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How important is yoga for awakening?

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How important is yoga for awakening?
Answer
11/8/20 6:00 AM
I'm referring to the asana postures and pranayama components of yoga.

I've heard mixed things about this. From my understanding, these practises are useful for the following reasons:
  • The physical training enables you to meditate comfortably for longer (especially with a sitting position such as full lotus, which although isn't essential, it would certainly make long/frequent sits more comfortable)
  • Improves meditation ability, by energising/calming the mind
  • Opens energy channels, which softens piti as it arises (apparently this can be a problem later on), and also provides you with more energy (which translates to more conscious power, therefore facilitating the awakening process)
Are there other reasons I'm missing? How necessary is it, and how much would it facilitate the awakening process? And if not done at all, would this be a significant hindrance?

RE: How important is yoga for awakening?
Answer
11/8/20 11:07 AM as a reply to Daniel.
I would say it's a great course of action. The Buddha did it, and yet if we bring in more historical figures that may have started other world religions, we don't see an intersection perhaps. The middle path, however, would be to incorporate as many nuerological channels to help assist in transformation.

My mom does yoga, and she has found it helpful in her daily life, as a fitness regime. I live with my mother (and father), so any residual benefit from my mother staying fit trickles down to me. I haven't found it particularly helpful myself, due to the fact that it makes daily chores seem repetitive aka "non-spiritual" !

RE: How important is yoga for awakening?
Answer
11/25/20 6:37 AM as a reply to Daniel.
I am no expert but after going through a kundalini awakening and doing a lot of spontaneous yoga I have done a lot of research on it. Different asanas unblock nadis(energy channels) and chakras on the body which result in repressed emotions and trauma coming out. Hatha yoga is tantric in origin and it different asanas and pranayama work on clearing the energy or subtle body. Vajrayana has yantra yoga and trul khor which is pretty similar. Ofcouce you can travel the insight axis  without ever doing asanas or pranayama but these are skillful means and having a healthy body is pretty useful when it comes to the spiritual path. 

RE: How important is yoga for awakening?
Answer
11/28/20 12:12 AM as a reply to Daniel.
Asana and pranayama can destroy the Buddhist path because, practised wrongly, yoga actually causes blockages rather than opens things; which harms samadhi development. When the body is habitually placed in unnatural static postures, that cause breathing to become activated, if the breathing also starts to habitually breath/flow unnaturally via wrong channels, mucus will fill the proper breathing channels because the breath has been caused to flow elsewhere. When subtle channels are filled with subtle mucus, the breathing cannot calm properly, even if the mind has concentration. 

That is why if you visit yoga schools you generally won't find many individuals who are enligthened, let alone able to follow all of the 8  Limbs of Yoga, such as being brahmachariya (celibate) or even following yama & niyama (morality). 

Men who are serious hatha yoga practitioners often have pigeon shaped bodies, with bludging abodman, large chests and pinned-back shoulders. Buldging abdomen especially from wrong breathing is a physical hindrance to samadhi because, in deep Buddhist breath meditation, the abdomen actually contracts inwards during the longest in-breath (rather than expands, as is ordinarily expected). 

In summary, at least in original Buddhism, there is not practice of hatha yoga & pranayama.

In Buddhist meditation, the main practise is abandoning willfulness. 

There is a post about the dangers of hatha yoga, below:

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5847692#_19_message_5847733

RE: How important is yoga for awakening?
Answer
11/28/20 4:51 AM as a reply to n0nick.
n0nick:
I am no expert but after going through a kundalini awakening and doing a lot of spontaneous yoga I have done a lot of research on it.  


This caught my eye because I too began doing a lot of spontaneous yoga after a strong A&P I had on a Goenka course this past January. There was a lot of other shite happening at the same time so I haven't given a ton of thought to the spontaneous yoga - but even now if I give my body permission it will start moving  around in all kinds of funny ways. The way I tend to describe it is as an "inner wind" because energetically it's invisible to me until it starts pushing my body around. Can you tell me a little bit about your experience? Did you start actually doing formal kundalini practice? Also what did your awakening entail - and if this is happening to me as well, is it something I should pursue? Do you work with your inner wind in some kind of way or just let it happen when and how it happens?

