The following series of videos on IDL Pranayama provide an outline of a practice described in depth in “Seven Octaves of Enlightenment: Integral Deep Listening Pranayama.”
Benefits of IDL Pranayama
What is Breath Meditation?
The Hindu Foundations of Pranayama
Manipulation, Control, and Awareness of Breathing
Variable and Cyclic Breath Order
Chakras in Hindu Pranayama
The Sequence of Teaching Pranayama in Yogic Traditions
How You Breathe is Fundamental to Your Health
Breathing and the Lymphatic System
How You Breathe Affects How You Handle Stress
An Overview of Octave 1: Sensory Awareness
An Overview of Octave 2: Breath as Process
An Overview of Octave 3: Grounding Affirmation
An Overview of Octave 4: Core Qualities
An Overview of Octave 5: Transformational Perspectives
An Overview of Octave 6: Emptying
An Overview of Octave 7: Breathing as Life
Using Your Breath to Balance Your Life
Using Your Breath to Deal With Loss and Grief
Using Your Breath for Transformation
Awakening in the Three States and the Developmental Dialectic
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Benefits of IDL Pranayama
Your Breath is your most accessible and foundational tool for healing, balancing, and transforming your life. In IDL Pranayama, every breath has six stages and every breath can be approached from one of seven different “Octaves:” Sensory Awareness, Breath as Process, Grounding Affirmation, Core Qualities, Transformational Perspectives, Emptying, and Breathing as Life. As you learn and work with these Seven Octaves your breath will take on meanings you never realized that it had. You will be able to call upon it to amplify needed strengths, bring greater balance into your life, and support your transformation from drama to clarity and luminosity.
IDL Pranayama: What is Breath Meditation?
How is it that we so routinely ignore something that accompanies us wherever we go, whatever we do, throughout the entirety of our lives? Isn’t it amazing that we rarely make use of something we do some twenty thousand times a day? How is it that a transformative presence, so simple and easily taken for granted, is not only novel, but rarely respected? How is it that we take for granted, know so little about, and make such cursory use of our most profound, reliable, supportive, instructive and positive companion?
Despite the common knowledge that Gautama Buddha used observation of breath to attain enlightenment, its nature and power is rarely recognized or used. Your breath is your most misunderstood, under-appreciated and misused resource, particularly when we consider its profound benefits, amazing power, proven efficacy, ease of use, lack of negative side effects and transformative capabilities. You can use your breath to expand your consciousness and speed your development. Integral Deep Listening (IDL) pranayama is designed to open new, important and exciting possibilities to you. Your ability to become aware of the stages of each breath you take and the octaves of the evolution of consciousness that it personifies is a revolutionary and profound competency that has always been available to you, lying just under your nose. IDL pranayama is an enjoyable and effective way to turn your breath into your best friend. How is it that we so routinely ignore something that accompanies us wherever we go, whatever we do, throughout the entirety of our lives? Isn’t it amazing that we rarely make use of something we do some twenty thousand times a day? How is it that a transformative presence, so simple and easily taken for granted, is not only novel, but rarely respected? How is it that we take for granted, know so little about, and make such cursory use of our most profound, reliable, supportive, instructive and positive companion?
Despite the common knowledge that Gautama Buddha used observation of breath to attain enlightenment, its nature and power is rarely recognized or used. Your breath is your most misunderstood, under-appreciated and misused resource, particularly when we consider its profound benefits, amazing power, proven efficacy, ease of use, lack of negative side effects and transformative capabilities. You can use your breath to expand your consciousness and speed your development. Integral Deep Listening (IDL) pranayama is designed to open new, important and exciting possibilities to you. Your ability to become aware of the stages of each breath you take and the octaves of the evolution of consciousness that it personifies is a revolutionary and profound competency that has always been available to you, lying just under your nose. IDL pranayama is an enjoyable and effective way to turn your breath into your best friend.
IDL Pranayama: Developmental Roots
While approaching breathing in terms of a developmental spiral of seven octaves echoes the “spectrum of consciousness,” or the developmental progress of awakening laid out in all or in part by Plotinus, Aurobindo, Maslow, Kohlberg, Piaget and many others, and synthesized by Wilber, that was not the formative intention behind IDL pranayama. Its roots involved a great deal of practice that I did observing my breath during the 1990’s, not only during meditation but while jogging and mountain climbing in the Sonoran Desert Mountain Preserve in Phoenix, Arizona, and realizing that every breath could be easily and reasonably subdivided into six component stages.
