What Is Prana?
Prana is the sum total of all energy that is manifested in the universe. It is the vital force, Sukshma. Breath is the external manifestation of Prana. By exercising control over this gross breath, you can control the subtle Prana inside. Control of Prana means control of mind. Mind cannot operate without the help of Prana. It is the Sukshma Prana that is intimately connected with the mind. Prana is the sum total of all latent forces which are hidden in men and which lie everywhere around us. Heat, light, electricity, magnetism are all the manifestations of Prana. Prana is related to mind; through mind to the will; through will to the individual soul, and through this to the Supreme Being.
The seat of Prana is the heart. Prana is one; but it has many functions to do. Hence it assumes five names according to the different functions it performs, viz., Prana, Apana, Samana, Udana and Vyana. According to the different functions they perform, they occupy certain places in the body. The table given in the following pages will give you a clear idea.
Breath directed by thought under the control of the will is a vitalising, regenerated force which can be utilised consciously for self-development, for healing many incurable diseases and for many other useful purposes. Hatha Yogins consider that Prana Tattva is superior to Manas Tattva (mind), as Prana is present even when mind is absent during deep sleep. Hence Prana plays a more vital part than mind.
If you know how to control the little waves of Prana working through mind, then the secret of subjugating the universal Prana will be known to you. The Yogin who becomes an expert in the knowledge of this secret, will have no fear from any power, because he has mastery over all manifestations of power 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 people are more powerful in life, more influential and fascinating than others. It is all through this Prana, which the Yogin uses consciously by the command of his will.
Having acquired a thorough knowledge of the seat of Nadis and of the Vayus with their functions, one should begin with the purification of Nadis. A person possessed of Yama and Niyama, avoiding all company, having finished his course of study, delighting in Truth and virtues, having conquered his anger, being engaged in the service of his spiritual instructor and well instructed in all the religious practices, should go to a secluded place for Yoga Abhyasa.
Nadi Suddhi (purification of Nadis) is an important matter in the early stage of Yoga. If there are impurities in the Nadis, the ascent of Kundalini in the Sushumna is seriously retarded. Purity in the Nadis facilitates the ascent of Kundalini. Pranayama brings about quick purification of the Nadis. Nadi Suddhi is the basis of Yoga. It is the foundation of Yoga. It is the first part of Yoga.
Just as you can stop all the other wheels of the factory if you can stop the important fly-wheel of the engine, so also if you can stop the functions of all other organs of the body, you can get control of the subtle, psychic Prana by restraining the breath. That is the reason why Pranayama is prescribed for controlling Prana.
Prana is the over-coat of the mind. If you can control Prana, you can control mind and Veerya also, because Prana, Veerya and mind are under one Sambandha. If you can control mind, breath stops by itself. Prana comes under control. Just as you have a nervous system in the gross physical body, so also there is a nervous system in the astral body. The nervous system of the physical body is the Sthula Prana. The nervous system of the astral body is the Sukshma Prana. There is intimate connection between these two Pranas. There is inter-action between these two Pranas.
By controlling the act of breathing, you can efficiently control all the various functions in the body. You can very easily and quickly control and develop the body, mind and soul. Psychic cure, Telepathy, Television, thought-reading and other Siddhis are the effects of the control of Prana. The process by which the Prana is controlled by regulation of breath is termed Pranayama. It is through Pranayama that you can control your circumstances and character and consciously harmonise the universal individual life with the cosmic life.
To suit the different constitutions, temperament and purpose, in Pranayama there are many varieties of exercises, viz., deep breathing exercise, Sukha Purvaka (easy comfortable) Pranayama during walking, Pranayama during meditation, Rhythmical breathing, Suryabheda, Ujjayi, Sitkari, Sitali, Bhastrika, Bhramari, Murchha, Plavini, Kevala Kumbhaka, etc. Of all the above exercises only the last eight are described in the Hatha Yogic texts.
Before commencing the practice of Pranayama however, you should clean the Nadis. Then only will you derive the maximum benefit from Pranayama. The cleansing of the Nadi (Nadi-Suddhi) is either Samanu or Nirmanuthat is, with or without the use of Bija. According to the first form, the Yogi in Padmasana or Siddhasana offers his prayers to the Guru and meditates on him. Meditating on Yang (y:ú) he does Japa through Ida of the Bija 16 times, 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 follows inhalation by the solar Nadi with the Vahni Bija Rang (rú) 16 times, Kumbhaka with Japa of the Bija 64 times, 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 the Bija Thang (Yú) 16 times. Kumbhaka is done with the Bija Vang (v:ú) 64 times. He thinks himself as flooded by nectar, and considers that the Nadis have been washed. He exhales by Pingala with Japa of the Bija Lang (l:ú) 32 times and considers himself thereby as strengthened.
Now I will tell you a few important exercises only, that are useful in awakening the Kundalini.
