Yantra of the Liberating Lion
The Yantra of the Liberating Lion or Senge Namdrol Trulkhor (seng ge rnam grol ‘phrul ‘khor) is well-known from many texts related to tummo and sexual practices. However, the texts and instructions for the illusory movement or trulkhor are not always very detailed. In contrary the instruction on this painting are quite complete.
This painting is found in the Secret Temple of the 5th Dalai Lama and reproduced in the book The Dalai Lama’s Secret Temple. Comparing the painting and its accompanying text with the explanations, transliteration and translation in this book page 61 and 64 I discovered that it is full of mistakes. The Tibetan is incomplete and replete with reading errors. The translation is more complete than that Tibetan rendering itself but has at least two big misinterpretations: 1. The title of the yantra or trulkhor is given as ‘The Lion’s Play’ which would be in Tibetan senge namrol (seng ge rnam rol) and not senge namdrol (seng ge rnam grol). 2. At the end it states ‘…exhale three times’ which makes not so much sense as one exhalation should be enough following after an inhalation and controlled holding of the breath together with the subtle energies. The Tibetan (bsig bsig gsum) is an Tibetan expression that is quite often used for shaking the body and the limbs three times or shaking and agitating the whole of the body (bsig sprugs) at the end of an illusory movement or trulkhor. This shaking of the body is often accompanied with an exhalation but it signifies not the exhalation itself.
Here follows the transliteration of the Tibetan and its translation into English; part one is from the book The Dalai Lama’s Secret Temple p. 61 /64 and part two is my rendering from the image, found also in the book p. 95/97.
The Dalai Lama’s Secret Temple p. 61 /64
rtsa drug seng ge rnam grol ni mdzub mo gnyis kyis mig gnyis bsdoms/
mthe bong gnyis kyis rna ba bkab/
mdzub chen gnyis kyi sna bug bkag/
de nas bsig bsig lan gsum bya/
Sixteenth „The Lions’s Play“:
Hold the eyes with the two forefingers,
Block the ears with the thumbs and
from June 2014
"kumbhaka or bumpachen (bum pa can)
These Sanskrit and Tibetan words for a so-called vase-like or pot-like holding of the breath is a complete and controlled holding of the vital energies or inner subtle winds (rlung) together with the flow of one's breaths (dbugs). Having mastered the respiration in the four phases of inhaling (jug pa), open holding after having remaining filled (dhang ba), pressing down (gzhil ba) and exhalation ('phenpa) one prolongs the empty state of holding after exhalation (rtsa stong 'khil ba) and the holding after a complete inhaltion (bzhung ba bum pa can ltar).
Therefor one uses the streched arms with the back of one's hand pressing on a energy point on the upper thighs. Instead often a meditation belt (sgom thag) is used for this, keeping the back streched ".
This week I thought I would put up some practice sheets relating to Krishnamacharya's primary group asana that I've been working on, a different sheet each day but with the same opening introduction to link them to the earlier post as well as the same guidance notes for practicing kumbhaka. I'll probably add a couple of 'extras' here and there. If you've read the previous post you may want to jump straight to the practice sheets and notes below.
CASE STUDY: "The Benefits of employing Kumbhaka (retaining the breath in or out) during Asana." Guest post by Mick lawton
"I have a rare genetic auto inflammatory disease. As a result I am in the fortunate position that I get extensive blood and medical checks performed on an almost weekly basis. Without going into huge medical details, the tests include full blood test, inflammatory markers, kidney and liver fiction, blood pressure, blood sugars............, the list is endless.
I decided that I was in the very fortunate position to run my own experiment. I decided that I would spend 2 months practising with Kumbhaka and then 2 months practising without Kumbhaka. This process was repeated three times across the course of the year. I was then able to compare my medical results while practising Kumbhaka to my medical results while not practising Kumbhaka".
|see this post for the complete table of asana from Yogasanagalu (1941)|
|from Krishnamacharya's 'Original' Ashtanga|
|from Krishnamacharya's 'Original' Ashtanga|
|from Krishnamacharya's 'Original' Ashtanga|
This form follows the hatha yoga principles. Another form follows the raja yoga method. The practitioner should learn the dierence. First, take either leg and extend it straight out in front. Keep the heel pressed firmly on the floor with the toes pointing upward. That is, the leg should not lean to either side. The base (back) of the knee should be pressed against the ground. Fold the other leg and place the heel against the genitals, with the area above the knee (the thigh) placed straight against the hip. That is, arrange the straight leg which has been extended in front and the folded leg so that together they form an “L”. Up to this point, there is no dierence between the practice of the hatha yogi and the raja yogi.
