Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Shambhavi Mudra

I thought I would share some thoughts on the most profound mudra of the yoga - the Shambhavi Mudra.

Many modern texts turn this mudra into third eye drishti/gazing of one form or another.
I don't follow these interpretations.

I discovered this mudra almost by accident many years ago. After studying the words in Hathapradipika and others I found confirmation.

I realized that after resting in the natural state, certain things were occuring in the body. I then decided to examine whether or not I could induce the natural state by first inducing these gestures or movements. Lo and behold, success....

The bodily mudras of hathayoga are gestures, made internally to induce movement towards our natural state. The Shaivite texts confirm that the highest level of mudra involves the deepest layer of who we are. So there is a range, a continuum through which mudra works. It may start out in one way and completely unfold into a very deep expression. It is important to understand this as mudra is not fixed.

For example on the most gross level, Khecari Mudra involves processes of the tongue, moving into the passage of "space", which is in the cavity of the throat behind the soft palate. However on the most profound level, it involves moving into space itself. The space of Self, the space of Consciousness. Both levels of understanding are correct. We have to be careful though as we may tend to emphasize one aspect and not understand the continuum of which this mudra takes place.

As this is a discussion on Shambhavi mudra lets focus now on that one.

To correctly perform Shambhavi mudra, open the eyes. Next see. In the beginning this involves focussing the eyes. The attention should not be on what you are looking at but rather how you are looking. In other words, pay attention to the focussing itself. It is like moving the focuser on an old school camera in either direction to bring the picture into the state of sharpest clarity.

In the act of focussing, the eyes may be either lazy or tense. A different adjustment is required either way. If they are lazy you may have to actually tense up the face into different positions to get the eyes to "come alive". If they are tense, you have to relax.

It is at this point that you may notice that the physical tension or laziness is actually affecting the eye's ability to see. It is oftentimes felt around the mid-brow region or even farther back in the body. You have to really pay attention to the release or energizing of this, paying strong attention to the field of bodily sensation in how it relates to the visual field. Relaxing the frontal brain region helps to open up the focus. If the eye is lazy you may have to breath faster or raise the brows or even "sqwunch" the face.

The more we can sink into that bodily sensation the more we enter what Patanjali calls the "instrumental layer". This is the layer of sensation, raw perception prior to the conceptual experience that Patanjali calls the "objective layer". In the instrumental layer we focus on pure sensation in itself.

So in Shambhavi mudra we focus on focussing. We focus on seeing. As the seeing becomes clear, we notice simultaneously the mind/thoughts disappear. Doubt this? Try thinking of your favorite movie simultaneously while focussing the eyes. Can you do it? When the "mind's eye" sees, the eyes themselves don't. The reverse is true.

So thought starts to come to a standstill. Pay attention at this time to the merging of the tactile/sensory layer of the body to the seeing. Notice that as clarity comes to the focussing of the eyes, clarity also comes to the "focussing" of the body. You may notice a certain "energetic retreat" into the central column. Asana becomes much easier, effortless. Everything becomes more effortless.

What do we then pay attention to? The luminosity itself. Sink into the luminosity. The background.

Shambhavi mudra thus introduces you to the natural state. This powerful mudra can be employed at any time, during almost any activity.

As a side note this mudra will also improve your eyesight. One student reported driving home after class and didn't notice till she got home (some distance travelled) that she had forgotten to put her glasses on... Many others have stated improvements in eyesight as well as reduction of facial and bodily tension. Nice side effects.

One last note. Why is this mudra so often associated with the eyebrow center or the ajna cakra? Because its practice clears this region of the body. You will feel this in a very palpable way if you practice this regularly. Unfortunately this has given rise to derivative practices such as eyebrow gazing which focus more on the objective layer. This will take much longer to achieve success with than the more inner instrumental layer practice which I am describing.

Please check out my youtube video for a video instructional on Shambhavi mudra.