There is a comprehensive Breath series on this site already, but only some of these methods are included there. If you first learn The Complete Yoga Breath on this site, you will find these Hatha Yoga Pradipika Pranayama techniques much easier.
Hatha Yoga Pradipika On PranayamaOnce the postures have been established, and one has learned to eat in moderation with gratitude, one should begin to practice Pranayama. This is not so easy to learn without a teacher, and it is important not to exert too much pressure with the breath until you really know how to breathe properly. If you have a serious heart problem, high blood pressure, asthma, or any other respiratory disease that needs constant care, please do not practice anything on this site that requests you to hold your inhalation or exhalation. There is no need to put additional stress on a chronic condition that you might have at the present time. You can continue to practice other techniques if you do have such physical problems. Go to the Breath series for other techniques. Please keep in mind—especially if you are a very medically-oriented person—that I am not a medical doctor and do not profess to be a healer of any kind whatsoever. I am a Yoga master. Yoga is like chiropractic ... we believe in treating the source of the problem, not the symptoms. If you believe in quick fixes, this approach is probably foreign to you. Yoga is about discipline and dedication to Self. Now let's continue to the Pranayama from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. When respiration is disturbed, the mind also becomes disturbed. By restraining respiration, one can achieve steadiness of mind. When the whole system of the nadis (= subtle body organs)—which is full of impurities—is detoxified, one can begin to control the Prana (= life force). With this in mind, Pranayama is something that should be performed daily to drive out impurities from the sushumna (complete details about the sushumna are provided in the Chakra series on this site). When the system of Nadis becomes clear of the impurities by properly controlling the prana, then the air, piercing the entrance of the sushumna, enters it easily. The hollow bone through the vertebral column, through which the spinal cord passes, is called the Susumna Nadi of the Yogis. The two other sympathetic cords, one on each side of the spinal cord, are called the Ida and the Pingala Nadis. (Details are provided in the comprehensive Chakra series.)
A Few Definitions
- Puraka = taking an inhalation to bring in air from the outside.
- Kumbhaka = holding your breath (confining the breath within.
- Rechaka = exhaling the confined air.
- Seat of the Prana Apana anus (= heart); Samana (= navel area; Udana (= throat); while Vyana moves throughout the body.
- Sit in Padmasana (lotus posture or with your legs crossed comfortably), and inhale through your left nostril (closing the right one with your right thumb and forefinger). Inhale through your left nostril (closing the right one). Hold it, according to your ability, and exhale through the surya (= right nostril = sun). (To see the technique and finger positions, check out Eugenia in Sukh-Purvak in the Breath series on this site.
- Inhale through the surya slowly with your belly filled up completely. After performing Kumbhaka (holding your breath for a short moment) as before, exhale slowly through the chandra (= left nostril = moon). Again, if you have a heart problem, respiratory problems, or high blood pressure, please do not hold your breath for any length of time. You can try with just a couple of seconds, no more.
- Inhaling through one nostril in this way, through which the air was expelled, and having restrained it there until the impulse to inhale returns, it should be exhaled through the other, slowly and not forcibly.
- If the air is inhaled through the left nostril, it should be expelled again through the other, and filling it through the right nostril, holding it, and exhaled through the left nostril. By practicing in this way, through the right and the left nostrils alternately, all of your nadis are cleansed from impurities after 3 months.
- Kumbhakas (holding) should be performed gradually 4 times during the day and night (i.e., morning, noon, evening and midnight), until the number of Kumbhakas for one time is 80 and for day and night together it is 320.
- You will notice that you begin to perspire in the beginning, then you will begin to quiver, and finally in the third stage, you obtain steadiness. This is when the breath should be made steady or motionless. The perspiration exuding from exertion of practice should be rubbed into the body (not wiped off). This strengthens the body.
