The Blog title poster above forms part of a series of posters I made up for a book, 'Krishnamacharya's original Ashtanga Yoga', based on the public domain translation from the Tamil edition of Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934) . It's available for free on my Free Downloads page above. There is a print edition on Lulu.com ( Note: It's best to buy it in print from Lulu as I can reduce the price down almost to cost rather than on Amazon where I have less control of pricing.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

God, Vāyu, the breath.... in practice.

 " ...during exhalation, do it with the thought of offering yourself to god, during inhalation, think of bringing in god into your heart and during kumbhaka think of dharana and dhyana.  This type of reflection improves concentration."Krishnamacharya Yogasanagalu

Ramaswami recognises that the question of God can be problematic for many. 

In meditation practice Ramaswami suggests the sun, a bright light perhaps, even the breath might be suitable objects of meditation, alternatives to a mantra perhaps, if that's not your cup of darjeeling. See his Yoga beneath the surface (excellent book with David Hurwitz asking all the good questions)

While Patanjali offers Ishvara as a fast-track yoga option for those religiously inclined and Ishvara, of course,  can refer to one's own chosen (or chosen for you, by culture, family etc) deity, it's still just an option.

If you don't have a deity and haven't felt the need for one or never felt that authentic trying one on for size then that's OK, Patanjali had your back, chapter II of the Yoga sutras will suit you just fine.

For much of our practice then, we can put the question of God to one side, under erasure if you will. There IS this curious idea of purusha floating around that we might find intellectually stimulating but the road to purusha's door is a long one, lets get to ekagrata (one-pointedness) first, and even then we have the tattvas to get past. 

And besides ekagata might be an end in itself, health, fitness and improved concentration are worth practicing yoga for alone. Let me attain a degree of one-pointedness, then I'll decide what I want to do with it.

But here's Krishnamacharya above in the Yogasanagalu suggesting we offer ourselves to God on the exhalation, invite God into our hearts on the inhalation and meditate on him on the retention of the breath. He offers it as a suggestion, a recommendation.

How about out alternatives, a bright light? The sun? The breath?

I find the breath easiest to come to terms with, we focus on the breath already in our practice. In the Krishnamacharya tradition the exhalations and inhalations are long and slow and in many postures may employ kumbhaka (breath retention), perfect for visualisation, for concentration practice.

The breath can of course also be a deity, there he is below, Vāyu  

Vāyu is a primary Hindu deity, the Lord of the winds, the father of Bhima and the spiritual father of Lord Hanuman. He is also known as Vāta (वात), Pavana (पवन, the Purifier),[2] and sometimes Prāṇa (प्राण, the breath)

And if we want to be clever about it Vāyu is often considered the messenger of the gods, if we want to invite God in then we need to send an invitation, Vāyu's job

Other traditions of meditation suggest focussing on the breath, now that might be as it crosses the upper lip, first enters our nostrils, it might also be where we feel the inhalation most strongly, the chest perhaps, right around where our heart is, attached as it is via the pericardium, to the sternum
Picture and quote from here http://www.bartleby.com/107/137.html
 "The pericardium is a conical fibro-serous sac, in which the heart and the roots of the great vessels are contained. It is placed behind the sternum and the cartilages of the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh ribs of the left side, in the mediastinal cavity.   1
  In front, it is separated from the anterior wall of the thorax, in the greater part of its extent, by the lungs and pleuræ; but a small area, somewhat variable in size, and usually corresponding with the left half of the lower portion of the body of the sternum and the medial ends of the cartilages of the fourth and fifth ribs of the left side, comes into direct relationship with the chest wall. The lower extremity of the thymus, in the child, is in contact with the front of the upper part of the pericardium. Behind, it rests upon the bronchi, the esophagus, the descending thoracic aorta, and the posterior part of the mediastinal surface of each lung. Laterally, it is covered by the pleuræ, and is in relation with the mediastinal surfaces of the lungs; the phrenic nerve, with its accompanying vessels, descends between the pericardium and pleura on either side".

"...during inhalation, think of bringing in god (Vayu, the breath, prana) into your heart".

And what of exhalation?

