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).

Reference

‘The Science of Pranayama’ by Sri Swami Sivananda

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Pran Mudra

Pran Mudra

This technique is called Pran Mudra

Purpose

This is called the Mudra of Life as it improves our vital life force and empowers our life from the inside out.

Practice

Bend the ring finger and the little finger and touch the tip of the thumb with their tips keeping the remaining two fingers stretched upward and together. Do this with both hands placing them comfortably by your side or on your lap while relaxing the shoulders.

Taking deep and complete breaths begin observing the sensations in your body. If you are feeling you need more energy, focus on extending your inhale twice the duration of your complete exhale. If you are feeling at all anxious or nervous, try elongating your exhale twice as long as your deep inhale.

Can you feel the energy between your fingertips? Do you notice some softening in any tight areas? What colors and textures does your mind’s eye see? Notice any thoughts that arise while trying not to follow any specific line of thought. Just keep returning to your Body Current™ by focusing your awareness on your breath and the sensations in your body.

You can do this anywhere, anytime for however long you wish! There are no contraindications and the side effects are great! Enjoy this simple and accessible technique whenever you need a bit more balance and ease.

Benefits

  • Balances the adrenals and nervous system
  • Balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain
  • Calms the limbic system
  • Improves fatigue

Happy Balancing to you!

Source: http://venuschild.tumblr.com/post/43720611767

Food and Breath – 2

“Now is described the discipline for inner purification by which self-knowledge is attained: When the food is pure, the mind becomes pure. When the mind is pure the memory [smriti–memory of our eternal spirit-Self] becomes firm. When the memory is firm all ties are loosened” (Chandogya Upanishad 7.26.2).

“On food rests everything—whatsoever breathes and whatsoever breathes not” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.5.1). “From food has arisen strength [virya], austerity [tapasya], mantra, action, and the world itself” (Prashna Upanishad 6.4).

“By food, indeed, do all the breaths [pranas, life forces] become great” (Taittiriya Upanishad 1.5.4). “Man, verily consists of the essence of food” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2.1.1). So we are what we eat.

“From food, verily, are produced all creatures–whatsoever dwell on earth. By food alone, furthermore, do they live.…From food all creatures are born: by food, when born, they grow.…Verily, different from this, which consists of the essence of food, but within it, is another self, which consists of the vital breath [prana]. By this the former is filled. This too has the shape of a man. Like the human shape of the former is the human shape of the latter” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2.2.1).

“On food rests everything—whatsoever breathes and whatsoever breathes not” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.5.1). The spiritual, astral body is drawn exclusively from food, so our food is crucial in our spiritual development.

  • Food, when eaten, becomes threefold (16 parts): the grossest part becomes faeces (10 parts); the middle part flesh (5 parts) and its subtlest part mind (1 part).
  • Water, when drunk, becomes threefold (16 parts): Its grossest part becomes urine (10 parts), its middle part blood (5 parts) and its subtlest part Prana (1 part).
  • Fire (i.e., in oil, butter, etc.) when eaten becomes threefold (16 parts): its grossest part becomes bone (10 parts), its middle part marrow (5 parts) and its subtlest part speech (1 part). When food that is eaten is led away by water, there is hunger. When water that is drunk is led away by fire, there is thirst.

Food Digestion

‘For truly, my child, mind comes of earth, breathe of water, speech of fire.’ ‘That which is the subtle portion of curds, when churned, rises upwards, and becomes butter. ‘In the same manner, my child, the subtle portion of earth (food), when eaten, rises upwards, and becomes the mind. That which is the subtle portion of water, when drunk, rises upwards, and becomes breath. That which is the subtle portion of fire, when consumed, rises upwards, and becomes speech.

For mind, my child, comes of earth, breath of water, speech of fire. His son Svetaketu already realizing his mistake, requests his father to tell him more and his father continues. Man (purusha), my son, consists of sixteen parts. Abstain from food for fifteen days, but drink as much water as you like, for breath comes from water, and you will not be cut off, if you drink water. Svetaketu abstained from food for fifteen days. Then he came to his father and said: ‘What shall I say?’ The father said: ‘Repeat the Rik, Yagus, and Saman verses.’ His son replied: ‘They do not occur to me, Sir.’ His father explains that your mind is weak and the recollection of your knowledge is difficult since you have not had food for 15 days. He asks his son to have food and realize that he can recollect his knowledge. The discussion continues this way in Chandogya Upanishad.

