THE RIVER OF LIFE PART TWO
THE PURIFICATION OF THE NADIS
after the broad outline of the evolution of the whole organism through asanas given in Part One, we come to the vata element in all its aspects. Only he can grasp the deepest sense of pranayama who is open-minded enough to view each concept in three dimensions: gross (physical), subtle (mental), and abstract (spiritual); or dynamic, static, and abstract. When he recognizes the interrelation of these aspects, he may come to that cognition which converts the wisdom of yoga into revelation.
(1 ) When the yogi has perfected his asanas he should practice pranayama according to the instructions of his master. With controlled senses he should nourish himself with moderation.
At a higher level of instruction things begin to change in many ways. The guru is not as lenient as in the beginning. He gives higher initiation and a new mantra (more about this later), speaks less, expects more. Perhaps not yet in achievement, but in terms of understanding. Nor does he like to refer back to the first level of practice. We too will find that recapitulation is seldom needed.
(2) When the breath "wanders" [i.e., is irregular] the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed, the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore, one should team to control the breath.
Have you ever noticed how the breath becomes irregular on certain occasions? Certainly, if you try to catch a bus you breathe irregularly afterwards and are fully aware of the fact that you are"out of breath." But that is not what I mean.
Take for example two other occasions: in the theater, and at an important interview. How was your breathing in the first instance and how in the second? When was it slower, when faster? When was it regular? And how was it when it was irregular? Thus one could ask a thousand questions on a thousand occasions and receive a thousand different replies--if the interviewed person knew anything about his breath. But he knows nothing about his breath and therefore knows nothing about his mind. This conclusion is incontrovertible.
Certainly we may know this or that about our thoughts--for instance, what we have been thinking of--but do we know why we thought just about this and not about anything else? We know that suddenly another thought arose, but do not know the relationship between the two thoughts. We know that we remember certain things easily and forget others quite readily, but why? It is just the thing behind this "why" that is the most important part of our mind. It is the source of our mental existence.
Still the question of the relationship of mind with breath remains unresolved. Here we could marshal many formulas which have physiological foundations, such as oxygen supply, heart rhythm, blood circulation, blood supply to the brain cells. But all these are not decisive factors. What is decisive is what is only imperfectly understood: the significance of the lifestream or prana as power source of our thought creator, "mind." All these areponderous and complicated problems, but let us
simply mention them here. Later slokas will lead us closer to a solution, at least as close as it is necessary for a yogi at the second stage of training. So let us advance cautiously on this shaky ground.
(3) Man lives only as long as he has breath in his body. If he lacks breath [prana] he dies. Therefore we should practice prana-yama.
We know, of course, that breath is life; we even know the chemical process that proves it. But how is it that we cannot keep a dying man alive by attaching him to an oxygen tank? So it is not just oxygen that matters. Is the decisive element the lifestream, prana?
(4) When the nadis are impure, breath cannot penetrate into the sushumna. Then the yogi achieves nothing, nor can he reach the state of deep concentration [unmani avastha].
We know that 72,000 nadis in our body arethe conveyors of the life current, and that we live our everyday lives by this current. The higher life of a yogi is achieved by creating an additional supply of current to send through the otherwise weakly supplied main channel (sushumna). This causes heightened activities in the chakras and brain centers, resulting in the yogi's higher state of consciousness. It is well known that a rusty conductor uses more power than a clean one. Similarly, if the nadis are impure, pranayama is a waste of energy.
(5) Only when all the nadis which are still impure are purified can the yogi practice pranayama successfully.
(6) Therefore one should practice pranayama with the mind in sattvic condition until the sushumna is free from impurities.
There are two methods of purification of the nadis. Here we describe the psychological method which is far more pleasant than the other, although the second one leads more speedily to the goal.
One should practice "with the mind in a sattvic state." We shall try to understand this without burdening the mind with the intricacies of the guna theory.
Sattva is the positive propensity for purity. Good deeds, kind words, noble thoughts, a pleasing personality, interest in lofty pursuits are the distinguishing marks of sattva. And remember, it is not the activity that is decisive. One single impure thought during pranayama and the current is disturbed; not only the current but the whole being, since a human being becomes a human being only by this electromagnetic current.
We can readily imagine how this can happen: we perceive something; it is carried on the life stream to the brain, as a live reflex. So far we can call it "the pure idea." Once it reaches thinking it is already colored by the personality and has thus become individualized. It is then evaluated; and this again is entirely individual. If in addition it is then stained by an impure mind, our whole personality is contaminated.
