Left versus right brain?

"Decussation" ; is the crossing over of the spinal cord in the medulla oblongata that happens in invertebrates. Somewhere in our evolutionary past, the nervous system did a "somatic twist" where the hemispheres of the brain flip flopped, the motor and sensory neurons of one side control the other side of the body and visa versa..

My dear friend Bhavani who is practicing the online program This Next Breath asked a very good question: she heard from neuroscientists that the nervous system doesn't always cross over right hemisphere of the cerebral cortex to left side of the body and visa versa. What did I know about this topic? I know a little bit and it is relevant to share here.

Dr James Austin who wrote "Zen and the Brain" has found in cadaver studies that there is huge human variation when it comes to the decussation of the nervous system in the brain stem. Paul Grilley. The crossing over of the fibers can be as high as 80% and as low as 20%, and everyone is different. So much of the left and right hemisphere discussion must be held with this understanding that humans vary considerably.

When we are practicing Anuloma Viloma, the most important yoga technique ever discovered, one will eventually awaken to the profound differences between the left and right sides of the body and the mind states and personalities they engender. Very few people really get this, or practice this in the way AV was meant to be.

I am deep into developing the Advanced Course course and extending This Next Breath into territory that has never been shown, or talked about. This is truly the grace of Swami Kripalu and Gurudev being brought to the world from decades of isolation and seclusion. They had their secrets and with very good reason. I will be teaching the public part that can be taught openly in an online course. And part of my slowness in developing the Advanced Course is because it is still very much happening within my own nervous system and body. I am still very much a student and practitioner in process "never missing a day."

As of today, the Advanced Course will have 30 days of practice with different techniques and themes that you have never seen before. There will be video instruction and audio guided practice. It will be a different format than the first course, because it has to be that way. It is pretty fun.

You should begin now, with This Next Breath, so you are not left behind. Seriously. Get the program now, start soon and you will have the program forever, even if you are too busy now to begin. Seize the day.

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Breaking the fast

Day 54: Broke the fast today with lots of tomatoes about two hours ago. So far so good, no problems. It was very delicious and very uneventful. 

The idea of breaking a long fast is to eat a fairly large volume of the most delicious tomatoes you can find. I found these incredible organic heirlooms and they went down sweetly. The gastrointestinal tract needs to get moving with solid food that slips through. For the next few days, I will add in one vegetable at a time: cucumber, celery and zucchini, eventually carrots. It will take many days to come off the fast. This is when I need to be the most careful and vigilant. Light moderate eating is much harder than the actual fasting.

These 54 days and 19 hours feel like a dream. The most unusual things, thoughts, and events transpired. I began the fast 3 days before my dear dog, Buddy passed away. His imminent passage was part of the reason I began. I wanted to go on the spiritual voyage of a lifetime without having to travel to India.

Fasts initiate change. I can’t even begin to explain the inner transformation that is moving at light speed. I can barely keep up with changes.

On a gross level, I have lost 45 pounds in 54 days. The weight leveled off about a week ago and that is a good sign. My chronic arthritis is gone. The shoulder joint I was going to replace may NO LONGER NEED TO BE REPLACED ??? What? That might also be in part to homeopathy and other alternative treatments I was trying out.

I feel so much lighter in mind and spirit. Praanaayaama is glorious with my breath going “sub-one," less than one breath per minute sustained for 10 minutes. Meditation is rock steady because there is no disturbance from the body.

My hope is to be mostly raw vegan for a while and keep it close to the earth.

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Heart and Lungs are one team

We frequently conceptualize the heart and the lungs as being separate "systems." Safe to say, when we exercise, most people only focus on the heart. And yet heart and lungs are one reality. The only way you separate the heart and lungs is with a scalpel.

The right ventricle pumps the blood into the top of the lungs where the red blood cells pick up the oxygen. The fresh blood then goes back into the left atrium and ventricle of the heart to receive a final pump from the heart into the body. The lungs cradle the heart and feed directly into the heart.

The efficiency of lungs can assist or hurt the heart in so many ways. Praanaayaama practice goes even farther in cleaning the blood supply in the body. When the nitric oxide is turned on from the paranasal sinuses, the effects are multiplied.

The lungs are like "angel wings" of the heart. The lungs can make your heart awareness soar.

Most people talk too much Cardio and not enough Breathio.


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Barriers to Practice

Most yogis do not recognize that there are considerable barriers to practicing Anuloma Viloma for a long period of time. It is only through long practice of alternate nostril breath that the results come, like what you find on the “Science” page on tomgillette.com.

Two years ago, I used to lead longish Anuloma Viloma practices. Most dedicated yogis, with strong asana/ujjaayee practices but no AV practice, start off with good intentions to do their best.

Here’s what has happened in the past. After about 5 minutes, two or three yogis have already, dropped their hand to their lap and are now meditating instead. By 8 minutes, more than half of them have now broken off and are now meditating. Somehow, there are a couple of hold outs who through sheer force of will, are somehow toughing it out past 10 minutes.

Before the experience is over, while they still have their eyes closed, I asked them “What was the last thing you remember before you dropped the hand?” We opened our eyes and this is a compilation of answers that many groups have given. The answers are varied and I am going to number them:

  1. “My shoulder hurt.” “The pain in my middle deltoid and supraspinatus was on fire,” said the anatomy teacher.

  2. “I was bored.” ”It’s like watching paint dry.” This was the second largest group.

  3. “I don’t remember” “I don’t remember anything about why. I just did.” This was by far the largest group.

  4. “What is the point?” “It’s meaningless. It’s just oxygen.”

  5. “I was really angry.”

  6. “It was like torture.” “ I hated it.”

  7. “I already do 10 minutes of Anuloma Viloma a day. It wasn’t difficult.”

Nowadays, I do not ever lead this experience in this fashion. I have come to realize that there are considerable hurdles to getting AV going. The reason I created This Next Breath and This Next Breath II, was to successfully guide myself and absolute beginners, step by step, into the later stages of praanaayaama.

This Next Breath and This Next Breath II will take you through the barriers. It is actually fun and delightful and there is “no torture.”

86 people have signed up for the first course, so far. Anyone who has been doing it, has really liked it. It is not hard to do this course. The only way you are going to know for certain, is if you start.

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Avoid judging your practice as good or bad

“The highest spiritual practice is self observation with out judgment.” Swamee Kripalu

Manas (मनस्) is the sanskrit word for "mind."

Ahamkara (अहंंकाऱ) is the sanskrit word for "ego", literally "I maker" we invent our ego.

Humans have a capacity for a higher intelligence that sees into the truth. We see things from a larger perspective, not from an ego centric or mind centric viewpoint. This higher intelligence goes by many names.

From the Kausitaki Upanishad, it is declared that "Praanaayaama awakens Prajnaa." Our higher faculties begin to awaken once the Praana is liberated, freed up and becomes abundant.

When this higher intelligence, that is available to all of us, starts to become a more frequent experience, the lower organ of the mind moves at incredibly fast speeds. You will begin to instantaneously see all sides of a situation with out judgment. A higher truth dawns. By seeing the root causes of situations, all blame and criticism is seen as ego centric and therefore limited and not the whole truth of the situation. We essentially are not in our personality when this experience happens.

Empathy arises, where we feel the life struggle and suffering of others without even trying. From empathy, the possibility of the noble state of compassion for all people, animals and the entire world can emerge.

