Posts tagged pranayama
With hands on thighs, Bettina demonstrates Uddiyana Bandha. She exhales, pushing the air out of the lungs, getting them as empty as she can. While the breath is held out, she presses against her thighs, and—while keeping the abdominal muscles completely soft and relaxed—she sucks in her stomach without allowing air into the lungs. Her neck and shoulders remain as relaxed as possible.  

  When she can no longer hold her breath out comfortably, she relaxes, allowing her abdomen to release and her ribs to lower. She lets air in slowly, inhaling as she comes to a full standing position.

With hands on thighs, Bettina demonstrates Uddiyana Bandha. She exhales, pushing the air out of the lungs, getting them as empty as she can. While the breath is held out, she presses against her thighs, and—while keeping the abdominal muscles completely soft and relaxed—she sucks in her stomach without allowing air into the lungs. Her neck and shoulders remain as relaxed as possible.

When she can no longer hold her breath out comfortably, she relaxes, allowing her abdomen to release and her ribs to lower. She lets air in slowly, inhaling as she comes to a full standing position.

The Two Uddiyanas

It is important to distinguish Bettina’s Uddiyana, which lifts the respiratory diaphragm way up into the ribcage, from the other Uddiyana, which is a miniature version of Bettina’s.

Bettina’s Uddiyana is sometimes referred to as Uddiyana Bandha Kriya. It is one of the six kriyas, and involves retracting the entire abdomen (lower and upper belly) while on an exhale retention. We do not do this Uddiyana with asana.

The mini version takes place entirely below the navel during the motion of inhaling and does not lift the diaphragm. More specifically, after exhaling and toning the pelvic floor, you inhale while slightly drawing back your abdomen just in front of the sacrum, immediately above the pelvic floor. Mini Uddiyana, which you would normally call into action with Mula Bandha, causes the psoas muscles to relax. (Mini Uddiyana is what we want during asana.)

Nābhigranthim merurpŗșthe śatavāram ca kārayet |
Udaryamāmayam tyaktvā jatharāgnim vivardhayeț ||

Gherand Samhita 1.19 Try touching the navel a hundred times to the spinal cord. This process is known as agnisara. This process eliminates diseases in the stomach and ignites the fire in the stomach.

Agni + Sara

In Sanskrit jathara means belly or abdomen, and agni means fire. Gastric juice might be considered the fire of the stomach. In the compound agnisara, the word jathara is dropped but is to be taken as understood. Sara means the essence or the very best part. Agnisara is said to optimize the potency of the gastric juices.

Just as a lion, an elephant, or a tiger is tamed by degrees, similarly respiration is to be brought under control gradually; otherwise it would harm the aspirant.
— Svatmarama’s Hathapradipika, Chapter 2.15

While maintaining Uddiyana and pressing his hands into his thighs, Yuha gives a downward and forward stroke to the rectus abdominis, just above the pubic bone. Contracting the recti and pushing them forward, he isolates the recti from the other muscles. This is Nauli-Madhyama or Middle Nauli.

If we could slow down this video, you’d be able to see that Yuha holds the middle position for a second, then he applies more pressure on the right thigh with the right hand, giving a greater bend to the right side of his body. At the same time, he relaxes the left side. This keeps the right rectus contracted, rolling it further to the right while left remains inactive.

He goes back to the middle position before pressing on the left thigh with the left hand while relaxing the right side of his body. The rectus rolls to the left. Repeating these actions quickly, right-middle-left, right-middle-left, over and over, gives the appearance of churning the abdominals.

After churning five times one way, he churns the other way, thus performing Nauli kriya.

Slowing down to a more controlled “churn” produces different effects. For me a nice slow nauli heightens the sensations in my abdominal viscera, activating my enteric brain and sharpening my intuitive skills. Try to observe your abdomen, and note how you feel before and after the practice.

By the 1960s Kaivalyadham was well established as a premier center for yoga. With global renown, world leaders and high-ranking government officials sometimes came to visit, like the 14th Dalai Lama. While this photo is not dated, I’m guessing he visited sometime after he was exiled from Tibet (March 1959) and before Swami Kuvalyananda’s death (April 1966), as another photo shows Swamiji and the Dalai Lama together.  
   (Another tipoff: the John Lennon glasses.)

By the 1960s Kaivalyadham was well established as a premier center for yoga. With global renown, world leaders and high-ranking government officials sometimes came to visit, like the 14th Dalai Lama. While this photo is not dated, I’m guessing he visited sometime after he was exiled from Tibet (March 1959) and before Swami Kuvalyananda’s death (April 1966), as another photo shows Swamiji and the Dalai Lama together.

(Another tipoff: the John Lennon glasses.)

Middle Nauli or Nauli-Madhyama in squatting position. After fully exhaling, Motoko presses down with her arms and draws up the abdominal muscles, completely sucking in her stomach. At the same time, she forces the rectus abdominis (nala) to stand out in isolation.  
 It has taken some years of practice, but Motoko’s rectus abdominis now appears quite narrow and thin. For beginners, this muscle will appear much thicker and wider if it even pops out at all. Just keep trying to push it out in isolation—and hold it in the out position for as long as possible. Try to do it standing up first, as squatting makes it much more challenging. Don’t be discouraged. It will happen one day! 
 We practice Middle Nauli in squatting position in order to “train” for Basti Kriya. The negative intra-abdominal pressure resulting from Middle Nauli creates a suction that draws in water during basti, the yogic enema.

Middle Nauli or Nauli-Madhyama in squatting position. After fully exhaling, Motoko presses down with her arms and draws up the abdominal muscles, completely sucking in her stomach. At the same time, she forces the rectus abdominis (nala) to stand out in isolation.