These seemingly trivial impurities are still coarse enough to block the psychic pathway of the nadis. This statement would be absurd if the nadis were what they are not, bodily organs. Rather they are magnetic fields, such as are developed by a magnet.
If we now become aware that every breath we take is in a sense pranayama, we can readily realize how frequently we damage our delicate psyche with an impure or bad thought. In the long run we shorten our lives with every negative gesture in deed, word, or thought by overburdening the conductors of the life stream with these impurities.
(7) Assuming the padmasana posture, the yogi shall guide the prana through the left nostril [chandra == moon] to the ida nadi, and, after having retained the breath as long as possible [in kumbhaka], should exhale it through the right nostril [surya = sun].
(8) Then he should inhale through the right nostril, do kum-bhaka according to the rule, and exhale through the left nostril.
(9) Inhalation is [always] through the same nostril as the previous exhalation. After the breath has been retained to the utmost possible limit [until perspiration breaks out or the body begins to trembler, one should exhale slowly--never quickly [since that reduces the energy of the body].
(10) Take in prana through the ida nadi and exhale it through the pingala. Then take in [new prana] through pingala and release it through ida, after having held it [in kumbhaka] as long as possible. The yogi who has perfected himself in the yamas [having thus developed the satfvic mind] will purify his nadis in three months [of practice].
This is the technique of pranayama. Just as all the multitude of asanas aim at the spinal column, so the essence of prana is centered in kumbhaka, the period when there is no breathing. >From this as well as by later indications we can recognize that it is not the breath air that carries the current but that the current is being produced during the breathing process.
Just as the plunging waters in a power plant are only the means of releasing the energy through which the brushes of the stationary turbins are activated, so prana also does not originate in breath but in the "turbins," the chakra wheels with which the nadis have an inductive relationship.
The current necessary to sustain our life is automatically regulated through the varying strength of our inhalation and exhalation. Sighing and yawning arepranayamas in miniature but with different purposes. Our critical medico will patronizingly tell us that yawning and sighing are functions that regulate the oxygen supply in our blood. True. We do not try to belittle this fact. And we know that physiologically the production of electromagnetic current is so minimal as to be barely measurable: a negligible factor, just as one hundred years ago the microscopic secretions of the endocrine glands were considered negligible. But man is more than a chemical laboratory, and we have no right to designate even the slightest manifestations as unimportant until we have proof.
We should, therefore, not be surprised at the yogis' contention that the heart is not the most important organ of man. It is the power centers, though they have not yet been seen by anyone, that are roost vital. The heart is a muscle and l)ccomes a regulator of laodily functions only in relation to and in cooperation with other organs, while these invisible centers supervise and guide the organs because they are directly subordinate to the mind.
(II) Four times a day we should practice kumbhaka: early morning, midday, evening, and midnight, until we can do 80 rounds [at a time].
A commentary speaks of three phases; at the beginning the breath should be held for 30 seconds, at the second stage for 60 seconds, and at the third for 90 seconds.
(12) At the first stage perspiration breaks out, at the second stage the body trembles, and at the third stage prana reaches the center of the head by way of sushumna. In this way prana' yama should be practiced.
This may sound rather violent, but do not forget that the main characteristic of yoga is not violence but perseverance, not compulsion but patience. However, there is a limit beyond which perseverance becomes pigheadedness and patience apathy. The yogi has to recognize and respect these limits. This is one of the most difficult tasks in his whole career. Proof: take one of the more difficult asana and try to hold it longer than your physical forces can naturally allow. The signs of violence and undue constraint, perspiration and trembling, will appear; heavy breathing and tightening of the lips will also testify to a conflict. One fights against one's own self. One part wants to stop; the other to continue. These manifestations are signs of undue force; it is quite different when perseverance and patience areat play without any compulsion. But for this we need a certain noncompul-sive way of practice that is the leitmotiv of the whole yoga system. It is difficult to learn from books and only the guru can show us the true path: meditative practice.
The half-trained yogi pays attention primarily to the body when doing the asanas, i.c., to the various positions of the limbs that he wants to place into the prescribed pose. And this is a gross mistake. He should concentrate on the "asana as such," less on its physical manifestation, and far less on the body that moves and gets into postures. The less conscious attention the yogi pays to his body the more perfect will be his asana. If the phrase "asana as such" seems strange to us, this indicates that we have not yet fathomed the deeper essence of asanas, their really great meaning.
In order to show you that asanas are more than consciously created gymnastic exercises, let me describe a mysterious manifestation that is usually witnessed only by the initiated. The process, called kriyavati, manifests in yogis who have awakened kundalini by way of hatha yoga.
