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Features some of the teachings and life of Swami Shivapadananda [1938-1994], the second President and Spiritual Head of the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa.
Some people get agitated when their system heats up through doing too much pranayama [yoga breathing]. That's why many sadhakas [spiritual aspirants or practitioners] break [damage, burn out their nervous systems] their health. But you're thinking that spirituality is such a divine thing that you can just carry on [doing excessive practice] and you go off your head. 1) Care should be taken by the reader to understand and take Swamiji's words in these postings, in context.
Swamiji and other Rishis going back thousands of years warned that pranayama coupled with an intemperate lifestyle is a dangerous practice. Usually, yoga seems to be associated more with the practice of asanas and pranayama without considering that these are two limbs of yoga and work together with the others. Asanas and pranayama evolved over time into the system we know as hatha yoga, as a more comprehensive system was felt to be needed not only to keep the body and energy in better condition but as a physical and vital doorway to the discovery of yoga or the unity of things.
The practice of hatha yoga seems physical and vital (like breathing) but all activity stems from, is enabled and sustained by the inner intelligence, and it is this intelligence which is beyond personality or ego that the yogi seeks to experience. In the practice of yoga asanas, we have an opportunity to discover that it is possible to do something with full awareness and without the interference of thought. Say you are doing pachimotasana (#7 in the illustrations that follow) where you sit on the floor with your legs outstretched and reach out to hold the toes or feet.
Through asana practice, you directly see the intelligence within, which is beyond the ego, at work. You quickly learn that by following the inner intelligence, you discover just how long you can stay in the asana and when you can extend further.
So, you decide to do an asana and select one, and find that once decided—the inner intelligence works very efficiently and it is what acts. Some of the physical benefits of specific asanas are listed along with the images that follow. This is a good way to start asana practice and it is seen more as exercise than asana as there is constant vigorous movement.
Routine: One cycle consists of all 12 movements done in one direction, and then reversed or done in the other direction. Practice: Start with the right foot forward from posture #3 for these 12, then reverse to have the left foot forward from posture #3 for these 12 again.
Hold your right foot, bending the leg at the knee and place the right foot on the left thigh. Similarly, now hold your left foot, bending the leg at the knee and place the left foot on the right thigh. Bend the left leg at the knee and place the heel at the space between the anus and scrotum. Step #1: Sit in vajrasana or on your knees with a folded blanket or soft seat in front of you. Step #3: Raise the thighs so the bent legs fall back naturally and the knees are facing up. Step #4: Straighten the knees so the toes are pointing straight up and the body erect, in one straight line. Benefits: The king of asanas, sirshasana, has many benefits including improving memory, eyesight, hearing, chronic constipation and preserving vital energy. Lift the hips and legs vertically, resting the elbows on the ground firmly to support the back with both hands. Benefits: Excellent overall toner, it massages the thyroid glands, gives spinal flexibility, promotes healthy blood flow, removes constipation and other stomach disorders and rejuvenates the entire system. Benefits: Relieves neck cramps caused by sarvangasana, strengthens the waist, back and neck, opens the larynx and trachea and fills the lungs with a deep supply of fresh air. Note: Should be performed after sarvangasana, especially if you have held it for more than 2 minutes.
Benefits: Stretches the muscles of the back, strengthens the abdominal muscles, pulls on the whole spine giving each vertebrae and ligament plenty of fresh blood supply, tones the spinal nerves and rejuvenates the nervous system.
Slowly raise your head and chest as if you are rolling forward gradually and bend the trunk forward till you are able to reach and hold onto the toes. Benefits: Rouses the gastric fire and makes the breath flow through the sushumna nadi, tones and reduces fat in the abdominal area, tones spleen and liver, increases bowel movements, removes constipation, cures piles, removes diabetes and increases spinal elasticity.
Step #1: Kneel as shown above with arms joined or touching each other, resting on the ground palms down and fingers pointed to the feet. Benefits: Restores stomach disorders, tones the liver, pancreas, stomach and kidneys, strengthens the hand muscles and improves balance. Time and repetition: Slowly increase the time from 5 seconds to 30 seconds, repeat 2 times. Lie on the floor face down, completely relaxed, arms stretched out before you, palms flat on the floor.
