PHYSIOLOGY OF BREATHING
Pranayama is more than controlling the breath. Its primary function is to awaken the prana. We will learn to manipulate our respiratory system to awaken pranic awareness.
Our life depends on continuous supply of food, water and air. Metabolism mean breaking or making substances as per the body needs. The result is use or storage of energy in body. The oxygen in air is consumed and carbon di oxide and water are released as waste products in this process. The action of bringing oxygen from atmosphere to lungs and blood and then to the body cells is called respiration.
There are two main levels of respiration, the first occurs in the lungs and is called external respiration and here oxygen is absorbed into the blood to be transported to the cells and carbon di oxide from cells is expelled into the air. The second type of respiration occurs in cells itself and is called internal respiration. Oxygen moves into the cell from the bloodstream and carbon d oxide moves out of the cell to be carried by the blood back to the lungs to be disposed of as external respiration.
Anatomy Of Breathing
In normal respiration the air is taken in through the nostrils without any special effort, sound or exaggerated movement of the nose or chest. In short, it is done unconsciously. We are not even aware of air traveling through our nostrils, down the nasal and oral parts of the pharynx, of its reaching the larynx and then the trachea and the lungs. In general, most of us are unaware of how the breathing process works.
The two nostrils allow the air to enter or leave the body. The air s filtered by the coarse hair to prevent dust and foreign material. The two nostrils are separated by nasal septum. Also bones called turbinates protrude from the nostril walls. Turbinates increase the surface area and cause eddies in the air to settle the foreign material. This in turn allows the warm and moist mucous membrane to warm and humidify the air entering the lungs.
The inhaled air is made humid by lachrymal fluid formed by the glands in the eyes. It comes to the nose through nasolacrimal duct. When in excess it comes out of the eye as the tear. Nearly one litre of fluid is formed that travels to the nose. There are blood sinusoids in the nose that warm the inhaled air. The cavities in the bones of face is connected to nose. The inhaled air enters these cavities forming currents and causing dust to settle and these cavities are called paranasal sinuses.
This is the air conditioning function of the nose-purifying, warming and humidifying the inhaled air. Without this the lungs would become clogged and be diseased. From the nasal passages the air passes into pharynx at the top of the throat. It then moves into larynx. While swallowing the epiglottis closes off larynx. The epiglottis flap regulates the movement of food, water and air. The larynx contains vocal cords which produce sound. From larynx air enters into windpipe or trachea which have hair like cila to create upward movement and keep any foreign matters from entering lungs.
The lower end of trachea branches into right and left bronchi which divide into upside down tree like structure called bronchioles which make up the lung. As bronchioles become smaller and smaller a ciliated mucous membrane remains. The bronchioles terminate in air sacs called alveoli which are lined with capillaries and exchange of oxygen and carbon di oxide takes place in this alveoli.
We will take a look at:
|I*||Stages in breathing,|
|II.||Kinds of breathing,|
|*||III. Organs of breathing,|
|*||IV. Processes in breathing and|
|*||V. Ways of controlling breathing.|
I – Stages in Breathing
Each single act of normal, unmodified breathing consists of four distinguishable stages:
|1.*||“Breathing In“, Inhaling Or Inspiration or POORAK.|
|2.||The Pause, Short Or Long, Between Inhalation And Exhalation. We Will Call This Retentive Pause And Readjustment Phase (KUMBHAK)|
|3.||“Breathing Out,” Exhaling Or Expiration. (RECHAKA)|
|4.||The Pause, Long Or Short, Between Exhalation And Inhalation. We Will Call This Stage Extensive Pause And Its Readjustment Phase. ( BAHYA KUMBHAK)|
The two “resting” stages may or may not be very restful since the whole respiratory system, including its muscular and nervous mechanisms, undergoes a reversal of direction and multitudes of minute adaptations take place whenever each such reversal occurs.
All four are entailed in a complete act of respiration.
Inhalation is active process and requires muscular effort. Normal exhalation is passive not requiring effort. It should be same or double of inhalation. It helps to develop control over relaxation response.
Slowing the poorak and rechak in pranayama like Nadi Shodhan and Ujjai has advantages like more oxygen is available, digestion improves,slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure and you are less hyped and helps rest and regain energy.
In stimulating pranayama the speed provides strength to lungs and abdomen and balance to nervous system. Fast and slow, subtle and gross breath helps to develop control over nervous system.
Conscious breathing involves the cortex and we shift control from unconscious to the conscious levels and improve cortical control. Poorak Rechak prepares us for Kumbhak.
Kumbhak means breath retention. It means to train nervous system to tolerate higher levels of carbon di oxide. It leads to altered states of consciousness and feelings of expansiveness. Some capillaries lie dormant till more blood is required. Increased carbon di oxide causes the capillaries to dialate and more capillaries open up to improve cerebral circulation. This beneficial to an extent after which it can become harmful. Metabolic activity and brain activity must be adjusted to produce optimum condition, only then it will become beneficial. The period of kumbhak can be developed to the degree where all vital functions seem to cease. At this stage the breath may appear to be suspended for days at a time. This is a very advanced state and yogis have been buried underground in this near hibernation state known as BHOOSAMADHI, for many days at a time.
II.Kinds of Breathing
We can distinguish at least 12 different kinds of breathing. These are given below.
Although yogic treatises do not normally do so, Dechanet, author of ‘Christian Yoga,’ identifies two ways of breathing: “One for men, the other for women”. He says that a woman’s breathing rhythm is more rapid than a man’s and that her upper chest expands first, whereas a man’s breathing rhythm is slower and his abdominal expansion comes first. Although, doubtless, physiological differences in men and women do affect their breathing, I suspect that the world over, women breathe more placidly than men and that the differences which Dechanet notices may be related partly to size of body rather than sex. Smaller bodies may be expected to have a shorter, and perhaps more rapid, rhythm stroke than larger bodies. The fact that women live longer than men, on the average, may be due to many factors; but a study of breathing habits in men and women, especially in the older ages, may prove enlightening. However, distinctions of sex do not normally play a significant role in discussions of breathing.
(i)Noisy versus quiet breathing is a distinction which has its significance in other conditions. Snoring may indicate deep slumber; wheezing, asthma and panting, shortness of breath; and other noises, clogging of nasal passages. But traditional yogic exercises do deliberately seek to control the loudness or softness of breathing and, in addition to giving directions for increasing loudness and softness, often combine both increases and decreases in subtle ways, synthesizing them in larger, more encompassing experiences, as in mantric chanting of the sacred symbol om.
(ii)Fast And Slow Breathing
(iii).Regular And Irregular Breathing
(iv).Jerky And Smooth Breathing
(v).Deep And Shallow Breathing
(vi).Forced And Effortless Breathing
(vii).Voluntary And Involuntary Breathing
(viii). Mouth And Nose Breathing
The distinction between “high,” “middle,” and “low” breathing, where most of the expansion is in the top, middle or bottom parts of the chest and lungs, and the joining of all three in “complete yogic breathing.”
The distinction between the mere passage of air in and out of lungs (with related physiological and mental effects) versus experiencing breathing as an affair of the whole body, the whole self, even of the whole universe as explored in pranayama.
The distinction between nervous and relaxed, vs. anxious and peaceful, breathing.
As we can see from the above classification of various breathing types, the process of breathing is very complex.
(ix)Rhythmic breathing is to tune in to your breath and regulate it. A smooth slow breath indicates a relaxed state of body and mind. Irregular breathing means tension. In anxiety the breath is shallow and rapid. In anger hort and forceful. In grief arrhythmic and gasping and in depression sighing and irregular breathing and also in neurosis and disturbed mental states.
So first step in pranayama is to tune into the rhythms of the breath and the world we live. This includes brain rhythm, heartbeat,muscle tension, mental and emotional rhythms, hormonal and enzymetic rhythms, sleep and wakefulness, all with varying frequencies and intensities. These rhythms take place within the external rhythms of day and night, seasons, years and planetary influences.
Pranayama leads to the realization that there is a rhythmic force within body and mind which we are not always aware of. When we learn to relax and become aware of the body’s vital cycles, they can begin to work optimally, unimpeded by tension.
Simultaneously, we can gradually train the mind to control these mechanisms, and to open up ares which are normally beyond our conscious awareness and control.
Conscious breating has an emotionally calming effect. It engages the cerebral cortex and more developed areas of the brain.
Normal breathing moves half a litre of air into and out of lungs (500 ml) (tidal volume). Of this quarter (150 ml) is not used. It occupies trachea and bronchi. In normal breathing very small volume of fresh air enter the lung. In full inhalation we can take 5 litres of air and so more oxygen is available.
Lungs expand vertically and horizontally. The vertical movement is promoted by diaphragm which moves 1 cm. in normal and 3-4 cms in yogic breath. Sitting helps to promote breathing in vertical axis. Alveoli open more evenly at the central, basal and apica areas of the lungs. Greater amount of alveolar membrane becomes available for gas exchange. If some alveoli don’t open they can become infected, this possibility reduces in vertical breathing.
With very little excursion for taking in air. The chest looks big and barrel shaped, but the lungs do not move well with respiration. We see this in weight lifters and body builders.
(xii)HYPERVENTILATION AND HYPOVENTILATION
Kumbhak alters carbon di oxide level in blood. Hyperventilation also does that by prolonged, deep and rapid breathing of more than 150 breaths per minute e.g bhastrika and kapalbhati.
Hypo ventilation is described as abnormally reduced or slow kind of breathing often less than 5 breaths per minute e.g ujjai, sheetali, sheetkari. These are tranquilizing breaths. Oxygen level remains normal, carbon di oxide slightly increased. It reduces the metabolic rate and frequency of brain waves leading to altered mental state.
The altered state are the result of action of pranayama on brain center,the movement of the diaphragm,the response of the heart, altered crbon di oxide level and many other factors like prana , kosha, chakras, nadis, chitta.
III.Organs of Breathing
Our respiratory system consists of nose and mouth, pharynx and larynx, trachea and bronchi, lungs and thorax.
Nose And Mouth
The nose consists of an outer shape and skin (which often receives more attention), and two air passages (nostrils).
Your nostrils differ in size and shape from those of other people. Most people breathe primarily through one nostril more than another. Whether relatively long or short, large or small, straight or crooked, nostrils vary in circumference and contour throughout their length. The bottom or floor surfaces of the nostrils tend to be more horizontal and the top or roof surfaces have been shaped more like an arch. A bony and cartilaginous septum separates your two nostrils.
The several nasal sinuses, including the better-known frontal sinuses in the forehead above the eyes and the maxillary sinuses on each side of the nose, play various roles in breathing, thinking, illness and in yoga. Most of us realize their existence when they become infected, as with colds, hay fever, or noxious gases or dusts, resulting in headaches. Some sinuses appear to perform an important function in cooling the brain. Nervous activity uses energy which seems to generate heat that needs to be conducted away. Thus, somewhat like the radiator of an automobile, the sinuses may serve as a cooling system for the brain, which supplements the circulatory system wherein the blood serves as a coolant. We seem to be able to think better when we have a “clearer head” resulting from well-ventilated sinuses. Deep breathing and posture exercises not only increase oxygenation through the lungs and circulation of the blood within the brain, but also tend to enlarge and clear the sinus cavities for freer air circulation.
The skin lining the nostrils consists primarily of membranes which do not dry out easily in the presence of moving air. They are kept moist by secretions called mucus which sometimes dries and hardens into a cake which must be expelled. Hairs embedded in such membranes, especially near the outer opening, often grow into sieve-like mats which catch and repel small objects, insects and dust. Olfactory end-organs are embedded in these membranes and some areas have a thick, spongy tissue which expands, so much sometimes-especially when irritated by infections or allergies-that it closes the nostril completely. Although yogic exercises may be insufficient by themselves to relieve clogged nasal conditions, they may help considerably.
The mouth, too, is an important air passage-especially when we need more air than can be forced through the nostrils, as when we gasp for air or pant or puff, and when the nostrils are closed by swollen membranes or mucous discharge. Membranes lining the mouth and tongue seem to dry up from air movements more rapidly than nasal membranes though saliva aids in maintaining moistness. The oral passage may be closed by the lips, by the tongue pressed against the teeth or roof of the mouth, and sometimes with the aid of the soft palate. Directions for opening and closure, partial or complete, of the mouth constitute parts of some directions for traditional yogic exercises.
In jalandhara bandha, these receptors are artificially compressed. This tends to prevent a sudden rise in blood pressure which would be expected when the breath is held for some time. This increases the duration of breath retention and so increases the effectiveness of practices such as nadi shodana pranayama. These ncarotid sinuses were well known in ancient times, as were also the sinus nerves.
In the Shiva Samhita it says: Stop the flow of the vijnana nadis (sinus nerves) with the second fingers (that is press the side of your neck with your fingers).
This gives siddhi (perfection) in the form of happiness and bliss. (55, 56) We do not suggest you try this for you will more than likely become unconscious if you are not careful. This is caused by reducing or preventing the blood flow to the brain. But the implications of the above verses are obvious; if you gently press these carotid sinuses then you will become very relaxed and perhaps a little faint. This can be a help in various other yogic practices that lead to meditational experience.
These carotid sinuses are widely known in modern times. Many people have fainted by mere pressure of these bodies. Some people seem to be more sensitive than others; a slight pressure is enough to put some people on their back. It is also widely known in wrestling, boxing, etc. where through discreet pressure on the opponents neck, it is possible to almost instantly finish the match. This is regarded as foul play.
It is also interesting to note that these carotid sinuses can be pressed to prevent or counteract tachycardia (fast heartbeat beyond the normal limit) This is often used in medical circles. A gentle massage of the carotid sinuses slows down the heart rate and brings about a faster normalization. However this is not always the case. It depends on the ability to select exactly the right place for massage and to do it gently enough to prevent an increase in tension. That is, overpressuraization of the caroitid bodies could easily bring into mobilization the emergency activities of the body to induce greater flow of blood to the brain. This will tend to increase the heartbeat again which is exactly the opposite to that which is required. So care must be taken. We have not discussed the carotid sinuses to encourage you to tamper with them. We have discussed them to show how jalandhara bandha acts directly on the physical body, and how one must be careful of overexertion during the practice.
Pharynx And Larynx
The pharynx is the opening behind the nasal cavities and mouth. It is bounded by the root of the tongue and is lined with tissues called tonsils which may become enlarged partially obstructing the passage of food and air. Two Eustachian tubes, which permit adjustment of atmospheric pressure in your middle ears, open from the sides of the pharynx. The pharynx ends in the esophagus or tube leading to the stomach and the larynx or +”voice box,” which contains the vocal cords and glottis and muscles needed for producing sounds. A cartilaginous epiglottis at the top of the larynx aids in closing it tightly so that solid and liquid foods will not be permitted to enter it during swallowing. Respiration is interrupted during swallowing. Yogins sometimes deliberately hold the epiglottis aperture closed to force holding air in or out of the lungs in certain exercises.
Trachea And Bronchi
The trachea or “windpipe” is a tube kept open against pressures because its walls consist in part of cartilaginous rings, or semi-rings. It is lined with a mucous membrane containing hair-like cells which beat upward toward the nose and mouth and move mucus and the entangled dust particles in that direction. It ends by dividing into two other tubes called bronchi which in turn branch again and again until they terminate in bronchioles, thin-walled tubes which lead to tiny air sacs with their small dilations called alveoli where most of the gas exchange takes place. The mucosa of the trachea and bronchi contain ciliated epithelium.
Lungs And Thorax
Each of the two lungs consists of
|*||Bunches of bronchioles and alveoli,|
|*||Blood vessels and capillaries, and|
These are arranged in lobes and are surrounded by a membrane that secretes a lubricating fluid. The lungs, together with the heart, occupy most of the thoracic or chest cavity, bounded on the sides by the ribs and on the bottom by the diaphragm. The diaphragm separates the chest cavity from the abdomen containing most of the digestive system.
