Yoga is a system of physical and mental discipline undertaken to utilize the unconscious forces within and without. By the practice of Hatha yoga (exercises), pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditative techniques we can greatly increase and intensify our ability to function creatively in a hostile environment.
In this column we will introduce some of the techniques in a practical way and also discuss yogic nutritional recipes and concepts.
The historical roots of yoga go back several thousands of years in India where hip minds studied natural processes and practically developed these methods by trial and error.
What we are trying to do is bridge the gap between the ancient esoteric theories and today's up-against-the-wall reality. Yoga can be an excellant cop-out for those seeking a way to freedom at the expense of everybody else. But for the sisters and brothers who want to get themselves together and still try to make the wold a habitable place, yoga can help do this too.
By analogy: The enlightened ones, the Buddhas, attain nirvanic paradise and the cessation of suffering. But the Boddhisattvas say that no on e person can enter nirvana unless ALL make it. No one can afford to cop-out on fighting the Amerikan nightmare. The lethal smog, insecticides, raped resources, moral bankruptcy, repression and murderous national ethic sooner or later comes down on us all. Our approach to yoga will be based on attuning, cleansing and harmonizing ourselves to better struggle against the death-machine.
Breath is Life: The basis of yoga is the conscious utilization of the breathing process. In addition to containing essential oxygen, the yogis believe in another constituent: Prana or the vital force. In order to obtain the maximum amount of both substances a radical alteration in the technique of respiration is needed.
In modern terminology, the technique is called the diaphramatic breath. The diaphragm and stomach muscles are used lo squeeze out the stale air of the lungs in exhalation and to fill the lungs by a suction-pump effect during inhalation. As you exhale your stomach goes on forcing the residual carbon dioxide laden air out of your lungs from the bottom. (Think of rolling up a tube of toothpaste). As you inhale the diaphragm lowers, the muscles move the stomach out, and the air fills the lungs from the bottom. Then the rib cage expands and fills the middle lungs and finally the shoulders raise slightly to fill the upper lung region.
Do this exercise slowly and rythmically. Meditate on the inward and outward movement of your breath and the energy flow involved. Besides affecting your metabolism favorable, this type of breathing is used by professional singers and in natural childbirth, so you know it does good things to and for you.
The ALTERNATE BREATH is a technique to relax and purify mind and body. The following hand gesture is utilized: The index and second fingers of the right hand are held against the palm while fingers three four and the thumb are extended. Place your thumb over the right nostril and inhale through the left nostril counting four long beats filling your lungs with a deep diaphragmatic breath. Place fingers 3 and 4 over the left nostril and hold the breath for the count of four. Then remove the thumb from the right nostril and exhale, completely maintaining the same rhythm. Next inhale through the right (four counts), hold the breath with both passages closed and exhale out the left. This is one cycle or "round".
To review: inhale-left, hold, exhale right; inhale-right, hold, exhale-left. Begin with four rounds and gradually increase the number. Then alter the rhythm of the procedure: inhaling four beats, retaining 16, and exhaling 8. . DO NOT attempt this higher ratio initially, but work up to it after several weeks of daily practice. STOP if dizziness occurs.
The CHARGING BREATH; is done upon waking in the morning before you take any food. First exhale completely squeezing the stale air out of ; the lungs. Then take a deep breath and forcefully expel it out the nose. This should be done so your stomach-viscere-diaphragm snaps in as the breath goes out. (Place your hand on the tummy to check) The inhalation should be taken automatically - and immediately after the exhalation with the stomach "snapping" out. Do this pranyam rapidly, forcefully and with gusto 11 times (one round), then stop and slow down the breathing and relax.
The final exercise is one used by singers to control the breath flow, but is also good for practicing mantras such as AUM Stand up with the legs apart, one hand on the stomach and the other palm four inches from the mouth. Take a deep breath through the nose and slowly exhale through the mouth. Your mouth should be shaped as in whistling or saying "oooo". Slowly let the air flow out but try to make the stream of air remain constant by utilizing he diaphragm and checking the flow by the feel of the air against your palm. Things start getting tricky as you reach the last of the air supply in the bottom of the lungs. Squeeze the last bit out using the stomach muscles, but still trying to maintain an uninterrupted smooth flow. This exercise also aids concentration.