Friday, January 27, 2012

PATANJALI YOGA SUTRAS - Verse.2.50 - Pranayama, the regulation of praanic energy



baahya abhyanthara stambha vrittih
desha kaala sankhyaabhih
dirgha sookshmah

Ø  baahya = external
Ø  abhyantara = internal
Ø  stambha = retention
Ø  vrittih = activities
Ø  desha = specific locations
Ø  kaala = specific durations
Ø  sankhyaabhih = by these counts
Ø  paridrishtah = regulated by
Ø  deergha =   prolonged
Ø  sookshmah = subtle or small

Patanjali is describing basic details about Pranayama. We all know that the process of breathing consists of inhalation, exhalation and some amount of retention after every inhalation (retention inside) and after every exhalation (retention outside). These are the three processes involved generally in Pranayama.

Inhalation can be deep and long. Inhalation can also be short and subtle.

Likewise, exhalation can be deep and long. It can also be short and subtle.

Retention inside, after every inhalation, can be for a longer period or for a shorter period.

Retention outside, after every exhalation, can be for a longer period, or for a shorter period.

The word Desha refers to various Body parts or internal organs. One can focus once attention on a particular body part (Internal organ) while doing the Pranayama – which in turn, benefits that part. It is here that we have to understand that we are concentrating not on the air we breathe as such – but more on the Praanic Energy  that goes inside us during inhalation and retention; and goes outside during exhalation and retention outside.

There are different breathing patterns for activating the praanic energy in different organs. For example, we can breathe in for a count of 8, then retain for a count of 4, then breathe out for a count of 16 and then retain outside for a count of 4. While doing this, we need to keep the attention on the particular internal organ to which this count relates. Likewise, there can be other counts like 16,4,8,4;  4,8,16,4 and so on. But, this needs to be learnt under a well trained master.

Thus desha refers to the internal organs of the body and kaala refers to this timing of each aspect of breathing. While, we always associate with this breathing which happens between nostrils and lungs only – our attention must be on the praanic energy which moving all over the body – and also outside the body.

Pranayama can be fast or subtle and long or short.

Different types of Pranayama practices exist for different purposes.

After, Aasana – Pranayama is a very useful practice, before we go to the next higher step.

It stabilizes the breathing, in both nostrils, to an even flow of energy to all body parts – and keeps them at restful awareness.

It also makes the entire body healthy and calm. The health aspects of Pranayama are extensive.

One guiding principle in Pranayama is – “NEVER OVERDO” any aasana or any pranayama – beyond your limits. This means – you must Know your limits. Do not do any practice till it pains or hurts. This is a very important principle one must always keep in mind.

When Patnajali said “sthira sukham” for aasanam, it applies equally to Pranayama. Do it comfortably and with stability; Do it in such a way, that you enjoy it and do not suffer it.  This is especially so – when after pranayama, you want to perform Pratyahara and Dharana, which are the next steps. Patanjali is specific that aasana should precede pranayama.

Thus, inhalation, exhalation and retention are considered three essential parts of the pranayama.

There are other extensive details about the benefits of Pranayama – dealt with in Hatha Yoga.

The prana energy essentially travels in what are known as nadis. There are thousands of them but three main nadis travelling from the nostrils downwards upto moolaadhara Chakra are important. These are called the left Ida nadi; the right pingala nadi and the central sushumna nadi. The three main nadis meet at mooladhara. Pranayama stabilizes the flow of prana through all the nadis in the body. The purposes of the three main nadis are different and the sushumna is a special one, which is normally not active, but, once it becomes active, is known to confer huge benefits on the Yogi. All further details on this are outside the context here.

Every sadhaka can however experience the pleasant calmness that pervades his body and mind after a regular pranayama practice. This is all that is needed for the sadhaka to continue his Yoga Sadhana further.

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