Awash in Gratitude

By Linda Oshins

Last week in pranayama class, one woman had her heart and mind open all the way. She stood in front of me with eyes so big I could see right through her, her body like a doorframe, pure consciousness on view. She walked out into the world like that.

This week we practiced Mahat Kapalabhati Kriya. Kapalabhati is a breathing practice made up of a series of sharp exhalations alternating with longer, rebound inhalations. It’s stimulating, warming and a powerful energy mover. Mudras are hand gestures. And Kriyas are cleansing, purifying practices. So Mahat Kapalabhati Kriya is a purification practice done by keeping up a continuous, rhythmic breathing technique while holding different hand gestures. I showed everyone the mudras, and we formed them with our hands. Then the class practiced kapalabhati as I led them through the mudras, explaining what each one does. Chin mudra activates the lower abdomen and back and the lower lobes of the lungs. Chinmaya mudra activates the middle chest and back and the middle lobes of the lungs. Adi mudra activies the upper chest and back and the upper lobes of the lungs. Continuing in this fashion we activated the entire torso and lungs, up the spine and the chakra system, and into the brain. Shraddha prana kriya mudra slows respiration and brings attention into the front brain. Medha prana kriya mudra slows respiration and activates the discriminative centers of higher wisdom in the brain. Suddenly I’m awash in gratitude.

I have been taught a practice that activates the discriminative centers of higher wisdom! And I’m in a room full of people so practicing! From a still place we watch subtle shifts in energy flow and consciousness. Sometimes I take this for granted.

The breathing and mudras continue… Prajna prana kriya mudra, witness consciousness unfolds and the entire brain relaxes. Vishnu mudra, calms the mind and induces meditation. Dhyana mudra, brings breath and prana (energy) into the heart chakra. Dhyana Mudra 2, grounds the body for deep meditation. Dhyana Mudra 3, brings breath and prana into the whole body and bring multi-dimensional awareness into the foreground.

At the end of the practice we sit in meditation until Shari Speer chants Om Nama Shivaya. My body feels like a struck bell vibrating to her voice. Sometimes her voice appears in my mind like smoke from incense winding upward in offering, but today I simply resonate with it. And I’m so grateful.

Like the woman last week, we stilled the habitual chatter for a time. Thank you to my teachers and to the community at Yoga on High who practices together.

Mahat Kapalabhati Kriya was taught to me by Richard Miller, whose teachings, research and writing you can find on

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