When I had my gallbladder, what removed ten years or so ago, they gave me morphine. I'd been in agony for twelve hours on a drip, finally they gave the all clear and I felt the morphine course through my body, that cool clean sensation that seemed to reach the tiniest of veins, every cell.

Later, I used to meditate on that image/experience by focusing my attention between the eyebrows, allowing the inhalation to fill a cavern in my mind. On the exhalation I would send all that was good in the air  breathed in (prana?) to every cell of my body, just like the morphine, quite a trippy meditation come to think of it.

"...during exhalation, do it with the thought of offering yourself to god"

This morning all through practice I focused on bringing in prana (whatever that is, suspending judgement again here but check out Andre van Lysbet's pranayama book ) or rather Vāyu, and then offering every cell of my body to the prana, the god, the breath, on the exhalation.

There's a tingly sensation when you practice/meditate/visualise/concentrate this way, your whole body feels lit up, you can't help but dwell on in that in the breath retention.

"...and during kumbhaka think of dharana and dhyana"


"Dharana: Concentration is the process of holding or fixing the attention of mind onto one object or place. (3.1) (See also 1.30-1.32)

Dhyana: Meditation is sustained concentration, whereby the attention continues to hold or repeat the same object or place. (3.2)"
http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras-30103.htm

---------------------------------
So to sum up ;

On the inhalation we can bring the breath to the heart and on the exhalation offer our bodies up to the same, attending to the effect and the image during retention(however we wish to imagine it, Vayu galloping through our veins on that deer thing perhaps).

..and that might work for you, until you get around to some old time, seriously old time, religion.

Alternatively, you can just say to heck with it, put all your preconceptions to one side, suspend disbelief, grant some artistic licence (as I certainly did most of the way through the movie Prometheus the other afternoon) and invite the gods in for a couple of hours every morning, just as you allow a movie to take you over, or the music at a concert, let the god(s) do the same and be done with it.

Interestingly the Krishnamacharya movie many of us are waiting for is called Breath of the Gods


and then there's this...

from Bread and Wine  by Friedrich Holderlin

we pick it up a few verses in...

5.
At first the gods come unperceived. Children try to get
Near them. But their glory dazzles and blinds and
Awakens fear. A demi-god scarcely knows the people
By name, who now approach him with gifts. But their
Courage is great. Their joy fills his heart, and he hardly
Knows what to do with the offerings. He busies himself
And becomes wasteful, and unholy things almost become holy,
Which he touches with a blessing hand, foolishly and kindly.
The gods tolerate it as long as they can, and then in truth
They appear themselves. And people become accustomed
To this fortune, to the daytime, and to the sight of the manifest
Ones, the faces of those formerly called the "One and All,"
Deeply making every silent breast content, and first and alone
Filling every desire. It's the way people are. When something
Good appears, and even when it's a god that provides them
With gifts, they don't see or recognize it. First they have
To get used to it; then they call it their closest possession.
And only then will words of praise arise, like flowers.

6.
And now they prepare in earnest to honor the holy gods.
Everything must really and truly proclaim their praise.
Nothing displeasing to the high ones may come to light.
Idle endeavors aren't proper for the Aether.
Therefore, to stand worthily in the presence of the gods,
Nations rise in splendid order and beautiful
Temples and cities are built, strong and noble, which rise
Above the banks of the waters —but where are they?
Where are the famous, flourishing cities, crowning the festival?
Thebes and Athens are fading. Don't the weapons clash
At Olympus, or golden chariots at the games? Are there
No longer wreaths to decorate the ships of Corinth?
Why are the ancient holy theaters silent?
What happened to the joyful ceremonial dancing?
Why doesn't a god place his sign on a human forehead,
Leaving his mark on the person he has struck?
Or, as gods used to, come comfortingly, and assume human
Shape, then complete and close the festival of the gods?

7.
But friend, we come too late. It's true that the gods live,
But up over our heads, up in a different world.
They function endlessly up there, and seem to care little
If we live or die, so much do they avoid us.
A weak vessel cannot hold them forever; humans can
Endure the fullness of the gods only at times. Therefore
Life itself becomes a dream about them. But perplexity
And sleep assist us: distress and night-time strengthen,
Until enough heroes have grown in the bronze cradle,
With hearts as strong as the gods', as it used to be.
Thundering they arise. Meanwhile I often think it is
Better to stay asleep, than to exist without companions,
Just waiting it out, not knowing what to do or say
In the meantime. What use are poets in times of need?
But you'll say they're like holy priests of the wine god,
Moving from land to land in the holy night.

