The Science of Pranayama
A DIVINE LIFE SOCIETY PUBLICATION
Fourth Edition: 1998
World Wide Web (WWW) Edition : 1999.
This WWW reprint is for free distribution
© The Divine Life Trust Society
THE DIVINE LIFE SOCIETY
P.O. Shivanandanagar249 192
Distt. Tehri-Garhwal, Uttar Pradesh,
What is Pranayama
Tasmin sati svasaprasvasayor-gativicchedah pranayamah—“Regulation of breath
or the control of Prana is the stoppage of inhalation and exhalation, which
follows after securing that steadiness of posture or seat.”
This is the definition of Pranayama in the Yoga-sutras of Patanjali.
‘Svasa’ means inspiratory breath. ‘Prasvasa’ means expiratory breath. You
can take up the practice of Pranayama after you have gained steadiness
in your Asana (seat). If you can sit for 3 hour in one Asana, continuously
at one stretch, you have gained mastery over the Asana. If you are able
to sit from half to one hour even, you can take up the practice of Pranayama.
You can hardly make any spiritual progress without the practice of Pranayama.
Prana is Vyashti, when the individual is concerned. The sum total of the
cosmic energy or cosmic Prana is Hiranyagarbha who is known as the floating
‘Golden-Egg’. Hiranyagarbha is Samashti Prana. One match stick is Vyashti
(single). The whole match box is Samashti. A single mango-tree is Vyashti.
The whole mango grove is Samashti. The energy in the body is Prana. By
controlling the motion of the lungs or respiratory organs, we can control
the Prana that is vibrating inside. By control of Prana, the mind can be
easily controlled, because the mind is fastened to the Prana, like the
bird to the string. Just as the bird that is tied to a post by a string,
after flying here and there, finds its resting place in the post, so also
this mind-bird after running hither and thither, in various sensual objects,
finds its resting place during deep sleep in the Prana.
Pranayama (According to the Gita)
Apane juhvati pranam pranepanam tathapare; Pranapanagatee ruddhva pranayamaparayanah
(Gita, Ch. IV-29.). Others offer Prana (outgoing breath) in Apana (incoming
breath) and Apana in Prana, restraining the passage of Prana and Apana,
absorbed in Pranayama. Pranayama is a precious Yajna (sacrifice). Some
practise the kind of Pranayama called Puraka (filling in). Some practise
the kind of Pranayama called Rechaka (emptying). Some are engaged in the
practice of Pranayama called Kumbhaka, by impeding the outward passage
of air, through the nostrils and the mouth, and by impeding the inward
passage of the air, in the opposite direction.
Pranayama (According To Sri Sankaracharya)
“Pranayama is the control of all life-forces by realising naught but Brahman
in all things as the mind, etc.
“The negation of the Universe is the outgoing breath. The thought: ‘I am
Brahman’ itself is called the incoming breath.
The permanence of that thought thereafter is the restrained breath. This
is the Pranayama of the wise, while the pressing of the nose is only for
the unknowing.” (Aparokshanubhuti, 118-120).
Pranayama (According to Yogi Bhusunda)
Bhusunda says to Sri Vasishtha: “In the cool lotus of the heart within
this visible tenement of flesh composed of the five elements, there are
two Vayus, viz., Prana and Apana, commingled in it. For those who tread
smoothly and without any or the slightest efforts, the path of these two
Vayus, will become the sun and the moon themselves in the heart—Akasa,
and will rove in the Akasa and yet be animating and carrying their fleshy-tabernacle.
These Vayus will go up and down to higher and lower states. They are of
the same nature in the waking, dreaming and dreamless sleeping state, and
permeate all throughout. I am moving in the direction of those two Vayus
and have rendered nil all my Vasanas in the waking state lit unto those
of the dreamless sleeping state. Divide a filament of the lotus-stalk into
a thousand times and you will find these Vayus more subtle than that. Hence
it is difficult for me to treat about the nature of these Vayus and their
vibrations. Of these, Prana does ceaselessly vibrate in this body, with
an upward motion, both externally and internally, while Apana having the
same fluctuating tendency, vibrates both external and internal to the body
having a downward motion. It will be beneficial if the Prana exhaled to
the extent of 16 digits, is inhaled to the same extent. Only 12 digits
are inhaled ordinarily. Those who have brought to experience—viz., the
equalisation of Prana in exhalation and inhalation will enjoy infinite
“Now hear about the characteristics of Prana. The inhalation to the length
of 12 digits of the Prana which has been exhaled, is called (the internal)
Puraka (inhalation). This also is called the internal (Puraka), when Apana
Vayu re-enters the body from outside without any effort. When Apana Vayu
ceases to manifest itself and Prana gets absorbed in the heart, then the
time occupied in such a state is (internal) Kumbha. Yogins are able to
experience all these. When the Prana in the Akasa of the heart manifests
itself externally (to the heart within) in diverse aspects without any
affliction to the mind then it is called (the external) Rechaka (exhalation).
When the externally fluctuating Prana enters the nose and stops there at
its tip, then it is called the external Puraka. But when it is passing
from the tip of the nose it goes down 12 digits. Then also it is called
the external Puraka. When Prana goes arrested without and Apana within,
then it is called the external Kumbhaka. When the shining Apana Vayu takes
an upward bent within, then it is styled the external Rechaka. All these
practices lead to Moksha. Therefore they should ever be meditated upon.
Those who have understood and practised well all the external and internal
Kumbhakas and others, will never be reborn.
“All the eight courses, I have given out before, are capable of yielding
Moksha. They should be practised both day and night. Those who are associated
with these practices smoothly and control their minds by not letting them
run in other directions, will in course of time attain Nirvana. Such practitioners
will never thirst after material pleasures. They will ever be in their
uniform practice, whether walking, standing, waking, dreaming or sleeping.
“Prana, having flown out, will again be absorbed in the heart having run
back 12 digits. Similarly will Apana be absorbed in the heart, having issued
out of the heart and running back 12 digits to it. Apana being the moon,
will cool the whole body in its passage. But Prana being the sun, will
generate heat in the system and cook or digest everything in it. Will pains
arise in one who has reached that supreme state, where the Kalas (rays)
of Apana the moon, are drowned by Prana the sun? Will rebirth arise in
one who has reached that powerful seat, when the Kalas of Prana, the sun,
are devoured by Apana the moon? These will arrest at once the seven births
of those who reach that neutral state where they find Apana Vayu consumed
by Prana and vice versa. I eulogise that Chidatma, who is in that intermediate
state, where Prana and Apana are absorbed in one another. I meditate ceaselessly
upon that Chidatma, who is in the Akasa, directly in front, at the end
of my nose, where Prana and Apana both become extinct. Thus it is through
this path of Prana’s control, that I attained the supreme and immaculate
Tattva, devoid of pains.”
Control of Breath
The first important step is to master the Asana of posture or to control
the body. The next exercise is Pranayama. Correct posture is indispensably
requisite for the successful practice of Pranayama. An easy comfortable
posture is Asana. That pose is the best which continues to be comfortable
for the greatest length of time. Chest, neck, and head must be in one vertical
line. You should not bend the body either forwards or laterally, i.e.,
either on the right or left side. You should not sit crooked. You should
not allow the body to collapse. You must not bend the body either forwards
or backwards. By regular practice the mastery over the pose will come by
itself. Fatty people will find it difficult to practise the Padma Asana
or the Lotus Pose. They can sit on the Sukha Asana (comfortable pose) or
Siddha Asana (perfected pose). You need not wait for practising Pranayama
till you get full mastery over the Asana. Practise Asana and side by side
you can practise Pranayama also. In course of time, you will acquire perfection
in both. Pranayama can also be practised by sitting in the chair erect.
In Bhagavad-Gita, the Immortal Song of Lord Krishna, you will find a beautiful
description of seat and pose: “In a pure secret place by himself established
in a fixed seat of his own, neither too high nor too low, with cloth, black
antelope-skin and Kusa grass one over the other, there, making the mind
one-pointed, with thought and the functions of the senses controlled, steady
on his seat, he should practise Yoga for the purification of the Self,
holding the body, head and neck erect, firm, gazing steadily at the tip
of the nose without looking around” (Ch. VI—10,11, & 12).
Pranayama is the control of the Prana and the vital forces of the body.
It is regulation of the breath. This is the most important step. The aim
of Pranayama is the control of Prana. Pranayama begins with the regulation
of the breath for having control over the life-currents or inner vital
force. In other words, Pranayama is the perfect control of the life-currents
through control of breath. Breath is external manifestation of the gross
Prana. A correct habit of breathing must be established by the regular
practice of Pranayama. In ordinary worldly persons the breathing is irregular.
