Gopita Kathernine Manning, M.A.
Donna Eden's ingenious mastery of ancient techniques coupled with an often unwitting implementation and naming of these techniques make her a truly unique teacher! Often a student will point out to Donna that a certain position or exercise she employs has its roots in ancient Tibetan practice, for example, or a Sufi dance, or a pagan ritual, and Donna is grateful and fascinated to learn that what she "sees" often comes from her ability to tap into a collective bank of universal knowledge, which she humbly and often humorously acknowledges. Her infamous "Butt in the Air" pose is actually the well known yogic "Child's Pose", called Adha Mukha Virasana in Sanskrit. These poses, which Donna often suggests to activate the strange flows, radiant circuits of energy as seen by Donna's eyes, come from thousand- year- old wisdom posited by yogis who found, after many hours and often days of intense meditation, that their bodies sometimes spontaneously contorted in certain positions; and these positions were often accompanied by states of unbidden and startling bliss.
It is my contention that what Donna Eden calls the "Darth Vader" breath is the powerfully calming yogic breathing technique called Ujjayi Pranayama. "Ujjay" means "triumphantly uprising", and it is this breathing technique that students in yoga studios are instructed to use most often in all types of Hatha Yoga classes.
This breath represents the uprising of prana through the central meridian, called the sushumna nadi in the yogic tradition. Alongside the spine, or sushumna, lie two tubular channels, called nadis. The channel to the right of the spine, commencing at the right nostril, is called pingala. This channel goes over the crown of the head and then down to the root chakra via the central meridian. It receives its energy from the sun, and is therefore the heating channel; and is yang. The ida, a similar channel which lies to the left of the spine and commences at the left nostril, going to the crown of the head and again down through the central meridian to the root chakra and up again, is the cooling channel, and receives its energy source from the moon. It is a yin channel.
The breath is activated by focusing on bringing it very consciously up from the root chakra to the throat chakra, expanding the lungs fully, yet without force. The mouth is closed, and the air is drawn through the back of the throat in order to make a sound which is sibilant in nature. This tones the epiglottis.
After a full inhale, the breath is retained, again without force, for a second or two. As the air is exhaled fully, the mouth remains closed, and again the breath is brushed against the hard palate, so that a sound is heard, this time an aspirate sound.
Mula Bhanda, or "root lock", is employed. This is a "locking" of the anal sphincter. Again, this is employed without force, and is used only at the top of the inhale. The brain is to be kept relaxed, the eyes relaxed, and when the inhale and exhale are done properly, the Darth Vader Breath is known to expel phlegm, prevent heart problems, tonify spleen, and is a great boon to all energy systems in the body.
The throat plays an active role in the Darth Vader breath, and all seven chambers of the throat chakra are drawn into play as the breath is activated. The breath is drawn most actively through the middle of the throat, which corresponds to the area of triple warmer. This then shoots energy to its counterpart, the element of spleen, which sits next to triple warmer on the throat chakra. Ideally, breath activates energy to the meridian pathways traveling through the neck, most especially hitting the power point in the back of the neck which sits on governing meridian.
The three chambers on the left side of the throat correspond to the yin nadi, the ida, which is a more receptive energy. This process deals with the breaking down and assimilation of energetic information to and from the meridians and chakras. This energy is called catabolic and has to do with the cooling element, and is more yin than yang. Similarly, the three chambers to the right of the throat chakra are anabolic in nature, dealing more with the stabilization of energy. This is considered a more yang phenomenon, corresponding also to the pingala nadi, the heating conduit of the sushumna nadi, or central meridian.
Most fascinating to me, and why the Darth Vader breath is most useful for me and my clients, is the fact that the early Taoists spoke of the organization of the strange flows as having evolved from energy moving up the back and then down the central meridian. I had intuitively and several times literally "seen" energy making a loop in my client's body's, and I remained puzzled when I saw this in place of the traditional zip-up we have learned – that is, bringing energy up from the pubic bone (root chakra) to the bottom lip (central meridian) and up from the coccyx and over the head to the bottom of the nose (governing meridian). I had sometimes intuitively zipped from the sacrum over the head and back down to the root chakra, tracing the loop I was seeing. I knew I saw this on animals, and I was beginning to see this on people.
This is actually what Donna teaches: the radiant circuits (strange flows) are activated by hooking the energy at the back of the throat with this breath, giving the energy a chance to spin in either direction. This field lies alongside central and governing meridian, and is actually a stronger field, according to Donna's teachings, because it employs the radiant circuits, along with the normal flow of central and governing meridians. These "fields" are also the psychic conduits already identified from the Vedic teachings as ida and pingala. Using the breath to activate this energy of the radiant circuits makes the breath doubly powerful, and it does so with our intention and with our very conscious choice.
When I read that formerly secret Taoist yogic techniques and esoteric acupressure forms taught this way of directing the life force, I was amazed. What I thought I had "got wrong" was, in fact, a more evolved and very enlightened way of doing things in some cases. We receive nourishment, the Taoists state, at birth from the "Gate of Former Life" – the umbilicus; while later we receive nourishment through the "Gate of Latter Life" – the mouth. As civilization grew, and as people moved from meditation and from their "center", emphasis on the latter mouth grew, and we moved into our heads, quite literally. Our heart center diminished, as did the abilities to use and perceive from our psychic third eye, and we began to "de-volve." As I saw the hook up happen differently on certain individuals, and as I began practicing tracing up the back and down the front on myself, coupled with Ujjayi pranayama, which made this tracing all the more powerful, I began to understand the wisdom of the "Darth Vader" breath. And this wisdom understood me, because it was moving me, it seemed, all on its own!
This great breath ties it all together: from yogis in caves to "Star Wars", as energy moves up the central channel with the great uprising of this breath, the energy of the 7th Chakra will harmonize and bring all yin and yang energies together in this one great dance.
Directing the flow up and back and down the front, and using the breath as the gate for this phenomenon, is a most powerful way of replenishing the entire body energy. If done properly, one can literally feel the energy move through the psychic channels which lie as helpers around the meridians, (whether called radiant circuits or nadis, psychic channels, or tubular conduits), to the spiraling energies of the chakras and the many chambers of the throat, whether called Darth Vader or Ujjayi or Cradling the Baby or just plain JOY!!!, this breath is a powerful addition to the five minute routine and can be implemented while other Energy Medicine techniques are used. It is very beneficial to use this breathing pattern during the Five Minute Routine. The Darth Vader breath is most definitely a skill worth cultivating.