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August 2009

This issue of Yoga focuses on Swami Sivananda’s teachings on prana and pranayama.

High on Waves

What is Prana?

What is Pranayama?

Importance and Benefits of Pranayama

Practices of Pranayama

Seven Classical Pranayamas

Pranayama for Awakening Kundalini

May I Answer That?

Prana and Pranic Healing

Instructions on Pranayama

Four Stages of Attainment

Spiritual Vibrations and Aura



Seven Classical Pranayamas

Bhastrika

Bhastrika means bellows. In this pranayama, just as a blacksmith blows his bellows rapidly, so also you inhale and exhale rapidly. To practise, sit in your favourite asana. Close the mouth. Inhale and exhale quickly like the bellows while dilating and contracting the chest. Begin with 10 expulsions and increase it gradually to 20 or 25. Inhale deeply after each round. Retain the breath as long as comfortable and then slowly exhale.

Benefits: 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 excess of wind, bile and phlegm. It gives warmth to the body and enables prana to break through the three granthis, psychic knots.

Suryabheda

Sit in padmasana or siddhasana. Close the eyes. Keep the left nostril closed with your right ring and little fingers. Slowly inhale 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. This point cannot be reached at the very outset. You will have to increase the period of kumbhaka gradually. Release jalandhara bandha and exhale very slowly without making any sound through the left nostril with the thumb closing the right nostril.

Benefits: It has been said that the practice of suryabheda destroys decay and death, and awakens kundalini. It purifies the brain and destroys intestinal worms, cures rheumatism, rhinitis and sinusitis.

Ujjayi

Sit in padmasana or siddhasana. Close the mouth. Inhale slowly through both nostrils in a smooth, uniform manner till the breath fills the space from the throat to the heart. Expand the chest while inhaling. During inhalation a peculiar sound is produced owing to the partial closing of the glottis in the throat. The sound produced should be of a mild and uniform pitch. Retain the breath as long as you can do it comfortably. Exhale slowly through both nostrils. Ujjayi may be practised even when walking or standing.

Benefits: The practice of ujjayi removes the heat in the head. The practitioner becomes beautiful. The gastric fire is increased and phlegm removed. Asthma, consumption and all sorts of pulmonary diseases can be cured. Diseases that arise from deficient inhalation of oxygen and those of the heart are alleviated.

Bhramari

Sit in padmasana or siddhasana. Inhale through both nostrils and while exhaling make the sound of a bee, bhramara. Practise several rounds. You can continue the process till the body is bathed in perspiration. In the end inhale through both nostrils, retain the breath as long as comfortable and then exhale slowly through both nostrils. The joy which the practitioner experiences in performing this kumbhaka is indescribable.

Benefits: In the beginning heat of the body is increased as the circulation of blood is quickened. In the end body heat is decreased by perspiration. By success in this pranayama, the practitioner gets success in samadhi.

Sheetkari

Fold the tongue so that the tip of the tongue might touch the upper palate, and draw air through the mouth with a hissing sound. Retain the breath as long as you can and then exhale slowly through both nostrils. You can keep the two rows of teeth in contact and inhale the air through the mouth as before.

Benefits: The practice enhances beauty and vigour. It removes hunger, thirst, indolence and sleep.

Sheetali

Protrude the tongue a little away from the lips. Fold it like a tube. Draw in the air through the mouth with a hissing sound. Retain the breath as long as you can, then exhale slowly through both nostrils.

Benefits: This practice purifies the blood, quenches thirst, appeases hunger and cools the system.

Plavini

This pranayama is practised by drinking air slowly like water and sending 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. After the practice, the air should be completely taken out. This is done by uddiyana bandha and hiccuping.

Benefits: One who practises plavini can do jalastambha, float on water, for any length of time. One can live on air and dispense with food for some days.

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