Sit in Padmasana or half Padmasana.
Close the eyes and keep the head up, keeping the hands loosely on the knees with the palms facing upwards (savasana rotation of the arms). This helps to keep the shoulder blades down.
We have to find the gravitational balance. The body should lean slightly forward (about 80 °) so that the hara is in contact with the pada bandha If the body is too far backward, you can feel that you are hanging from your frontal muscles in order not to fall over backwards. If the body is too far forward, the muscle in the back have to be tense in order to keep the body from falling forwards. So find the balance of the body on the hara.
The spine, the body, should not collapse, it should be completely straight, but do not depend on the muscles for this. If the body is resting on the mula bandha, you don’t need much effort to keep the body straight. The front and the back of the body should be parallel to each other.
It is the same with the sideways balance. You should also feel that you are balancing evenly on both the buttock bones, the weight on both those bones should be even.
Padmasana is not an ideal position in the sense that the pelvis in this position is always slightly uneven. You have to change the crossing of the legs at regular intervals so as not to permanently make the pelvis uneven. The line of the spine should end up exactly in the middle between the two buttock bones.
The head should balance evenly on the spinal column. If the head is too far forward, the muscles at the back of the upper trunk and neck are tense in order to prevent the head from falling forwards. So here too the head should be on the gravitational line, straight above the rib cage and the pelvis, and all the vertebrae of the spinal column should be in alignment.
Find out where the central gravitational line of the body is, so that you relax most of the muscular system, resting almost entirely on the skeleton. The muscles relax, the skeleton remains firm.
Feel whether the pelvis is sitting heavily and broadly on the buttock bones, of whether you are pricking the buttock bones into the ground to lift the rest of the pelvis up. Do not lift the rest of the pelvis up by lifting the rib cage; the movement has to come from the pelvis itself, not by pushing the solar plexus forward.
The beauty of the body is when it is light. Everybody knows how to be heavy, but find out how light the body can become. This lightness of the body comes when the whole skeletal frame of the body lifts up, and the muscles hang completely loose from the frame of the skeleton.
Draw the spine upwards out of the muscular periphery of the body, like you draw a sword out of a scabbard. To do that you have to shift the weight of your awareness onto the back of the body, not the physical weight of your body, but the internal weight of your awareness.
People do not realize that awareness, consciousness, has bulk and weight , it can move around and throw light on different areas of the body. Usually the internal weight of the awareness is on the front of the body, the face, the throat, the sternum, the solar plexus, creating a lot of tensions there. This is where we feel most at home, and thus the neck and shoulders are pulled forward chronically and the back stoops. Moving the internal weight backwards automatically releases the tensions at the front of the body.
Moving the internal weight of the body backwards does not mean that the spine should bend backwards, rather the spine should be firm like a rod and the internal weight has to “lean” against the spine. This automatically broadens the whole back, and this broadening of the back then allows the body to lengthen upwards. In this action there is no muscular effort involved.
The same thing applies in the region of the head and the neck. With eyes closed feel inside your body: You can feel that you are on the front of the face and the chest, and this drags the head and the neck forward. The usual remedy is to pull the chin in, which is again an action on the front. So instead of correcting one wrong action on the front by another, see if you can withdraw the internal weight backwards from the face, the throat and the chest into the back of the head.
If you manage to do this you can easily feel how the neck broadens and lengthens without any muscular effort; the whole head comes as it were out of the trunk, like a turtle drawing its head out of the shell. When the turtle pulls its head out, the shell stays where it is, so here too, he chest stays where it is and the head just comes out. So the neck is lengthened not by pulling the chin in, but internal weight shifting.
PART TWO: UJJAYI PRANAYAMA
When you breathe let the action be on the back, because this is where you get the depth of the breathing. If you breathe from the frontal ribs, you never obtain the same depth. So, without bending the spine, breathe into the back.
In inhalation the diaphragm moves downwards and backwards, not forwards. And when you exhale, draw the air up out of the back. When you inhale, push the coccyx and the buttock bones down, and at the same time extend the lumbar and the thoracic vertebrae. Then when you exhale you keep the coccyx down and maintain the length between the vertebrae which you got from the inhalation.