It has taken some years of practice, but Motoko’s rectus abdominis now appears quite narrow and thin. For beginners, this muscle will appear much thicker and wider if it even pops out at all. Just keep trying to push it out in isolation—and hold it in the out position for as long as possible. Try to do it standing up first, as squatting makes it much more challenging. Don’t be discouraged. It will happen one day!

We practice Middle Nauli in squatting position in order to “train” for Basti Kriya. The negative intra-abdominal pressure resulting from Middle Nauli creates a suction that draws in water during basti, the yogic enema.

As long as the Prana does not enter and flow in the middle channel – Sushumna nadi – and the vindu does not become firm by the control of the movements of the Prana; as long as the mind does not assume the form of Brahma without any effort in contemplation, all the talk of knowledge and wisdom is merely the nonsensical babbling of a mad man.
— Svatmarama’s Hathapradipika, Chapter 4.113

In a seated position, with hands on knees, Paul shows us one round of Agni Sara. He begins by bringing his abdomen to a relaxed neutral position. Then he isolates his lower abdomen and slowly draws it back while exhaling without raising his diaphragm or upper abdomen. With lungs completely empty, and without allowing air to flow back in, he vigorously pumps the abdomen forward. (A beginner may find it helpful to pinch the nose to stop the air from flowing in.)

The diaphragm and abdomen are fully relaxed and passive, and therefore able to balloon out to “maximum.” He draws back the lower abdomen, bringing navel to spine, then immediately pumps again, repeating the action fully as many times as is comfortable without inhaling. Finally, he releases and inhales with control, completing one round. Typically, he might do six rounds in one session.

 Agni means fire. This powerful cleansing practice stokes the inner digestive fire.

Sarve ragā mal-āśrayāh. Unclean bowels are the breeding ground of all diseases.

An axiom from ayurveda, as written in the 1970s book Yoga by Dhirendra Brahmachari. Furthermore, adds Tiwariji, constipation throws off your pulse and is “an obstacle in the path of pranayama.” The pressure waste matter creates inside the intestines blocks the flow of pranic energy. Therefore, everything must be done to clear the bowels.

Worlds Subtler and Subtler

In pranayama practice, “the human consciousness begins to be internalized and supersensuous perceptions begin to be possible. Worlds subtler and still subtler begin to be opened up in proportion to the consciousness itself getting more and more refined, till at last the individual consciousness merges into the cosmic and the individual becomes one with the infinite.” From the Kaivalyadham brochure Pranayama Practice and Teaching.

Tasmin-sati śvāsa-praśvāsa-yor-gati vicchedah prānāyāmah.
PYS 2.49 Once that perfected posture has been achieved, the slowing or braking of the force behind, and of unregulated movement of inhalation and exhalation is called breath control and expansion of prana (pranayama), which leads to the absence of the awareness of both, and is the fourth of the eight rungs.
“At the beginning of yoga practices (especially pranayama) consumption of milk and ghee in the food is recommended. Later, when the practice is firmly established, there is no need to strictly follow these rules." Regarding this 14th sloka in chapter 2, Jyotsna’s commentary of  Hathapradipika  offers further clarification that the "practice is firmly established when complete success is achieved in the ‘kevala’ kumbhaka.” 
 Members of TTC 2013 have been happily abiding by this sloka, having each consumed at least one kilo of ghee in less than four weeks (actually, much more than that, in many cases). After adding copious amounts of ghee to our diets, one classmate claimed that her joints popped less in asana class. Another could feel how nourishing ghee was for her nervous system, as “doing a lot of pranayama can really dry you up inside.” 
 Fat for nerves and for good prana conduction. Makes sense methinks.

“At the beginning of yoga practices (especially pranayama) consumption of milk and ghee in the food is recommended. Later, when the practice is firmly established, there is no need to strictly follow these rules." Regarding this 14th sloka in chapter 2, Jyotsna’s commentary of Hathapradipika offers further clarification that the "practice is firmly established when complete success is achieved in the ‘kevala’ kumbhaka.”

Members of TTC 2013 have been happily abiding by this sloka, having each consumed at least one kilo of ghee in less than four weeks (actually, much more than that, in many cases). After adding copious amounts of ghee to our diets, one classmate claimed that her joints popped less in asana class. Another could feel how nourishing ghee was for her nervous system, as “doing a lot of pranayama can really dry you up inside.”

Fat for nerves and for good prana conduction. Makes sense methinks.

A student of Swami Kuvalayananda from 1957 until Swamiji’s death in 1966, Sri O.P. Tiwari has dedicated his life to the practice and teaching of Hatha Yoga. Today, at 81, he continues to pass on classical techniques of pranayama to students all over the world. He took over as administrative head of Kaivalyadham Yoga Institute in 1966, a responsibility he passed on to his son Sudhir about two years ago. Photo by Sami.

A student of Swami Kuvalayananda from 1957 until Swamiji’s death in 1966, Sri O.P. Tiwari has dedicated his life to the practice and teaching of Hatha Yoga. Today, at 81, he continues to pass on classical techniques of pranayama to students all over the world. He took over as administrative head of Kaivalyadham Yoga Institute in 1966, a responsibility he passed on to his son Sudhir about two years ago. Photo by Sami.

Sitting in Simhasana, with legs crossed at ankles, and heels brought under the perineum, Sami demonstrates Simha Mudra (Lion Mudra). With hands on knees and fingers fully splayed, he thrusts out his tongue, touching it to his chin. Head stays down, chin to chest; and gaze lifts to a point between the eyebrows.

This preparatory practice opens the muscles of the neck and pharyngeal wall, breaking down any fibrous adhesions that may have developed in its faschia, thereby promoting relaxed, smoother breathing.