Compassion cannot be manufactured. It is something that cannot be faked. Compassion is an end product of a longer process. That process that has to be traveled, otherwise it is counterfeit compassion.

At the end of practice, it is a good habit to reflect on the practice. Don't judge the practice as being a good or a bad practice. That is like poison. Avoid that language. Be grateful that the practice happened at all. Thank you thank you thank you, even if today was ragged and trying. Being grateful and dropping all judgment about the practice is an essential ingredient to long term success. At the end of a longer process, you will be able to have compassion for yourself.

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Living on Breath

Is it possible to live on breath primarily, with just a little bit of food? Is this possible? Can one learn to derive almost all their energy from their breath?

"Mitahar," moderate diet, is one of the Niyamas in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Diet has been the weakest part of my yoga practice. 

After Day 46 of this "Master Fast," I have to conclude the yogis were correct. It is possible to live mostly on breath with just a little bit of food.

I have not yet returned to eating solid food. I have lost 45 pounds and still have flab left on my belly. I feel amazingly full of energy, clear, and focused, pretty much all the time. I feel better now, than when I eat.

We have so many prejudices around food, because we like it. It tastes good. We live for food. Most of us Americans eat unnecessary quantities of food and engorge ourselves three times a day on schedule. We think we need food for energy and that is the ONLY way it works. That materialistic understanding is incomplete.

Whatever it is that keeps us alive and still in this body I have to conclude is a complex mystery. Most of us could eat way less food and be much healthier.

One hour of alternate nostril breath, anuloma viloma, every morning without fail, stores energy in the body. It gives me huge reserves of energy. It is like charging up a cell phone for the day. I can recharge at any time through out the day.

It is also true that my body uses less energy now, like switching from an incandescent to an LED bulb. With a dedicated breath practice, the whole body mind system is growing in efficiency and at light speed. The body is so chill and relaxed, using no wasted energy on unnecessary, unconscious tension.

Fasting is easy; eating moderately, finding "The Middle Way" seems daunting. It is with some trepidation that eventually I will probably return to a raw veganish light paleo diet, with frequent days off from eating. I intend to err more on the side of using breath as a primary energy source and ingesting the least amount of the highest quality food. I don't know, if I will be successful eating lightly. Fortunately, I have a really experienced teacher of fasting/ light eating coaching me every step of the way. Don't try a long fast unless you get some training because it is complicated to do safely.

My belly is completely empty and I am starting my microbiome over.

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Praanaayaama has Gravitas

Fasting Diary: Day 41

On the advice of my Chinese doctor, she said to continue fasting. Based on her observations with tongue and pulse diagnosis, she said the fast was having an overall dramatic improvement on my level of health and well being, physically, mentally and emotionally. She assessed my mind and body as unusually radiant, calm and centered.

That is how I would assess the situation. Everything feels really strong, clear and light. This body has lost 40 pounds of unnecessary weight. My belly fat is mostly gone. There is just a little bit of omentum to keep it real.

A heavy duty praanaayaama practice has gravitas. Praanaayaama practice in the early morning is moving forward at light speed, gaining depth and strength. We think of breath as “airy,” but it ironically creates so much weight and stability for awareness. Continuuous attention on the Breath grounds the present moment. Each breath becomes significant.

I assume most people have no idea what it means for a breath practice to “evolve” because everybody has a breath. Our culture has desacralized the breath and made it something ordinary and no big deal. The only way you will understand a praanaayaama centric practice is through long uninterrupted continuuous direct experience.

It is the same for meditation, which is a later stage of Classical Yoga. Unfortunately, most meditators skip praanaayaama or are instructed to skip over it! You can be taught all kinds of useful techniques of mediation, but your own practice of meditation is the ultimate teacher.

Most people do not want to practice, or they give up practice easily, because obstacles come up. That statement includes all of us. Most people give intellectual credence to the importance of the breath or meditation. Most people get the breath a little bit, but not enough to actually do something about it. Once you taste the huge benefits of praanaayaama and then meditation, will you come to value it as the most precious non-activity you do. You value it so much, that there is nothing that will stop you from your practice.

This way of being wiill ultimately emerge after an unbroken, non-grasping, day after day practice. Safe to say, most people I meet, may want to, or they try to, but do not actually practice enough for it to germinate. There are too many obstacles and excuses. Whatever the obstacle, inquire into the nature of the obstacle and keep going. Keep going. Keep showing up for the drama of your self that plays out.

The last question to ask yourself is: “How can I get a Never-Miss-A-Day praanaayaama practice going? Something that is easy, effective and fun?” That is what This Next Breath, this online program, is about. I am happy to offer you personalized support and help you get moving forward.

Karma and Tether Ball

Karma is like the game Tether Ball (your soul) where the rope is very long and wrapped countless times around the pole into a big knot. Your soul is trapped to the post, the consequences of the past. The knot of karma is so large that it is impossible to unwind at this point. You don't have to untangle the countless knots of our unconscious past. Praanaayaama physically, emotionally, praanically and mentally burns directly through the rope. It is a faster route than just meditation alone where you sit there with all your knots waiting for them to unwind..

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How to come into contact with Spirit

“God gives us a cure by fasting.” St John Chrysostom

It is Day 33 of a long fast.

Fasting is very much in fashion with all the top gurus, prophets and saints. Jesus and Moses did it. The Buddha fasted for 6 years. Gandhi lived by it. Mohammed was a renowned faster. Rumi fasted. The Greeks fasted. Christians, Muslims, Jew, Buddhists and Hindus of all stripes have recommended fasting as a way to get in touch with the Ultimate. If you want a period of deep reflection and introspection, a long fast puts you in touch with who you are beyond your conversational mind and ego.

A good way to start is short intermittent fasting. You cannot screw that up. It is a good way for most people to start exploring this deep journey of the soul.

The motivation for most people is to lose weight. Some people want more time in their lives. We spend 3 or 4 hours buying, transporting, prepping, cooking and cleaning up. When fasting, you will have so much time, you won’t know what to do with it. Some people fast to save money. You’ll save $1,000+ this month at restaurants and Stop and Shop. If you go to Whole Foods, you’ll save $2,000. All of these motivations turn out to be secondary.

Long fasting will open up a channel with Spirit. That is the ultimate reason for fasting. It may not be the reason you started with. Fast in order to get in touch with the deepest part of who you are. Fasting will test the boundaries of your fixed food opinions and the nature of reality. Food is the Big Habit, that is largely unexamined unless you do a long fast. Most people try changing the foods they eat; just eat healthy and that is an improvement. Fasting is about starting from scratch. Get all of the old stuff out of your body. Start over with an empty colon. Then try to eat healthy.

Yes, you will lose weight by fasting. Lots of it. I have lost over 35 pounds of waste. Yes, you will flush out your microbiome of antibiotics, pesticides, metals and whatever is stuck in the crevices of your colon. Yes, you will release the lingering harmful toxins stored in your organs that will cause future diseases. You will lose stubborn belly fat. Yes, you will completely clean out 33 feet of poop from your colon and it will tighten up. You will completely lose the low level inflammation that is associated with allergies, depression, brain fog and fatigue. During a long fast, all your organs come to rest and go into healing mode.

Most disease starts in the gastrointestinal track. Disease patterns cannot grow in your body when you empty your colon. Get ready for the changes in your life that will happen.

