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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



Importance and Benefits of Pranayama

There is no purificatory action greater than pranayama. Just as a goldsmith removes the impurities of gold by heating it in the hot furnace, by strongly blowing the blowpipe, so also the yogic aspirant removes the impurities of the body, the senses and the mind, by blowing the lungs, through the practices of pranayama. Thus Manu says: “Let the defects be burnt up by pranayama.”

Removing the veil

Referring to pranayama, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (2:52) state: Tatah kshiyate prakasavaranam – “Thence the covering of the light is destroyed.” Here the covering refers to that which obscures the chitta, consciousness, of the individual. Chitta is essentially pure, being itself made up of sattwa, but is obscured by rajas and tamas, just as fire is enveloped by smoke. This amalgamation of rajas and tamas constitutes the covering or veil which is removed by the regular practice of pranayama. Thus it is said that pranayama purifies the consciousness, and once revealed, the light of knowledge shines.

Propelled by rajas and tamas, and entranced by the magic panorama of desire, the individual has made countless efforts to attain the coveted objects, and escape the unpleasant. This accumulated karma of the yogi binds him to repeated births and deaths. The pure essence, which is luminous by nature, becomes covered by these karmas and the jiva, individual soul, is directed towards wrong action. Through the practice of pranayama however, the karmas are attenuated. Eventually they are destroyed, and the pure self is revealed. Just as fire destroys the fuel, so also pranayama destroys the bundles of sins.

Preparing the mind

Dharanasu cha yogyata manasah – “The mind becomes fit for concentration” (Yoga Sutras 2:53). Pranayama as the fourth limb of Patanjali’s raja yoga, prepares the mind for concentration by removing the veil of disturbing energy obstructing the light of consciousness. Following which, the mind becomes stable and steady like a flame in a windless place. When through pranayama, the prana vayu moves in the akasha tattwa, the breathing will be lessened and at this time it will be easy to stop the breath. Thus the velocity of the mind will be slowly lessened by pranayama, making it stable and focused for concentration and higher practices. Vikshepa, distraction, is removed, rajas and tamas are destroyed, and the mind becomes one-pointed.

The mind of a person can thus be made to transcend ordinary experience and exist on a plane higher than that of reason, known as the superconscious state, and get beyond the limit of concentration. One 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 the yogi kindles the fire of supreme knowledge, the realisation of the Self.

Physical benefits

Pranayama develops the lungs and those who practise it will have a powerful, sweet, melodious voice. The body becomes lean, strong and healthy. Excretions become scanty and the appetite becomes keen. The digestive fire is augmented. There is lustre on the face and the eyes sparkle like diamonds. The practitioner becomes very handsome. The student becomes so perfect in brahmacharya, sensual restraint, that his mind will not be shaken even if a celestial maiden tries to embrace him. The student is free from all sorts of diseases. The nadis, flows of energy, are purified.

Steady practice arouses inner spiritual light, happiness and peace of mind. It is impossible to extol the wonderful effects of pranayama adequately. It is the magic wand for attaining perfection in all spheres of life. Even a few days of practice will convince you of its remarkable glory. Start from today, this very moment. May God bless you.

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