PRANA is the vital force of the Universe.
PRANAYAMA is the method of controlling this force.
The Yogis secure this control by a scientific process of breathing.
Breath is Life. Some by inherent nature breathe properly, but others must discover the way. Some by inherent nature become great artists, while others have to acquire this by work.
Breath is like the fly-wheel of a machine. In a large engine the flywheel is the first thing to move and that motion is conveyed to the finer and finer machinery, until the most delicate and finest mechanism in the machine is in motion.
The breath is that fly-wheel! It supplies and regulates this motive power for the entire body.
We never breathe from both nostrils at the same time. According to the Yoga method, we should use the following formula: 12 seconds inhalation (Puraka) 4 seconds retrain or hold (Kumbhaka) 8 seconds exhale (Rechaka)
When you have practiced Yogi breathing for a few months you will wonder where you have been all these years. You will say, “I never knew I could achieve such results.”
Respiration may be classified into four types, viz., High-Breathing, Mid-Breathing, Low-Breathing and Yoga-Breathing. High-breathing is what we know as clavicular or collarbone breathing. In this breathing only the upper part of the chest and lungs, which is the smallest part, is used, and consequently, a minimum amount of air enters the lungs. In addition to this, the diaphragm, a partition separating the thoracic from the abdominal cavity, being raised, it compresses the lowest portion of the lungs and thus no expansion of the lungs occurs downwards. In this breathing, there is a maximum amount of effort made to obtain a minimum amount of benefit.
Mid-breathing, to which we are normally accustomed, is what we call intercostal or thoracic breathing. It is less objectionable that high breathing, but inferior to low-breathing.
Low-breathing or diaphragmatic breathing is far better than the two previously mentioned forms of breathing. Western writers have now come to learn the importance of this breathing and have largely extolled its merits in their health magazines. In this breathing the movement of the diaphragm plays a very important part. The diaphragm when at rest, presents a concave surface to the abdominal cavity and is protruded in the chest like a cone. When it is brought into use, the conical
appearance disappears and the diaphragm presses on the abdominal contents and forces the abdomen out. This breathing fills the lower and middle parts only.
Yoga breathing includes all the three modes. The process for this breathing is as follows: The upper part of the lungs is first filled with air; then, by expanding the ribs an additional volume of air is further inhaled to fill up the middle portion of the lungs. Thus, in Yoga breathing, the whole of the lungs from apex to base is filled with air at each inspiration so as to absorb the maximum amount of prana.
After you have learned to expand the lungs to their fullest capacity, the next step is to bring a rhythm into the respiration.
This rhythm bears a fixed relation to inhalation and retention of breath and again to retention of breath and exhalation,- and when complete mastery over this rhythm and full expansion of the lungs is obtained, prana or energy may be willed into any particular part of the body.
The training of the will by Pranayama gives exercise to the mind, so that in course of time, it acquires a capacity to respond to the super-conscious, which is the object of Pranayama in the science and philosophy of Yoga.
By this process the body automatically adjusts itself to your method of thought. When you get accustomed to this process of breathing you will find your thoughts clarified, and with this clarification of your thoughts, you will be able to concentrate indefinitely.
Should you desire to bring to your memory past ideas, hold the head upward after thinking for a minute or so and the ideas will come to you.
The method by which the flow can be changed from one nostril to the other is very important, for in cases of disease or trouble, the change of flow will have quick and favorable results.
In the majority of people, owing to cold or catarrh, the nasal passage gets occasionally obstructed with mucus or catarrhal matter. This affects the breath-flow, and causes the health of the person to become impaired. By the practice of the following method you can keep the nasal passage unobstructed, and be free from cold, catarrh, headaches, etc,
Nasal douching: Take a cup full of pure cool water near your nostrils and immerse the nose, closing one of the nostrils with one of your fingers. Then inhale the water till a quantity of it comes down the nasal passage into the mouth, from where it can be thrown out. You may feel a little pain and irritation at first, but after some practice this will disappear.
Now repeat the same process with the other nostril. After about a week’s practice each nostril may be washed three or four times in this way. You can practice this every morning when you have your morning ablutions. Then you can either take the water in the cup of your right hand and inhale it, or immerse your face in the basin of water. Practice this every day.
Various methods for changing the flow;
1. Get a small piece’ of cloth from a clean old soft cotton rag. Make this into a ball large enough to be inserted into your nostril. With this close the flowing nostril, and the breath will begin to flow from the other. You may even use a ball of clean cotton for this purpose,
2. Keep the flowing nostril closed for some time with one of your fingers and the breath-flow will change to the other.
3. Inhale through the flowing nostril and then close that nostril and exhale through the other. Repeat this process for some minutes and then reverse it, and the flow will change to the other.
- LESSON SIX
- LESSON EIGHT