IDL Pranayama 1C: The Hindu Foundations of Pranayama
It is impossible to compare Integral Deep Listening Pranayama to pranayama, per se, because there is no one yogic tradition regarding pranayama. Experts from different types of hatha yoga, including Integral, Iyengar, Kundalini, Ashtanga, Viniyoga, and Kirpalu, teach different approaches to pranayama. This variety results in part from the brevity of the ancient texts upon which modern practices are based. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, for example, which dates not from before the third century BCE and possibly as late as the fifth century CE, is the core source for most forms of Hindu yoga. Pranayama is the fourth ‘limb’ of the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga mentioned in verse 2.29. Patanjali presents pranayama as essentially an exercise that is preliminary to concentration. It says that lengthening the exhalation can help to reduce disturbances of the mind, but doesn’t offer detailed techniques for doing so. Most instructions on pranayama date only from the Yogashastra, written between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. At present, in the absence of scientific studies of competing claims, there is no one “best” approach to pranayama, and appeals to tradition or personal benefits are as easily made by one tradition as another. The approach to pranayama that you learn first is probably going to be the one you favor.
IDL Pranayama: Manipulation, Control, and Awareness of Breathing
IDL notes that you cannot observe what you are not aware of. Therefore, a thorough investigation of breath and breathing will increase your awareness of it and the quality of your observation of your breath during meditation. In this context, IDL pranayama provides tools for developing your discrimination and awareness of your breath which in turn increases your powers of observation. You will hear some people say, “Shouldn’t I just follow my breath? Isn’t a mistake to control it?” The majority of Hindu approaches to pranayama emphasize breath control. There are other schools of thought and practice, like most Buddhist and Buddhist-derived approaches, that teach vipassana, or mindfulness or Zen meditation, that emphasize simple observation of breath, without control. This is why there is no strong Buddhist tradition of pranayama as a yoga._ There are good arguments for both approaches. If you learn to observe your breath in specific ways and enhance the way you breathe you will have powerful tools of self-observation and self-transcendence that you did not have before. From then on you have a freedom to use them or not to use them, as you desire. You do not have this option, this freedom, if you do not learn both discrimination and control. It could even be argued that the Buddha only had the ability to observe his breath in a way that allowed him to attain enlightenment because he had a background of yogic meditative practices that probably included pranayama. The entire IDL Video Curricula can be found at IntegralDeepListening.Com.IDL notes that you cannot observe what you are not aware of. Therefore, a thorough investigation of breath and breathing will increase your awareness of it and the quality of your observation of your breath during meditation. In this context, IDL pranayama provides tools for developing your discrimination and awareness of your breath which in turn increases your powers of observation. You will hear some people say, “Shouldn’t I just follow my breath? Isn’t a mistake to control it?” The majority of Hindu approaches to pranayama emphasize breath control. There are other schools of thought and practice, like most Buddhist and Buddhist-derived approaches, that teach vipassana, or mindfulness or Zen meditation, that emphasize simple observation of breath, without control. This is why there is no strong Buddhist tradition of pranayama as a yoga._ There are good arguments for both approaches. If you learn to observe your breath in specific ways and enhance the way you breathe you will have powerful tools of self-observation and self-transcendence that you did not have before. From then on you have a freedom to use them or not to use them, as you desire. You do not have this option, this freedom, if you do not learn both discrimination and control. It could even be argued that the Buddha only had the ability to observe his breath in a way that allowed him to attain enlightenment because he had a background of yogic meditative practices that probably included pranayama.
IDL Pranayama: Variable and Cyclic Breath Order
In Yogashastra, the early and principle Hindu text on pranayama, breathing chiefly involves two activities, inhaling and exhaling. Of these the former is called Puraka or purak, “taking the breath inside,” and the latter Rechak or recaka, “discharging” breath. Integral Yoga and some other forms add a third, kumbhak, or retaining the breath. Integral Yoga views three-part deep breathing as the foundation of all yogic breathing techniques. It notes that “Studies have shown that you can take in and give out seven times as much air—that means seven times as much oxygen, seven times as much prana—in a three-part deep breath than in a shallow breath.” Various schools of pranayama further divide the breath. For example, in what is called Deergha Swasam, Integral yoga students are instructed to breathe slowly and deeply while envisioning that they are filling their lungs from bottom to top—first by expanding the abdomen, then the middle rib cage, and finally the upper chest. When exhaling, students envision the breath emptying in reverse, from top to bottom, pulling in the abdomen slightly at the end to empty the lungs completely. This is a different order of exhalation from some other forms of pranayama. For example, Kundalini teaches to first exhale from the diaphragm, then the middle rib cage, and then the upper chest. This follows the adaptive response of those life forms with autonomic nervous systems and diaphragms. The belief is that consciously imitating the unconscious and “natural” form of breathing used by animals and humans while asleep or unaware of their breathing creates a deeper, healthier, more controlled, and more powerful breath for those who wish to go into trance and stop breathing.