If you can control the Prana you can completely control all the forces
of the Universe, mental and physical. The Yogi can also control the Omnipresent
manifesting power out of which all energies take their origin, whether
concerning magnetism, electricity, gravitation, cohesion, nerve-currents,
vital forces or thought-vibrations, in fact the total forces of the Universe,
physical and mental.
If one controls the breath or Prana, the mind also is controlled. He who
has controlled his mind has also controlled his breath. If one is suspended,
the other is also suspended. If the mind and Prana are both controlled
one gets liberation from the round of births and deaths and attains immortality.
There is intimate connection between the mind, Prana and semen. If one
controls the seminal energy, the mind and Prana are also controlled. He
who has controlled his seminal energy has also controlled his Prana and
He who practises Pranayama will have good appetite, cheerfulness, handsome
figure, good strength, courage, enthusiasm, a high standard of health,
vigour and vitality and good concentration of mind. Pranayama is quite
suitable for the Westerners also. A Yogi measures the span of his life
not by the number of years but by the number of his breaths. You can take
in a certain amount of energy or Prana from the atmospheric air along with
each breath. Vital capacity is the capacity shown by the largest quantity
of air a man can inhale after the deepest possible exhalation. A man takes
fifteen breaths in a minute. The total number of breaths comes to 21,600
times per day.
Varieties of Pranayama
Sankhyabhih patidtishto deergha-sukshmah.”
Yoga Sutras—Chap. II, Sa. 50
Pranayama is regarded lengthy or subtle according to its three components,
the external, the internal and the steady; the retention processes are
modified by the regulations of space, time and number.
When the breath is expired, it is Rechaka, the first kind of Pranayama.
When the breath is drawn in, it is the second, termed Puraka. When it is
suspended, it is the third kind, called Kumbhaka. Kumbhaka is retention
of breath. Kumbhaka increases the period of life. It augments the inner
spiritual force, vigour and vitality. If you retain the breath for one
minute, this one minute is added to your span of life. Yogins by taking
the breath to the Brahmarandhra at the top of the head and keeping it there,
defeat the Lord of death, Yama, and conquer death. Chang Dev lived for
one thousand and four hundred years through the practice of Kumbhaka. Each
of these motions in Pranayama, viz., Rechaka, Puraka and Kumbhaka, is regulated
by space, time and number. By space is meant the inside or outside of the
body and the particular length or the breadth and also when the Prana is
held in some particular part of the body. During expiration the distance
to which breath is thrown outside varies in different individuals. The
distance varies during inspiration also. The length of the breath varies
in accordance with the pervading Tattva. The length of the breath is respectively
12, 16, 4, 8, 0 fingers’ breadths according to the Tattvas—Prithvi, Apas,
Tejas, Vayu or Akasa (earth, water, fire, air or ether). This is again
external during exhalation and internal during inhalation.
Time is, the time of duration of each of these, which is generally counted
by Matra, which corresponds to one second. Matra means a measure. By time
is also meant how long the Prana should be fixed in a particular centre
Number refers to the number of times the Pranayama is performed. The Yogic
student should slowly take the number of Pranayamas to eighty at one sitting.
He should have four sittings in the morning, afternoon, evening and midnight,
or at 9 a.m., and should have thus 320 Pranayamas in all. The effect or
fruit of Pranayama is Udghata or awakening of the sleeping Kundalini. The
chief aim of Pranayama is to unite the Prana with the Apana and take the
united Pranayama slowly upwards towards the head.
Kundalini is the source for all occult powers. The Pranayama is long or
short according to the period of time, it is practised. Just as water,
thrown on a hot pan shrivels upon all sides as it is being dried up, so
also air, moving in or out ceases its action by a strong effort of restraint
(Kumbhaka) and stays within.
Vachaspati describes—“Measured by 36 Matras, is the first attempt (Udghata),
which is mild. Twice that is the second, which is middling. Thrice that
is the third, which is the intense. This is the Pranayama as measured by
The ‘place’ of exhalation lies within 12 Angulas (inches) of the tip of
nose. This is to be ascertained through a piece of reed or cotton. The
place of inhalation ranges from the head down to the soles of the feet.
This is to be ascertained through a sensation similar to the touch of an
ant. The place of Kumbhaka consists of the external and internal places
of both exhalation and inhalation taken together, because the functions
of the breath are capable of being held up at both these places. This is
to be ascertained through the absence of the two indicatives noted above,
in connection with exhalation and inhalation.
The specification of the three kinds of breath regulations, by all these
three—time, space and number—is only optional. They are not to be understood
as to be practised collectively, for in many Smritis we meet with passages,
where the only specification mentioned with reference to the regulation
of breath is that of time.
The fourth is restraining the Prana by directing it to external or internal
object; “Bahyabhyantara-vishayakshepi chaturthah” (Yoga Sutras: 11,50).
The third kind of Pranayama that is described in Sutra 50 of the Yoga Sutras,
is practised only till the first Udghata is marked. This fourth Pranayama
is carried further. It concerns with the fixing of the Prana in the various
lotuses (Padmas or Chakras) and taking it slowly, and slowly, step by step,
and stage by stage to the last lotus in the head, where perfect Samadhi
takes place. This is internal. Externally it takes into consideration the
length of breath in accordance with the prevailing Tattva. Prana can be
described either inside or outside.
By gradual mastery over the preliminary three kinds of Pranayama, the fourth
kind comes in. In the third kind of Pranayama the sphere is not taken into
consideration. The stoppage of the breath occurs with one single effort
and is then measured by space, time and number and thus becomes Dirgha
(long) and Sukshma (subtle). In the fourth variety, however the spheres
of expiration and inspiration are ascertained. The different states are
mastered by and by. The fourth variety is not practised all at once by
a single effort like the third one. On the other hand, it reaches different
states of perfection, as it is being done. After one stage is mastered,
the next stage is taken up and practised. Then it goes in succession. The
third is not preceded by measurements and is brought about by a single
effort. The fourth is however preceded by the knowledge of the measurements,
and is brought about by much effort. This is the only difference. The conditions
of time, space and number are applicable to this kind of Pranayama also.
Particular occult powers develop themselves at each stage of progress.
Three Types of Pranayama
There are three types of Pranayama, viz., Adhama, Madhyama and Uttama (inferior,
middle and superior). The Adhama Pranayama consists of 12 Matras, Madhyama
consists of 24 Matras and the Uttama occupies a time of 32 Matras. This
is for Puraka. The ratio between Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka is 1:4:2.
Puraka is inhalation. Kumbhaka is retention. Rechaka is exhalation. If
you inhale for a period of 12 Matras you will have to make Kumbhaka for
a period of 48 Matras. Then the time for Rechaka will be 24 Matras. This
is for Adhama Pranayama. The same rule will apply to the other two varieties.
First, practise for a month of Adhama Pranayama. Then practise Madhyama
for three months. Then take up the Uttama variety.
Salute your Guru and Sri Ganesa as soon as you sit in the Asana. The time
for Abhyasa is early morning 4 a.m., 10 a.m., evening 4 p.m., and night
10 p.m., or 12 p.m. As you advance in practice you will have to do 320
Sagarbha Pranayama is that Pranayama, which is attended with mental Japa
of any Mantra, either Gayatri or Om. It is one hundred times more powerful
than the Agarbha Pranayama, which is plain and unattended with any Japa.
Pranayama Siddhi depends upon the intensity of the efforts of the practitioner.
An ardent enthusiastic student, with Parama Utsaha, Sahasa and Dridhata
(zeal, cheerfulness and tenacity), can effect Siddhi (perfection) within
six months; while a happy-go-lucky practitioner with Tandri and Alasya
(drowsiness and laziness) will find no improvement even after eight or
ten years. Plod on. Persevere with patience, faith, confidence, expectation,
interest and attention. You are bound to succeed. Nil desperandum—Never
The Vedantic Kumbhaka
Being without any distraction and with a calm mind, one should practise
Pranayama. Both expiration and inspiration should be stopped. The practitioner
should depend solely on Brahman; that is the highest aim of life. The giving
out of all external objects, is said to be Rechaka. The taking in of the
spiritual knowledge of Sastras, is said to be Puraka, and the keeping to
oneself of such knowledge is said to be Kumbhaka. He is an emancipated
person who practises his Chitta thus. There is no doubt about it. Through
Kumbhaka the mind should always be taken up and through Kumbhaka alone
it should be filled up within. It is only through Kumbhaka that Kumbhaka
should be firmly mastered. Within it, is ‘Parama Siva’. At first in his
Brahmagranthi there is produced soon a hole or passage. Then having pierced
Brahmagranthi, he pierces Vishnugranthi, then he pierces Rudragranthi,
then the Yogin attains his liberation through the religious ceremonies,
performed in various births, through the grace of Gurus and Devatas and
through the practice of Yoga.
Pranayama for Nadi-Suddhi
The Vayu cannot enter the Nadis if they are full of impurities. Therefore,
first of all, they should be purified and then Pranayama should be practised.