The benefits of fasting are backed up by numerous scientific studies. In those studies, happy lab rats had their cancers go into remission. The fasting rats were more active, performed better on cognitive tests and out lived their peers.

Days 1 - 10, you will go through lots of rough stuff. It is very emotional and scatilogical. But it will be worth it. Get through those walls and you will feel incredibly light, joyful and happy for no reason. There will be more difficult moments, but nothing like the big hurdles around Day 1 - 10. Then everything gets easier.

Praanaayaama, aasana and meditation will be unbelievably ecstatic. When you fast, the breath will go incredibly slow. Praanaayaama and fasting are superpowers that work together. When you fast, the Mind gets still. The Mind is busy with food and all this busyness in the body creates agitation in your meditation.

Fasting will open the door to The Big Thoughts in life. A new way of thinking happens. A meta-thinking awakens above the voices and common discourse running in your brain. When we eat food, we are thinking thoughts that are influenced by the food we just ate, not just this morning, but yesterday and many days before. Days of cumulative food intake has a powerful influence over our thinking, and we falsely believe our thoughts are our own, independent of the food we eat.

Fasting is counterculture to everything thing in American culture. We are taught to be consumers of greedy edible pleasure, as much as possible. Fasting exposes the opinions and myths that we hold dear. The big myth is that “YOU WILL DIE.” “You will become sick if you don’t eat and keep your strength up.” The opposite is true. When we break the link to consuming 3 square meals a day, we become the real Self. When we eat, our mind moment is predicated on the foods we just ate. This is the “Burrito version of Tom.” This is the “Eggplant parmigiana version of Tom.” Oh, Tom is falling asleep now and complaining about bloating, gas….. inflammation and depression. Multiply that meal by hundreds of meals, meal after meal, cumulatively leaving their residue, bacteria, mold, viruses, one celled organisms, chemicals, pesticides and genetically modified goodness, and we all become bogged down with old karma. All this food leaves a trail through our bodies. If you stuff clean food on top of that mess, it will help a little, but better to start over. You will find that you don’t die, but rather something really wonderful happens. Fasting is the opposite of what you might expect.

Long fasting makes the world come alive. If it is your first long fast, disconnecting from food awakens a vividness you haven’t experienced before. Smells are richer. Colors are brighter. It can be like Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, but this is reality. This is your real state. You become You, not a mixed up version of you. The mind, body and everything gets so tranquil and clear.

Spending time in Nature is essential. Trees can heal and soothe the rough spots. Pine trees, Elm trees. Beech trees are your medicine. Now that you have all this time on your hands and you don’t know what to do, sit in the forest everyday. Commune with nature. The birds, leaves, grasses become your solace. It is heavenly to be next to a slow moving creek or a fountain.

Warning: Don’t fast if you don’t want change. This change might be shocking, and life transforming in ways that you never expected. Expect the unexpected. You are asking your soul to come and teach you. Surrender. You will be challenged. You might need to change jobs, change locations, relationships and old ways of being. You will make mistakes. You will be tested. When the worst emotional storms come, you will want to seek comfort in food. If you don’t act on those emotional moments, you start to gain power and confidence in yourself.

When I want to learn something, I seek out the best teacher on that subject available. I want the teacher who has lots of experience. There are lots doctors and nutritionists with impressive degrees giving opinions about fasting. If they have never done a long fast, they really don’t know what they are talking about. Their viewpoint is intellectual. Its a regurgitated secondhand opinion from what they heard in their training. They may have a white coat, but they don’t have direct experience.

Find the best teacher in any subject you want to learn, and it will shorten your learning curve. Fortunately, I found Kelly Karpoe, someone who has many years of experience doing this. She pointed out the path and all the pitfalls and problems. There were things I thought I knew about fasting, but didn’t. I thought I would just fast for 12 days, like I had done before in the ashram, but Day 12 is when it gets easy and all the benefits just start kicking in.

Because she is so highly experienced in this art, she also had to rewire my mindset around food. There is a cognitive reorientation that goes along with fasting that kinda blows my mind. You will have to read her book when it comes out. There are maybe 10 key concepts that have changed my experience of the fasting for the better. Here are two of them:

“Fasting is about deprivation.”

One myth is that fasting is about “Deprivation.” It is not. If you keep that mindset, it will ruin and shorten your fast. If you get far enough, you will move into a stage of abundant pleasures through all your other senses: smells, colors, touch and sounds. There is no sense of deprivation because life is so much richer. You will become very empathetic and feel things deeply.

“Fasting is about detox.”

Most people talk detox. Detox is not a good idea to begin with. If you only detox, you will become an acidic toxic bomb and destroy your kidneys and other organs.

Kelly talks about “elimination” as the most important aspect of safe fasting. You do not want to release toxins from your body, if the pipes are not continuously open or else you will get sick and grouchy, with crushing headaches. The idea is not to “detox” but “eliminate.” Constant pooping is what makes it safe. When the body starts to release the nasty things, this elimination process goes on for many weeks or more.

And praanaayaama is just awesome on a fast…….

There are some ways to do a long fast that are very healthy. There are some ways to fast that are very dangerous. People die fasting or breaking the fast, because they don’t know what they are doing. If you are contemplating a long fast, there is so much you need to learn, because safe fasting is very complicated. I am following a protocol similar to The Master Fast method. Google that, if you want to find out more. There are a hundred important discussions to have before you start the journey. I am still learning at light speed. I wish I had taken this journey sooner.

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Praanaayaama and Fasting are Super Powers

Fast Day 20. These are the really good days of the fast. The earlier emotional and poop related struggles are gone. There is no sense of deprivation, which is what most people assume, but rather, for me, a steady, incredible clean and joyous energy flows all the time. Yoga classes are ecstatic and transformational.

A deep fast like this deeply cleans out the gut, our home to trillions of bacteria, fungi, viruses, one celled organisms and multi celled organisms. Some are vital to our being alive and some are harmful. The study of parasites and our microbiome has a terrifying side! Oh dear lord. They don’t just live in the gut. They travel into the blood stream, then into the heart, lungs and brain. The subtle or not so subtle problems they lead to are difficult to recognize and diagnose. The more you know about parasites, the more horrified you will become.

We have 33 feet of poop in our gut and they love sugar and crappy, delicious foods.

If you have a sincere Praanaayaama practice and the Nitric Oxide is flowing from the paranasal sinuses, as it will with the This Next Breath online course, the Nitric Oxide kills 100% of the bacteria, mold, viruses and one celled parasites entering through the nose. It cleans the sinuses. It cleans the lungs and heart.

These billions of co inhabitants of your body can produce:

Chronic Fatigue, Crohn's, allergies, food sensitivities, brain fog, headaches, weight gain or weight loss, bloating, irritable bowel, joint problems, hungry all the time, memory problems, breathing problems, skin problems, infections, iron deficiencies, craving sugary foods, and the list goes on and on.

The yogis have said that Praanaayaama cleans the naadees! It also cleans the blood, heart, lungs, brain and organs by keeping the microbiome in check.

One hour of Anuloma Viloma every morning and fasting on Day 20, my innards and brain feel super clean. Fasting and praanaayaama are super powers. Anyone can acquire these super powers, but talking about it won't help.. Praanaayaama requires a daily practice that you build slowly over time, without missing a day. That is what the course is for.

I am very grateful to Kelly Karpoe for teaching me about how to fast safely.

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Praanaayaama's true intent

Use a ratio to slow down your breath? 

