Monday, 11 February 2013

Kumbhaka and Zen centering practice from Zen Flesh Zen bones

Why was Krishnamacharya so concerned with exploring Kumbhaka in all asana and what was the 'Buddhist Yoga' he supposedly studied in Burma?

"He mastered Hindu Yoga in the Himalayas and Buddhist Yoga in Burma, then part of India. Later, he went to Cashmere to study Sufism".  Sri T. K. Sribhashyam (Krishnamacharya's son)

Some refer to Vipassana as Buddhist Yoga practice, with it's focus on the breath.

And what of Krishnamacharya's intepretation of YS II-47

II- 47. By relaxation of effort or by a [mental] state-of-balance with reference to Ananta

As Ramaswami states 
 "Krishnamacharya interprets this sutra differently than other teachers..."

"There is another interpretation of the word ananta. The...meaning comes from the word "ana" which means to breathe. Ana means preach. for example, prana, apana, vyana, and so on. They all come from the root ana, to breath. So, here ananta refers to the breath. Ananta Samapatti is to focus your attention on the breath. Anatasamapatti is to focus your attention on the life force which is the breath." p97-98
A Brief Introduction to yoga philosophy, based on the lectures of Srivatsa Ramaswami  by David Hurwitz.

In the example practice of his father's presented in Emergence du yoga  T. K. Sribhashyam draws attention to the concentration points (chakras) that krishnamacharya would employ during kumbhaka


Apercu des séances pratiques de mon père- Overview practice sessions of my father

Kapala bhati- 32 breaths

Ujjayi Anuloma - 6 cycles A.K. (antha-kumbhaka = holding at top of inhalation) 5 seconds, Concentration Kanta 

Utthita pada Angushta Asana - 6 breaths B.K. (Bhya-kumbhaka = holding at end of exhalation) 5 seconds, Inhalation concentration: Mula  and Kanta , Exhalation Concentration: Kanta 

Bhujanga Asana - 3 breaths, Concentration: bhrumadhya 

Sarvanga Asana - 12 breaths, Concentration: kanta

Shirsasana Asana - 12 Breaths, Concentration: lalata 

Ardha padma hala asana - 3 breaths

Hala asana  - 3 breaths

Karna Pida Asana - 3 breaths

Adho Mukha padma Asana - 3 breaths, Concentration: Kanta 

Ardha baddha Padma Paschimathana asana - 3 breaths, inhalation Concentration: nabhi, Exhalation Concentration: Kanta 

Badha Kona Asana - 12 Breaths, Inhalation Concentration: Mula and Shirsha Exhalation Concentration Mula 

Basti ( pranayama) 60 cycles

Nadi Shodana ( pranayama) - cycles, Abhyantara Vritthi

Thank you to J.G for reminding me about this book, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones which I must have read over twenty years ago. He drew my attention to the translation of an ancient Indian text, Centering, which Paul Reps the compiler of the book describes as a 4000 year old teaching from India, offers what some consider to be the roots of Zen.


LINK TO AMAZON



Centering Practices:
112 ways to open the invisible door of consciousness.
Transcribed by Paul Reps. From Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

The first 15 below on Kumbhaka and Pratyahara. See THIS link for the full 112
http://www.spiritual-learning.com/centering-reps.html

Zen is nothing new, neither is it anything old. Long before Buddha was born the search was on in India, as the present work shows.
Long after man has forgotten such words as Zen and Buddha, satori and koan, China and Japan and America - still the search will go on, still Zen will be seen even in flower, and grass-blade, before the sun.
The following is adapted from the preface to the first version in English of this ancient work.


DEVI SAYS:
O Shiva, what is your reality?
What is this wonder-filled universe?
What constitutes seed?
Who centers the universal wheel?
What is tbis life beyond form pervading forms? How may we enter it fully, above space and time, names and descriptions?
Let my doubts be cleared!

SHIVA REPLIES
[Devi, though already enlightened, has asked the foregoing questions so others through the universe might receive Shiva’s instructions. Now follow Shiva’s reply, giving the 112 ways.]

1. Radiant one, this experience may dawn between two breaths. After breath comes in (down) and just before turning up (out) — the beneficence.

2. As breath turns from down to up, and again as breath curves from up to down— through both these turns, realize.

3. Or, whenever inbreath and outbreath fuse, at this instant touch the energyless energy- filled center.

4. Or, when breath is all out (up) and stopped of itself, or all in (down) and stopped—in such universal pause, one's small self vanishes. This is difficult only for the impure.

5. Consider your essence as light rays rising from center to center up the vertebrae, and so rises livingness in you.

6. Or in the spaces between, feel this as lightning.

7. Devi, imagine the Sanskrit letters in these honey-filled foci of awareness, first as letters, then more subtly as sounds, then as most subtle feeling. Then, leaving them aside, be free.

8. Attention between eyebrows, let mind be before thought. Let form fill with breath- essence to the top of the head, and there shower as light.

9. Or, imagine the five-colored circles of the peacock tail to be your five senses in illimitable space. Now let their beauty melt within. Similarly, at any point in space or on a wall — until the point dissolves. Then your wish for another comes true.

10. Eyes closed, see your inner being in detail. Thus see your true nature.

11. Place your whole attention in the nerve, delicate as the lotus thread, in the center of your spinal column. In such be transformed.