The Nadis are purified by two processes, viz., Samanu and Nirmanu. The
Samanu is done by a mental process with Bija Mantra. The Nirmanu is done
by physical cleansing or the Shatkarmas.
1. Sit on Padmasana. Meditate on the Bijakshara of Vayu y:ö (Yam) which
is of smoke colour. Inhale through the left nostril. Repeat the Bijakshara
16 times. This is Puraka. Retain the breath till you repeat the Bija 64
times. This is Kumbhaka. Then exhale through the right nostril very very
slowly till you repeat the Bijakshara 32 times.
2. The navel is the seat of Agnitattva. Meditate on this Agnitattva. Then
draw the breath through the right nostril repeating 16 times the Agni Bija
rö (Ram). Retain the breath, till you count the Bija 64 times. Then exhale
slowly through the left nostril till you repeat mentally the Bija letter
3. Fix the gaze at the tip of the nose. Inhale through the left nostril
repeating the Bija Yö (Tham) 16 times. Retain the breath till you repeat
the Bija (Tham) 64 times. Now imagine that the nectar that flows from the
moon, runs through all the vessels of the body and purifies them. Then
exhale slowly through right nostril till you repeat the Prithvi Bija l:ö (Lam) 32 times.
The Nadis are purified nicely by the practice of the above three kinds
of Pranayama by sitting firmly in your usual posture.
Mantra During Pranayama
The Mantra for repetition during the practice of Pranayama is laid down
in the Isvara Gita: “When the aspirant holding his breath repeats the Gayatri
thrice, together with even Vyahritis in the beginning, the Siras at the
end and the Pranava, one at both ends of it, this is, what is called the
regulation of breath.”
Yogi Yajnavalkya, on the other hand, declares thus: “The upward breath
and the downward breath, having been restrained, regulation of breath is
to be practised by means of the Pranava (!) with due regard to the unit
of measure of the Mantra.
This repetition of the Pranava alone, is meant for the Paramahamsa Sannyasins.
It has been declared in the Smritis, that ordinary contemplation is to
be practised, through the inhalation and other stages of breath-regulation
at one’s navel, heart and forehead, with reference to the forms of Brahma,
Vishnu and Siva respectively. For the Paramahamsa however, the only object
of contemplation has been declared to be Brahman. “The self-controlled
ascetic is to contemplate upon the supreme Brahman, by means of the Pranava,”
declares the Sruti.
Exercise No. 1
Sit on Padmasana. Close your eyes. Concentrate on Trikuti (the space between
the two eye-brows). 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 twelve 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 twelve times. This is one round.
Do not make any sound during inhalation and exhalation. Repeat your Ishta
Mantra during the practice. In the second week of practice, do two rounds,
in the third week, three rounds. Take 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.
Exercise No. 2
Inhale through both the nostrils slowly and gently. Do not retain the breath.
Then exhale slowly. Do 12 times. This will constitute one round. You can
do 2 or 3 rounds according to your capacity and strength and time at your
Exercise No. 3
Sit on your Asana. Close the right nostril with your right thumb. Then
inhale slowly through your left nostril. Close the left nostril with your
right ring and little fingers and open the right nostril by removing the
right thumb. Exhale very slowly through the right nostril. Then draw the
air through the right nostril as long as you can do it with comfort and
exhale through the left nostril by removing the right ring and little fingers.
There is no Kumbhaka in this Pranayama. Repeat the process 12 times. This
will constitute one round.
Exercise No. 4
Meditate that the single letter, the Supreme light—Pranava or OM—is the
origin or source of the three letters A, U and M. Inhale the air through
Ida or left nostril for the space of 16 Matras (seconds), meditate on the
letter ‘A’ during that time; retain the air for the space of 64 Matras,
meditate on the letter ‘U’ during the time; exhale through the right nostril
for the space of 32 Matras and meditate on the letter ‘M’ during that time.
Practise this again and again in the above order. Begin with 2 or 3 times
and gradually increase the number to 20 or 30 times according to your capacity
and strength. To begin with, keep the ratio 1:4:2. Gradually increase the
ratio to 16:64:32.
Deep Breathing Exercise
Each deep breathing consists of a very full inhalation, through the nose
and a deep, steady exhalation also, through the nose.
Inhale slowly as much as you can do. Exhale slowly as much as you can do.
During inhalation, observe the following rules:
1. Stand up. Place the hands on the hips, the elbows will be out and not
forced backward. Stand at ease.
2. Lengthen the chest straight upwards. Press the hip bones with the hands
in downward direction. A vacuum will be formed by this act and the air
will rush in of its own accord.
3. Keep the nostrils wide open. Do not use the nose as a suction pump.
It should serve as a passive passage for both the inhaled and the exhaled
air. Do not make any sound when you inhale and exhale. Remember that correct
breathing is noiseless.
4. Stretch the whole upper part of the trunk.
5. Do not arch the upper chest into a cramped position. Keep the abdomen
6. Do not bend the head far backwards. Do not draw the abdomen inwards.
Do not force the shoulders back. Lift the shoulders up.
During the exhalation observe the following rules carefully:
1. Allow the ribs and the whole upper part of the trunk to sink down gradually.
2. Draw the lower ribs and abdomen upwards—slowly.
3. Do not bend the body too much forward. Arching of the chest should be
avoided. Keep the head, neck and trunk in a straight line. Contract the
chest. Do not breathe the air out through the mouth. Exhale very, very
slowly without producing any noise.
4. Expiration simply takes place by relaxing the inspiratory muscles. The
chest falls down by its own weight and expels the air out through the nose.
5. In the beginning, do not retain the breath after inhalation. When the
process of inhalation is over begin exhalation at once. When you have sufficiently
advanced in your practice, you can slowly retain the breath from five seconds
to one minute according to your capacity.
6. When one round of three deep breathings is over, you can take a little
rest, ‘Respiratory pause’—by taking a few normal breaths. Then start the
second round. During the pause, stand still in a comfortable position with
hands on hips. The number of rounds can be fixed according to the capacity
of the practitioner. Do 3 or 4 rounds and increase one round every week.
Deep breathing is only a variety of Pranayama.
‘Kapala’ is a Sanskrit word; it means skull. ‘Bhati’ means to shine. The
term ‘Kapalabhati’ means an exercise that makes the skull shine. This Kriya
cleanses the skull. So this is taken as one of the Shat-Karmas (six cleansing
processes in Hatha Yoga).
Sit on Padmasana. Keep the hands on knees. Close the eyes. Perform Puraka
and Rechaka rapidly. This should be practised vigorously. One will get
perspiration profusely. This is a good form of exercise. Those who are
well-versed in Kapalabhati, can do Bhastrika very easily. There is no Kumbhaka
in this Pranayama. Rechaka plays a prominent part. Puraka is mild, slow
and long (Dirgha). But the Rechaka should be done quickly and forcibly
by contracting the abdominal muscles with a backward push. When you do
Puraka, release the abdominal muscles. Some people naturally make a curve
of the spine and bend their heads also. This is not desirable. The head
and the trunk should be erect. Sudden expulsions of breath follow one another
as in Bhastrika. To start with, you can have one expulsion per second.
Gradually you can have two expulsions per second. To begin with do one
round in the morning consisting of 10 expulsions only. In the second week,
do one round in the evening. In the third week, do two rounds in the morning
and two rounds in the evening. Thus every week, gradually and cautiously
increase 10 expulsions to each round till you get 120 expulsions for each
It cleanses the respiratory system and the nasal passages. It removes the
spasm in bronchial tubes. Consequently, Asthma is relieved and also cured
in course of time. The apices of the lungs get proper oxygenation. Thereby
they cannot afford favourable nidus (breeding grounds) for tubercle bacilli.
Consumption is cured by this practice. Lungs are considerably developed.
Carbon dioxide is eliminated in a large scale. Impurities of the blood
are thrown out. Tissues and cells absorb a large quantity of oxygen. The
practitioner keeps up good health. Heart functions properly. The circulatory
and respiratory systems are toned to a considerable degree.
The External Kumbhaka (Bahya)
Draw the air through the left nostril till you count 3 OMs; throw it out
through the right nostril immediately without retaining it counting 6 OMs.
Stop it outside till you count 12 OMs. Then draw the breath through the
right; exhale it through the left and stop it outside as before, using
the same units of OM for inhalation, exhalation and retention. Do six times
in the morning and six times in the evening. Gradually increase the number
of rounds and the time of Kumbhaka. Do not strain or fatigue yourself.
Easy Comfortable Pranayama (Sukha Purvaka)
Sit on Padmasana or Siddhasana in your meditation room, before the picture
of your Ishta Devata (guiding deity). Close the right nostril with the
right thumb. Draw in the air very, very slowly through the left nostril.