IDL Pranayama: Chakras in Hindu Pranayama
We have seen in previous videos in this series on pranayama, how Hinduism uses breathing methods to raise prana, or energy, or the subtle breath of life, through various nadis, or subtle energy channels associated with the spinal column, and chakras, or vibrational and karmic energy vortices that are connected by nadis and also are centered at seven or more points along the spine and into the cranium. Consideration of the chakras is central to the Kundalini yogic tradition of pranayama. Students are encouraged to feel the breath originating from the lowest three chakras at the base of the torso to bring forth prana from its source in the earth. Kundalini is the term for “a spiritual energy of life force located at the base of the spine,” conceptualized as a coiled serpent. The practice of Kundalini yoga is intended to arouse the sleeping Kundalini, Shakti, from its coiled base through the six chakras, to penetrate the seventh chakra, or crown. This energy is said to travel along the ida (left), pingala (right) and central, or sushumna nadi – the main channels of pranic energy in the body. Kundalini energy is technically explained as being sparked during yogic breathing when prana and apana blend at the third or naval chakra, at which point prana initially drops down to the first and second chakras before traveling up to the spine to the higher centers of the brain to activate the golden cord – the connection between the pituitary and pineal glands – and penetrate the seven chakras in a healing, transformative stream of enlightenment. This psychospiritual physiology was first popularized in the West by Blavatsky and her followers and to a lesser extent by Vivikananda and Yogananda. Currently, it is impossible to take a training in Hatha yoga without encountering it.
IDL Pranayama: The Sequence of Teaching Pranayama in Yogic Traditions
For Kripalu Yoga, breathing exercises are as likely to be offered before asana, or Hatha yoga practice, as after. The Ashtanga school of yoga is very breath-oriented, introducing a kind of pranayama, Pattabhi Jois from the moment one begins the practice. In Kundalini Yoga, breathing practices are integrated into all classes along with asana, chanting, meditation, and other cleansing practices designed to liberate healing flows of energy from the base of the spine. In Iyengar yoga, pranayama is taught after grounding in asanas. In Viniyoga, breathing is the foundation upon which all other practices are built. In the Integral yoga tradition propounded by Swami Satchidananda, pranayama is incorporated into every yoga class. A typical session of yoga instruction starts with asana, moves on to pranayama, and ends with seated meditation. Pranayama follows asanas and precedes seated meditation. Integral yoga, which has no connection to Integral Deep Listening and its understanding of both pranayama and dream yoga, considers Asana (hatha yoga) as meditation on the body and pranayama as meditation on the breath and subtle energy currents within us. It then works with the mind directly, with the ultimate aim of transcending body and mind and experiencing the higher self.
IDL Pranayama: How You Breathe is Fundamental to Your Health
Let’s take a look at how important breathing is to your health and your body’s healing processes.
You breathe about 20,000 times a day. You can live for days without food or water but unless you are an adept that enters a sophisticated trance state, you will be dead in minutes if you cannot breathe. It follows then that partial or insufficient breathing must have detrimental effects on health. Children breathe deeply, from their diaphragm. As we age our breathing shifts to the chest and becomes more shallow and more rapid. The average person reaches peak respiratory function in their mid twenties. They then begin to lose 10-27% breathing capacity for every decade of life. Children may hold their breath when they are afraid. If a child goes to bed angry, sad or tense they may hold their breath without realizing it. This leads to the loss of abdominal inhalation and exhalation and a constriction of breathing and asthma can develop as a result of such constriction. Adults can also lose the capacity for deep core breathing from a traumatic emotional experience, or physical pain, which tends to cause us to want to move as little as possible. This restricts breathing and later, when we are well, our breath may remain shallow. Difficulties in breathing, due to asthma or some other pulmonary dysfunction, can create chronic anxiety and even existential angst, because survival is so centrally tied to our ability to breathe.
IDL Pranayama: Breathing and the Lymphatic System
Most of your body is made up of water. Your cells are located in a sea of pale liquid, called lymph. Some of this water resides in the bloodstream, but far more is in your lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system is twice the size of your cardio-vascular circulatory system. Twice as much lymph as blood is present in your body and you have twice as many lymph vessels as blood vessels. The function of your lymphatic system is to remove dead cells, blood proteins and other toxic materials from your cells and tissues. One of the keys to health is to keep your lymphatic system open and flowing freely. If your lymph system were to totally shut down for twenty-four hours you would die as the result of trapped blood proteins and excess fluid around your cells. That’s how important this largely unnoticed bodily system is.