Raising your head and torso, let the spine bend nicely while the rest of the body, from the waist down, touches the ground. Benefits: Tones the deep and superficial muscles of the back, relieves back pain due to prolonged sitting and overwork, tones ovaries and the uterus in ladies. Inhale, stiffen the whole body and raise the legs together while keeping the knees together and straight.

Benefits: Develops the upper half of the body, tones vertebrae and sacral regions, strengthens all abdominal muscles, relieves constipation and tones the liver, pancreas and kidneys. Time and repetition: Slowly increase the time from 10 seconds to 45 seconds, repeat 2 times. Benefits: Supplements bhujangasana, massages back muscles, energizes digestion, reduces fat and invigorates appetite. Time and repetition: Slowly increase the time from 30 seconds to 2 minutes, repeat 2 times.
Bend the left knee and lifting it with your hands, extend the left foot over the right leg and place it on the ground next to the right knee. Benefits: Increases spinal elasticity, massages the abdominal organs and tones spinal nerves.
In time, you will be able to bury the face between the knees and keep your palms flat on the floor. Benefits: Includes all benefits of pachimotasana, increases height, tones abdomen and overall body, reduces abdomen fat and makes the body lighter. Working one side at a time, start by focusing your attention on the toes, then go on to the calf muscles, knees, and thighs. Next, the hands, first working one side at a time from the fingers to the forearms, biceps, and the whole arm. In each yoga class there is pranayama exercise, normally after the practice of the Asanas (yoga poses). I’ve practiced yoga for a long time now, included pramayama in my practices, even though I have been taught in details what it is and what it’s for, sometimes I do not think about it so much. This just has changed, again, because I’ve been asked to teach my Kung Fu colleagues three basic pranayamas so they also can have the possibility to “control their breath”.
The word “prana” means “vital energy” or “life force”, it is the force which exists in all things, whether animated or not (even a rock is formed by prana).
This entry was posted in Yoga and tagged air, Balearic Island, breathing, Crisaide, energy, exercise, Islas Baleares, Jones, Kung fu, life, Mallorca, Mendes, oxygen, Pranayama, yoga. About me"After professionally dancing ballet for most of my life, I had to push for extreme physical and mental limits. DisclaimerI am a registered yoga teacher with the yoga Alliance (RYT 500) and long time practitioner. It is recommended that you start your yoga practice under the guidance of a professional yoga teacher and consult with a physician before beginning your yoga practice. While pranayama can’t do it alone, when added to meditation, and asana, it makes your complexion gorgeous. Although western scientists aren’t exactly sure how it happens,pranayama tends to lengthen your life span. Pranayama practice makes you smarter, so you are less likely to suffer from age-related dementia.
No YOGA explora-se completamente toda a capacidade pulmonar, com especial incidencia para a zona baixa, a mais volumosa, usa-se conscientemente o diafragma (processo natural). No Ocidente respira-se com a parte superior dos pulmoes, desprezando-se a zona inferior dos mesmos, que e a mais importante, utilizam-se 3 litros de ar no maximo (em media de 0,5 a 2,0). I am experiencing the same situation i have been doing pranayama since year 2002 and since last two years my pranayama practice brings impatience, dull ness, uninterest. This bolster is firm enough to provide full support, yet soft enough to be quite comfortable because it supports the long muscles on both sides of your spine, enabling them to relax fully.
At first, fragmentation seems to be the experience but all these fragments we call distractions and bubbling thoughts rise and fall in the very same thing—the mind lake. The physical and mental benefits of hatha yoga are very important but not the most important thing. This is not to say that asanas are some kind of physical activity that do not require thinking, but to suggest that the inner intelligence is perfectly capable of acting—doing the asana intelligently. Once you begin the asana, you stay fully aware and discover that it is the inner intelligence that does the asana, not you.
This intelligence is not burdened with your hopes, ambition and preference and you see that all of this is added on by the ego and that there is now a separation between the inner intelligence and the ego.
