Q: Namaskaram Sadhguru. Earlier, I used to practice Qigong, and in that practice they told me to hold my energy around Manipuraka after each breath. So I have formed a habit of holding my breath like that. Now, after I learned Shambhavi Mahamudra, I tend to mix up these two practices. What is your advice about this?
Sadhguru: You have reopened an ancient controversy. For a long time, among the Buddhist clan, they formed two schools. One always wants to hold the navel in and breathe using the chest. Another believes in breathing through the belly. You see this very distinctly manifested if you look at any statues of Buddha. In statues coming from India, he will sit with his stomach in, and he looks very athletic. But if you see statues coming from the far-east Asian countries, he has a big belly. This is an indication of how those schools are breathing. There are specific purposes why such things are done.
This will be a little hard for you to digest, but Gautama the Buddha in some way wanted to end the human race – not by killing them, but his dream was to make the entire human community into monks. That means in one generation, they will be over. Because he felt, and even today it continues in the Buddhist cultures, that disembodied beings – beings without bodies – are far easier to liberate than beings with bodies and minds. So if everyone turns into a monk, some will get liberated, some will not find a body. Those beings who do not have a body, he thought chik, chik, chik, chik, chik, he will clear them up. He managed to create nearly 40,000 monks in his lifetime. But 40,000 was not the world. Other people reproduced, and you are all here. His dream did not work.
Practices for Ascetics
So, fundamentally, the practices that he taught, were taught for the monks, those who are on the ascetic path. Today unfortunately, everybody writes some book, and everybody is practicing something without any sense about it, but essentially, these were designed for those on the ascetic path. For example, if you come to the Isha Yoga Center, we have very distinct practices. What the monks do, no one else does; for different types of people, depending upon the stage of their life and the nature of their life, accordingly practices are given.
Holding the belly and breathing, or breathing through the belly, both are not needed for you. You just inhale and let the air go where it wants to go. Do not try to make it go here and there because that will lead to various other possibilities. It is like you took one step blindly and then you do not know what the next step is. It is like launching your boat into the ocean when you do not know a thing about the ocean. That is not a good way to go into the ocean. If you want to go into the ocean, you must know every step. Otherwise you better swim in the pond.
Just breathe naturally. Do not hold it this way or that way. It is not necessary because these things were created for different types of asceticism. It was created to achieve different dimensions. But those things will take away every other aspect of life, unless you make a complete change in your life system. Just doing one practice in that direction and not making the other changes would bring more harm than wellbeing. So please breathe naturally. Break those old habits of trying to breathe in a particular way. If you inhale, the air knows where to go – let it go.