The Subtle Dimension
Hatha yoga awakens one’s physical, energetic and psychic higher potentials. We call them siddhis (astral and psychic skills). They happen as the silent areas of the brain awaken. However, they are not the end goal. They provide a focal point for our minds to rest on during meditation (sadhana). The destination waiting for us is the Absolute Spirit within.
Shatkarma, pranayama, bandha and mudra are powerful in opening the dormant channels and centres in the body and the brain. At first, they are learnt consciously under the guidance of a practical teacher. However, they can also occur spontaneously, especially during deep meditative and restorative states. For example, in the early hours of the morning when both nostrils are open, spontaneous pranayama can easily occur. Without conscious effort, the breath becomes so light and flowing that we can feel an organic suspension of our awareness.
Try this simple exercise. Sit right after waking up, either cross-legged or on a chair with back support. Then, without delay close your right nostril with your right thumb. Breathe naturally through your left. Using your right ring finger, block your left nostril and exhale through the right nostril. Keeping your right nostril open, inhale fully again. Block your right nostril, then exhale through your left nostril. Do this for a few more rounds. This is the nadi shodhana (without retention).
If you had a restful sleep, you should feel that both nostrils are equal in absorbing and releasing the breath. A slight difference may occur. But overall, when the body is well-rested, the inner sensation is soothing. On the other hand, if you had restless and inadequate sleep, one nostril (or both nostrils) would feel stuck and heavy. Our sense of balance is poor, our eyes blurry, and our taste and smell are rancid and musty.
Sleep and Dreams
Consciousness is eternal. The dwelling place of Consciousness, the mind, actually never sleeps. It just goes through various stages of activity and inactivity. The subconscious mind (Self) survives dead and will go through a period of inactivity. It will awaken again in a new body at the right time and place. This new life will begin from where it left off the last time so it can continue its spiritual journey.
Consciousness is not awareness. During sleep, our deep mind manifests randomly. Various spontaneous gestures which happen during sleep are also spontaneous mudra. Rapid Eye Movement, tongue and mouth sensitivity and dreaming are just a few examples.
Sleep and Doshas
A balanced constitution of doshas in our system is essential for our health and well-being. In a nutshell, doshas are the by-product of the pranic force circulating in the body as it interacts with the subtle five elements. They make up our biological composition as well as the basis for life and energy in all that is created. The three doshas are kapha (water, earth and form), pita (fire and light) and vata (air and energy ). They are the basis of all physiological. mental, astral and spiritual manifestations in and around us.
Differences in personality types and human tendencies (samskaras) are closely related to the predominant dosha circulating in one’s body and psyche. It is natural for one or two doshas to dominate.
Various health issues, however, may arise if one of them become too active and excessive. Balancing the doshas is a holistic process that includes supportive diet and lifestyle, reduction of mental stress, proper breathing and pranayamas, regular exercise, meditation and adequate sleep.
Doshas fluctuate depending on activity and inactivity. During wakeful states and when the body and brain are actively working, the kapha and pita are the most dominant. At night, the vata predominates as the autonomic functions slow down. During deep sleep and meditation, the level of doshas in our bodies decreases to the baseline.
During deep sleep, the brain releases delta brainwaves. Cell repair and rejuvenation happen. It releases trapped tendencies and drains psychic stress. The autonomic functions significantly slow down, and the kundalini (subconscious and mental energy) surfaces to nourish and heal the body, mind and spirit.
Guided Practice: OM
Increasing and Rejuvenating the Brain Energy (Soma)
Soma is the subtle force flowing within our physical, energetic, psychic and spiritual dimensions. It is the force behind our thoughts, actions, emotions and aspirations. Soma is our water element. The essence of the Soma is contained in the Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF). It is the life-giving fluid tha flows from the brain to the body through the spinal canal (Sushumna nadi). Soma is associated with gentleness, beauty, sweetness, radiance, calmness and peace. it is the moon energy – subdued and quiet.
The Soma, when it blends with the body energy (apana), assumes the nature of subtle fire we call the Agni. Hatha Yoga is one powerful technique for magnetising the soma of the body – so the light and the dark, the active and the inactive, hot and cold, positive and negative become one unified force – the kundalini. The kundalini rises where it activates the silent areas of the brain. The one who is dissolved in this absorption (samadhi) attains spiritual eternity.
Hatha Yoga tackles mostly the physical and energetic practices for increasing the prana in our soma. This should not be taken for granted. A strong and supple body as well as healthy breathing are the basis for a safe and meaningful spiritual awakening. Some may dispute this, but fighting the mind without solving the practical issues first could lead to conflict. The state of our physical and energetic anatomy reflects the condition of our minds. When the body is strong, the mind is strong. A weak body cannot support a strong mind.
Awakening the silent mental energy depends on physical and energetic discipline. Without this preparatory stage, activating the kundalini can easily get out of hand. A safe awakening depends on our ability to control our physical senses through discipline, healthy diet, reduction of mental stress, charity and service, love and compassion and devotion to our supreme source.
Aside from the asana and pranayama, the following help the overall health of our vital tissues and fluids.
- Foods that help increase some in our bodily fluids and tissues include fruits, nuts, dairy, root vegetables. Combined with an ample amount of protein and fats, this diet promotes the health of ojas and the ovum.
- A serving of energising drink or herb (coffee, tea) in the morning for increasing mental alertness.
- No smoking and limitation of alcohol consumption.
- Activating the senses of sight, hearing, smell and creative power through being one with nature, sound meditation and reading scriptures.
- Relaxation of the vagus nerve to reduce mental stress. These include taking short breaks in between tasks, short yoga stretches, getting a pampering massage, splashing cold water onto face.
- Ample rest and sleep. I recommend between 7 and 9 hours of sleep and a short nap (15- 20 minutes) in the afternoon.
- Chanting, singing and dancing help equalise the flow of energy from the body to the brain and vice versa.
- Meditation (savasana, silence and stillness) increases the production of alpha and theta brainwaves. It aids in the rejuvenation of the neurons / brain cells.
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