The ego gets no play even though you are fully engaged in doing as you are doing intelligently by responding to the inner intelligence instead of the little self or ego. The trapeze artist too learns to trust this same inner intelligence, as there would be no way he or she could consciously adjust the body every moment. These just come; no need to chase after them or be concerned with things like body sculpting. Suryanamaskar or sun salutations will exercise the entire system including the cardiovascular and respiratory system. Start with 8-10 complete sets (which is all movements with the right leg forward first, followed by all movements with the left leg forward next) and work your way to 20 complete sets. Interweave and interlock your fingers and place it on the seat so the arms form a triangle with the locked fingers and forearms. Inhale and raise both legs together so they are parallel to the floor and the body is in one straight line from the head to the toes. Then, after taking a deep breath and exhaling completely—feel the prana in each part of the body from the toes to the top of the head. I went back to my books I started reading it all over, and like reading everything you read before, I learned a lot of new things, refreshed my memory and was very excited in teaching my friends about how important it is not only to practice pranayama exercises for the Kung Fu training but also for the entire life.

Of course we can relate the air we breathe with life force, without it we would die, but it is more subtle than air or oxygen, therefore pranayama should not be considered breathing exercises aimed to introduce more oxygen to our lungs. It is practiced as a means of developing greater lung-capacity, but also to eventually control the breath in a way that is incredibly beneficial for the body and mind. The added oxygenation of your blood makes your whole body more vital, so it shows in your skin.
Pranayama practice reverses this otherwise ‘normal’ degeneration.Pranayama makes the immune system more vital and increases the lymphocyte health in the body, which is the primary way our bodies fight foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria. While free radicals are the normal effects of metabolism, pranayama can help neutralize them.
It also acts as a fulcrum, over which the right and left sides of your chest can stretch and drop toward the floor. Without the yoga element, hatha yoga is reduced to a system of exercises—good but not different from other exercises. It tells you how far you can go today and to hold—cautioning you that extending yourself may be unpleasant. Struggle is experienced when you 'try' to do it with all your skill, even though the asana seems difficult. You cannot help but ask yourself why this would not be possible in all the other action in life or life period.
They become experts not so much at trapeze but at giving themselves wholly to the inner intelligence. Being fully aware of the inner process is mental sculpting—chiseling away the ego by disuse and using the inner intelligence instead. Support the body with the forearms and bring the abdomen slowly down against the joint elbows. Sometimes after a while it becomes, even for those who have been taught differently, an exercise. The word “yama” means “control”, however this is not the correct word which is joined to prana to form pranayama; the correct one is “ayama” which has far more implications. You look more radiant, and experience fewer breakouts and a reduction in other signs of aging like wrinkles and dark circles under the eyes.
This same intelligence within is actively at work within, trying to bring about the flexibility to maintain the posture and to better it.
The practice of asanas is not about the difficulty of the asana—but about difficulty period. Life is a stream of action and response, and if this same inner intelligence is fully empowered, perception and response will flow smoothly. The yogi does not seek expertise in the asana but self-mastery through intelligent asana practice where he directly sees the inner intelligence at work, doing the asana, and learns to follow its lead. Pranayama practices helps to maintain circulatory health, and often, since you are filling the body with energy that doesn’t involve caloric intake, you live longer as well.
If you are doing the asana intelligently, without trying to get into it like the image you’ve seen, you will quickly realize when you can extend yourself further and how long you can hold the posture before a signal is sent and received. The inner intelligence does not respond to thought as it is the ego's creation and sustained by it. Difficulty is the resistance felt by the interference of the ego with the reality of what actually is or the situation right now.
Once you add a healthy diet, you will look years younger than your friends who don’t practice pranayama and yoga. There is scientific evidence that a restricted caloric intake can lengthen life expectancy. If you add asana like shirsasana (headstand) or other inversions, this effect multiples significantly.
Now – if I tell you to fix something on that [electrical] distribution board, that thing won't waste time for two seconds if you touch it in the wrong way.
It works perfectly for pranayama breathing practice, for relaxation pose  supporting the spine. The Pranayama techniques provide how the life force can be activated and regulated in order to go beyond one’s limitations and obtain a higher state of energy and awareness.
So, next time you start a pranayama exercise, think about the energy that flows freely within your body, removing blockages creating a doorway to self-evolution.
But that [distribution board] is nothing compared to how dangerous it [inappropriate pranayama practice] is, because if you destroy that board you can replace it. But if you destroy these nerves [spiritual nadis or pathways] it may ruin this whole birth. You can destroy them by your carelessness in two seconds [Swamiji clicks his fingers to demonstrate]. Swamiji's analogy was putting a very high voltage through wires not designed to carry such power.

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