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pranayama questions

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pranayama questions
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6/19/13 8:19 AM
So I have recently been experimenting with hyperventilation to see if it has any beneficial effects. It seems to be quite relaxing after-the-fact. And the more I practice it, the less side effects (choking sensations etc.) I get, and the quicker they go away.

I see that there are perhaps three pranayama techniques which are similar to what I'm doing, namely Kapalbhati, Bhastrika, and Breath of Fire (or maybe the latter is one of the former two?). I don't understand what the difference between these are so I'm not sure which of them I'm actually performing. Also, I'm not sure for how long they should be performed or whether there are any real contraindications or anything like that. And more generally, I don't know anything about whether they can be modified in any way via physical postures for good purposes (for example, today I tried contracting the muscles around my perineum while hypeventilating, and the effect was different, with more mental silence, but I haven't seen any references to doing this online).

Any knowledgeable people here? Or does anyone have a good, thorough, practical guide to pranayama practices that they could recommend? (Too bad Omega Point isn't around, he seems like he could help.)

RE: pranayama questions
Answer
6/19/13 9:10 AM as a reply to End in Sight.
About pranayama, I've red something by Van Lysebeth that, basically, said that if you really are doing thinghs wrong you are going to feel really bad for 1-2 days, but it will get together quickly after the fact with no further side-effects.

If you have not done it yet, you might try to take a look at the AYP site, you can find quite a lot of useful information there...

Bye!

EDIT
However, as far as I understand theese practices, they develop a lot of energies, and they are effective if you can use theese energies for some purpose, i.e. removing some particoular energy blockage; so, if you know why you want to do theese things, you can also do some targeted stuff like deciding what kind of bhanda to use, where and how to put you attention, and stuff like that.

RE: pranayama questions
Answer
6/19/13 2:56 PM as a reply to M N.
Mario Nistri:
If you have not done it yet, you might try to take a look at the AYP site, you can find quite a lot of useful information there...


Cool, thanks.

aypsite:
Kapalbhati means shining forehead. It is also interpreted to mean luminous face. It is a pranayama (breathing) technique, which involves taking a series of relaxed normal inhalations followed by sudden bellows-like exhalations...Kapalbhati can be repeated for a series of 10-20 cycles of relaxed inhalation and sudden exhalation. Be careful not to overdo this practice. A good time to practice kapalbhati is after yoga asanas and right before twice-daily sitting practices, which includes spinal breathing pranayama and deep meditation.


aypsite:
Now we will introduce a powerful new pranayama practice called spinal bastrika. "Bastrika" means "bellows." It is rapid breathing, like a dog panting, done with the diaphragm only (abdominal breathing), preferably through the nose...[some spinal nerve visualization stuff]... [[EDIT: Missed this the first time I read it.] Continue with siddhasana, sambhavi, mulabandha, kechari, etc.] Some uddiyana (slightly pulling in of the abdomen) can be done also during spinal bastrika...With comfort established for two minutes of practice, after a week or two, spinal bastrika can be taken to three minutes, and eventually to five minutes, if desired. Spinal bastrika is very powerful in longer doses, so keep that (and the delayed effect) in mind as your experience advances.


It seems that what I'm doing is more like b(h?)astrika, without the visualization. But, there is still this subtlety: it's possible to exhale forcefully and inhale gently-but-fast, or exhale forcefully and inhale forcefully. To me the former is more bellows-like but I'm not sure which is intended, or whether they're the same. I think I do the former most of the time due to ease, but my technique is a little sloppy and there's some shifting around.

EDIT
However, as far as I understand theese practices, they develop a lot of energies, and they are effective if you can use theese energies for some purpose, i.e. removing some particoular energy blockage; so, if you know why you want to do theese things, you can also do some targeted stuff like deciding what kind of bhanda to use, where and how to put you attention, and stuff like that.


Any specific suggestions?

RE: pranayama questions
Answer
6/19/13 11:20 AM as a reply to End in Sight.
End in Sight:

Any specific suggestions?


No, not really... lol

My story is something like this: I'm having various shakings, and psychiatry is not helpful at all. Also, at one point I begun to feel alla sorts of stuff inside&outside me that seemed to fit the classical descriptions of prana/qi, meridians and whatever; also, I saw that there is an obvious relationship between my shakings and what seems to be energies, so I begun to manipulate them in various ways in order to cure myself from shakings, and the experiment seems to be working nicely.

However, I have no teacher and I have no conceptual background of any kind, I'm just doing a lot of exploration for myself; I don't even know if what I call "energies" and "enegy blockages" are the same thing that other traditions talk about when they are using theese terms... I know nothing basically, except for the fact that what I've been doing is quite beneficial to my health, so... no, I don't feel like I'm in a position to give any specific suggestion about anything...

Bye!

RE: pranayama questions
Answer
6/19/13 12:24 PM as a reply to M N.
Would you be interested in sharing what you've been doing?