Then close the left nostril also with little and ring fingers of the right
hand. Retain the air as long as you can comfortably do. Then exhale very,
very slowly through the nostril after removing 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. Gradually increase the number. Have a Bhava (mental
attitude) that all the Daivi Sampat (divine qualities), e.g., mercy, love,
forgiveness, Santi, joy, etc., are entering into your system along with
the inspired air and all Asuri Sampat (devilish qualities) such as lust,
anger, greed, etc., are being thrown out along with the expired air. Repeat
OM or Gayatri mentally during Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka. Hard-working
Sadhakas can do 320 Kumbhakas daily in four sittings at the rate of 80
in each sitting.
This Pranayama removes all diseases, purifies the Nadis, steadies the mind
in concentration, improves digestion, increases the digestive fire and
appetite, helps to maintain Brahmacharya and awakens the Kundalini that
is sleeping at the Muladhara Chakra. Purification of Nadis will set in
rapidly. You will have levitation (rising above the ground) also.
(Note: Various Mantras and their benefits are described in my book “Japa Yoga”.)
Pranayama for Awakening Kundalini
When you practise the following, concentrate on the Muladhara Chakra at
the base of the spinal column, which is triangular in form and which is
the seat of the Kundalini Sakti. Close the right nostril with your fight
thumb. Inhale through the left nostril till you count 3 OMs slowly. Imagine
that you are drawing the Prana with the atmospheric air. Then close the
left nostril with your little and ring fingers of the right hand. Then
retain the breath for 12 OMs. Send the current down the spinal column straight
into the triangular lotus, the Muladhara Chakra. Imagine that the nerve-current
is striking against the lotus and awakening the Kundalini. Then slowly
exhale through the right nostril counting 6 OMs. Repeat the process from
the right nostril as stated above, using the same units, and having the
same imagination and feeling. This Pranayama will awaken the Kundalini
quickly. Do it 3 times in the morning and 3 times in the evening. Increase
the number and time gradually and cautiously according to your strength
and capacity. In this Pranayama, concentration on the Muladhara Chakra
is the important thing. Kundalini will be awakened quickly if the degree
of concentration is intense and if the Pranayama is practised regularly.
Pranayama During Meditation
If you do concentration and meditation, Pranayama, comes by itself. The
breath becomes slower and slower. We will practise this Pranayama daily
unconsciously. When you are reading a sensational storybook or when you
are solving a mathematical problem, your mind is really very much absorbed
in the subject-matter. If you closely watch your breath on these occasions,
you will find that the breath has become very very slow. When you see a
tragical story being enacted in the theater or a film-show, when you hear
a very sad striking news or some glad tidings, when you shed tears either
of joy or sorrow, or burst into laughter, the breath is slackened—Pranayama
comes by itself. In those Yogic students who practise Sirshasana, Pranayama
comes by itself. It is obvious from these examples that when the mind is
deeply concentrated on any subject, the respiration slows down or stops.
Pranayama is being done automatically. Mind and Prana are intimately connected.
If you turn your attention to watch the breath on those occasions, it will
regain its normal state. Pranayama comes by itself to those who are deeply
absorbed in doing Japa, Dhyana or Brahma-Vichara (enquiry of Atman).
Prana, mind and Virya (seminal energy) are under one Sambandha (connection).
If you can control the mind, Prana and Virya are controlled by themselves.
If you can control Prana, mind and Virya are controlled by themselves.
If you control the Virya by remaining as an Akhanda Brahmachari without
emission of even a single drop of semen for 12 years, mind and Prana are
controlled by themselves. Just as there is connection between wind and
fire (light), so also there is connection between Prana and mind. Wind
fans the fire. Prana also fans the mind. If there is no wind, fire or light
gets steady. Hatha Yogins approach Brahman by controlling Prana. Raja Yogins
approach Brahman by controlling mind.
In this Pranayama you need not close the nostrils. Simply close the eyes
if you practise it in a sitting posture. Forget the body and concentrate.
If you practise this during walking, just feel minutely the movement of
the air that is inhaled and exhaled.
Pranayama While Walking
Walk with head up, shoulders back and with chest expanded. Inhale slowly
through both nostrils counting OM mentally 3 times, one count for each
step. Then retain the breath till you count 12 OMs. Then exhale slowly
through both nostrils till you count 6 OMs. Take the respiratory pause
or rest after one Pranayama counting 12 OMs. If you find it difficult to
count OM with each step, count OM without having any concern with the steps.
Kapalabhati can also be done during walking. Those who are very busy can
practise the above Pranayama 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 place, when delightful gentle
breeze is blowing. You will be invigorated and innervated quickly to a
considerable degree. Practise, feel and realise the marked, beneficial
influence of this kind of Pranayama. Those who walk briskly, repeating
OM mentally or verbally do practise natural Pranayama without any effort.
Pranayama in Savasana
Lie down on the back, quiet at ease, over a blanket. Keep the hands on
the ground by the side and 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 a bedstead. Draw the breath slowly without making any
noise, through both nostrils. Retain the breath as long as you can do it
with comfort. Then exhale slowly through both nostrils. Repeat the process
12 times in the morning and 12 times in the evening. Chant OM mentally
during the practice. If you like you can practise the ‘easy comfortable
posture’ also. This is a combined exercise of Asana, Pranayama, meditation
and rest. It gives rest not only to the body but also for the mind. It
gives relief, comfort and ease. This is very suitable for aged people.
The breathing in men and women is very irregular. In exhalation the Prana
goes out 16 digits and in inhalation only 12 digits, thus losing 4 digits.
But if you inhale for 16 digits as in exhalation then you will have rhythmical
breathing. Then the power Kundalini will be roused. By the practice of
rhythmical breathing you will enjoy real good rest. You can control the
respiratory centre that is situated in medulla oblongata and other nerves
also, because the centre of respiration has a sort of controlling effect
on other nerves. He who has calm nerves, has a calm mind also.
If the units of exhalation and inhalation are the same, you will have rhythmical
breathing. If you inhale till you count 6 OMs, exhale also till you count
6 OMs. This is breathing in and out in a measured manner. This will harmonise
the whole system. This will harmonise the physical body, mind, Indriyas
and will soothe the tired nerves. You will experience full repose and calmness.
All the bubbling emotions will subside and the surging impulses will calm
There is another variety of modification of rhythmic breathing. Inhale
slowly through both nostrils for 4 OMs; retain the breath for 8 OMs (internal
Kumbhaka); exhale slowly through both nostrils for 4 OMs; and retain the
breath outside (external Kumbhaka) for 8 OMs.
Repeat the above process a number of times according to your strength and
capacity. You can gradually increase the duration of inhalation and exhalation
after some practice of 8 OMs and the period between breaths to 16 OMs.
But never try to increase the duration until you are sure that you have
power and strength to do so. You must experience joy and pleasure in doing
the same. You should not feel any undue strain. Pay considerable attention
to keep up the rhythm. Remember that the rhythm is more important than
the length of breath. You must feel the rhythm throughout your whole body.
Practice will make you perfect. Patience and perseverance are needed.
Sit on Padmasana or Siddhasana. Close the eyes. Keep the left nostril closed
with your right ring and little fingers. Slowly inhale without making any
sound as long as you can do it comfortably through the right nostril. Then
close the right nostril with your right thumb and retain the breath firmly
pressing the chin against the chest (Jalandhara Bandha). Hold on the breath
till perspiration oozes from the tips of the nails and roots of the hairs
(hair follicles). This point cannot be reached at the very outside. You
will have to increase the period of Kumbhaka gradually. This is the limit
of the sphere of practice of Surya Bheda Kumbhaka. Then exhale very slowly
without making any sound through the left nostril by closing the right
nostril with the thumb. Repeat OM mentally with Bhava and meaning during
inhalation, retention and exhalation. Exhale after purifying the skull
by forcing the breath up.
This Pranayama should again and again be performed, as it purifies the
brain and destroys the intestinal worms and diseases arising from excess
of wind (Vayu). This removes the four kinds of evils caused by Vayu and
cures Vata or rheumatism. It cures rhinitis, cephalalgia and various sorts
of neuralgia. The worms that are found in the frontal sinuses are removed.
It destroys decay and death, awakens Kundalini Sakti and increases the
Sit in Padmasana or Siddhasana. Close the mouth. Inhale slowly through
both the nostrils in a smooth, uniform manner till the breath fills the
space from the throat to the heart.
Retain the breath as long as you can do it comfortably and then exhale
slowly through the left nostril by closing the right nostril with your
right thumb. Expand the chest when you inhale. During inhalation a peculiar
sound is produced owing to the partial closing of glottis. The sound produced
during inhalation should be of a mild and uniform pitch. It should be continuous
also. This Kumbhaka may be practised even when walking or standing. Instead
of exhaling through the left nostril, you can exhale slowly through both
This removes the heat in the head. The practitioner becomes very beautiful.
