Sushumna Kriya Pranayama

Sushumna Kriya is described here for those participating in Yoga Mentoring with Radhika-ji.

Sushumna Kriya is an especially fine practice and when practiced daily over a long period of time, leads to deep meditation. 

Before you start Sushumna Kriya you must have already established:

  1. natural and effortless diaphragmatic breathing
  2. even or equal breath, that is inhalation is equal to exhalation
  3. silent breathing, without noise
  4. smooth breathing, without jerkiness 
  5. eliminating extended pauses between inhalation and exhalation
  6. establishing the elongated breath, increasing the length of inhalation as well as exhalation

In this Sushumna Kriya the focus is on point 7. beginning to understand, experience and eventually attain mastery over prana itself.

In his Lectures on Saundaryalahiri, Swami Rama says, "Breathing exercises are different. They are superficial. They are important, but they are superficial. They are not called pranayama. They prepare you to do pranayama.  Pranayama are the deeper exercises.  They can be done mentally.Through pranayama you can apply sushumna; through breathing you cannot. That's the difference.Through pranayama you can have kumbhaka for long time. A human being has immense potentials - no limit."

How to practice Sushumna Kriya

Sit with the head, neck and trunk in a straight line. Sit in your chosen meditative posture and do this practice silently. You may sit in: 

  • Maitri Asana - the Friendship pose 
  • Sukhasana - the Easy Pose 
  • Svastikasana - the Auspicious Pose or 
  • Siddhasana - the Accomplished Pose

Simple Sushumna Kriya

Exhale as though your are exhaling to the base of the spine. Inhale as though you are breathing from the base of the spine to the crown of the head, without creating any disturbances in the breath. 

Observe your mind and see how many times it becomes distracted. The moment the mind is distracted, you will find that there is a slight jerk or an irregularity in the breath. During this practice it is recommended that you continue the gentle flow of breath without jerks, noise, shallowness or extended pauses. 

Simple Sushumna Kriya

As your breath becomes smooth and silent and you may have removed the extended pauses between breaths, you may notice that there is still a slight pause after every inhalation or exhalation. At this stage you can learn to eliminate the pause entirely. To do so, we must learn to practice Sushumna Kriya without pause.

 Sushumna Kriya with Soham

Exhale as though your are exhaling to the base of the spine, listening to the sound "Ham". Inhale as though you are breathing from the base of the spine to the crown of the head, listening to the sound "So". 

Sushumna Kriya with Soham

The choice of the words "listening to" the sound of the mantra is neither accidental nor an error. Listening is a passive sense of cognition and not an active sense organ like speech. Some traditions encourage the active repetitiion of the mantra as part of the Sushumna Kriya. While this may be useful for some or for a period of time, the practice of listening to the mantra is a finer practice. 

Sushumna Kriya without Pause

Swami Rama says in his Lectures on Saundarya-lahiri, "Breath and mind, when they are perfectly coordinated, and the practice is accomplished, then they function this way. There is no pause at all. (Drawing an oval on the blackboard) Pause means killer. Pause means death.  It means you have annihilated death when you have done breathing like this. (pointing to oval on blackboard) Then past, present, and future become one and the same." 

Sushumna Kriya with Oval Breath

 

Sushumna Kriya without Pause is finer than Simple Sushumna Kriya. You might notice something odd, when you practice Sushumna Kriya without Pause for a longer period of time,  the many other separate breathing and pranayama practices seem to converge together and seem to become one!

This is a sign of great progress. 

Our YouTube Channel THATfirst English has many clips arranged topic-wise in the playlist. Topics include: Samaya Srividya, Pranayama, Self-Enquiry, Schools of Tantra, and many more. Subscribe to the channel!

 

Allowing the light of Sushumna to emerge 

When you practice Sushumna Kriya effectively over a long and unbroken period of time, the light of sushumna emerges out of the darkness. This is not a mere visualization technique.

Some traditions practice the Sushumna Kriya with visualization of the Sushumna nadi. This may be useful but requires the use of active senses. A far deeper and finer practice is to allow the light of Sushumna nadi to emerge forward spontaneously and naturally. For this light to emerge, you just have to practice Sushumna Kriya as explained above. 

Dangers of Pranayama

There are serious dangers involved in doing pranayama practices without a trained teacher from an unbroken lineage and ancient tradition. 

Swami Rama says in Lectures on Saundaryalahiri: Many teachers do not practice and then teach others just to do experiments. That's a very dangerous thing to do.  In books there are many things written. Some of the writers wrote them without knowing.  They took from here and there and wrote a book. Bad yoga practice can lead you to very dangerous situations for which there is no medicine. Suppose your pranic vehicles are disturbed because of your foolish practices that you have read through books. Where is the medicine for that? Therefore, a teacher is needed, and the teacher should be skilled enough not to mislead their students, not to make experiments on them. Let teachers make experiments on themselves. So, we have always in the scriptures, warnings, yellow mark on the scriptures, 'Don't do it!' It's a tradition."

Disturbance of pranic vehicle due to wrong Pranayama practice can lead to many imbalances causing, among other things:

  • Headache
  • Erratic mood change
  • Depression
  • Tendency to colds and congestion
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness

Prolonged practice of incorrect pranayama techniques can lead to serious and permanent disturbance or imbalance of the nervous system. The only practice you can do safely without guidance is Diaphragmatic Breathing.

Precautionary Measures

  • Pranayama practice should not be done out of books, websites or videos.
  • Pranayama practice should be undertaken only with highly experienced and qualified teachers of an unbroken lineage and ancient tradition. 
  • Avoid teachers that mix practices from different traditions.
  • If you do not find an experienced and qualified teacher, then it is better not to do any pranayama practice. 
  • Retention (Kumbhaka) is not recommended.

Comments:

Jamusic from California:
Great article! Excellent explanation.

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