The yogi sits in deep meditation. Breath is suspended, the body is cold and stiff. Only the topmost center of his skull is feverishly hot.
Then he starts moving his limbs. An inner mechanism seems to be at work. Slowly, steadily, with unencumbered ease his arms intertwine, the legs go into contortions, the spinal column twists: asanas perfected to the utmost. He includes asanas no textbook has ever described; the guhyasanas, positions that are imparted to the student orally only after certain initiations. They are asanas that can be performed only by the yogi who has learned to govern his body completely with his higher consciousness.
The yogi does not perform these asanas in waking consciousness. "It" performs the asanas in him, while his waking state has yielded completely lo a state beyond the borderline of perception.
In this state the yogi is capable of superhuman physical achievements. Thus we find in Tibet the lunggompas, yogis who in a meditative state cover hundreds of miles with great speed. Dizzying precipices and snowstorms cannot hinder their course, much less stop them. Attempts to follow on a galloping horse have always failed. No horse has ever passed this prodigious test.
In this state there is no trembling, no perspiring. This is one of the higher forms of yoga; we are still working on a considerably lower level. The ideal we are now aspiring to lies halfway between our usual awareness of bodily movement and the kriyavati state. The ebbing of physical strength during practice manifests by trembling and perspiration; consciousness remains calm and relaxed. The mind, not burdened with any feeling of
compulsion to persist) rests in itself, in the "asana as such." This is the essential difference.
So when here on the first level perspiration breaks out, this 's a sign of compulsion only if consciousness occupies itself with this fact. If the mind remains calm, there is no thought of compulsion.
(13) Massage the perspiring body. This imparts lightness and strength to the whole constitution.
(14) At the beginning of practice the yogi should nourish himself with milk and ghee [clarified butter]. When he is advanced such restrictions are no longer needed.
(15) fust as lions, elephants, and tigers are tamed [little by little, with patience and energy], so the prana should be kept under control. Otherwise it can kill the practicer.
(16) By the practice of pranayama we deliver ourselves from all diseases. By faulty practice the yogi invites all kinds of ailments.
(17) Then breath takes a wrong course and practice results in coughs, asthma, headaches, eye and ear pain, as well as other sicknesses.
The classical example of wrong practice is told of Ramakrishna, the famous nineteenth-century saint. In his youth his practice invariably ended in a blackout. Later bloodshot eyes and bleeding of the gums developed, and the end result of this faulty practice was cancer of the throat, of which he died. His saintli-ness was not the result of this type of practice; but self-destructive extremism is an indication of the kind of ruthlessness man is capable of.
(18) Slowly one should inhale and exhale, and proceed gradu ally also with kumbhaka. Thus one will attain the siddhis.
(19) When the nadis are purified, certain signs quite naturally manifest: the body becomes light and bright.
(20) As soon as the nadis are purified the yogi is able to retain the breath longer, the gastric fire is activated, nada [the inner sound] becomes audible and he enjoys perfect health.
Perfect health alone is reason enough to concern ourselves with nadi purification. About the gastric fire and the nada sound we will learn more later. But it is the art of retention of breath that is so essential in the development of pranayarna.
How is it that the power to hold the breath for a considerable length of time should depend on the purity of the nadis rather than on the capacity of the lungs?
Breath gets short when the air held in the lungs has lost its prana. If the nadis areimpure (as is common), then the flow of prana is impeded and is soon unable to reload the breath. The breath becomes stale like a carbonated drink when it has lost its fizz. If the nadi path is pure, however, the prana flow can keep breath "alive" for a longer time.
A yogi who can subsist on one breath for days--as has been demonstrated--causes the river of prana to circulate in the body and does not allow the prana to escape. He absorbs oxygen through his pores. Now let us look at the technique of nadi purification.
(21) He who is of weak constitution and phlegmatic, subject to kapha disorders, should first practice shatkarma. Those not suffering [constitutionally] from the [main] disorders due to vata, pitta, and kapha do not need it.
The nadis of all students, even the healthiest, need purifying. The man of perfect health, the sportsman, the master of asanas whose physical training is nearer perfection than his mental-spiritual achievement can reach nadi perfection by cultivating the mental-spiritual aspect. For the one who first must think of physical-organic purification because he senses problems and shortcomings, shatkarma (the "sixfold activity") is indicated.
(22) Shatkarma is dhauti, vasti, neti, trataka. nauli, and kapa-labhati.
(23) These six practices, which cleanse the body, should be carefully kept secret because they induce numerous wonderful results and are therefore held in high esteem with the great yogis.
