Solar (Right) and Lunar (Left) Breath – 1

Irrespective of whether we consider that breathing as an activity that we perform or we identify our very existence with breathing, it is important to know the basics behind this activity. The basis of this article is  our Yoga / Siddha system. Some of the interesting aspects are given…

If you divide the human body vertically along the sternum it has 2 symmetric sides – right and left side. (have you recognized that most of the organs are symmetric along this meridian?) Right side is called as male, +ve, Yang, Surya, Pingala, Ravi and so on. Similarly left side of the body is called as female, -ve, Yin, Mathi, Ida, Chandra. These 2 aspects are bipolar yet non-dual in the sense one cannot exist without the other. The Yin-yang symbol, the Arthanareeswarar image and the Star of David conveys this same aspect.

Out of the 72000 nadis / meridians in the body there are 3 nadis which is very important. Pingala, Ida and Sushmna. All nadis carry subtle energy called Prana or Chi through our body. When we breathe through our right side and the breath that comes through the right nostril is called Pingala and left breath is called Ida. It is actually the name of the nadi and the breath is called Surya (right) or Chandra (Left). The objective of the article is not to talk about Sushmna but look at the rhythm we have between right and left nostril breathing.
Chakra and NadiNadis and Chakras

Figures given above highlight the 3 Nadis and 7 chakras. You would note that the flow of nadis is different in all the pictures. There are multiple schools of thought on this.

Right breathe characterizes solar power and hence physical energy, enthusiasm, drive, health, aggression, sexual potency and long life. Left breathe characterizes humility, truthfulness, creativity, spirituality, obedience, compassion etc.

We know that every human being is endowed with ~ billion breath package and the concept of long life is based on how much breath you save and not waste. 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. Ask your Yoga guru about this angula measurements, most may not be aware of it. More details on this tomorrow…

Reference

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

What is Prana? – Part 2

By controlling the act of breathing you can efficiently control all the various motions in the body and the different nerve-currents that are running through the body. You can easily and quickly control and develop body, mind and soul through breath-control or the control of Prana. It is through Pranayama that you can control your circumstances and character and can consciously harmonize the individual life with the cosmic life.

The breath, directed by thought under the control of the will, is a vitalizing  regenerating force which you can utilize consciously for self-development; for healing many incurable diseases in your system; for healing others and for other various useful purposes. It is within your easy reach at every moment of your life. Use it judiciously. Many Yogis of yore, like Sri Jnanadeva, Trailinga Swami, Ramalinga Swami and others, had utilized this breath, this force, the Prana, in a variety of ways. You can also do so, if you practice Pranayama by prescribed breathing exercises.

It is Prana that you are breathing rather than the atmospheric air. Inhale slowly and steadily with a concentrated mind. Retain it as long as you can do it comfortably. Then exhale slowly. There should be no strain in any stage of Pranayama. Realize the occult inner life-powers which underlie the breath. Become a Yogi and radiate joy, light and power all around you. Pranavadins or Hatha Yogins consider that Prana Tattva is superior to Manas Tattva, the mind-principle. They say, Prana is present even when the mind is absent during sleep. Hence Prana plays a more vital part than the mind.

If you go through the parables in Kaushitaki and Chhandogya Upanishads, when all the senses, mind and Prana fight amongst themselves as to their superiority, you will find that Prana is regarded as the highest of all. Prana is the oldest, for it starts its functioning from the very moment the child is conceived. On the contrary, the organs of hearing, etc., begin to function only when their special abodes, viz., the ears, etc., are formed. Prana is called Jyeshtha and Sreshtha (oldest and best) in Upanishads. It is through the vibrations of psychic Prana that the life of the mind, Sankalpa or thinking is kept up and thought is produced. You see, hear, talk, sense, think, feel, will, know, etc., through the help of Prana and therefore Srutis declare: “Prana is Brahman.”

Seat of Prana

The seat of Prana is heart. Though the Antahkarana (fourfold mind) is one, yet it assumes four forms, viz., (i) Manas (Mind), (ii) Buddhi (Intellect), (iii) Chitta (Subconscious) and (iv) Ahamkara (Ego) according to the different functions it performs. Likewise, though Prana is one, it assumes five forms viz., (1) Prana, (2) Apana, (3) Samana, (4) Udana and (5) Vyana according to the different functions it performs. This is termed as Vritti Bheda (difference in thought waves). The principal Prana is called Mukhya Prana. The Prana, joined with Ahamkara, lives in the heart. Of these five, Prana and Apana are the chief agents.

The seat of Prana is the heart; of Apana, the anus; of Samana, the region of the naval; of Udana, the throat; while Vyana is all-pervading. It moves all over the body.

Reference

The Science of Pranyama by Sri Swami Sivananda

Life is a Billion Breath Package -1

According to ancient scriptures, each and every thing in the universe undergoes a cycle of birth and death, including the universe itself. It is told that all living beings (in the traditional sense – because there is no such thing called non-living thing) are endowed with a life span which can be calculated by the number of breaths we take. As a wise man said, “Language of the gods is mathematics”.

So, what if I tell you that the math about one’s life span is controlled by our breath and nature endowed count for every human being is the same? They say that the effect of Karma and the consequences of our action in this life impact this naturally endowed life span.

