by zen master e

Click here to skip the intro and jump right into the actual Buddhist Pranayama practice

Click here for the Simple Condensed Buddhist Pranayama Instructions

The Buddha taught Pranayama which involves breathing and mindstate modifications and manipulations that infuse the yogi and yogini with energy and wellbeing.

He learned these from the Samkhya teacher Alara Kalama.

I want you to imagine for a moment that the Buddha’s technique of the Full Awareness of Breathing (aka Mindfulness of Breathing) as taught in the Anapanasati Sutra, in particular the breath and emotional state modifications are actually Pranayama energy/qi/prana techniques and we’ve been teaching it wrong for all these eon’s.

I know, I know – it’s pretty crazy.

But anyone who’s ever taken a Pranayama or Kundalini yoga class will immediately see that the first four mindfulness of breathing practices are actually Pranayama qi/prana techniques with the Buddha’s unique twist given to them.

  1. Regular Breathing
  2. Slow Long Breathing
  3. Quick Rapid Breath (aka Breath of Fire)
  4. Full Body Breathing (as if we’re breathing in qi/prana from the very space around us)

After these techniques the Buddha goes on to present emotional/mindstate modification practices. Such that after we’ve energized and quickend the body/mind we start to see that we have some power over our mental/emotional/physiological states.

And in particular he has us nurture and nourish states of well-being that are conducive to living a good and vital life (calm/joy/and happy contentment).

It’s then after this phase that the mind/breath/body syncs up together. After the rampant energies of mind have become harmonized and we are in essence dropped into our bodies as mini-masters of our immediate and present moment.

He solidifies this syncing with more body/environment techniques (walking/sitting/standing/lying down/falling asleep/waking up/talking/and keeping silent).

After these student has a minor level of mastery – then they are taught insight practices of again starting with the body. Internal/external, arising/passing away etc.

And then after this baseline of practice which has propelled the students new forward and have helped them discover and ignite their awakened energies they are taught to use that quickened and alert mind-state to look deeply into their own experience.

And this is where the Buddha’s own teachings start to really kick in.

But for the nature of opening up Mindfulness of Breathing as a Buddhist Pranayama practice this is enough detail.

Reframing Mindfulness of Breathing

Reframing the practice as an energy/vitality practice and re-orienting our minds in such a way, I believe gives us a whole new level to this practice and the effectiveness of it.

Below you’ll find my slight modifications to the technique based on this new idea that mindfulness of breathing is actually a pranayama/energetic practice that works with prana/qi instead of the “normal” way it’s presented.

Buddha & Kundalini

Buddhist Pranayama

The Buddha in the opening of the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing (Anapanasati Sutra) first states how powerful this practice is.

O bhikkhus, the method of being fully aware of breathing, if developed
and practiced continuously, will have great rewards and bring great
advantages.

It will lead to success in practicing the Four Establishments of Mindfulness. If the method of the Four Establishments of Mindfulness is developed and practiced continuously, it will lead to success in the practice of the Seven Factors of Awakening.

The Seven Factors of Awakening, if developed and practiced continuously, will give rise to understanding and liberation of the mind.”

Preliminary Conditions

Peaceful & Beautiful Environment/Posture

It is like this, bhikkhus: the practitioner goes into the forest or to the foot of a tree, or to any deserted place, sits stably in the lotus position, holding his or her body quite straight,

Here the Buddha shares the external conditions which are conducive to this practice namely a quite, safe and beautiful environment as best we can find or create for ourselves in our homes. That way we can feel at ease, safe and won’t be interrupted or distracted during our practice.

As well a body resting comfortably in a meditative posture (which will be described below.)

Meditative Posture

Pranayama Meditative Posture

Strong back – soft front.

We want to be comfortable in this posture.

Put a thickish blanket underneath you and sit on-top of a cushion so that your hips are higher than your knees.

Keep the legs crossed and sit toward the front of the cushion. This will help to keep the spine straight.

What To Do With Your Hands

Place the hands in the Dhyana (Meditation) Mudra in your lap.

The Dhyana Mudra

The Dhyana mudra also gives you a target for your attention so that it can be directed to the Dantian (this spot will be explained below).