For the hatha yoga practitioner, the heel of the bent leg should be pressed firmly between the rectum and the scrotum. Tightly clasp the extended foot with both hands, raise the head and do puraka kumbhaka. Remain in this position for some time and then, doing recaka, lower the head and place the face onto the knee of the outstretched leg. While doing this, do not pull the breath in. It may be exhaled. After this, raise the head and do puraka. Repeat this on the other side following the rules mentioned above.
The raja yogi should place the back of the sole of the folded leg between the scrotum and the genitals. Now practise following the other rules described above for the hatha yogis. There are 22 vinyasas for janusirsasana. Please note carefully that all parts of the outstretched leg and the folded leg should touch the floor. While holding the feet with the hands, pull and clasp the feet tightly. Keep the head or face or nose on top of the kneecap and remain in this sthiti from 5 minutes up to half an hour. If it is not possible to stay in recaka for that long, raise the head in between, do puraka kumbhaka and then, doing recaka, place the head back down on the knee. While keeping the head lowered onto the knee, puraka kumbhaka should not be done. This rule must be followed in all asanas.
While practising this asana, however much the stomach is pulled in, there will be that much increase in the benefits received. While practising this, after exhaling the breath, hold the breath firmly. Without worrying about why this is so di⇥cult, pull in the stomach beginning with the navel, keep the attention focussed on all the nadis in and near the rectal and the genital areas and pull these upwards — if you do the asana in this way, not only will all urinary diseases, diabetes and such diseases disappear, but wet dreams will stop, the viryam will thicken and the entire body will become strong.
Whoever is unable to pull in the nadis or the stomach may ignore just those instructions and follow the instructions mentioned earlier to the extent possible. Keep the nadis in and near the rectal and genital areas pulled up, the stomach pulled in and hold the prana vayu steady. Anybody with the power to practise this will very soon be free of disease and will get virya balam. Leaving this aside, if you follow the rules according to your capability, you will gradually attain the benefits mentioned below.
After practising the asana for just one or two minutes, do not whine that you did not receive any benefits. However little eort there is, if you keep practising the asana daily for at least 5 to 10 minutes, you will start experiencing its benefits in a few days. There is no doubt about this. If you keep practising it from half an hour to an hour following the given rules, you will get the benefits mentioned below.
1. Diseases of the spleen will be removed.
2. People suering from a low-grade persistent fever in the stomach will notice that the fever, the resulting anaemia and other such dangerous diseases will be wiped out. Continuous and recurrent cough, bloated stomach, flatulence and the first symptoms of tuberculosis will disappear. As a result of these intestinal doshas being removed, the digestive power increases and one feels hunger at the appropriate time. When you are very hungry, it is essential to eat sattvic foods cooked in pure ghee or cow’s milk or goat’s milk. Rice avul, kara boondi (fried peanut flour), kara vadai, peanuts, chickpeas — these tamasic foods should never be eaten. Eating high-quality fruits and kanda mulam is very beneficial.
When they are hungry, some people will eat terrible things without thinking about it. This is a despicable matter. Because of this, they keep catching various diseases and suering as a result.
If one keeps practising janusirsasana according to the rules described above, then whatever diseases cause blocking of urine and faeces, increase the heat in the nadis, cause an increase in vata, if any such acute diseases occur, they will be destroyed from the root and the practitioner will be in good health very soon.
Heavy head, burning eyes, weakness of the body, burning in the urinary area, fever caused by toxins built up due to indigestion and constipation, loss of ap- petite and sense of taste in the tongue due to a spoilt tongue, laziness or lethargy — all these will be removed by practising the asana in the highest standard. That is, all diseases caused by weakness of the nadis nearby will be removed.