1. Sukha Purvaka
(Easy Comfortable Pranayama)
Sit in Padmasana or Siddhasana. Close the right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale (Puraka) through the left nostril till you count 3 Oms slowly. Imagine that you are drawing the Prana along with the atmospheric air. In course of practice, you will actually feel that you are drawing Prana. Then close the left nostril also with the little and ring fingers of your right hand. Retain the breath till you count 12 Oms. Send the current down to the Muladhara Chakra. Feel that the nerve-current is striking against the Muladhara Chakra and awakening Kundalini. Remove the right thumb and exhale through the right nostril till you count 6 Oms. Again inhale through the right nostril, retain and exhale through the left nostril as stated above. All the above six processes constitute one Pranayama. To start with do 6 Pranayamas in the morning and 6 in the evening. Gradually increase it to 20 Pranayamas for each sitting. The ratio of inhalation, retention and exhalation is 1:4:2. You should gradually increase the period of Kumbhaka.
Be careful in doing the Kumbhaka as long as you can comfortably do. Do not be in a hurry. Be patient. Contract the anus and do Mula Bandha also. Concentrate on the Chakra and meditate on Kundalini. This is the most important portion of this exercise. In this Pranayama, deep concentration plays a vital part in awakening Kundalini. Kundalini will be awakened quickly if the degree of concentration is intense and if practised regularly.
This exercise removes all diseases, purifies the Nadis, steadies the wandering mind, improves digestion and circulation, helps Brahmacharya, and awakens Kundalini. All the impurities of the body are thrown out.
Rapid succession of forcible expulsions is a characteristic feature of this exercise. Bhastrika means bellows in Sanskrit. Just as a blacksmith blows his bellows rapidly, so also you should inhale and exhale rapidly. Sit in your favourite Asana. Close the mouth. Inhale and exhale quickly 20 times like the bellows. Constantly dilate and contract the chest as you inhale and exhale. When you practise the Pranayama a hissing sound is produced. You should start with forcible expulsions of breath following one another in rapid succession. After 20 such expulsions, make a deep inhalation and retain the breath as long as you can comfortably do and then slowly exhale. This is one round of Bhastrika.
Begin with 10 expulsions for a round and increase it gradually to 20 or 25 for a round. The period of Kumbhaka also should be gradually and cautiously increased. Rest a while after one round is over and again begin the next round. Do 3 rounds in the beginning and after due practice, do 20 rounds in the morning and 20 in the evening.
Advanced students do this Pranayama after partial closing of the glottis. They do not make a powerful noise like the beginners. They can do it even in a standing posture.
Bhastrika removes inflammation of the throat, increases the gastric fire, destroys phlegm and all diseases of the nose and lungs, eradicates Asthma, consumption and other diseases which arise from the excess of wind, bile and phlegm. It gives warmth to the body. It is the most effective of all Pranayama exercises. It enables Prana to break through the three Granthis. All the other benefits of Sukha Purvaka Pranayama are obtained in this exercise also.
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 by firmly pressing the chin against the chest (Jalandhara Bandha). Hold the breath till perspiration oozes from the roots of the hair (hair follicles). This point cannot be reached at the very outset. You will have to increase the period of Kumbhaka gradually. This is the limit of the sphere of practice of Suryabheda Kumbhaka. Release the Jalandhara Bandha. Then exhale very slowly without making any sound through the left nostril with the thumb closing the right nostril.
The practice of Suryabheda Kumbhaka destroys decay and death and awakens Kundalini.
This Pranayama should again and again be performed, as it purifies the brain and destroys the intestinal worms. It removes the four kinds of evils caused by Vayu and cures Vata (rheumatism). It cures rhinitis and various sorts of neuralgia. The worms that are found in the frontal sinuses are also destroyed.
Sit in your usual Asana. Close the mouth. Inhale slowly through both the nostrils in a smooth, uniform manner.
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 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, enlargement of spleen, dyspepsia, dysentery, consumption, cough or fever. Perform Ujjayi to destroy decay and death.
Practice of this Pranayama demands skill on the part of the students. He who practises this Plavini can do Jalastambha 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 slowly like water 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 necessary. The student can fill up the stomach with air by gradual belching. After the practice, the air should be completely taken out. It is done by Uddiyana Bandha and hiccough.
6. Pranic Healing
Those who practise Pranayama, can impart their Prana for healing morbid diseases. They can also recharge themselves with Prana in no time by practising Kumbhaka. Never think that you will be depleted of your Prana by distributing it to others. The more you will give, the more it will flow to you from the cosmic source (Hiranyagarbha). That is the law of Nature. Do not become a niggard. If there is a rheumatic patient, gently shampoo his legs with your hands. When you do shampooing (massage), do Kumbhaka and imagine that the Prana is flowing from your hands towards your patient. Connect yourself with Hiranyagarbha or the cosmic Prana and imagine that the cosmic energy is flowing through your hands towards the patient. The patient will at once feel warmth, relief and strength. You can cure headache, intestinal colic or any other disease by massage and by your magnetic touch. When you massage the liver, spleen, stomach or any other portion or organ of the body you can speak to the cells and give them orders:O cells! Discharge your functions properly. I command you to do so. They will obey your orders. They too have got subconscious intelligence. Repeat your Mantra when you pass your Prana to others. Try a few cases. You will gain competence. You can cure scorpion-sting also. Gently shampoo the leg and bring the poison down.