Surely you are joking. It doesn't work. Your physiology prevents you. The body closely guards the oxygen levels in the body. We have all been taught breath ratios and this is why practically no one does praanaayaama in America.

We have been taught in yoga to "control the breath," "regulate the breath" and have missed the purpose and intention of praanaayaama which is to slow the breath down.

If the breath is going to slow down, you have to guide your physiology. The Breath is in charge; not your mind.

I am consistently and easily getting down into the 1.5 breaths per minute over 10 minutes without struggle or strain. In March I was at 2 breaths per minute. This is just a milestone. 

This is very affirming. Anyone can do what I have done. 

The method in This Next Breath works!

Everything about your perception of reality starts to change when the breath starts going that slow.

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Taking a break from food is easier than you think

Fasting and Breathing practices go together well.

If you have never fasted, you should try a one day fast. It is very empowering. It is good for your health. Multiple scientific studies repeatedly show the extraordinary benefits of fasting. If you have chronic age related diseases, it is something you should consider. Most of our diseases come from our food and habits. Taking a break is easier than you think.

Do a one day fast and dip your toe in the water. If you can do a one day fast; you can do it more than one. The results are even better.

There are good ways to do fasts, bad ways, and many other ways in between. There are plenty of different schools of thought on fasting. No matter which path you go down, the ultimate criteria is to to stay very sensitive to your changing physical, mental, emotional reality. Everyone is different. Seek help. Find a friend or a coach who is successful at fasting.

Longer fasts are a psychic spiritual journey. Fasting is very emotional. Very very emotional. You will go into stuff (pretty much at anytime, mulitple times through the day, on some days) and then there are these periods of incredible lucidity and insight. Like today.

I came back to fasting because the Praanaayaama practice demanded it. My body was screaming to get lighter. Less food and breathing practices go hand in hand. The breath gives you this big boost every morning. When you become proficient at the breath, you can shift your mind states from unhappy to balanced, which is really helpful when all the emotional stuff starts to happen. It gives you the ability to be in charge of your life, not the pizza..

Proper fasting will help you become established in The Witness. You will need to watch your reactions, emotions, thoughts, feelings and all the crazy things that come out during fasting and not act on them.

It is a Hot-as-Hades-July. Global warming is cooking us all to death. Hot weather makes fasting easier right now. You don’t need food in all this heat.

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Day 9 of this fast - All of my arthritis conditions are gone. Completely gone. The link between sugar and all these chronic diseases is ultra clear to me now.

This was a super strong clear morning. I mowed the lawn for 2 hours in the hot sun and felt great. Now the really good stuff is happening.

Day 7 & 8

Day 7 and Day 8 brought epic piles of shit out of my colon. It didn’t seem possible that more ancient loads of poop could keep coming out of my body. These historic turds festering from the cemetary of the past were quite impressive It is unbelievable that my body is still releasing so much volume.

This is normal. This is precisely why you do a long fast.

For years, people have been telling me that I am full of shit and they are right. Today, I am not full of shit.

A long fast requires enemas and there is no way around that. Enemas may be a deal breaker for you, but here is the upside: they get rid of the headaches that come with fasting and detoxing. If you are doing to do a deep fast, you must do enemas to be safe.

If you clean out the colon, the microbiome is radically altered. And our gut does our thinking much of the time.

Are you a slave to food? Who is in charge? You, or your microbiome, your bacteria? Fasting will temporarily break the patterns of the past and so I can come back to food with a clearer insight on what my relationship to food is all about and how is it impacting my life.

Praanaayaama is easy and awesome when you fast.

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Slow down the Breath

"Slow down the breath" is the fourth limb of Classical Yoga.

My experience is that slowing down the breath is impossible using breath ratios and mental will power. Breath ratios are so distasteful, and such an awful experience, why would anyone do it? Practically no one does. Trying to use a ratio to slow down your breath is like trying to push a sitting elephant. It won't budge.

The reason is because the Breath is in charge, not the mind. Biology is in charge, not fanciful wishes.

Swami Kripalu got it right. Love and devotion first, Biology second, then the mind follows.

Following the path in This Next Breath, after many months, the volume of the lungs increases. Almost all restrictions in the ribcage and spine are gone. The efficiency of the lungs increases, and the blood, brain and all the organs are purified through the daily flooding of nasal nitric oxide. 

This journey has been fun and easy, and all it takes is dogged persistence... and Love. And anyone can do it.

If you get your breath down to 5 breaths per minute, which is very doable without much effort or practice, you will start to have "Coherent Breathing," this lovely synchronicity of lungs and heart. One breath every 12 seconds. That is a good goal to start with.

5 months ago, after one hour of anuloma viloma practice, my body arrived at a milestone of 2 breaths per minute, sustained for 10 minutes, no strain, no struggle, no stupid ratios. The process happened naturally and organically through the bodily transformation going on.

Understand that I am not purposely sitting there timing my breath. I just realized, mid practice, things were really slow and in a very quiet place. I hit the timer on the iPhone. 20 breaths in 10 minutes. I knew I was on the right track.

This Next Breath is a path of reverence and devotion for the Breath, surrender to the Breath. No forcing or controlling the breath is needed. Listen to the Breath. Respond in the present moment as to what is happening. Breath is Spirit. Breath is the Goddess Shakti, and the Goddess is in charge, if you like those kinds of metaphors. 

Today is Day 4 of a fast and 5 months later; the body is very chill. After one hour of anuloma viIoma, I hit the iPhone timer. 15 breaths in 10 minutes, 1.5 breaths per minute for 10 minutes, no strain, no struggle, no thoughts. 

This is very affirming for my spiritual ego, and yet I know that this small milestone is not a big deal for the thousands of yogis who have gone before me. Some of them have done extraordinary miraculous things with the breath far beyond this sign post. And anyone can do this.

The method works. Thank you Bapuji and Gurudev.

"Even a little bit of practice will save you from great harm," the Gita extols.

It is always about the breath.

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Breath is Spirit

I use a chime on my iPhone to wake up each morning.

The chime has a message: “Breath is Spirit.” I say “Breath is Spirit” out loud into the early morning light. It is the first thought of each new day as my awareness rises up through the layers between sleep and wakefulness.

I wait until I feel the power of that phrase. I wait until I fully feel Breath as Spirit, before I begin my morning rituals. I do this day, after day, after day, after day.

Funny thing about repetition is that after a while, the meaning of the mantraa dives deeper and deeper. It starts off as a pleasant thought that spirals around, boring its way into the center of personality. It becomes a part of the fabric and furniture of my interior mind scape. Breath as Spirit becomes a living reality. I identify as Spirit, and not as my personality and body identity. That is how the day starts.

I light a candle and raise the flame up. There is a moment when I sense the vast majesty of what is going on. I let go of being the ”Doer” of all actions. The actions happen through the little me. Little me starts to dissolve into Breath.

I focus on the tips of the fingers. The changing finger tip sensations are grounding the attention in the present moment. It’s not a mental exercise.

Attention rides the physical breath. The physical breath awakens the praana, the life force. This is not scientific materialism. It is not just a machine breathing in oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide. Oxygen is an explanation of science and medicine that assumes material reality is the the one and only fundamental reality, and consciousness is an accident or unexplained “first question.” For the yogis, the one Consiousness was never born and never dies. It always has been and matter arises from Consciousness.