The gastric fire is increased. It removes all the evils arising in the
body and the Dhatus and cures Jalodara (dropsy of the belly or ascites).
It removes phlegm in the throat, Asthma, consumption and all sorts of pulmonary
diseases are cured. All diseases that arise from deficient inhalation of
oxygen, and diseases of the heart are cured. All works are accomplished
by Ujjayi Pranayama. The practitioner is never attacked by diseases of
phlegm, nerves, dyspepsia, dysentery, enlarged spleen, consumption, cough
or fever. Perform Ujjayi to destroy decay and death.
Fold the tongue so that the tip of the tongue might touch the upper palate
and draw the air through the mouth with a hissing sound C C C C (or Si,
Si, Si, Si). Then retain the breath as long as you can without the feeling
of suffocation and then exhale slowly through both nostrils. You can keep
the two rows of teeth in contact and then inhale the air through the mouth
The practice enhances the beauty of the practitioner and vigour of his
body. It removes hunger, thirst, indolence and sleep. His strength will
be just like that of Indra. He becomes the Lord of Yogins. He is able to
do and undo things. He becomes an independent monarch. He becomes invincible.
No injury will affect him. When you are thirsty, practise this. You will
be relieved of thirst immediately.
Protrude the tongue a little away from the lips. Fold the tongue like a
tube. Draw in the air through the mouth with the hissing sound Si. Retain
the breath as long as you can hold on with comfort. Then exhale slowly
through both nostrils. Practise this daily again and again in the morning
from 15 to 30 times. You can do this either on Padmasana, Siddhasana, Vajrasana
or even when you stand or walk.
This Pranayama purifies the blood. It quenches thirst and appeases hunger.
It cools the system. It destroys Gulma (chronic dyspepsia), Pleeha, inflammation
of various chronic diseases, fever, consumption, indigestion, bilious disorders,
phlegm, the bad effects of poison, snake-bite, etc. When you are caught
up in a jungle or any place where you cannot get water, if you feel thirsty,
practise this Pranayama. You will be at once relieved of thirst. He who
practises this Pranayama regularly, will not be affected by the bite of
serpents and scorpions. Sitali Kumbhaka is an imitation of the respiration
of a serpent. The practitioner gets the power of casting his skin and enduring
the privation of air, water and food. He becomes a proof against all sorts
of inflammations and fever.
In Sanskrit Bhastrika means ‘bellows’. Rapid succession of forcible expulsion
is a characteristic feature of Bhastrika. Just as a blacksmith blows his
bellows rapidly, so also you should move your breath rapidly.
Sit on Padmasana. Keep the body, neck and head erect. Close the mouth.
Next, inhale and exhale quickly ten times like the bellows of the blacksmith.
Constantly dilate and contract. When you practise this Pranayama a hissing
sound is produced. The practitioner should start with rapid expulsions
of breath following one another in rapid succession. When the required
number of expulsions, say ten for a round, is finished, the final expulsion
is followed by a deepest possible inhalation. The breath is suspended as
long as it could be done with comfort. Then deepest possible exhalation
is done very slowly. The end of this deep exhalation completes one round
of Bhastrika. Rest a while after one round is over by taking a few normal
breaths. This will give you relief and make you fit for starting the second
round. Do three rounds daily in the morning. You can do another three rounds
in the evening also. Busy people who find it difficult to do three rounds
of Bhastrika can do one round at least. This also will keep them quite
Bhastrika is a powerful exercise. A combination of Kapalabhati and Ujjayi
makes up Bhastrika. Practise Kapalabhati and Ujjayi to start with. Then
you will find it very easy to do Bhastrika.
Some prolong the practice till they get tired. You will get perspiration
profusely. If you experience any giddiness stop the practice and take a
few normal breaths. Continue the practice after the giddiness has vanished.
Bhastrika can be done both in the morning and evening in winter. In summer
do it in the morning only during cool hours.
Bhastrika relieves inflammation of the throat, increases gastric fire,
destroys phlegm, removes diseases of the nose and chest and eradicates
asthma, consumption, etc. It gives good appetite. It breaks the three Granthis
or knots viz., Brahma Granthi, Vishnu Granthi and Rudra Granthi. It destroys
phlegm which is the bolt or obstacle to the door at the mouth of Brahma
Nadi (Sushumna). It enables one to know the Kundalini. It removes all diseases
which arise from excess of wind, bile and phlegm. It gives warmth to the
body. When you have no sufficient warm clothing in a cool region to protect
yourself from cold, practise this Pranayama and you will get sufficient
warmth in the body quickly. It purifies the Nadis considerably. It is the
most beneficial of all Kumbhakas. Bhastrika Kumbhaka should be specially
practised as it enables the Prana to break through the three Granthis or
knots that are firmly located in the Sushumna. It awakens the Kundalini
quickly. The practitioner will never suffer from any disease. He will always
The number of exhalations or rounds is determined by the strength and capacity
of the practitioner. You must not go to extremes. Some students do six
rounds. Some do twelve also.
You can practise Bhastrika in the following manner. There is some slight
change in the end. Having inhaled and exhaled quickly twenty times, inhale
through the right nostril, retain the breath as long as you can do it comfortably
and then exhale through the left nostril. Then inhale through the left
nostril, retain the breath as before and then exhale through the right
Repeat OM mentally with Bhava and meaning throughout the practice.
There are some varieties of Bhastrika wherein one nostril only is used
for breathing purposes and in another variety the alternate nostrils are
used for inhalation and exhalation.
Those who wish to do Bhastrika for a long time in an intense manner should
live on Khichdi, and take an enema or do Bhasti in the morning before starting
Sit on Padmasana or Siddhasana. Inhale rapidly through both nostrils making
sound of Bhramara, the bee, and exhale rapidly through both nostrils, making
the humming sound.
You can carry the process till the body is bathed in perspiration. In the
end inhale through both nostrils, retain the breath as long as you can
do it comfortably and then exhale slowly through both nostrils. The joy
which the practitioner gets in making the Kumbhaka is unlimited and indescribable.
In the beginning, heat of the body is increased as the circulation of blood
is quickened. In the end the body-heat is decreased by perspiration. By
success in this Bhramari Kumbhaka the Yogic student gets success in Samadhi.
Sit in your Asana and inhale. Retain the breath. Do Jalandhara Bandha by
pressing the chin against the chest. Retain the breath till you expect
fainting and then exhale slowly. This is Murchha Kumbhaka as it makes the
mind senseless and gives happiness. But this is not suitable for many.
Practice of this Pranayama demands skill on the part of the student. He
who practises this Plavini can do Jalastambha (solidification of water)
and float on water for any length of time. Mr. ‘S’ a Yogic student can
float on water for twelve hours at a stretch. He who practises this Plavini
Kumbhaka can live on air and dispense with food for some days. The student
actually drinks air like water slowly and sends 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. The help of one who is well versed in this Pranayama is also
necessary. The student can expel all the air from the stomach by gradual
Kumbhaka is of two kinds, viz., Sahita and Kevala. That which is coupled
with inhalation and exhalation is termed Sahita. That which is devoid of
these, is called Kevala (alone). When you get mastery in Sahita, then you
can attempt this Kevala. When in due course of practice, the Kumbhaka subsists
in many places without exhalation and inhalation and unconditioned by place,
time and number—then that Kumbhaka is called absolute and pure (Kevala
Kumbhaka), the fourth form of ‘Regulation of breath’. Such powers as that
of roaming about in space unseen, follow this last form of Pranayama. In
Vasishtha Samhita it is said: “When after giving up inhalation and exhalation,
one holds his breath with ease, it is absolute Kumbhaka (Kevala).” In this
Pranayama the breath is suddenly stopped without Puraka and Rechaka. The
student can retain his breath as long as he likes through this Kumbhaka.
He attains the state of Raja Yoga. Through Kevala Kumbhaka, the knowledge
of Kundalini arises. Kundalini is aroused and the Sushumna is free from
all sorts of obstacles. He attains perfection in Hatha Yoga. You can practise
this Kumbhaka three times a day. He who knows Pranayama and Kevala is the
real Yogi. What can he not accomplish in the three worlds, who has acquired
success in this Kevala Kumbhaka? Glory, glory to such exalted souls. This
Kumbhaka cures all diseases and promotes longevity.
Those who practise Pranayama, can impart their Prana in healing morbid
diseases. They can also recharge themselves with Prana in no time by practising
Kumbhaka. Never think that you will be depleted of your Prana by distributing
it to others. The more you give, the more it will flow to you from the
cosmic source (Hiranyagarbha). That is the law of nature. Do not become
a niggard. If there is a rheumatic patient, gently shampoo his legs with
your hands. When you do shampooing (massage), do Kumbhaka and imagine that
the Prana is flowing from your hands towards the leg of your patient. Connect
yourself with Hiranyagarbha or the Cosmic Prana and imagine that the cosmic
energy is flowing through your hands towards the legs of the patient. The
patient will at once feel warmth, relief and strength. You can cure headache,
intestinal colic or any other disease by massage and by your magnetic touch.