Modifications of Mind for Buddhist Pranayam

Now here comes the twists.

After you’ve settled the body in a comfortable meditative posture lightly place the attention at the Dantian spot in the body.

The Dantian is located three finger widths below the belly button.

The Dantian

This spot is somtimes called the cauldron as well or sea of qi (qi means energy).

This is the prime spot of qi/prana within the body.

This is where we will lightly place the attention.

In doing that with the mindset of this practice as an energy practice is what makes all the difference.

Extra Help to Direct Attention

Here’s a special modification I’ve put together for you…

We’re gonna use one more thing to help us securely fasten our attention to the Dantian – we’re going to use the word Atha (silently saying it within our mind).

Atha (pronounced Ah dha) is a sanskrit word which means “now” or “blessings”. This will help hold and direct the energies of attention to this central qi spot.

Using this word, help at the Dantian is like a lightning rod that quickly draws and harnesses the latent energies within the body.

Why Atha?

Because it’s what we use in our tradition anyways as our Koan or Mind Meal.

And it’s central to the teachings of the practice of presence, that the power is now and that each moment is a bounty of blessings if we choose to see them.

Finding the Spot

To help you get familiar with the spot (Dantian) poke it with your fingers now so that the mind can map its location.

Where is it?

About three finger widths below the belly in the centre line of the body.

Found it?

Good.

Now settle back into your meditative postsure.

The Jist of the Foundational Preliminaries Buddhist Pranayama

Ok so you’ve got the jist of the foundation for this practice:

  • find a quiet place to practice
  • be comfortable (cushions/mat)
  • place the body into a meditative posture (get the body as comfortable as possible)
  • put the hands into the Dhyana (Meditation) Mudra
  • soften the belly
  • bring the attention to the Dantian (spot three finger widths below the belly)
  • tongue gently resting against the roof of the mouth just before the teeth (this is one key element a lot of people forget).
  • get ready to sync Atha with the breath while holding the attention on the Dantian

Now comes the various Buddhist Pranayama Practices

Buddhist Pranayama Step 1: Breathing In/Out Normally

The Buddha said, “He or she now practices like this: Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

We start by becoming attuned to our body, this moment and our breathing.

Before this moment we’ve been busy with the day and our lives. So we need to ease into a new moment of heightened attention.

Even this simple often overlooked steps quickens and awakens the latent energies of the body.

So settle into your meditative posture, place your hands into the meditation mudra and get comfortable.

Soften the belly.

Bring the attention to the Dantian. That spot about three finger widths below the belly.

Sync the breath with the mental saying of Atha (silently/mentally).

Remembering that we’re not doing any breath modifications here.

So inbreath “Ah” belly expanding.

Outbreath “dha” belly contracting.

Inbreath “Ah”.

Outbreath “dha”.

Gently holding the attention at the Dantian

At first there’s no breath modification.

We’re just breathing in and out through the nose normally.

Tongue gently resting against the roof of the mouth just before the teeth.

Getting our mind to bring its energies to the Dantian.

Honing in on our target.

Keep the attention at the Dantian with Atha and just allow the breath to flow naturally.

You may start to feel a sensation start to arise there.

Using the word Atha (which means “now” or “blessings” helps us securely anchor our attention at the Dantian. It helps the mind become fixed in the position and quickly gathers the energies there.

So the breathing is happening natural, the word Atha stays at the Dantian and the mind is drawn singlepointedly to that area of the belly which is like a generator of qi/prana.

Breathing in “Ah” (silently at the Dantian) belly expanding.

Breathing out ‘dha” (silently at the Dantian) belly contracting.

Stay there for about a minute doing this synchronized breathing.

Then release attention in the open spaciousness of the moment.

Be present to presence.

You may start to feel a fullness of feeling in the body as we come back home to the miracle of the moment.

Buddhist Pranayama Step 2: Breathing In/Out With the Long Slow Smooth Breath

The Buddha said, “He or she now practices like this: Breathing in a long breath, I know I am breathing in a long breath. Breathing out a long breath, I know I am breathing out a long breath.