You can have extraordinary power of concentration, strong will and a perfectly healthy, strong body by practising Pranayama regularly. You will have to direct the Prana consciously to unhealthy parts of the body. Suppose you have a sluggish liver. Sit on Padmasana. Close your eyes. Do Sukha Purvaka Pranayama. Direct the Prana to the region of the liver. Concentrate your mind there. Fix your attention to that area. Imagine that Prana is interpenetrating all the tissues and the cells of the lobes of the liver and doing its curative, regenerating and constructive work there. Faith, imagination, attention and interest play a very important part in curing diseases by taking Prana to the diseased areas. During exhalation imagine that the morbid impurities of the liver are thrown out. Repeat this process 12 times in the morning and 12 times in the evening. Sluggishness of liver will vanish in a few days. This is a drugless treatment. This is nature-cure. You can take the Prana to any part of the body during the Pranayama and cure any kind of disease, be it acute or chronic. Try once or twice in healing yourself. Your convictions will grow stronger. Why do you cry like the lady who is crying for ghee when she has butter in her hand, when you have a cheap, potent, easily available remedy or agent Prana at your command at all times! Use it judiciously. When you advance in your concentration and practice, you can cure many diseases by mere touch. In the advanced stages, many diseases are cured by mere will.
7. Distant Healing
This is known as absent treatment also. You can transmit Prana through space to your friend who is living at a distance. He should have a receptive mental attitude. You must feel yourself en rapport (in direct relation and in sympathy) with the people whom you heal with this Distant Healing method.
You can fix hours of appointment with them through correspondence. You can write to them: Get ready at 8 p.m. Have a receptive mental attitude. Lie down in an easy-chair. Close your eyes. I shall transmit my Prana.
Say mentally to the patient, I am transmitting a supply of Prana (vital force). Do Kumbhaka when you send the Prana. Practise rhythmical breathing also. Have a mental image that the Prana is leaving your mind, passing through space, and is entering the system of the patient. The Prana travels unseen like the wireless (radio) waves and flashes like lightning across space. The Prana that is coloured by the thought of the healer is projected outside. You can re-charge yourself with Prana by practising Kumbhaka. This requires long, steady and regular practice.
Importance Of Pranayama
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 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 annihilated by the practice of 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.
Dharanasu cha Yogyata Manasah: The mind becomes fit for concentrationYoga Sutra (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 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 the Pranayama. It will induce Vairagya also.
Benefits Of Pranayama
This body becomes lean, strong and healthy. Too much fat is reduced. There is lustre in the face. Eyes sparkle like diamonds. 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 perfected in Brahmacharya that his mind will not be shaken even if a fairy tries to embrace him. Appetite becomes keen. Nadis are purified. 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 the inner spiritual force and brings in spiritual light, happiness and peace of mind. It makes him an Oordhvareto-Yogi. All psychic powers are obtained. Advanced students only will get all the benefits.
Instructions On Pranayama
1. Early morning, answer the calls of nature and sit for the Yogic practices. Practise Pranayama in a dry, welt-ventilated room. Pranayama requires deep concentration and attention. Do not keep anyone by your side.
2. Before you sit for Pranayama practice, thoroughly clean the nostrils. When you finish the practice, take a cup of milk or light tiffin after 10 minutes.
3. Strictly avoid too much talking, eating, sleeping, mixing with friends and exertion. Take a little ghee with rice when you take your meals. This will lubricate the bowels and allow Vayu to move downwards freely.
4. Some people twist the muscles of the face when they do Kumbhaka. It should be avoided. It is also 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.
5. Pranayama can also be performed as soon as you get up from bed and 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.
6. Do not shake the body unnecessarily. By shaking the body often the mind also is disturbed. Do not scratch the body every now and then. The Asana should be steady and as firm as a rock when you do Pranayama, Japa and meditation.
7. In all the exercises, repeat Rama, Siva, Gayatri, or any other Mantra, mere number or any other 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 them 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.
8. 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 you have finished the required number.
9. Do not perform the Pranayama till 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).
10. 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 hand. Do not expose the body to the chill draughts of air when you perspire.
11. Always inhale and exhale very slowly. Do not make any sound. In Pranayamas like Bhastrika and Kapalabhati, you can produce a mild or the lowest possible sound.
12. 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 every day.
13. Patanjali does not lay much stress on the 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 was only the Hatha Yogins who developed Pranayama as a science and who have mentioned various exercises to suit different persons.
14. 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.
15. Pranayama in its popular and preparatory form may be practised by everyone in any posture whatsoever, sitting or walking; and yet it is sure to show its benefits. For those who practise it in accordance with the prescribed methods, fructification will be rapid.
16. Gradually increase the period of Kumbhaka. Retain for 4 seconds in the first week, for 8 seconds in the second week and for 12 seconds in the third week and so on till you are able to retain the breath to your full capacity.
17. 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 out to be successful and easy.
18. 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 you must be able to do with absolute comfort and care, not only of one Pranayama but also the full course or required rounds of Pranayama. I have to repeat this often. Experience and practice will make 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.
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