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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



Practices of Pranayama

You can easily and quickly control and develop body, mind and soul through breath control or the control of prana. 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. Thus in the practices of pranayama we find many varieties of exercises, to suit the different constitutions and temperaments of the practitioners, and also their different purposes. Some of these, namely ujjayi and plavini, are outlined below, beginning with the most simple of techniques, pranayama while walking, and pranayama while lying down.

Pranayama while walking

Walk with the head up, shoulders back and with chest expanded. Inhale slowly through both nostrils counting Aum mentally three times, one count for each step. Then retain the breath while you count 12 Aums. Then exhale slowly through both nostrils while you count six Aums. Take a respiratory pause or rest after one pranayama counting 12 Aums. If you find it difficult to count Aum with each step, count Aum without having any concern with the steps.

Kapalbhati can also be done during walking. Those who are very busy can practise during their morning and evening walks. It is like killing two birds with one stone. You will find it very pleasant to practise pranayama while walking in an open space, when a delightful gentle breeze is blowing. You will be invigorated and innervated quickly and to a considerable degree. Practise, feel and realize the marked, beneficial influence of this kind of pranayama. Those who walk briskly, repeating Aum mentally or verbally, practise this natural pranayama without any effort.

Pranayama while lying down

Lie down on your back on a blanket, quite at ease. Keep the hands on the ground by your sides and your legs straight. The heels should be kept together, but the toes can remain a little apart. Relax all the muscles and the nerves. Those who are very weak, can practise pranayama in this pose while lying on the ground or on their bed.

Draw the breath slowly inside through both nostrils, without making any noise. Retain the breath as long as you can do so with comfort. Then exhale slowly through both nostrils. Repeat the process 12 times in the morning and 12 times in the evening.

Chant Aum mentally during the practice. If you like you can also practise in sukhasana, an easy comfortable sitting posture.

This is a combined exercise of asana, pranayama, meditation and rest. It gives rest not only to the body but also to the mind. It provides relief, comfort and ease. This is very suitable for aged people.

Alternate nostril breathing

Sit in padmasana. Close your eyes. Concentrate on trikuti, the space between the two eyebrows. Close the right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale slowly through the left nostril as long as you can do it with comfort. Then exhale very, very slowly through the same nostril. Do it 12 times. This is one round.

Then inhale through the right nostril by closing the left nostril with your right ring and little fingers and exhale very slowly through the same nostril. Do it 12 times. This is one round.

Do not make any sound during inhalation and exhalation. Mentally repeat your ishta mantra during the practice. In the second week of practice, do two rounds, in the third week, three rounds. Take a rest for two minutes when one round is over. If you take a few normal breaths, when one round is over, that will give you sufficient rest and you will be fresh for the next round. There is no kumbhaka in this exercise. You can increase the number of rounds according to your strength and capacity.

Sukha purvaka (easy comfortable) pranayama

Sit in padmasana or siddhasana in your meditation room, before the picture of your ishta devata, guiding deity. Close the right nostril with the right thumb and inhale very, very slowly through the left nostril. Then close the left nostril also with your little and ring fingers of the right hand. Retain the breath as long as comfortable. Then exhale very, very slowly through the nostril after releasing the thumb. Now half the process is over. Then draw air through the right nostril. Retain the air as before and exhale it very, very slowly through the left nostril.

All these six processes constitute one pranayama. Do 20 in the morning and 20 in the evening and gradually increase the number. Have the bhava, mental attitude, that all the daivi sampat, divine qualities such as mercy, love, forgiveness, shanti, joy, etc. are entering into your system along with the inhalation. As you breathe out, feel all the asuri sampat, devilish qualities, such as lust, anger, greed, etc. are being thrown out. Repeat Aum or Gayatri mentally during pooraka, kumbhaka and rechaka.

This pranayama removes all diseases, purifies the nadis, steadies the mind in concentration, increases the digestive fire and appetite, helps to maintain brahmacharya and awakens the kundalini that is sleeping at the mooladhara chakra.

Pranava pranayama

The three processes of pranayama – expiration, inspiration and retention – each correspond to a letter of the Sanskrit alphabet forming the mantra Aum.

Sitting in padmasana, meditate on the tip of the nose, visualizing the devi as Gayatri, a girl of red complexion, surrounded by numberless rays like the image of the moon, mounted on a swan, hamsa, and holding a mace in her hand. She is the visible symbol of the Sanskrit letter ‘A’. The Sanskrit letter ‘U’ has as its visible symbol Savitri, a young lady of white complexion holding a disc in her hand, riding on an eagle, garuda. The Sanskrit letter ‘M’ has its visible symbol Saraswati, an aged woman of black complexion, riding on a bull, holding a trident in her hand.

The aspirant should meditate that the single letter, the supreme light – the pranava Aum is the origin or source of these letters and, drawing up the air through ida nadi and the left nostril for the space of 16 matras, meditate on the syllable A. Then, retaining the inspired air for the space of 64 matras, one should meditate on the syllable U. The aspirant should then exhale for the space of 32 matras, meditating on the syllable M.

One should practise thus in the above order again and again.

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