Saturday, January 9, 2016

Pranayama - From an Old Book

I came across this description of the procedure of Pranayama in an old book and found it worth reading and practicing. This isn't available in the text format on the internet, hence typed it down. I hope, dear reader, you will find some good insights from this article.

From The Vishnu Sahasranama Translated into English 
by R. Ananthakrishna Shastry

From -
The utility and importance of this fundamental Yoga practice have not been fully realised by us. Vyasa says in a hymn 'The Lord Vishnu himself is Yoga and the leader of all the Yogins(slo. 16), the Yogi and the Lord of the Yogins(slo. 104)'. The ancients have perfected it to a science, but it is lost to us to a considerable extent through our own folly. It is the sacred duty of every true Arya to revive it. The desire for material advancement has supplanted the yearning for spiritual progress. At present, the yearning for Swaraj has well nigh become universal; but the people have not yet realised that unless and until they are healthy - physically, mentally and morally - they can never hope to become a Nation and attain Swaraj. In ancient times, the Aryas were a very strong and powerful race, imbued with the highest of virtues, so the word Arya came to connote strength and Anarya, weakness. The Aryas attained and retained unto death their bodily and mental perfection by the simple but effective method of Pranayama. To them death had no horrors. Just as one throws off one's worn out garments, even so they cast off their body by their own free will by the power of Yoga. 

The Shastraic method is to get up at Brahma Muhurta i.e. before the breaking of the dawn, and finish the morning ablutions. After Achamana - sipping water -  perform the breathing exercises, the Pranayama, in a well ventilated place. Sit cross-legged facing east or north, with the back straight, chest well expanded and thrust forward and the head erect. First exhale(Rechaka) all the air slowly through one or both the nostrils, and then inhale(Puraka) slowly and deeply, and exhale as before. While exhaling and inhaling produce a low humming sound in the throat. Repeat the Rechaka and Puraka alternately for about ten minutes. Next, restraint of breath or Kumbhaka must be practiced. Inhale slowly, with the production of the humming sound in the throat as before, but retain the breath as long as possible without straining yourself and exhale completely all the air out. Again inhale slowly and deeply, restrain and exhale as before. Repeat this process for about five to ten minutes and gradually increase the duration of Kumbhaka.

While performing Rechaka, Puraka and Kumbhaka, it will be easy for beginners if they use one or more fingers to close up one or both the nostrils. When one has made some progress in Pranayama, then by merely willing, the air can be made to flow in or out through any nostril or it may be kept in Kumbhaka.

The third practice is Bhasra (bellow) and it is done for the next five or six minutes. Sitting erect as before and with the lips closed, blow out the air, with the hissing sound of a starting locomotive engine, rapidly. While blowing in this way the trunk of the body is steady, but the abdomen becomes concave and flat in quick succession, due to the alternate contraction and relaxation of the abdominal muscles. The naval region swings inward and out with maximum amplitude The Bhasra can also be practiced in the evening provided the stomach is empty. By this practice, the intestines get exercised, the digestive powers are greatly improved, the free circulation of blood is facilitated and the lungs are strengthened. The bowels also are kept in order by removing constipation.

Success in Pranayama can be attained only if the diet is a well regulated one. Any non-stimulating, simple and nutritious diet will do. It is well to remember and practice the Vedic ordinance 'Ekavaram Dvivaram Va' which enjoins only one meal a day or at the most two. Seven hours at least must elapse between the two meals.

This may be practiced by all persons irrespective of age or sex, excepting women in the family way, who should not attempt the Bhasra. But chronic patients afflicted with bowel or lung diseases should be carefully guided by a scientifically trained instructor.

It is very depressing to note that generally Indians and especially South Indians, have become physically degenerated; the more educated they are the more physically depressed they have become. The golden precept enjoining Brahmacharya(restraint) on a Grihasta by our Shastras, has been totally ignored. Excessive indulgence in stimulants, coffee, tea etc. and in matters pertaining to sex, irregular and hurried meals - meals noted for their flavor alone but not for their sustaining qualities -  and want of regular exercise for the body, have brought about this present condition. Systematic practice of Pranayama by our young men with a well regulated diet and observance of the principles laid down for the conduct of Brahmacharins and of the Grihastas will in a generation or two regenerate them into a virile people.

By the grace of the Divine Physician, 'Daivyah Bhishak', the Lord, all the incurable diseases are cured. May our degenerate young men take up these practices and become healthier, is the pious wish of the author!


Shruti said...

Hi Shrinath,

Thank you for sharing such beautiful and valuable script.
There are people outside discovering their own way of Pranayam. But these are the correct and authentic way of practicing it.
I have known these methods long ago but with time have totally forgotten. Thank you for reminding it to me..thanks for great Post.

Shrinath Shenoy said...

Thanks for reading and for your kind words. It is definitely encouraging. Best wishes:)

Sajith Pallippuram said...

My attempt at singing this great song. apologies for the diction - am a Malayalalee