RE: How important is yoga for awakening?
Answer
11/28/20 5:36 PM as a reply to Nicky2.
This doesn't really make sense. Just because something can be done wrongly doesn't mean you shouldn't be doing it. You can do any form of exercise poorly and it'll do more harm than good, so does that mean we shouldn't exercise at all?

Especially when doing it correctly does have benefits, there's a reason they get people to train for it. Doing yoga alone won't get you far, but it is opening up the energy body. Most people are inflexible today, so if you don't train this, you'll be inflexible and have blockages. Not only that, it's practical for training for full lotus, which actually does have practical benefits in meditation (it makes you feel more alert, and you can sit comfortably for long periods on a cushion, without the need for a chair). 

If someone doesn't do it properly, that's their fault, not the exercise. You just need to study the Asanas and make sure you do them correctly, just like how someone working out needs to use correct form or they can injure themselves. As for correct breathing, this comes with practice and should intentionally be made into a habit regardless, since most people habitually breathe incorrectly.

RE: How important is yoga for awakening?
Answer
11/29/20 7:34 PM as a reply to Daniel.
Since it appears you have already drunk the yoga kool-aid, what is the point of asking questions about it? 

For example, the belief "correct breathing" must be "practised" or "learned" is obviously illogical. Its like saying walking correctly must be practised or learned.  

From a Buddhism viewpoint, if breathing is "unhealthy", the cause of such unhealthy breathing is the state of mind. Therefore, a hatha yoga guru that continues to have lust, anger or delusion, will never ever have healthy breathing; regardless of how much pranayama they practise. 

At least Buddhism does not teach hatha yoga & pranayama. Therefore, it is obviously unnecessary and everything you have posted seems to be mere superstition. 

Anyway, another factual article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/magazine/how-yoga-can-wreck-your-body.html

RE: How important is yoga for awakening?
Answer
11/29/20 9:18 PM as a reply to Nicky2.
Since it appears you have already drunk the yoga kool-aid, what is the point of asking questions about it? 
I haven't drank any kool-aid. I was just challenging what you said because it doesn't make sense. I only started doing yoga recently and my identity doesn't depend on this, so I don't care whether it's true or not.

Sure, maybe if people overdo it yoga can be harmful, but that's true with basically anything.
For example, the belief "correct breathing" must be "practised" or "learned" is obviously illogical. Its like saying walking correctly must be practised or learned.  
No it's not. There's a correct way to breathe that makes your body operate in a parasympathetic state. Many people habitually breathe in a way that induces the stress response. So unless people do this naturally (which many don't today), it needs to be corrected.
Therefore, it is obviously unnecessary and everything you have posted seems to be mere superstition. 
No, it's not superstition. I've come to this conclusion from research. Read Breath by James Nestor. There's also a lot of scientific evidence, such as the HRV breathing recommended by the HeartMath Institute, which clearly shows proper breathing reduces stress and improves the overall functioning of your body.

RE: How important is yoga for awakening?
Answer
11/30/20 10:47 AM as a reply to HouseOnFire.
I have been to a goenka retreat as well but my awakening happened at a home retreat where I was doing a lot of study and contemplation. Kundalini might be termed as a a&p in therevada but it is a whole different thing in the tantric traditions (hindu, Buddhist and daoist). I have been doing a lot of research and talking with yogis and teachers from different traditions for the last year. What you are experiencing is called kundalini kriyas. They help open up nadis (channels )result in energy body(karmic) purification. They are different camps on how to deal with this. Some fully surrender and let it do its thing while other take charge with self directed practices. I have been experimenting with both for now. Once this pandemic is over I am planning on visiting some teachers and start training formally. 