The pleural sacs and the inner lining of the thorax are airtight. Since the only opening from the outside is the trachea, air may be forced in or out of the lungs by enlarging or compressing the thoracic area. Three sets of muscles are primarily responsible for changing the size of the thorax. These are:
|*||Those acting on the ribs,|
|*||Those acting between the ribs and|
|*||Those acting on the diaphragm|
Other muscles of the body, such as those in the arms, legs and back, may twist the body so as to distort its usual shape and exert pressures that squeeze or expand the chest cavity. A blow on the abdomen, wearing tight clothes, a full stomach or intestinal gas may also provide temporary pressures on the thorax thus affecting the breathing process.
The lungs and heart are contained in ribcage or thoracic cavity. This is a cage of bones that pumps the air in and out of the lungs. The lungs inflate and deflate because of ribcage.
There are 12 pairs of ribs which attach to the 12 thoracic vertebrae at the back end sternum in front. The intercostal muscles create movement between the ribs and connects the ribs. Ribs protect the heart and the lungs. The ribs are articulated so they can move key a handle of the bucket.
The ribcage can produce a limited movement. Most respiration movement is produced by the diaphragm. This is a dome shaped muscles and tendons attached to the lower rib and bulging upward into thoracic cavity. It form a partition between respiratory and digestive cavities. The oesophagus, vagus nerve and main artery and vein to and from the lower body pass through openings in the diaphragm.
Inhalation is produced by contraction of the diaphragm which flattens out its dome shape and moves downwards. That increases the thoracic cavity space creating negative air pressure and air is pulled into the lungs. The movement is assisted by the intercostal muscles which expand the ribcage.
Exhalation occurs because of passive recoil of the ribcage and diaphragm.
The diaphragm and abdominal muscles act like bellows at the base of the thorax pulling and pushing the air into and out of the lungs.
For increased air intake, the external intercostal muscles of the ribs, neck muscles and shoulder girdle muscles can be put to action. Then exhalation becomes an active process, where extra force causes rapid exhalation. This happens as the contraction in the abdominal muscles pull the lower ribs downward and push the abdominal contents upwards against the diaphragm. Muscular action is required for inhalation and exhalation. However in resting state, the action of diaphragm is sufficient. The action of the diaphragm stimulates and massages the abdominal viscera, assisting digestion, assimilation and excretion.
The physiology Of The Lungs & Pranayama
It will not be out of place here to mention a word on lungs and their functions. The organs of respiration consist of two lungs, one on either side of the chest and the air passages that lead to them. They are located in the upper thoracic cavity of the chest, one on each side of median line. They are separated from each other by the heart, the greater blood vessels and the larger air-tubes. The lungs are spongy, porous and their tissues are very elastic. The substance of the lungs contains innumerable air-sacs, which contain air. After post-mortem, when it is placed in a basin of water, it floats. They are covered by a delicate serous membrane called the pleura which contains serous fluid to prevent friction of the lungs, during the act of breathing. One wall of the pleura closely adheres to the lungs. The other wall is attached to the inner wall of the chest. Through this membrane the lungs are fixed to the wall of the chest. The right lung consists of three lobes. The left lung contains two lobes. Each lung consists of an apex and a base. The base is directed towards the diaphragm, the muscular septum, the dividing wall between throat and abdomen. The apex situated above, near the root of the neck. It is the base that gets inflamed in Pneumonia. The apex of the lung which does not get proper supply of oxygen gets affected by consumption. It affords favourable nidus or breeding ground for Tubercle Bacilli (T.B.). By the practice of Kapalabhati and Bhastrika Pranayamas and deep breathing exercises, these apices get good supply of oxygen and thus phthisis is obviated. Pranayama develops the lungs. He who practises Pranayama will have a powerful, sweet, melodious voice.
The air-passage consists of the interior of the nose, pharynx or throat, larynx or the wind box, or sounding box, which contains two vocal cords, trachea or windpipe: right and left bronchi and the smaller bronchial tubes. When we breathe, we draw in the air through the nose and after it has passed through the pharynx and larynx, it passes into the trachea or windpipe, thence into the right and left bronchial tubes, which in turn, subdivide into innumerable smaller tubes called bronchioles, and which terminate in minute subdivisions in the small air-sacs of the lungs, of which the lungs contain millions. The air-sacs of the lungs when spread out over an unbroken surface, would cover, an area of 1,40,000 square feet.
The air is drawn into the lungs by the action of the diaphragm. When it expands, the size of the chest and lungs is increased and the outside air rushes into the vacuum thus created. The chest and lungs contract, when diaphragm relaxes and the air is expelled from the lungs.
It is through vocal cords that are located in the larynx that sound is produced. Larynx is the sounding box. When the vocal cords are affected by too much straining, as in singing and continuous lecturing, the voice becomes hoarse. In females these cords are shorter. Hence they have a sweet melodious voice. The number of respiration per minute is 16. In pneumonia it is increased to 60, 70, 80 per minute. In Asthma, the bronchial tubes become spasmodic. They contract. Hence there is difficulty in breathing. Pranayama removes the spasm or constriction of these tubes. A small membranous flat cap covers the upper surface of larynx. It is called Epiglottis. It prevents the food particles or water from entering into the respiratory passage. It acts the part of a safety valve.
When a small particle of food tries to enter the respiratory passage, cough comes in and the particle is thrown out.
Lungs purify the blood. The blood starts in its arterial journey, bright-red and rich-laden with life-giving qualities and properties. It returns by the venous route, poor, blue-laden with the waste matter of the system. Arteries are tubes or vessels that carry pure oxygenated blood from the heart towards the different parts of the body. Veins are vessels or tubes that carry back impure blood from the different parts of the body. The right side of the heart contains impure venous blood. From the right side of the heart the impure blood goes to the lungs, for purification. It is distributed among the millions of tiny air-cells of the lungs. A breath of air is inhaled and the oxygen of the air comes in contact with the impure blood through the thin walls of the hair-like blood-vessels of the lungs called pulmonary capillaries. The walls of the capillaries are very thin. They are like muslin cloth or sieve. Blood oozes out or exudes readily. Oxygen penetrates through the walls of these thin capillaries. When the oxygen comes in contact with the tissues a form of combustion takes place.
The blood takes up oxygen and releases carbonic acid gas generated from the waste products and poisonous matter, which has been gathered up by the blood from all parts of the system. The purified blood is carried by the four pulmonary veins to the left auricle and thence to the left ventricle. From the ventricle it is pumped into the biggest artery, aorta. From aorta, it passes into the different arteries of the body. It is estimated that in a day 35,000 pints of blood traverses the capillaries of the lungs for purification.
From the arteries the pure blood goes into the thin capillaries. From the capillaries the lymph of the blood exudes, bathes and nourishes the tissues of the body. Tissue respiration takes place in the tissues. Tissues take up the oxygen and leave the carbon dioxide. The impurities are taken by the veins to the right side of the heart.
Who is the creator of this delicate structure? Are you feeling the invisible hand of God behind these organs? The structure of this body bespeaks undoubtedly of the omniscience of the Lord. The Antaryamin or the Indweller of our hearts supervises the working of the inner factory as Drashtha. Without His presence, heart cannot pump blood into the arteries. Lungs cannot carry out the process of purifying the blood. Pray. Pay your silent homage to Him. Remember Him at all times. Feel His presence in all the cells of the body.
IV.Processes in Breathing
An average adult at rest inhales and exhales about sixteen times per minute. Each time, half a liter (about a pint) of air is drawn in and expelled. At the end of a normal expiration, one may force out an additional liter and a half of air, leaving about an additional liter in the lungs which cannot be forced out. Also, after normal inspiration, one may inspire an additional one and a half liters. So it is possible to increase the amount of air inspired and expired during each breath from half a liter to three and a half liters.
Not all of the air breathed can be used by the body because some must remain to fill the nose or mouth, sinuses, larynx, trachea, bronchi and their larger branches. This is the “dead air” in contrast with “alveolar air” which participates in gas exchange. The shallower the breathing, the larger becomes the percentage of dead air in each breath. But also, in shallow breathing, more impurities are retained.
Most breathing exercises in yoga have the effect of increasing both the amount and percentage of air which enters actively into the purifying gaseous exchange processes.
The air inhaled normally consists of about 79% nitrogen, about 20% to 21% oxygen, about 0.04% carbon dioxide, with traces of other gases and water vapor. Exhaled air often consists of about 79% nitrogen, about 16% oxygen, about 4% carbon dioxide, with traces of other gases and water vapor. Since the nitrogen content remains approximately the same the most significant change during the breathing process is an exchange of about 4% oxygen for about 4% carbon dioxide.
When the percentage of oxygen exchanged for carbon dioxide remains the same, the total amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide exchanged per minute tends to increase as a greater air volume is breathed. One may, by strenuous exercise, increase the volume of ventilation to ten times the resting level. Or one may deliberately force increased ventilation without exercise. When muscular exercise increases, the body needs more oxygen. When ventilation is forced intentionally, some increase in oxygen content and decrease in carbon dioxide content of the alveoli and blood may be expected. Part of the aim of both deep breathing exercises and posture movements and rests is to “purify” (increase the ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide) the blood and the various parts of the body through which blood circulates.
The interchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide is possible because of the structure of the cells joining the alveoli and the capillaries and the laws and processes of gas exchange. The movement of carbon dioxide from the blood to the alveoli takes place by diffusion. In diffusion, the carbon dioxide moves from the rich side to the lean side. When the blood contains more carbon dioxide than the air, the carbon dioxide will diffuse from the blood to the air. If, on the other hand, the air is rich in carbon dioxide, the diffusion of carbon dioxide from the blood to the air is inhibited. In extreme cases the carbon dioxide may even diffuse or flow from the air into the blood. Thus our breathing habits are very important.
A group of nerve cells in the medulla, the respiratory center of the brain, controls the contractions of muscles used in breathing. Inspiration takes place when the nerve cells of this group send impulses through motor nerves to respiratory muscles. When something, we do not know what, prevents these cells from sending impulses, inspiration ceases and expiration occurs. Apparently we do not use muscular energy and force to expel air but merely stop inhaling; then exhaling takes place automatically, without muscular effort. Since all respiratory muscles contract in a harmonious way, some organizing process in the brain marvellously coordinates their movements. Apparently the respiratory center cells function much like the pacemaker tissue of the heart, since they seem to induce rhythmical patterns of respiration without outside help, even though they are sensitive to various influences which modify their action.
In addition to the involuntary regulation and regularization of breathing patterns, many involuntary reflexes also exist, such as those noticeable in choking, sneezing, coughing, and swallowing. It is almost impossible to breathe while swallowing food. Other reflexes may be noted, such as sudden holding of breath when
you sniff ammonia and similar chemicals. If your air supply has been cut off, you automatically gasp for breath. Emotional excitement, fear, anger, enthusiasm all stimulate breathing, as may sudden increase in either heat or cold.
There are voluntary control of breathing. For example, you can deliberately take a deeper breath or stop breathing momentarily. Such direct control may be supplemented by indirect intentional control, as when we dance or kiss or drink or smoke or sing. We may deliberately run for such a distance that we get our “second wind,” after which we breathe more easily even though exercising strenuously.
Part of the significance of distinguishing between voluntary and involuntary control of breathing is that yogic exercises aim first at changing unhealthy involuntary patterns voluntarily and then at an establishment of more healthy patterns. Whereas nervous tension produces some inhibiting influence upon deep, regular breathing patterns, deliberate effort to counteract these influences in such a way that our more completely spontaneous and uninhibited rhythmic patterns become restored as needed.
This explanation of the physiology of breathing shows how our health improves through the conscious connected breathing that we do in Transformation Breathwork.
The Physiology of Nose
The nostrils help us to regulate the inner environment by directing pranic flow to various nadis. We can change our state of mind, attain higher consciousness.
IDA AND PINGLA
The nasal membranes are enervated with sensitive autonomic nerve fibres, with 20 times more fibres than other sensitive areas of hypothalamus and limbic system. The nasal mucous membrane is very important part of the autonomic nervous system. It means it responds to various physical, mental, emotional states of arousal, stress and relaxation. The autonomic nervous system has sympathetic (pingala) and parasymphathtic (Ida) nerves which have stimulating and relaxing effect. Also 6 out of 12 accupuncture meridiens have their point of exit or entry in the area of face surrounding the nose. In Chinese medicine these meridiens are governed by Yin (Ida) and Yang . (Pingala)
The link with Mooladhara
The nose and the sense of smell are linked via the nadis with Mooladhara chakra, the seat of our primal instincts, sexual drive and the home of Kundalini. Under the mucous membrane of the nostrils there is erectile tissue which fills with the blood in much the same way as our sexual organs. The honeymoon nose is clogged nasal passages. It is the expansion and contraction of the erectile tissue in nostrils themselves which alternate the flow of the breath between the right and left nostril every 90 minutes as per Swar Yoga.
Apart from the autonomic nervous system, the nerve receptors for smell also lie in the mucous membrane at the top of the nasal cavity. There are 5 million nerve receptors within the olfactory bulb which conduct impulses to the portion of the brain lyng directly over the nasal cavity. This portion of the brain, RHYNENCEPHALON is one of the developmentally the oldest part. Within it are centers responsible for generating fear, aggression, pleasre, the sexual drive and reproductive cycles – all powerful emotional experiences. Our response to smell is not always easy to explain, because these portion of the brains are concerned with primitive, and emotional images which lie beyond our ability to consciously interpret and intellectualize.
Our sense of smell is associated with mooladhara chakra, the center of our instincts, of our desire for self-preservation and material security. In animals the sense of smell is higher developed. The mooladhara represents the highest chakras of animals and lowest chakras of the human.
There is a direct link between mooladhara and ajna chakra. The olfactory bulb extends back from the eyebrow center from bhrumadya which is also the Ajna Chakra. Thus the situation created during pranayama in the mucous membrane and olfactory nerves of the nose may be a part of the psychophysiological mechanism for the aawakening of kundalini from mooladhara and directing to Ajna.
It is important to maintain the health of nose by neti and surya namaskar and by a healthy diet and lifestyle. This will allow us to practise pranayama and to balance our symphathatic and parasympathetic nervous system.
What is Pranayama?
As per Vedic Wisdom:
Tasmin sati svasaprasvasayor-gativicchedah pranayamah—“Regulation of breath or the control of Prana is the stoppage of inhalation and exhalation, which follows after securing that steadiness of posture or seat.”
This is the definition of Pranayama in the Yoga-sutras of Patanjali.
‘Svasa’ means inspiratory breath. ‘Prasvasa’ means expiratory breath. You can take up the practice of Pranayama after you have gained steadiness in your Asana (seat). If you can sit for 3 hour in one Asana, continuously at one stretch, you have gained mastery over the Asana. If you are able to sit from half to one hour even, you can take up the practice of Pranayama. You can hardly make any spiritual progress without the practice of Pranayama.
Prana is Vyashti, when the individual is concerned. The sum total of the cosmic energy or cosmic Prana is Hiranyagarbha who is known as the floating ‘Golden-Egg’. Hiranyagarbha is Samashti Prana. One match stick is Vyashti (single). The whole match box is Samashti. A single mango-tree is Vyashti. The whole mango grove is Samashti. The energy in the body is Prana. By controlling the motion of the lungs or respiratory organs, we can control the Prana that is vibrating inside. By control of Prana, the mind can be easily controlled, because the mind is fastened to the Prana, like the bird to the string. Just as the bird that is tied to a post by a string, after flying here and there, finds its resting place in the post, so also this mind-bird after running hither and thither, in various sensual objects, finds its resting place during deep sleep in the Prana.
Pranayama (According to the Gita)
Apane juhvati pranam pranepanam tathapare; Pranapanagatee ruddhva pranayamaparayanah (Gita, Ch. IV-29.).
