educating yoga instructors about pranayamBy Shriram Sharma

While throwing light on the importance of Pranayam (Yogic breathing exercise) Swami Vivekananda told a story. Once, a King angry with his minister imprisoned him in a fort. The minister by any means wanted to escape from this fort and told his wife about the same. The fort was guarded heavily so there seemed no means of escape.

The minister’s wife then thought of a scheme. A blade of grass was stuck on the back of a beetle in such a way that one end of the grass came right in front of the beetle’s mouth. After putting some honey on the grass blade the beetle was kept on the walls of the fort. In its tail a silken thread was tied. Seeing honey the beetle’s mouth started watering. It set off to taste the honey. The more it marched ahead the more the honey too marched ahead. Thus the beetle continuously went upwards. After finishing climbing the wall it was now supposed to march downwards. Now the beetle climbed down fully. At the other end the minister’s wife made the silken thread more thick and strong. When the thick silken thread reached the imprisoned minister he tied a thick rope to its end. With the help of this rope the minister escaped even though the fort was well guarded.

Pranayama effectively is that spiritual means wherein the breath is inhaled. Ultimately via control of vital principle the vital force is experienced and it results in gaining innumerable Sidhis or Divine Powers. Preliminary Pranayama is very easy and available to all but some of them are such which helps one to cross the gigantic ocean like Hanumanji, helps one to fly high up in the sky and helps one like Angad to place his foot on the ground in such a way that no one can shake it. But suppose this is not attained even then benefits in day to day living do definitely accrue. Thus ones worldly life becomes successful, joyous and peaceful.

A great relationship exists between man’s life span and health with his/her breath. All creatures remain alive because of inhalation/exhalation. By entering the lungs clean air destroys germs that augment diseases. Thus the blood gets purified. The more the blood cells remain healthy and alive the more one maintains good health. The tangible miracles of Pranayama are bodily strength, thinking power and firm mental resolve. Within this not only are the lungs exercised but that Pranayam augments ones life span and potency. It also purifies the blood and gives energy/zest to the psyche. For each one who desires a long healthy life this verily is a means of utility value.

The preliminary teaching of Pranayama says that we must breathe deeply and fully. If this air does not fully enter the lungs then a part of the lungs will be rendered useless. It is like that part of the house which gets infested by worms, mice, cockroaches etc simply because we fail to clean it regularly. When in certain part of the lungs air fails to enter it results in asthma, cough, cold, tuberculosis etc. Slowly these diseases take over the lungs in such a way that it is difficult to eradicate them.

By breathing deeply and fully all parts of the lungs receive air. This air gives oxygen to the lungs and takes away with it dirt of the lungs in the form of carbon-dioxide. Oxygen along with blood circulates in the entire body as a result of which ones health and energy remain optimally balanced. One fourth portion of pure blood is made of oxygen. If this ratio decreases digestive problems arise. The digestive power of such people becomes weak. From this it is clear that what is required is deep breathing so as to evict tainted matter from the body, maintaining an optimal ratio of oxygen in the blood and strengthening the digestive system. This can be achieved via Pranayama.

If the old ash of a boiler is not removed steam cannot be generated. Thus the engine stops functioning. Our lungs too are akin to a boiler. It influences the engine or the heart. If that tainted matter of the body transported to the heart via blood is not evicted from the lungs via deep breathing, bad blood returns to the heart. This bad blood is spread to all parts of the body via arteries which results in various diseases and illnesses. But if we learn the art of deep full breathing our chest will regain good health. The lungs become strong and weight increases. Purified blood circulation results in warding off weakness of the heart. Hence the practice of deep breathing via Pranayama ensures benefits of high stature to our all round health.

In an ordinary state along with our breath 30 sq inch of air enters our lungs. If breathing is deeper, about 130 sq inch air enters the lungs and while exhaling 100 sq inch air is left behind in the lungs. Thus about 230 sq inch space is available. What we are trying to say is that in comparison to ordinary breathing 8 times more air can be taken into the lungs. Thus 8 times more oxygen can be taken into the body and 8 times sound health will augment.

From the above it is clear that greater benefits accrue of more air is inhaled. Similarly benefits also accrue if for a few moments the lungs are rendered air free. A German Jew doctor opines that germs die in the lungs because they do not get any air and along with carbolic acid are evicted from the body.