Blood is pumped from your heart through your arteries into thin, porous capillaries. Your blood carries nutrients and oxygen to these capillaries, where they are diffused into the lymph. Your cells, having an intelligence or affinity for what they need, take nutrients and oxygen for their health and then excrete toxins, some of which go back into the capillaries. Because toxic materials and excess fluid restrict the amount of oxygen that your cells are able to absorb, your body’s cells depend on a healthy lymphatic system to drain off these toxic byproducts. Fluid passes through your lymph nodes, where dead cells and all other poisons except blood proteins are destroyed and neutralized. The lymph collected throughout your body drains into the blood through two ducts located at the base of the neck. It ultimately ends up in the ‘thoracic duct.’ This duct empties lymph into your veins, where it becomes part of the blood plasma. From there, the lymph returns to the liver for metabolization, and finally to the kidneys for filtering.
How You Breathe Affects How You Handle Stress
A simple breathing exercise is an easy first strategy to try in order to get a better night’s sleep. When you get ready to go to bed, do two minutes of diaphragmatic breathing followed by two minutes of extended exhalations, with a goal of making your exhalations twice as long as your inhalations. Diaphragmatic breathing is easier to learn if you put a hand on your abdomen to heighten your awareness of its movement. For the exhalations, a hand on your chest will help you to release more fully. If such breathing exercises improve your sleep you will not have to move on to drugs with side effects that typically do not address the underlying issues causing insomnia.
Deep, regular breathing also reduces chronic “fright or flight” anxiety by activating the parasympathetic branch of your autonomic nervous system. Deep breathing reverses the shallow, quick breathing patterns which are generally associated with trauma. A good homework exercise for this unit is to get in the habit of shifting your awareness to your breath whenever you find yourself anxious, worried, impatient or reactive.
IDL Pranayama: An Overview of Octave 1: Sensory Awareness
Awareness of the six stages of every breath, abdominal and chest inhalation, the pause after inhalation, chest and abdominal exhalation, and the pause after exhalation, is the foundational octave on which the other six octaves of breathing are based. In this short video you are introduced to each of these six stages as simple sensory awareness.
IDL Pranayama: An Overview of Octave 2: Breath as Process
Breath as process, the second octave of IDL pranayama, is built on the awareness that each of the six stages is associated with a different life process which occurs not only every day and year, but in the course of every project and relationship. We begin and awaken, we grow and become more alive, we balance our activities, thoughts, and feelings, we let go and detach, we move into a state of relative release or freedom, and finally, we can experience a state of complete release, or clarity.
IDL Pranayama: An Overview of Octave 3: Grounding Affirmation
Each of the six stages of every breath can be associated with statements that ground us in security and support, building the confidence that we need to move forward in our lives as well as amplify gratitude that protects us from both depression and anxiety. In this video you will learn how support and gratitude are linked to each of the six stages. In the book, “IDL Pranayama: Seven Octaves of Enlightenment, these stages and relationships are described in detail.
IDL Pranayama: An Overview of Octave 4: Core Qualities
The six stages of every breath can be associated with core qualities, abdominal inhalation with awakening and confidence, chest inhalation with aliveness and empathy, the pause after inhalation with balance and wisdom, chest exhalation with detachment and acceptance, abdominal exhalation with freedom and inner peace, and the pause after exhalation with clarity and witnessing. These core qualities heal, balance each other, and transform and are built into single character IDL interviewing protocols. For more information about this octave see IDL Pranayama: Seven Octaves of Enlightenment.
IDL Pranayama: An Overview of Octave 5: Transformational Perspectives
The fifth of the Seven Octaves of IDL Pranayama deals with elements of a worldview that heals, balances, and transforms. These are abundance, gratitude, joy, cosmic humor, polycentrism, and luminosity. Each of these are explained in depth in IDL Pranayama: Seven Octaves of Enlightenment.
IDL Pranayama:An Overview of Octave 6: Emptying
While affirming truth, goodness, and harmony are essential, and reflective of inhalation and the pause at the top of the breath, so is letting go, emptying, the via negativa In this, the Sixth Octave of IDL Pranayama, we focus on letting go of our body, emotions, thoughts, intentions, sense of self, and the absence of our sense of self. The purpose is to help us use each breath to move us into causal formlessness, a state of openness to creativity and perspectives that transcend those we already know.
