The breath in the asana should be induced by the posture itself, as every posture has its own pattern of breathing and affecting the mind accordingly. In Halasana and Hanging Sirsasana you can just be with your exhalations, in a meditative state, there is nothing else to be done. It is totally natural for the mind to drift away while in the position, so there is no point in feeling frustrated about it. Just continue to practise and be pure in your devotion, meaning that you do it as a ritual, and not being goal oriented. Trust that the path taken is right and do your thing every day, totally present.
Pranic force is very powerful. When practising pranayama it may happen for some people that they feel slight panic at the end of an exhalation and their hearts start beating rapidly. It is a panic of letting go. When you start to lose control and can’t handle this situation, you start making the exhalations consciously in order to reach back to the original state.
Pranayama is very psychological. To properly exhale is more difficult than doing inhalation. When we do and inhalation there is still a stimulation, an act of doing, whereas a spiritual experiences occur when we let go in the exhalations and leave the known. This demands a complete focus and presence. Asanas are gross, while when one experiences a breakthrough in the pranayama, one becomes fully in touch with own energies. It does take a couple of years to realise the power of Yoga. One must first understand how to use the tools, the breath and the body in order to build up system of accessing information within own being. Only when one gained a control over the mind and the body, one must learn to let it go. Preparation for pranayama takes about 2 years. In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a classic Sanskrit text on Hatha Yoga, it is also said that one must practise with purity and daily. Stop one day, lose a week. One must practise constantly, with purity and there must be a stability in the body. Then a person can experience the real effects of the practice.
When you shatter your beliefs, you will find the Truth. Every belief is a conditioning and as long as you are conditioned, you are unable to see the truth. Once you get rid of the conditioning, then you stand naked and experience the unconditional surrender. For example, if one wants love, one must allow love to take over. Yoga is so much more than the asanas, both pranayama and meditation should be practised daily. Yoga is about understanding one’s own energy. Doing the asanas one gets steadiness of both body and mind. On the other hand, an idle mind is the devils workshop. When thoughts multiply, the mind is taken into a greed and further develops thoughts. Concentrated thought is like an action, when random nonsense thoughts occupy the mind we become attached and they are taking our energy. One should therefore avoid these, and by doing so the karmic multiplication will get reduced.
If one is involved in action, yet can keep eliminating thoughts, one comes to a state of purity – sattva. The minimum practice time should be 2 hours daily: half an hour pranayama, meditation in Viparitakarani for 20-30 minutes and then asanas. If one lives in the West, then it is advised to practise as many inverted poses as possible. During the practice one should be concentrating on one aspect and exploring it fully each day: one day the heel, then the knees, then the abdomen, then the buttocks, then the shoulders, etc, otherwise the practice might become mechanical and boring. Our path is in the body and can be discovered when focused mind is concentrating on the Nada and controlled breath. Mantra is a very good tool for quieting the mind. Meditation is not about sitting and being involved in some technique, meditation is a state of consciousness where there is a quietness as well as alertness, both in equal amounts. When one can sit and be quiet, it is the highest of all paths, nothing is needed. It is possible to meditate upside down in Hanging Sirshasana, in Halasana, or in Shoulder Stand. On the seventh day of the practice one should do Hanging Shirsasana, Viparitakarani, Shoulder Stand, meditation and pranayama. One should never miss a day of pranayama and it has to be done with purity. Also during the day, one must not be disconnected from oneself, lost in thoughts, but continue to be focused throughout the day.
As we are each a micro Universe, we are a nucleus of everything outside, our physical bodies are made up of all its elements. If we go beyond that, there is a consciousness, yet for consciousness to grow one needs a body. Everything above the third eye and the crown of the head does not belong to a material plane anymore. When one becomes in touch with the cosmic consciousness, as well as linked with the material world – it generates wisdom.
Shiva is a supreme consciousness, he who has no bindings with material world. At the same time Shiva understands all the lower planes and as he embodies knowledge of everything, he is a teacher of Yoga. Humans can go beyond understanding of the elements into consciousness, made so subtle that wisdom would arise. For example, when you start exploring the earth element, you should not do it with your intelligence or mind. Pound your heels, experiencing the earth. Earth represents the stability and standing poses switch on this power, tremendous power when done in a correct way: from pressing the heels and generating a movement in the area of the perineum there comes total balance and harmony. Mula Bhanda is the gift of the body that will happen naturally by itself when one is ready.
The spine is the manifestation of all the elements and pranayama explores the whole spine with the inhalations. In terms of the two channels, ida and pingala, we are talking about physical space on either side of the spine, only when it is balanced then the power is given to the chakras. Once the wisdom arises, workings of the Universe become clear and such experience of totality transports you beyond space and time. It is the same as seeing a magnificent view, sometimes you forget where you are and start seeing everything in a completely new light, truly experiencing a different reality. Kaivalia is the state of perfect enlightenment, which Buddhists call the Buddhahood, where there is nothingness, no duality, and in this nothingness there is a fullness.
Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre
Yoga master teacher Sharat Arora
Article derived from the Intensive Yoga Course at the
Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre in Arambol, North Goa, 2003