8.
Some time ago — to us it seems like a long time —
All those who made our lives happy climbed upwards.
The Father turned his face away from people,
And sorrow came rightly upon the earth.
Finally a quiet genius appeared, comforting in a god-like
Way, who announced the end of the day, and disappeared.
The choir of gods left some gifts behind, as a sign
Of their presence and eventual return, which we
May appreciate in our human fashion, as we used to.
That which is superior had grown too great for pleasure
With spirit among men. And to this day no one's strong enough
For the highest joys, although some gratitude survives quietly.
Bread is the fruit of the earth, yet it's blessed also by light.
The pleasure of wine comes from the thundering god.
We remember the gods thereby, those who were once
With us, and who'll return when the time is right.



full poem here http://coriscopoems.blogspot.co.uk/2010/05/friedrich-holderlin-bread-and-wine.html

-------------------------
Cute little kids page on Vāyu HERE on

How Blood Carries Oxygen

Lungs
We all know that oxygen is the key to living. It's in the air you breathe, in your lungs and in your blood. What you might not know is how oxygen gets into your blood and how the blood carries oxygen through your body.


Blood and Oxygen - How It Works


You breathe air in through your nose and mouth. It makes its way into your lungs and dissolves in the water lining of the alveoli. Oxygen then clings to red blood cells as they pass through the alveolar capillaries - now the oxygen is in the blood.


Blood and Oxygen - Types of Blood Vessels


Three types of blood vessels carry blood from your lungs to every cell in your body.


Arteries - Arteries have muscular walls that pump oxygen-filled blood away from your heart to the tissues and organs, like the brain, kidneys and liver. Arteries get smaller as they get further from your heart. At their smallest point, arteries become capillaries.
Capillaries - Capillaries are the tiniest blood vessels. They connect arteries to veins.
Veins - Veins are what bring the "used" blood back to your heart.

10 comments:

  1. I recently stumbled on your blog, and I am completely in awe of the wealth of information! Thank you so much, will be following your blog closely.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Wyatt and thank you too LY sorry the blog is so disorganised.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Beautiful Grimmly, loved reading this. I actually have zero problem with the term God as I tend to relate to it as the flow of life, as surrendering to what is actually happening, but it is controvertial, glad you offered this and good to hear about how Krishnamacharya goes about it :-)

    Loved the post!

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is a very "meaty" post. Lots to think about.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hello Grim, great post. There's even more on vayu system in Shandor Remete booklet called "Shadow Yoga, Chaya Yoga", some oh the stuff is quite astonishing :) He writes about ten vayus and their influemce on practicre and the body's functions.

    ReplyDelete
  6. hi Joanne

    Thanks Anon, was it you who mentioned Shadow yoga to me before, looked into it then and had a look at some of the video's on youtube. Will have a look for the booklet you mention, thanks for that.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Grimmly, wonderful post and thank you for referring me to it in your recent comment on my blog. I am going to pick up Yogasanagalu. Not one I've read yet, but I can see that I want to.


    "But here's Krishnamacharya above in the Yogasanagalu suggesting we offer ourselves to God on the exhalation, invite God into our hearts on the inhalation and meditate on him on the retention of the breath. He offers it as a suggestion, a recommendation."

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you Kristen, glad you liked it. Re Yogasanagalu, it's only available here as Satya and I are still translating it (well Satya actually, I merely host it) there's one more chapter to go which Saty says he'll be moving on to soon. What we have so far is available at the top of the blog http://grimmly2007.blogspot.co.uk/p/yogasanagalu-translation-project.html

    Once it's finished I'm sure we'll turn it into a pdf or something for download.

    Oh don't confuse yogasanagalu with 'Yoganjalisaram' which is a poem by Krishnamacharya that is published as a little booklet and also can be found in Desikachar's heart of yoga.

    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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