Bhāvana on Directional Breathing within Śikṣaṇa Practice
When inhaling, start the movement in the
Prāṇa Sthāna from the Viśuddhi Sthāna
and move the inhale as if towards the
diaphragm without distending the belly.
When exhaling, start the movement in the
Apāna Sthāna from the Svādhiṣṭhāna Sthāna
and move the exhale as if towards the
diaphragm without collapsing the chest.
Energetically, in terms of Prāṇa
and Cakra, we seek to expand
and lengthen the upper part of
the body above the diaphragm.
Energetically, in terms of Apāna
and Cakra, we seek to reduce
and shorten the lower part of
the body below the diaphragm.
Another lesser-known facet to the practice tool of Pratikriyāsana
is the application of it in the practice planning steps, not in the
more usual sense of its perception as a postural counterpose,
rather its application in order to reduce a negative state of being
and the impact that we are currently experiencing, whether at a
physical, energetic, psychological or emotional level of being.
In this context, Pratikriyāsana means the practice planning steps
when choosing and arranging Āsana that will effect an counter action
on our current state of negativity expressing itself and impacting on
our sense of well-being, whether body, mind, energy or emotions.
Thus, opposite action Āsana to a currently unhelpful sense of being.
Progressing from Movement to Stillness,
as in from Dynamic Āsana to Static Āsana,
is a perceived goal within every Yoga practice.
However, within the Viniyoga of Āsana, this is not
a purposeful goal to expect within every Āsana.
Bṛṃhaṇa Kriyā and Laṅghana Kriyā, as
expansive and contractive activities, are two
potentials explored through Āsana and the Breath.
Alongside the practice of Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma,
they are actualised through a theoretical understanding of
the primary principles that inform Haṭha Yoga and Āyurveda.
The alchemical process underpinning this understanding
is the relationship between the two primary principles of
Prāṇa and Agni in order to influence Haṭha Yoga concepts such
as Prāṇa, Apāna, Sūrya, Candra, Nāḍī, Cakra and Kuṇḍalinī.
In terms of Bṛṃhaṇa Kriyā and Laṅghana Kriyā, the
Viniyoga of Bṛṃhaṇa effects a dispersion of Agni from
the core to the periphery and the Viniyoga of Laṅghana
effects a concentration of Agni from the periphery to the core.
Integrating the application of these two specific processes
facilitates access, through the Merudaṇḍa, Prāṇa and Agni,
to either energising or cleansing potentials, or as collaborative
outcomes within the practice of Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma.
One of the potentials in the Haṭha Yoga teachings of
Krishnamacharya and Desikachar is the understanding
around the Viniyoga or application of Bṛṃhaṇa Kriyā
and Laṅghana Kriyā in terms of their potential to enhance
sensory stimulation or to diminish sensory stimulation.
Both approaches can be used where appropriate to impact
on how we are stimulated by the world through the senses and
thus be more drawn to interact with it in a more extravert way,
or how our sensory stimulation is quietened and thus we are
more easily able to withdraw from the activities of the senses.
Both approaches are valid and applied according to our changing age,
life situation and life stage. Here the role of a teacher is helpful in
learning the skills of self application within our practice planning.
We can learn how we can fine-tune our practice according to our basic
nature and where it needs to be within day to day living and its demands.
This alchemical process would also be difficult to explore other
than in some very generalised way within a weekly group class
given the mix of the age, gender, interests, needs, potentials and
core physiological, energetic and psychological natures of the students.
Let alone where they are in their life circumstances, external demands,
work roles and life stage or even the teacher having time and situation to
explore each student personally to gain some insight into what is happening
at that life moment within the small window offered by time and group size.
Hence, throughout Krishnamacharya and Desikachar’s teaching life,
apart from formalised group classes for children and young adults,
they taught personal practice only through individual lessons.
When considering what, why and how to practice,
it can be helpful to consider our starting point.
For example, are we looking for the role of an Āsana
practice to help in recovering from a situation
where we are as if personally overdrawn.
Also, what is the nature of our ‘overdraft’?
Is its impact or origin physical, energetic, psychological
or emotional, or even a combination of more than one?
Here the concepts of too little, too much, or wrong
can also be helpful as a reference in that, as well as
considering the nature of the ‘overdraft’, we need to
consider the means we undertake to remedy this
aspect of the situation. In other words our first
priority is to choose to plan practice steps that
will initially reduce the negative aspect at least.
However, sometimes we can try something that is
as if a short term loan and at a high rate of interest
in terms of time, effort, energy and commitment.
Thus whilst finding our situation temporarily
improving a further depletion can possibly arise as
we find ourselves unable to as if ‘keep up with the
extra payments’ given the nature of the original
depletion and its current impact on our potentials.
So having a clear reference point in terms of
identifying the nature of our starting point, and
the short term or longer term potentials of a
choice of an appropriate remedy, is as important
as our personal determination to clear the deficit
that has knowingly or unknowingly emerged within us.
When less Āsana time than you would like,
better to reduce the number of Āsana,
or the number of repetitions,
or the length of the stays,
rather than, reducing the length of the breath.
Or….. even considering lengthening the breath,
thus even fewer Āsana, all with a longer breath than usual.
Here the Bhāvana could be to observe the effect
of a more spacious than usual Āsana breathing
on a more cramped than usual daily mindset.
In the beginning of our journey into the arts of Āsana and Prāṇāyāma, the outcome of our exploration into the breath in Āsana sets a direction and parameters for the beginnings of our exploration into how and where to develop the breath in Prāṇāyāma.
Over time we come to both realise and experience the uniqueness of the breath within each of these two arts and the increasingly subtle development of the qualities of the relationship between the breath in Āsana, with that of the breath in Prāṇāyāma.