03 January, 2011

What is Pranayama?

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 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 eight courses, I have given out before, 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.”

Control of Breath
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.

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. 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.

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.

Importance and Benefits of Pranayama

“The illusory Samsaric Vasana that has arisen through the practice of many lives, never perishes except through the practice of Yoga for a long time. It is not possible on the part of one to control the mind by sitting up again and again except through the approved means” (Muktikopanishad).

“How could Jnana, capable of giving moksha, arise certainly without Yoga? And even Yoga becomes powerless in securing Moksha when it is devoid of Jnana. So the aspirant after emancipation should practise (firmly) both Yoga and Jnana” (Yogatattva Upanishad). “Tatah kshiyate prakasavaranam—Thence the covering of the light is destroyed” (Yoga Sutras—II-52). Tamas and Rajas constitute the covering or veil. This veil is removed by the practice of Pranayama. After the veil is removed, the real nature of the soul is realised. The Chitta is by itself made up of the sattvic particles, but it is enveloped by Rajas and Tamas, just as the fire is enveloped by smoke. There is no purificatory action greater than Pranayama. Pranayama gives purity and the light of knowledge shines. The Karma of the Yogi, which covers up the discriminative knowledge is destroyed as he practises Pranayama. By the magic panorama of desire, the essence, which is luminous by nature is covered up and the Jiva or individual soul is directed towards vice. This Karma of the Yogi which covers up the Light and binds him to repeated births, becomes attenuated by the practice of Pranayama every moment and is destroyed eventually. The afflictions and sins constitute the cover according to Vachaspati.

Manu says: “Let the defects be burnt up by Pranayama.” Vishnu Purana speaks of Pranayama as an accessory to Yoga: “He who wants the air known as Prana by practice is said to have secured Pranayama.”

“Dharanasu cha yogyata manasah—The mind becomes fit for concentration” (Yoga Sutras, II-53). You will be able to concentrate the mind, nicely after this veil of the light has been removed. The mind will be quite steady like the flame in a windless place as the disturbing energy has been removed. The word Pranayama is sometimes used collectively for inhalation, retention and exhalation of breath and sometimes for each of these severally. When the Prana Vayu moves in the Akasa-Tattva, the breathing will be lessened. At this time it will be easy to stop the breath. The velocity of the mind will be slowly lessened by Pranayama. It will induce Vairagya.

If you can suspend one inch or digit of breath inside, you will obtain the powers of foretelling; if you can suspend two inches within, you will get the power of thought-reading, for suspending the breath for three inches, levitation; for four inches, psychometry, clairaudience, etc; for five inches, moving about unseen by anybody in the world; for six inches, the power of ‘Kaya Siddhi’; for seven inches, entering the body of another man (Parakaya Pravesa); for eight inches, the power to remain always young; for nine inches, the power to make Devas to work as your servants; for ten inches Anima, Mahima and other Siddhis; and for eleven inches, you will attain oneness with Paramatman. When through great practice the Yogi can perform Kumbhaka for full three hours, then he can balance himself on his thumb. He undoubtedly attains all kinds of Siddhis. Just as fire destroys the fuel, so also Pranayama destroys the bundles of sins. Pratyahara makes the mind calm. Dharana steadies the mind. Dhyana makes one forget the body and the world. Samadhi brings infinite Bliss, Knowledge, Peace and Liberation.

During Yogic Samadhi, the flame of the Yogagni (fire of Yoga) extending from navel to the head melts the Amrita in the Brahmarandhra. The Yogi drinks this with joy and ecstasy. He can remain without food and drink for months by drinking this Yogic nectar alone.

The body becomes lean, strong and healthy. Too much fat is reduced. There is lustre in the face. Eyes sparkle like a diamond. The practitioner becomes very handsome. Voice becomes sweet and melodious. The inner Anahata sounds are distinctly heard. The student is free from all sorts of diseases. He gets established in Brahmacharya. Semen gets firm and steady. The Jatharagni (gastric fire) is augmented. The student becomes so perfect in Brahmacharya that his mind will not be shaken even if a fairy tries to embrace him. Appetite becomes keen. Nadis are purified. The Vikshepa is removed and the mind becomes one-pointed. Rajas and Tamas are destroyed. The mind is prepared for Dharana and Dhyana. The excretions become scanty. Steady practice arouses inner spiritual light, happiness and peace of mind. It makes him an Urdhvareto-Yogi. Advanced students only will get all the other Siddhis mentioned above.