Others offer Prana (outgoing breath) in Apana (incoming breath) and Apana in Prana, restraining the passage of Prana and Apana, absorbed in Pranayama. Pranayama is a precious Yajna (sacrifice). Some practise the kind of Pranayama called Puraka (filling in). Some practise the kind of Pranayama called Rechaka (emptying). Some are engaged in the practice of Pranayama called Kumbhaka, by impeding the outward passage of air, through the nostrils and the mouth, and by impeding the inward passage of the air, in the opposite direction.
Pranayama (According To Sri Sankaracharya)
“Pranayama is the control of all life-forces by realising naught but Brahman in all things as the mind, etc.
“The negation of the Universe is the outgoing breath. The thought: ‘I am Brahman’ itself is called the incoming breath.
The permanence of that thought thereafter is the restrained breath. This is the Pranayama of the wise, while the pressing of the nose is only for the unknowing.” (Aparokshanubhuti, 118-120).
Pranayama according to Bihar School Of Yoga Gurus
Pranayama is generally defined as ‘breathe control’. Although this interpretation may seem correct in view of the practices involved, it does not convey the full meaning of the term. Prana means ‘vital energy’ or ‘life force’, ayama means ‘to expand’, accordingly pranayama is expansion of the vital energy. This vital energy is responsible for all life experiences including physical and spiritual.
Pranayamas harmonise the pranic body which is a network of nerve channels carrying the vital force to each and every cell and organ infusing them with life and dynamism. Pranayamas are also the preparatory practices for the awakening of the chakras (psychic centres) and aid in the perfection of kriya and kundalini yogas.
In the past pranayamas were taught to a select few as a part of higher yoga practice, but in the course of time Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati reintroduced the subject of pranayama as a part of daily yoga sadhana. The sequence in which the pranayamas are taught today by many yoga schools were developed by the Bihar School of Yoga.
The main publication dealing with this subject is Prana and Pranayama
Pranayama (According to Yogi Bhusunda)
Bhusunda says to Sri Vasishtha: “In the cool lotus of the heart within this visible tenement of flesh composed of the five elements, there are two Vayus, viz., Prana and Apana, commingled in it. For those who tread smoothly and without any or the slightest efforts, the path of these two Vayus, will become the sun and the moon themselves in the heart—Akasa, and will rove in the Akasa and yet be animating and carrying their fleshy-tabernacle. These Vayus will go up and down to higher and lower states. They are of the same nature in the waking, dreaming and dreamless sleeping state, and permeate all throughout. I am moving in the direction of those two Vayus and have rendered nil all my Vasanas in the waking state lit unto those of the dreamless sleeping state. Divide a filament of the lotus-stalk into a thousand times and you will find these Vayus more subtle than that. Hence it is difficult for me to treat about the nature of these Vayus and their vibrations. Of these, Prana does ceaselessly vibrate in this body, with an upward motion, both externally and internally, while Apana having the same fluctuating tendency, vibrates both external and internal to the body having a downward motion. It will be beneficial if the Prana exhaled to the extent of 16 digits, is inhaled to the same extent. Only 12 digits are inhaled ordinarily. Those who have brought to experience—viz., the equalisation of Prana in exhalation and inhalation will enjoy infinite bliss.
“Now hear about the characteristics of Prana. The inhalation to the length of 12 digits of the Prana which has been exhaled, is called (the internal) Puraka (inhalation). This also is called the internal (Puraka), when Apana Vayu re-enters the body from outside without any effort. When Apana Vayu ceases to manifest itself and Prana gets absorbed in the heart, then the time occupied in such a state is (internal) Kumbha. Yogins are able to experience all these. When the Prana in the Akasa of the heart manifests itself externally (to the heart within) in diverse aspects without any affliction to the mind then it is called (the external) Rechaka (exhalation). When the externally fluctuating Prana enters the nose and stops there at its tip, then it is called the external Puraka. But when it is passing from the tip of the nose it goes down 12 digits. Then also it is called the external Puraka. When Prana goes arrested without and Apana within, then it is called the external Kumbhaka. When the shining Apana Vayu takes an upward bent within, then it is styled the external Rechaka. All these practices lead to Moksha. Therefore they should ever be meditated upon. Those who have understood and practised well all the external and internal Kumbhakas and others, will never be reborn.
“All the different pranayamas are capable of yielding Moksha. They should be practised both day and night. Those who are associated with these practices smoothly and control their minds by not letting them run in other directions, will in course of time attain Nirvana. Such practitioners will never thirst after material pleasures. They will ever be in their uniform practice, whether walking, standing, waking, dreaming or sleeping.
“Prana, having flown out, will again be absorbed in the heart having run back 12 digits. Similarly will Apana be absorbed in the heart, having issued out of the heart and running back 12 digits to it. Apana being the moon, will cool the whole body in its passage. But Prana being the sun, will generate heat in the system and cook or digest everything in it. Will pains arise in one who has reached that supreme state, where the Kalas (rays) of Apana the moon, are drowned by Prana the sun? Will rebirth arise in one who has reached that powerful seat, when the Kalas of Prana, the sun, are devoured by Apana the moon? These will arrest at once the seven births of those who reach that neutral state where they find Apana Vayu consumed by Prana and vice versa. I eulogise that Chidatma, who is in that intermediate state, where Prana and Apana are absorbed in one another. I meditate ceaselessly upon that Chidatma, who is in the Akasa, directly in front, at the end of my nose, where Prana and Apana both become extinct. Thus it is through this path of Prana’s control, that I attained the supreme and immaculate Tattva, devoid of pains.”
In Bhagavad-Gita, the Immortal Song of Lord Krishna, you will find a beautiful description of seat and pose: “In a pure secret place by himself established in a fixed seat of his own, neither too high nor too low, with cloth, black antelope-skin and Kusa grass one over the other, there, making the mind one-pointed, with thought and the functions of the senses controlled, steady on his seat, he should practise Yoga for the purification of the Self, holding the body, head and neck erect, firm, gazing steadily at the tip of the nose without looking around” (Ch. VI—10,11, & 12).
Pranayama is the control of the Prana and the vital forces of the body. It is regulation of the breath. This is the most important step.
To summarize what is Pranayama we can say:
What is Pranayama ?
Pranayama is an exact science. It is the fourth Anga or limb of Ashtanga Yoga.
“Tasmin Sati Svasa prasvasayorgativicchedah Pranayamah”—Regulation of breath or the control of Prana is the stoppage of inhalation and exhalation, which follows after securing that steadiness of posture or seat, Asana. Thus is Pranayama defined in Patanjali Yoga
Sutras, Chapter II-49.
Prana and Breath
‘Svasa’ means inspiratory breath and ‘Prasvasa’ is expiratory breath. Breath is external manifestation of Prana, the vital force. Breath like electricity, is gross Prana. Breath is Sthula, gross. Prana is Sukshma, subtle. By exercising control over this breathing you can control the subtle Prana inside. Control of Prana means control of mind. Mind cannot operate without the help of Prana. The vibrations of Prana only produce thoughts in the mind. It is Prana that moves the mind. It is Prana that sets the mind in motion. It is the Sukshma Prana or Psychic Prana that is intimately connected with the mind. This breath represents the important fly-wheel of an engine. Just as the other wheels stop when the driver stops the fly-wheel, so also other organs cease working, when the Yogi stops the breath. If you can control the fly-wheel, you can easily control the other wheels. Likewise, if you can control the external breath, you can easily control the inner vital force, Prana. The process by which the Prana is controlled by regulation of external breath, is termed Pranayama.
Just as a goldsmith removes the impurities of gold by heating it in the hot furnace, by strongly blowing the blow-pipe, so also the Yogic student removes the impurities of the body and the Indriyas by blowing his lungs, i.e., by practising Pranayama.
AIM OF PRANAYAMA
The chief aim of Pranayama is to unite the Prana with the Apana and take the united Pranapana slowly towards the head. The effect or fruit of Pranayama is Udghata or awakening of the sleeping Kundalini.
The aim of Pranayama is the control of Prana. Pranayama begins with the regulation of the breath for having control over the life-currents or inner vital force. In other words, Pranayama is the perfect control of the life-currents through control of breath. Breath is external manifestation of the gross Prana. A correct habit of breathing must be established by the regular practice of Pranayama. In ordinary worldly persons the breathing is irregular.
If you can control the Prana you can completely control all the forces of the Universe, mental and physical. The Yogi can also control the Omnipresent manifesting power out of which all energies take their origin, whether concerning magnetism, electricity, gravitation, cohesion, nerve-currents, vital forces or thought-vibrations, in fact the total forces of the Universe, physical and mental.
If one controls the breath or Prana, the mind also is controlled. He who has controlled his mind has also controlled his breath. If one is suspended, the other is also suspended. If the mind and Prana are both controlled one gets liberation from the round of births and deaths and attains immortality. There is intimate connection between the mind, Prana and semen. If one controls the seminal energy, the mind and Prana are also controlled. He who has controlled his seminal energy has also controlled his Prana and mind.
What is Prana?
“He who knows Prana knows Vedas” is the important declaration of the Srutis. You will find in Vedanta Sutras: “For the same reason, breath is Brahman.” Prana is the sum total of all energy that is manifest in the universe. It is the sum total of all the forces in nature. It is the sum total of all latent forces and powers which are hidden in men and which lie everywhere around us. Heat, light, electricity, magnetism are the manifestations of Prana. All forces, all powers and Prana spring from the fountain or common source, ‘Atman’. All physical forces, all mental forces come under the category ‘Prana’. It is force on every plane of being, from the highest to the lowest. Whatever moves or works or has life, is but an expression or manifestation of Prana. Akasa or ether also is an expression of Prana. The Prana is related to mind and through mind to will, and through will to the individual soul, and through this to the Supreme Being. If you know how to control the little waves of Prana working through the mind, then the secret of subjugating universal Prana will be known to you. The Yogi who becomes an expert in the knowledge of this secret, will have no fear from any power, because he has mastery over all the manifestations of powers in the universe. What is commonly known as power of personality is nothing more than the natural capacity of a person to wield his Prana. Some persons are more successful in life, more influential and fascinating than others. It is all due to the power of this Prana. Such people manipulate everyday, unconsciously of course, the same influence which the Yogi uses consciously by the command of his will. There are others who by chance tumble unaware of this Prana and use it for lower purposes under false names. This working of Prana is seen in the systolic and diastolic actions of the heart, when it pumps the blood into arteries in the action of inspiration and expiration during the course of breathing; in the digestion of food; in the excretion of urine and faecal matter; in the manufacture of semen, chyle, chyme, gastric juice, bile, intestinal juice, saliva; in closing and opening of the eyelids, in walking, playing, running, talking, thinking, reasoning, feeling and willing. Prana is the link between the astral and physical body. When the slender thread-link Prana is cut off the astral body separates from the physical body. Death takes place. The Prana that was working in the physical body is withdrawn into the astral body.
This Prana remains in a subtle, motionless, unmanifested, undifferentiated state during the cosmic Pralaya. When the vibration is set up, Prana moves and acts upon Akasa, and brings forth the various forms. The macrocosm (Brahmanda) and microcosm (Pindanda) are combinations of Prana (energy) and Akasa (matter).
The breath, directed by thought under the control of the will, is a vitalising, regenerating force which you can utilise consciously for self-development; for healing many incurable diseases in your system; for healing others and for other various useful purposes. Pranavadins or Hatha Yogins consider that Prana Tattva is superior to Manas Tattva, the mind-principle. They say, Prana is present even when the mind is absent during sleep. Hence Prana plays a more vital part than the mind. If you go through the parables in Kaushitaki and Chhandogya Upanishads, when all the Indriyas, mind and Prana fight amongst themselves as to their superiority, you will find that Prana is regarded as the highest of all. Prana is the oldest, for it starts its functioning from the very moment the child is conceived. On the contrary, the organs of hearing, etc., begin to function only when their special abodes, viz., the ears, etc., are formed. Prana is called Jyeshtha and Sreshtha (oldest and best) in Upanishads. It is through the vibrations of psychic Prana that the life of the mind, Sankalpa or thinking is kept up and thought is produced. You see, hear, talk, sense, think, feel, will, know, etc., through the help of Prana and therefore Srutis declare: “Prana is Brahman.”
He who practises Pranayama will have good appetite, cheerfulness, handsome figure, good strength, courage, enthusiasm, a high standard of health, vigour and vitality and good concentration of mind. Pranayama is quite suitable for the Westerners also. A Yogi measures the span of his life not by the number of years but by the number of his breaths. You can take in a certain amount of energy or Prana from the atmospheric air along with each breath. Vital capacity is the capacity shown by the largest quantity of air a man can inhale after the deepest possible exhalation. A man takes fifteen breaths in a minute. The total number of breaths comes to 21,600 times per day.
Seat of Prana
The seat of Prana is heart. Though the Antahkarana is one, yet it assumes four forms, viz., (i) Manas, (ii) Buddhi, (iii) Chitta and (iv) Ahamkara according to the different functions it performs. Likewise, though Prana is one, it assumes five forms viz. (1) Prana, (2) Apana, (3) Samana, (4) Udana and (5) Vyana according to the different functions it performs. This is termed as Vritti Bheda. The principal Prana is called Mukhya Prana. The Prana, joined with Ahamkara, lives in the heart. Of these five, Prana and Apana are the chief agents.
The seat of Prana is the heart; of Apana, the anus; of Samana, the region of the naval; of Udana, the throat; while Vyana is all-pervading. It moves all over the body.
Sub-Pranas and Their Functions
Naga, Kurma, Krikara, Devadatta and Dhananjaya are the five sub-Pranas.
The function of Prana is respiration; Apana does excretion; Samana performs digestion; Udana does deglutition (swallowing of the food). It takes the Jiva to sleep. It separates the astral body from the physical body at the time of death. Vyana performs circulation of blood.
Naga does eructation and hiccup. Kurma performs the function of opening the eyes. Krikara induces hunger and thirst. Devadatta does yawning. Dhananjaya causes decomposition of the body after death. That man is never reborn, whenever he may die, whose breath goes out of the head, after piercing the Brahmarandhra.
The Colour of Pranas
Prana is said to be of the colour of blood, red gem or coral. Apana which is in the middle, is of the colour of Indragopa (an insect of white or red colour). Samana is of the colour between that of pure milk or crystal or of oily and shining colour, i.e., of something between both Prana and Apana. Udana is of Apandura (pale white) colour and that of Vyana, resembles the colour of archil (or that of ray of light).
The Length of the Air-Currents
This body of Vayu is 96 digits (6 feet) in length as a standard. The ordinary length of the air-current, when exhaled is 12 digits (9 inches). In singing, its (1 foot), in eating it comes to 20 digits (15 inches), in sleeping length becomes 16 digits 30 digits (22 1/2 inches), in copulation 36 digits (27 inches) and in doing physical exercise it is much more than that. By decreasing the natural length of the expirer air-currents (from 9 inches), life is prolonged and by increasing the current, duration of life is decreased.
The Centering of the Prana
Inhaling the Prana from outside, filling the stomach with it, centre the Prana with the mind, in the middle of the navel, at the tip of the nose, and at the toes, during the ‘Sandhyas’ (sunrise and sunset) or at all times. Thus the Yogi is freed from all diseases and fatigues. By centering this Prana at the tip of the nose he obtains mastery over the elements of the air; by centering at the middle of his navel, all diseases are destroyed; by centering at the toes, his body becomes light. He who drinks air through the tongue destroys his fatigue, thirst and many other diseases. For him who drinks the air with his mouth, during the two Sandhyas and the last two hours of the night, within three months, the auspicious Sarasvati (Goddess of speech) is present in his Vak (speech), i.e., he becomes eloquent and learned. In six months he is free from all diseases. Drawing the air at the root of the tongue, the wise man thus drinking nectar enjoys all prosperity.
Rules in Pranayama
The sadhak should abide by the following rules.