When you massage the liver, spleen, stomach or any other portion or organ
of the body, you can speak to the cells and give them orders: “O cells!
discharge your functions properly. I command you to do so.” They will obey
your orders. They too have got subconscious intelligence. Repeat OM when
you pass your Prana to others. Try a few cases. You will gain competence.
You can cure scorpion-sting also. Gently shampoo the leg and bring the
You can have extraordinary power of concentration, strong will and a perfectly
healthy and strong body by practising Pranayama regularly. You will have
to direct the power of Prana consciously to unhealthy parts of the body.
Suppose you have a sluggish liver. Sit on Padmasana. Close your eyes. Inhale
gently till you count OM 3 times. Then retain breath till you count OM
6 times. Direct the Prana to the region of the liver. Concentrate your
mind there. Fix your attention to that area. Imagine that Prana is interpenetrating
all the tissues and the cells of the lobes of the liver and doing its curative,
regenerating and constructive work there. Faith, imagination, attention
and interest play a very important part in curing disease by taking Prana
to the diseased areas. Then slowly exhale. During exhalation imagine that
the morbid impurities of the liver are thrown out. Repeat this process
12 times in the morning and 12 times in the evening. Sluggishness of liver
will vanish in a few days. This is a drugless treatment. This is nature-cure.
You can take the Prana to any part of the body during Pranayama and cure
any kind of disease, be it acute or chronic. Try once or twice in healing
yourself. Your convictions will grow stronger. Why do you cry like the
lady who is crying for ghee when she has butter in her hand, when you have
a cheap, potent, easily available remedy or agent Prana at your command
at all times! Use it judiciously. When you advance in your concentration
and practice, you can cure many diseases by mere touch. In the advanced
stages, many diseases are cured by mere will.
This is known as ‘absent treatment’ also. You can transmit your Prana through
space, to your friend, who is living at a distance. He should have a receptive
mental attitude. You must feel yourself en rapport (in direct relation
and in sympathy) with the man, whom you heal with this Distant Healing
You can fix hours of appointment with them through correspondence. You
can write to them: “Get ready at 4 a.m. Have a receptive mental attitude.
Lie down in an easy chair. Close your eyes. I shall transmit my Prana.”
Say mentally to the patient: “I am transmitting a supply of Prana (vital
force).” Do Kumbhaka when you send the Prana. Practise rhythmical breathing
also. Have a mental image that the Prana is leaving your mind when you
exhale; it is passing through space and is entering the system of the patient.
The Prana travels unseen like the wireless (radio) waves and flashes like
lightning across space. The Prana that is coloured by the thoughts of the
healer is projected outside. You can recharge yourself with Prana by practising
Kumbhaka. This requires long, steady and regular practice.
The practice of relaxing the muscles of the body will bring rest to the
body and to the mind also. The tension of the muscles will be relieved.
People who know the science of relaxation do not waste any energy. They
can meditate well. Take a few deep breaths and then lie down flat on your
back as in Savasana. Relax all the muscles of the body from head to feet.
Roll on to one side and then relax as thoroughly as you can do. Do not
strain the muscles. Roll on the other side and relax. This is naturally
done by all during sleep. There are various exercises in relaxation, for
the particular muscles of a particular part of the body. You can relax
the head, the shoulders, the arms, forearms, wrist, etc. Yogins know the
science of relaxation thoroughly. When you practise these various relaxation
exercises, you must have the mental picture of calmness and strength.
Relaxation of Mind
Mental poise and calmness may be brought about by the eradication of worry
and anger. Fear really underlies both worry and anger. Nothing is gained
by worry and anger, but on the contrary much energy is wasted by these
two kinds of lower emotions. If a man worries much and if he is irritable,
he is indeed a very weak man. Be careful and thoughtful. All unnecessary
worries can be avoided. Relaxation of the muscles reacts on the mind and
brings repose to the mind. Relaxation of the mind brings rest to the body
also. Body and mind are intimately connected. Body is a mould prepared
by the mind for its enjoyment.
Sit for 15 minutes in a relaxed and easy comfortable position. Close your
eyes. Withdraw the mind from outside objects. Still the mind. Silence the
bubbling thoughts. Think that the body is like a coconut shell and you
are entirely different from the body. Think that the body is an instrument
in your hands. Identify yourself with the all-pervading Spirit or Atman.
Imagine that the whole world and your body are floating like a piece of
straw in this vast ocean of Spirit. Feel that you are in touch with the
Supreme Being. Feel that the life of the whole world is pulsating, vibrating
and throbbing through you. Feel that the ocean of life is gently rocking
you on its vast bosom. Then open your eyes. You will experience immense
mental peace, mental vigour and mental strength. Practise and feel this.
Importance and Benefits of Pranayama
“The illusory Samsaric Vasana that has arisen through the practice of many
lives, never perishes except through the practice of Yoga for a long time.
It is not possible on the part of one to control the mind by sitting up
again and again except through the approved means” (Muktikopanishad).
“How could Jnana, capable of giving Moksha, arise certainly without Yoga?
And even Yoga becomes powerless in securing Moksha when it is devoid of
Jnana. So the aspirant after emancipation should practise (firmly) both
Yoga and Jnana” (Yogatattva Upanishad).
“Tatah kshiyate prakasavaranam—Thence the covering of the light is destroyed”
(Yoga Sutras—II-52). Tamas and Rajas constitute the covering or veil. This
veil is removed by the practice of Pranayama. After the veil is removed,
the real nature of the soul is realised. The Chitta is by itself made up
of the Sattvic particles, but it is enveloped by Rajas and Tamas, just
as the fire is enveloped by smoke. There is no purificatory action greater
than Pranayama. Pranayama gives purity and the light of knowledge shines.
The Karma of the Yogi, which covers up the discriminative knowledge is
destroyed as he practises Pranayama. By the magic panorama of desire, the
essence, which is luminous by nature is covered up and the Jiva or individual
soul is directed towards vice. This Karma of the Yogi which covers up the
Light and binds him to repeated births, becomes attenuated by the practice
of Pranayama every moment and is destroyed eventually. The afflictions
and sins constitute the cover according to Vachaspati.
Manu says: “Let the defects be burnt up by Pranayama.” Vishnu Purana speaks
of Pranayama as an accessory to Yoga: “He who wants the air known as Prana
by practice is said to have secured Pranayama.”
“Dharanasu cha yogyata manasah—The mind becomes fit for concentration”
(Yoga Sutras, II-53). You will be able to concentrate the mind, nicely
after this veil of the light has been removed. The mind will be quite steady
like the flame in a windless place as the disturbing energy has been removed.
The word Pranayama is sometimes used collectively for inhalation, retention
and exhalation of breath and sometimes for each of these severally. When
the Prana Vayu moves in the Akasa-Tattva, the breathing will be lessened.
At this time it will be easy to stop the breath. The velocity of the mind
will be slowly lessened by Pranayama. It will induce Vairagya.
If you can suspend one inch or digit of breath inside, you will obtain
the powers of foretelling; if you can suspend two inches within, you will
get the power of thought-reading, for suspending the breath for three inches,
levitation; for four inches, psychometry, clairaudience, etc; for five
inches, moving about unseen by anybody in the world; for six inches, the
power of ‘Kaya Siddhi’; for seven inches, entering the body of another
man (Parakaya Pravesa); for eight inches, the power to remain always young;
for nine inches, the power to make Devas to work as your servants; for
ten inches Anima, Mahima and other Siddhis; and for eleven inches, you
will attain oneness with Paramatman. When through great practice the Yogi
can perform Kumbhaka for full three hours, then he can balance himself
on his thumb. He undoubtedly attains all kinds of Siddhis. Just as fire
destroys the fuel, so also Pranayama destroys the bundles of sins. Pratyahara
makes the mind calm. Dharana steadies the mind. Dhyana makes one forget
the body and the world. Samadhi brings infinite Bliss, Knowledge, Peace
During Yogic Samadhi, the flame of the Yogagni (fire of Yoga) extending
from navel to the head melts the Amrita in the Brahmarandhra. The Yogi
drinks this with joy and ecstasy. He can remain without food and drink
for months by drinking this Yogic nectar alone.
The body becomes lean, strong and healthy. Too much fat is reduced. There
is lustre in the face. Eyes sparkle like a diamond. The practitioner becomes
very handsome. Voice becomes sweet and melodious. The inner Anahata sounds
are distinctly heard. The student is free from all sorts of diseases. He
gets established in Brahmacharya. Semen gets firm and steady. The Jatharagni
(gastric fire) is augmented. The student becomes so perfect in Brahmacharya
that his mind will not be shaken even if a fairy tries to embrace him.
