Before taking to yoga or pranayama as a regular practice, try to know what it all means in the deeper sense, so that it can be effective, advises BHUWAN MOHAN PRASAD
When many yogis would meditate in close proximity all at the same time for days together, a strong energy field would get created which would attract people from far and wide. When these visitors would come near the caves and peep inside, all they would see were physical postures of different kinds. Patanjali, the great exponent of yoga has listed 84 such asanas or postures, named mainly after animals and birds.
These onlookers would go back with the impression that yoga was nothing but physical asanas. Then, different variations would be added to the practice such as Hot Yoga, Tantric Yoga, Relaxation Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Partner Yoga, Integral Yoga and what not. But, again the story will be no different. All such practices require lot of effort and application of will from the ego centre which goes totally against the very grain of the asanas, which according to Patanjali is sthirsukhamasanam — the posture should be steady, comfortable, and grounded in joy.
Moreover, asanas is only one of the lower eight rungs of yoga as propounded by Patanjali. Once it is practised rightly, practice of higher rungs, such as, yogic breathing or pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi become automatic.
Breath is our connection with body and mind. What’s the correct way of doing yogic breathing? The best way is really not doing anything at all but just let be — into our own being. At this stage, it is better to have little idea about our breathing patterns. If you place your finger immediately below your nostrils, you will experience that only one nostril is active or more active at a given time and after some time, another nostril takes over but both of them are not equally active at the same time.
Our body has 72,000 nadis or energy channels of which three of them are the most important — ida, pingala and sushumna. Ida is related with left nostril breathing, pingala with right nostril breathing while sushumna is when both the nostrils become equally active. Sushumna has been active since we were born and were a toddler and becomes active even now when we are in a deep dreamless sleep state. When you see a toddler lying on its back, you can clearly see how its stomach goes up and down rhythmically and breath is taking place from both the nostrils in equal measure. But, as we age, we get inputs from society in the form of fear and desire and our breath not only becomes shallow, but finally becomes, one-nostril-at-a-time centric.
The aim of yogic breathing is to be in a condition of deep dreamless sleep state while we are awake. So sit in a relaxed position, close your eyes and just be yourself effortlessly. Whatever thoughts invade your mind, treat them as unwanted guests and they will go away by themselves. This will make your mind quiescent, your breathing rate minimal, and finally, your inhalation will become smoother and silken. Both the nostrils will become equally active at the same time which will establish you in the state of sushumna and will centre your mind and being.
Sushumna actually means sukha-mana — a joyful mind.
In this state, you would experience timelessness and receive insights from your very core of being and attain a state of satchitanada or a blissful state of pure awareness of the eternal. Patanjali described the whole process in just a few words: prayatnashaithilyaanantasamapattibhyam — perfecting the posture of relaxing and allowing attention to merge with the Infinite.
We feel we are breathing perfectly with just one nostril being active at a time. Only when we are in a state of sushumna, do we know that what we had assumed to be perfect, was just a tiny part of what we are capable of achieving.
You have seen how a little learning can lead to huge confusing beliefs which then become hard to change and this is true for all aspects of our lives. Very aptly, Alexander Pope had said:
“A little learning is a dangerous thing
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierianspring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again”