Why this secretiveness? What are these "wonderful results"?
Imagine a man who uses a low-tension electrical gadget, which is attached by a transformer to high-power current. The current he uses is barely noticeable with the fingertips. With the transformer removed he receives an electric shock.
Exactly so is it here. The unclean nadis act as a transformer to the life stream so that nothing untoward can happen. When the nadis areclean the effectiveness of prana is many times increased, and this can become dangerous.
(24-25) Take a strip of clean cloth, jour fingers broad and 15 spans long and slowly swallow it as instructed by the guru. Then pull it back out. This is dhauti and is effective against asthma, illness of the pancreas, leprosy, and other diseases due to kapha.
(26-28) Sit in a tub of water so as to be submerged up to the navel, in crouching position, heels pressed against the buttocks.
Introduce a thin bamboo pipe into the anus, contract the anus muscle [to draw in the water] and move the water around inside. This is vasli and cures troubles of the spleen, edema, and other ailments that are due to an oversupply of vata, pitta, and kapha. This vasti, when properly practiced, refines the circulation of the body fluids, the function of the senses and the heart. It makes the body bright and increases the gastric fire. All constitutional defects are [thus] removed,
So much ado about a simple encmal If this simple remedy is a golden treasure in the West, how much greater must its value be in the tropics. It is a common procedure. Gandhi always
All this of course without pranayama. When that is added the whole picture changes and greatest caution is indicated.
(29-30) Pull a thread, 12 inches in length, through one of the nostrils and let its end emerge through the mouth. This is neti. It cleanses the skull and makes the eyes sharp. It also removes illnesses that are above the shoulders.
It certainly is not an agreeable feeling to push a wet cord through the nostrils and let it come out in the back of the throat, picking it up with two fingers and pulling it back and forth through the nostril. But actually it is much more disagreeable to watch the procedure than it is to do it. The yogi himself gets used to it, and is happily free from colds and sinus trouble.
(31-32) Gaze without blinking [with concentrated mind] on a small object, until tears come into your eyes. This is called trataka by the gurus. Trataka cures all diseases of the eyes and removes tiredness. Therefore it should be carefully kept secret, like a treasure box.
Here one senses an ulterior motive. The practice must be kept secret, just because it trains the eyes? This can hardly be the real reason. There actually is a much more plausible reason to observe secrecy.
Hypnosis, self-hypnosis, visions, trance states, ecstasies, hallucinations--these arethings that have always seemed very attractive. Everyone would like to experience something like that without endangering himself. And this practice leads exactly in that direction. One could call it false meditation. From the point of view of yoga, all phenomena related to hypnosis are completely useless if not downright dangerous. The premature experimenter invariably draws the wrong conclusions from his experiences. The real meditative states arecognitive, clear consciousness. There are no surprise manifestations. This practice (tratakam) is salutary if done with proper care. It is poison if forced too fast.
(33-34) With head bent forward slowly rotate the innards [intestines and stomach], like a whirlpool in a river, toward the right and toward the left. This the siddhas call nauli. This, the most important of all hat ha yoga practices, removes sluggishness of the gastric fire, stimulates digestion, and leaves a very agreeable feeling, it removes all diseases.
This practice belongs not only to shatkarma but also to regular hatha yoga, although it cannot be called an asana since asana means "position, scat," a motionless posture, while nauli is a movement of the abdominal muscles. In shatkarma it is rather a subsidiary, as it trains the muscles for dhauti and basti. This practice--which is to be recommended to the obese--begins with deep exhalation. At the same time, lean forward with hands pressed on the thighs and draw in the abdomen while raising the shoulders; then try to tighten the drawn-in abdominal muscics. Once this is accomplished the circular motion is no problem, since the muscles stand out separately on the withdrawn abdomen, as thick as a child's arm.
(35) Inhale and exhale li[e the bellows of a blacksmith. This is kapalabhati and removes all ailments due to kapha.
(36) One frees oneself from obesity and phlegm by these six practices, and is successful if one adds pranayama after them.
Yet it is more advisable to follow the mental method of nadi purification, because progress and purification then go hand in hand. Besides:
(37) Some teachers say that all impurities can be removed through pranayama alone, with nothing else.
And those teachers who say it must know what they are talking about. Shatkarma is a gross physical method, while pranayama purification, completely founded on the sattvic mind, represents an all-encompassing purification. Shatkarma is the purification of the lower stages of hatha yoga, while pranayama belongs to the higher form of yoga, raja yoga.
The following practice does not belong to shatkarma. True, it has the characteristics of shatkarma, but something else is involved.
