Being aware of the gap between two thoughts can be the door to our true nature. This alertness is usually short and fragmented due to the constant chatter of our mind. Yoga can increase the quality of this alertness by reducing the involvement of our mind.
This alertness between two consecutive thoughts is a door to choiceless awareness. Choiceless awareness is our awareness projected back on itself. It is free from thoughts and stimuli of external world. Some call it emptiness while others call it our true self. It is our true nature.
- Correct yogic breathing keeps yoga centric to the cultivation of this awareness. For example, if you are doing the bhrastrika pranayama without being aware of breath, thoughts can creep in and pranayama will not remain central to the cultivation of awareness.Without awareness of breath the pranayama then will become just another kind of exercise and you might miss the whole point. If done correctly, yogic breathing by it’s very nature, can help cultivate higher states of awareness and energize the circulation of body’s vital forces.
- When you start becoming aware of the breath at the entrance of nostrils, thinking stops and awareness remains. Constant awareness of breath, renders awareness without interference of thoughts for longer and longer periods of time.
- A point comes when thoughtless awareness that is focused on breath at nostrils becomes independent of breathing. Awareness reverses focus on itself and remains independent like an island. Awareness becomes choiceless, even if for a short time. It only remains to be recognized correctly and lived from moment to moment.
- Cultivation of choiceless awareness and circulation of body vital forces is complementary to each other.
Correct yogic breathing patterns cause vital force to circulate in a manner that supports process of cultivation of choiceless awareness. For example, bhrastrika pranayama, done sedentarily, causes circulation of excess of oxygen in body to get converted to vital force. Kapalbhati pranayama (bellow breath) propels this vital force in to specific channels in spine and activates solar plexus in the navel and nerves of heart. Alternate nostrils breathing balances two hemispheres of brain, improves concentration and thoughtless awareness.
- Yogic breathing patterns when synchronized with postures (asanas), locks (bandhas) and gestures (mudras) brings about further refinement in the body. More space is created for vital force to circulate in the body. Body dimensions can become congruent to higher levels of vitality. Circulation of body fluids is optimized.
- Recognition and it’s application while living is the best way to cultivate choiceless awareness rather than depend on any techniques. However, yogic breathing can be applied as technique to acquire first hand experience of choiceless awareness. It is similar to a floating device used by novice swimmer to learn swimming. The fact is that these breathing techniques were recognized and systematized by ancient yogis as they explored the depths of their own choiceless awareness.
- In advanced stages of yoga the breathing patterns are allowed to happen in synchronicity with postures, locks, and gestures. These breathing patterns influence body at deeper levels (at levels where body is autonomous and you have no voluntary control over it). For example, alternate nostril breathing when done in a certain manner influences equilibrium between the two brain hemispheres.Expelling out air after doing certain patterns of breathing will enable you to influence movement of your stomach and intestine. Influencing body at such subliminal level renders it vulnerable and on the edge. Hence advanced yogic breathing should be learned with caution and under supervision of a good experienced teacher.
- Sexuality is very potent expression of life force. Sexuality is bidirectional. In one direction it becomes passion and in the other direction it can become meditation and choiceless awareness. Yogic breathing pattern influences sex centers in the body. These breathing patterns, if done correctly, can potentiate, divert and propel sexual energy in to higher centers of nervous system in the uper body.For example expelling out air after certain series of breathing creates vacuum in abdomen and causes sexual energy to get drawn in to this vacuum.
This phenomenon eventually with practice and discipline, can be harnessed to influence dormant centers in brain in order to liberate awareness from gravity of the mind and ego. However, this relation of yogic breathing patterns to sexuality should be explored with caution, conservation and discipline in sensual indulgence. Celibacy therefore becomes necessary. This play with sexual energy is unnatural and unnecessary. However it remains a potently interesting example of ability of yogic breathing to breach the autonomy of the body
- Because of it’s inherent power over your body and psyche, yogic breathing should be employed with a lot of caution. Yogic breathing should be a means and not the objective. It is a means for cultivation and recognition of choiceless awareness. Arousal of vital force by yogic breathing is momentary help to clear the sky of choiceless awareness by removing the clouds of mind. Once the purpose is served, true recognition is enough. True recognition comes by relaxing and surrendering the ego, your identity as a personality.
- We are born without mind and ego. By birth we have tendency to approach every moment without preconceived knowledge. By birth our awareness confirms to itself rather than knowledge or ego. By birth life is perceived as a mystery. Society gives us all the knowledge and mental conditioning later in life. Then choiceless awareness is forgotten and awareness is swayed by mind and surrounding world. Yogic breathing can throw us face to face with that choiceless state of awareness which only has to be recognized as our true nature.
The discussed processes of arousal and regulation of vital forces, diversion of sexual energy, and exploration of choiceless awareness are not isolated. These processes are intermingled. These processes appear complex if done mechanically or with titillation seeking mind. Hence it is necessary to have good experienced teacher, discipline, dedication, mental purity, and enough time. However these processes become easy and spontaneous if allowed to happen as a natural consequence of staying in seamless choiceless awareness after recognizing it correctly.
Written by Chetan More for parimukti.com