Medicine and Meditation

Question

I have suffered from seizure disorder and I’m on medication. I have read that Kriya Yoga( EE, Hong Sau as well) involves Pranayama (controlled breathing). My doctor says it is not advisable to practice controlled breathing as it might trigger a seizure. Please help me as I deeply yearn for spiritual progress through Kriya yoga.

—Rounak, India

Answer

Dear Rounak,

Let’s see if we can help you be able to take advantage of at least some of these spiritually powerful techniques while keeping you and your doctor at ease.

I am medical doctor as well as someone who has been on this path and practicing these techniques for a long time, and I’d like to be able to help shed some light on this issue.

First let me say that without being able to see you and evaluate you medically I always advise that people stay close in touch with their physician and ultimately follow their advice. They are with you and I am not and I have a lot of respect for that.

Also, it sounds like you are not yet a Kriyaban and may not even as yet have learned the EE and Hang Sau techniques. If this is the case you will soon learn that EE can and should be done with varying degrees of physical enthusiasm depending on underlying medical conditions. This means that as you learn them you can learn to practice them with as little or much change in your breath as you choose. The “energy” that we are learning to transform through these exercises is subtle energy and can be moved with outer calmness and be every bit as effective as someone who is moving a lot and taking deeper breaths throughout. Even if exerting a lot of energy, this is not the type of breath work that will change things metabolically in a way that would lead to seizures. It does involve some double breaths (someone near you can show you that or you can see it on many of the Ananda videos) but again, they need not be ‘violent’.

Hang Sau too is a technique of simply following your breath. It does not involve any breath control and for this reason it is hard to imagine that it will trigger a seizure.

It is simply regular breathing associated with a silent repeating of the mantra, Hang Sau.

Breath, words that carry energy, and mostly, metabolically, a state of deep relaxation that has a big possibility of calming the brain and all of its inherent neurotransmitters.

As you know I cannot share much here regarding the actual Kriya technique, but if you or your doctor are thinking that it is s ate of controlling breath that will lead to marked changes in oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in your blood in minutes I can assure you this is not the case.

There are more extreme pranayamas, and there are many people who practice pranayama extremely (!) but this need not be the case.

Why not start by learning Hang Sau which is the usual way toward Kriya on our path, and do that for a while even before learning the EE? This way you can feel reassured and hopefully your doctor can too.

You can (and really should) add the techniques one at a time and let him/her monitor your condition. Also, if you are not in an area with any Ananda teachers nearby you and your doctor can find You Tubes of both Hang Sau and the EE and decide what you think then.

Again, Hang Sau is simply following your breath in an inward way and will not be harmful.

As you learn the techniques practice them with moderation and in a state of calm awareness. This way you can follow your own progress.

I hope this is helpful.

Blessings, Shanti