The traditional treatment for infertility in India even today is to give medicated cow ghee for the man of the family to eat it for 48 days. This is because semen is produced from Bone marrow as per Siddha / Ayurveda and quality of semen would improve when the good fat content (this is from Cow’s ghee) is increased in the intake.

Reference

Know thy Nature by Raguram Gopalan, http://ragsgopalan.blogspot.com

Food and Breath – 1

Why can we live without food for few weeks but we cannot manage without water more than few days?

We might have observed the types of food, taste and its impact on us as an individual and the society. As per ancient saying our mind gets 2 predominant inputs which keep us our mind alive. The 2 inputs for our mind are Food and Breath. In this article we would not focus on the impact on our mind based on the quality of food but we would focus on the interconnection between Food and Breath.

The following is an excerpt from Chandogya Upanishad, a discussion between Svetaketu Aruneya (the grandson of Aruna) and his father (Uddilaka, the son of Aruna). When Svetaketu returned to his father, at the age of twenty-four, having then studied all the Vedas, conceited himself to be well-read and stern. His father being a very wise man wanted to teach his son a lesson in humility and wanted to highlight that his self-conceit does not befit him.

So he starts by asking him, “Have you ever asked for that instruction by which we hear what cannot be heard, by which we perceive what cannot be perceived, by which we know what cannot be known?” When his son acknowledges his ignorance on this he starts explaining things from evolution.

He says that water is produced from fire and explains whenever anybody anywhere is hot and perspires, water is produced on him from fire alone. Water he says produces food (earth). Furthermore he says that Fire, Water and Earth are the basic elements which manifest themselves in all the loving beings.

The red colour of burning fire (Agni) is the colour of fire, the white colour of fire is the colour of water, the black colour of fire the colour of earth. Learned men knew that, Whatever they thought looked red, they knew was the colour of fire. Whatever they thought looked white, they knew was the colour of water. Whatever they thought looked black, they knew was the colour of earth. Whatever they thought was altogether unknown, they knew was some combination of those three beings.

We are not going see the entire conversation which is very interesting and can be read more from Internet or books. Tomorrow we will see the most interesting aspect of food and its manifestation.

Reference

Know thy Nature by Raguram Gopalan, http://ragsgopalan.blogspot.com

Breath and Tamil

Earlier we saw why the language Tamil is called so and its relation with science. We will start with that brief explanation and then lets see how Tamil is related with our breath.

As per ‘Aintiram’ written by Mamuni Mayan, at this early stage of manifestation of universe there are five stages. They are அமிழ்தல் (Amizhdal – Withdrawal), இமிழ்தல் (Imizhdal – Overflowing), குமிழ்தல் (Kumizhdal – Clustering round in an order), உமிழ்தல் (Umizhdal – Emitting), தமிழ்தல் (Tamizhdal – Resulting into a well-defined form).

First the throbbing Consciousness withdraws into itself. Moolam (Originating Source) consolidates itself through withdrawal called Amizhdal or converging to a point. Minute Cubical tip This Moolam then gushes or explodes outward and emerges and spreads (Imizhdal) and consolidates its self (Kumizhdal). The movement of energy in self spin (kalavisai) propels and projects this energy (Umizhdal) so that it comes out into form (Tamizdhal).

Interestingly enough, for the experience to merge into word-form the inner being has to undergo or travel through these five levels states, namely Amizhdal (“converging to a point”…withdrawal), Imizhdal (‘emerging and spreading’), Kumizhdal (coming together an consolidating’), Unizhdal (projecting or delivering) and Tamizdhal (“coming out into form”). Hence a language as rich with the sweetness of inherent order, originating from the luminosity of the Source is called Tamil. Tamil is word based on the final resultant state called Tamizhdal (தமிழ்தல்).