Now we begin to modify the breath.

We’ve gotten used to honing in on our target – the dantian. Holding the Koan Atha there. We’ve started to harness the rampant energies of mind down to the belly and out of the thinking/judging/day-dreaming activities that normally rule our lives.

Now we’re gonna use slow, smooth, deep breaths.

Settle back into the posture. Keep the hands in the Dhyana mudra. Soften the belly.

Lightly place the attention again at the Dantian.

Hold the word Atha at that spot and sync it now with the long breath.

We’re gonna breath in slowly, smoothly and deeply.

Allowing the belly to expand with the inbreath.

On the in breath we silently say “Ah” at the dantian.

Rest for a moment at the top of the in breath.

Then on the out breath we say “dha” at the dantian.

Allowing the belly to contract with the outbreath.

Riding the fullness of the breath.

So “Ah” nice and smooth on the inbreath – hold it for a brief slice of a moment at the top fullness of the inbreath – then on the outbreath “dha” and stop for a brief slice of a moment at the full release of the outbreath.

“Ah” nice and smooth on the inbreath – hold it for a moment at the top fullness of the inbreath – then on the outbreath “dha” and stop at the full release of the outbreath.

And this Ah and dha is silent within the mind. Holding the attention at the Dantian.

Stay there for about a minute doing this synchronized breathing.

Then release attention in the open spaciousness of the moment.

Be present to presence.

You may start to feel a fullness of feeling in the body as we come back home to the miracle of the moment.

Buddhist Pranayama Step 3: Breathing In/Out Short and Quick Breaths – Dragon Breathing/Breath of Fire

This is called Dragon Breathing or the Breath of Fire in some traditions.

It’s a quick and rapid type of breathing that is forcefully cycled through the nose with the belly used like a bellows which stokes a fire (the qi/prnana fire).

The Buddha said, “He or she now practices like this: Breathing in a short breath, I know I am breathing in a short breath. Breathing out a short breath, I know I am breathing out a short breath.

Now we begin to modify the breath even more.

We’ve gotten used to honing in on our target – the dantian. Holding the Koan Atha there.

Now we’re gonna use rapid, quick, forceful breaths.

The breathing is so fast that “Ah” and “dha” kinda naturally falls on the outbreath.

You’ll see what I mean when you find your quick breath rythmn.

Settle back into the posture. Keep the hands in the Dhyana mudra.

Take a deep, forceful, quick breath in with “Ah” at the Dantian and the belly expanding.

Then forcefully breath out “dha”.

Then rapidly cycle the “Ah” and “dha”.

The belly becomes the bellows stoking the breath fire.

“Ah”

“dha”

“Ah”

“dha”

“Ah”

“dha”

“Ah”

“dha”

Stay there doing this rapid breath cycle for about a minute.

Then release attention in the open spaciousness of the moment.

Be present to presence.

You should really feel the quickening now. The body may start to feel full and alive. The world around may also feel full and alive.

And the separation that we normally feel between “us” and “the world” may feel like it has been dissolved.

Buddhist Pranayama Step 4: Breathing In/Out With the Whole Body

This is a type of full body breathing.

Where every pore of the body is breathing in and out qi/prana.

The Buddha said, “He or she now practices like this: Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body. Breathing out, I am aware of my whole body.

The body should be feeling like it’s humming right now, a little bit charged and alive. Inner and outer feelings will probably have started to dissolves. Just a radiant electric fullness may start to be experienced.

In this breath modification we’re gonna go back to the slow, smooth, deep breathing style from earlier.

We really want to draw in, savour and be nourished by these universal energies.

Settle back into the posture. Keep the hands in the Dhyana mudra. Soften the belly.

Lightly place the attention again at the Dantian.

Hold the word Atha at that spot and sync it now with the long breath.

We’re gonna breath in slowly, smoothly and deeply but this time as if every pore of our body is breathing in qi/prana/energy.

Allowing the belly to expand with the inbreath.

On the in breath we silently say “Ah” at the dantian breathing in energy from all around us into the Dantian but fully aware of the whole body breathing.

Rest for a moment at the top of the in breath.