Not many realize that when we were born we have been given a current account which is filled with a billion breaths (approx) and we are programmed to continuously withdraw at some rate from this account and this program is called as “Life”. They say that when we manage to exhaust this current account then ‘death” occurs. The math goes something like this:

  • We are supposed to take 4 seconds for one breath, so it is 15 a minute and 21600 for a day (15*60*24).
  • The natural age endowed to a human being is 120 years.
  • So it is – (21600* 360*120) just about a billion breaths (0.933 billion to be precise) which is endowed to us by nature as our life span.

In our daily life we spend energy to get things done. When we spend energy we breathe heavily and hence withdraw from our current account of billion breaths. Now let’s get this little more nuanced. A breath has four components – Inhale, Retain, Exhale, Retain outside. In normal day today life there are only 2 components – Inhale and Exhale.

Against a budget of 15 a minute, we spend 12 a minute while sitting, 18+ while running, 25 while sleeping, 32 during sex and between 32 to 64 breathes a minutes during emotional upheavals like Anger, fear. Effectively it’s the rate of breath which changes with time. Now recollect that Swami Chinmayananda said “Time is nothing but a period between 2 thoughts”. Hence under extremely excited / tense situations we expend far larger quantity of breath than our budget.

Some key items to be noted as follows:

  • The very essence of saying that “Anger or Fear as emotions are suicidal or it is like holding a hot iron rod and it injures the self first before others” can be well understood since we are losing a part of our endowed life because of these emotions.
  • Irrespective what we do, we seems to be wasting our breath that includes sleeping. The thing that we need to be clear about is when we sleep; we recharge our body at the expense of larger breath counts than what is budgeted to us.
  • The importance of “Pranayama” can be better understood now which is stressed for the longevity and health. In Pranayama, all the 4 cycles of breath are effectively used and the mind is calmed for better health. Pranayama is the one of the ways for effective breath management and longer life.
  • The secret of youth and healthy life is effective breath management. The longer we retain the breath, the deeper our breaths, the younger we are and the longer we live.

Reference

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

Breathe…

Breath

Being aware of your breath forces you into the present moment – the key to all inner transformation. Whenever you are conscious of the breath, you are absolutely present. You may also notice that you cannot think and be aware of your breathing. Conscious breathing stops your mind. But far from being in a trance or half asleep, you are fully awake and highly alert. You are not falling below thinking, but rising above it. And if you look more closely, you will find that those two things – coming fully into the present moment and ceasing thinking without loss of consciousness – are actually one and the same: the arising of space consciousness.

~ Eckhart Tolle

Breath, Prana and Pranayama

In the series of sayings, “You are what you think”, “You are what you eat”, we can also say that “You are your state of breath”. Our Mind, Food and Breath are closely interconnected. If there is something which we came into this world with and would carry till we leave this world, probably unchanged then it is our breath. Breath is equated with God in many scriptures and in Tamil it is called as SARAM (சரம்) and equated with a thread that binds.

சரம் பார்ப்பான் பரம் பார்ப்பாெனன்பது ேபால means, whoever can see movement of Saram / breathe they can able to see the almighty. One of the oldest scriptures in Tamil is Sage Agasthiyar’s Saranool, Nool in Tamil means book and also thread. Breathe is the thread that binds the Body, Mind and Soul.

In this book it is stated that first Lord Shiva taught this secret to Goddess Parvati and interestingly Goddess Parvati asked Lord Shiva “Lord tell me if a person does not understand cosmology (Astrology – science of time and space) then is there any way that person can understand the worldly secrets”. This emphasizes 2 things, first the importance astrology / astronomy as a subject and the second is from the answer to this question that the macrocosm can be understood through microcosm.

For this Lord Shiva said that “If one understands his breath then he can unlock the universal knowledge within himself and he taught this in Saranool. He also states that just like a huge Ox can be controlled by a rope through his nose, the universal knowledge and the ocean of birth and death can be overcome by humans only if they know how to manage their breath”.

Prana and Pranayama

Pranayama is an exact science. It is the fourth Anga or limb of Ashtanga Yoga. “Tasmin Sati Svasa prasvasayorgativicchedah 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, Asana. Thus is Pranayama defined in Patanjali Yoga Sutras, Chapter II-49.

‘Svasa’ means inspiratory breath and ‘Prasvasa’ is expiratory breath. Breath is external manifestation of Prana, the vital force. Breath like electricity, is gross Prana. Breath is Sthula, gross. Prana is Sukshma, subtle. By exercising control over this breathing you can control the subtle Prana inside. Control of Prana means control of mind. Mind cannot operate without the help of Prana. The vibrations of Prana only produce thoughts in the mind. It is Prana that moves the mind. It is Prana that sets the mind in motion. It is the Sukshma Prana or Psychic Prana that is intimately connected with the mind. This breath represents the important fly-wheel of an engine. Just as the other wheels stop when the driver stops the fly-wheel, so also other organs cease working, when the Yogi stops the breath. If you can control the fly-wheel, you can easily control the other wheels. Likewise, if you can control the external breath, you can easily control the inner vital force, Prana. The process by which the Prana is controlled by regulation of external breath, is termed Pranayama.

Just as a goldsmith removes the impurities of gold by heating it in the hot furnace, by strongly blowing the blow-pipe, so also the Yogic student removes the impurities of the body and the senses by blowing his lungs, i.e., by practicing Pranayama.

The chief aim of Pranayama is to unite the Prana with the Apana and take the united Pranapana slowly towards the head. The effect or fruit of Pranayama is Udghata or awakening of the sleeping Kundalini.

Reference

1. The Science of Pranyama by Sri Swami Sivananda
2. Know thy Nature by Raguram Gopalan, http://ragsgopalan.blogspot.com