The other practice involves taking in air from the nose. As a result of this gross dirt of the air sticks to the hair in the nose. Ahead of this is a thin fluid like substance which absorbs nitrogen and other dust particles of the air. Now the air fully cleansed enters the nose canal. Over here the air’s heat becomes optimally balanced i.e. if it was hot it becomes cool and vice versa. This path of air transport which reaches the lungs via the brain is very long. In such a time span the air’s temperature becomes tolerable. Thus although after reaching the lungs no obstruction comes its way in getting cleansed yet if air reaches lungs via the mouth dirt too enters along with it. Further the temperature too is not optimally balanced. Those who suffer from lung diseases generally inhale air from the mouth.

There are many types of Pranayama. Indian spiritual texts talk of various types called Sheetali, Sheetkari, Bhramari, Ujjayi, Lom-Vilom, Surya-Vedhak, Pranakarshak and Naadi Shodhan. We cannot possibly describe all these in detail yet we will discuss those that are easy and devoid of any danger. Such Pranayamas can be executed by children, young and old quite easily. Hence the method of Pranakarshak Pranayama will be detailed here.

Pranayama has 4 parts: 1. Poorak 2. Antar Kumbhak 3. Rechak and 4. Bahya Kumbhak. When air is inhaled it is called Poorak. This should not be done very fast or with jerks. Slowly fill as much of air as you can in your lungs. Antar Kumbhak means stopping the air from getting exhaled after it is inhaled. It is done only for as long as one can easily hold the breath. One should not hold the breath even if one feels uneasy. One must practice slowly to increase the time span of Antar Kumbhak. Rechak means exhaling air. Like Poorak this too must be done slowly. It is not good to exhale speedily or with jerks. Bahya Kumbhak means holding the breath externally after exhaling it. It also means not breathing at all for a few moments. The time taken for Poorak-Rechak and Antar Kumbhak-Bahya Kumbhak must be same.

Before commencing this practice place your seat or blanket in a clean silent place facing the East. The more lonely the place better it is so that external noise pollution does not affect your concentration and focus. Sit cross legged or in Padmaasan (lotus posture). Close the right nostril with the right hand thumb and do Poorak. Then with the middle and ring finger close the left nostril and perform Antar Kumbhak (hold breath within). Now after removing the thumb from the right nostril perform Rechak. Then shut both the nostrils and do Bahya Kumbhak (holding the breath externally). This is one single round of Pranayama. Initially start with 5 Pranayama and regularly increase it so as to ultimately become capable of doing it for half an hour with ease.

Along with good health Pranayama is a very important and of good utility value as far as soul uplifting is concerned. Thus along with Prana based spiritual endeavor the psyche becomes focused, balanced, steadfast and augments wholesome mental qualities. Ahead of this Prana is mastered via Pranayama and bodily vital force too gets activated. This amazingly influences our health and can be called mind boggling only. Regarding this in India great research has been conducted.

Material Science students are aware that friction results in energy emission. It is friction that releases fire or electricity when a matchstick is lit or via gigantic power stations. We have heard of forest fires which are the result of wood of trees undergoing friction. These certainly are not man made. When powerful winds blow in the forest dry branches, twigs etc of trees rub themselves against each other and this friction results in forest fires. Bamboo is the leading cause over here. Dry bamboos first rub each other and become hot. Then sparks start flying. These sparks result in fire and forest fire is the ultimate result. This is the miracle of the principle of friction.

Ancient man produced fire via friction of 2 shiny stones. Later they used the combination of iron and stone for the same purpose. In Yajnas, Arni Manthan is performed to produce fire via friction of sticks. Within the root source of energy and matter-Brahman (cosmic consciousness/God and nature) it is seen that they undergo friction as a result of which energy as sound emanates and creation activities of the cosmos ensues. Wind bangs against various objects, waves rise and fall in the ocean, in the human body inhalation/exhalation and contraction/relaxation occurs etc which results in friction. Thus energy gets released and thus each carry out their various appointed functions. Various functions performed by matter and creatures are but the result of friction.