The physical breath is tied to the source of this Consciousness. The physical breath is the outer door that invites me into the inner door of Breath and the Mystery of being alive. As the yogis exclaimed, “Breath pervades the universe.”

“Breath is Spirit” is a useful mantraa that correctly orients little me to the bigger situation. Yogis for millennia have described the different ways of returning to the source of Consciousness. The physical breath has been a primary vehicle for revealing the “Breath,” (with a capital ‘B,’) the movement of Consciousness itself.

Back in Upanishadic times 1500BCE, the yogis asked the Big Questions of Life: “What is the source of this Self Awareness? Where does it come from? What is the source of this sparkly praana shimmering inside my body? Did ‘I’ put it there? If “I” didn’t put it there, then where does it come from? Who am I?”

Asking the right question is invaluable. These are the right questions. Asking the right question is most of the work of inquiry.

Almost everyone, almost all the time, knows who they are, or rather who they think they are: for example, “I am a woman. I am 40 years old. I work at the bank. I have two children who are the love of my life.” We believe we are a person with a name, and a job, and family relations, and maybe a certain religion and a citizen of this nation or that. And all of this is relatively true. “I am this personality. I am a body. I eat food. I am trying to survive. I avoid pain of all kinds. I seek pleasurable mind states, emotions and bodily sensations.” We walk through a conditioned existence full of presuppositions, dragging the past with us, groping around in the dark trying to make sense of it all. We wander through the day with these unexamined assumptions about this person we believe we are and the source from which it arises.

For thousands of years, yoga has not been about poses, but an investigation into the source of Consciousness.

Little me loathes when people say “Breathwork is another tool in your tool box.” Barf. You have no idea what you are talking about. Breath is not a tool! Breath is Spirit in disguise. You have demeaned the ultimate reality and reduced it to a fucking tool in your goddamn toolbox. (Little me speaking.)

If you want to make sense of it all, try starting your day with “Breath is Spirit.” Identify with that. Proceed into your day with a breath practice, especially anuloma viloma. Practice long enough, with devotion and grace, with uninterrupted attention and enthusiasm and the doors of Consciousness will open for you, as it has for countless yogis for thousands of years. And anybody can do it. You can do it.

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Lovely Ujjaayee and Ugly Ujjaayee

Ujjaayee Breath, the "Victorious Breath," "the Ocean Breath," can be lovely and transformative. By restricting the airflow through the glottis, ujjaayee can lead to great insights and awakenings. For best results, ujjaayee needs to be sweet, light and attentive. The ujjaayee breath blooms when it is full of deep listening and is as delicate as a butterfly landing on a twig.

With quiet attention, Ujjaayee can reveal the disturbance in the body and mind. Ujjaayee can also be a co-factor or the cause of disturbance. Ujjaayee is frequently performed in an aggressive, egoic way that is more about dominating the body, than listening.

In 1995, when the vinyasa boom was sweeping across the country, Richard Freeman rang the alarm about a tyrannical and aggressive Darth Vader Breath that was becoming common practice. For over two decades, Leslie Kaminoff, has been teaching about the problems of a pushy, overbearing ujjaayee.

Loud ujjaayee is still a common method taught all over the country. (I am guilty as charged. We teach as we were taught...) We actually thought we were doing a good job teaching it loud. One of the pros of a loud ujjaayee, is that it will create internal heat in the body, which is generally a good thing. But there are other ways to create internal heat, like concentration, drishti, visualization and other ways. The big con of loud ujjaayee is that it goes on autopilot and is actually used to not listen to the moment, by drowning it out. It can become a Type A pushy attack on the body. Loud ujjaayee has become so automatic, many yogis don't even know that they are doing it. Leslie Kaminoff jokes that some yogis, when they go to the doctor’s office, don’t know how to stop being a Sith Lord. Being unaware of ujjaayee and not being able to stop it, are signs that one is no longer listening to the breath.

We listen better when we speak gently, rather than when we yell at each other. We can listen to ujjaayee, the body, breath and mind, so much better with a silent and receptive mind. Ujjaayee breath is more like a feather, rather than a sledgehammer. Ujjaayee is more of a question posed in the present moment rather than a forgone solution to everything.

In the online course, This Next Breath, ujjaayee is purposely de-emphasized. Many people think that surely every online breath course must primarily be about ujjaayee because ujjaayee is what every yoga teacher teaches. Loud Ujjaayee is the first thing they teach! If you are a loud breather, experiment with the other end of the spectrum and be at the threshold of sounding breath. A whole new world of sensitivity in your yoga poses will open up. Stay thirsty for your experience friends.

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Is "Breathwork" the same as Praanaayaama?

In July, I will be leading a This Next Breath Workshop at the Maha Yoga Center in Massachusetts. The owner asks “Is ‘Breathwork’ the same as ‘Praanaayaama?’”

My answer is “No. This Next Breath is a particular praanaayama method. I avoid the word ‘breathwork,’ because of past associations with Rebirthing, Holotropic Breathwork and other hyperventilation techniques.”

“All Yoga is the Same. All Breath practices are the same.”

All yoga is the same,” to the new student. Someone new to yoga has formed an idea of “Yoga” in their head before they get to class. “Yoga is about yoga poses.” This new student is then bewildered when they look at the class schedule of a modern yoga center that offers dozens of types of yoga that bear little relationship to each other.

Breathwork and praanaayaama are the same.” They look the same. They are about the breath. And yet, when it comes to the breath, there are many different types of breath practice with significant differences and results.

“Breathwork” is a vague New Age term over the last 50 years that is mostly associated with Rebirthing and Holotropic Breathwork and decades of workshops that employ different hyperventilation techniques. I avoid the label of “breathwork” because of its strong identification with these practices.

Hyperventilation practices make for a good workshop because they can produce a big thrill of non ordinary states of consciousness, “producing dizziness, tingling in the lips, hands or feet, headache, weakness, fainting and seizures. In extreme cases it may cause carpopedal spasms, a flapping and contraction of the hands and feet.” (wikipedia) Hyperventilation highly activates the sympathetic nervous system, and some people claim they re-experience the trauma of their birth. Hyperventilation constricts the blood vessels and capillaries. You might wrongly assume, as most yoga teachers do, that “the more you breathe, the more oxygen gets to your body.” Actually the opposite is true. The body tightly regulates overbreathing and reacts by constricting blood flow.

Hyperventilation can also lead to panic attacks and a whole host of other undesirable outcomes. In 1993, the intentional community of Findhorn in Scotland had to discontinue Holotropic Breathwork because of many undesirable outcomes. Rebirthing has been banned in Colorado after a girl died of suffocation during a 70 minute session. She died of suffocation meaning that no oxygen was getting to her body. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1174742/

Try Hyperventilation

With that said, if you are brave, you might like to try a “breathwork” hyperventilation workshop, just so you have your own experience of them. Then you can speak from first hand experience. You might like them. I have done Rebirthing many times and kinda liked the weirdness of the thoughts I had. It is supposed to be a useful psychotherapeutic tool. It is very possible to have a super cool, one time, trippy experience. If you are a person who suffers from panic attacks, if you have a heart condition, weak valves, poor circulation, diabetes, asthma, and other conditions, you should avoid this kind of “Breathwork.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebirthing_(breathwork)

A hyperventilation experience is not a daily practice. It is not something you will do for very long. Hyperventilation techniques, if they have any value, will only be done once in a great while. They will never be a significant part of your life. Whereas, Praanaayaama has the potential to be the most important practice of your life.