RE: How important is yoga for awakening?
Answer
11/30/20 10:52 AM as a reply to Nicky2.
When you say Buddhist I think you mean therevada. In vajrayana they have their over version of hatha yoga (trul khor and yantra yoga) which includes asana pranayama. Most of the Buddhist mahasiddhas were hatha yoga practitioners. 

RE: How important is yoga for awakening?
Answer
12/2/20 7:27 AM as a reply to Daniel.
I would disregard the comments on yoga "destroying the Buddhist path", largely because it's unhelpful and erroneously assumes much about the practices you're actually engaged in.

I would ask the individual who made this claim whether or not they consider the Six Yogas of Naropa to be equally 'destructive' to "the Buddhist path"?

"Yoga" is an incredibly broad term for an incredibly broad range of practices, from an incredibly broad range of traditions. What you're describing sounds like 'entry level' practices. I would suggest not getting into the energetic systems at this stage because it'll only confuse you further; it's a deep subject that requires experiential knowledge and guidance from an experienced teacher, so try not to worry about that for now.

If we strip away all of the trappings of tradition-specific practices and look at the nuts and bolts of your question, it might be more useful.

The physical training enables you to meditate comfortably for longer (especially with a sitting position such as full lotus, which although isn't essential, it would certainly make long/frequent sits more comfortable)

This isn't necessarily true, and the same physical training could be acheived through doing regular stretching, just as an athlete would. If you stretch in a more 'normal' way while remaining mindful of your body as it moves, this would be far more practical and also allow you to practice attentiveness while doing so.

Improves meditation ability, by energising/calming the mind

What improves meditation ability is consistent practice, practice and more practice. You don't need to have a flexible body to focus on your breath and develop one-pointed concentration. Simply sitting down in a normal cross-legged posture, lying down, or sitting in a chair is sufficient to start with.

Opens energy channels, which softens piti as it arises (apparently this can be a problem later on), and also provides you with more energy (which translates to more conscious power, therefore facilitating the awakening process)

Again, don't worry about energy channels. Without knowing the specifics of your current practice, it's not particularly helpful to speculate on any of this because, as I've said, it's a deep subject with considerable nuance and much that will be irrelevant to you.

If you're looking to awaken to the nature of reality, it starts with stabilization of attention and developing one-pointed concentration. It sounds like you're getting a bit caught up in the details without really understanding what it is that you're looking for.

The long and short of it this: It's not necessary to master asanas or pranayama to experience awakening.

If you can say a bit more about your practice, it may be easier to offer specifics.

RE: How important is yoga for awakening?
Answer
12/3/20 6:28 AM as a reply to Tommy M.
Tommy M:
 I would suggest not getting into the energetic systems at this stage because it'll only confuse you further; it's a deep subject that requires experiential knowledge and guidance from an experienced teacher ...

... the same physical training could be acheived through doing regular stretching, just as an athlete would. If you stretch in a more 'normal' way while remaining mindful of your body as it moves, this would be far more practical and also allow you to practice attentiveness while doing so.
+1 

I have over 20 years of Taiji and Qigong, and I dropped it completely, as it's a hindrance post A&P (pre-SE). If you are in EQ, it's annoying being thrown back over and over to A&P or at least distract your practice with energy display. Just a nice stretch would do the job.   

RE: How important is yoga for awakening?
Answer
12/3/20 4:46 AM as a reply to Tommy M.
I would suggest not getting into the energetic systems at this stage because it'll only confuse you further; it's a deep subject that requires experiential knowledge and guidance from an experienced teacher, so try not to worry about that for now.
Why not? I've already experienced my energy system first-hand with Piti and other sensations. I also like learning and find it interesting.

From my understanding, aligning your energy system is important for overall health, and it also seems like it'd be related to awakening since it's enabling the flow of Kundalini through your body. So I'm a bit confused how this could be a hindrance.

