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The Science of Pranayama


Sri Swami Sivananda

A DIVINE LIFE SOCIETY PUBLICATION Fourth Edition: 1998 (1,000 Copies) World Wide Web (WWW) Edition : 1999. http://www.sivanandadlshq.org/home.html
This WWW reprint is for free distribution © The Divine Life Trust Society
Published By THE DIVINE LIFE SOCIETY P.O. Shivanandanagar—249 192 Distt. Tehri-Garhwal, Uttar Pradesh, Himalayas, India.

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 bliss.

“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 mind.

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 or part.

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 number.”

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 Pranayamas daily.

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 despair.

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 (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 32 times.

3. Fix the gaze at the tip of the nose. Inhale through the left nostril repeating the Bija (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 disposal.

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 naturally relaxed.

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 round.

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.

Rhythmical Breathing

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 down.

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.

Surya Bheda

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 bodily fire.

Surya Bheda


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 nostrils.

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 as before.

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 fit.

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 be healthy.

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 nostril.

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 the practice.


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.

Murcha Pranayama


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 belching.

Kevala Kumbhaka

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.

Pranic Healing

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 poison down.

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.

Distant Healing

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 method.

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 and Liberation.

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 mentioned above.

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.

Special Instructions

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 and time.

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 exercises.

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 in meditation.

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 begin Pranayama.

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 and requirement.

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 meditation.

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 of habit.

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 occasionally.

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 persons.

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 the North.”

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 capacity.

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 Yoga.

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!

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