Pranayama and the Spiritual Aspirant
2 May 2022 HYN Himalayan Yoga Academy
Pranayama practices establish a healthy body by removing blockages in the pranayama kosha, enabling an increased absorption of prana. The spiritual seeker, however, also requires tranquility of mind as essential prelude to spiritual practice. To this end, many pranayama techniques utilize kumbhaka the thought process.
Once the mind has been stilled and prana flows freely in the nadis and chakras, the doorway to the evolution of conscious opens, leading the aspirant into higher dimension of spiritual experience. In the science of pranayama, swami sivananda writes, “there is an intimate connection between the breath, nerve currents and control of the inner prana or vital forces. Prana becomes visible of the physical plane as motion and action, and on the mental plane as though.
Pranayama is the means by which a yogi tries to realize within his individual body the whole cosmic nature, and attempts to attain perfection by attaining all the powers of the universe”
General notes for the practitioner :
In the traditional texts, there are innumerable rules and regulations pertaining to pranayama. The main points are to regulation, balance and common sense with regard to inner and outer thinking and living. However, for those who seriously wish to take up the advanced practices of pranayama, the guidance of a guru of experienced teacher is essential.
Breathing: Always breathe through the nose and not the mouth unless specifically instructed otherwise. The nose should be cleaned regularly by jala neti prior to the practice session. Be aware of the nostrils throughout the techniques. While inhaling, the nostrils should dilate of expand outwards and while exhaling, they should relax back to their normal position.
Time of practice the best time to practice pranayama is during the early morning when the body is fresh and the mine has very few impressions. It this is not possible, another good time is just after sunset. Tranquillizing pranayama be performed before sleep. Try to practice regularly at the same time and place each day. Regularly n practice increases strength and willpower as well as acclimatizing the body and mind to the increased pranis force. Do not be in hurry; slow, steady progress is essential.
Place if practice: practice in quiet, clean and pleasant room which is well ventilated but not draughty. Generally, avoid practicing in direct sunlight, as the body will become over-heated, except at dawn when the soft rays of the early morning sun are beneficial. Practicing in a draught of wind, in air-conditioning of under a fan may upset the body temperature and cause chills.
Sitting position: a comfortable, sustainable meditation posture is necessary to enable efficient breathing and body steadiness during the practice. Siddha/ siddha yoni asana is one of the best postures for pranayama. The body should be as relaxed as possible throughout the practice with the spine, neck and head erect. Sit on a folded blanket of cloth of natural fibre to ensure the maximum conduction of energy during the practice.
Sequence: pranayama should be performed after asanas and before meditation practice. After practicing pranayama one may lie down in shavasana for a few minutes.
Clothes: loose, comfortable clothing made of natural fibres should be worn during the practice. The body may be covered with a sheet of blanket when it is cold or to keep insect away.
Bathing: take a bath or shower before commencing the practice, or at least wash the hands, face and feet. Do not take a bath for at least half an hour after the practice to allow the body temperature to normalize.
Empty stomach: wait at least three to four hours after meals before starting pranayama. Food in the stomach places pressure on the diaphram and lungs, making full, deep respiration difficult.
Digestion: when communicating pranayama practice, constipation and reduction in the quantity of urine may be experienced. In the case of dry motion, stop taking salt and spices, and drink plenty of water. In the case of loose motion, stop the practices for a few days and go on a diet of rich and curd of yogurt
Diet: a balance diet of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals is suitable for most pranayama practice. A combination of grains, pulses, fresh fruits and vegetables, with a little, milk product if necessary, is recommended. The more advanced stages of pranayama require a change in diet and guru should be consulted for guidance on this.
Avoid strain: with all pranayama practice it is important to remember that the instruction not to strain, not to try to increase your capacity too fast, applies just as it does to asana practice. It one is advised to practice pranayama technique for a specific length of time, before moving on to a more advanced practice or ratior, it is wise to follow that instruction. Furthermore, breath retention should only be practiced for as long as it is comfortable. The lungs are very delicate organs and any misuse can easily cause injury. Not only the physical body also the mental and emotional aspects of the personality need time to adjust, never strain in any way.
Side effect: When practicing for the first time, various symptoms may manifest in normally healthy people. These are caused by the process of purification and the expulsion of toxins. Sensations of itching, tingling, heat or cold and feeling of lightness of heaviness may occur. Such experiences are generally temporary but if they persist during the practice, check with a yoga teacher.
Contra-indications: pranayama should not be practiced during illness, although simple techniques such as breath awareness and abdominal breathing in shavasana may be performed, Always consult a yoga therapist of teacher before using any pranayama for therapeutic purposes.
No smoking: it is not advisable for pranayama practitioners to smoke tobacco or cannabies.