Breathwork,” the way this term has been commonly used over the last 50 years, and its long association with Rebirthing and Holotropic Breathwork is very different from Praanaayaama.

Praanaayaama is different

When it comes to Praanaayaama, the influence of the Krishnamacharya lineage predominates worldwide. The Iyengar and Desikachar schools of praanaayaama, are notable examples. Fundamental to the Krishnamacharya method is a strong reliance on “breath ratios.” The yogi manipulates the breath to fit a certain ratio of inhale, exhale and holding the breath to produce different results. This method of praanaayaama is meant to be built over many months very slowing increasing the length of the inhale, exhale and breath retention. The word praanaayaama is most often associated with this style of practice.

If you are willfully holding the breath, it is of the utmost importance to be monitored by an experienced teacher to watch your daily progress over the months. Willfully holding the breath is extremely powerful, produces intense heat and potentially comes with huge problems (embolisms and aneurysms) for the yogi if done incorrectly, aggressively or with too much force. In 2019, It is quite possible that breath ratios are what most praanaayaama teachers still offer in America.

Squeezing the breath to fit a certain breath ratio is a terrible experience. I am not sure anyone likes it. Even Mr Iyengar wrote of how boring praanaayaama is, much like “learning to play the scales on a piano.” Breath ratios may be true, but no one wants to practice them.

My point is that If you don’t like your practice, you are not going to practice for very long. You certainly wont practice with enthusiasm. Practice happy and you will keep practicing. Lengthen your practice time of Anuloma Viloma and you will find it is the key to kingdom of heaven within.

How is This Next Breath different?

TNB is based in the Kashmiri Pashupati lineage of Swami Kripalu. It is common among the Tantric teachers of the north to place all importance on Alternate Nostril Breath. Alternate Nostril Breath is the superior daily practice. The viewpoint of many gurus and This Next Breath is that Anuloma Viloma is the most important technique in the yoga tradition. I will write more on that later. However, for most students I have taught over the last 31 years, Anuloma Viloma is not necessarily a good place to start.

The absolute starting place of praanaayaama is a daily morning practice. There is no other way. You must develop a lifestyle of daily morning practice for this to work, and never miss a day. Eventually, you will practice many times a day. At first, we don’t emphasize alternate nostril breath during the first two months because the door is not open.

It is more important to awaken the love for the breath first. Experience has shown that the best entry point is to focus on long exhales, sound vibration and subtle body practices that are easy, engaging and ignite the student’s love for the breath. A new student can safely follow those types of experiences and come to many insights on their own. It leads to a sense of “growth!” The long exhale with vibration is fun, absorbing and can be learned in a short amount of time with a minimum amount of experience. You will slowly start developing lung capacity. “Practice happy and get your practice going.” That is the first stage. Love the breath and love your daily practice.

The ethos of This Next Breath is to “Revere the Breath as Consciousness itself. Be the Witness of the Breath.” The physical breath is not to be conquered, but listened to. Take the ego out of controlling the physical breath. Steer the breath, but dont be the awful metaphor of Darth Vader breath. Don’t abuse the breath. You don’t know what you are fooling with. Breath is the Great Mystery. Respond sensitively to how the breath is at this very moment. Be happy, joyous and spontaneous. Never stop. Let if flow. Just keep switching sides. Honor the physical breath which is Consciousness in disguise.

Alternate Nostril Breath is introduced near the beginning of the online course, but not emphasized. The time is not ripe yet. The method is to just start the pattern of alternating breath going. At first, the minds of most accomplished hatha yogis will rebel. They will not be able to do even 15 minutes of alternate nostril breath. If they somehow tough it out once or twice, there are too many obstacles to practice. They are unlikely to continue without support. Huge resistance is built into the first stages of alternate nostril breath. Advanced hatha yogis frequently run away from Anuloma Viloma. As one senior hatha yoga teacher said, “I only need two minutes of alternate nostril breath, tops. What is the point after that?”

This Next Breath has problem solved the most common obstacles to Anuloma Viloma. We break the resistance in novel ways. We walk the walk, one daily practice at a time.

The method is more about listening sensitively. The physical breath is just the outside skin of consciousness. Breath and Consciousness are one. The physical breath moves and Consciousness moves. When the obstacles come up, the course guides you through them with a wide variety of techniques that enhance and hold your attention in the present moment. In the Advanced course, most of these methods have never been seen before, and no one, to my knowledge, teaches them. Then again, I don’t get out very much.

In the Advanced Course of This Next Breath, the emphasis shifts to increasing the time of alternate nostril practice. If you alternate breath through the nostrils long enough, the most amazing things will transpire. You will be dumbfounded by the information that spontaneously arises.

Praanaayaama, since Upanishadic times, has been renowned for awakening the innate higher intelligence in all of us. “Praana activates the Prajna.”

The length of practice is significant. There are so many barriers to lengthening the time of alternate nostril breath practice. The tantric yogis of old like it that way. In a certain sense, you have to earn the information that comes by dedication to practice. We start with 5 minutes, then 10, then 15 and slowly over a few months work up to 24 minutes.

24 minutes, ‘One Ghatikaa” of Anuloma Viloma is the first big milestone. It is difficult to stay that focused on your fingertips and nostrils for every breath when you begin. Once the yogi is well established in an easy flowing, daily, uninterrupted 24 minutes of practice of Alternate Nostril Breath for many months, then the next jump to 48 minutes (“One Mahurta”) is not a big deal.

Time Slows Down

The apparent passage of time slows down when the breath slows down. Instead of 12 breaths per minute which is a normal breath rate, lets say you slow your breath down to only 3 breaths per minute ( 1 every 20 seconds, which is doable in a few months) you will find your awareness of time will slow down or even vanish for long periods.

Biologically, I have found this approach is superior. We want biology to lead the way. We don’t want the messed up, willful, ego in charge, banging out a breath ratio without listening deeply to what is happening in the present moment.

Once established in a solid practice, the time will come when there is a distinct “Paranasal Nitric Oxide release.” The body and breath become flooded with Nitric Oxide everyday. Many Chinese acupuncturists call Nitric Oxide, “Chi” itself. It is the physical form of Chi. Once the body is flooded everyday with Nitric Oxide, many changes take place. (See other blog articles on this topic.)

Everything slows down and gets more efficient. Eventually, the breath will go into a “breath suspension,” but the breath is not held willfully. The stopping of the breath is completely natural, effortless and its not a pathology. The breath will slow down to a crawl, 5 breaths per minute, then 3 breaths per minute and then 2 and then 1. The yogi is not forcing the body to do this. The body no longer needs as much breath because the overall efficiency and metabolic demands of the body don’t require more breath because of the saturation of Nitric Oxide as well as the many hormones released from the pituitary. The breath will be suspended of its own accord. The thinking mind and chattering noise will stop. All there is left, is a wordless Presence. The mind becomes transparent and very clear. Meditation takes off at this point.

Everyone who has fully done This Next Breath remarks how afterwards mediation has never been so easy and effortless.

Work with Your Breath First.

If you want to progress in meditation, if you are frustrated with the noise level your mind is putting out during meditation, try doing what the yogis suggest: “Work with Your Breath first.” Praanaayaama before Buddhist Mindfulness or Yogic Meditation.