1. The posture for pranayama can be any comfortable sitting position, preferably on a blanket placed on the ground. The two meditative asanas, sukhasana and vajrasana are particularly suitable at this early stage. Later as your body becomes more supple we will introduce you to the best meditative asanas for pranayama practice – padmasana, siddhasana, etc. Remember the body should be relaxed and the back kept straight without any strain.
The first important step is to master the Asana of posture or to control the body. The next exercise is Pranayama. Correct posture is indispensably requisite for the successful practice of Pranayama. An easy comfortable posture is Asana. That pose is the best which continues to be comfortable for the greatest length of time. Chest, neck, and head must be in one vertical line. You should not bend the body either forwards or laterally, i.e., either on the right or left side. You should not sit crooked. You should not allow the body to collapse. You must not bend the body either forwards or backwards. By regular practice the mastery over the pose will come by itself. Fatty people will find it difficult to practise the Padma Asana or the Lotus Pose. They can sit on the Sukha Asana (comfortable pose) or Siddha Asana (perfected pose). You need not wait for practising Pranayama till you get full mastery over the Asana. Practise Asana and side by side you can practise Pranayama also. In course of time, you will acquire perfection in both. Pranayama can also be practised by sitting in the chair erect.
- The clothing worn should be as light and as loose as circumstances will permit. This is important so that the abdomen is allowed to expand unrestricted during deep inhalation. In particular don’t wear any belts or corsets etc. Try to keep yourself warm during the practice. Though accentuated respiration generates increased body heat it is usually a good idea to wrap a blanket around yourself.
3.The Place Of Practice: Select a solitary, beautiful and pleasant spot, where there are no disturbances; on the bank of a river, lake or the sea or the top of a hill where there is a nice spring and grove of trees, and where milk and articles of food are easily procurable. Build a small Kutir or hut. Have one compound. In the corner of the enclosure, sink a well. It is impossible to get an ideal place that can satisfy you from all viewpoints.
The banks of Narmada, Jamuna, Ganga, Kaveri, Godavari, Krishna are very suitable for building Kutirs or huts. You must select one such spot, where there are some other Yogic practitioners in the neighbourhood. You can consult them in times of difficulties. You will have faith in the Yogic Kriyas. When you see others also who are devoted to such Yogic practices, you will diligently apply yourself in your practice, as you will get an impetus and you will strive to excel them. Nasik, Rishikesh, Jhansi, Prayag, Uttarkasi, Brindavan, Ayodhya, Varanasi, etc., are good places. You can fix a spot in a place far from the crowded localities. If you build a Kutir in a crowded place, people out of curiosity will molest you. You will have no spiritual vibrations there. You will be without any protection if you build your cottage in a thick forest. Thieves and wild animals will trouble you. The question of difficulty for food will arise.
In Svetasvatara Upanishad it is said: “At a level place, free from pebbles, fire and gravel; pleasant to the eyes, and repairing to a cave, protected from the wind, let a person apply his mind to God.”
Those who practise in their own houses can convert a room into a forest. Any solitary room will serve their purpose well.
Meditation Room : Have a separate meditation room under lock and key. Never allow anyone to enter the room. Keep it sacred. If you cannot afford to have a special room for contemplative purposes and for practising Pranayama, have a place in the corner of a quiet room, set apart for this purpose. Have it screened. Place the photo of your Guru or Ishta-Devata in the room in front of your Asana. Do Puja daily to the picture, physically and mentally, before you start meditation and Pranayama. Burn incense in the room or burn Agarbathi (incense sticks). Keep some sacred books there such as Ramayana, Srimad Bhagavata, Gita, Upanishads, Yoga-Vasishtha, etc., for your daily study. Spread a fourfold blanket and over it a piece of soft white cloth. This will serve the purpose of an Asana. Or spread an Asana Of Kusa grass. Over it spread a deer or tiger skin. Sit on this Asana for practising Pranayama and meditation. You can have a raised platform made of cement. Over this you can spread your Asana. Small insects, ants, etc., will not molest you.
When you sit on the Asana keep your head, neck and trunk in a straight line. By doing so, the spinal cord that lies with the spinal column will be quite free. The place of practice should be clean, quiet and properly ventilated so that the air within the room is well-oxygenated and free of obnoxious smells. However, there should be no gale-force draught. The room should be free of all types of insects. If possible try to practise in the same place every day so that you gradually build up a quiet and conducive atmosphere for your daily yoga practices.
A Kutir For Sadhana : The Pranayama student should erect a beautiful room or Kutir with a very small opening and with no crevices. It should be well pasted with cowdung or with white cement. It should be absolutely free from bugs, mosquitoes and lice. It should be swept well everyday, with a broom. It should be perfumed with good odour and fragrant resin should be burnt therein. Having taken his seat, neither too high nor too low, on an Asana, made of a cloth, deer-skin and Kusha grass one over the other, a wise man should assume the lotus-posture and keeping his body erect and his hands folded in respect should salute his tutelary deity and Sri Ganesa by repeating ‘Om Sri Ganesaya Namah’. Then he should begin to practise Pranayama.
4. The Time
The practice of Pranayama should be commenced in Vasanta Ritu (spring) or Sarad Ritu (autumn) because in these seasons success is attained without any difficulty or troubles. The Vasanta is the period from March to April. The Sarad, autumn, lasts from September to October. In summer do not practise Pranayama, in the afternoon or evening. In the cool morning hours you can have your practice.
The best time for practice is early in the morning after asanas and before meditation. One should practise at least half an hour before taking food and four hours after food. For this reason before breakfast is a particularly suitable time. Pranayama can be performed at other times during the day but it is more difficult to meet all the restrictions. The evening is a reasonably good time to practise providing one can abide by the restrictions on food.
5. Dietetic Discipline: The proficient in Yoga should abandon articles of food, detrimental to the practice of Yoga. He should give up salt, mustard, sour, hot, pungent and bitter things, asafoetida, worship of fire, women, too much walking, bathing at sunrise, emaciation of the body by fasts, etc. During the early stages of practice food of milk and ghee is ordained; also food consisting of wheat, green pulse and red rice is said to favour the progress. Then he will be able to retain his breath as long as he likes. By thus retaining the breath as long as he likes Kevala Kumbhaka (cessation of breath without inspiration and expiration) is attained. When Kevala Kumbhaka is attained by one, expiration and inspiration are dispensed with. There is nothing unattainable in the three worlds for him. In the commencement of his practice sweat is getting out. As a frog moves by leaps so the Yogi sitting in Padmasana moves on the earth. With a further increased practice, he is able to rise from the ground. He, while seated in lotus-posture, levitates. Then arise in him the power to perform extraordinary feats. Any pain, small or great, does not affect the Yogi. Then excretions and sleep are diminished; tears, rheum in the eyes, salivary flow, sweat and bad smell in the mouth, do not arise in him. With a still further practice, he acquires great strength by which he attains Bhuchara Siddhi which enables him to bring under his control all the creatures that tread on this earth; tigers, Sarabhas, elephants, wild bulls and lions even die by a blow given by the palms of this Yogi. He becomes as beautiful as the God of Love himself. By the preservation of the semen a good odour pervades the body of the Yogi.
Instinct or voice within will guide you in the selection of articles of diet. You are yourself the best judge to form a Sattvic Yogic menu to suit your temperament and constitution.
Take wholesome Sattvic food half stomachful. Fill a quarter with pure water. Allow the remaining quarter free for expansion of gas and for propitiating the Lord.
Purity in Food
“Ahara-suddhau sattva-suddhih, Sattva-suddhau dhruva-smritih, Smritilabhe sarvagranthinam vipramokshah.”
By the purity of food, follows the purification of the inner nature, on the purity of the inner nature the memory becomes firm and on the strengthening of memory follows the loosening of all ties, and the wise get liberation thereby.
You must not practise Pranayama just after meals. When you are very hungry, then also you must not practise. Go to the water closet and empty the bowels before you begin Pranayama. A Pranayama-practitioner should observe Samyama (control) in food and drink.
Those who are-strict and regular in diet derive immense benefits during the course of practice. They get success quickly. Those persons who suffer from chronic constipation and who are in the habit of defecating in the afternoon can practise Pranayama in the early morning without answering the calls of nature. They should try their level best by some means or other to get an evacuation of their bowels in the early morning.
Food plays a very important role in Yoga Sadhana. An aspirant should be very, very careful in the selection of articles of diet, in the beginning of his Sadhana period. Later on when Pranayama-Siddhi is obtained drastic dietetic restrictions can be removed.
Charu : This is a mixture of boiled, white rice, ghee, sugar and milk. This is a wholesome combination for Brahmacharins and Pranayama-practitioners.
Milk Diet : Milk should be scalded but not too much boiled. The process of scalding is that the milk should be immediately removed from the fire as soon as the boiling point is reached. Too much boiling destroys the vitamins, the mysterious nutritive principles and renders it quite useless as an article of diet. Milk is a perfect food by itself, containing as it does, the different nutritive constituents in a well-balanced proportion. It leaves very little residue in the bowels. This is an ideal food for Yogic students during Pranayama practice.
Fruit Diet : A fruit diet exercises a benign, soothing influence on the constitution and is a very desirable diet for Yogins. This is a natural form of diet. Fruits are very great energy-producers. Bananas, grapes, sweet oranges, apples, pomegranates, mangoes, Chikkus (Sappota) and dates are wholesome fruits. Lemons possess anti-scorbutic properties and act as restoratives to blood. Fruit-juice contains vitamin C. Chikkus increase pure blood. Mangoes and milk is a healthy agreeable combination. You can live on mangoes and milk alone. Pomegranate juice is cooling and very nutritious. Bananas are very nutritious and substantial. Fruits help concentration and easy mental focussing.
Articles Allowed : Barley, wheat, ghee, milk, almonds promote longevity and increase power and strength. Barley is a fine article of diet for a Yogi and Sadhaka. It is cooling too. Sri Swami Narayan, the author of ‘Ek Santka Anubhav’, who wears a Kaupin of gunny bag, lives on bread, made up of barley. He recommends barley bread to his disciples. It is said that Emperor Akbar lived upon barley.
You can take wheat, rice, barley, milk, bread, cow’s milk, ghee, sugar, butter, sugar-candy, honey, dried ginger (Soont), green pulse, Moongdal, Panchashaka vegetables, Peypudalai, potatoes, raisins, dates, light Khichdi of green dal. Khichdi is a light food and can be agreeably taken. The food should be reduced in proportion to the increase in Kumbhaka. You must not reduce your food much, in the beginning of your practice. You must use your commonsense, all throughout the Sadhana. Toor-ki-dal can be taken. The Pancha-Shaka belongs to the species of spinach. They are excellent vegetables; the thick succulent young leaves are boiled and seasoned or fried with ghee. They are five in number, viz., Seendil, Chakravarthi, Ponnangani, Chirukeerai and Valloicharnai keerai. When the Pingala or Suryanadi runs in the right nostril, you must take your food. Suryanadi produces heat. It will digest the food well. You may take jack-fruit, cucumber, brinjal, plantain-stem, Lauki Parval and Bhindi (lady’s finger).
Articles Forbidden : Highly seasoned dishes, hot curries, chutnies, meat, fishes, chillies, sour articles, tamarind, mustard, all kinds of oil, asafoetida, salt, garlic, onions, urad-ki-dal (black gram), all bitter things, dry foods, black sugar, vinegar, alcohol, sour curd, stale foods, acids, astringents, pungent stuff, roasted things, heavy vegetables, over-ripe or unripe fruits, pumpkins, etc., must be avoided. Meat can make man a scientist, but rarely a Philosopher, Yogi or a Tattva Jnani. Onions and garlic are worse than meat. All food-stuffs contain a small quantity of salt. So, even if you do not add salt separately, the system will derive the necessary quantity of salt from other food-stuffs. The giving up of salt will not produce deficiency of hydrochloric acid and dyspepsia as allopathic doctors foolishly imagine. Salt excites passion. No ill-effects are produced by the giving up of salt. Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Yogananda had given up salt for over thirteen years. Giving up salt helps you in controlling the tongue and thereby the mind also and in developing will-power too. You will have good health. Sitting before fire, company of women and worldly-minded people, Yatra, long walk, carrying heavy burdens, cold bath in the early morning, harsh words, speaking untruth, dishonest practices, theft, killing animals, Himsa of all kinds either in thought, word or deed, hatred and enmity towards any person, fighting, quarrelling, pride, double-dealing, intriguing, back-biting, tale-bearing, crookedness, talks other than those of Atman and Moksha, cruelty towards animals and men, too much fasting or eating only once every day, etc., are not allowed for a Pranayama-practitioner.
Concerning food, it is very difficult to practise pranayama correctly if the stomach and intestines are completely full. This prevents the contraction and expansion of the abdomen during deep respiration. There is a saying by the ancient yogis: “Fill half your stomach with food, one quarter with water and the remaining quarter with air.” In order to gain the most benefits from pranayama reasonable moderation in eating is essential. It is best to empty the bowels as much as possible. Again this allows less restricted and greater movement of the abdomen during respiration.
Pranayama practitioner has a good appetite, good digestion, cheerfulness, courage, strength, vigour, a high standard of vitality and a handsome appearance. The Yogi should take his food at a time when Surya Nadi or Pingala is working, i.e., when the breath flows through the right nostril, because Pingala is heating and digests the food quickly. Pranayama should not be practised just after taking meals, nor when one is very hungry. Gradually one should be able to retain the breath for 3 Ghatikas (one hour and a half) at a time. Through this, the Yogi gets many psychic powers. When anyone wants to stop the breath for a long period, he should remain by the side of a Yogi Guru, who knows the practice of Pranayama thoroughly. The breath can be suspended by graduated practice from one to three minutes without the help of anybody. Suspension for three minutes is quite sufficient for purifying the Nadis and steadying the mind and for the purpose of good health.
- Nasal blockage makes it very difficult to practise pranayama. One should definitely not breathe through the mouth unless a particular pranayama practice requires it. Therefore, jala neti should be done when necessary before beginning the practice.
- Awareness is an essential part of pranayama. It is important to be aware of the mechanics of the practice and not allow it to become automatic. If the mind becomes distracted, and it possibly will, don’t become frustrated or try to suppress the wandering tendency; only try to realize that your attention is elsewhere. This is difficult, for when our attention is elsewhere we are normally so involved with the distraction we don’t realize that we have ceased to be aware of the pranayama practice. All is forgotten, until some time later we realize our mind is not on the practice. Merely becoming aware of the distraction will direct our attention back to the mechanics of pranayama.
- Violent respiration is not advocated during pranayama. Many people teach pranayama as though the lungs are a pair of heavy duty mechanical pumps. The lungs are strong but they are also sensitive and should be treated with respect. Respiration should be controlled and without any strain. If you have to utilize any excessive force or strain then you are not doing pranayama correctly. Beginners, in particular, should slowly and systematically develop more and more control over the respiratory functions. If one tries to master pranayama in a week by forceful inhalation, retention and exhalation then more harm than good will result. The motto is ‘slowly but surely’. If there is any discomfort while doing pranayama then it should be stopped immediately. If this discomfort continues then seek the advice of a competent yoga teacher.
9. Matra : The time taken in making a round of the palm of the hand, neither very slow nor quickly snapping the fingers once, is called Matra.
Each time-unit is called Matra. The twinkling of an eye is sometimes taken as the period of one Matra. Time occupied by one normal respiration is considered as one Matra. Time taken up in pronouncing the mono-syllable, OM, is regarded as one Matra. This is very convenient. Many Pranayama-practitioners adopt this time-unit in their practice.
10. The Adhikari : (The Qualified Person) : One who has a calm mind, who has subdued his Indriyas, who has faith in the words of the Guru and Sastras, who is an Astika (i.e., one who believes in God) and is moderate in eating, drinking and sleeping and one who has an eager longing for deliverance from the wheel of births and deaths—is an Adhikari (qualified person) for the practice of Yoga. Such a man can easily get success in the practice. Pranayama should be practised with care, perseverance and faith.