Our daily life goes on unhindered as long as inhalation/exhalation does not stop. If the pendulum of a watch stops moving to and fro all parts of the watch stop functioning. If we stop breathing death is imminent. If friction stops life too comes to a standstill. Life is conjoined to breath because energy emanates from it. If we dive deeper electrical flames emanating from Sahasrar Chakra (subtle plexus in the brain) is also called its root cause. Over there, jerk-like movement creates friction.

In order to gain more strength we need more energy. For huge factories huge motors are required to run various machines. Small motors help run only small machines. In order to carry out important bodily, mental and spiritual activities high stature energy is required. This cannot be attained via eating or lighting fire etc. It is instead got from the source of potential that influences both matter and consciousness. It goes without saying that it is none other than Prana or Vital Force. Prana is that principle which that exists in interstellar space as a united energy of both life and matter. Pure cosmic consciousness is Brahman or God. Purified nature/Prakriti is energy. Both at their source are unfulfilled. The creation of the world of creatures is possible only when these 2 streams unite. Thus creatures are called Pranis in Sanskrit language. Modern physics has unearthed atoms, waves, energy and quanta. According to ecology quanta is said to be thinking in nature. From space wind comes, from wind ether and from ether astral manifests. Now Modern Science will also visualize the great ocean of vital force principle in the near future.

The existence of vital force principle was unearthed by Rishis of yore thousands of years back. They had also unearthed the path of attaining great measure of nature’s glories since small measures did not help matters of great importance. They called it the Science of Vital Force or Prana Vijnana. Its application was called Pranayama. Its aim is to attract in high measure the vital force principle and by imbibing it spiritually one becomes more potent. It is important to understand fully the relationship between breath and Prana.

From a gross viewpoint wind is like a light gas which due to its light weight while getting banged here and there because of small pushes and pulls flies about in interstellar space. In the womb of wind one can note many important and priceless things. Butter exists in milk but one cannot see it. In plants one finds proteins, vitamins etc. In flesh there are many chemicals. It can be known only via special analysis and obtained too via special methods. In the same way a lot is present within wind. While breathing, oxygen, nitrogen etc enters our body. Whatever is required is absorbed by the body and our bodily dirt is removed while exhaling breath as carbon dioxide. Thus if you analyze breath from the chemical content standpoint while it is being inhaled and exhaled a vast difference is noted. In different places the cause of the state that influences health is the great/less measure of admixture of its chemical content. Matter has states like gross, fluid, liquid and gaseous. Water can be ice on land, liquid in rivers and gas in the atmosphere. Over and above this it is easy to understand that within air nor only oxygen etc exists but that vital force too is present in its deep recesses. It enters our body along with our breath quite facilely. The body absorbs as much it ordinarily requires. Due to friction of breath not only benefits of energy generation and imbibing of oxygen accrue but that vital force too is imbibed. The basis of life is dependent on breathing. Behind this is at work friction and attainment of required energy due to vital force intake.

During Pranayama within the movement of breath extraordinary activity is seen. In it extraordinary friction is noted and apart from sustaining life special movements are created as a result. They in turn awaken such ‘sleeping’ centers which ordinarily are not required for daily living. Yet when they awaken they give man certain added special potential. Pranayama does not mean making the breath fast instead it renders our breathing balanced and cyclical. Various types of changes in balance and cycle give you various types of Pranayama. These in turn are used for various specific purposes. During Pranayama a spiritual aspirant/Sadhak has to make use of special power of resolve called Sankalpa Shakti, faith and mental power. Thus from interstellar space our breath attracts and pulls the vital force principle or the Prana Tattwa. Via Pranayama a Sadhak’s breathing includes both special movements and his/her power of resolve. Thus it no longer remains ordinary breathing and instead becomes a substratum of attaining special energy.

We must further understand the importance of friction. The act is ordinary but the result is extraordinary in the form of energy generation. When the shiny nature of the wheels of a moving train becomes less or if friction occurs due to some other cause heat ensues which results in rail accidents. In the sky we can see stars falling making terrific lines. These are not stars but balls of firebrand. In interstellar space small stone like metals enter the earth’s atmosphere and on banging against air they burn to ashes. We infer that stars are ‘breaking’ on seeing the terrific light when these burn. This merely is the miracle of frictional activity. During sexual union the friction of magnetic parts create energy of a high stature. It is experienced as ecstasy/bliss and this in turn urges the sperm to unite with the ovum. Thus friction is the root cause of creation.