Then on the out breath we say “dha” at the dantian breathing in energy from all around us into the Dantian but fully aware of the whole body breathing.

Allowing the belly to contract with the outbreath.

Riding the fullness of the breath.

So “Ah” nice and smooth on the inbreath breathing with every fibre of our being – hold it for a moment at the top fullness of the inbreath – then on the outbreath “dha” and stop at the full release of the outbreath.

“Ah” nice and smooth on the inbreath breathing with every fibre of our being – hold it for a moment at the top fullness of the inbreath – then on the outbreath “dha” and stop at the full release of the outbreath.

And this Ah and dha is silent within the mind. Holding the attention at the Dantian.

Stay there for about a minute do this synchronized slow full body breathing.

Then release attention in the open spaciousness of the moment.

Be present to presence.

You may really be feeling the benefits of this practice now and can see why the Buddha praised this Full Awareness of Breathing as a pinnacle and amazing practice.

Mentally/Emotionaly Infusing the Body With Nourishing/Nurturing States/Energy

Now the practice changes out of straight Buddhist Pranayama into generating, infusing and experience positive mental/emotional/energetic states of being.

The Buddha discovered that he could activate and actualize within his meditative practice states that were conducive to awakened living.

He found that he did have a relative level of control of seemingly uncontrollable habitual states of body/mind.

These are effectively possible after the body/breath/mind had been stabilized and energized.

The three states that he found most beneficial were:

  • calm
  • joy
  • contended happiness

Buddhist Pranayama Step 5: Breathing In/Out Calming the Whole Body

The Buddha said, “He or she now practices like this: Breathing in, I calm my whole body. Breathing out, I calm my whole body.’ He or she practices like this.

The body should really be feeling like it’s radiant and alive.

Now we’re gonna seed the breath/body with an idea of Calm.

So now this idea of calm sync’s with the breath/Atha at the danitan. It infuses the body with healing calming energy.

In this breath modification we’re still going to use the slow, smooth, deep breathing style from earlier.

This modification includes the intention of activating and actualizing the sensation and feeling of calming the whole body system.

To prep for this style I want you to imagine what deep calm feels like.

Maybe for you it’s a early Sunday morning and there’s nothing to do.

Or maybe it’s walking through the forest.

When we lock into that sensation then we start this breath cycle.

We really want to draw in, savour and be nourished by these universal calming energies.

Settle back into the posture. Keep the hands in the Dhyana mudra. Soften the belly.

Lightly place the attention again at the Dantian.

Hold the word Atha at that spot and sync it now with the long breath infused with the feeling sensation of calm.

We’re gonna breath in slowly, smoothly and deeply but this time as if every pore of our body is breathing in calming qi/prana.

Allowing the belly to expand with the inbreath.

On the in breath we silently say “Ah” at the dantian breathing in calming energy from all around us into the Dantian but fully aware of the whole body breathing.

Rest for a moment at the top of the in breath. Even to help anchor in the feeling you can think and feel “I am calm” or even simpler “calm”.

Then on the out breath we say “dha” at the dantian breathing out calming energy as if it is emanating from the very core of our being, fully aware of the whole body breathing.

Allowing the belly to contract with the outbreath.

Rest for a moment at the bottom of the in breath.

Thinking and feeling “I am calm” or even simpler “calm”.

Riding the fullness of the breath sensation.

So “Ah” nice and smooth on the inbreath breathing with every fibre of our being – hold it for a moment at the top fullness of the inbreath “calm” – then on the outbreath “dha” and stop at the full release of the outbreath “calm”.

“Ah” nice and smooth on the inbreath breathing with every fibre of our being – hold it for a moment at the top fullness of the inbreath “calm” – then on the outbreath “dha” and stop at the full release of the outbreath “calm”.

And this Ah and dha and the felling of “calm” or “I am calm” is silent within the mind. Holding the attention at the Dantian.

Stay there for about a minute doing this synchronized slow full body calm breathing.

Then release attention in the open spaciousness of the moment.

Be present to presence.

Buddhist Pranayama Step 6: Breathing In/Out Bringing Joy to the Whole Body

The Buddha said, “He or she now practices like this: Breathing in, I feel joyful. Breathing out, I feel joyful. He or she practices like this.

The body should really be feeling like it’s radiant, alive and calm.

Now we’re gonna seed the breath/body with an idea of Joy.

So now this idea of joy sync’s with the breath/Atha at the danitan. It infuses the body with healing joyful energy.

In this breath modification we’re still going to use the slow, smooth, deep breathing style from earlier.

This modification includes the intention of activating and actualizing the sensation and feeling of joy radiating through the whole body system.

To prep for this style I want you to imagine what radiant joy feels like.

Maybe for you it’s hearing a baby laugh.

Or maybe it’s that moment when your favourite person does a surprise pop.

Reach into your own experience for a memory that you can use as a jumping off point for this meditation.

When we lock into that sensation then we start this breath cycle.

We really want to draw in, savour and be nourished by these universal radiant joyful energies.

Settle back into the posture. Keep the hands in the Dhyana mudra. Soften the belly.

Lightly place the attention again at the Dantian.

Hold the word Atha at that spot and sync it now with the long breath infused with the feeling sensation of joy.

We’re gonna breath in slowly, smoothly and deeply but this time as if every pore of our body is breathing in joy qi/prana.

Allowing the belly to expand with the inbreath.

On the in breath we silently say “Ah” at the dantian breathing in joyful energy from all around us into the Dantian but fully aware of the whole body breathing.

Rest for a moment at the top of the in breath. Even to help anchor in the feeling you can think and feel “I am joyful” or even simpler “joy”.

Then on the out breath we say “dha” at the dantian breathing out joyful energy as if it’s emanating from the very core of our being while fully aware of the whole body breathing.

Allowing the belly to contract with the outbreath.

Rest for a moment at the bottom of the in breath.

Thinking and feeling “I am joyful” or even simpler “joy”.

Riding the fullness of the breath sensation.

So “Ah” nice and smooth on the inbreath breathing with every fibre of our being – hold it for a moment at the top fullness of the inbreath “joy” – then on the outbreath “dha” and stop at the full release of the outbreath “I am joyful”.

“Ah” nice and smooth on the inbreath breathing with every fibre of our being – hold it for a moment at the top fullness of the inbreath “joy” – then on the outbreath “dha” and stop at the full release of the outbreath “I am joyful”.

And this Ah and dha and the idea/feeling/sensation of “joy” or “I am joyful” is silent and emanating from within the whole body.

All the while we have a bit of attention secure at the Dantian.

Stay there for about a minute doing this synchronized slow full body joyful breathing.

Then release attention in the open spaciousness of the moment.

Be present to presence.

Buddhist Pranayama Step 7: Breathing In/Out Bringing Content Easeful Happiness to the Whole Body

The Buddha said, “He or she now practices like this: Breathing in, I feel happy. Breathing out, I feel happy.’ He or she practices like this

You’re probably feeling really good right now. The body humming along with energy and joy.

Now we’re gonna seed the breath/body with an idea of Content Easeful Happiness.

So now this idea/feeling/sensation of Content Easeful Happiness sync’s with the breath/Atha at the danitan. It infuses the body with healing contended happy energy.

In this breath modification we’re still going to use the slow, smooth, deep breathing style from earlier.

This modification includes the intention of activating and actualizing the sensation and feeling of easeful happiness emanating and radiating through the whole body system.

To prep for this style I want you to imagine what Content Easeful Happiness feels like.

Maybe for you it’s watching children play.

Or maybe it’s that feeling after a really good meal

Reach into your own experience for a memory that you can use as a jumping off point for this meditation.

When we lock into that sensation then we start this breath cycle.

We really want to draw in, savour and be nourished by these universal deep happy energies.

Settle back into the posture. Keep the hands in the Dhyana mudra. Soften the belly.

Lightly place the attention again at the Dantian.

Hold the word Atha at that spot and sync it now with the long breath infused with the feeling sensation of deep happiness.

We’re gonna breath in slowly, smoothly and deeply but this time as if every pore of our body is breathing in deep content at ease happiness.

Allowing the belly to expand with the inbreath.

On the in breath we silently say “Ah” at the dantian breathing in easeful happy energy from all around us into the Dantian but fully aware of the whole body breathing.

Rest for a moment at the top of the in breath. Even to help anchor in the feeling you can think and feel “I am happy” or even simpler “happy”.

Then on the out breath we say “dha” at the dantian breathing out easeful content happy energy as if it’s emanating from the very core of our being while fully aware of the whole body breathing.

Allowing the belly to contract with the outbreath.

Rest for a moment at the bottom of the in breath.

Thinking and feeling “I am joyful” or even simpler “joy”.

Riding the fullness of the breath sensation.

So “Ah” nice and smooth on the inbreath breathing with every fibre of our being – hold it for a moment at the top fullness of the inbreath “happ” – then on the outbreath “dha” and stop at the full release of the outbreath “I am happy”.

“Ah” nice and smooth on the inbreath breathing with every fibre of our being – hold it for a moment at the top fullness of the inbreath “happ” – then on the outbreath “dha” and stop at the full release of the outbreath “I am happy”.

And this Ah and dha and the idea/feeling/sensation of “happy” or “I am happy” is silent and emanating from within the whole body.

All the while we have a bit of attention secure at the Dantian.

Stay there for about a minute doing this synchronized slow full body happy breathing.

Then release attention in the open spaciousness of the moment.

Be present to presence.

Here’s the Simple Condensed Buddhist Pranayama Instructions

Preparation

  • Find a quiet place to practice
  • Be comfortable (cushions/mat)
  • Place the body into a meditative posture (get the body as comfortable as possible)
  • Put the hands into the Dhyana (Meditation) Mudra
  • Soften the belly
  • Bring the attention to the Dantian (spot three finger widths below the belly)
  • Tongue gently resting against the roof of the mouth just before the teeth (this is one key element a lot of people forget).
  • Get ready to sync the word Atha with the breath while holding the attention on the Dantian

Pranayama Practice

  • Meditation 1 – Normal Breathing with Attention and Atha at the Dantian: ‘Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.’ He or she practices like this.
  • Meditation 2 – Slow/Long/Smooth Breathing with Attention and Atha at the Dantian: ‘Breathing in a long breath, I know I am breathing in a long breath. Breathing out a long breath, I know I am breathing out a long breath.’ He or she practices like this.
  • Meditation 3 – Breath of Fire – Rapid/Forceful/Quick Breathin with Attention and Atha at the Dantian: ‘Breathing in a short breath, I know I am breathing in a short breath. Breathing out a short breath, I know I am breathing out a short breath.’ He or she practices like this.
  • Meditation 4 – Full Body Breathing with Attention and Atha at the Dantian: ‘Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body. Breathing out, I am aware of my whole body.’ He or she practices like this.
  • Meditation 5 – Breathing In/Out Calming Energy with Attention and Atha at the Dantian: ‘Breathing in, I calm my whole body. Breathing out, I calm my whole body.’ He or she practices like this.
  • Meditation 6 – Breathing In/Out Joyful Energy with Attention and Atha at the Dantian:‘Breathing in, I feel joyful. Breathing out, I feel joyful.’ He or she practices like this.
  • Meditation 7 – Breathing In/Out Easeful Content Happy Energy with Attention and Atha at the Dantian:‘Breathing in, I feel happy. Breathing out, I feel happy.’ He or she
    practices like this.

Outro

After a person has practiced in this way the Buddha would then have had the students energized, alert and feeling alive.

They would already be seeing and feeling the benefits of his style of meditation and be in an open and receptive state now to be guided through heartful, insight and investigation meditations that would help them see into the truth of the ways things are.

The Dharma would have health and happy vessels to be poured into.

People would be in a state of positive receptivity that would be fertile ground to plant the seed of truth.

The to nourish those seeds they would continually use the Buddhist Pranayama practices.

And these practices could be used for the rest of their lives to feel and live good awakened lives.

Thanks for reading all the way to the end!

Now go and practice and see what you discover for yourself…

Love all beings, enjoy your life and awaken moment to moment.

Zen Master e
Sending BIG LOVE your way!

zen master e