Those who are addicted to sensual pleasures or those who are arrogant, dishonest, untruthful, diplomatic, cunning and treacherous; those who disrespect Sadhus, Sannyasins and their Gurus or spiritual preceptors and take pleasure in vain controversies, or of a highly talkative nature, those who are disbelievers, who mix much with worldly-minded people, who are cruel, harsh and greedy and do much useless Vyavahara (worldly activities), can never attain success in Pranayama or any other Yogic practice.
There are three types of Adhikaris, viz., 1. good (Uttama), 2. middle (Madhyama) and 3. inferior (Adhama) according to Samskaras, intelligence, degree of Vairagya, Viveka and Mumukshutva and the capacity for Sadhana.
You must approach a Guru, who knows Yogasastra and has mastery over it. Sit at his lotus-feet. Serve him. Clear your doubts through sensible and reasonable questions. Receive instructions and practise them with enthusiasm, zeal, attention, earnestness and faith according to the methods taught by the teacher.
A Pranayama practitioner should always speak kind and sweet words. He must be kind to everybody. He must be honest. He must speak the truth. He must develop Vairagya, patience, Sraddha (faith), Bhakti (devotion), Karuna (mercy), etc. He must observe perfect celibacy. A householder should be very moderate in sexual matters during the practice.
Physiology of Pranayama & Astral Channels or Nadis
Ida and Pingala
There are the two nerve-currents one on either side of the spinal column. The left one is called Ida and the right is known as Pingala. These are Nadis. Tentatively, some take these as the right and the left sympathetic cords, but they are subtle tubes that carry Prana. The Moon moves in the Ida and the Sun in the Pingala. Ida is cooling. Pingala is heating. Ida flows through the left nostril and the Pingala through the right nostril. The breath flows through the right nostril for one hour and then through the left nostril for one hour. Man is busily engaged in worldly activities, when the breath flows through Ida and Pingala. When Sushumna operates, he becomes dead to the world, and enters into Samadhi. A Yogi tries his level best to make the Prana run in the Sushumna Nadi, which is known as the central Brahman Nadi also. On the left of Sushumna is situated Ida and on the right is Pingala. The moon is of the nature of Tamas and the sun is that of the Rajas. The poison share is of the sun and the nectar is of the moon. Ida and Pingala indicate time. Sushumna is the consumer of time.
Sushumna is the most important of all the Nadis. It is the sustainer of the universe and the path of the universe and the path of salvation. Situated at the back of the anus, it is attached to the spinal column and extends to the Brahmarandhra of the head and is invisible and subtle. The real work of a Yogi begins when Sushumna begins to function. Sushumna runs along the centre of the spinal cord or spinal column. Above the genital organs and below the navel is the Kanda, of the shape of a bird’s egg. There arise from it all the Nadis 72,000 in number. Of these, seventy-two are common and generally known. Of those the chief ones are ten and they carry the Pranas. Ida, Pingala, Sushumna, Gandhari, Hastijihva, Pusa, Yusasvini, Alambusa, Kuhuh and Sankhini are said to be the ten important Nadis. The Yogis should have a knowledge of the Nadis and the Chakras. Ida, Pingala and Sushumna are said to carry Prana and have Moon, Sun and Agni as their Devatas. When Prana moves in Sushumna, sit for meditation. You will have deep Dhyana. If the coiled-up energy, Kundalini, passes up along the Sushumna Nadi and is taken up from Chakra to Chakra the Yogi gets different sorts of experiences, powers and Ananda.
Purification Of Nadis
Shat-Karmas (The Six Purificatory Processes)
Those who are of a flabby and phlegmatic constitution only, should practise at first these six Kriyas to prepare themselves for the practice of Pranayama and their success comes in easily. These six Kriyas are: 1. Dhauti, 2. Basti, 3. Neti, 4. Trataka, 5. Nauli and 6. Kapalabhati.
Take a clean piece of muslin cloth 4 fingers wide and 15 feet long. Dip it in tepid water. The borders of the cloth should be nicely stitched on all sides and no pieces of thread should be hanging loose. Then slowly swallow it and draw it out again. Swallow one foot the first day and increase it daily, little by little. This is called Vastra-Dhauti. In the beginning you may have slight retching. It stops on the third day. This practice cures diseases of the stomach, such as gastritis, Gulma (dyspepsia), belching, fever, lumbago, asthma, Pleeha (diseases of spleen), leprosy, skin-diseases and disorders of phlegm and bile. You need not practise it daily. You can practise it once a week or once in a fortnight. Wash the cloth with soap and keep it always clean. Drink a cup of milk after the practice is over; otherwise, you will feel a dry sensation inside.
This can be practised with or without a bamboo tube. But it is better to have a bamboo-tube. Sit in a tub of water covering your navel. Assume the posture Utkatasana by resting your body on the forepart of your feet, the heels pressing against the posteriors. Take a small bamboo-tube 6 fingers long and insert 4 fingers of its length into the anus after lubricating the tube with vaseline or soap or castor oil. Then contract the anus. Draw the water into the bowels slowly. Shake well the water within the bowels and then expel the water outside. It is known as Jala-Basti. It cures Pleeha, urinary disorders, Gulma, myalga, dropsy, disorders of digestion, diseases of the spleen and bowels, diseases arising from the excess of wind, bile and phlegm. This Kriya should be done in the morning when the stomach is empty. Drink a cup of milk or take your meals when the Kriya is over. This Kriya can be practised while standing in a river.
There is another way of doing Basti without the help of water. It is called Sthula-Basti. Sit in Paschimottanasana on the ground and churn the abdominal and intestinal portions slowly with a downward motion. Contract the sphincter muscles. This removes constipation and all the abdominal disorders. This is not so effective as the Jala-Basti.
Take a thin thread 12 fingers long (1/2 cubit) without knots. Insert it into the nostrils and passing it inside draw it out by the mouth. You can also pass the thread through one nostril and pull it through the other. The thread is glued and thereby rendered stiff for passing through easily. This Kriya purifies the skull and produces clear and keen sight. Rhinitis and Coryza are cured thereby.
Gaze steadily without winking with a concentrated mind at any small object, until tears begin to flow. By this practice all diseases of the eye are removed. Unsteadiness of the mind vanishes. Sambhavi Siddhi is obtained. Will-power is developed. Clairvoyance is induced.
This is abdominal churning with the help of rectus muscle of the abdomen. Bend the head down. Isolate the rectus muscle and turn it from right to left and from left to right. This removes constipation, increases the digestive fire and destroys all intestinal disorders.
Do Rechaka and Puraka rapidly like the bellows of a blacksmith. This destroys all the disorders of phlegm. Detailed instructions are given separately.
The Result Of Pranayama: Kundalini
Kundalini is the serpent power or sleeping Sakti, that has 3 1/2 coils with face downwards, in the Muladhara Chakra, at the base of the spine. No Samadhi is possible without its being awakened. The practice of Kumbhaka in Pranayama produces heat and thereby Kundalini is awakened and passes upwards along the Sushumna Nadi. The Yogic practitioner experiences various visions. Then the Kundalini passes along the Six Chakras and eventually gets united with Lord Siva, seated on the Sahasrara or thousand-petalled lotus, at the crown of the head. Nirvikalpa Samadhi ensues now and the Yogi gets liberation and all the divine Aishvaryas. One should practise control of breath with concentration of mind. The awakened Kundalini that is taken up to Manipura Chakra may drop down again to Muladhara. It has to be raised again with effort. One should become perfectly desireless and should be full of Vairagya before he attempts to awaken Kundalini.
Kundalini is like a thread and is resplendent. When it is awakened it hisses like a serpent beaten with a stick and enters the hole of Sushumna. When it travels from Chakra to Chakra, layer after layer of the mind becomes open and the Yogi acquires various Siddhis (psychic powers).
Out of all essentials the last is Nadi Suddhi. When the Nadis are purified the aspirant enters the first stage in the practice of Yoga—‘Arambha’.
Pranava (!) should be chanted with three Matras (prolonged intonations). This is for the destruction of the former sins. The Mantra, Pranava, destroys all obstacles and all sins. By practising this he attains the ‘Arambha Avastha’ (the beginning or first stage). The body of the Yogi begins to perspire. When it perspires he should rub it well with the hands. The trembling of the body also occurs. He sometimes jumps like a frog.
Then follows the Ghata Avastha, the second state, which is acquired by constantly practising suppression of breath. When a perfect union takes place between Prana and Apana, Manas and Buddhi or Jivatman and Paramatman without opposition, it is called Ghata Avastha. He may now practise only for about one-fourth of the period prescribed for the practice before. By day and by evening let him practise only for a Yama (3 hours). Let him practise the Kevala Kumbhaka once a day. Drawing away completely the organs from the objects of senses during cessation of breath is called Pratyahara. Whatever he sees with his eyes, let him consider as Atman. Whatever he hears with his ears, let him consider as Atman. Whatever he smells with his nose, let him consider as Atman. Whatever he tastes with his tongue, let him consider as Atman. Whatever the Yogi touches with his skin, let him consider as Atman. Then various wonderful powers are obtained by the Yogi, such as clairvoyance, clairaudience, ability to transport himself to great distances within a moment, great power of speech, ability to take up any form he likes, ability to become invisible and the wonder of transmuting iron into gold.
That Yogi who is carefully practising Yoga, attains the power to levitate. Then, should the wise Yogi think that these powers are great obstacles in the attainment of Yoga, he should never take delight or recourse to them. The Yogins should not exercise these powers before any person whomsoever. He should live in the world as an ordinary man in order to keep his powers concealed. His disciples would, without doubt, request him to show them (his powers) for the gratification of their desire. One, who is actively engaged in one’s (world-imposed) duties, forgets to practise Yoga. So he should practise day and night nothing but Yoga without forgetting the words of his Guru. Thus he who is constantly engaged in Yogic practices, passes the Ghata state. Nothing is gained by useless company of worldly-minded people. Therefore, one should with great effort shun evil company and practise Yoga.
Then by such constant practice, the Parichaya Avastha (the third state) is gained. Vayu or breath, through arduous practice pierces the Kundalini, along with Agni through thought and enters the Sushumna, uninterrupted. When one’s Chitta enters the Sushumna along with Prana, it reaches the high seat in the head, along with Prana. When the Yogi by the practice of Yoga acquires power of action (Kriya Sakti) and pierces through the Six Chakras and reaches the secure condition of Parichaya, the Yogi then verily sees the threefold effects of Karma. Then let the Yogi destroy the multitude of Karmas by the Pranava (!). Let him accomplish ‘Kaya-Vyuha’, a mystical process of arranging the various Skandhas of the body and taking various bodies, in order to exhaust all his previous Karmas without the necessity of being reborn. At that time let the great Yogi practise the five Dharanas or forms of concentration by which, command over the five elements is gained and fear of injuries by any one of them is removed.
This is the fourth stage of Pranayama. Through graduated practice the Yogi reaches the Nishpatti Avastha, the state of consummation. The Yogi, having destroyed all the seeds of Karma drinks the nectar of immortality. He feels neither hunger nor thirst, nor sleep nor swoon. He becomes absolutely independent. He can move anywhere in the world. He is never reborn. He is free from all diseases, decay and old age. He enjoys the bliss of Samadhi. He is no longer in need of any Yogic practice. When the skilful tranquil Yogi can drink the Prana Vayu by placing his tongue at the root of the palate, when he knows the laws of action of Prana and Apana, then he becomes entitled to liberation.
A Yogic student will automatically experience all these Avasthas one by one as he advances in his systematic, regular practices. An impatient student cannot experience any of these Avasthas through occasional practices. Care should be taken in the observances of Mitahara and Brahmacharya.
How to develop the different components of breathing through various asanas ?
Postures for pranayama
Choice of posture and criterion
Padmasana (Lotus Pose)
This is also known by the name Kamalasana. Kamala means lotus. When the Asana is demonstrated it presents the appearance of a lotus in a way. Hence the name Padmasana.
Amongst the four poses prescribed for Japa and Dhyana, Padmasana comes foremost. It is the best Asana for contemplation. Rishis like Gheranda, Sandilya,s speak very highly of this important Asana. This is highly agreeable for householders. Even ladies can sit in this Asana. Padmasana is suitable for lean persons and for youths as well.
Sit on the ground by spreading the legs forward. Then place the right foot on the left thigh and the left foot on the right thigh. Place the hands on the knee-joints. You can make a finger-lock and keep the locked hands over the left ankle. This is very convenient for some persons. Or you can place the left hand over the left knee and the right hand over the right knee with the palm facing upwards and the index finger touching the middle portion of the thumb (Chinmudra).
Siddhasana (The Perfect Pose)
Next to Padmasana comes Siddhasana in importance. Some eulogise this Asana as even superior to Padmasana for the purpose of Dhyana (contemplation). If you get mastery over this Asana you will acquire many Siddhis. Further, it was being practised by many Siddhas (perfected Yogins) of yore. Hence the name Siddhasana.
Even fatty persons with big thighs can practise this Asana daily. In fact this is better for some persons than Padmasana. Young Brahmacharins, who attempt to get established in celibacy, should practise this Asana. This is not suitable for ladies.
Place the left heel at the anus or Guda, the terminal opening of the alimentary canal or digestive tube. Keep the right heel on the root of the generative organ, the feet or legs should be so nicely arranged that the ankle-joints should touch each other. Hands can be placed as in Padmasana.
Svastikasana (Prosperous Pose)
Svastika is sitting at ease with the body erect. Spread the legs forward. Fold the left leg and place the foot near the right thigh muscles. Similarly, bend the right leg and push the foot in the space between the thigh and calf muscles. Now you will find the feet between the thighs and calves of the legs. This is very comfortable for meditation. Keep the hands as instructed in Padmasana.
Samasana (Equal Pose)
Place the left heel at the beginning of the right thigh and the right heel at the beginning of the left thigh. Sit at ease. Do not bend either on the left or right. This is called as Samasana.
Focus of mind in asana as a preparation to pranayama
You have to bring drishti as discussed in Asanas to focus the mind in asanas.
Breathing in asanas
As per krishnamachrya please do poorak where the head rises up and do rechaka where the head comes down. Inhalation on expansion and exhalation on flexion and twisting. Inhale towards gravity exhale against gravity. Refer to krishnamacharya notes of asanas for more details.
There are four Bhedas (piercing of divisions) viz., Surya, Ujjayi, Sitali and Basti. Through these four ways, when Kumbhaka is near or about to be performed, the sinless Yogi should practise the three Bandhas. The first is called Mula Bandha. The second is called Uddiyana, and the third is Jalandhara. Their nature will be thus described. Apana which has a downward tendency is forced up by contracting and drawing the anus upwards. This process is called Mula Bandha. When Apana is raised up and reaches the sphere of Agni (fire), then the flame of Agni grows long, being blown about by Vayu. The Agni and Apana come to or commingle with Prana in a heated state. Through this Agni, which is very fiery arises in the body the flaming of fire which rouses the sleeping Kundalini. Then the Kundalini makes a hissing noise, becomes erect like a serpent beaten with a stick and enters into the hole of Brahmanadi
(Sushumna). Therefore Yogins should daily practise Mula Bandha. Uddiyana should be performed at the end of Kumbhaka and at the beginning of inhalation. Because Prana ‘Uddiyate’—goes up the Sushumna in this Bandha, it is called Uddiyana by the Yogins. Being seated in the Vajra posture and holding firmly the two toes by the two hands near the two ankles, he should gradually upbear the Tana (thread or Nadi, the Sarasvati Nadi) which is on the western side of Udara (the upper part of the abdomen, above the navel), then to neck. When Prana reaches Sandhi (junction) of navel, slowly it removes the diseases of the navel. Therefore this should be practised perfectly. Uddiyana can be done in standing posture also. When you practise in standing posture, place your hands on the knees or a little above the knees. Keep the legs a little apart.