Appetite becomes keen. Nadis are purified. The Vikshepa is removed and
the mind becomes one-pointed. Rajas and Tamas are destroyed. The mind is
prepared for Dharana and Dhyana. The excretions become scanty. Steady practice
arouses inner spiritual light, happiness and peace of mind. It makes him
an Urdhvareto-Yogi. Advanced students only will get all the other Siddhis
The mind of a man can be made to transcend ordinary experience and exist
on a plane higher than that of reason known as superconscious state of
concentration and get beyond the limit of concentration. He 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 to a Yogi, the kindling of the fire of supreme knowledge,
the realisation of the Self.
1. In the early morning, answer the calls of nature and sit for the practice.
Practise Pranayama, in a dry well-ventilated room. Pranayama requires deep
concentration and attention. It is always better to have the practice in
a steady sitting posture. Do not keep anyone by your side to avoid distraction
of your mind.
2. Before you sit for Pranayama practice, thoroughly clean the nostrils
well. You can take a small quantity of fruit-juice or a small cup of milk
or coffee even before the practice. When you finish the practice take a
cup of milk or light tiffin after 10 minutes.
3. Have one sitting only in the morning during summer. If there is heat
in the brain or head, apply Amla oil or butter on the head before you take
your bath. Take Misri Sherbat by dissolving sugar candy in water. This
will cool your whole system. Do Sitali Pranayama also. You will not be
affected by the heat.
4. Strictly avoid too much talking, eating, sleeping, mixing with friends
and exertion. “Verily Yoga is not for him who eateth too much, nor who
abstaineth to excess, is addicted to too much sleep nor even to wakefulness”
(Gita VI-16). Take a little ghee with rice when you take your meals. This
will lubricate the bowels and allow Vayu to move downwards freely.
5. “Mitaharam vina yastu yogarambham tu karayet, Nanaroga bhavettasya kinchid
yogo na sidhyati—Without observing moderation of diet, if one takes to
the Yoga practices, he cannot obtain any benefit but gets various diseases”
(Ghe.S. Chap. V-16).
6. Perfect celibacy for six months or one year will doubtless enable you
to acquire rapid progress in the practice and in spiritual advancement.
Do not talk with ladies. Do not laugh and joke with them. Shun their company
entirely. Without Brahmacharya and dietetic regulations if you practise
Yogic exercises, you will not get maximum benefit in the spiritual practices.
But, for ordinary health you can practise mild exercises.
7. Be regular and systematic in your practice. Never miss a day. Stop the
practice when you are ailing seriously. Some people twist the muscles of
the face when they do Kumbhaka. It should be avoided. It is a symptom to
indicate that they are going beyond their capacity. This must be strictly
avoided. Such people cannot have a regulated Rechaka and Puraka.
8. Obstacles in Yoga: “Sleeping in day time, late vigil over night, excess
of urine and faeces, evil of unwholesome food and laborious mental operation
with Prana.” When one is attacked by any disease, he says that the disease
is due to the practice of Yoga. This is a serious mistake.
9. Get up at 4 a.m. Meditate or do Japa for half an hour. Then do Asanas
and Mudras. Take rest for 15 minutes. Then do Pranayama. Physical exercises
can be conveniently combined with Asanas. If you have sufficient time at
your disposal, you can have it after finishing all the Yogic exercises
and meditation. Pranayama can also be performed as soon as you get up from
bed just before Japa and meditation. It will make your body light and you
will enjoy the meditation. You must have a routine according to your convenience
10. Maximum benefit can be derived if Japa also is done during the practice
of Asanas and Pranayama.
11. It is always better to start Japa and meditation in the early morning
at 4 a.m., as soon as you get up from bed. At this time the mind is quite
calm and refreshed. You can have good concentration.
12. Vast majority of persons waste their precious time in the early morning
in answering the calls of nature for half an hour and washing their teeth
for another half an hour. This is bad. Aspirants should try to defecate
within 5 minutes and cleanse their teeth within 5 minutes. If the bowels
are constipated, have vigorous practice of Salabha, Bhujanga and Dhanur
Asanas for 5 minutes as soon as you get up from bed. If you are habituated
to answer the call of nature, late, you can do so after finishing the Yogic
13. First do Japa and meditation. Then you can take to Asana and Pranayama
exercises. Then finish the course of practice by another short sitting
14. AS there is always some drowsiness when you get up from bed, it is
desirable to do some Asanas and a little Pranayama for five minutes just
to drive off this drowsiness and to make you fit for meditation. The mind
gets one-pointed after the practice of Pranayama. Pranayama, though it
concerns with the breath, gives good exercise for various internal organs
and the whole body.
15. The general order of doing Kriyas is: First do all Asanas, then Mudras,
then Pranayama and then Dhyana. Since the early morning time is suitable
for meditation, you can follow this order: Japa, Meditation, Asanas, Mudras
and Pranayama. This is a better way. You can follow the order which is
suitable to you. After doing Asanas, take rest for five minutes and then
16. Some Hatha Yogic books interdict cold bath in the early morning. Probably
the reason may be that one may catch cold or develop any complaint of the
lungs, if he takes cold bath at 4 a.m. particularly in cold places like
Kashmir, Mussoorie, Darjeeling, etc. There is no restriction in hot places.
I am always in favour of cold baths before one starts the Yogic practices
as it is refreshing and stimulating. It drives off drowsiness. It brings
in equilibrium of circulation of blood. There is a healthy flow of blood
towards the brain.
17. Asanas and Pranayama remove all sorts of diseases, improve health,
energise digestion, invigorate the nerves, straighten the Sushumna Nadi,
remove Rajas and awaken Kundalini. Practice of Asanas and Pranayama bestows
good health and steady mind. As no Sadhana is possible without good health
and as no meditation is possible without a steady mind, Hatha Yoga is of
immense use for Dhyana Yogins, Karma Yogins, Bhaktas and Vedantins as well.
18. The maintenance of the body is impossible without Asanas or any kind
of physical exercises or activities. Even an orthodox Vedantin is an unconscious
Hatha Yogi. He practises some kind of Asana daily. He practises Pranayama
also unconsciously because during meditation, Pranayama comes by itself.
19. Whenever you feel uneasy, depressed or dejected, practise Pranayama.
You will be at once filled with new vigour, energy and strength. You will
be elevated, renovated and filled with joy. Do this and try. Before you
begin to write something, an essay, an article or a thesis, do Pranayama
first. You will bring out beautiful ideas and it will be an inspiring,
powerful and original production.
20. Be regular in the practice. Regularity in the practice is very necessary
if one wants to realise the maximum benefits of Asanas and Pranayama. Those
who practise by fits and starts will not derive much benefit. Generally
people practise for two months in the beginning with great enthusiasm and
leave off the practice. This is a sad mistake. They always want a Yogic
teacher by their side. They have got the effeminate leaning mentality.
They are lazy, torpid and slothful.
21. People do not want to remove Mala (impurity) by selfless service and
Vikshepa by Yogic practices. They at once jump to awaken the Kundalini
and raise Brahmakara Vritti. They will only break their legs. Those who
attempt to awaken the Kundalini by Asanas and Pranayama, should have purity
in thought, word and deed. They should have mental and physical Brahmacharya.
Then only they can enjoy the benefits of awakening the Kundalini.
22. Sow the seed of spirituality in your young age. Do not waste Virya.
Discipline the Indriyas and mind. Do Sadhana. When you become old, it will
be difficult for you to do any rigid Sadhana. Therefore be on the alert
during your teens; you will see for yourself in a short time the particular
benefits you derive from particular kinds of Sadhana.
23. When you advance in spiritual practices, you must observe strict Mouna
(vow of silence) for 24 hours continuously. This must be continued for
some months also. Everyone should select a course of few exercises in Asana,
Pranayama and meditation according to one’s temperament, capacity, convenience
24. It is quite possible for a man to practise celibacy, albeit there are
various sorts of temptations and distractions. A well-disciplined life,
study of scriptures, Satsanga, Japa, Dhyana, Pranayama, Sattvic and moderate
diet, daily introspection, and enquiry, self-analysis and self-correction,
Sadachara, practice of Yama, Niyama, physical and verbal Tapas, all will
pave a long way in the attainment of this end. People have irregular, unrighteous,
immoderate, irreligious, undisciplined life. Hence they suffer and fail
in the attainment of the goal of life. Just as the elephant throws sand
on its own head, so also they themselves bring difficulties and troubles
on their own heads on account of their foolishness.
