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 ex