(3S) Closing the sphincter muscle at the anus, draw up apana toward the throat and regurgitate what is in the stomach, in this way the nadi chakras are brought under control. This is gajakarani.
If we remember the counter current to prana, apana in the abdomen, we know that this current cannot move beyond the
diaphragm. It is impossible to bring it to the throat. But one can--and should, in this case--cause the apana current to press against the udana current, the current of digestion in the upper part of the abdomen. This is what causes regurgitation.
As previously mentioned we are not really dealing with a purification process here, since dhauti has already done its work. Rather, we stimulate the nervous system directly by the effort of regurgitation.
But just as today's yogis do not advocate this type of practice so we too will leave it alone, as this sutra clearly seems to be a much later interpolation.
After these more or less agreeable purification practices we return to pranayama.
(39) Brahma and the other gods who devoted themselves to the practice of pranayama delivered themselves [by it] from fear of death. This is why we [too] should practice it.
(40) When the breath is controlled, the mind firm and unshakable, the eyes fastened between the eyebrows; why then should we fear death?
Even a man who--like the yogi--has to fear no punishment at the last judgment approaches his last moments with at least some apprehension, for the process of dying is beyond our sphere of control. Here, for better or worse, we aredelivered over to the play of natural forces, and this is for man the most terrifying experience: to be a helpless victim.
For the master of pranayama, things are different. He controls the powers that represent life. He dies consciously. In life as in death he adapts himself with deep insight to the natural processes of which he is always aware. It is not only the life stream of prana upon which preservation and end depend, for if such were the case the yogi would be immortal. Rather, he recognizes the rhythm to which he, like all other living things, is subject, and it is his task to gain the highest possible harmony with this rhythm. Once he has accomplished this and his cycle oi existence is completed, he will not try to influence the law of his sunset. This death for him is only the evening which is followed by a new and purer morning, a new cycle. It is said to be one of the characteristics of the gods that they have no fear of death to which they are subject like all living things, because they consciously enter the eternally new cycle of life and consciously pass through the transitory, purifying state of death. Again and again Vishnu passes through existence: as animal, man, hero, lover, dwarf, or giant. He is born, accomplishes his divine work, dies, and is reborn. His consciousness is the all-preserving Unconscious.
To render this Unconscious conscious is the goal of the yoga master, for this is the only way to become equal to the gods. So let us too pay attention to the physical and spiritual purity of the nadis, whether or not we are yogis. Let us inhale the life stream without weighing it down with impure thoughts. Let us also live more consciously, with our inner vision concentrated on that which elevates us above all other creatures: our spirit. Then every breath is pranayama which makes us more divine.
(41) As soon as the nadis have been purified through systematic pranayama, breath easily finds its way to the sushumna entrance.
(42) When breath flows through the sushumna, mind becomes steady. This steadiness of the mind is catted unmani avastha.
(43) To attain this the sage practices a variety of kumbhakas whereby he acquires siddhis.
chapter 6 KUMBHAKA
when we now speak of the various forms of kumbhaka you should not try to understand it all at once in the first few sentences. Everything that follows is so important that some details have to be made clear first. So do not let your thoughts race away; whatever is not explained now will be discussed later on.
(44) There are eight kumbhakas: suryabhedana, ufjayi, sit^ari, sitali, bhastrika, bhramari, murccha and plavini.
(45) At the end of inhalation [puraka] one should do jalan-dhara band ha; and at the end of kumbhaka and the beginning of exhalation [recaka] uddiyana bandha should be done,
How does this work out in practice? The yogi sits cross-legged on the floor, hands on knees, and inhales deeply. Then he holds his breath, with chin pressed against the chest, abdomen withdrawn. This is jalandhara-bandha.
As soon as his breath is short he raises the head and exhales as deeply as possible. When he has reached the limit he again holds his breath, straightens up the body and draws in the abdomen, whereby a pressure is created on the stomach area, which is increased when he again presses the chin against the chest. The first part of the practice (inhalation and jalandhara bandha) concerns the upper half of the spinal column, the "moon"; the second part (exhalation and uddiyana bandha) involves the "sun" in the center of the body (solar plexus). But something else is added, as the next sutra tells us:
(46) When at the same time the throat is contracted and mula-bandha practiced [i.e., the sphincter of the anus is contracted], breath flows through the sushumna, driven by [the pressure exerted by] the navel region [at the time of exhalation].