If you confine the breathing only to the chest, if you think that only the lungs are involved in the breathing, you automatically block the inhalation, you restrict the expansion of the lungs and chest. To get the depth of the inhalation, you have to think more comprehensively.
Start the inhalation by almost bypassing the lungs, and inhale way down, almost in the pelvis. Of course, this is by way of speaking, but the feeling is actually there. Bypassing the lungs in this way you automatically release the diaphragm, so that it is free to go down and back. The spinal column remains straight. Then the breathing becomes really deep and wide.
Take the head down, but do not drag it down, never make heavy movements. Keep the head light, just tip it down lightly, the axis is in the ear holes, not in the shoulders.
Keep the hands loosely on the knees, palms facing upward.
The spine, the skeleton, should be completely straight and still, not shaking. The inhalation and the exhalation should also not shake or change the position of the spine and skeleton.
Anything you do, bringing the head down, sitting, breathing, can be done in two ways. You can either put the energy of the movement in the muscles, which creates tensions so that that energy is lost, tied down in these tensions. Or, the other way is not to tie the energy down in the muscles, but let it remain free and fluid. It is only this energy which can bring joy to the pose.
When you sit, the more you sit and breathe from the skeletal frame, the more you can release the grip of the muscles on the bones, and so the more you release that energy which is locked up in the muscles as useless tension.
That does not mean that you have to be weak and floppy. On the contrary, withdrawing the energy from the muscles and investing it in the bones will make you more strong and give you more endurance than before. It will give you more power, but a different kind of power, a different kind of energy. To bring the head down, lift the back of the head up. The neck should not move backward, but upward. Release the grip of the muscles on the bones, and release the grip of the skin on the muscles. How much is the skin of the hands holding onto the muscles of the hands? The maturity, energy wise, of the body comes when the skin, muscle and bone separate, then the body will be light.
The whole point is whether to do psychological warfare or not. If the muscles grip the bones unnecessarily, if there is unnecessary tension, then there is internal warfare. But one should not indulge the body either. We should find a state of peace in the body which is neither indulgence nor warfare. And that is only possible when you balance the body on the bones and use the muscles minimally, mainly for movement. Just use the muscles lightly to keep the body erect.
So when you inhale, bypass the chest, as it were, so that the inhalation widens the back and elongates the spine. During exhalation that length has to be maintained, even though the back loses its width.
Fill the rib cage evenly in all directions, the ribs and the shoulder blades should widen, and the chest and shoulder blades should hang passively from the spinal column. Often we pull the body up from the rib cage, from the shoulders, from the shoulder blades, and the spine is dull.
Bring the dynamism of the periphery into the spinal column, pulling the spinal column out of the rib cage like a sword out of its scabbard. The brain, reason, is connected with the skeleton, while the emotions are connected with the muscles. If you lift the rib cage and the shoulders, that is an emotional and egoistic action, not a cool action. We have to learn to separate the muscles and the bones: if the whole body, muscles and bones, are “soft”, the body sags, there is no firmness.
On the other hand, if the whole body (muscles and bones) are aggressive, there is a lot of stiffness and tension. One is indulgence and the other is warfare. So one has to strike a balance, the bones have to be firm while the muscles have to release: Yin and Yang. Get that balance between the masculine and feminine energy within the body, not overdoing either one. The awareness should be absolutely clear and piercing, it should pierce the body. Then the breathing becomes slow and controlled.
When you inhale and exhale, the air should not disturb the skeleton. The lumbar vertebrae should elongate, but the skeleton should not oscillate. At the same time, the inhalation and the exhalation should not meet with any obstacles anywhere in the muscles. The muscles of the chest should be completely receptive to the breathing, but not the skeleton. If you can find that balance, then you have dine ninety percent of the work.
Find out in the body where the muscle is obstructing the breathing. In the solar plexus, in the shoulders, in the chest, find out where the muscles are obstructing, and then gently, internally, remove that obstruction.