For a common person, it is not possible to locate and influence the centre in the brain which regulates the body temperature. But through the practices of pranayama it can be put into action. Many experiments and scientific studies carried out in different parts of the world showed that pranayama is the best way for temperature control. Pranayama is not just breathing exercises.
Prana means energy; it is not breath and it is not air. What one breathes in and out is air, not prana. Prana is the essential energy inherent in every particle of the body. Different names have been given to it like bioenergy, vitality, and so on. But they do not really convey everything. There are two important nadis or flows of energy in the body – ida and pingala. Pingala is the pranic flow which originates in mooladhara chakra and flows within the framework of the spinal cord. This prana is influenced by the practice of pranayama.
If pranayama is correctly practised, it cannot only control the body temperature, it can control the thought waves as well. There are many things which have to be controlled before any spiritual experience. First of all, the mind should be controlled by controlling the thought waves which are a part or manifestations of the mind. Mudras and bandhas should be practised along with pranayama.
When one contracts the perineum it is known as moola bandha. When one contracts the abdomen it is known as uddiyana bandha. When one contracts the thorax it is known as jalandhara bandha. These three bandhas are important in pranayama. In the practice of pranayama the first effect is on the lungs, then on the heart, the nervous system, and finally on the brain.
There exists the phenomenon of stopping the heartbeat. Scientists have been working on it as yoga postulates that the heart can be stopped and resurrected again. Many times this has been demonstrated publicly, and scientists were observing the process. The heart can be stopped by controlling the prana. Prana is then converted into the experience of light, and the experience of light continues to be the nucleus of life.
During the period when the heart is completely stopped, there is no activity in the body. If one has no beard, one will not grow any beard; if there is a beard it will not grow anymore. There is absolutely no heat in the body but the practitioner has awareness. He is not unconscious, and his awareness functions within a locality. His awareness functions symbolically. There is a small light spot in between the two eyebrows and he is aware of that light spot alone. He is not aware of himself or of time and space. He is not aware of what is happening; he is just aware that there is a light.
As long as there is light, there is life. Therefore, prana controls the life principle and this life principle is defined in yoga in a different way. When one practises pranayama, one controls the different influxes of prana in the body. According to the books of yoga, there are five main divisions and five subdivisions of prana, and through the practice of pranayama these different divisions of prana can be energized in their own locality. However, it should be remembered that the ultimate form of prana is light.
During the period of samadhi, the aspirant withdraws his prana from throughout the body and converts it into the experience of light in between the two eyebrows. Later this light disperses. When the light disperses, the pranas spread throughout the body, and the different organs of the body begin to function.
In the Himalayas, there are a few important places considered to be the original home of yogis. Even today people live there. It is very cold. When I was twenty-one years old I lived there once for nine months. I could never leave my cottage because there were metres and metres of snow, no heater and no sweater. Everything was frozen and I had to live in the room for nine months. I couldn’t see the sun. Most of the swamis, at some time or another, spend a few years or months in the Himalayas.
I went to Gangotri, the origin of Ganga. Where the Ganga is emanating, there is a small temple for Ganga and a few cottages on both sides of the river. Up to the months of September or October, many people go there on pilgrimage. After that, the roads are completely closed due to snow. Only five to ten swamis stay there up to the end of March, and after March the pilgrimage season begins again. I went there in order to practise pranayama, because pranayama was my important topic. I have never believed that pranayama is a breathing exercise. I am sure that prana opens the secret doors of the mind and experience. I know that pranayama explodes the hidden phases of energy in a person’s mind and body. However, it has to be properly practised, and the body and different organs have to be brought under perfect control.
Prana is a wild elephant. If it is not tamed, it can be disastrous. Therefore, before the practice of pranayama, the six processes of purification of hatha yoga must be practised. Before one takes to pranayama, asanas should be perfected, and before one takes to the higher practices of pranayama, the diet has to be reduced to a minimum. An aspirant of pranayama does not live to eat, but he eats to live. During the nine months that I practised pranayama, I developed various experiences. I had two exploding experiences and I could not get out of them and I could not deny them.
Here is one experience: I saw saffron-coloured sages with flowing beards walking on the snow capped mountain. I thought it was a hallucination and I tried to come out of this experience. I gave myself a few slaps and twisted my ears, but the experience was still there.
I had the second experience a few days later on the same mountain. I saw that saris were put there to dry. Seeing these saris, I thought that they were the saris of Durga, Parvati and Kali, the goddesses. This was a living experience. I am sure that they were not there and that I was not mentally suffering or hallucinating, because I know I was normal, doing my jobs well. But at the same time, I saw them. This is called a living experience.
Every experience is inherent in man’s brain and mind. All experiences which you have in your day-to-day life, you have within yourself. You don’t see me sitting here; you see me within you. Every experience is subjective, though the object is there, the perception and the cognition takes place within you, because when you reduce matter to atoms, it ceases to exist anymore.
Every cognition has a base in matter. When matter is reduced to atoms, it does not exist. When matter is atomized, there is no matter. It can be done by reducing the frequencies of the mind. Pranayama does not merely regulate the body temperature; it also regulates the experiences, expressions and manifestations of the mind. If you gradually proceed with the practice of pranayama, the perceptions change.
—15 January 1981, Munger