The Psychic Passage
The psychic passage is any pathway in the body through which awareness, breath and Prana are directed in one stream of combined force. We can make a psychic passage anywhere, to or from any part of the body.
"Once the passage is visualized, the psychic breath can be moved anywhere in the body using Ujjayi Pranayama. This will effect an actual pranic transfer. Psychic breathing is an integral part of Prana, and it must be mastered to the point where it becomes extremely subtle and spontaneous" - Prana, Pranayama, Prana Vidya (Bihar School of Yoga Publications)
So, what is psychic breathing, and what is Ujjayi Pranayama?
Psychic breathing is actually breath awareness. Awareness is key to any Yogic or wellness practice. Consider it the same as mindfulness. In Buddhism mentally, or mindfully focusing on a sensation or visualization is called One Pointed Attention or immovable concentration.
Ujjayi Pranayama is a specific breath technique that generates a throaty sound as air passes through a slightly closed space between the back of your tongue and roof of your throat (glottis). Some folks say this breathing sounds like ocean waves as they ebb back and forth. Others say it sounds like Darth Vader's breath. Either way it is a distinguishable sound and therefore useful for one pointed attention. Ujjayi also has a very distinguishable feeling in the throat and diaphragm. The smaller, closed off space in the throat creates a slight tension in the diaphragm. This in turn provides an opportunity to release (inhale) and contract (exhale) the diaphragm in the same way we might clutch and release a fist. Having strong sensations makes Ujjayi Pranayama a preferred technique for beginners.
Once breath awareness is established we can actually begin to move and control our breath in many ways. Breath control, expansion or manipulation is rather the exact translation of the word Pranayama.
In meditation classes we are often cued to focus on our breathing. This focus starts an inward journey as the mind begins to detach from external sensations. Focusing on breath also discourages mental chatter and anxiety as the mind and body become one by focusing on the most fundamental aspect of life; Breathing!
Here are two simple ways to direct your attention on breath:
Sit comfortably and take a few easy breathes. Next, mentally tell yourself "I am inhaling" and then just let the exhale fall away. When you're ready to inhale again just give the mental cue. After a minute or two of cuing the inhale move on to adding a cue for exhale; "I am inhaling... I am exhaling". This technique is called Two Part Breathing, and I've added mental cues to create a psychic passage.
2. Sit comfortably as above and gently remind yourself of Two Part Breathing
with the same mental cue as above. Next, take the time to feel that there is a
subtle pause between the inhale and the exhale. This pause is a moment of
retention. The breath is somewhat retained internally after an inhale and
somewhat retained externally after an exhale. Notice this gentle pause as
another part of a complete breathing cycle. This technique is called Breath
Retention and the moments of retention can last 5, 10 or up to 30 seconds!
Psychic breathing (breath awareness) and the psychic passage (directed breath attention toward the body) are Yogic techniques that often aide the practice of meditation. If you have a lot of anxiety in your life or simply need a practice to induce meditation then Pranayma and breath awareness exercises are the best place to start.
This blog is the second of four focusing on mediation and breath work. Be sure to read the previous blog titled, Are You Meditating Yet? Next in this series I will share specific awareness and visualization practices for your wellness journey.
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