By Rudra Shivananda
Kriya Yoga has been experienced by a variety of yogis to be a potent and rapid path towards Self-Realization. A key practice of this yoga gifted through the ages by Mahavatar Babaji is that of spinal breathing.
Yoga can be considered to be a path of spiritual evolution – as an unfolding to our highest potential consciousness. As such, it is analogous to Darwinian physical evolution which is focused on the body matter and for humanity, mostly on the nervous system. It is the evolution of the brain from the spinal nervous system that distinguishes humanity from other life-forms on earth. Therefore, it is appropriate that spiritual evolution occurs through the spiritual spine or sushumna nadi.
Immediately, one can discern that spinal breathing needs to be understood on a deeper manner. First, one needs to become aware of the subtle bodies beyond the gross physical one. It is in the subtle energy body that the astral spine overlays the physical spine. Secondly, we cannot breathe as such into the astral spine – what we will be doing is to move the subtle life-force energy or prana along the central astral spine.
Where does the breath come into this? The yogis discerned ages ago, that there is a connection between the mind, breath and prana. We can move prana by mind or we can absorb prana by breath when we breathe. Therefore spinal breathing must be a mindful or directed breath to be effective and is not a mechanical exercise. When mind and breath are united, then the prana is directed along the spine. It is obvious that concentration is a key to spinal breathing.
The prana in the astral spine will purify and open the chakras or subtle energy centers and provide a pathway for the raising of the awakened kundalini energy. This kundalini is the rocket fuel needed to raise our normal consciousness appropriate to our current state of evolution o the highest possible state of an accelerated evolution.
Although spinal breathing is concerned with mind and subtle matter, there is an intimate connection between the physical body and the subtle energy body. If the physical body is unstable or restless, then it is difficult to have steady mind and strong concentration that is needed for effective Kriya Pranayama as the spinal breathing is called. Flow of prana is facilitated by flexible, steady and relaxed body posture with the back and physical spine in a natural state. The practice of physical postures or asanas can be helpful for the developing a steady and relaxed posture.
The asanas that are helpful for spinal breath are those involving forward and backward bends, as well as stretching of the spine. It is not necessary to waste too much time on these physical exercises but a preliminary set of four to nine asanas that take ten to twnety minutes should be sufficient.
Kriya Yoga practitioners will benefit from developing concentration and physical flexibility and steadiness as preliminary techniques complementary to their main sadhana or spiritual practice.