- It is important to not overeat or to eat unhealthy foods while you practice this breath technique. When the practice becomes established, no such restriction is necessary. (Naturally, one is expected to have a healthy diet throughout one's life. (So-called diets to lose weight are ridiculous. One should find the best diet that helps to maintain fitness and stick to it throughout one's life. Protein is very important to be able to absorb calcium. If you have a lack of calcium, you are not eating enough protein.)
- Just as lions, elephants and tigers can be controlled, so the breath can be controlled by slow degrees. Being too hasty or using too much force actually causes the opposite effects and can be dangerous. (This is why I keep repeating: There is no rush. Take your time.) The air should be exhaled with a steady rhythm and should be inhaled with skill. When it has been held properly, success is the outcome.
Different kinds of KumbhakasThere are 8. I am only including 7 here: Surya Bhedan; Ujjayi; Sitkari; Sitali; Bhastrika; Bhramari; Murchha
Surya Bhedana Take any comfortable posture and perform the asana. Inhale slowly, through your right nostril. Hold it, so it fills from your toes to the tip of your head. Exhale through your left nostril slowly. Note Do this alternately with both nostrils, inhaling through one, exhaling through the other, and vice versa. Benefits: This breath technique cleanses the forehead (frontal sinuses) and eliminates disorders of Vata. It should be practiced repeatedly. While practicing, sit in Siddhasana, and do bandhu and Kumbhaka. Start with with 10 Pranayamas the first day, and add 6 daily. With a relaxed and composed mind, 80 Kumbhakas should be performed at a time; beginning first with the left nostril) and then the right nostril.
Ujjayi Close the opening of the Nadi (= larynx) (with your mind in the beginning). Inhale in such a way that the air enters from the throat (larynx, not the nostrils) to the chest, and makes a noise while passing through. (This is described in the Breath series of this site in the first step, larynx, of the Complete Yoga Breath. Read that to get this right. You can also listen to the sound on every page of this site by clicking on the link in the upper right column.) It should be restrained, as before, and then exhale through the Ida (= left nostril). This removes phlegm (mucous) in the throat and increases one's appetite. Ujjayi should be performed in all conditions of life, even while walking or sitting. Sitkari Sitkari is performed by drawing in the air through the mouth, keeping the tongue between the lips. The air thus drawn in should not be expelled through the mouth. Sitali As in the above (Sitkari), the tongue is protruded a little out of the lips when the air is drawn in. It is kept confined, as before, and then expelled slowly through the nostrils. This Sitali Kumbhaka cures colic, (enlarged) spleen, fever, disorders of bile, hunger, thirst, and counteracts poisons. The Bhastrika Sitting in Padmasana (feet crossed and placed on thighs, or with your legs crossed comfortably), with your back straight, close your mouth carefully and let the air be expelled through the nose. It should be filled up to the lotus of the heart, by drawing it in with force, making noise and touching the throat, the chest and the head. It should be expelled again and filled again and again as before, just as a pair of bellows of the blacksmith is worked. In the same way, the air of the body should be moved intelligently, filling it through Surya when fatigue is experienced. The air should be drawn in through the right nostril by pressing the thumb against the left side of the nose, to close the left nostril. When inhalation is complete, it should be closed with the fourth finger (the one next to the little finger) and held. When you feel the urge to breathe, exhale through the left nostril. This destroys bile and phlegm and increases the digestive power of the gastric juices. It quickly awakens the Kundalini, purifies the system, gives pleasure, and is extremely beneficial. It removes phlegm and the impurities accumulated at the entrance of the Brahma Nadi. This Bhastrika should be performed plentifully, for it breaks the three knots: Brahma granthi (in the chest), Visnu granthi (in the throat), and Rudra granthi (between the eyebrows) of the body.
The Bhramari Fill the air with force, making a noise like a wasp, and expel it slowly, making the same noise. This practice causes a sort of ecstasy in the mind. The Murchha Close the passages with Jalandhar Bandha firmly at the end of Puraka, and exhale slowly. It brings comfort to the mind. Great to steady yourself in a crisis situation.