Advanced Yoga Practices
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Lesson 171 - Spinal Bastrika Pranayama - Pressure-Washing Your Karma
New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the archive, as previous lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, “Why This Discussion?”
Date: Tue Apr 20, 2004 1:11pm
Now we will introduce a powerful new pranayama practice called spinal bastrika. “Bastrika” means “bellows.” It is rapid breathing, like a dog panting, done with the diaphragm only (abdominal breathing), preferably through the nose. If it is too difficult through the nose, it can be done through the mouth, as necessary.
Bastrika in these lessons is done tracing the spinal nerve quickly between the perineum (root) and the point between the eyebrows (third eye), just the same as during normal spinal breathing, only much faster. The spinal aspect brings greatly increased power to bastrika pranayama, and at the same time provides balance between the divine inner polarities in the body. Spinal bastrika charges the entire nervous system with huge amounts of cleansing prana in a balanced way.
This practice is excellent for clearing out stubborn karmic blockages throughout the nervous system by sending powerful pranic pulses up and down inside the spinal nerve, and surging out through every nerve in the body.
As with any practice, some prerequisites and cautions are in order, so let’s consider them.
First, spinal bastrika is not a cure-all, not a very good stand-alone practice. It will only work well if sufficient prerequisite practices have been stable for some time. These include spinal breathing and deep meditation. Spinal bastrika is done in-between these two during sitting practices. Its greatest effects are found when it is used in conjunction with the core practices of spinal breathing and meditation.
Second, if you have any health condition that could be aggravated by this extended panting style of practice, then please do refrain. If in doubt, check with your doctor first.
Third, under certain circumstances spinal bastrika can aggravate an inner blockage, and should obviously be tempered then. More often, it will release blockages without aggravation, and can be used more aggressively then. You only will find out how your nervous system responds to spinal bastrika when you try, which is why it is good to start out slow and use careful self-pacing. Keep in mind that there can be a delayed reaction with spinal bastrika – you will not feel all of the effects immediately.
Spinal bastrika is most useful if the ground has already been cleared underneath and throughout the nervous system with deep meditation and spinal breathing. Then spinal bastrika can help finish off the job of getting lingering stubborn karmic blockages out. In that sense, it is like a pressure washer brought in to break loose and flush out those tough obstructions that have already been loosened up with meditation and spinal breathing.
As mentioned, bastrika means “bellows.” I call it “doggy panting,” signifying a more gentle sustainable fast breathing approach than the huffing and puffing that bellows implies, though doggy panting can be made quite vigorous also. Sometimes it gets vigorous all by itself. It is a long series of shallow quick breaths, using the diaphragm only, and continued for the allotted time as attention goes with the breath up and down the spinal nerve between the root and third eye. It will take some getting used to. As with all practices, spinal bastrika will be a little “clunky” at first. You will find it takes some practice to have the attention going up and down quickly with the breath. Also, the lungs may tend to get gradually emptier or fuller during a long series of pants. This “drift” is normal, and it is okay to empty out or fill up the lungs as necessary several times during a spinal bastrika session to compensate for the drift. And if there is no drift, very good. Then just keep going with spinal bastrika for the allotted time.
It is recommended you start with two minutes of spinal bastrika right before meditation, after spinal breathing and whatever other pranayama you are doing then (yoni mudra kumbhaka or the chin pump). Continue with siddhasana, sambhavi, mulabandha, kechari, etc. Some uddiyana (slightly pulling in of the abdomen) can be done also during spinal bastrika. As you get the feel of the energy moving in spinal bastrika, your body will know instinctively what to do, and all of these maneuvers will refine by themselves. Once it settles in, spinal bastrika, with all of its related yogic components, is quite natural. It becomes a very pleasurable practice with long-lingering ecstatic results in activity, and makes a permanent contribution to enlightenment. When those karmic obstructions are gone, they are gone for good, and the light shines out brightly from inside.
With comfort established for two minutes of practice, after a week or two, spinal bastrika can be taken to three minutes, and eventually to five minutes, if desired. Spinal bastrika is very powerful in longer doses, so keep that (and the delayed effect) in mind as your experience advances.
You will find spinal bastrika to be helpful for deepening your meditation. With so much being loosened up during the several pranayamas before meditation, it makes the process of deep meditation to inner silence and global purification in the nervous system go much faster and smoother.
Spinal bastrika puts the overall purification process in a higher gear, loosening the nerves and cultivating the entire nervous system tremendously. Be sure to exercise self-pacing with spinal bastrika, and all of your practices. Always pace your practices so as not to exceed your comfortable limit of resulting purification in your nervous system. Take your time and find your balance with spinal bastrika in your routine of daily practices.
In several weeks we will look at some variations of spinal bastrika that can be used for more targeted karmic cleansing.
The guru is in you.
Note: For a detailed overview on building a daily practice routine with self-pacing, see the Eight Limbs of Yoga Book, and AYP Plus.