The Bandha called Jalandhara should be practised at the end of Puraka. Jalandhara is of the form of contraction of the neck and is an impediment to the passage of Vayu upwards. When the neck is contracted by bending the head downwards, so that the chin may touch the chest, Prana goes through Brahmanadi. Assuming the seat, as mentioned before, one should stir up Sarasvati and control Prana. On the first day Kumbhaka should be done four times, on the second day ten times and then five times separately. On the third day, twenty times will do and afterwards Kumbhaka should be performed with the Bandhas and with an increase of two times per day.
- In the early morning, answer the calls of nature and sit for the practice. Practise Pranayama, in a dry well-ventilated room. Pranayama requires deep concentration and attention. It is always better to have the practice in a steady sitting posture. Do not keep anyone by your side to avoid distraction of your mind.
- Before you sit for Pranayama practice, thoroughly clean the nostrils well. You can take a small quantity of fruit-juice or a small cup of milk or coffee even before the practice. When you finish the practice take a cup of milk or light tiffin after 10 minutes.
- Have one sitting only in the morning during summer. If there is heat in the brain or head, apply Amla oil or Brahmi oil or butter on the head before you take your bath. Take Misri Sherbat by dissolving sugar candy in water. This will cool your whole system. Do Sitali Pranayama also. You will not be affected by the heat.
- Strictly avoid too much talking, eating, sleeping, mixing with friends and exertion. “Verily Yoga is not for him who eateth too much, nor who abstaineth to excess, is addicted to too much sleep nor even to wakefulness” (Gita VI-16). Take a little ghee with rice when you take your meals. This will lubricate the bowels and allow Vayu to move downwards freely.
- “Mitaharam vina yastu yogarambham tu karayet, Nanaroga bhavettasya kinchid yogo na sidhyati—Without observing moderation of diet, if one takes to the Yoga practices, he cannot obtain any benefit but gets various diseases” (Ghe.S. Chap. V-16).
- Perfect celibacy for six months or one year will doubtless enable you to acquire rapid progress in the practice and in spiritual advancement. Do not talk with ladies. Do not laugh and joke with them. Shun their company entirely. Without Brahmacharya and dietetic regulations if you practise Yogic exercises, you will not get maximum benefit in the spiritual practices. But, for ordinary health you can practise mild exercises.
- Be regular and systematic in your practice. Never miss a day. Stop the practice when you are ailing seriously. Some people twist the muscles of the face when they do Kumbhaka. It should be avoided. It is a symptom to indicate that they are going beyond their capacity. This must be strictly avoided. Such people cannot have a regulated Rechaka and Puraka.
- Obstacles in Yoga: “Sleeping in day time, late vigil overnight, excess of urine and faeces, evil of unwholesome food and laborious mental operation with Prana.” When one is attacked by any disease, he says that the disease is due to the practice of Yoga. This is a serious mistake.
- Get up at 4 a.m. Meditate or do Japa for half an hour. Then do Asanas and Mudras. Take rest for 15 minutes. Then do Pranayama. Physical exercises can be conveniently combined with Asanas. If you have sufficient time at your disposal, you can have it after finishing all the Yogic exercises and meditation. Pranayama can also be performed as soon as you get up from bed just before Japa and meditation. It will make your body light and you will enjoy the meditation. You must have a routine according to your convenience and time.
- Maximum benefit can be derived if Japa also is done during the practice of Asanas and Pranayama.
- It is always better to start Japa and meditation in the early morning at 4 a.m., as soon as you get up from bed. At this time the mind is quite calm and refreshed. You can have good concentration.
- Vast majority of persons waste their precious time in the early morning in answering the calls of nature for half an hour and washing their teeth for another half an hour. This is bad. Aspirants should try to defecate within 5 minutes and cleanse their teeth within 5 minutes. If the bowels are constipated, have vigorous practice of Salabha, Bhujanga and Dhanur Asanas for 5 minutes as soon as you get up from bed. If you are habituated to answer the call of nature, late, you can do so after finishing the Yogic exercises.
- First do Japa and meditation. Then you can take to Asana and Pranayama exercises. Then finish the course of practice by another short sitting in meditation.
- AS there is always some drowsiness when you get up from bed, it is desirable to do some Asanas and a little Pranayama for five minutes just to drive off this drowsiness and to make you fit for meditation. The mind gets one-pointed after the practice of Pranayama. Pranayama, though it concerns with the breath, gives good exercise for various internal organs and the whole body.
- The general order of doing Kriyas is: First do all Asanas, then Mudras, then Pranayama and then Dhyana. Since the early morning time is suitable for meditation, you can follow this order: Japa, Meditation, Asanas, Mudras and Pranayama. This is a better way. You can follow the order which is suitable to you. After doing Asanas, take rest for five minutes and then begin Pranayama.
- Some Hatha Yogic books interdict cold bath in the early morning. Probably the reason may be that one may catch cold or develop any complaint of the lungs, if he takes cold bath at 4 a.m. particularly in cold places like Kashmir, Mussoorie, Darjeeling, etc. There is no restriction in hot places. I am always in favour of cold baths before one starts the Yogic practices as it is refreshing and stimulating. It drives off drowsiness. It brings in equilibrium of circulation of blood. There is a healthy flow of blood towards the brain.
- Asanas and Pranayama remove all sorts of diseases, improve health, energise digestion, invigorate the nerves, straighten the Sushumna Nadi, remove Rajas and awaken Kundalini. Practice of Asanas and Pranayama bestows good health and steady mind. As no Sadhana is possible without good health and as no meditation is possible without a steady mind, Hatha Yoga is of immense use for Dhyana Yogins, Karma Yogins, Bhaktas and Vedantins as well.
- The maintenance of the body is impossible without Asanas or any kind of physical exercises or activities. Even an orthodox Vedantin is an unconscious Hatha Yogi. He practises some kind of Asana daily. He practises Pranayama also unconsciously because during meditation, Pranayama comes by itself.
- Whenever you feel uneasy, depressed or dejected, practise Pranayama. You will be at once filled with new vigour, energy and strength. You will be elevated, renovated and filled with joy. Do this and try. Before you begin to write something, an essay, an article or a thesis, do Pranayama first. You will bring out beautiful ideas and it will be an inspiring, powerful and original production.
- Be regular in the practice. Regularity in the practice is very necessary if one wants to realise the maximum benefits of Asanas and Pranayama. Those who practise by fits and starts will not derive much benefit. Generally people practise for two months in the beginning with great enthusiasm and leave off the practice. This is a sad mistake. They always want a Yogic teacher by their side. They have got the effeminate leaning mentality. They are lazy, torpid and slothful.
- People do not want to remove Mala (impurity) by selfless service and Vikshepa by Yogic practices. They at once jump to awaken the Kundalini and raise Brahmakara Vritti. They will only break their legs. Those who attempt to awaken the Kundalini by Asanas and Pranayama, should have purity in thought, word and deed. They should have mental and physical Brahmacharya. Then only they can enjoy the benefits of awakening the Kundalini.
- Sow the seed of spirituality in your young age. Do not waste Virya. Discipline the Indriyas and mind. Do Sadhana. When you become old, it will be difficult for you to do any rigid Sadhana. Therefore be on the alert during your teens; you will see for yourself in a short time the particular benefits you derive from particular kinds of Sadhana.
- When you advance in spiritual practices, you must observe strict Mouna (vow of silence) for 24 hours continuously. This must be continued for some months also. Everyone should select a course of few exercises in Asana, Pranayama and meditation according to one’s temperament, capacity, convenience and requirement.
- It is quite possible for a man to practise celibacy, albeit there are various sorts of temptations and distractions. A well-disciplined life, study of scriptures, Satsanga, Japa, Dhyana, Pranayama, Sattvic and moderate diet, daily introspection, and enquiry, self-analysis and self-correction, Sadachara, practice of Yama, Niyama, physical and verbal Tapas, all will pave a long way in the attainment of this end. People have irregular, unrighteous, immoderate, irreligious, undisciplined life. Hence they suffer and fail in the attainment of the goal of life. Just as the elephant throws sand on its own head, so also they themselves bring difficulties and troubles on their own heads on account of their foolishness.
- Do not shake the body unnecessarily. By shaking the body often the mind also is disturbed. Do not stretch the body every now and then. The Asana should be steady and firm as a rock when you do Pranayama, Japa and meditation.
- You must find out for yourself according to your health and constitution what sort of dietetic regulation will suit and what particular Pranayama will exactly help you. Then only you can safely proceed with your Sadhana. First read all the instructions of the various asanas exercises given in the book Asanas, Pranayamas and Bandhas from the beginning to the end. Clearly understand the technique. If you have any doubts, just ask any Yogic teacher to demonstrate and then practise it. This is the safest method. You should not select any one of the exercise at random and begin to practise it in a wrong way.
- In all the exercises I have suggested Mantra ‘OM’ as the time-unit. You can have your Guru Mantra, Rama, Siva, Gayatri or mere number as the time-unit according to your inclination. Gayatri or OM is the best for Pranayama. In the beginning you must observe some time-unit for Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka. The time-unit and the proper ratio comes by itself when you do the Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka as long as you can do it comfortably. When you have advanced in the practice, you need not count or keep any unit. You will be naturally established in the normal ratio through force of habit.
- For some days in the beginning you must count the number and see how you progress. In the advanced stages, you need not distract the mind in counting. The lungs will tell you when the required number is finished.
- Do not continue the Pranayama when you are fatigued. There must be always joy and exhilaration of spirit during and after the practice. You should come out of the practice fully invigorated and refreshed. Do not bind yourself by too many rules (Niyamas).
- Do not take bath immediately after Pranayama is over. Take rest for half an hour. If you get perspiration during the practice, do not wipe it with a towel. Rub it with your hands. Do not expose the body to the chill draughts of air when you perspire.
- Always inhale and exhale very slowly. Do not make any sound. In Pranayamas like Bhastrika, Kapalabhati, Sitali and Sitkari, you can produce a little mild or the lowest possible sound.
- You should not expect the benefits after doing it for 2 or 3 minutes only for a day or two. At least you must have 15 minutes daily practice in the beginning regularly for days together. There will be no use if you jump from one exercise to another everyday. You must have a particular exercise for your daily Abhyasa, which you should improve to a high degree. Other exercises of course, you can have for occasional practice along with the daily exercise. You must have Bhastrika, Kapalabhati and ‘Easy Comfortable Pranayama’ for your daily practice; and Sitali, Sitkari, etc., can be practised occasionally.
- The Puraka is otherwise known as ‘Nissvasa’ and Rechaka is known as ‘Uchhvasa’. The mental process in Kevala Kumbhaka is called ‘Sunyaka’ form of breath regulation. Steady, systematic practice and gradual increase of Kumbhaka is known as ‘Abhyasa Yoga’, swallowing of air and living on this air alone is known as ‘Vayubhakshana’.
- The author of Sivayoga Dipika describes three kinds of Pranayama: Prakrita, Vaikrita and Kevala Kumbhaka. “If the Prana is in the form of breath inhaled and exhaled, on account of its natural quality of going out and coming in, the Pranayama is known as Prakrita. If the Prana is restrained by the threefold means of throwing out, taking in and stopping the breath in accordance with the rules prescribed in the Sastras, it is called Vaikrita or artificial. But with great men who have risen above these two kinds of restraining breath, the sudden restraining of the vital currents directly (without inspiration and expiration), is Kevala Kumbhaka. Prakrita Pranayama belongs to Mantra Yoga. Vaikrita belongs to Laya Yoga.”
- “That is called Kumbhaka (cessation of breath) when there is neither expiration nor inspiration and the body is motionless, remaining still in one state. Then he sees forms like the blind, hears sounds like the deaf and sees the body like wood. This is the characteristic of one who has attained quiescence.”
- Patanjali does not lay much stress on practice of different kinds of Pranayama. He mentions: “Exhale slowly, then inhale and retain the breath. You will get a steady and calm mind.” It is only the Hatha Yogins who developed Pranayama as a science and have mentioned various exercises to suit different persons.
- “Spread a tiger-skin or a deer-skin or a fourfold blanket. Over this spread a piece of white cloth. Then sit for the Pranayama practice facing the North.”
- Some would take the order as exhaling, inhaling and retaining; others as inhaling, retaining and exhaling. The latter is more common. In Yajnavalkya, we find the different kinds of breath regulation mentioned in the order of Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka; whereas, in Naradiya text we have them in the order of Rechaka, Puraka and Kumbhaka. The two are to be regulated as optional alternatives.
- A Yogi should always avoid fear, anger, laziness, too much sleep or waking and too much food or fasting. If the above rule be well strictly practised, each day, spiritual wisdom will arise of itself in three months without doubt; in four months, he sees the Devas; in five months he knows or becomes a Brahmanishtha; and truly in six months he attains Kaivalya at will. There is no doubt.
- A neophyte should do Puraka and Rechaka only without any Kumbhaka for some days. Take a long time to do Rechaka. The proportion for Puraka and Rechaka is 1:2.
- Pranayama in its popular and preparatory form may be practised by every one in any posture whatsoever, sitting or walking; and yet is sure to show its benefits. But to those who practise it in accordance with the specific methods prescribed, fructification will be rapid.
- Gradually increase the period of Kumbhaka. Retain for 4 seconds in the first week, for 8 seconds in the second week, for 12 seconds in the third week and so on, till you are able to retain the breath to your full capacity.
- Common-sense or Yukti should be used throughout your practice. If one kind of exercise is not agreeable to your system, change it after due consideration or consultation with your Guru. This is Yukti. Where there is Yukti, there is Siddhi, Bhukti and Mukti (perfection, enjoyment and salvation).
- You must so nicely adjust the Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka that you should not experience the feeling of suffocation or discomfort at any stage of Pranayama. You should never feel the necessity of catching hold of a few normal breaths between any two successive rounds. The duration of Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka must be properly adjusted. Exercise due care and attention. Matters will turn to be successful and easy.
- You must not unnecessarily prolong the period of exhalation. If you prolong the time of Rechaka, the following inhalation will be done in a hurried manner and the rhythm will be disturbed. You must so carefully regulate the Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka that must be absolutely comfortable and perform not only one Pranayama but also the full course or required rounds of Pranayama. Experience and practice will make you alright. Practice makes one perfect. Be steady. Another important factor is that you must have efficient control over the lungs at the end of Kumbhaka to enable you to do the Rechaka smoothly and in proportion with the Puraka.
- Suryabheda and Ujjayi produce heat. Sitkari and Sitali are cooling. Bhastrika preserves normal temperature. Suryabheda destroys excess of wind; Ujjayi phlegm; Sitkari and Sitali bile; and Bhastrika all the three.
- Suryabheda and Ujjayi must be practised during winterss Sitkari and Sitali must be practised in summer. Bhastrika can be practised in all seasons. Those persons whose bodies are hot even in winter can practise Sitali and Sitkari during winter season.
- Goal of life is self-realisation. “This is brought about by means of the subjugation of the body and the senses, the service to a good Guru, the hearing of Vedantic doctrine and constant meditation thereon” (Niralamba Upanishad). “If you are really sincere and if you wish to have a quick, sure success, you must have a systematic routine for Asana, Pranayama, Japa, Meditation, Svadhyaya, etc. You must be very careful in keeping up Brahmacharya. Effective means to control the mind are the attainment of spiritual knowledge, association with the wise, the entire abdication of all Vasanas and control of Prana” (Muktikopanishad).
- Once again I will tell you that Asana, Pranayama, Japa, Dhyana, Brahmacharya, Satsanga, solitude, Mouna, Nishkama Karma are all absolutely necessary for spiritual attainments. One can hardly obtain perfection in Raja Yoga without Hatha Yoga. At the end of Kumbhaka you should withdraw the mind from all the objects. By gradual practice you will be established in Raja Yoga.
