion in Nature?” – it pushes the cosmological inquiry one step further then the other systems. It postulates an Intelligent Agent the guides and directs the workings of the subtle forces of the universe – it is called Brahman. It is translated in the west as God when placed in the context of religious worship, but it is advisable to use the term Brahman or Ultimate Principle until the concept is firmly rooted.

Vedanta indicates two problems with the Samkhya system:

  1. How is the process of evolution started?
  2. How do we account for the phenomenon of Pralaya (annihilation of the world at the end of each cycle).

The Vaisesika system taught that the original impulse was caused by the Adrsta (unseen, invisible, unknown) of the soul. For example: when we indulge in some particular form of pleasurable activity, there remains within us a latent desire to repeat that form of action another time; as soon as the environment provides an opportunity, we shall repeat that form of action. There are some forms of this latent energy that remain latent for a long period of time before manifestation (as some seeds must remain latent for several years before they are ready to germinate).

Vaisesika says the primal motion originate in the anu when it comes into proximity with the soul. Vedanta contends this is not reasonable since both any and the soul are, by definition, without parts; and there can be no contact between things having no parts. During Pralaya the souls are dormant, so they cannot originate motion; therefore there could never be a first beginnig.

Vedanta accepts the of cosmic evolution as outlined in the Samkhya and explained in the Vaisesika. These systems were presenting an interpretation of nature for minds who were not interested in inquiring into the nature of the first cause. The outstanding contribution of the Vedanta system is Brahman – that which causes the initial impulse in nature.

Brahman

The Ultimate Principle (Brahman) is the creator, maintainer and destroyer of everything in the universe. It is the instrument and material cause of all manifest phenomena. It has two conditions:

  • Pralaya: Asat (Non being) the universe it is at rest. This is the subtle condition of nature when the infinite energy of forms have become submerged into the eternal source from which they came. This is a time of universal dissolution, re-absorption, destruction, annihilation of all manifest phenomena.
  • Sat-Cit-Ananda: the universe  is active. In this period it has three attributes: universal being, consciousness & bliss. It has two inseparable forms: Nirguna – pure spirit, Saguna – pure matter (these refer to the Gunas explained in Samkhya).

At no time is it ever non-existent.

Atman

The term Atman is frequently used in Vedanta – it is translated as “Soul of Self”. It is identified with Purusa (Pure Spirit) and is the instrumental cause of the manifest world. It is also known as Cit – in the sense that it is Universal Consciousness, in contrast with Acit – universal matter which is “without consciousness”.  When a part of the Universal Consciousness settles in Universal Matter which it animates – it is called Jiva – personal soul. Therefore, the only difference between man and God is only one of degree, for ultimately they are one in the same way that the space inside a cup is the same as the space outside. Man is a spark of the infinite.

Maya

“Maya” = delusion. It is the dividing force in nature which measures out the immeasurable and creates forms in the formless. It has two functions – to conceal the real and to project the unreal. It pervades the universe, but it’s presence is only inferred from its effect.

When nature is in a state of equilibrium, Universal Matter is called Prakrti; but the first disturbance, the first conceived motion away from that original equipoise is called Maya, because there has been no change in substance, but only in form – therefore, it is an illusion. When the universal force called Maya operates in the mind of an individual it is called Avidya (ignorance), especially in the spiritual sense. It is the subjective aspect while Maya is the objective aspect. It is called Avidya (without knowledge), because knowledge will dissipate all the illusions of perception.

Posted in Yoga, Yoga Philosophy | You are welcome to read 3 comments and to add yours

Cash for Clunkers

n

A great perspective by Philip Greenspun on money flushed into the American auto industry

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

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-08-16

n

Powered by Twitter Tools

Posted in About, Twitter Updates | You are welcome to add your comment