25. Do not shake the body unnecessarily. By shaking the body often the
mind also is disturbed. Do not stretch the body every now and then. The
Asana should be steady and firm as a rock when you do Pranayama, Japa and
26. You must find out for yourself according to your health and constitution
what sort of dietetic regulation will suit and what particular Pranayama
will exactly help you. Then only you can safely proceed with your Sadhana.
First read all the instructions of the various exercises given in this
book from the beginning to the end. Clearly understand the technique. If
you have any doubts, just ask any Yogic student to demonstrate and then
practise it. This is the safest method. You should not select any one of
the exercise at random and begin to practise it in a wrong way.
27. In all the exercises I have suggested Mantra ‘OM’ as the time-unit.
You can have your Guru Mantra, Rama, Siva, Gayatri or mere number as the
time-unit according to your inclination. Gayatri or OM is the best for
Pranayama. In the beginning you must observe some time-unit for Puraka,
Kumbhaka and Rechaka. The time-unit and the proper ratio comes by itself
when you do the Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka as long as you can do it comfortably.
When you have advanced in the practice, you need not count or keep any
unit. You will be naturally established in the normal ratio through force
28. For some days in the beginning you must count the number and see how
you progress. In the advanced stages, you need not distract the mind in
counting. The lungs will tell you when the required number is finished.
29. Do not continue the Pranayama when you are fatigued. There must be
always joy and exhilaration of spirit during and after the practice. You
should come out of the practice fully invigorated and refreshed. Do not
bind yourself by too many rules (Niyamas).
30. Do not take bath immediately after Pranayama is over. Take rest for
half an hour. If you get perspiration during the practice, do not wipe
it with a towel. Rub it with your hands. Do not expose the body to the
chill draughts of air when you perspire.
31. Always inhale and exhale very slowly. Do not make any sound. In Pranayamas
like Bhastrika, Kapalabhati, Sitali and Sitkari, you can produce a little
mild or the lowest possible sound.
32. You should not expect the benefits after doing it for 2 or 3 minutes
only for a day or two. At least you must have 15 minutes daily practice
in the beginning regularly for days together. There will be no use if you
jump from one exercise to another everyday. You must have a particular
exercise for your daily Abhyasa, which you should improve to a high degree.
Other exercises of course, you can have for occasional practice along with
the daily exercise. You must have Bhastrika, Kapalabhati and ‘Easy Comfortable
Pranayama’ for your daily practice; and Sitali, Sitkari, etc., can be practised
33. The Puraka is otherwise known as ‘Nissvasa’ and Rechaka is known as
‘Uchhvasa’. The mental process in Kevala Kumbhaka is called ‘Sunyaka’ form
of breath regulation. Steady, systematic practice and gradual increase
of Kumbhaka is known as ‘Abhyasa Yoga’, swallowing of air and living on
this air alone is known as ‘Vayubhakshana’.
34. The author of Sivayoga Dipika describes three kinds of Pranayama: Prakrita,
Vaikrita and Kevala Kumbhaka. “If the Prana is in the form of breath inhaled
and exhaled, on account of its natural quality of going out and coming
in, the Pranayama is known as Prakrita. If the Prana is restrained by the
threefold means of throwing out, taking in and stopping the breath in accordance
with the rules prescribed in the Sastras, it is called Vaikrita or artificial.
But with great men who have risen above these two kinds of restraining
breath, the sudden restraining of the vital currents directly (without
inspiration and expiration), is Kevala Kumbhaka. Prakrita Pranayama belongs
to Mantra Yoga. Vaikrita belongs to Laya Yoga.”
35. “That is called Kumbhaka (cessation of breath) when there is neither
expiration nor inspiration and the body is motionless, remaining still
in one state. Then he sees forms like the blind, hears sounds like the
deaf and sees the body like wood. This is the characteristic of one who
has attained quiescence.”
36. Patanjali does not lay much stress on practice of different kinds of
Pranayama. He mentions: “Exhale slowly, then inhale and retain the breath.
You will get a steady and calm mind.” It is only the Hatha Yogins who developed
Pranayama as a science and have mentioned various exercises to suit different
37. “Spread a tiger-skin or a deer-skin or a fourfold blanket. Over this
spread a piece of white cloth. Then sit for the Pranayama practice facing
38. Some would take the order as exhaling, inhaling and retaining; others
as inhaling, retaining and exhaling. The latter is more common. In Yajnavalkya,
we find the different kinds of breath regulation mentioned in the order
of Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka; whereas, in Naradiya text we have them
in the order of Rechaka, Puraka and Kumbhaka. The two are to be regulated
as optional alternatives.
39. A Yogi should always avoid fear, anger, laziness, too much sleep or
waking and too much food or fasting. If the above rule be well strictly
practised, each day, spiritual wisdom will arise of itself in three months
without doubt; in four months, he sees the Devas; in five months he knows
or becomes a Brahmanishtha; and truly in six months he attains Kaivalya
at will. There is no doubt.
40. A neophyte should do Puraka and Rechaka only without any Kumbhaka for
some days. Take a long time to do Rechaka. The proportion for Puraka and
Rechaka is 1:2.
41. Pranayama in its popular and preparatory form may be practised by every
one in any posture whatsoever, sitting or walking; and yet is sure to show
its benefits. But to those who practise it in accordance with the specific
methods prescribed, fructification will be rapid.
42. Gradually increase the period of Kumbhaka. Retain for 4 seconds in
the first week, for 8 seconds in the second week, for 12 seconds in the
third week and so on, till you are able to retain the breath to your full
43. Common-sense or Yukti should be used throughout your practice. If one
kind of exercise is not agreeable to your system, change it after due consideration
or consultation with your Guru. This is Yukti. Where there is Yukti, there
is Siddhi, Bhukti and Mukti (perfection, enjoyment and salvation).
44. You must so nicely adjust the Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka that you
should not experience the feeling of suffocation or discomfort at any stage
of Pranayama. You should never feel the necessity of catching hold of a
few normal breaths between any two successive rounds. The duration of Puraka,
Kumbhaka and Rechaka must be properly adjusted. Exercise due care and attention.
Matters will turn to be successful and easy.
45. You must not unnecessarily prolong the period of exhalation. If you
prolong the time of Rechaka, the following inhalation will be done in a
hurried manner and the rhythm will be disturbed. You must so carefully
regulate the Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka that must be absolutely comfortable
and perform not only one Pranayama but also the full course or required
rounds of Pranayama. Experience and practice will make you alright. Practice
makes one perfect. Be steady. Another important factor is that you must
have efficient control over the lungs at the end of Kumbhaka to enable
you to do the Rechaka smoothly and in proportion with the Puraka.
46. Suryabheda and Ujjayi produce heat. Sitkari and Sitali are cooling.
Bhastrika preserves normal temperature. Suryabheda destroys excess of wind;
Ujjayi phlegm; Sitkari and Sitali bile; and Bhastrika all the three.
47. Suryabheda and Ujjayi must be practised during winter. Sitkari and
Sitali must be practised in summer. Bhastrika can be practised in all seasons.
Those persons whose bodies are hot even in winter can practise Sitali and
Sitkari during winter season.
48. Goal of life is self-realisation. “This is brought about by means of
the subjugation of the body and the senses, the service to a good Guru,
the hearing of Vedantic doctrine and constant meditation thereon” (Niralamba
Upanishad). “If you are really sincere and if you wish to have a quick,
sure success, you must have a systematic routine for Asana, Pranayama,
Japa, Meditation, Svadhyaya, etc. You must be very careful in keeping up
Brahmacharya. Effective means to control the mind are the attainment of
spiritual knowledge, association with the wise, the entire abdication of
all Vasanas and control of Prana” (Muktikopanishad).
49. Once again I will tell you that Asana, Pranayama, Japa, Dhyana, Brahmacharya,
Satsanga, solitude, Mouna, Nishkama Karma are all absolutely necessary
for spiritual attainments. One can hardly obtain perfection in Raja Yoga
without Hatha Yoga. At the end of Kumbhaka you should withdraw the mind
from all the objects. By gradual practice you will be established in Raja
50. Some students who are studying Vedantic books think that they are Jnanis
and they ignore Asanas, Pranayama, etc. They also should practise these,
till they are perfect in Shat-Sampat of the Sadhana-Chatushtaya—Sama, Dama,
etc.,—the preliminary qualifications of Jnana Yoga.
51. Do not hesitate. Do not be waiting to get a Guru who will sit by your
side and watch you daily for a long time. If you are sincere, regular and
systematic and if you follow rules and instructions of this book very carefully,
there will be no trouble at all. You will undoubtedly get success. Slight
errors may crop up in the beginning, it does not matter. Do not unnecessarily
be alarmed. Do not give up the practice. You will yourself learn how to
adjust. Common-sense, instinct, the shrill inner voice of the soul will
help you in the path. Everything will come out smoothly in the end. Start
the practice this very second in right earnest and become a real Yogi.
OM Santih, Santih, Santih!