Intro to Pranayama Training Course

“When the breath wanders the mind is also unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still and the yogi achieves long life.” – Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Excerpt from the Intro to Pranayama training course:

My Story

I started practicing pranayama ten years ago. I spent two years studying the techniques and theories. Before then, I’d received a very brief introduction to pranayama through drop-in yoga classes. The intricate breathing practices were interesting, but I was much more attracted to the physical practice of yoga.

When I decided to become a yoga teacher I started learning basic pranayama techniques. Honestly, I didn’t want to do it! I didn’t have much patience and foolishly thought it was too easy for me.

The truth was that the idea of meditation was a little terrifying. I had been working with an anxiety disorder and the suggestion to sit quietly with my own mind seemed impossible.

[Recommended Reading: Up to 67% of People Would Rather Receive an Electric Shock than Meditate]

There’s a saying in yoga: That which you resist is the thing you need the most.

Hindsight being 20-20, pranayama was exactly what I needed. As a kid I was diagnosed with asthma, so my lungs were already weak. A solid pranayama practice would have helped immensely. But my ego was getting in the way of my ability to take care of myself…

My yoga teacher could see that I wasn’t breathing properly. He insisted that I learn the basic techniques. I went on learn the more advanced techniques and over time the theories began to take root. Eventually, I began to experience the more profound, subtle effects of pranayama.

What did I learn?

Pranayama training gave me a great appreciation for internal yoga practices. I also respect the many health benefits of asana practice. Americans have explored this facet of the yoga diamond extensively, due to our appreciation of the athleticism of the human body.

But I will say this…

If you never go beyond the physical practice of yoga you are shortchanging yourself.

The best analogy I can offer is:

If you take a bunch of vegetables, cut them up and put them into a pot, pour water over them but never turn on the stove… and somehow, you’re expecting that it will transform into soup.

Obviously, that’s never going to happen.

The way to light the fire of yoga practice is through comprehensive application and cultivation of the internal practices. It’s absolutely essential to have a well-rounded understanding of all of the branches of yoga in order to make real progress.

There’s a popular misconception that yoga can be anything to anyone, which is simply not true. Not in the traditional sense of what yoga is – a path to Self-realization and union with the divine.

So let’s begin…

For more information please visit: Personal Yoga: Intro to Pranayama Training Course

 

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Asteya: Yoga’s Answer to Hungry Ghost Syndrome

I met a hungry ghost at a dinner party. I know the type, but had never met one who was so far gone. We had an eye opening conversation that got me thinking.

The concept of hungry ghosts comes from Chinese Buddhism, Taoism and Chinese folklore. Hungry ghosts are lost souls, often depicted as having long, thin necks and huge swollen abdomens. According to tradition, evil deeds such as killing, stealing and sexual misconduct lead to becoming a hungry ghost.

“Defined by a fusion of rage and desire, tormented by unfulfilled cravings and insatiably demanding impossible satisfactions, hungry ghosts are condemned to inhabit shadowy and dismal places in the realm of the living. Their specific hunger varies according to their past karma and the sins they are atoning for. Some can eat but find it impossible to find food or drink. Others may find food and drink, but have pinhole mouths and cannot swallow. For others, food bursts into flames or rots even as they devour it.” – Hungry Ghosts: their History and Origin

This person was a living embodiment of the hungry ghost archetype. I soon realized that I was talking to a black hole of self-despair. I tried helping her but after a few attempts she became hostile so I let it go…

At the end of the night she had a flashback to a past trauma (poverty and starvation). She kept repeating:

“I was so hungry.”

One way she chose to deal with this was by directing her anger at the wealthy class. People she had never met or had any direct contact with. In her mind taxation was the solution to wealth inequality. She admitted that she lives beyond her means and has significant debt.

The interaction left me feeling drained and unsettled. One way I handle troubling situations is through research and contemplation (Jnana Yoga). My reflections led me back to the third Yama of Ashtanga Yoga: Asteya.

The Yamas are the universal ethical practices of yoga. Paired with the Niyamas (observances) these moral restraints form the foundation of Patanjali’s eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga.

Asteya means non-stealing. One could say that stealing is a response to a sense of powerlessness which stems from feelings of not being enough.

In this context, stealing extends beyond more obvious forms of theft (examples: pick pocketing, burglary, etc.). Stealing may also include:

  • Other people’s ideas
  • Disregarding personal boundaries
  • Having an envious state of mind
  • Taking up a person’s time or attention
  • Energy (succubi/incubi)
One thing we do know is this: many people who experience interactions with psychopaths and narcissists report feeling ‘drained; and confused and often subsequently experience deteriorating health. – The Psychopath: The Mask of Sanity

She had what I would call a hungry ghost syndrome. Somewhere along the way these people lose their connection to their personal power. It may be a result of abuse, resulting in any number of dependencies.

Asteya is a reminder that we are enough. Learning how to cultivate personal power is an excellent way to reverse hungry ghost syndrome. Building our energy reserves allows us to feel balanced, strong and healthy when we go out in the world.

Some ways to do this include: meditation, taking care of your body, self-love, and alone time. In my Intro to Pranayama course I teach people how to access their own complete, full source of energy.

Final thought from the Yoga Sutras:

Once non-stealing has been permanently established, all riches will be available.

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