Anyone who tries this practice and thinks he has succeeded in guiding the breath through the sushumna had better remember the purity of the nadis; with the second attempt, he should become aware how tense he is during this practice. The purpose of the asanas as taught in Part One is to train the body so that no unnecessary exertion will deplete the extra prana supply that has been acquired. It is not sufficient to install the wiring and have proper outlets; it is also necessary to have current in proper voltage and amperes. Otherwise the result is either no light at all or a short circuit. We must be especially careful to avoid the latter; for human "fuses" cannot be replaced.
(47) By contracting the anus [to force apana] upward and forcing prana down from the throat, the yogi becomes a youth of 16 years and is forever free from old age.
Or, staling it more modestly: he who succeeds in uniting the two main currents in the body will thereby eliminate the causes of premature old age. The most significant of these causes is the lack of utilization of the body's natural regenerative powers. Here, two limited main currents arecombined that complement each other; together they accomplish what they cannot do singly. Prana and apana are "knotted" in the navel area (nabhi
granthi), creating an aggregate that gives youthful strength to the aging yogi. This is the first step in raja yoga.
Once again, the main part of pranayama is kumbhaka, and this can be performed in various ways.
(48) Sitting down comfortably in a good asana, the yogi should inhale through the right nostril.
(49) [Then] he should do kumbhaka until he feels that the whole body from head to toes is suffused by prana; then he should slowly exhale through the left nostril*
(50) This suryabheda kumbhaka should be practiced again and again for it cleanses the brain [forebrain and sinusces], destroys intestinal worms and all the diseases that arise from an overabundance of vata [wind].
This is the first and the most commonly practiced of the eight varieties of kumbhaka. We should also note that before we begin this practice we exhale deeply.
(51-52) With closed mouth inhale deeply until the breath fills all the space between the throat and the heart (i-e„ to the tips of the lungs). This creates a noise. Do kumbhaka and exhale through the left nostril. This removes phlegm in the throat and enhances the digestive power of the body. This is ujjayi and can be practiced walking or sitting, it keeps diseases away from the individual organs and the nadis, especially diseases that are due to kapha.
*"This is to be done alternately with both nostrils, drawing in through the one and expelling through the other." Pancham Sinh, Hatha Yoga Pradipika (translation with commentary) (Allahabad, 1915), p. 21
The noise mentioned is a special characteristic of this kumbhaka. It occurs in a perfectly natural way. We know that with straight body we should exhale deeply before each kumbhaka. During the short pause made after exhalation, when the abdominal wall is drawn inward, the glottis invariably closes. Inhalation through both nostrils simultaneously will cause the glottis to open abruptly; thus ensues the noise.
This kumbhaka seems to deal with the body onesidedly, for while we inhale through both nostrils at the same time, we exhale through the left only. This, of course, makes no difference to the lungs, but all the more to the nadis, and here the heart is especially involved. And that the heart is heavily influenced we can ascertain after the first round. Ujjayi kumbhaka should be practiced only by those whose heart is completely sound; otherwise it can lead to complications.
What is the special benefit of this kumbhaka, apart from its therapeutic influence on kapha? The heart rhythm does not function by itself. It is the pacemaker of all other bodily functions. In yoga it is sometimes necessary to change certain rhythms, and this is one of a number of methods. The organic rhythm is much too important a function to be subjected to willful experiments. The guru knows its meaning and purpose.
(53-55) With tongue protruding a little between the lips, draw in the breath through the mouth with a hissing sound [after kumbhaka]: exhale through the nose. This is sitkari. By repeating this, the yogi becomes beautiful as a god. All women admire him; he is in control of his actions and feels no hunger, thirst, or fatigue. He gains physical strength and becomes master of yoga, free from all dangers.
Obviously an enticing practice, and not even a dangerous one if one does not overdo it, as is so often the case with enticements.
We should, however, not be disappointed if we do not activate a love charm, but simply fan the pitta (the "fire of life") to heightened activity. We have already seen what benefits this brings in its wake, and here we should not expect anything further.
(56-57) With tongue protruding stilt further, inhate. Then follows kumbhaka and exhalation through the nose. This kum-bhalka, called sitali, removes illnesses of the spleen, fever, gall bladder trouble, hunger, thirst, and the effects of poison, as for example snake bites.
Here again the therapeutic purpose concerns pitta, but the practice has also another purpose. He who succeeds in inhaling and exhaling deeply with protruding tongue without having his stomach turn will feel that the breath follows an unusual path, for it gets into the stomach. And what happens there?
We remember that the countercurrent to prana is apana in the abdomen. The alert reader will long have wondered: If we must do so much breathing to acquire the extra prana how do we get the corresponding quantity of apana for the abdomen? For what accumulated there has long been washed out by vasti. Sitali is the practice that corrects this deficiency.
