Yogic Breathing That Promotes Control Over Senses
Yogic Breathing – Have you ever noticed that when you are surprised by incredible news you tend to hold your breath? It is a natural reaction. This can also work backwards, i.e., if you can control your breathing, you can control your mind. This is the basic principle behind “pranayama” – the technique of yogic breathing exercises.
Though on a gross level you are trying to gain control over your breathing, in essence subconsciously you are trying to gain control over your very prana (the vital life force).
Prana means “life force” and “yama” means “practice”. So, pranayama is the science of gaining control over vital life force beginning with gaining control over your breath.
On an average a human being has a respiratory rate of 15 to 20 respirations. Ancient Indian yogis believed that by reducing the respiratory rate, longevity can be enhanced. Yogis have recommended that you should draw breath, hold breath, and breath out at the ratio of 1:4:2 for healthy living. Holding breath is called “Kumbaka pranayama”. Kumbaka pranayama helps you to gain control over the working of your mind and ultimately over your senses. A regular practice of this improves the pranic energy of an individual to a great extent. This is the reason that pranayama is mandatory before performing occult rituals in Indian tradition. Pranayama clears the naadi channels of the body and facilitate smooth flow of kundalini in its jouney up the various charkas of our body.
A regular practitioner of pranayama gains such pranic vitality that he can use his pranic energy for healing purposes. Very many occult siddhis (psi abilities) are obtained if a practitioner is successful in performance of pranayama. There are various types of pranayama: some are useful for purification of body (like bastika), some are useful for improving vitality, some to generate heat, some to improve stamina, some to cool your body (seethali pranayama),etc. These should be learnt under the close supervision of an expert as faulty practice of these can lead to undesirable side effects.
Yogic Breathing – A simple pranayama technique which anyone can do
Curing physical ailments using pranayama is a science in itself and only expert yogic guides can help you with those. However there is one particular type of pranayama called suka-purvaka pranayama which anyone can practice with good results. In this respiration is done with alternate nostrils. Close your nostril with your right thumb. Draw in air for a duration of 5 seconds. After that close both nostrils and hold your breath for a duration of 20 seconds. Then release the air slowly for a duration of 10 seconds with your right nostril (by closing the left nostril with the little and ring fingers of your right hand). Now, closing the left nostril, draw in air using the right nostril for 5 seconds. Hold breath for 20 seconds, and leave out air through your left nostril (by closing your right nostril with your right thumb). This is one cycle of suka-puraka pranayama. Beginners should restrict themselves to 5 cycles per day and should progress gradually.
Physiological/ psychic benefits of Pranayama
The practice of this pranayama mentioned above improves vitality, gives cure from respiratory diseases, improves the functioning of the lungs, and helps the yogi to convert ojas (physical vitality) into tejas (spiritual and psychic vitality). While practising this, you will observe that your mind comes under your control gradually. You will feel energized after this practice. The time duration I have mentioned above is for beginners. As you progress, you can gradually improve on the duration taking care to maintain the ratio of 1:4:2. Never exert yourself forcibly while doing this. This should be done with a conscious mind and deliberate rythm. You will find that this is a very good stress-busting exercise. However those suffering from chronic blood pressure ailments and heart patients should consult their physicians before practising this.
Yogic Breathing – Some powerful visualizations during pranayama:
1) As you draw in your breath, visualize as if the air that you suck in is saturated with cosmic energy, and that your body is being charged with those cosmic currents in a highly positive manner.
2) As you hold breath (Kumbhakaa phase of the praanaayama), visualize as if all the negativities of your life are getting burnt in the triangular fire pit that is in your abdomen, and that they are all reduced to ashes.
3) As you breath out (Raechaka phase), visualize as if those ashes of negativity are being expelled out with the air that your breathe out.
4) Instead of sukha-Poorvaka pranayama mentioned before, if you are just doing deep breathing for relaxation, you may visualize the syllable “SO” while you take in air, and visualize the syllable “Hum” (“u” as in cut, mud, etc.) as you exhale the air. “ Soham” is the natural rhythm of breathing – it is nearly the natural sound of air as we inhale and exhale; it is called “Ajapaa Gayathri” – the Gayathri mantra that we all do unconsciously roughly 21,600 times per day! Now you can do that consciously and dedicate it to your favourite Deity which makes the process of mere breathing into one of deep spiritual significance.
This visualization is very powerful and performing 20 cycles per day will help you to get “Vajra Deha Siddhi” – i.e. perfect state of health and vitality in the body, which can be a great aid in attaining greater yogic siddhis (including levitation at will, traveling in astral planes, etc.).
Even if you are not a person who is after siddhis or paranormal powers, normal pranayama practice has so many benefits to you even on a mundane level as already explained, and hence this is one yogic practice that everyone should strive to do regularly.
Let the wisdom of ancient Indian seers help you to lead a better and healthy life.
Recommended further reading:
1) Swami Sivananda’s essays on Pranayama
2) Patanjali yoga sutras.
3) Yoga Vasishta.
Article by Pandit R Dakshinamoorthi