Advanced Yoga Practices
Lesson 46 - Which Way is Up in Spinal Breathing?
Date: Mon Dec 15, 2003 2:17pm
Q: Why do we go up the sushumna on inhalation and down on exhalation? Can it work just as well the other way, down on inhalation and up on exhalation?
A: In the beginning stages, pranayama can work either way. With basic spinal breathing, a case can be made for one approach or the other. However, later on, it becomes clear that learning spinal breathing going up on inhalation and down on exhalation is the preferred approach. It will become obvious when we get into new advanced yoga practices that involve deliberate suspensions of the breath when the lungs are full. At this time it is necessary for the attention to be near the top at the sushumna for performing yoga procedures in the upper part of the body. Also, there will come a time when the breath suspends automatically with the lungs empty in connection with the internal biology of prana being released from its vast storehouse near the base of the spine. This will manifest as an emptying of the lungs and then a drawing up from near the bottom of the spine. We will learn means to facilitate this automatic drawing up process that occurs when the lungs are empty, so the attention will be near the bottom of the spine then and not at the top. These two types of suspension of breath are primary determinants on which way we go in the sushumna with our attention during spinal breathing.
When our breathing stops, we know without a doubt which way is up. Ultimately, the direction our breathing takes us in the sushumna is not an arbitrary thing at all.
We will get into more detail on suspension of breath (called “kumbaka”) further down the road in these lessons. By going up inside the sushumna with your attention during inhalation and down during exhalation, know that you are laying the right foundation for all that is to come.
The guru is in you.