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Primary Kundalini Yoga Pranayamas

Long Deep Breathing and Breath of Fire and the Application of Locks

We practice KY exercises 1 to 5 minutes and rest 1 to 5 minutes between. The duration of the exercises and kriyas opens the system to a fuller extent, but once open, the release of energy (prana) in the form of glandular secretions and bio-energy requires 3 to 5 minutes to fully circulate throughout the body field. This is to say that relaxation ate the KY exercise and set is often as important to experience the full benefit of a KY exercise as the active part.

The most important aspect of mast KY exercises is the breathing - long deep breathing (LDB) and breath of fire (BF), and their variations.

Long deep breathing:

You might want to practice LDB before starting every set of KY exercises.

As a first exercise, sit with legs crossed and wrists against the knees, then focus on expanding the diaphragm in the abdominal area and solar plexus area as you start to inhale. At the same time apply an inward pressure to your knees from your wrists to cause the downward focused breath to expand into your chest area as your back begins to arch forward with the continued inhalation. Focus on the expanding diaphragm from the bottom up to the top as the air fills the lungs. Then exhale all the breath out. Do 5 or 6 breaths like this, then inhale and hold the breath, then exhale and relax.

As a second exercise, put your palms on your abdominal area and sniff air in through the nostrils focusing the air into the abdominal area of the distending diaphragm. Then put your palms on your ribcage below your chest and take a second downward sniff of air in filling the middle area of your lungs as the diaphragm distends further. Then put your palms on the upper part of the chest and take a last sniff of air in filling the lungs entirely as you feel the diaphragm distending to its top. Then with a downward motion of your palms to the abdominal area exhale all the breath out. Take several LDB breaths in this manner. Then on the last inhale hold the breath, then exhale and relax.

The application of locks:

Before starting breath of fire, you should practice the use of the locks, which are to be applied after most KY exercises.

The first lock is the root lock (mool bhand) "MB". This is done by pulling up on the anus and sex organs and pulling in on the navel. The point where these meet is called the Kandal, which is located between the navel and 4th vertebra, a high voltage area that regulates the prana throughout the body field.

The reason for applying MB at the end of a KY exercise is that the following: The areas related to each posture or movement in a KY exercise are brought under pressure, which causes blood to saturate those areas. When the proper breath is applied, especially when the lower part of the lungs, where most of the blood sacks are concentrated, are filled with air, the blood circulating into these areas becomes supercharged resulting in the nerves firing and the capillaries of the related glands and organs opening, discharging toxins into the blood stream and lymphs and then building a charge in the cells so that the organs and glands begin to come up to their normal voltage and build a charge, much like batteries. When you inhale and hold the breath, energy is released and has a tendency to rush down and out of the body. In order to stop this downward flow of prana (apana), we pull the MB, which brings the apana up to the Kandal area. This Kandal is also the area that martial artists and Taoists call the chi.

The Kandal then circulates this energy into the spinal cord. You can notice this, because as you pull MB, you also feel the tightening along the lower part of your spine in the sacral squeezing upwards. Naturally the spinal cord can carry considerable voltage, so that in the beginning you may not notice it. But after some time you will, as the sensation begins to become hot, then electric, etc.

We then practice the neck lock (jalandara bhand), which is the simple pulling back and in of the chin. Not down or up or forcing (cramming) down, but straight back, like you would see with a soldier coming to attention.

The reason for practicing the neck lock as well as MB is that as energy is moving up the spine, there is a tendency for tension in the shoulders to block the upward flow causing the energy to be released forwards, where the nerves are weaker and unable to carry higher levels of voltage. With neck lock, you will feel that the spine straightens and opens and the tension is completely by-passed allowing the movement of the energy to flow upwards freely and easily.

Now that you have these locks in mind, you should practice a few more LDB breaths as explained in the first exercise, then inhale hold and pull these locks and feel how the energy moves freely and effortlessly.

Breath of fire:

As with LDB, breath of fire "BF" is generally done by breathing through the nostrils.

Often people mistaken BF for bastrika, which is a shallow rapid even breathing in and out through the nostrils. Others mistaken BF for Kapalabati, which is a type of breathing where you forcefully exhale contracting the ribs and while pulling the navel back towards the spine (usually along with MB), then relaxing the lungs and letting the air flow back in naturally, as one breath which is repeated forcefully for one to several minutes and has its own special benefits in KY practice.