- Some students who are studying Vedantic books think that they are Jnanis and they ignore Asanas, Pranayama, etc. They also should practise these, till they are perfect in Shat-Sampat of the Sadhana-Chatushtaya—Sama, Dama, etc.,—the preliminary qualifications of Jnana Yoga.
- Do not hesitate. Do not be waiting to get a Guru who will sit by your side and watch you daily for a long time. If you are sincere, regular and systematic and if you follow rules and instructions of this book very carefully, there will be no trouble at all. You will undoubtedly get success. Slight errors may crop up in the beginning, it does not matter. Do not unnecessarily be alarmed. Do not give up the practice. You will yourself learn how to adjust. Common-sense, instinct, the shrill inner voice of the soul will help you in the path. Everything will come out smoothly in the end. Start the practice this very second in right earnest and become a real Yogi.
OM Santih, Santih, Santih!
Chapter Three – F.A.Q’s on Pranayama
Questions and Answers
Q. Is it right to say that Pranayama is unnecessary in the practice of Raja Yoga?
No; Pranayama forms one of the eight limbs of Raja Yoga.
Q.Is it dangerous to practise Pranayama without the assistance of a Guru (Teacher)?
People are unnecessarily alarmed. You can practise ordinary Pranayama exercises without the help of a Guru. A Guru is necessary if you want to practise Kumbhaka or retention of breath for long time and unite Apana with Prana. The books written by realised Yogins can guide you if you are not able to get a Guru. But it is better to have a Guru by your side or you can get the lessons from him and practise them at home. You can keep regular correspondence with him. You can retain the breath from 1/2 to 1 or 2 minutes without any difficulty or danger. If you cannot get a realised Yogi, you can approach senior students of Yoga. They also can help you.
Q.Will the practice of Pranayama alone awaken the sleeping Kundalini Sakti?
Yes. Asanas, Bandhas, Mudras, Japa, meditation, strong and pure irresistible analytical will, the grace of Guru, devotion, all these also will awaken the Kundalini Sakti.
Q. What are the effects of the practice of Khechari Mudra?
It will help the student to stop the breath. He can have nice concentration and meditation. He will be free from hunger and thirst. He can change the breath from one nostril to another quite easily. He can have Kevala Kumbhaka also very easily.
Q. What are the symptoms when the Prana and Apana are united and when the Prana passes in Sushumna?
When Prana and Apana are united, the united Prana-Apana will pass through the Sushumna and the practitioner will become dead to the world, i.e., he will lose the consciousness of his body, environments and the world but will have perfect awareness. He will feel Divine Thrill, Divine Ecstasy and the experiences of the lower stages of Samadhi. When the Prana proceeds higher in Sushumna, different kinds of experiences at different Chakras are felt by the practitioner (which cannot be described but should be experienced). When the Prana reaches Sahasrara, the Yogi attains Samadhi.
Q. Should one in the practice of Pranayama during Maha Bandha also maintain the proportion 1:4:2?
Yes, in Maha Bandha the proportion for inhalation, retention and expiration is 1:4:2.
Q. If one practises Bandhatraya Pranayama and practises Puraka 10 Matras, Kumbhaka 40 Matras and Rechaka 20 Matras, how long must be the pure Kumbhaka and how long the expiratory pause with Uddiyana?
In Bandhatraya, beginners need not have any expiratory pause. Advanced students can have it for 5 or 6 seconds. In Bandhatraya, the main Kundalini (1:4:2) is quite sufficient for the union of Prana and Apana.
In Tadana Kriya one can breathe in any way. But Maha Vedha Pranayama should be practised as described in Bandhatraya.
Q. Is Pranayama necessary for getting Darsana of the Lord?
Q. When the Prana is taken up to the tenth door (Brahmarandhra), on the crown of the head, will the practitioner feel a pinprick ?
Q. What is Urdhvaretah Pranayama?
While doing Sukha-Purvaka or Loma-Viloma Pranayama one would feel that the Virya is flowing up towards the Sahasrara at the crown of the head in the form of Ojas. This is Urdhvaretah Pranayama.
Q. If I try to keep the ratio 1:4:2 when I practise Pranayama, I am not able to concentrate on my Ishta Devata. If I try to concentrate I cannot keep up the ratio 1:4:2. Kindly advise what to do?
Try to keep the ratio for two or three months. A strong habit will be formed and the ratio will be kept up automatically. Then you can concentrate on your tutelary deity. Mind can do only one thing at a time
Q. What is the object of inhaling through the left nostril and exhaling through the right nostril and vice versa?
This will make the breath rhythmical, steady the nerves and the mind and allow the Sushumna Nadi to flow, which will be beneficial for meditation. It will keep up a perfect harmony in the system. The five Kosas will vibrate rhythmically.
Q. Can there be any dangerous result in the practice of Pranayama as some people think?
There is no danger in practising Pranayama, Asanas, etc, if you are careful, and if you use your common-sense. People are unnecessarily alarmed. There is danger in everything, if you are careless.
Q. I am regular in my Sadhana. The jerks still continue though they are not so frequent as before. Kindly advise me on the matter?
Through the practice of Pranayama and meditation, the cells and tissues are vivified. They are charged with new Prana. New Pranic currents are generated, These give rise to jerks in the beginning. They will disappear soon.
Q. Will you be kind enough to elucidate ‘Apana Vayu’? We inhale air, thereby oxygen is absorbed by blood-cells as well as plasma. But from that oxygen, how Apana is formed? In what part it resides? What is the nature? How and where Prana and Apana unite? Kindly explain scientifically mentioning parts affected thereby.
Apana is not formed from oxygen. Apana is energy. Apana resides in the lower part of the abdomen, in the Muladhara, in the descending colon, rectum and anus. Its nature is downward motion. Its function is ejection of urine, gas and excreta. Prana and Apana are united by Kevala Kumbhaka, Kumbhaka, Muladhara, Jalandhara Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha. They are united in the navel or Manipuraka Chakra.
Q. How is Nadi-Suddhi done?
The cleansing of the Nadi (Nadi-Suddhi) is either Samanu or Nirmanu—that is, with or without the use of Bija. According to the first form, the Yogi in Padmasana or Siddhasana offers his prayers to his Guru and meditates on him. Meditation on ‘Yam’ (y:ö) he does Japa of the Bija 16 times through Ida, Kumbhaka with Japa of the Bija 64 times, and then exhalation through the solar Nadi and Japa of Bija 32 times. Fire is raised from Manipura and united with Prithvi. Then following inhalation by the solar Nadi with the Vahni Bija ‘Ram’ (rö) 16 times, Kumbhaka with 64 times Japa of the Bija, followed by exhalation through the lunar Nadi and Japa of the Bija 32 times. He then meditates on the lunar brilliance, gazing at the tip of the nose, and inhales by Ida with Japa of Bija ‘Tham’ (Yö) 16 times. Kumbhaka is done with the Bija ‘Vam’ (v:ö) 64 times. He thinks himself as flooded by nectar, and considers that the Nadis have been washed. He exhales by Pingala with 32 times Japa of the Bija ‘Lam’ (l:ö) and considers himself strengthened thereby.
If you are careless in getting down through the steps of a stair-case, you will fall down and break your bones. If you are careless when you walk in the busy parts of a city, you will be crushed by the motor-car. If you are careless when you purchase a ticket at the Railway Station, you will lose your money-purse. If you are careless in dispensing mixtures you will kill the patients by giving a poison or a wrong medicine or administering a medicine in overdoses. Even so, when you practise Pranayama and other Yogic exercises you will have to be careful about your diet. You should avoid overeating; you should take light, easily digestible and nutritious food. You should not go beyond your capacity in retaining the breath, you should first practise inhalation and exhalation only (without retention of breath) for one or two months. You should gradually increase the ratio from 1:4:2 to 16:64:32, You should exhale very very slowly. If these rules are observed, there will be no danger at all in the practice of Pranayama and other Yogic exercises.
CHAPTER 4- DIFFERENT KINDS OF PRANAYAMA
Varieties of Pranayama
Yoga Sutras—Chap. II, Sa. 50
Pranayama is regarded lengthy or subtle according to its three components, the external, the internal and the steady; the retention processes are modified by the regulations of space, time and number.
When the breath is expired, it is Rechaka, the first kind of Pranayama. When the breath is drawn in, it is the second, termed Puraka. When it is suspended, it is the third kind, called Kumbhaka. Kumbhaka is retention of breath. Kumbhaka increases the period of life. It augments the inner spiritual force, vigour and vitality. If you retain the breath for one minute, this one minute is added to your span of life. Yogins by taking the breath to the Brahmarandhra at the top of the head and keeping it there, defeat the Lord of death, Yama, and conquer death. Chang Dev lived for one thousand and four hundred years through the practice of Kumbhaka. Each of these motions in Pranayama, viz., Rechaka, Puraka and Kumbhaka, is regulated by space, time and number. By space is meant the inside or outside of the body and the particular length or the breadth and also when the Prana is held in some particular part of the body. During expiration the distance to which breath is thrown outside varies in different individuals. The distance varies during inspiration also. The length of the breath varies in accordance with the pervading Tattva. The length of the breath is respectively 12, 16, 4, 8, 0 fingers’ breadths according to the Tattvas—Prithvi, Apas, Tejas, Vayu or Akasa (earth, water, fire, air or ether). This is again external during exhalation and internal during inhalation.
Time is, the time of duration of each of these, which is generally counted by Matra, which corresponds to one second. Matra means a measure. By time is also meant how long the Prana should be fixed in a particular centre or part.
Number refers to the number of times the Pranayama is performed. The Yogic student should slowly take the number of Pranayamas to eighty at one sitting. He should have four sittings in the morning, afternoon, evening and midnight, or at 9 a.m., and should have thus 320 Pranayamas in all. The effect or fruit of Pranayama is Udghata or awakening of the sleeping Kundalini. The chief aim of Pranayama is to unite the Prana with the Apana and take the united Pranayama slowly upwards towards the head.
Kundalini is the source for all occult powers. The Pranayama is long or short according to the period of time, it is practised. Just as water, thrown on a hot pan shrivels upon all sides as it is being dried up, so also air, moving in or out ceases its action by a strong effort of restraint (Kumbhaka) and stays within.
Vachaspati describes—“Measured by 36 Matras, is the first attempt (Udghata), which is mild. Twice that is the second, which is middling. Thrice that is the third, which is the intense. This is the Pranayama as measured by number.”
The ‘place’ of exhalation lies within 12 Angulas (inches) of the tip of nose. This is to be ascertained through a piece of reed or cotton. The place of inhalation ranges from the head down to the soles of the feet. This is to be ascertained through a sensation similar to the touch of an ant. The place of Kumbhaka consists of the external and internal places of both exhalation and inhalation taken together, because the functions of the breath are capable of being held up at both these places. This is to be ascertained through the absence of the two indicatives noted above, in connection with exhalation and inhalation.
The specification of the three kinds of breath regulations, by all these three—time, space and number—is only optional. They are not to be understood as to be practised collectively, for in many Smritis we meet with passages, where the only specification mentioned with reference to the regulation of breath is that of time.
The fourth is restraining the Prana by directing it to external or internal object;
(Yoga Sutras: 11,50).
The third kind of Pranayama that is described in Sutra 50 of the Yoga Sutras, is practised only till the first Udghata is marked. This fourth Pranayama is carried further. It concerns with the fixing of the Prana in the various lotuses (Padmas or Chakras) and taking it slowly, and slowly, step by step, and stage by stage to the last lotus in the head, where perfect Samadhi takes place. This is internal. Externally it takes into consideration the length of breath in accordance with the prevailing Tattva. Prana can be described either inside or outside.
By gradual mastery over the preliminary three kinds of Pranayama, the fourth kind comes in. In the third kind of Pranayama the sphere is not taken into consideration. The stoppage of the breath occurs with one single effort and is then measured by space, time and number and thus becomes Dirgha (long) and Sukshma (subtle). In the fourth variety, however the spheres of expiration and inspiration are ascertained. The different states are mastered by and by. The fourth variety is not practised all at once by a single effort like the third one. On the other hand, it reaches different states of perfection, as it is being done. After one stage is mastered, the next stage is taken up and practised. Then it goes in succession. The third is not preceded by measurements and is brought about by a single effort. The fourth is however preceded by the knowledge of the measurements, and is brought about by much effort. This is the only difference. The conditions of time, space and number are applicable to this kind of Pranayama also. Particular occult powers develop themselves at each stage of progress.
Three Types of Pranayama
There are three types of Pranayama, viz., Adhama, Madhyama and Uttama (inferior, middle and superior). The Adhama Pranayama consists of 12 Matras, Madhyama consists of 24 Matras and the Uttama occupies a time of 32 Matras. This is for Puraka. The ratio between Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka is 1:4:2. Puraka is inhalation. Kumbhaka is retention. Rechaka is exhalation. If you inhale for a period of 12 Matras you will have to make Kumbhaka for a period of 48 Matras. Then the time for Rechaka will be 24 Matras. This is for Adhama Pranayama. The same rule will apply to the other two varieties.
First, practise for a month of Adhama Pranayama.
Then practise Madhyama for three months.
Then take up the Uttama variety.
Salute your Guru and Sri Ganesa as soon as you sit in the Asana. The time for Abhyasa is early morning 4 a.m., 10 a.m., evening 4 p.m., and night 10 p.m., or 12 p.m. As you advance in practice you will have to do 320 Pranayamas daily.
Sagarbha Pranayama is that Pranayama, which is attended with mental Japa of any Mantra, either Gayatri or Om. It is one hundred times more powerful than the Agarbha Pranayama, which is plain and unattended with any Japa. Pranayama Siddhi depends upon the intensity of the efforts of the practitioner. An ardent enthusiastic student, with Parama Utsaha, Sahasa and Dridhata (zeal, cheerfulness and tenacity), can effect Siddhi (perfection) within six months; while a happy-go-lucky practitioner with Tandri and Alasya (drowsiness and laziness) will find no improvement even after eight or ten years. Plod on. Persevere with patience, faith, confidence, expectation, interest and attention. You are bound to succeed. Nil desperandum—Never despair.
The Vedantic Kumbhaka
Being without any distraction and with a calm mind, one should practise Pranayama. Both expiration and inspiration should be stopped. The practitioner should depend solely on Brahman; that is the highest aim of life. The giving out of all external objects, is said to be Rechaka. The taking in of the spiritual knowledge of Sastras, is said to be Puraka, and the keeping to oneself of such knowledge is said to be Kumbhaka. He is an emancipated person who practises his Chitta thus. There is no doubt about it. Through Kumbhaka the mind should always be taken up and through Kumbhaka alone it should be filled up within. It is only through Kumbhaka that Kumbhaka should be firmly mastered. Within it, is ‘Parama Siva’. At first in his Brahmagranthi there is produced soon a hole or passage. Then having pierced Brahmagranthi, he pierces Vishnugranthi, then he pierces Rudragranthi, then the Yogin attains his liberation through the religious ceremonies, performed in various births, through the grace of Gurus and Devatas and through the practice of Yoga.
Mantra During Pranayama
The Mantra for repetition during the practice of Pranayama is laid down in the Isvara Gita: “When the aspirant holding his breath repeats the Gayatri thrice, together with even Vyahritis in the beginning, the Siras at the end and the Pranava, one at both ends of it, this is, what is called the regulation of breath.”
Yogi Yajnavalkya, on the other hand, declares thus: “The upward breath and the downward breath, having been restrained, regulation of breath is to be practised by means of the Pranava (!) with due regard to the unit of measure of the Mantra.
This repetition of the Pranava alone, is meant for the Paramahamsa Sannyasins. It has been declared in the Smritis, that ordinary contemplation is to be practised, through the inhalation and other stages of breath-regulation at one’s navel, heart and forehead, with reference to the forms of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva respectively. For the Paramahamsa however, the only object of contemplation has been declared to be Brahman. “The self-controlled ascetic is to contemplate upon the supreme Brahman, by means of the Pranava,” declares the Sruti.