12. Closing the seven openings of the head with your hands, a space between your eyes becomes all-inclusive.

13. Touching eyeballs as a feather, lightness between them opens into heart and there permeates the cosmos.

14. Bathe in the center of sound, as in the continuous sound of a waterfall. Or, by putting fingers in ears, hear the sound of sounds.

15. Intone a sound, as a-u-m, slowly. As sound enters soundfulness, so do you.

continue reading the rest of the 112 ways here
http://www.spiritual-learning.com/centering-reps.html


--------------------------------
further reading
Sandhinirmocana Sutra
The Scripture on the Explication of Underlying Meaning. Front Cover. John P. Keenan
http://bibleoteca.narod.ru/Samdhinirmocana-sutra.pdf

6 comments:

  1. The interesting thing with zazen breath (& it's referenced above) is that the breath gets so fine/thin/rarefied that it stops by itself.

    The yoga focus on noise and sensation of the breath actually kind of camouflaged the (possible) relationship between zen and yoga breath for me. I've had zen stops spontaneously quite often, but spontaneous stops in pranayama have been VERY few and far between.

    I have no theories about any of this. Just an observation.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Karen.
    yes, Krishnamacharya talks about long slow thin steady breathing

    "One important thing to be constantly kept in mind when doing the asanas is the regulation of breath. It should be slow thin, long and steady; breathing through both nostrils with rubbing sensation at the throat and through the oesophagus" p76 Yoga Makaranda II

    I feel that aspect of the breath has been compromised somewhat, we move on from the heavy Darth Vader ujjayi we begin with of course, to something softer and more akin to the rolling in of waves but thin equals slow. I can get a full exhalation with David Robson's 4 second drum beat... just about ( post to come tomorrow) but there's certainly noting thin about it. For that I need two cycles of his drum beat for the exhalation and the same for inhalation ( again tomorrows post) which means only having time for half or a third of a series. that decision again of what to compromise somewhat, the breath or the asana ( perhaps in the beginning the breath, later the asana).

    My point, when you say the 'Yoga' focus on noise and sensation that strikes me as not Yoga necessarily but Ashtanga when we first start perhaps or in a noisy room, it gets softer in no? And in other styles vinyasa krama for example it's softer still ( thin and steady like the pouring of Oil Ramaswami says).
    Pranayama too, I noticed manju's is quite forceful almost aggressive, Ramaswami's very soft and gentlein the way he taught us. Perhaps it depends if it's a raja focus or hatha focus with regards to sensation too.

    very curious about these Zen stops, K. talks about natural kumbhaka's at the end of the breath that we can extend but i don't think that's the same thing.

    I think I'm just interested in this post in all the different threads that brought K. to give such a focus to the breath in his practice and wonder how much of that has become lost somewhat, the subtlety.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I can do the zen breath in as short a time as an Ashtanga breath -- its thinness doesn't seem to be about time. Perhaps it's just about the body being so still, and the length of zazen being so long -- eventually everything melts away and there's just that breath, and then even it stops.

    Funny, though, is when I look at the posture of zen folks -- everyone seemed to walk with their head ahead of their body at the last retreat. I was really interesting to see.

    Maybe this is like the discussion I had with a Tibetan lama: he said the Tibetans had their mandalas and lots (& lots) of words, and there was a sense that the practitioner's system would be so overwhelmed with stimulation that the mind would stop; then the Japanese, who take everything away -- visual simplicity, ritual movement and bells so you never have to look up from your meditation over the course of a whole day of practice -- so that there is nothing for the mind to "hook onto" & then the mind stops.

    Fascinating, all of these practices!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karen you'll have to remind me of the 'zen breath', or send me a link, I used to practice it short inhale, long slow exhale, swelling belly like a pot : ) also how long are you using as an Ashtanga breath reference (everyone is different).

      I'm writing up a post on David Robson's drums at the moment, he's using four seconds inhale 4 second exhale with the drums as a guide and that's throughout the practice, every breath whether posture or vinyasa or lifting up in between... quite intense. This means that one round of navasana takes 40 seconds! Multiply that by 5 with the four second lifts in between and you'll see why I'm calling the post 'Be careful what you wish for'. The Utthita hasta standing sequence is the stuff of nightmares. Nice though keeping it so regular throughout the whole practice, Manju had a longish stay but then raced through the vinyasas. I want to explore it with 2nd series today which shouldn't be as bad.

      Curious about the head in frount of their body thing on the retreats....am sitting here shifting my head back and forward trying to see how it opens up the throat ( I must look like a Chicken).

      It's true in Japan they strip everything away in practice but there is still the study though, no, lots of it. Have you ever been to Japan btw, you'd love it so much. When M. and I move back (and most likely back to Kyoto) you'll be very welcome to come visit, Susan too.

      K. must have been the the same, fascinated by all these practices, visiting the Himalayan yogis, Burmese Buddhists, Bahkti Saints down south and the Sufi's in Kashmir too supposedly.

      Delete
  4. Tokyo (& Japan in general) is on my list of places I most want to go. May see you there!

    For zazen, I don't know how long the breath is -- I'm sure it changes over the course of a day. I have David's MP3 of just the drumbeat. Love to use it every now and again. When I was first at the shala this year, I was wiggy from jet lag and coffee and nerves, so counted out my suryas at that pace, even kind of imagining the drums. It definitely helped me settle in and stabilize.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh, and the head in front thing was particularly noticeable when people were walking. I suspect they corrected it when sitting. But for walking, it was like everyone's head was floating ahead of them like a balloon!

    ReplyDelete

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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