Asana and Deepening Pranic Flows
Well who wouldn’t have a smile on their face/mind when they deeply rest. In a series of articles I wish to comment on this process of establishing and stabilizing ones asana in preparation for meditation. These first several articles will discuss pertinent background information and perspectives. We will not be addressing the cultural asanas at this time.
When your asana is established properly and stabilized there is a spontaneous emergence of the deeper pranic flows. Briefly summarized as you sit straight and balanced, automatically you will feel these internal sensations of the bandhas and mudras from the foundation of the asana activating up through your posture. Of course more than just activation of these standard bandhas and mudras are integral part of the asana.
What is sitting straight and balanced? Is it only the bodies structure.
Does asana include these pranic flows of the
- Bodies structure
- Sensations of the body
- Sensations of the mind, to include ideas, will power, etc
- Flows of the gross breath and the subtle breath
At the beginning with asana we are speaking about the physical gross body representation. Whereas one practices more the asana must include all these pranic flows.
The asana is not something you do only. At the beginning, it is arrived at after much hard work and preparation. Later it just emerges spontaneously with a shift of ones attention. It will be defined and expanded in another article in relationship to Patanjali’s treatise in the Yoga Sutras second Chapter (to include Vyasa’s and other’s commentary/bhashya)
How focused is your meditation? Do you consistently experience a depth of your practice that takes you beyond the normal habits of the mind (waking, daydreaming, dreaming, sleeping, etc)?
The organization of the asana needs to be established and then stabilized. It also must be linked proprioceptively/feeling-wise to the breath and mind flow. Each step has to be stabilized and then linked. This linking means that two things have become one thing in the mind. This is a critical step to progressively arrive at deeper states of focus. Otherwise when these relationships/links have not been stabilized the mind easily slips out of the current focus. Examples of stabilizing and linking will be given later in other articles.
As your practices truly progresses your meditation more quickly arrives at these deeper states and deeper pranic flows. Then over time the mind becomes absorbed within. This is where the true meditation and silence starts.
We are the gross representation of these natural and normal flows of prana. Also you could say we are these flows and just have a gross set of clothes called a body to wear. If this all is sounding too weird, it is because the references are from a very different perspective than most of us have experienced.
Embryological development follows a sophisticated and methodical code of instructions. In one way, this is the same as saying that man is a field of energy currents flowing along definite channels. (see Swami Veda’s excellent book: Philosophy of Hatha Yoga)
Asanas follow this flow of energy. So when we truly have a proper asana there is this natural emergence of a stable and comfortable form and the breath becomes deeper and the mind becomes very focused yet deeply calm and quiet.
Asanas are not passive–they are active–representing a summation of the energies of that system. Subtle energies are very alive–they are just not apparent to us. Do you see or are aware of all the workings of your internal milieu of organ and neuro-fluid functions. OK, so maybe there is something subtler going on that the Yogis speak of as “their” normal experience.
How we organize these energies is the key to deepening these natural pranic flows that then spontaneously emerge
(While submerging the previous poorly organized postures with short shallow breaths and frenetic over active minds)
Fields of Energy
Remember when you placed a magnet underneath a sheet of heavy paper and then sprinkled iron filings on top. The iron fillings formed themselves in an arrangement along the lines of the magnetic field.
Our gross body representation is the end result of matter following the flows of energy. There is a wonderful YouTube video called Sand Dancing by Brusspup, an illusionist, enthusiast who posts on You Tube that depicts some of these ideas.
“What you’ll be seeing in the video is a speaker with a metal plate attached on top, and a sound generator,” Brusspup writes. “A bit of sand is sprinkled on top, then you turn on the sound generator. There are certain frequencies that resonate in such a way that it creates geometric patterns with the sand. I continue to increase the pitch of the sound throughout the video. As the pitch gets higher, the patterns become more complex.”
This body, this breath, this mind are because of these flows of energies. The science of pranyama includes this appreciation of these flows and their organization.