Classical Yoga of Patanjali progresses from Aasana, to Praanaayaama, then later on Dhyaana, meditation. Change the biology of the body and nervous system before you sit down and try to observe your flickering mind states. It works better that way. When your biology is stabilized, the mind follows. Trying to lead with your mind in charge, like using a thorn to take out a thorn, is a thorny path.

Gautama, the historical buddha, is said to have tried many praanaayaama practices from the teachers of his day. The Buddha rejected them all. It is recorded that the Buddha’s early breath teachers, were teaching a practice that included holding the breath for long periods of time. The Buddha’s assessment of willful long breath holdings is spot on. Frankly, willful long breath holdings are a nightmare. A “surrendered breath suspension supported by biology and filled with a loving mind” yields the sweet fruit.

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Flood the body with Nitric Oxide every morning

After months of an uninterrupted, continuous practice of Anuloma Viloma, the body becomes flooded with nasal nitric oxide every morning at every practice. This stage produces dramatic results and the process speeds up from this point. 

When a big release happens, it smells like clean air. It is a decongestant. Your head clears up and the sinus cavities drain and are wide open. Nitric Oxide cleans the blood that goes straight to your brain. It expands, clears and repairs the arteries and capillaries. Nitric Oxide speeds up synaptic transmissions. It opens the bronchioles allowing you to breathe more deeply. Nitric Oxide plays a role all over the body in the heart, brain, gut and genitals. 

There are many distinct signs of Nitric Oxide being released. The breath slows down. The heart slows down. A generalized sense of wellbeing and relaxation happens throughout the body. Eyesight will temporarily get very blurry. The mind gets clear and sharp. Lots of blood flow to the genitals is a given. There is a distinct feeling of becoming “clean” inside the body. And then things get really interesting at that point.

Nitric Oxide is only one of the underlying mechanisms of what happens in praanaayaama. Praanaayaama in large quantities leads to the activation of the pituitary. The pituitary stimulation leads to the release of painkillers, dopamine, and endocannabinoids that have been already measured in research. From anecdotal evidence, it is very likely that oxytocin, human growth hormone, ATCH, gonadatropins, and many other hormones are similarly activated.

Everyone who has dedicated themselves to This Next Breath practice has reported that "Meditation has never been so good, after a long praanaayaama session." Hmmmm.

Praanaayaama is where aasana practice goes. Are you ready? Now is a good time to start a dedicated praanaayaama practice for real. To begin: https://thisnextbreath.podia.com

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The Train Track Engineer

Praanaayaama is often explained as "breath control" and many yoga teachers teach it this way, using breath ratios and counting. The breath ratio schools of praanaayaama use the will to hold the breath. The word "control" has unfortunate connotations and is out of synch with the TNB viewpoint of praanaayaama. The word "control" implies a controller who is using what they think they need, on the breath.

"Breath Channeler" is a better phrase, that is more inline with This Next Breath viewpoint and practice. You guide the breath left ... and you guide the breath right. That's all. Most of all "Let it flow. Let it go. Surrender into the Praana. Practice happy. Practice a massive amount of time each day." That is the most successful approach, from a biological standpoint.

Based in the teachings of Swami Kripalu, the TNB approach emphasizes listening, curiosity, spontaneity, love, devotion and joy.

There is nothing more miserable than breath holdings, breath ratios and forcing the breath in a box it doesn't want to go into. The messed up mind doesn't really know what's its doing anyway with inflicting ratios. It is more fun, easier and much more delightful to bow down to the Breath (Praana.) Let the Praana decide.

I like the metaphor of a train track engineer who switches track. Here comes the train of the breath, just switch the track and that is your only job. It is so simple. There really is very little involvement of the personality and its neuroses. You listen. You respond sensitively to what the Breath/Spirit is communicating right now. Change tracks. And the most amazing things start to happen.

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Now, is the time to embrace your spiritual life

Around the age of 60, we enter the most auspicious stage of our spiritual growth. This is the stage of life when the most progress can be made. It is a time of pulling back from worldly activities and moving inward into meditation. We either embrace our spiritual life or we don't. 

By age 60, we have lived though many life experiences both "good and bad.” We have survived many ups and downs. All of them have contributed to bring us to this point in time. We have the opportunity to grow bitter or grow wise. 

As we age, we become our mental habits. It is never too late to begin again, but it is important to take the first steps towards a new future.

Now is the time to embrace your spiritual life. There really is no other time. What this means is that we all need (at any age) to be established in a daily routine of early morning practice, or at least a practice that we do upon rising. The practice does not have to be long, but it has to be in place everyday. The everyday-ness is the key. Seven days a week is critical, because our life is everyday. After 60, our mortality becomes more obvious. There are fewer days left and each one becomes more poignant. Time, in this body, is growing shorter.

When you ask “what practice can I do everyday, even it is short? What can I do, without fail upon rising each morning?” One suggestion is to light a candle and chant “Om,” “Amen” or “Shalom” three times everyday. That’s a good practice.

Another option, that doesn’t involve chanting: you can “hum” into your sphenoid bone, at the back of your sinuses, in the center of your skull,. You will receive a similar, non sectarian, universal version of the powerful effect of those other mantraas.

Humming. You would be surprised how powerful and effective just humming into your sphenoid bone can be…. but you must do it 7 days a week upon rising. 4 - 5 times a week is an awkward, not-quite-yet place because you are not yet established in the ethos of spiritual practice. Everyday. Seize the day! This is your day to create. Sweeten your day with three mellifluous hums. (Lengthen the exhale, BTW)

We are complicated multidimensional personalities. There are lots of different voices inside. Somewhere within the complex of our sub personalities, lives a noble soul. Call forth that Great One that lives inside of you. Don’t call forth the crummy, anxious, self defeated sub personality. That person sucks. Don’t call forth the whiny cynical complaining victimized turd bucket. Call forth the highest being within you! The one that is full of gratitude, forgiveness, kindness and grace. Create your day intentionally from the noble being that abides peacefully inside of you. It is there. If you call it, the high vibe personality self will come. Hum into that.

If you do just that, five minutes of humming with the right intention; you would undergo a profound transformation and your spiritual life will take off and accelerate. There are no days off in your life. Practice as if your life depended on it, because it does

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We can't learn what we think we know

When we think we know something, the mind closes the door. Once closed, that door is not easily opened. We have had enough discussion, studied the issue, and no further inquiry is necessary, required or even desirable.

We all do this. It is a time saver. "He or she is very opinionated," is a very derogatory thing to say. And yet, we are all full of opinions.

We may have an image of ourselves as "fair and open minded." Our persona may be very attached to the belief that we are "willing to hear more," and yet when we honestly examine all our beliefs, and the things we think we know, our mind is VERY closed on many issues.

Our beliefs harden. Hardened beliefs become opinions of which we are sure of. Once ingrained, those opinions do not change, or at least they are near impossible to change. Maybe the word "viewpoint" sounds a little better. We develop hardened viewpoints.

It is a relief to accept that you and I actually have many hardened opinions.

Breath is a big topic. My breath practice is still very modest and anybody can do what I have done. I am currently practicing, without fail, one hour every morning with 48 minutes of Anuloma Viloma, and I return to practice many times through the day. I exercise using Alternate Nostril Breath.

