Pranayama breathing exercises help clear the nadis, or
channels, that carry prana the universal life force, allowing prana to flow
freely. When the channels are clear and the last block at the base of the spine
has been opened, Kundalini rises through the spine, through the central channel
called the sushumna-nadi, and joins the crown chakra. According to the
tradition, the release of Kundalini leads to enlightenment and union.
If you do yoga will you become enlightened?
Well…you might (of course, it could take a few lifetimes
of diligent practice). But then again you might not. But it doesn't really
matter because yoga is a process, and there's a lot of good to be had along the
What if you don't believe in talk about enlightenment,
spirit and the rest of it?
That's okay, too. Yoga doesn't discriminate. Even if you
don't believe in the spiritual side of life, you can still do yoga. Whether
enlightenment, nadis, prana and Kundalini is literal truth, metaphor or myth is
irrelevant. If you do yoga, chances are that you will feel its
Moreover, the concept of union has a powerful
down-to-Earth meaning. Yoga helps us get in touch with our true
Between work, home and all of the demands and stresses in
between, it's easy to lose touch with who we are, that core essence with which
we were born. Rushing around all day it sometimes feels like the "I" inside is
simply the result of the things we do all day -- or the effects those things
have on our minds, bodies and spirits.
Ever say "I am hungry" or "I am stressed"? We identify with
our conditions. It's like "hungry" or "stressed" is a name (Hi. I'm
Stressed. What's your name?) As a result, our identities shift with our
moods and conditions.
In truth, however, we are not the conditions we experience
or things we do. We are not our jobs or the thousands of tasks that make up our
jobs. We are not the sensations or emotions we feel. We are not the car we drive
or the house we live in. We are not "S/he Who Must Pay Bills." We are not Mr.
and Ms. Stressed.
Strip away the emotions, sensations and conditions and
somewhere deep down inside you are still there. Strip it all away and you find
out who you really are.
The techniques developed by the yogis to transcend also
help us strip away the things that try to mis-define us -- the emotions,
sensations, desires, achievements and failures of daily life. Through yoga we
learn to develop a greater awareness of our physical and psychological states.
As a result, we're in a position to better manage our reactions to the thoughts,
feelings and responses we have to the various situations we deal with every day.
With greater awareness comes the sensitivity and skill to
find and remove the physical and psychological blocks that often keep us from
our true selves. We no longer identify with our conditions. Instead of saying,
"I am stressed," we begin to say, "I feel stress," or "stress is present." It's
a subtle but powerful difference.
Or better yet, we say "I feel anxiety and fear, and that's
causing stress and in particular it's causing tension in my neck and shoulder."
So we breathe deeply to soothe the anxiety. We review the events that led to the
onset of those feelings, and in the process they lose their grip on our nervous
system. We intentionally relax our shoulder and neck to prevent the stress and
tension from building into a permanent condition.
Yoga gives us control of ourselves. It helps cut through the
layers of mis-identities that arise in response to our actions, experiences and
feelings. It calms the frenzy, clears the clutter and allows us to get back in
touch with ourselves.
Yoga is union with self. Or, as Patanjali,
one of the great yoga sages, said: