Paramhansa Swami Satyananda Saraswati's Yoga Chakra Breathing for Brain Hemisphere Integration
By 1966 Swami Satyananda had commenced releasing hitherto unknown Tantric meditation techniques to the Western world. One of the most powerful of his methods involved uniting breath and energy (PRANA) through PURELY MENTAL concentration upon unilateral and alternate nostril breathing. This practice was a concrete example of the classical yoga injunction of "UNION OF MANAS (MIND) and PRANA (BREATH)." The outstanding psycho-physiological implications of his methodology were vindicated by a plethora of Western laboratory research in the 1980's.
"Researchers have reported a left-to-right Hemisphere shift as breathing changes from the right nostril to the left. The nasal cycle may prove to be the Rosetta stone of research. It is a window of cerebral hemisphere dominance and can be brought under voluntary control." Ernest Rossi: Brain Mind Bulletin, 1986.
"Breathing out of only one nostril stimulates activity in the brain hemisphere on the opposite (contralateral) side. This finding suggests a possible noninvasive treatment for mental and mood disorders." Werntz: Neurosciences Department, UCLA, 1988. (Reported in Brain Mind Bulletin)
To fully appreciate the genius of Swami Paramhansa Satyananda consider the work in the late 1970's of two Harvard psychologists, Richard Davidson and Gary Schwartz. They researched "counting sheep" as a classic way of dealing with insomnia.
Their conclusion was that the time-honored practice of counting sheep tied both sides of the brain up simultaneously and therefore prevented the type of disturbing brain activity often responsible for insomnia.
With this introduction we are now ready to explore the utilization of Swami Satyananda's method in a dynamic technique I have dubbed "Copper Meditation".
COPPER MEDITATION: AN AJNA CHAKRA PSYCHIC BREATHING TECHNIQUE
This meditation employs an unusual attention fixer for Ajna, coupled with a process of breath visualization and backward counting. The method is extremely effective for smoothing out the brain wave patterns, synchronizing the hemispheres, and allowing the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system to quickly gain ascendancy.
Remember, concentration upon an image, idea, sensation, or sound is not meditation but only the method (yukti) to achieve the state of integration (Yoga). In other words the brain is, in the Hindu view, only the vehicle through which the consciousness has to filter itself on a material plane. As we alter our brain state so we experience pristine consciousness or "supra-consciousness".
Inherent in all practices of this book is an underlying recognition that for true meditation to take place, integration of both cerebral hemispheres is necessary. Each technique has built-in methods for occupying the brain holistically.
The left hemisphere may be said to represent Pingala, Shiva, the Sun, and rational, verbal processes; while the right hemisphere is the polar opposite relating to Ida, Shakti, Moon, intuitive, non-verbal processes.
With this meditation we take care of the left hemisphere by silently counting backward, in synchronicity with the respiratory cycle, from 10 to 1. Since we tend to count forward automatically, by counting backward the "gears" of the left-brain tend to become more "engaged".
The right brain is occupied by visualizing a stream of white light (or blue or yellow light, if preferred) going into Ajna, also in synchronicity with the breath.
Finally, both hemispheres have their respective sensory cortex strips (tactile-touch areas) simultaneously bombarded by pressure over the Ajna region with a common United States copper penny, or one-cent coin.
The "magic" of the penny, is, of course, copper, and the association of copper with Venus or Aphrodite (remember the IUD "Copper 7"?) is traditional as well as the fact that copper is an analgesic and anti-inflammatory substance (copper bracelets for arthritis have long been in vogue) now made into a cream for joint pain. These are just a few of the interesting relationships. Copper is also a fine conductor of heat and electricity; its magical properties, according to folklore, are comparable with those of quartz crystal.
At a serious level, the penny becomes a superb and inexpensive biofeedback device, monitoring the tension of the forehead frontalis muscle, contractions of which trigger tension headaches (in which the head feels squeezed as if in a vice), where pain is constant and non-throbbing.
Small Silver coins may also be used as an alternative and interestingly enough the element Silver is traditionally associated with the ‘Moon’–another planet associated with dreaminess and relaxation!
Using a Copper Penny as an Ajna "Attention Fixer"
The frontal bone of the forehead is the only area in the body where a vacuum suction effect can be created. The anatomical indentation is about the middle of the forehead, at a subsection of Ajna chakra, called Rudhra chakra. A clean one-cent piece should be used: i.e., wipe off any grease with tissue. (Sometimes before classes I soak a dozen pennies in vinegar for an hour and then polish them dry.)
Technique (Refer to the chart)
- Place the penny flat between the eyebrows, just at the root of the nose, or nasion, holding the penny with a forefinger.
- Slide it up to roughly the center of the forehead.
- Push the penny firmly into the forehead with the forefinger and take the forefinger away.
- The penny will now stay in position as long as you keep the frontalis muscle relaxed; it will continue to stay there for the duration of the meditation. Note that if you contract the muscles of the forehead, voluntarily or involuntarily, the penny will drop off.
- Now quietly observe your breath flowing spontaneously in and out and imagine an energy (gold or silver in color) flowing into the ‘3rd Eye’ with inspiration and flowing out with expiration.
Using the Penny as a Biofeedback Device for Tension Headaches
If you gently relax and focus on keeping the penny in position, you will train yourself to relax the muscles in that area. Headaches tend to be either vascular throbbing (including migraine) or constant vice-like pain, as a band around the head. The latter type, tension headaches, respond well to using the penny as a biofeedback method. The penny is the world's least expensive biofeedback device.
We are now ready to consider "Vertical Breathing" with “Copper Meditation”–an unbeatable combination for Hemisphere synchronization and inducing a deep meditation state for rejuvenation.
View Part Two of the Copper Meditation
Portions of this article and diagrams are extracted from A Chakra & Kundalini Workbook.