The mind of a man can be made to transcend ordinary experience and exist on a plane higher than that of reason known as superconscious state of concentration and get beyond the limit of concentration. He comes face to face with facts which ordinary consciousness cannot comprehend. This ought to be achieved by proper training and manipulation of the subtle forces of the body so as to cause them to give, as it were, an upward push to the mind into the higher regions. When the mind is so raised into the superconscious state of perception, it begins to act from there and experiences higher facts and higher knowledge. Such is the ultimate object of Yoga, which can be achieved by the practice of Pranayama. The control of the vibratory Prana means to a Yogi, the kindling of the fire of supreme knowledge, the realisation of the Self.

Special Instructions

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Have one sitting only in the morning during summer. If there is heat in the brain or head, apply Amla 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.

4. 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.

5. “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).

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. Obstacles in Yoga: “Sleeping in day time, late vigil over night, 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.

9. 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.

10. Maximum benefit can be derived if Japa also is done during the practice of Asanas and Pranayama.

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. 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.

17. 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.

18. 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.

19. 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.

20. 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.

21. 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.

22. 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.

23. 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.

24. 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.

25. 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.

26. 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 exercises given in this book from the beginning to the end. Clearly understand the technique. If you have any doubts, just ask any Yogic student 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.

27. 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.

28. 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.

29. 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).

30. 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.

31. 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.

32. 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.

33. 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’.

34. 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.”

35. “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.”

36. 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.

37. “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.”

38. 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.

39. 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.

40. 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.

41. 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.

42. 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.

43. 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).

44. 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.

45. 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.

46. 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.

47. Suryabheda and Ujjayi must be practised during winter. 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.

48. 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).

49. 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.

50. 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.

51. 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.

The Four Stages of Pranayama

Three Bandhas
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.

Arambha Avastha
pranava (Om) 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.

Ghata Avastha
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.

Parichaya Avastha
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.

Nishpatti Avastha
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.

Prana and 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.

‘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.

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.

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).

That which moves the steam-engine of a train and a steamer, that which makes the aeroplanes fly in air, that which causes the motion of the breath in lungs, that which is the very life of this breath itself, is Prana. I believe, you have now a comprehensive understanding of the term Prana about which you had a very vague conception in the beginning.

By controlling the act of breathing you can efficiently control all the various motions in the body and the different nerve-currents that are running through the body. You can easily and quickly control and develop body, mind and soul through breath-control or the control of Prana. It is through Pranayama that you can control your circumstances and character and can consciously harmonise the individual life with the cosmic life.

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.

It is within your easy reach at every moment of your life. Use it judiciously. Many Yogins of yore, like Sri Jnanadeva, Trailinga Swami, Ramalinga Swami and others, had utilised this breath, this force, the Prana, in a variety of ways. You can also do so, if you practise Pranayama by prescribed breathing exercises. It is Prana that you are breathing rather than the atmospheric air. Inhale slowly and steadily with a concentrated mind. Retain it as long as you can do it comfortably. Then exhale slowly. There should be no strain in any stage of Pranayama. Realise the occult inner life-powers which underlie the breath. Become a Yogi and radiate joy, light and power all around you. 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.”

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 length becomes 16 digits (1 foot), in eating it comes to 20 digits (15 inches), in sleeping 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.

The Lungs
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.

The Five Essentials for Practising Pranayama

Five things are necessary for practising Pranayama. First a good place; second, a suitable time; third, moderate, substantial, light and nutritious food; fourth, patient and persistent practice with zeal, ease and earnestness and lastly the purification of Nadis (Nadi-Suddhi). When the Nadis are purified the aspirant enters the first stage in the practice of Yoga—‘Arambha’. A 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.

The Place
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.

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 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.

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.

Yogic Diet
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. Further information is given in the Appendix.

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.

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.

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.


  1. Yoga exercises helps in increased our strength, Yoga also helps clear the mind and distress using meditation. The benefits of yoga are numerous.

    Yoga Teacher Training India