Transforming Emotions into Devotions

Awakening of the Subtle Body

“Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat.
My shoulder is against yours.
You will not find me in stupas, not in Indian shrine rooms,
nor in synagogues, nor in cathedrals:
not in masses, nor kirtans, not in legs winding around
your own neck, nor in eating nothing but vegetables.
When you really look for me, you will see me instantly
you will find me in the tiniest house of time.
Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?
He is the breath inside the breath.” The Kabir Book”, versions by Robert Bly

When I first read this poem, it resonated deep within me as innate truth. Kabirs simplicity reflects knowledge redolent with wisdom. There is a difference between knowledge that is memorised (static), knowledge that is experienced (changing or evolving) and knowledge, which is inherently innate essence (all-pervading). Kabirs words struck the cord of resonance within me, a living truth that was there always and just awakened. It is this type of knowledge that sheds light on consciousness; enkindles a heart-felt realization and enlivens every part of your spiritual being.

What is this truth that resonates from deep within and yet is difficult to express in simple words?

Kabir’s poem of few words strung together, like lustrous pearls of an exquisite reality, illumines the truth of an expansive interconnectedness. It reveals a questioning of one’s belief systems, in order to reveal one’s personal belonging from within. He invites us to explore a total being experience through the stream of our breath; the bridge of connection between physical and subtle matter of who we are reveals the secrets that lies beneath the surface of all of our perceptions and beliefs.

Within my sadhana of yoga, I became aware that words; spoken or written, symbols, religion, philosophy remained at the surface level of intellect until it could be experienced from the core (heart) of who I really am. In Kabirs poem I was able to connect through the heart to experience these simple yet profound words and transpose it’s essence into my practice of yoga. Kabir imparts one of the most valuable keys in unlocking the inner pearls of wisdom. And that is through the observation of the breath. Within a devotional practice upon the breath we can come to understand the meaning of the ‘true self,’ bridging the unconscious with the conscious, embracing ‘unity in diversity’ by immersing oneself in the experience of ‘the breath inside the breath’.

In over 15 years of practicing yoga, attention to body, breath awareness helped to cultivate heart-felt, inner experiences. It also provoked me to address and chip away at the barriers of habitual and conditioned responses and face the challenges of the emotional body. Eventually Reactions became replaced by Action into holding concentration on the breath; a steady silent breath merging with mind stream become a potent force circulating deep within. In surrendering and acceptance of self - love-, the essence of truth in reality emerged and became my experience. One pointed focus of breath, transpired into the all-pervading awareness of Prana, or Kundalini Shakti (divine life-force,) and within that physical experience the subtle body becomes a tangible reality.

One of the paths leading to the experience of Prana, ‘the breath inside the breath’ is to come to know the Five Vital Vayus (powers) of breath, prana) by integrating them into the body-mind focus of your practice. With directed focus and devoted intention on the vayus, mind can be absorbed into a ‘total being experience’ of “what is” each Vayu in its individual function but above all in its integrated function within the whole subtle dynamics that sustains life.

“The material body is living because the vayu forces are operating in its substance in an intrinsic manner; but they are also beyond the matter-energy field and in the substratum they function in a subtle organization-the immaterial subtle body- in which consciousness is held without material substance”.  “Laya Yoga”. by Shyam Sundar Goswami

Taking the Inner Journey
In my personal practice, devotion and focus on the five vayus of Prana, helps me understand the power that resides within each breath. By using specific Mudras (body and hand gestures) breath moves effortlessly into the area governed by each vayu. Each mudra initiates different mind states and determines breath quality. Alternatively, the breaths fluidity and depth is also just a reflection of the present state of mind. In this experiential state the process begins by merging mind with the pulsation of breath. I take the time and intention to honour and come into relationship with each vayu, the associated elements and the corresponding symbology of the chakras.

As each power of prana is responsible for the various functions of the psychophysical body we are able to delve into the deepest recesses of our being, witnessing our impressions with acceptance and love of ‘what is’ arising. It is at this point we can begin to dissolve the many layers and barriers of mind (ego) that obstruct truth. With each surrender of self to what is in front of us a new realization takes place and renewed energy (prana) is free to flow. Specific pranayama techniques aid in harnessing and refining vayu energy, leaving you in a state of concentrated mind poise ‘in which consciousness without material substance arises’.

‘In the practice of pranayama, we make the breath very long. In this way, the elements of fire and water are brought together, and this contact of fire and water in the body, with help of the element of air, releases a new energy or Kundalini Sakti and this is the energy of prana’ BKS Iyengar “The Tree of Yoga.”

It is from the Energy Center Samana, that we experience the integration of all the five vayus and with devotion begins to connect consciousness with the subtle (astral) body experience. Through the practice of pranayama, honouring samana (fire) balances and transforms the pulsation of life in our body; the inhalation that is prana (air) and the exhalation that is apana (water), energetically converge to equalize at samana. In so doing we get to know who we really are from our inner core of being, (solar plexus, or samana) 

The Five Vayus (apana, prana, samana, vyana and udana) From the microcosm of our bodies to the macrocosm of the universe’s manifested reality ,the five vayus are ‘nature’s subtle or astral movements of life-force that informs and enlivens matter’. Within the microcosm of our bodies these five movements of prana can be accessed via mind-breath consciousness within the organic body relaying our experience via the five senses.  From our ‘inner core of being’ (solar plexus or samana vayu) mind - breath focus is integrated to initiate the subtle body matrix of prana.