BF is also not an abdominal pumping where you distend and contract the abdomen or even the abdomen with the solar plexus to rapidly pump that area.

Let's consider BF as an extension of LDB, where the diaphragm is used as one side of a bellows, i.e., 2 boards with a canvas or leather sack and a hole for air at one end. So too, the full length of the diaphragm makes up one side of that bellows, not just the lower end (abdominal and solar plexus), or the middle (ribcage) or upper end.

As with a bellows, if the air is shallow the fire before you will hardly ignite, but when the pumping is done powerfully and rapidly, you will see the fire become larger and gathering greater intensity.

So now we come to the practice of how to get into breath of fire.

Start by taking a powerful long deep breath, as the inhaling practice in LDB, focusing the air downward, while arching the spine and ribcage forwards to fill in the air throughout the lungs, then immediately contracting the breath out forcing the navel to the spine. Then take another breath, but this time without inhaling so completely nor exhaling so completely. Then gradually speed up and reduce the fullness of the breath until you reach a natural rapid yet powerful rhythm, where the full length of the diaphragm is expanding and contracting, just like the full length of the board used for the thrusting of air in and out of a bellows. You might liken this BF exercise to a steam engine locomotive, where the first few chugs bring power to the wheels, but after the power is built up the wheels seem to turn effortlessly. After a few minutes inhale deeply, hold the breath, pull MB, arch the lower spine forwards, bring the chin in (neck lock) and let the energy circulate upwards.

Practicing BF in any posture or movement you will feel the whole body field brighten and the mind becoming clear.

The next exercise, which completes the practicing of BF, is to sit cross-legged with the spine straight and body and shoulders relaxed. Then start a very shallow rapid breath where you just feel the breath just at your nostrils. At the same time watch all the way along the length of the diaphragm the even and complete rapid inwards and outwards rhythm. Once you feel relaxed in this inhale a bit deeper and work with the pumping of the breath inwards and outwards rapidly with that fuller breath. Again watch the full length of the diaphragm, while maintaining the abdomen, the ribcage and shoulders and spine relaxed. Once this feels natural and the body feels relaxed and loose, take again a deeper breath and work with the pumping of that breath continuing gradually with increasing increments of deeper fuller breaths in this manner until again you have a very powerful and rapid breath called the breath of fire. Then inhale hold the breath, pull MB, arch the lower spine forwards, bring the chin in and feel the easy flow of energy consolidating in the Kandal and flowing to the spine and upwards and out the top of the head (crown).

Now, you are ready to put your palms together at your chest (sternum) inhale and chant Ong Namo (in the Name of the Creator) in one breath, then take another breath and chant Guru Dev Namo (in the Name of that inner divinity {"Dev" pronounced day with a slightly higher tone} that takes me from darkness to light). Once the nerves are charged from the practice of LDB an BF, the body field will vibrate to the sound of the opening chant.

If you start your KY sets like this, then you will have the recollection to do the breathing and locks correctly throughout the KY exercises. If you relax between the KY exercises a the minimal of half the time for each exercise with 10 to 15 minutes at the end to let the energy and glandular secretions entirely circulate, then very soon you will feel intermittently (after the earlier feelings of brightness coupled with numbness and fatigue as toxins come into the blood stream and lymphs - drink plenty of water) - coolness, which is the nerves purifying; heat, which is the organs and centers charging, with the nerves carrying greater voltage between, then electricity and then an etheric sensation within and throughout the body field so that gradually the distinction between in and out fades.

Also, remember that the power of a meditation is not in the meditation itself, but in the meditator. The part that sees and hears is the consciousness we call "I." In any practice of any meditation hold (isolate) the seer. Then you will feel the all-pervasive Universal Consciousness (Parbrahm Akal).

Kundalini is another word for Awareness, i.e., the Awareness of God, felt as That single "I," the True Name, which illumines the body and mind (Sat Nam) from the Self-Effulgent Pranic Center or Cavity in the Heart, located 2 digits to the right of the sternum in the pacemaker that gives the pulse to the physical heart and the pulsation of "I" throughout the body mind field, that place where the sense of "I" is realized to be the all-pervasive Being Consciousness

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