Friday, January 21, 2011

Xiang: Relating Pranayama (breathing meditation) to I Ching

Pranayama (Main article: Pranayama)

Pranayama is made out of two Sanskrit words (prana = life energy; yama = control or modification). Breathing is the medium used to achieve this goal. The mind and life force are correlated to the breath. Through regulating the breathing and practicing awareness on it, one learns to control prana.

According to Raja Yoga, there are three main types of pranayama:
purak (inhalation), rechak (exhalation), and kumbhak (holding the breath); which is further divided into:
antara kumbhak (withholding the breath after inhalation)
bahar kumbhak (withholding the breath after exhalation)
keval kumbhak (spontaneous withholding of the breath)

The four expressions below relate to the xiang of the I Ching/Taoist cultural tradition. The meanings and breath counts are presented. Circular breathing technique -- in through nose, out through mouth, or conversely -- is recommended. The circular breathing and varying counts are presumed to assist in bridling mental activity by fixing it to the breath. This exercise mimics the expansion/contraction cycle of the Universe at large as professed by the Vedic tradition.

The traditional associations of the first Two Powers are here presented
YIN: capaciousness, struction, form
YANG: creativity, action, function

(8) (Hold to Fullness) -- STATIC YIN
(7) (Hold to Emptiness) -- STATIC YANG

The complete cycle is 30 counts, such that one may easily time or measure the duration of a meditation session using the fingers. A complete minute of 60 seconds could consist of one cycle of circular breathing by inhaling through the nose and out through the mouth, and a reciprocal cycle of inhalation through the mouth and exhaling through the nose. One may additionally employ mudra, asana, or mantra along with the breath meditation, thus making it a fully-fledged tantric exercise.