(58-60) Place the feet on the [opposite] thighs. This is padma-sana and removes all diseases. Having assumed this posture, exhale with closed mouth until a pressure is felt on the heart, the throat and the head. Then one draws in the breath with a hissing sound until it touches the heart. During all this time head and body are kept straight.
(61-62) Again inhale and exhale as indicated, again and again, as a blacksmith worlds his bellows, in this way the prana is kept ill constant circulation in the body. When tired exhale through the right nostril. This is bhastrika kumbhaka.
There aretwo variations of the same pranayama, one slow, the other fast. It becomes most effective when both kinds are combined in one sitting. With too intensive practice, colored flames dance before the eyes and a blackout is imminent.
In this practice of pranayama the body becomes saturated with prana--in fact, it becomes so "overloaded" that even the inexperienced student can feel the prana. After about five rounds of the "bellows," hold the breath. What then becomes palpable in the fingertips is prana. After a little practice, this current on one's skin can even be felt by another person.
(63-64) When the breath flows through the body, close the nose with thumb, ring finger [and little finger --Trans.]. Having then performed kumbhaka according to the rule, exhale through the left nostril. This removes illnesses caused by an overabundance of pitta, kapha, and vata, and stimulates the gastric fire of the body.
Through this bhastrika kumbhaka alone it is not possible for the breath to penetrate the whole body. However, when we combine the protruding-tongue practice described above with the "bellows"--in the sequence mentioned--then this actually does happen. And with this another important step has been taken in the direction of the sleeping kundalini serpent.
(65) Thus kundalini rises quickly, the nadis are purified, it is pleasant, and of all kumbhakas the most beneficial, in this manner phlegm at the mouth of the sushumna is removed.
The procedure is as follows: In sitali kumbhaka the body is filled with apana. In bhastrika kumbhaka the necessary amount
of prana is created, and then for the first time, the two currents arebrought to face each other. Through jalandhara bandha, uddiyana bandha, and mula bandha, these two currents are knotted together (nabhi granthi) and now raja yoga can begin.
(66) Bhastrika kumbhaka should be practiced especially, for it forces the breath to pierce the three knots that are in the sushumna.
Although the "three knots" (Brahma granthi, Vishnu granthi, and Rudra granthi) areextremely significant, we shall give here only a short theoretical survey.
The three stations of human evolution ("focusing, unfolding, and change" [Rousselle], or the "via purgativa, via illuminativa, via unitiva" of the Christian mystic) are directly dependent on the three knots, which in the process of higher evolution have to be pierced. Each breakthrough is accompanied by a catharsis, which here, in kundalini yoga, also manifests on a physical level. [See Part One, Slokas 27-28 --Trans.]
We have now learned the essentials. The propitious exterior conditions have been established, the necessary asanas carefully practiced; and through proper pranayama the channels of prana, the nadis, have been purified. This is the first step to raja yoga. Then we began the "production" of prana:
1. By alternate inhalation and exhalation, left and right (surya bheda kumbhaka), prana was created.
2. Then the muscles of the throat and the anus sphincter were trained (bandhas).
3. The heart was then prepared for the heavy work ahead (ujjayi kumbhaka).
4. The volume of the lungs was increased (sitkari kumbhaka).
5. We learned the art of guiding the breath into the abdominal cavity (sitali kumbhaka).
6. There then followed the first serious attempt to test what had been learned (bhastrika kumbhaka).
At this point we have accomplished a great deal, but we are still far from the goal. Once the yogi has experienced what he has learned on this level of training, his real work can begin. To become a master in pranayama is simply a question of perseverance, patience and endless effort.
A few special pranayamas follow which should not be confused with the others.
(67) In/tale rapidly, producing the sound of a male bee. Then exhale with the sound of a female bee. This is followed by kumbhaka. The great yogis, by constantly practicing this, experience indescribable happiness in their hearts. This is bhramari.