While churning curds a rod is set up in it and a rope is tied to it. The left hand and right hand move this rope in both directions. The rod thus rotates in the curd. Energy as a result is generated and butter in the curds due to friction emerges. Special types of Svar that move in the left and right nostrils excite the electrical flow of Ida Pingala subtle nerves that lie in the Merudand (subtle spine). Thus movement akin to curd being churned is noted. Thus radiant principles manifest due to this. If it is methodically created and imbibed man will get a chance to become radiant and brilliant as far as his personality is concerned. With this attainment many terrific sparks of radiance/talent emerge. It influences in the form of enterprise, zest, daring, steadfastness etc. On gaining such benefits many glories manifest in our inner personality.

There are many people who are strong bodily and alert mentally but because their psyche lacks enterprise no important step in life is taken by them. No enterprise based decision can be taken by a wavering mind and also at the appointed hour no benefits can be absorbed. Bang opposite to this a person of strong psyche despite facing obstacles as far as health, education, means, help, opportunity is concerned executes steps of great daring and attains mind boggling success in life. Such people as a result of special actions and special personality perform such feats as a result of it they go down in the annals of history as super great personages. In other words this inner potency is called Prana. When we say someone is full of Prana it just does not mean he/she is alive but that he/she is full of enterprise. In comparison to other worldly/material wealth it is of much great importance.

Enterprise and activeness predominates in the awakening of inner energy within Pranayama applications of Prana Sciences. This exercise helps a great deal in warding off inertia and indolence and instead zest and zeal manifest. Because the mind is conjoined to such acts the basis of all successes emerges. For this the mind has to be tamed and educated. It is definitely difficult (but not impossible) akin to training ferocious animals like tigers etc. in a circus. Without inner strength it is impossible to attain via other means. It is will power that helps us act wholesomely in social transactions, helps make our personality of high stature and ethics and helps overcome inner taints on a war footing. That conscious energy generated on the basis of Prana Science gives us joy in the form of enterprise and activeness.

An egg bursts only when the baby within desires to come out by breaking the walls of the egg. For a pregnant woman birth pains manifest when the fetus within desires to break all shackles and come out of the womb. If the power of resolve of the fetus dies the fetus deteriorates. For progress enterprise and daring are most required. Else during times of strife it would not be possible to even protect one self. Enterprise is a characteristic of vital force. It is also called daring and valor. This inner energy is called will power. There are many Rishi authored applications of Pranayama which generate energy of various classes. If based on the spiritual aspirant’s capabilities they are made use of then the invisible benefits will be much more than visible ones.

Sandhya Vandan is a daily righteous/religious act. In it Pranayama too is executed. For soul purification and soul evolution it is important to augment will power. Soul progress is attained via this. In order to augment will power our thinking must be sensitive and actions must be radiantly skillful. Over and above this acts like Pranayama too are required which help in an extraordinary manner. No doubt a balanced diet is required for overcoming weakness but along with it medical cures too are necessary. Pranayama is such a special cure wherein soul force augments by leaps and bounds. In Sandhya Vandan it is conjoined keeping in mind that vital force augmentation is required and is of great utility value.

When vital force diminishes our personality falters in all ways and when it is optimum all our activities work in tandem. When vital force increases it is called strength, potency, alertness, radiance, mental power, skillful etc. Such people are called Super Prana. They can imbue millions of others with vital force and thus lead the world on the path of greatness. The vital force present in demons is attained via efferent and nervous system. The creation of imagination, belief, desire, memory, analysis, intellect of the brain gets augmented and controlled. A very great and subtle power that gives the body and mind a wholesome direction and capacity is called Vital Force. The act of inhalation and exhalation is merely its instrument/medium. On it this Super Force rides and enters and nourishes all our organs. In the material/mundane arena it is called heat, light, electricity etc. and in the subtle realm it is called brilliance (talent). This is the Vital Principle. The more one amasses this wealth the more potent one becomes.

Author: Shriram Sharma Acharya founder of the International Gayatri Family was a great Yogi seer and incarnation of God who wrote volumes of scientific literature mainly on spiritual subjects for world welfare and peace. For more scientific e-books visit: and

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