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RE: Breathing Exercises (Doss)

Jul 01, 1996 05:21 PM
by Jim Meier

Hi Doss --

Ernest Wood's CONCENTRATION was one of my "early favorites" of T literature;
which book of his did you get the quotation from?

I had a feeling you'd get several quick responses to your post along the
"dangerous/not dangerous" line, sort of like what happened when an earlier
thread on meditation changed over to a discussion on psychism... so here's
my two cents' worth on breathing exercises:

Pranayama (or Breathing Exercises) takes the individual from strictly
theoretical knowledge/booklearning into practical occultism.  Yoga,
Pranayama, the Path, "process", "theosophy" -- these are all terms that seem
to start empassioned arguments regarding definition and meaning on theos-l,
so it is not surprising that there is a strong difference of opinon on this

First off, Pranayama is defined by Patanjali in his YOGA SUTRAS as the
fourth of the eight parts of the self-discipline of yoga: 1) Restraints 2)
Observances 3)Posture 4) Regulation of Breath 5) Abstraction 6)
Concentration 7)Contemplation 8) Samadhi [IK Taimni's translation, THE
SCIENCE OF YOGA].  The Regulation of the Breath is described *only* after
the preliminary purification work has been done: Restraints of Harmlessness,
Truthfulness, Non-Theft, Sexual Continence and Non-Acquisitiveness;
Observances of Purity/Cleanliness, Contentment, Aspiration, study of Self
and Devotion to the Ideal.  Only *after* these are established in the life
of the aspirant -- along with Asana, poise or right balance -- is is proper
to consider breathing exercises.

And why is this?  It is precisely because of the *effect* of Pranayama on
the physical vehicle (the true physical vehicle, which is the etheric or
energy body).  Pranayama is one of the examples in occultism where it is so
easy to mistake the symbol for the substance: "regulation of the breath" is
really just a clumsy way of saying in English "regulation of Prana" -- not
the same thing at all.  The lungs -- and the physical plane breath -- are
the SYMBOL of the underlying reality, which is the conscious manipulation of
energy/force.  So what happens with an increase in energy?  The answer to
that depends entirely upon the status of the energy centers of the
individual and the *habitual patterns of energy distribution*, which is why
the emphasis on the beginning is placed on elimination of "vice" from the
personality: most of us have enough problems to deal with in our lower
natures without artificially stimulating them through premature practice of
Pranayama. In a nutshell, it is only "safe" to deal with Pranayama when the
centers below the diaphragm are relatively quiescent, and the aspirant
*habitually* deals with energy flow through the centers above the diaphragm. 

It is important to differentiate between "deep and calm breathing" to quiet
the bodies before meditation and the specific
inhalation/exhalation/interlude training that is true Pranayama.  Those
latter exercises have definite effects, because of definite changes in
patterns of energy distribution.  That's cause & effect, the practical
definition of karma.  While is true that, as someone earlier said, "Wood's
fear does not make it so," it is conversely true that none of us can evade
effects that result from causes set in motion.  That's not "fear", and I
personally could not care less whether anyone spends the rest of his days
tying his tongue in knots to close the khecari mudra in an attempt to
shortcut the Path.  There are risks to playing with fire, but we each make
our decisions about what is proper practice.  There are a number of texts
that have been translated as well as such classics as Arthur Avalon's
SERPENT FIRE to fire the imagination.  Hans-Ulrich Rieker's THE YOGA OF
LIGHT (ISBN number 0-913922007-2) is a translation of the Hatha Yoga
Pradipika, one of the Pranayama classic texts.  I certainly wouldn't
recommend anyone to start serious breathing exercises without personal
instruction from someone experienced.  Doss asked for "examples of personal
experience" with breathing exercises; in an earlier discussion with Jerry S.
where we sidetracked into "the dangers of unwise action", I had in mind an
acquaintance 20 or so years ago who burned out from a variety of causes, but
I suspect that his extensive breathing exercises played a part.  At least,
he thought at the time that they did.

Doss quoted E. Wood as saying,
"I felt that I needed special powers, since ordinary ones seemed of little
use in life unless conjoined by some chance with special opportunities."  
This is where Ernest starts to lose focus, IMO.  The catch-22 of "special
powers" is that we don't get them until we need them, and we won't need them
until we have exhausted the possibilities with the mundane senses.  That
"the ordinary ones seemed of little use" showed a lack of vision, at least
on the day he was writing that paragraph.  One the whole, though, I like his

Anyway, that's my two cent's worth.


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