I also disagree that a teacher is necessary. It's ideal, of course, but you can still learn from books/videos/other resources.
This isn't necessarily true, and the same physical training could be acheived through doing regular stretching, just as an athlete would. If you stretch in a more 'normal' way while remaining mindful of your body as it moves, this would be far more practical and also allow you to practice attentiveness while doing so.
How's normal stretching any better? It's proven yoga is beneficial for many things (including stretching), so I don't see why I'd do something different. Plus it's fun and I enjoy it, it's just a part of my exercise routine.
What improves meditation ability is consistent practice, practice and more practice. You don't need to have a flexible body to focus on your breath and develop one-pointed concentration. Simply sitting down in a normal cross-legged posture, lying down, or sitting in a chair is sufficient to start with.
I know it's sufficient to start with, and I'm not even flexible enough yet to even sit cross-legged. I've been meditating on a chair for ages. But it'd be nice to be able to do full lotus sit.

I've also noticed that when I do cross my legs (although I can't for long), I do feel a bit more energised. And even if it's subtle, it's still worth developing the ability do this because even a small boost in energy is worth the effort if you're doing a tonne of meditation. I intend to do very long sits later on, so developing the flexibility now makes sense so when I get to that stage I can do it more easily.

And it's not just that, I'd prefer to sit on a cushion wherever I choose (such as in nature), and full lotus enables you to do so comfortably.
Again, don't worry about energy channels. Without knowing the specifics of your current practice, it's not particularly helpful to speculate on any of this because, as I've said, it's a deep subject with considerable nuance and much that will be irrelevant to you.
I'm currently following The Mind Illuminated, with the intention to reach stage 10 by the end of the year. My goal is not just to reach awakening, but also to improve my health, master psychic abilities, and other things. So to me, I don't see this as a distraction. If my only goal was awakening, I probably wouldn't bother doing it. From my research, gaining control over your energy system is a key part of gaining conscious control over psychic abilities.
If you're looking to awaken to the nature of reality, it starts with stabilization of attention and developing one-pointed concentration. It sounds like you're getting a bit caught up in the details without really understanding what it is that you're looking for.
I understand that meditation is the most important thing to doing this. I consider yoga and anything else to be supplementary.

RE: How important is yoga for awakening?
Answer
12/3/20 6:32 AM as a reply to Daniel.
I appreciate the additional information and commentary, so I'll try to answer as best I can.

Why not? I've already experienced my energy system first-hand with Piti and other sensations. I also like learning and find it interesting.

There's good reason as to why I've said to avoid getting caught up in energetic systems and the models right now. I understand that you like learning about them and find it interesting, so it may be that you're karmically inclined towards these sorts of techniques. However, as I've said it's a deep, deep and complex topic that goes way beyond the characteristics of absorption such as piti.

If you start trying to get involved in manipulating the energetic systems without sufficient understanding of, and experience with emptiness/non-conceptuality and non-duality then you run the risk of seriously fucking yourself up. This isn't scaremongering or superstition; you are quite literally learning how to take control of your nervous system and it's a risky road if you don't have the physical, mental and spiritual capacity to handle it.

I don't say this to be rude or to imply that "oh, you're just not awakened enough" or any of that shit. I'm basing my answers on the questions you've asked, and none of them so far have suggested that you're at a stage where these sorts of practices would be beneficial to you.

If you still want to pursue study of the energy systems, then I highly recommend getting a hold of "Awakening the Sacred Body" by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, and "Yantra Yoga" by Chogyal Namkai Norbu. Those are fantastic resources that we've been blessed with and can provide a more stable grounding for you to work from. The mention of these two great teachers brings me to...

 I also disagree that a teacher is necessary. It's ideal, of course, but you can still learn from books/videos/other resources.


You're perfectly entitled to your opinion, but that doesn't negate the facts. Yes, some people can engage with this level of appearances without guidance from a teacher, but that's the exception rather than the rule. You can't 'learn' the energetic systems from books, videos or other non-physical activities, however you can develop a conceptual model that might allow you to better understand what these systems actually are through direct experience.