It is important to always remember that it is necessary to practise such asanas like janusirsasana on both the left and right sides. The reason for this is that the strength of the body should be the same on both the left and right sides. Nowadays, modern games and physical exercises give strength to only one side of the body without developing proper blood circulation on the other side. This will result in paralysis and other such diseases. Therefore, every asana must definitely be practised equally on both the left and the right side.
Janusirsasana 2nd Krama
Whichever leg was folded and placed such that the back of the foot was between the rectum and genitals, place the back of the sole of that foot instead against the top of the thigh of the outstretched leg, firmly pressing against it. Now practise according to the rules described earlier. But the benefits of this will be received very slowly. Some people will not be able to place the head on top of the knee on the first day. But one should not abandon the eort thinking that this is impossible. If one keeps practising this for one or two months daily without fail, following the prescribed rules, then it will become possible.
It will be very diffcult for those who have allowed excessive flesh to grow in the stomach and hips to practise this. By practising this regularly over a period of time, all the excessive flesh that has grown in or near the stomach and hips will melt, the joints of the bones and nadis will clear up, the stomach will grow thinner and eventually the head will touch the knee. The deposits of excessive flesh are the main cause for the lack of flexibility in the body. All this can be melted away with asana abhyasa.
Many people who have a protruding stomach like a pumpkin believe that they are healthy. Others think that they have correspondingly as much more strength as their arms, legs and thighs are excessively huge, and they keep trying to enlarge the girth of the body. One can clearly say that this is a result of their stupidity. Being blessed with good health is not in the plumpness of the body. The limbs of small children are soft and supple — to lift and bend them is easy. The limbs of adults should be similarly soft and supple and strong and there should be no obstruction to the prana vayu and the blood circulation. Everybody knows that people who have overly large stomachs or who are obese often have excessive breathlessness and bloating of the stomach.
But they have not realized that the vayu sancharam is not proper in any part of the body. When there is no proper movement of air in the body, mounds of excessive flesh will collect in the body forming a barrier. Without proper air circulation, how will the dust fly away? Without water, how can the earth become soft? Similarly, in our bodies, if we want the blood to circulate and the prana vayu to flow properly without obstruction, we need to first knock down and remove the bad deposits of flesh (durmamsam) which appear like a wall. Only prana vayu has the capacity and power to completely destroy the excessive blobs of flesh that exist here and there in the body. This cannot be done with any other medicine.
The stomach is the only cause of an untimely death. There is no other reason. The dwelling place of death in the body is only the big stomach and nowhere else. Even though we desire long life and good health, why do we make our stomachs very large and leave room for death in them? Is this not a terrible thing? Therefore, by practising janusirsasana following the krama with correct instructions, one can melt away the stomach, no matter how large it is. You can definitely believe that as the stomach reduces in size, the death dwelling in it will leave the body. There is no doubt about this.
It is superior to regularly practise this janusirsasana before becoming preg- nant. One should not do it after becoming pregnant. If women who have stomach pain during menstruation practise this asana following the instructions mentioned above, in one or two months, all the germs that cause the stomach pain will be removed from the blood channels and will be expelled out of the body through the urinary tract.
This has 22 vinyasas. The 8th and the 15th vinyasas are themselves the asana sthiti. The benefit is correspondingly as great as one’s capacity for recaka.
Kumbhaka guidence notes from the earlier post.
In general, when inhaling the head goes up, exhaling it goes down, if up then there may well be the option of puraka kumbhaka, retaining the breath for 2-5 seconds at the end of the inhalation. When folded over rechka kumbhaka may be an option to consider.
"The vinyasas in which the head is raised are to be done with puraka kumbhaka and the ones in which the head is lowered must be done with recaka kumbhaka. Uthpluthi (raising the body from the floor with only the support of both hands on the floor is called uthpluthi) should be done on recaka kumbhaka for a fat person and on puraka kumbhaka for a thin person". p28
Yoga Makaranda T Krishnamacharya
In forward bending postures there is often the opportunity to include puraka kumbhaka before exhaling, folding over into the posture, and performing recaka kumbhaka. We might choose to spend a period of time in the preparatory posture taking a number of breaths and engaging in puraka kumbhaka after the inhalations. After completing the folded state of the asana and returning to the preparatory position we might again take a number of breaths and include purkaka kumbhaka after our inhalations.
We can perhaps think of many asana where we might introduce short kumbhaka's at the preparatory stage, the state of asana and following the asana on returning to the preparatory stage before transitioning back to standing or to the next posture.
Krishnamacharya stresses ( In Yoga Makaranda part II) that the kumbhaka in asana should be short, 2-5 seconds.....
Update: Paul Harvey has commented on this short kumbhaka in asana
Paul"My understanding from my discussions over the years with TKV re the context and content of YM, is that when teaching youngsters the length of the breath was minimised to a relatively short fixed length and use of Kumbhaka was limited to a few seconds AK and BK.
However no limitations on the range or intensity of Āsana and lots of use of variations to be engaged with within each Āsana.
In the adult there were no such limitations for the breath and the work with variations of the Āsana was re-prioritised to working with a fewer Āsana and fewer variations within each Āsana, but with the challenge of a greater range of breathing patterns both in length and combinations.
Certainly AK or BK of 10" was commonplace in the adult practice and here the 'perfection' of the Āsana was measured by mastery of all aspects of the breath rather than for the youngster, where 'perfection' of the Āsana was measured by mastery of all aspects of the form.
This was consistent with his teaching in Yoga Rahasya on Yoga Sādhana and Stages of Life.
Begin by noticing the 'natural kumbhaka' between the stages of the breath. If we breathe long, slow and full, "like the pouring of oil", as is recommended by Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi Jois we should notice the faint hint of a pause between the inhalation and exhalation, we notice this more clearly the slower the breath. Begin by extending that pause, that 'natural kumbhaka' to a full second and then to two seconds. As this becomes comfortable we might increase it to three building up to perhaps five seconds but no more in asana ( mudras are a different case as is pranayama proper)".
I did wonder if the short kumbhaka recommended in yoga makaranda Part II was a question of pedagogics, Krishnamacharya doesn't mention how long to hold the kumbhaka in Yoga Makaranda Part One and it is a pretty extreme book with it's long stays in certain challenging postures, the kriya section etc. He doesn't mention keeping kumbhaka short in Yogasanagalu (1941) either. It's only in Yoga Makaranda II ( 1950s- 60s?) that he seems to draw back a little and talk about restricting the kumbhaka to 2-5 seconds, introducing it slowly. I was never sure if it was a reevaluation or just for the teaching purposes of the manual. Ramaswami has Kumbhaka too of course so I knew Krishnamacharya was teaching it in his later years but it seemed shorter except in mudras. What Paul is describing here seems to treating almost any asana as a mudra which is interesting but my understanding of mudra was that they were in a sense custom made for bandhas and thus kumbhaka.
Paul: "Yes my understanding is that if we use a particular Āsana with all its permutations of form and thus less focus on the variations of the breath it operates more as an Āsana.
If we use an Āsana with all its permutations of breath and thus less focus on the variation of the form it operates more as a Mudrā.
Sarvaṅgāsana is such an example with its 32 variations devised by TK emphasising its role as an Āsana and its static solo form with its focus on extensive breath ratio, perhaps augmented by the Tribandha, emphasising its role as a Mudrā".
The more we slow our breath and introduce kumbhaka into our practice the more time becomes an issue. there are several ways to address this.
- We might alternate the postures throughout the week in which we introduce kumbhaka.
- If our breath is becoming particularly long and slow we may wish to take three rather than five breaths within the state of an asana perhaps saving particularly long stays for postures like paschimottanasana, janu sirsasasana and baddha konasana or again alternating longer stays in different postures over a week cycle.
- We might divide our practice up over two or four days, practicing perhaps full vinyasa and including kumbhaka but only up to and including Marichiyasana D before moving straight to the finishing postures. n the second day we might go from the standing postures directly to navasana and then on through finishing. A similar approach could be made to the intermediate series.
- We might choose one day a week, when we have more time our day off or Sunday perhaps, to explore kumbhaka and or full vinyasa.
UPDATED: Why did Krishnamacharya introduce kumbhaka (breath retention) into the practice of asana in Ashtanga?
Exploring Kumbhaka ( breath retention) in Krishnamacharya's Intermediate 'series' inc. Practice Sheets primary- 2nd series