Nanima: Breath-Based

Here is the next part of Nanima. After I wrote this part, which has a section on a special yogic breathing practice called Shambhavi Mahamudra, I realised that it was exactly two years since I first learned the practice. It started with an Inner Engineering online course during lockdown and finished five months later with the first-ever online learning of Shambhavi Mahamudra. As it has turned out, that was the only one of its kind to have Sadhguru live. Glad I was in it. He’s a busy man. I later found out that they were very strict with monitoring the Shambhavi Mahamudra initiation with Sadhguru. We had to have our cameras on for the whole long process, and everyone was observed (not to be criticised but to be helped and protected). If you went away from the screen for more than a few minutes, you were cut off. Initiations with gurus are no trifling matter!

It started with this Inner Engineering online course during the first year of lockdown.
And finished 5 months later with the first ever online learning of Shambhavi Mahamudra.

Something There

As Maliyan walked into Luna Tiks, the woman she had seen with Luna was walking out.

“That’s the person I was telling you about,” said Luna. “The one who is always banging on about the bones—the Repatriation Program—and now she’s head of the new Cultural Centre.”

Detecting a note of pride in Luna, Maliyan looked deeply into his eyes.

“Where have you been?” he asked, diverting attention from himself. “I haven’t seen you for a few weeks.”

“I had a week in the city after a back operation that I didn’t know I was going to have.”

“And why are children running around your front yard?” asked Luna. “Do you have children that I don’t know about? Did you bring them back with you from the city?”

Maliyan laughed and said, “Of course not. I’ve rented my house to them.”

“Where are you living?”

“Euroka’s.”

“Are you living with him?”

“Of course not,” repeated Maliyan. “He has gone to Uluru.”

She changed her tone and added, “He said he is going to die there.”

Luna didn’t know how to respond to that.

“He’ll be back,” he concluded, picking up some plates and cups.

“I’m not so sure,” said Maliyan. “He gave away all his furniture and donated his artworks to the Cultural Centre.”

Luna put the plates down again.

“He gave me his hut,” said Maliyan in an understated manner. “He said I don’t have to live there and am free to do anything I want with it.”

“Then, sell it,” said Luna. “Don’t live there. It’s freezing. Euroka is much tougher than you. And the river floods.”

“Yes, he is,” said Maliyan, “but I’ve blocked up most of the holes and got my fire-making system running smoothly. The flood waters only occasionally get that high.”

Luna raised his hands in a why gesture.

“There is something there,” said Maliyan.

“I’m sure there is something there,” said Luna, who looked like it would be wisest to leave the something to itself.

As Maliyan left, she handed Luna a piece of paper and said, “Can you please do this and tell me what happens.”

Up and Dressed

Late winter wasn’t the best time to move into Euroka’s hut. Then again, Maliyan wasn’t sure if there was an ideal time to move into a primitive hut haunted by spirits. The fire hadn’t had a chance to make a dent in the morning chill, and she watched her foggy breath as she practised her new breathing exercises.

Among the few items Euroka left behind in a box was an old book called Breath-Based Yogic Practice. Maliyan’s eyes fell on a chapter called Shambhavi Mahamudra, which outlined a 21-minute exercise as follows.

  1. Start with slow alternate-nostril breathing for 6 or 7 minutes. It helps to balance the mind.
  2. Then do 21 long repetitions of Om (Aum). Make sure you pass through the three stages of ah-uu-mm as it activates different energy centres. Ah is for creation, uu is for manifestation, and mm is for destruction. Creation needs all three.
  3. Next, do the quick and shallow nose breathing exercise, Viparita Swasa, for 3 to 4 minutes. 
  4. Move onto breath retention on both an inhale and exhale while muscularly and energetically engaging the bandhas—the pelvic floor, lower abdomen, and throat. 
  5. Lastly, sit quietly in meditation for 5 minutes. 

It had a warning not to practise the exercise unless one had been given appropriate instruction and was initiated into it by a suitable teacher. As Maliyan had neither appropriate instruction nor suitable teacher, she decided to initiate herself into it. She hoped that the combined spirits of Euroka’s hut and the Bell River would assist with her venture. 

  1. The alternate nostril breathing was easy and relaxing. Maliyan felt that, as the book stated, most people would find it balancing. 
  2. The 21 repetitions of Aum were more work, but she assumed they were meant to be as the exercise touched the whole spectrum of creation. No little feat. 
  3. The rapid, shallow nose breathing was beyond her. This damn thing, she would mutter every time she got to it. She felt that all she was managing to do was to hyperventilate. However, for all her complaining, she noticed that it had the strange effect of bringing a great deal of energy (which felt like fire) into her body, particularly her lower chakras.
  4. She found the breath retention and bandha locks relatively straightforward and enjoyable. It was as if all the fire which had accumulated in her body from the previous exercise was being put to good use. What the good use was precisely—she didn’t know.

Deciding to keep reading the book, she saw a note after the breathing instructions.

Note to Women:

You may find that this combination of exercises directly affects the activation of sexual energy in your body. We recommend that you use it in an appropriate energetic way.

She was interested in the note because she had already mentally and physically noted the effect herself.

Appropriate energetic way? thought Maliyan. What is that when it’s up and dressed? (a saying her country relatives sometimes used)

I wonder what it tells men to do? her thoughts continued.

She turned the page, but it was torn out. And that is how she came to copy the breathing exercise and give it to Luna without an explanation.

* * *

A few days later, in Luna Tiks:

“I’ve been too busy to do your breathing exercises,” said Luna off-handedly.

“That’s okay,” said Maliyan. “You don’t have to do them. Only if you want to.”

Luna looked like that wouldn’t be any time soon.

“Are you dating that woman who is the head of the Cultural Centre?” asked Maliyan deciding that honesty saves a lot of time and confusion.

“Nah, I’m not partner-able,” said Luna. “No one could stand me.”

Maliyan opened her mouth to reply, but Luna continued, “And I couldn’t stand anyone.”

If you don’t have time to do my breathing exercises, which would do you a world of good, thought Maliyan, and you don’t want to make an effort to include anyone in your personal life, then I’ll leave you to your own miserable self.

As Maliyan pulled on her coat to leave, Luna said, slightly apologetically, “I’ll get back to you.”

Maliyan didn’t bother answering. 

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