Pranayama for Awakening Kundalini
When you practise the following, concentrate on the Muladhara Chakra at the base of the spinal column, which is triangular in form and which is the seat of the Kundalini Sakti. Close the right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril till you count 3 OMs slowly. Imagine that you are drawing the Prana with the atmospheric air. Then close the left nostril with your little and ring fingers of the right hand. Then retain the breath for 12 OMs. Send the current down the spinal column straight into the triangular lotus, the Muladhara Chakra. Imagine that the nerve-current is striking against the lotus and awakening the Kundalini. Then slowly exhale through the right nostril counting 6 OMs. Repeat the process from the right nostril as stated above, using the same units, and having the same imagination and feeling. This Pranayama will awaken the Kundalini quickly. Do it 3 times in the morning and 3 times in the evening. Increase the number and time gradually and cautiously according to your strength and capacity. In this Pranayama, concentration on the Muladhara Chakra is the important thing. Kundalini will be awakened quickly if the degree of concentration is intense and if the Pranayama is practised regularly.
Pranayama During Meditation
If you do concentration and meditation, Pranayama, comes by itself. The breath becomes slower and slower. We will practise this Pranayama daily unconsciously. When you are reading a sensational storybook or when you are solving a mathematical problem, your mind is really very much absorbed in the subject-matter. If you closely watch your breath on these occasions, you will find that the breath has become very very slow. When you see a tragical story being enacted in the theater or a film-show, when you hear a very sad striking news or some glad tidings, when you shed tears either of joy or sorrow, or burst into laughter, the breath is slackened—Pranayama comes by itself. In those Yogic students who practise Sirshasana, Pranayama comes by itself. It is obvious from these examples that when the mind is deeply concentrated on any subject, the respiration slows down or stops. Pranayama is being done automatically. Mind and Prana are intimately connected. If you turn your attention to watch the breath on those occasions, it will regain its normal state. Pranayama comes by itself to those who are deeply absorbed in doing Japa, Dhyana or Brahma-Vichara (enquiry of Atman).
Prana, mind and Virya (seminal energy) are under one Sambandha (connection). If you can control the mind, Prana and Virya are controlled by themselves. If you can control Prana, mind and Virya are controlled by themselves. If you control the Virya by remaining as an Akhanda Brahmachari without emission of even a single drop of semen for 12 years, mind and Prana are controlled by themselves. Just as there is connection between wind and fire (light), so also there is connection between Prana and mind. Wind fans the fire. Prana also fans the mind. If there is no wind, fire or light gets steady. Hatha Yogins approach Brahman by controlling Prana. Raja Yogins approach Brahman by controlling mind.
In this Pranayama you need not close the nostrils. Simply close the eyes if you practise it in a sitting posture. Forget the body and concentrate. If you practise this during walking, just feel minutely the movement of the air that is inhaled and exhaled.
Pranayama While Walking
Walk with head up, shoulders back and with chest expanded. Inhale slowly through both nostrils counting OM mentally 3 times, one count for each step. Then retain the breath till you count 12 OMs. Then exhale slowly through both nostrils till you count 6 OMs. Take the respiratory pause or rest after one Pranayama counting 12 OMs. If you find it difficult to count OM with each step, count OM without having any concern with the steps.
Kapalabhati can also be done during walking. Those who are very busy can practise the above Pranayama during their morning and evening walks. It is like killing two birds with one stone. You will find it very pleasant to practise Pranayama while walking in an open place, when delightful gentle breeze is blowing. You will be invigorated and innervated quickly to a considerable degree. Practise, feel and realise the marked, beneficial influence of this kind of Pranayama. Those who walk briskly, repeating OM mentally or verbally do practise natural Pranayama without any effort.
Pranayama in Savasana
Lie down on the back, quiet at ease, over a blanket. Keep the hands on the ground by the side and legs straight. The heels should be kept together, but the toes can remain a little apart. Relax all the muscles and the nerves. Those who are very weak, can practise Pranayama in this pose while lying on the ground or on a bedstead. Draw the breath slowly without making any noise, through both nostrils. Retain the breath as long as you can do it with comfort. Then exhale slowly through both nostrils. Repeat the process 12 times in the morning and 12 times in the evening. Chant OM mentally during the practice. If you like you can practise the ‘easy comfortable posture’ also. This is a combined exercise of Asana, Pranayama, meditation and rest. It gives rest not only to the body but also for the mind. It gives relief, comfort and ease. This is very suitable for aged people.
1. Rhythmical Breathing :
The breathing in men and women is very irregular. In exhalation the Prana goes out 16 digits and in inhalation only 12 digits, thus losing 4 digits. But if you inhale for 16 digits as in exhalation then you will have rhythmical breathing. Then the power Kundalini will be roused. By the practice of rhythmical breathing you will enjoy real good rest. You can control the respiratory centre that is situated in medulla oblongata and other nerves also, because the centre of respiration has a sort of controlling effect on other nerves. He who has calm nerves, has a calm mind also.
If the units of exhalation and inhalation are the same, you will have rhythmical breathing. If you inhale till you count 6 OMs, exhale also till you count 6 OMs. This is breathing in and out in a measured manner. This will harmonise the whole system. This will harmonise the physical body, mind, Indriyas and will soothe the tired nerves. You will experience full repose and calmness. All the bubbling emotions will subside and the surging impulses will calm down.
There is another variety of modification of rhythmic breathing. Inhale slowly through both nostrils for 4 OMs; retain the breath for 8 OMs (internal Kumbhaka); exhale slowly through both nostrils for 4 OMs; and retain the breath outside (external Kumbhaka) for 8 OMs.
Repeat the above process a number of times according to your strength and capacity. You can gradually increase the duration of inhalation and exhalation after some practice of 8 OMs and the period between breaths to 16 OMs. But never try to increase the duration until you are sure that you have power and strength to do so. You must experience joy and pleasure in doing the same. You should not feel any undue strain. Pay considerable attention to keep up the rhythm. Remember that the rhythm is more important than the length of breath. You must feel the rhythm throughout your whole body. Practice will make you perfect. Patience and perseverance are needed.
Sit on Padmasana or Siddhasana. Close the eyes. Keep the left nostril closed with your right ring and little fingers. Slowly inhale without making any sound as long as you can do it comfortably through the right nostril. Then close the right nostril with your right thumb and retain the breath firmly pressing the chin against the chest (Jalandhara Bandha). Hold on the breath till perspiration oozes from the tips of the nails and roots of the hairs (hair follicles). This point cannot be reached at the very outside. You will have to increase the period of Kumbhaka gradually. This is the limit of the sphere of practice of Surya Bheda Kumbhaka. Then exhale very slowly without making any sound through the left nostril by closing the right nostril with the thumb. Repeat OM mentally with Bhava and meaning during inhalation, retention and exhalation. Exhale after purifying the skull by forcing the breath up.
This Pranayama should again and again be performed, as it purifies the brain and destroys the intestinal worms and diseases arising from excess of wind (Vayu). This removes the four kinds of evils caused by Vayu and cures Vata or rheumatism. It cures rhinitis, cephalalgia and various sorts of neuralgia. The worms that are found in the frontal sinuses are removed. It destroys decay and death, awakens Kundalini Sakti and increases the bodily fire.
Sit in Padmasana or Siddhasana. Close the mouth. Inhale slowly through both the nostrils in a smooth, uniform manner till the breath fills the space from the throat to the heart.
Retain the breath as long as you can do it comfortably and then exhale slowly through the left nostril by closing the right nostril with your right thumb. Expand the chest when you inhale. During inhalation a peculiar sound is produced owing to the partial closing of glottis. The sound produced during inhalation should be of a mild and uniform pitch. It should be continuous also. This Kumbhaka may be practised even when walking or standing. Instead of exhaling through the left nostril, you can exhale slowly through both nostrils.
This removes the heat in the head. The practitioner becomes very beautiful. The gastric fire is increased. It removes all the evils arising in the body and the Dhatus and cures Jalodara (dropsy of the belly or ascites). It removes phlegm in the throat, Asthma, consumption and all sorts of pulmonary diseases are cured. All diseases that arise from deficient inhalation of oxygen, and diseases of the heart are cured. All works are accomplished by Ujjayi Pranayama. The practitioner is never attacked by diseases of phlegm, nerves, dyspepsia, dysentery, enlarged spleen, consumption, cough or fever. Perform Ujjayi to destroy decay and death.
Fold the tongue so that the tip of the tongue might touch the upper palate and draw the air through the mouth with a hissing sound C C C C (or Si, Si, Si, Si). Then retain the breath as long as you can without the feeling of suffocation and then exhale slowly through both nostrils. You can keep the two rows of teeth in contact and then inhale the air through the mouth as before.
The practice enhances the beauty of the practitioner and vigour of his body. It removes hunger, thirst, indolence and sleep. His strength will be just like that of Indra. He becomes the Lord of Yogins. He is able to do and undo things. He becomes an independent monarch. He becomes invincible. No injury will affect him. When you are thirsty, practise this. You will be relieved of thirst immediately.
Protrude the tongue a little away from the lips. Fold the tongue like a tube. Draw in the air through the mouth with the hissing sound Si. Retain the breath as long as you can hold on with comfort. Then exhale slowly through both nostrils. Practise this daily again and again in the morning from 15 to 30 times. You can do this either on Padmasana, Siddhasana, Vajrasana or even when you stand or walk.
This Pranayama purifies the blood. It quenches thirst and appeases hunger. It cools the system. It destroys Gulma (chronic dyspepsia), Pleeha, inflammation of various chronic diseases, fever, consumption, indigestion, bilious disorders, phlegm, the bad effects of poison, snake-bite, etc. When you are caught up in a jungle or any place where you cannot get water, if you feel thirsty, practise this Pranayama. You will be at once relieved of thirst. He who practises this Pranayama regularly, will not be affected by the bite of serpents and scorpions. Sitali Kumbhaka is an imitation of the respiration of a serpent. The practitioner gets the power of casting his skin and enduring the privation of air, water and food. He becomes a proof against all sorts of inflammations and fever.
In Sanskrit Bhastrika means ‘bellows’. Rapid succession of forcible expulsion is a characteristic feature of Bhastrika. Just as a blacksmith blows his bellows rapidly, so also you should move your breath rapidly.
Sit on Padmasana. Keep the body, neck and head erect. Close the mouth. Next, inhale and exhale quickly ten times like the bellows of the blacksmith. Constantly dilate and contract. When you practise this Pranayama a hissing sound is produced. The practitioner should start with rapid expulsions of breath following one another in rapid succession. When the required number of expulsions, say ten for a round, is finished, the final expulsion is followed by a deepest possible inhalation. The breath is suspended as long as it could be done with comfort. Then deepest possible exhalation is done very slowly. The end of this deep exhalation completes one round of Bhastrika. Rest a while after one round is over by taking a few normal breaths. This will give you relief and make you fit for starting the second round. Do three rounds daily in the morning. You can do another three rounds in the evening also. Busy people who find it difficult to do three rounds of Bhastrika can do one round at least. This also will keep them quite fit.
Bhastrika is a powerful exercise. A combination of Kapalabhati and Ujjayi makes up Bhastrika. Practise Kapalabhati and Ujjayi to start with. Then you will find it very easy to do Bhastrika.
Some prolong the practice till they get tired. You will get perspiration profusely. If you experience any giddiness stop the practice and take a few normal breaths. Continue the practice after the giddiness has vanished. Bhastrika can be done both in the morning and evening in winter. In summer do it in the morning only during cool hours.
Bhastrika relieves inflammation of the throat, increases gastric fire, destroys phlegm, removes diseases of the nose and chest and eradicates asthma, consumption, etc. It gives good appetite. It breaks the three Granthis or knots viz., Brahma Granthi, Vishnu Granthi and Rudra Granthi. It destroys phlegm which is the bolt or obstacle to the door at the mouth of Brahma Nadi (Sushumna). It enables one to know the Kundalini. It removes all diseases which arise from excess of wind, bile and phlegm. It gives warmth to the body. When you have no sufficient warm clothing in a cool region to protect yourself from cold, practise this Pranayama and you will get sufficient warmth in the body quickly. It purifies the Nadis considerably. It is the most beneficial of all Kumbhakas. Bhastrika Kumbhaka should be specially practised as it enables the Prana to break through the three Granthis or knots that are firmly located in the Sushumna. It awakens the Kundalini quickly. The practitioner will never suffer from any disease. He will always be healthy.
The number of exhalations or rounds is determined by the strength and capacity of the practitioner. You must not go to extremes. Some students do six rounds. Some do twelve also.
You can practise Bhastrika in the following manner. There is some slight change in the end. Having inhaled and exhaled quickly twenty times, inhale through the right nostril, retain the breath as long as you can do it comfortably and then exhale through the left nostril. Then inhale through the left nostril, retain the breath as before and then exhale through the right nostril.
Repeat OM mentally with Bhava and meaning throughout the practice.
There are some varieties of Bhastrika wherein one nostril only is used for breathing purposes and in another variety the alternate nostrils are used for inhalation and exhalation.
Those who wish to do Bhastrika for a long time in an intense manner should live on Khichdi, and take an enema or do Bhasti in the morning before starting the practice.
Sit on Padmasana or Siddhasana. Inhale rapidly through both nostrils making sound of Bhramara, the bee, and exhale rapidly through both nostrils, making the humming sound.
You can carry the process till the body is bathed in perspiration. In the end inhale through both nostrils, retain the breath as long as you can do it comfortably and then exhale slowly through both nostrils. The joy which the practitioner gets in making the Kumbhaka is unlimited and indescribable. In the beginning, heat of the body is increased as the circulation of blood is quickened. In the end the body-heat is decreased by perspiration. By success in this Bhramari Kumbhaka the Yogic student gets success in Samadhi.
Sit in your Asana and inhale. Retain the breath. Do Jalandhara Bandha by pressing the chin against the chest. Retain the breath till you expect fainting and then exhale slowly. This is Murchha Kumbhaka as it makes the mind senseless and gives happiness. But this is not suitable for many.
Practice of this Pranayama demands skill on the part of the student. He who practises this Plavini can do Jalastambha (solidification of water) and float on water for any length of time. Mr. ‘S’ a Yogic student can float on water for twelve hours at a stretch. He who practises this Plavini Kumbhaka can live on air and dispense with food for some days. The student actually drinks air like water slowly and sends it to the stomach. The stomach gets bloated a bit. If you tap the stomach when it is filled with air, you will get a peculiar tympanic (air) sound. Gradual practice is necessary. The help of one who is well versed in this Pranayama is also necessary. The student can expel all the air from the stomach by gradual belching.
10. Kevala Kumbhaka
Kumbhaka is of two kinds, viz., Sahita and Kevala. That which is coupled with inhalation and exhalation is termed Sahita. That which is devoid of these, is called Kevala (alone). When you get mastery in Sahita, then you can attempt this Kevala. When in due course of practice, the Kumbhaka subsists in many places without exhalation and inhalation and unconditioned by place, time and number—then that Kumbhaka is called absolute and pure (Kevala Kumbhaka), the fourth form of ‘Regulation of breath’. Such powers as that of roaming about in space unseen, follow this last form of Pranayama. In Vasishtha Samhita it is said: “When after giving up inhalation and exhalation, one holds his breath with ease, it is absolute Kumbhaka (Kevala).” In this Pranayama the breath is suddenly stopped without Puraka and Rechaka. The student can retain his breath as long as he likes through this Kumbhaka. He attains the state of Raja Yoga. Through Kevala Kumbhaka, the knowledge of Kundalini arises. Kundalini is aroused and the Sushumna is free from all sorts of obstacles. He attains perfection in Hatha Yoga. You can practise this Kumbhaka three times a day. He who knows Pranayama and Kevala is the real Yogi. What can he not accomplish in the three worlds, who has acquired success in this Kevala Kumbhaka? Glory, glory to such exalted souls. This Kumbhaka cures all diseases and promotes longevity.