IDL Pranayama: An Overview of Octave 7: Breathing as Life
The previous Six Octaves of IDL Pranayama have taken the perspective of ourselves, or that of psychological geocentrism, in which we are the center of our reality. The Seventh Octave of IDL Pranayama breathes from the perspective of life itself. As life we experience ourselves awakening, vibrantly growing, fulfilled as manifesting in an through us, welcoming us into it, embracing us, and fulfilling us via oneness with it, life itself.
Using Your Breath to Balance Your Life
Breath can most easily and quickly be understood as a polarity between alertness and relaxation, aliveness and letting go, activity and quiescence. What this immediately suggests is that if you are too relaxed, you can use your inhalations to bring more oxygen into your brain to increase alertness and focus. If you are hyperactive or overly alert, as with insomnia, you can use your exhalations to support letting go, relaxation and sleep.
Using Your Breath to Deal With Loss and Grief
Breathing can help you move more quickly and gracefully through the five stages of grief described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, MD. These are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Learning to do so is important because these five stages apply to any loss, trauma or experience of failure. The longer it takes you to move through them, the more likely you are to habituate to each of them, slowing your recovery and undermining your health. The first two stages, denial and anger, are activations of the sympathetic branch of your autonomic nervous system as part of your mammalian fight or flight reflex. This is normally and naturally associated with constriction of breathing as control, attention, focus and concentration are emphasized over relaxation and openness. Using the breathing techniques taught by Integral Deep Listening on a regular basis will cause improved breathing to be automatically available to you when grief enters your life. The result is that you are likely to go less deeply into denial and anger and recover from them more quickly.
Using Your Breath for Transformation
Transformation normally does not last, but is instead a temporary state opening. It can occur in exciting and liberating but temporary and difficult to duplicate states, such as lucid dreaming, mystical and near death experiences. Temporary state transformations are intense, awe-inspiring, generally emotional, attractive and addictive. Permanent transformation, which is attainment of a higher stage of development, is the result of the marriage of your normal, ongoing thesis level of development, with its opposite, or antithesis. Permanent transformations are almost imperceptible and are easy to ignore or discard as not occurring at all. Temporary, astounding state openings are meant to motivate your commitment to the ongoing, persistent effort required to make lasting developmental transformations. IDL pranayama provides small but consistent state openings in ways that are designed to support your awareness of your entire developmental path as well as increase your openness to each of its stages at the same time. What this does is integrate those parts that you need, or missing elements of your development, into your current stage, thereby supporting and encouraging your development into the next stage of your ongoing enlightenment.
Awakening in the Three States and the Developmental Dialectic
The three natural states are waking, dreaming and deep sleep. Integral Deep Listening is a form of dream yoga that emphasizes waking up in waking life, because it is your waking awareness that is the dreamer and the perceiver of your dreams while you are dreaming, as well as of lucid dreams and even lucid deep sleep. Therefore, it is critical that this perceiver, your waking sense of who you are, becomes clear and non-reactive.
There are yogas that teach waking up in each of these three states as well as a fourth, called by Hinduism turiya, or non-dual awareness. Transpersonal levels can be sub-divided into the three states, energic, or nature mysticism, subtle, devotional, or saintly mysticism, and causal, formless or sage mysticism. Beyond these lies a state or consciousness which is their integration, called the non-dual. While anyone can have openings into any or all of these states, transformation is based on step-by-step evolution through a clearly demarked series of evolutionary prepersonal and personal developmental stages. IDL pranayama advances lucidity in the three states of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep by reducing reactivity and disidentification with various components of self: sensations and the body, emotions and preferences, thoughts and cognitive distortions and attachment to the concept of identity itself.
The developmental dialectic consists of a building, balancing and integration thesis stage that we are in some eighty percent of the time, a disruptive, challenging and chaotic antithetical stage that we are in perhaps some fifteen percent of the time, and a transformational synthesis stage which we are in no more than five percent of the time. IDL pranayama supports easier, more effective thesis stage integration by promoting core processes and qualities that support it. Chief among these are aliveness, confidence, balance and wisdom. It also reduces avoidance and trauma during the antithetical stage by promoting such core processes and qualities as acceptance, detachment, gratitude and freedom. By welcoming antithesis as wake-up calls to be listened to through deep listening in an integral way, IDL pranayama supports transformation with inner peace, witnessing, clarity and luminosity. IDL defuses conflict, meaning that we integrate the antithetical more quickly and smoothly. Consequently, when transformations arrive they are more likely to be integrated rather than fade away.