From pranayama, extending our life force energy, through our senses and then where? We have to ask where did sensation, or feeling, start? Did it start now or when we were a happy single cell without a head, heart, hands? The history of us goes beyond our ability to perceive with the senses and the mind.
Stop Controlling Your Breath: Controlling the breath was how I first discovered energy.
When it comes to the practice of yoga, most of us have heard the word “pranayama.” Breathing is how we often describe pranayama. When we extract the word, it appears as ‘prana’ (energy) and ‘ayama’ (to lengthen or extend). The word “prana” is also made up of two words: ‘pra’ and ‘na’ meaning ‘first or most basic unit’ and ‘measured energy.’ The etymology of pranayama has little to do with breathing and urges us toward sensation. If we alter the most basic unit from breath to sensation, pranayama would be the practices to lengthen self awareness through sensation.
When we change simple elemental factors (e.g. diet, exercise, sleep and creating a regular schedule around these parts of living) our energy is in repair. Longevity exists in the body energy level throughout the day. We see positive mental and emotional changes in our perception and outlook. The nervous systems changes to accommodate these transitions into this less reactive state. We feel better! Feeling is the sensation. That shift is un-measurable, though we attribute it to positive qualities. People who practice yogasana (postures) report experiencing these shifts within a short period of time.
Divine Sight: As a child, I would lie in my bed and follow my breath. I would watch spirit float out of my body.
The methods in which we use to create change can also be the same techniques that confine us. If the diet is too controlled, sleep, etc., we lose the sense of wonder and letting go. My generation grew up on the cutting edge of many underground movements. The common theme in these collectives had little to do with what it looked like but what it felt like. The creative drive in full expression was observing each other letting it go! There was a super vision in letting go–a divine sight! No matter how we slice it, yoga is about the mind. Even if we lead with the heart or heart-centered practices, the mind is what can cut that connection. My first guru, Dharma Mittra, used to give satsang on how we all have clean diets but still think negative thoughts. These thoughts contaminate the system, no matter how clean the diet. I’ve once heard a yogi described as one who is even-minded. This idea does not push the fantasy of a visionary or force one to be super human or holy but to work with the mind (and heart) and create evenness.
If we turn to scriptures, the path of understanding is through the body (hatha) to get to the mind (raja). Regardless, when we allow practice to take a hold of us, the super power doesn’t come from the advancement of the yoga or meditative tool. Our progress is from the instrument into something new. Work on this with new eyes, into the world and self-discovery! From pranayama, extending our life force energy, through our senses and then where? We have to ask where sensation, or feeling, start? Did it start now or when we were a happy single cell without a head, heart, hands? The history of us goes beyond our ability to perceive with the senses and the mind. The practices we use, the practice we take, the yoga journey we have, takes us beyond the things in which we do. From spirit, I could see myself lying. I could feel my body and the part of me floating above, in a shared awareness.
Pantanjali’s most quoted sutra is: “yoga schitta vritti nirodaha.” Swami Vivekananda translates the sutra to: “Yoga is the restraining the mind-stuff (chitta) from taking various form (vrttis).” In yoga circles, training programs, and classrooms, this passage is thrown around. While, rarely a conversation occurs on what happens in this reality. By using a method of control it leads to an absorbed state. Patanjali does explain this level of concentration. The application without modification, will allow the seer (the energy of the one who uses the technique) to peer into the self (nature or natural existence) without the two being crossed.
In short, through concentration we can inhabit both spirit and form! Yes, we go beyond sense reality into the internal witness. This fold is the stepping-stone toward meditation. It may be separated by a hair (in our casual conversation about the states of awareness) but is colossal in attainment. Although we may not be in a state of deep meditation, deep concentration creates a reality. One where we can see infinite and finite, hand-in-hand, ushering us to explore.
Will Duprey is an international yoga educator and is known for effortlessly combining classical theory and storytelling with contemporary yoga methods. With over 17 years of teaching and consulting on yoga teacher trainings globally, his unique mentorship program provides deep knowledge and balance among different styles of yoga. Hathavidya is his personal approach to teaching — starting with the individual practice (sadhana), energy (pranayama) and intuitive framework — classical hatha yoga. Will is a contributing writer to publications such as: Elena Brower’s teach.yoga, Kino MacGregor’s OmStars and is a guest columnist for YogaLife Magazine Malaysia. He lives between Vermont and Malaysia. This article was updated from Routine Practice published in October 2018 by Will Duprey.