For this reason I have maintained an almost daily practice since 1992. It maintains its status as the cornerstone of my experiments in altering my consciousness, programming and reprogramming my mind and behavior and healing my body. Over the years I have accrued hundreds of practices in my internal library, running, creating, and altering playlists on the fly. It still surprises me that this results in an ordered and constantly changing practice rather than becoming either boring and horrible, or chaotic and practically useless. I’ve only recently begun to record them. Sandra Anderson of the Himalayan Institute once said something to the effect of (or perhaps I misheard her completely): You won’t feel the effects of yoga practice until a full day has passed. Perhaps because I respect her highly as a teacher this entered my noggin and set up shop there with the effect that I never feel the effects of a yoga practice until a full day has passed.
I care about the practice of yoga, resulting in a certain human vanity that is directly related to my length of practice, the amount of practices I feel proficient in and the number of books I’ve read and digested on the subject.. I don’t consider myself a yogi, or rather it is one of many personalities that exist inside of me, but it does little to explain the whole of my human process. In the past few years ‘the yogi’ has been integrating himself into the ‘tai-chi/qi-gong man’. The more I practice, the more I draw meaningful and relevant connections between disciplines.
From a magickal perspective there are few other things you can do where you can see such immediate result in trying to change reality in conformity with your will, than working with your own body. A pretention I encounter frequently among American yoga practitioners has it that yoga has a specificity, unfamiliar practices are not yoga. Qi-Gong practitioners on the other hand will tell you that anytime you are moving and breathing or even just breathing you are practicing Qi-Gong. This all-inclusive attitude seems more appropriate to me, and I see it extending to all parts of the common practices of both. Boutique beautiful bodied yoga, very challenging physically, versus qi-gong in a retirement community, a room full of those seated or in wheelchairs with all kinds of ailments.
The Qi-Gong man and the Yogi have recently made room for another emerging figure. I recently completed a degree in exercise science, and my wife is a physical therapist and self-confessed anatomy nerd. The Scientist, Qi-Gong man and Yogi all sit in the same room and share information, each framing the argument of the other with the intention of coming to some kind of understanding or reaching some kind of conclusion, they seldom do, but their talking occasionally results in some very interesting momentary experiences of satori as some puzzle is completed.
Pawanmuktasana. Pawan=wind, mukta=liberating, asana=posture. Commonly this posture involves laying on the ground with one leg hugged into the chest to eliminate unwanted gas in the intestines. However, in the Bihar school (Swami Satyananda Saraswati) it is series of subtle movements, that don’t necessarily feel like REAL STRETCHING, whose stated goal: to remove wind from the body thus enabling smooth and unimpeded energy flow (it should be noted that most swamis have a personalized version of these very powerful practices, see: Swami Rama’s Joints and Glands). This smooth energy flow allegedly results in healthy joints, glands, etc. Their manual goes so far as to say the practice of these postures, “should never be ignored and treated casually just because the practices are simple, gentle and comfortable” (Saraswati, pg. 21).
Ayurveda, an ‘ancient’ system of Indian Medicine (read: life extending alchemy), breaks the human constitution down into 3 elemental groupings, then treats malfunction in these groupings. These groupings are Pitta, which corresponds roughly to fire, Kapha, which corresponds to both earth and water, and Vata, which corresponds to both space and wind. Arthritis and nervous disorders (depression, anxiety, even some schizotypal disorders, as well as chronic flatulence) are caused by an imbalance in the Vata structure (or dosha). The wind in pawanmuktasana and the Vata in Ayurveda now seem intrinsically related.
Traditional Chinese medicine holds “wind” as being one of the pernicious influences and examines its effects in terms of the organs it interacts with, it enters into the back of the neck (where the spinal cord lies), bringing with it all kinds of pathogenic effects as it distributes itself and its contents in various places in the body. Many medical Qi-Gong practices, with their gentle movements involving contracting and expanding, rolling and circling, have their aim in pushing excess wind out of the body. Qi-Gong and Pawanmuktasana have an inextricable link in my brain due to their startling similarities.
In practice 3 major factors can prevent the deepening of a stretch. The first: bony or structural interference, this can be solved with radical surgery that may lead to a much shorter and more painful life than anticipated. The second: muscle shortness or stiffness, both of these are soothed and balmed over time with patience and practice. The third: the nerves.
If you have ever tried to stretch forward and your feet have gotten tingly or you felt a strange pulling in the back of your knee then you have experienced this third limitation. Repetitive strain of nerves can cause adhesions, similar to scars, which can lead to further pain and suffering in the form of “twinges” “pinches” and “numbness”.
A strand of Western Medicine calls the method for releasing these adhesions and lengthening nerves is called Neural Flossing. The exercises look startlingly similar to Pawanmuktasana and certain Qi-Gong movements. With adhesion released, impulses can travel down the length of the nerve more easily and more consistently. More simply: by practicing Pawanmuktasana or Qi-Gong your energy flow will improve.