Tantra Therapy, Part 3: Advanced Yoga Practices
The descriptions below offer an entry point to three advanced hatha yoga practices which can help you gain access to the healing power of the pranic force at the navel center. All require proficiency with bandhas, guidance from an experienced teacher, and consistent prolonged practice.
1. Agni Sara
Bend the knees and support your torso with your hands on the thighs. Exhale and squeeze the abdominal wall toward the spine. Inhale and relax, releasing the belly. Repeat, engaging as deeply as possible, and relaxing as completely as possible. If you are menstruating, or pregnant, or have a hiatal hernia or cardiovascular problems, do only this much.
To deepen the practice, exhale and engage mula bandha by contracting the pelvic floor and the sphincters between the pubic bone and the tailbone, as well as the lower belly. Then contract the mid and upper abdomen. Relax slowly but completely on the inhalation. Both the inhalation and the exhalation should be smooth, slow, and deep. On the exhalation make an extra effort to work deep in the pelvic floor.
To further deepen the practice, while exhaling, contract in a wavelike motion, starting with the pelvic floor and moving up through the belly to the diaphragm. With the breath held out, tuck the chin and draw the whole abdomen and diaphragm up under the ribs. (This is uddiyana bandha) Next, release the diaphragm and begin to inhale, first releasing the upper belly, then the lower belly, and then the pelvic floor. Repeat this, working with depth and control.
Practice on an empty stomach once or twice a day. A good beginning practice is three to five repetitions per minute for 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Ganesha Mudra
Sit on your heels with your hands on the floor in front of your knees. Exhale strongly, contract deep in the lower belly, and rotate the pelvis and spine to the right, front, left, and center. Inhale, and without pausing, exhale and repeat. Exhale as deeply as possible, using the abdominal muscles to churn the energy of the navel center and bring it up through the spine. Work fluidly and with as much movement as possible: the entire body rotates from its core, rooted in the pelvis. Repeat in the opposite direction.
Ganesha mudra is like a sideways, full-body agni sara—drawing up out of the pelvis with the exhalation—and then churning the energy to send it through the whole body.
The whole spine will feel warm and flexible. This practice is like a sideways, full-body agni sara—drawing up out of the pelvis with the exhalation—and then churning the energy to send it through the whole body. A half-dozen rotations in each direction is a good starting practice.
3. Yoga Mudra
Sit in padmasana (or cross-legged) cup the hands and bring the little finger edge of the hands into the lower belly. Exhale, press the hands in and scoop the belly up as you bend forward, applying mula bandha and uddiyana bandha. Rest the forehead on the floor. Release the upper abdomen and inhale gently. The breath should be subtle and slow. Keep the forehead on the floor and maintain the stabilizing contraction in the pelvic floor as you continue to work deeply with the breath: on each exhalation, gradually squeeze the whole abdomen, and on each inhalation, slowly expand above the pressure of the hands in the lower belly.
Practice for several minutes, but only to your comfortable capacity. Make sure there is no pressure on the heart or lungs. To release, inhale and unfold from the hip joints.