A strange kumbhaka for which there are many reasons, the most profound of which we will learn in Part Four. Whether or not we imitate a bee successfully is of minor importance. Essential is the humming sound which should be accompanied by concentrated inward vision. If the nadis are pure and there is no muscle tension, the humming inhalation brings with it the sense that one is absorbing something tangible (something that expresses itself in the sound) and thereby dissolving it. Kumbhaka then follows, accompanied by an extraordinary, suspended, potentially filled silence. Now exhalation follows--the longest process timewise--and here the humming becomes an experience. The vibrating sound seems to become a rushing noise that fills the whole atmosphere. A whole world seems to emerge, fashioned completely from vibrations. It becomes stronger and stronger until one is tempted to open the eyes, as one cannot imagine that this roaring sound exists only in one's own body. If one remains steady and does not yield to this desire to open
the eyes, then that feeling of happiness occurs, a feeling as though one had just witnessed an extraordinary natural phenomenon whereby one was allowed a glimpse into the divine workshop. One is convinced that with these vibrations one could tumble down whole buildings, that one could change the very structure of objects, as though . . . but now the breath is ended and it again becomes as strangely still as before. But this is not the calm of great expectations; it is the calm after the battle, still echoing with threats. When now the humming inhalation follows, a whole world seems to crumble. Everything one has built up disintegrates in a short, rough, seemingly cruel and hideous process.
Thus the pendulum swings from breath to breath, from creation to dissolution and from there back to creation again. Whether all this can happen without the influence of the guru is hard to say. My guru practiced along with me at first and then gradually dropped back without my noticing it.
In principle we have here the essence of a whole yoga system. He who has grasped the deeper sense of this kumbhaka and its related phenomena has saved himself years of study. One thing, of course, must be understood: he has knowledge, but he is not yet a master.
(68) At the end of inhalation do jalandhara bandha and then slowly exhale. This is murccha kumbhaka. It causes a kind of stupor of the mind and is very agreeable.
This kumbhaka too has its peculiarities, which even the text itself recognizes.
We recall the jalandhara bandha (Part Two, 45), which-- please note this--comes usually at the end of exhalation. Here it is reversed, and we recognize the many-sided character of this kind of practice. Here the purpose differs widely from our previous method, for now we have to learn to execute a practice while the observing mind disappears. That is, we are to study (in relative safety) the moment of consciously induced unconsciousness.
The strange trance state (to be discussed later) is, of course, not an unconscious state in the ordinary sense; rather it is extremely heightened consciousness, concentrated on a single point in which all else disappears. In other words, it is an unconscious state, generally speaking, but it is more precisely a heightened consciousness. Now the yogi must learn to recognize the image of the transitory stage, of the razor's edge between the superconscious and the unconscious. If he makes the slightest mistake later and falls from the superconscious into the unconscious state of a faint it can mean death or insanity. Here he is learning to anaesthetize discursive thinking without becoming unconscious; he has also not yet awakened the powerful force of kundalini.
(69) Having filled the lungs completely with air, the yogi floats upon the water like a lotus leaf. This is plavini kumbhaka.
Nothing else is mentioned. Nothing about health or long life, only a rather extravagant-sounding promise. For we all know, regardless of how deeply we inhale) we will hardly float along like a lotus leaf, no more easily, in any case, than we are used to in swimming.
Since this kumbhaka, though useful, is not in any way decisive, we shall only comment briefly: his body having been emptied completely through the much-debated process of shatkarma, the yogi (ills all the cavities with air: lungs, stomach, intestines. Thus the "floating like a lotus leaf" becomes more plausible.
So much for the eight varieties of pranayama. A few general remarks will close this subject.
(70) There are three kinds of pranayamas: Recaka pranayama (exhalation), puraka pranayama (inhalation) and kumbhaka pranayama (retention). Kumbhaka is also of two kinds:, sahita and kevala.
The types of prana aresummarized:
1. Prana that results from kumbhaka after exhalation.
2. Prana that originates from kumbhaka after inhalation.
3. Prana that is developed a. through holding the breath at any time and any place,
without force or exertion (sahita)
b. by holding the breath when the blood is overoxygenized (kevala).
(71) As long as one has not yet [fully] mastered kevala kum-bhaka, which means holding the breath without inhalation or exhalation, one should practice sahita.
(72-71) When kevala kumbhaka without inhalation and exhalation has been mastered, there is nothing in the [inner] world that is unattainable for the yogi. Through this kumbhaka he can restrain the breath as long as he likes.
(74-75) Thus he [gradually] attains the stage of raja yoga. Through this kumbhaka, kundalini is aroused and then the sushumna is free from all obstacles; but without hatha yoga there can be no raja yoga, and vice versa. Both should be practiced until raja yoga is perfected.
(76) At the end of kumbhaka he should withdraw his mind from all objects. By doing this regularly he reaches raja yoga.
(77) The signs of perfection in hatha yoga are: a lithe body, harmonious speech, perception of the inner sound (nada), clear eyes, health, controlled seminal flow, increased gastric fire, and purity of the nadis.
And thus equipped the yogi can confidently embark upon the third stage of his training, where new, greater and more decisive things are awaiting him.
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