Tamil language has 12 vowels and 18 consonants both combine to form 216 letters (உயிர் எழுத்து – Uyir Ezhuthu (Life / Energy letters – 12 letters) and ெமய் எழுத்து – Mei Ezhuthu (Body / Matter letters – 18 letters).

We have already seen that “Yoga states that if you breathe through the right nostril (Solar breath), then it is effectively 12 angulas of breath length and if you breathe through the left nostril (Lunar Breath), then it is effectively 16 angulas of breath length”. Now we will see the correlation between this and Tamil language as given below…

  • The 12 vowels correspond to 12 Angula breath of Solar / right breath. This also means all Vowels originate in our navel.
  • The 18 consonants correspond to 16 Angula breath of Chandra / left breath with the addition of Manas – மனஸ் (mind) and உயிர் (life). All consonants originate in our Moooladhara Chakra.
  • The combination of vowels and consonants total up to 216 alphabets in Tamil (216 =18*12) corresponds to one hundredth of 21600 breaths in day. Please note that vowels and consonants create a word with life just as much we would have a living body by the combination of left and right breath.
  • This number 18 is also reflected in பதிெணன் சித்தர்கள், (18 different Siddhars) பதிெனட்டுப் புராணங்கள், (18 Puranas), ேயாக சாதன முைறகளி ஏற்படும் தைடகள் (நிைலகளும்) (18 step process of Sidha Yoga) பதிெனட்டு, அய்யப்பன் ேகாவில்படிகள் பதிெனட்டு (18 steps in Lord Ayappa temple in Kerala), பகவத்கீைதயில் பதிெனட்டு திகாரங்கைள (18 Chapters in Bhagavad Gita). There are more such significances like Mahabharatha war took place for 18 days.

Reference

1. Time = Space by Raguram Gopalan, http://ragsgopalan.blogspot.com
2. Fabric of The Universe: The Origins, Implications, and Applications of Vastu Science By Jessie J. Mercay

Breath and Time?

In ancient days all things are interrelated with each other and one forms the basis for the other. Let’s look at how breath and time are closely related.

Lets begin with the interesting quote of Swami Chinmaya on time which states that “Time is the period between two thoughts”. As we know a day is divided into 24 hours and each hour with 60 minutes. The fundamental unit of time today is a second for day today life. In ancient India a day is divided into 60 units and not 24 hours, and each unit is called as Nazhigai which has 24 minutes. Two Nazhigai is called a Muhurtam which is 48 minutes. Both of them are very significant measures. So each hour has 2.5 Nazhigai.

We can note that both of Nazhigai and Muhurtam are multiples of 8 which is the fundamental resonance numeral.

  1. Do we know why any yogic exercise / meditation / Pranayama are given a count that is multiple of 24 (in terms of counts or minutes or days)?
  2. Do we know why in Siddha / Ayurveda medical system the treatments are generally prescribed for 24 days or 48 days?
  • In ancient India the concept of time and its measurement are sacred, continuous for billions of years and accurate. 
  • When the ancient Sages defined the fundamental period of time (and not unit of time) they wanted that it should correspond to one full cycle. Since earth is always rotating one cycle is 360 degree – it takes 24 hours to rotate around itself and 365 days to revolve around Sun. But both these measures are not fundamental for intra-day measurements. Also how do we equate a spatial measure (rotational distance) with a time value when it comes to Intra-day measurements?
  • Our sages considered that each breath as one degree and one cycle can be considered as 360 degree or 360 breaths. If it is 15 breaths a minute than 360 breaths takes 24 minutes and hence the fundamental period (not unit of time) of measurement is Nazhigai which has 24 minutes. 60 such units make one day.
  • So the most fundamental period of time where anything completes 1 cycle in Microcosm is 24 minutes or 1 Nazhigai.
  • The other aspect to note here is that the same concept is used to overcome death by stilling the breath and mind. Since we have stilled the breath, we have not moved in the time-space scale and also the breath is not wasted which means we can achieve immortality in the state of Samadhi.

Reference

Know thy Nature by Raguram Gopalan, http://ragsgopalan.blogspot.com