Pranayama is the expansion of life force. It can be through different breathing techniques, exercises and through sun gazing. Fruits and raw food carry prana and we can direct our intake by our choices.

In the Yoga Sutras Patanjali defines it as the slowing down of the force behind inhalation, exhalation and the expansion of prana. So “the external or outward flow, the internal or inward flow and the absence of both during the transition between them (retention)…are regulated by place, time, and number, with breath becoming slow and subtle.”

Patanjali also says that it is through pranayama that we achieve the capability for true concentration (Dharana) the next step.

There are different techniques for specific effects. On a physical level Pranayama can purify and restore. we can use it to cleanse the system and clear the chakras; we can use right nostril breathing to give us a clear focused mind so we don’t need caffeine, or we can use left nostril breathing to make us calm, relaxed or ready for sleep. We can use it to strengthen different organs and to increase the all round vitality of the body.

Psychologically Pranayama can make us feel grounded and elevated, combined with mantra it can give us a strong sense of self, it can purify and restore the mind and open the heart. Through the practice pranayama can be directed anywhere around the body for restoration and strength.

To test this out I practiced full yogic breath and full yogic breath with inhale retention for 30 minutes a day over one week. My shoulders felt more open, I was more stable emotionally and sure of my ground. Mentally there was more clarity.

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I practiced Nadi Sodhana, and equal ratios (square breath) for 30 minutes a day over a week. I felt balanced, my energy levels were more even, I had more of a neutral mind.  I was alert and able to experience more intense feelings without being thrown off course.

Pranayama is a powerful and beautiful technique. Gauge your own practice with awareness.

As I understand the energy body from studying kundalini yogic philosophy: six of the Ten Bodies make up the Energy Body. They are the Arcline; Aura; Pranic Body; Subtle Body and Radiant Body.

The Subtle Body is etheric, it is extremely close to the Soul, it is said that just after death the Subtle Body carries the Soul out of the body to the blue ethers. If the Subtle Body is strong, we are able to perceive the Infinite reality behind all things in the world; we are calm, have finesse and learn easily with intuition and grace; our movements are graceful and we are able to sense the imprint of all experience held in the Akashic Records. We have insight and mastery. We have tranquility, can see the unseen and know the Unknown. We are also able to sense long term and see the consequences of actions a long way ahead and have control of cause and effect.

If the Subtle Body were weak we might be gullible, naive, easily misled or awkward, clumsy or crude in speech or behaviour; restless, misunderstood or frustrated.

The Subtle Body examines the suggestions of the Soul: if the Soul suggests a certain action might be good, the Subtle Body will make refinements.
The Subtle Body is the ninth of the Ten Bodies. In numerology this means that anyone who’s birthday is on 9th, 18th or 27th might face challenges in the 9th Body and can strengthen it by the following:

a)  Antar Naad Meditation “Sa Re Sa Sa, Sa Re Sa Sa, Sa Re Sa Sa, Sa Rung, Har Ray Har Har, Har Re Har Har, Har Re Har Har, Har Rung.” Where Sa is the totality of the Infinite and is very subtle, Ha is the creative force made manifest. This mantra connects you to the etheric realm and strengthens it in you. Also refines communication skills.

b)  Speak kindly and the Truth. We are what we say.

c)  The Subtle Body Kriya for Refinement from Waves of Healing Yogi Bhajan:

In easy pose chanting “Wahe” as the head turns to the left and “Guru” as the head turns to the right

d)  Choose a meditation to practice for 1,000 days.

e)  Cultivate good digestion.

f)  Practice the arts and develop appreciation of the arts.

g)  Think of Guru Bahadur, the guru associated with 9th Body

 

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Everyone can practice yoga, fully fit or disabled, young or old. Yoga is not a philosophy or religion, it is more a set of techniques, everyone is welcome to join in. Yoga can create extra space in your day where your mind becomes calmer and more efficient, your body becomes fluid, your spirit unfolds in bliss.

If you are coming to one of my Oxford yoga classes remember not to eat for a couple of hours beforehand, as there are twists and some forward bends that don’t go well with a full stomach!

While in class remember that you can always push your own practice further by stretching that little bit more, or continually scanning your form for micro improvements. Equally you can relax into child’s pose, or sit and breathe and meditate if you feel like it and join in the asanas again when it suits you. Always listen to your body with a kind ear and only go as far as you want to go.

Yoga gives you the space in body and mind to discover who you truly are.

It is a way of being which reminds you to take full responsibility for everything you do and feel.

Yoga takes you to a new level of understanding, which is beyond what you thought was possible.

It eases stress, pain, imbalance and responds to your unique needs.

Through yoga you see that all the life force, fire, creativity and joy has always been and always will be there inside you.

The eight-fold path of Astanga Yoga:

Yoga has its roots about 5000 years BC as described in Vedic Philosophy and Tantras. The renowned and respected sage Patanjali drew these ideas together in his Yoga Sutra. Here he shows how Yoga can work as an eightfold path:

YAMAS Moral Code

Ahimsa: Non-harm and compassion for all beings
Satya: Truthfulness
Asteya: Non-stealing
Brahmacharya: Sensual and sexual continence
Aparigraha: Non-grasping

NYAMAS Self Disciplines

Saucha: Purity
Santosha: Contentment
Tapas: Fire or endurance
Svadyhaya: Self-study
Ishvara Pranidanah: Dedication to the divine

ASANA Postures

Yoga postures with equilibrium through stability and comfort. Moving meditation with effortless effort.

PRANAYAMA Strengthening the life force through breathing and discipline

Breathing exercises and cleansing to increase the pranic flow in the body.

PRATYAHARA Withdrawal of the senses

Preparing yourself mentally to increase the powers of the mind. Not letting distractions take you away from your path.

DHARANA Meditative Concentration

Often by fixing the attention on one point or mantra. Through deepening concentration the normal activities of the mind slow down to an eventual place of stillness and silence.

DHYANA Meditation – Contemplation or insight

From Dharana the mind becomes free to spontaneously expand. This expansion of mind is meditation. This leads to a most subtle depth of awareness.

SAMADHI Meditative absorption

The duality of mind is transcended and a state of pure awareness arises. This is the state of cosmic fusion where the finite has become infinite and Yoga (union) is attained.

State of bliss, joy and merging individual consciousness into universal consciousness. Union between Jivatman and Paramatman. Union of Shiva and Shakti in Sahasrara Chakra.

 

Thank you all who came for a wonderful retreat in the Algarve where we had two vinyasa yoga and one kundalini yoga practices each day; paddle-boarding; swimming and picnics on the beach; mantras each evening after supper, and an all round beautiful atmosphere. Thanks to Helena and Dan from yogaholidayalgarve and to Otto, Raoul, Nuno from kiteculturealgarve but most of all to Tinus, the little dog who rode with us on our SUP boards. Shout out also to Fifi, little dog at Butterfly House.

Next spring Christoph Luenberger will also be teaching and assisting students with alignment. Dates for the week are 29th April – 6th May 2017

 

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