RE: pranayama questions
Answer
6/20/13 8:30 AM as a reply to End in Sight.
Mmm... just a little bit...

So,basically, the whole thing is about removing energy blockages.

As i define it,an energy blockage is something like this: you make your attention move throught your spine,and eventually you'll find a place where it seems to stop, to get stuck; there is an energy blockage there. As far as I cantell, they canbe found everywhere around the body,but in the mid-line in particoular.
As far as I can tell, energy blockages are places where energy is encapsulated.

How to release them?

I see basically 3 ways:
1)You poke around with it: if it seems to move in a direction you accentuate that moviment, or you send pulses of attention there,or you stay at the edges of it, or doing whatever you want; eventually, energy will be released from it, it will look like it exploded and, when the energy discharge is over, that part of the body will be open for attention to travel throught.
2)You send some energy flow (derived from the breath, or from moviments of the body) throught it, like if you want to wipe it out; after a while doing that, that part of the body will be free from it. The energy leak will still happen, but it might go un-noticed.
3)You ignore it and move to surrounding blockages; with 1 or 2; by doing that, the energy stored in the first one will begin to leak out.

The energy leak seems to move in some directions, mostly parallel or perpendicoular to the midline, seemingly following "paths" (channels?).
As far as I can tell, the main channels are parallel to the chakra spots and from buttoks to shoulders, front and back, and obviously the mid-line, front and back.
However there are many of them, and the more I do this the more paths I end up seeing, up to the point that most of my body looks like a mosquito-net of tiny little channels.

In order for this to be done safely, is important for the energy leak to flow throught thoose paths: the more channels are involved in the discharging process, the more the whole thing will be safe.

Also, the crown should be avoided; according to the AYP founder, going there is the most rapid way to get kundalini-horror-stories going.

So... that's it; hope it was useful to something...bye!

RE: pranayama questions
Answer
6/20/13 3:37 PM as a reply to M N.
Mario, thanks for sharing.

Mario Nistri:
Also, the crown should be avoided; according to the AYP founder, going there is the most rapid way to get kundalini-horror-stories going.


I can confirm that examining that region has lead me to a lot of unpleasant experiences in the rest of my body, though perhaps not anymore now that I've paid a lot of attention to it and stuck through the unpleasant experiences (unsure). It did (ultimately) make a big positive impact for me.

RE: pranayama questions
Answer
6/20/13 10:35 PM as a reply to M N.
Also, the crown should be avoided; according to the AYP founder, going there is the most rapid way to get kundalini-horror-stories going.


The advice I was given by someone experienced with tantric stuff was to direct it towards the naval, despite its tendency to go upwards...

Here are the practical instructions...
http://www.tsoknyirinpoche.org/1439/a-very-human-condition-part-two-of-two/

But the individual isn't experienced with noting. I think the upward moving energetic stuff is what causes cessations (which I no longer experience).

I don't have any energy blockages in the head region any more. But do have some annoying ones in the body.

RE: pranayama questions
Answer
6/21/13 12:09 PM as a reply to End in Sight.
I have practiced pranayama off and on over the years, currently very much on for the past 6 months. I like that AYP site, but their focus is more oriented to Kriya Yoga and yogic meditation, so they don't discuss many of the classic pranayamas. For a more general discussion with a lot of background, I like this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Prana-Pranayama-Swami-Niranjanananda-Saraswati/dp/8186336796/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371832935&sr=8-1&keywords=prana+pranayama

However, you can go to the internet magazine site for the same group (the Bihar school) and search their archives and you can usually dig up material that is similar to what is in their books:

http://www.yogamag.net/

I will mention that Bhastrika and Kapalbhati are considered energizing pranayamas which have actually been scientifically proven to speed up your metabolism (can help with weight loss if that is an issue for you). However, most people avoid these or only do in small doses because they can lead to hyperventilation syndrome and, more generally, because most people turn to pranayama to chill out, not heat up. I would suggest experimenting with the relaxing or balancing pranayamas yourself and avoid the engergizing ones unless you are the type of meditator that really struggles with sleepiness during your sits. Then the energizing pranayamas could certainly provde useful.

A relaxing pranayama would be "Dirgha" or deep yogic breathing, also known as the 3-part yogic breath (beath slowly into the stomach, then chest, the uppper chest). Also good is what some call "ratio breathing", which involves exhaling 2x the length of the inhale (there are more advanced ratios and combinations). This has been shown to increase parasympathetic activity. A "balancing" pranayama would be alternate nostril breathing, or Nadi Shodhana.

In classical yoga practice, pranayama is considered a prepartion for meditation, and many yogis do pranayama before meditation as part of their daily practice. I personally usually do some alternate nostril breathing followed by 3-part yogic breathing for 15-20 minutes in total before continuing on to meditation. For some reason, most Buddhist teachings, which the exception of some Tibetan practices, say that one should not manipulate the breath but to observe it just as it is. I find pranayama to be excellent way to setlle the mind for meditation. In fact, I find that pranayama can lead to deeper meditation for me while I am doing than, say, regular breath awareness, because my active participation helpes me focus. Beyond that, I find it has more carry over into daily life in terms of relaxing me and keeping me grounded. Dark night yogis should seriously consider grounding with some relaxing or balancing pranayama.