Awareness of Pranic Flows
Pranic flows are all sensations. This idea that prana is something that is only Eastern or mystical is short sighted. Pranic flows here are represented in the body, breath and mind. Please keep in mind the parallel concept of embryological development. The language of today’s science and the language of the science of yoga have some similarities.
As the growing fetus develops it exemplifies the unfolding of the map of coded instructions embedded in the DNA and interrelationships throughout this budding system. The same awareness of the yogi using their language would be represented as flows of energies along the channels called nadis.
All structures and movements follow these flows of energy/coded instructions.
These gross physiological movements create the different body systems. The major channels of communication and nutrition are established through the nervous, vascular, lymphatic and organ system. The major system of interface with the world is further developed in the musculoskeletal and sensory based system. Realize there are gross movements of the body and physiology. Every tissue has it’s own subtle resonance and inherent tissue mobility/motility.
All these movements are created by these ever enlivened flows of energy/information/nutrition.
One of our jobs in preparing to meditate is the organization of these energies/flows.
It can be daunting to exam some of the details of ourselves. We are so much more than just what we see and what we feel. Our limit of awareness defines our current status. To change and expand our perspective within the meditative model of yoga our awareness must change.
Changing our awareness is not a passive, let’s wait until we know more type of activity. It involves a regular and rigorous practice.
Remember that Yoga as defined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as Samadhi. That is a state of absorption beyond the normal sense of ones every day mind. So if you wish to only relax and feel better and become successful, great. It is just not the context that is offered in Yoga.
Yoga is way beyond this mundane improvement scheme of self help.
The next article will look at the classic definition of asana according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Keep in mind that we are trying to find out how to sit better for meditation. As in all philosophies one can expand this task of sitting better in meditation to sitting better in life (in all aspects of ones life).
One parting idea here is the following. Many of us have been sitting for years in practicing meditation. I think many of us have not made the progress that we thought we could. We sometimes are told that it takes a long time–even lifetimes if one believes that perspective.
Anything of great worth and skill/accomplishment takes a long time. My question and inquiry is:
The methods that we are practicing with, are they the best application of these meditation guidelines?
As a teacher of preparation for meditation, I would say we could use some work. Including yours truly.
There are several levels of problems that I see here:
- The beginner just has not had the proper instruction. They really don’t spend much time practicing. What they practice is not linked into a stable tradition. There is this over-Romantic idea of becoming enlightened with actually fairly little effort. Sometimes their focus is only on the superficial aspect of relaxation and mental health or success or worse some sordid power accumulation. Also they are haphazard in their organization and application of practice. This latter point is often true for those who have been practicing a long time too.
- Those who have been practicing for a longer time and not noticing much depth to their practice can be frustrated and misled. There is a lack of a strong and well practiced set of basics. There has been no or very poor program design from one level to the next. Often at this level one’s practice is not rigorous and systematized sufficiently. It is like walking for health and then expecting that this type of easy mindless exercise will ready you for climbing Mt Everest.
My focus in subsequent articles with be more oriented towards the second group of practitioners.
I would posit here that an evaluation can be made to clarify where one is at in some aspects of their practice. Just think how would you evaluate yourself or a student like yourself. Can you create some simple tests and retests to help guide ones practice and program design in moving step by step in the direction of absorption and silence of the mindfield.
Is practice just to be filled with faith and hope alone. Are we to be just left to this recipe of practice, practice, practice. What ever happened to smart and skillful practice. What about practice that is rigorously examined, tried/evaluated, revised and practiced again. Which populations or which people under what conditions at what time are best served by this type of practice vs another type. Is there only one basic model for all at all times?
There are not to my mind answers readily available.
The following inquiry and subsequent articles will be only a perspective of this student, myself. Of course I owe tremendous debt to all my teachers–having stolen/borrowed everything worthwhile that is presented. Everything of less worth is my own mis-understandings.