As you've said, working with a teacher is ideal and this is because a teacher of Vajrayana has activated and mastered these 'circuits', which means that they can literally point out what the phenomenology of the practice entails. In doing this, many of the pitfalls can be avoided and accidentally shutting down your hormonal system isn't likely to happen...

To double-back to a previous comment:

From my understanding, aligning your energy system is important for overall health, and it also seems like it'd be related to awakening since it's enabling the flow of Kundalini through your body. So I'm a bit confused how this could be a hindrance.

The energetic system is essential, not merely to health but to our very ability to breathe in and out!

Kundalini is a very specific form related to primal drives and imprints. As with the other energetic phenomena, this isn't something you want to start fucking around with or investigating through intellectual curiosity. With respect, you're already confusing yourself by throwing around these pop-spirituality buzzwords without understanding the actuality of what those labels point to.

Premature awakening of Kundalini could quite easily result in major mental health issues, and I mean that seriously. Working directly with these energetic phenomena can and will reveal much about the nature of reality that can and will lead some people into psychosis if inexperienced in degrees of non-conceptuality and non-duality.

There's a very, very, VERY good reason why spiritual systems, and the supreme Buddhadharma in particular place so much emphasis on morality as the foundation of the Path. I'm not saying any of this to be cryptic, I'm saying it from a sincere wish for you not to harm yourself and for you to truly experience liberation.

How's normal stretching any better? It's proven yoga is beneficial for many things (including stretching), so I don't see why I'd do something different. Plus it's fun and I enjoy it, it's just a part of my exercise routine.

How is an apple different to an orange?

You're using this term "yoga", but you're thinking about a very specific model and confusing matters for yourself.

What you're talking about is what we could, for the sake of convenience, call non-Buddhadharma systems like the 8 Limbs of Patanjali, etc.

The practice you're actually doing isn't the sort of "yoga" that those traditions engage in, and without the appropriate visualizations, mantras and asanas you're not actually doing "yoga" as the word is used in that context.

Without all of the accoutrements, all you're really doing is what I've recommended, i.e. mindful stretching exercises. It's great that you find it fun and that it's helping you to exercise regularly, but don't overcomplicate things for yourself. Continue to do what you're doing if it's helpful to you, but please understand the distinction being made in these replies.

I know it's sufficient to start with, and I'm not even flexible enough yet to even sit cross-legged. I've been meditating on a chair for ages. But it'd be nice to be able to do full lotus sit.

For a beginner, full lotus is not necessary and even the half-lotus can provide sufficient stability.


I've also noticed that when I do cross my legs (although I can't for long), I do feel a bit more energised. And even if it's subtle, it's still worth developing the ability do this because even a small boost in energy is worth the effort if you're doing a tonne of meditation. I intend to do very long sits later on, so developing the flexibility now makes sense so when I get to that stage I can do it more easily.

And it's not just that, I'd prefer to sit on a cushion wherever I choose (such as in nature), and full lotus enables you to do so comfortably.

The increased energy is more likely related to increased bodily awareness that comes with the discomfort. Rather than viewing this as a hindrance, use it to maintain awareness in the body. Increased energy will arise as long as you remain steadfast and attentive.

People have this idea that meditation is supposed to be comfortable. It's hilarious to me now, because I once thought the same but I now appreciate the power of discomfort in getting us 'out of our heads' and bringing awareness into the body.

This will sound odd, but we need to learn how to suffer properly...

I'm currently following The Mind Illuminated, with the intention to reach stage 10 by the end of the year.

Not familiar with the specifics of TMI, but I believe Culadasa emphasizes anapanasati/mindfulness. Incredibly powerful practice, so go at it with gusto if you find his approach helpful!

My goal is not just to reach awakening, but also to improve my health, master psychic abilities, and other things. So to me, I don't see this as a distraction. If my only goal was awakening, I probably wouldn't bother doing it. From my research, gaining control over your energy system is a key part of gaining conscious control over psychic abilities.