Most healthy people most of the time breathe in the 12 - 15 breaths per minute range. Another school of breath called “Coherent Breathing” recommends getting into the 5 - 6 breaths per minute and then a lovely synchronicity of lungs and heart occurs. In my sitting practice, my breath rate goes down the 2 breaths per minute range after 40 minutes or so. And this is not a difficult place to get to, but it will require an established practice. It amazes me how whole new worlds of information at the 2 breaths per minute range keep spontaneously opening up.

Biology first, mind second

When the breath slows down, it leads the mind, and the mind behaves differently.

Every morning I am excited to get to practice to see what happens next. I surrender into the flow of the inner body, listen and respond. There is both structure and spontaneity. I am on the edge of my seat, really. I am at the tips of my fingers, on the threshold of every breath for one hour, amazed at what is happening inside. It is like Mindfulness, only 15 times stronger. The farther I go, the less I know. I am humbled by the rishis of old who spent lifetimes of practice with praanaayaama. Grey Ward (Gitanand) was always very fond of saying that once you get fully established in this kind of praanaayaama practice, all the other stages of yoga start happening very quickly and effortlessly. I am beginning understand the wisdom of his teaching which is the wisdom of classical yoga.

When I begin the topic of the breath, the majority of people, especially yoga teachers, already know everything about the breath. They do ujjaayee and slow flow aasana, which is great. Yup. I did that too for decades and led teacher trainings around it. They did lots of study in anatomy class. "Breath is a gas exchange of O2 and CO2, red blood cells, alveoli, bronchial tubes and stuff." And that is that. The door is closed.

Most yogis are missing the complete mystery of the breath and the breath’s innate unknowability.

The yogis talked about many kinds of breath opening up wisdom that is already encoded in the body. The yogis talked about how the breath pervades the universe. What does that famous phrase even mean? The yogis talked about the Breath is Consciousness manifesting from moment to moment. Intellectually, you might reason these ideas out, develop a cogent theory and turn it into a thesis or maybe write a book. But who is going to devote themselves to a actual practice to realize this wisdom first hand?

Why I created the online course “This Next Breath”

A few years ago, I found myself so broken physically, mentally, emotionally and financially. I went through a death experience of sorts. I directed four yoga studios that supported my life on the material plane, and they were gone. All the Yoga Teacher Trainings, 34 in all, that I led were karmically over, complete. The universe did not want me to do that anymore. I tried getting into a more normal sales business and failed miserably. I hated this new life. I started hating myself begin unable to take care of my family financially. Sales was not the dharma I was meant to live. The Dark Night of the Soul became my normal habitat. The Valley of Death is not a valley, more like a pit. Somewhere deep inside, the Way of the Breath, the way of spirit was calling me back.

That little voice inside was saying to go back.

I went back to my roots and the praanaayaama teachings at Kripalu aashram in the 1980s. I surrendered my life because I did not know where to turn. I was guided, or instructed by some voice on where to go. Go back to the place you once were decades ago. Go back to the early morning aashram practice. Fill yourself with love and devotion and let go.

At first, tremendous will is necessary just to begin and set up a breath practice everyday without fail. It has to start small and be modest. 25 minutes a day. At the aashrama, there is a very specific goal to go with your practice. You want to get to an unshakable practice of “One Ghatikaa,” 24 minutes of Anuloma Viloma.

There are so many problems in the way. Even seasoned master vinyasa teachers might love 3 or 4 minutes of AV, but lhey loathe anything over 15 minutes. I have heard many great yogis say, “What for? 24 minutes of Anuloma Viloma is just a waste of time!”

I recognize now, that voice is one of the barriers. The breath has these built in barriers to practice. The body, mind and personality will put up huge resistance at first to Anuloma Viloma. This is where Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of Love and devotion, which is the ultimate yoga, can come to the rescue. In the ashraama days, we were filled with Bhakti, love for the guru, love for god. We were to instructed to praanaayaama practice because the guru said so. “Have faith.” Faith is what is necessary to get across the ocean of life and death. Faith is what will propel a person to stay with the Anuloma Viloma long enough and persevere through whatever obstacles show up. And there are many obstacles on the way.

Once I got clear on where to go, and identified what the obstacles were (95% personality obstacles) I did some problem solving and experimentation. I could not immediatly, consistenntly and without fail get back to the practice of 24 minutes of AV. That door was not open yet. it started with a few minutes at first.

I still teach 5 local classes a week in Providence and I experimented endlessly on them. My students rebelled anytime AV got over 5 minutes. They reported that they really loved Anuloma Viloma for the short term, and really hated it for longer periods. Right there, was a big clue! Anuloma Viloma has a few walls to break down at the beginning. I had to figure out how to personally get there, so I created this baby step by baby step course to get me back there.

Building the online course was a way of personal salvation.

I underestimated how difficult building an online course was. I am not a super techie person. I tried paying, and begging my friends and family to help, but soon realized that I could not rely on others to build this for me. It was too large of a task. It requires thousands of hours. If this was ever gong to happen, I had to do most of it myself.

At the young age of 60, I started learning about filming, Final Cut Pro and all those tutorials, websites, more tutorials, online platforms, animation software, social media integration blah blah blah and the tools I needed to convey the fountain of breath information that was coming from the practice. I naturally have a great resistance to learning technical stuff, but I recognized the usefulness of developing these skills. There was really no other way but forward.

I adopted the spirit of my friend and ashram brother Tony Kasowski. Tony K was a computer expert at the ashram. All the Kriplau ashram residents would go running to Tony with our ‘broken’ computers. He said to me, “the problem, is not your computer. The problem is that you give up too easily. It is just software. Find the bug and fix it. If it is a hardware problem, that is easy to fix too.” Tony went on to the bigger picture, “I live in the place where I declare ‘no machine can beat me.’ In your life Tom, you don’t have a hardware problem; you have a software problem. Your software problem is that you give up too easily.”

I got to work on my personal software problems and I started learning enough of the technical stuff necessary to make a reasonably good quality video that was engaging. It has to be engaging. Make the moment interesting. In the process, I discovered a new avenue for making jokes. Going through lots of physical, personal and emotional pain in life is a superior path for finding what is funny. Videos are a great way to make people laugh. I set out to make praanaayaama instructional videos that have a tongue in cheek, quirky fun edge, afew belly busters sprinkled in with a program of purpose and depth. Day by day, morning by morning, the effects of morning practice started kicking in and supporting the daily technical work. I started getting so much clarity from the praanaayaama, so much energy started flowing, it was guiding me to keep going without stopping. Practice happy. Never miss a day. Build it slowly.

If you have read this far, if being obsessed with the breath speaks to you, if you are interested in laughing sometimes, begin the course, This Next Breath.

It will support your life, no matter what else you are doing. If you jump into this course wholeheartedly, you will reap huge the benefits. Study the lessons and practice the days, and if you are not absolutely thrilled with what it has given you. I am happy to refund the small investment you made. At present, as yoga teacher, I live below the poverty level. I do charge a small fee for the course to pay for the thousands of hours I have worked on this project. If this course does not benefit your life in a significant way, I am happy to give you your money back.

There are many different kinds of restaurants in this world, French, Italian, Indian, and they serve different food. When you eat French, it is different from when you eat Thai. Likewise, there are many different schools of breath practices. And they are not all the same. Eat the sweet foods of Love, devotion and surrender and most of all laugh along the way. Practice happy. The results are better. And even if you already know everything about the breath, you might be surprised how much more there is to go.

I am humbled by the immensity of the material that is coming together for the Advanced course.

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