Lastly, I would mention that the AYP site's main focus is on a simplified adaptation of Kriya yoga, the main practice of which is spinal breathing (like Chinese microcosmic orbit work but up and down the spine only). This may or may not be of interest to you, but the focus here is on smoothing out the energy of your system and preparing your body for kundalini awakening. Bruno Leoff has written about this practice if you do a search.

RE: pranayama questions
Answer
6/21/13 10:23 PM as a reply to End in Sight.
Check this video and see if it helps.

RE: pranayama questions
Answer
6/22/13 7:58 AM as a reply to Change A..
Change A.:
Check this video and see if it helps.


Ramdev is quite a character, but that is a very good video. I will point out that his alternate nostril breathing, Anulom Vilom, is far more forceful than anything I have seen anywhere else. Most people teach that it should be gentle, or perhaps using Ujjayi at most. He almost does a Bhastrika while doing it. That is not to say there may not be some benefit of combining an energizing breath with a balancing technique, rather than a relaxing breath with a balancing technique.

His Bahya pranayama is pretty incredible.

RE: pranayama questions
Answer
6/23/13 10:28 PM as a reply to End in Sight.
These few days, I've been doing the Diaphragmatic breathing fast, over 30 breaths per minute, for 10 minutes. Today, I did it for 15 minutes, and there were some differences. On and off, in the first few minutes, there were warmth spreading in many parts of the body, plus the (usual) expanding/contracting energy in some places, mainly the back.That is, an energy field surrounding the body that is expanding/contracting. Seems like on of Shinzen Young's meditation methods. For the last 3 minutes or so, vibrations settled in, in the torso and mouth. Didn't do it longer just to play safe.

When I stopped these breathing, I didn't need breath for around a minute. As there weren't jhanic territory to explore like in previous sessions, I just watched my torso to see how the first new breaths would be. The first one was very short and from the dantien (4 fingers below the navel). The second (30 seconds later) was above the navel and the third (~30 secs too) was deep and involved more surface. Then, during the 50 minutes sit and for around 30 minutes off cushion, the diaphragm kept relaxed, really relaxed.

Regarding the first breathing, it reminded me some old experiments I did with taoist reverse breathing, contracting the lower belly while in-breathing. Despite there's always some (subtle) tension in the torso even after out-breathing, if you just wait enough, the body will inhale contracting that way. Try this: sit in your couch with your legs/crotch open, resting above a coffee table or chair. Be sure that you are at an angle, so that your tailbone is tuck in. While resting comfortably there for a while (maybe watching TV), you'll see that right before the inhale there's a gently pull in of the abdomen in the lower belly.

Perhaps I should add in the future the Bhastrika breathing.

Added: diaphragmatic breathing

RE: pranayama questions
Answer
6/24/13 10:35 AM as a reply to Rob Wynge.
Rob Wynge:
For some reason, most Buddhist teachings, which the exception of some Tibetan practices, say that one should not manipulate the breath but to observe it just as it is. I find pranayama to be excellent way to setlle the mind for meditation. In fact, I find that pranayama can lead to deeper meditation for me while I am doing than, say, regular breath awareness, because my active participation helpes me focus.


That depends on the buddhist. Here is from Thanissaro Bhikkhu's "With each and every breath: A guide to meditation."

Thanissaro Bhikkhu:

The breath is one of the few processes in the body over which you can exert conscious control. An important part of breath meditation is learning how to make skillful use of this fact. You can learn which ways of breathing foster pleasant sensations in the body, and which ones foster unpleasant ones. You learn a sense of time and place: when and how to change the breath to make it more comfortable, and when to leave it alone. As you develop this knowledge, you can use it as an aid in developing skillful qualities of mind.

This sort of knowledge comes from experimenting with the breath and learning to observe the effects of different kinds of breathing on the body and mind. You can call this sort of experimentation working with the breath, for you’ve got an ardent purpose: the training of the mind. But you can also call it playing with the breath, for it requires that you use your imagination and ingenuity in thinking of different ways to breathe and to picture the breath energy to yourself. At the same time, it can be a lot of fun as you learn to explore and discover things about your body on your own.

There are many ways in which working and playing with the breath can help foster the quality of ardency in your meditation. For instance, when you learn how to breathe in ways that feel comfortable—to energize the body when you feel tired, or to relax the body when you feel tense—you make it easier to settle into the present moment and to stay there with a sense of well-being. You learn to view the meditation not as a chore, but as an opportunity to develop an immediate sense of well-being. This gives energy to your desire to stick with the meditation over the long term.