Not being a killjoy or implying that there's no value in mastery of siddhis, but your comments here actually bring pain to my heart. Awakening is the only goal worth pursuing in this lifetime, and you're already distracted from it by your fanciful ideas about "psychic abilities".

Understand just how fortunate we are to have been born as human beings, with the uniquely good fortune to have heard the Buddhadharma and, most importantly, to actively pursue liberation from habitual rebirth for ourselves and all others.

You are obviously free to forge your own path and I wouldn't dream of trying to force anyone to do anything. What I would ask though, is that you sit down and reflect on the underlying intentions of seeking mastery of the siddhis, and why you place more importance on this than seeking awakening.

Practice well, my friend.

RE: How important is yoga for awakening?
Answer
12/3/20 6:21 AM as a reply to Daniel.
Daniel:
I would suggest not getting into the energetic systems at this stage because it'll only confuse you further; it's a deep subject that requires experiential knowledge and guidance from an experienced teacher, so try not to worry about that for now.
Why not? I've already experienced my energy system first-hand with Piti and other sensations. I also like learning and find it interesting.

From my understanding, aligning your energy system is important for overall health, and it also seems like it'd be related to awakening since it's enabling the flow of Kundalini through your body. So I'm a bit confused how this could be a hindrance.

I also disagree that a teacher is necessary. It's ideal, of course, but you can still learn from books/videos/other resources.
This isn't necessarily true, and the same physical training could be acheived through doing regular stretching, just as an athlete would. If you stretch in a more 'normal' way while remaining mindful of your body as it moves, this would be far more practical and also allow you to practice attentiveness while doing so.
How's normal stretching any better? It's proven yoga is beneficial for many things (including stretching), so I don't see why I'd do something different. Plus it's fun and I enjoy it, it's just a part of my exercise routine.
What improves meditation ability is consistent practice, practice and more practice. You don't need to have a flexible body to focus on your breath and develop one-pointed concentration. Simply sitting down in a normal cross-legged posture, lying down, or sitting in a chair is sufficient to start with.
I know it's sufficient to start with, and I'm not even flexible enough yet to even sit cross-legged. I've been meditating on a chair for ages. But it'd be nice to be able to do full lotus sit.

I've also noticed that when I do cross my legs (although I can't for long), I do feel a bit more energised. And even if it's subtle, it's still worth developing the ability do this because even a small boost in energy is worth the effort if you're doing a tonne of meditation. I intend to do very long sits later on, so developing the flexibility now makes sense so when I get to that stage I can do it more easily.

And it's not just that, I'd prefer to sit on a cushion wherever I choose (such as in nature), and full lotus enables you to do so comfortably.
Again, don't worry about energy channels. Without knowing the specifics of your current practice, it's not particularly helpful to speculate on any of this because, as I've said, it's a deep subject with considerable nuance and much that will be irrelevant to you.
I'm currently following The Mind Illuminated, with the intention to reach stage 10 by the end of the year. My goal is not just to reach awakening, but also to improve my health, master psychic abilities, and other things. So to me, I don't see this as a distraction. If my only goal was awakening, I probably wouldn't bother doing it. From my research, gaining control over your energy system is a key part of gaining conscious control over psychic abilities.
If you're looking to awaken to the nature of reality, it starts with stabilization of attention and developing one-pointed concentration. It sounds like you're getting a bit caught up in the details without really understanding what it is that you're looking for.
I understand that meditation is the most important thing to doing this. I consider yoga and anything else to be supplementary.
Ultimately you have to decide what you want. But imo when it comes to tantric and energetic practices a in person teacher is a must. Books can be used a reference but a competent in person teacher is indispensable. Physical and energetic  practices practiced incorrectly can damage the subtle body and can have far reaching consequences in potential future lives. Hatha yoga and the tradition it comes from (hindu and buddhist tantra) emphasize guru student relations for this very reason. 

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