Samana Vayu (sense association is sight)
Samana is the centering and balancing vayu of all the vital powers of Prana. In the body it corresponds and is accessed via the navel. Samana’s dominion is in the area of the solar plexus and rules the process of digestion, from the intake of food to the sensory experiences of mind. The food we eat, fuels the body once it is broken down, assimilated and absorbed through this digestive power. The power of samana is ‘retention and contraction’. As we digest food it is fuelled into energy. As we breathe into the lungs, oxygen is assimilated, absorbed and retained in the tissues of the lungs. The element of fire, or heat, (agni,) participates in the process and initiates the other elements into action. The transformative force of fire thus enkindles fire’s subtle essence of energy, electricity and light (tejas).

Vyana Vayu (sense association is touch)
Vyanatakes the retained energy of Samana in the lungs tissues and expands the absorbed oxygen into the blood, which circulates to the rest of the body and keeps expanding beyond the skin. The power of Vyana is ‘retention and expansion’ throughout the entire body. Vyana’s dominion is in the heart area and rules the circulatory system through the element of air, (vayu).

Prana Vayu  (sense association is breath)
Prana is linked to the effortless inhalation of mind-breath fusion within the organic body, linking us to the receptive responses within.   The power of breath that is prana (inhalation) “the breath inside the breath “ enlivens all matter and propels innate body intelligence to consciousness. The dominion of Prana resides through all of the five elements, from the navel stem connecting to the Kandasthana* (earth & water) through to the Shiva Netra, the Third Eye (ether). It rules over the respiratory system, and the three main nadis (conduits of energy) Ida, Pingala and Shushumna originating from Kandasthana.*

Apana Vayu (sense association is smell & taste)
Apana is the downward moving energy from the navel with the coccyx extending further away from the Samana center. The power of Apana is in the exhalation. Apana’s dominion is from pubis to navel and rules over the elimination and reproductive systems, the seat of Kandasthana through the element of water (apas ) and the divine energy Kundalini Shakti in the root chakra. (the element of earth; prithvi) 

Udana Vayu (sense association is sound)
Udana is the upward moving energy where the spine extends from the Samana center to the top (cervical spine) and energy continues to the crown of the head. The power of Udana is also in the exhalation and is expressed through the vibration of sound (externally in speech, and inner sound, nada).  Udana’s dominion is in the throat and head and rules the nervous system through the element of ether or space (akasha).

Experiencing Integration
Integrating the experience of the Vital Vayus is a step towards facing oneself on a very sub conscious level. The subtle reflections arising seemed to break down barriers of resistance and expand consciousness. For me mindful observation of the vayus within the organic body became the portal leading to the understanding of the subtle bodies*. I felt lighter in the physical body and stronger in the energetic. Mind stream consciousness, acutely aware and able to sense beyond the gross realms of matter towards the subtle astral realms of the unseen, another dimension of reality.

‘Through samyama (concentrated meditation) on the navel wheel, one obtains knowledge of the constitution of the body’
Vibutthi Pada Patanjali Yoga Sutras, v. 30 

The Energy Center Samana is contacted via the navel by gently contracting it back towards the spine as you breathe (effortlessly) in and out. Apart from the functions samanas function of digesting food it also digests emotions and mental thoughts maintaining and equalizing energy distribution in the body. Holding mind-breath focus turned inwards toward this center begins to also link experience to innate wisdom. From the navel center the movement of energy in the form of heat can be felt along the spine as a rhythmic pulsation of life, your life. This is the moment of recognizing the connection of the power source within. We become aware of our capabilities and limitations of the physical body and mind is able to digest the ancient wisdoms of yoga, ‘The seat of mind rests in the area of heart and lungs, the seat of fear rests in the area of kidneys and genital and the seat of emotions rests in the area of liver and spleen’

The inhalation (breath), with the navel lock in place contacts prana via the organs and extends the spine from the center, (lower lumber, and fire element), in two opposing directions (coccyx-earth to medulla oblongata- ether). 

Thus the exhalation, descending power of apana, and upward power of udana, grounds the spine from earth (dense reality) and extends upward to ether (space or light reality).

The Vyana power expands the contracting energy of samana, into the limbs of the body and beyond the skin (auric field). When our central core of being becomes strengthened so too will our innate wisdom arise to absorb the truth in reality.

Accordingly, purification of the mind-emotional states can be accessed by meditation through the corresponding element, bhutta shuddi, vayu and chakra connection. Refining the quality of breath and slowing it down will give birth to the ‘silent breath’ and eventually lead to natural and longer states of kumbahka (retention of breath). The powers of prana ultimately lead to a deeper awareness of the alchemical powers of pranayama and the transmutation of matter (gross body) into spirit (subtle body).

Devotion, intention and focus on breath reveals the experience of right knowledge, right action, digests intellect within the body’s organism and disseminates the innate truth or wisdom of ‘what is’.

Kabir’s realization of ‘what is god ‘alerts us to embrace the experiences of who we really are through the pulsation of life itself.

Prana Shakti, ‘the breath inside the breath’, fathoms the depths of ones being and brings about the process of evolutionary change within consciousness so that one’s experience, ultimately merges with the blissful recognition of the Divine in all things. Namaste.                                           

*chakas – spiral wheels of energy fields within the subtle spine

*nadis – ‘nadis are not physical channels but subtle radiation lines created by the motional vayu-forces’
Ref: Syam Sundar Goswami

*kandasthana – the root of all nadis is nine fingerbreadths above the muladhara chakra and the center is in the navel. The nadis leave kandhastana horizontally and vertically. Ref: Hiroshi Motoyama

*tanmatra – essence of the elements or inner sensory potentials of sound, touch smell, sight, taste, through heightened perception.

*tattwas – principals of existence from the microcosm to macrocosmic.

*chitta nadi – mind stream consciousness circulating between the heart, throat and head.