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Pranayama is the science of breathing. This is the first physical act of all human beings born in this world. God has endowed man with intelligence to live long, to attain perfection in life (kaya siddhi). Siddhars say that an intelligent control over our breathing will prolong life by increasing our stamina. The practice of right way of breathing in siddhar’s science of longevity is known as practice of “Vasi”. Vasi in Tamil means “breathing” (Vayu tharanai). If we repeat the word ‘Vasi’ several times it will resound as ‘Siva’.

Regulation of breathing

The siddha system says the human body both the physical and the subtle is made up of 72,000 veins and nerves and seven vital nerve centers (chakras) along the route of the spinal cord, the three important regions being sun, moon, and fire, the ten vital airs (prana) and ten vital nerves (nadis). Out of the ten vital nerves (nadis) the first three namely Idakalai, Pingalai, and Suzhumunai play an important role in the technique and prolongation of life.

The normal life span of a man should be properly employed, would be 120 years. A man’s normal act of breathing as prescribed by siddha science is at the rate of 360 times per nazhigai (one hour = two and a half nazhigai) and this comes to 21,600 breaths in a day. Every act of breathing takes place at a length of space of 12 inches in the nostril and during its operation, the energy utilized by the body is up to an extent of eight inches only and the remaining four inches is being wasted. It is clear therefore that out of 21,600 total breaths of a human body in a day, the body is utilizing only 14,400 breaths and the balances of 7,200 breaths go as waste.

1 hour = 2 ½ nazhigai

24 hours = 60 nazhigai

1 nazhigai = 360 breaths

2 ½ nazhigai = 900 breaths

24 hours (per day) = 21,600 breaths.

“Yeruthal poorakam erettu vamatthal

Aaruthal kumbagam arupathu nalathil

Ooruthal muppatthirendathil resakam

Maruthal ontrin kan vanjagamamae.”

“ Yetri irakki irukalum poorikkum

Katrai pidikkum kanakkarivarillai

Katrai pidikkum kanakkarivalarku

Kootrai uthaikkum kuriyathuvama”

Thirumanthiram

Respiration should be rhythmical. It is obtained according to Thirumoolar by harmonizing the three movements. Inhalation (pooragam) through left nostril 16 mathirais (units), retention (kumbagam) of the inhaled air to the extent of 64 mathirais and exhalation (resagam) through right nostril 32 mathirais.

However, in relation to the weekday, starting from the day- break (sun rise) in the morning at 4 a.m., the breath passes either through the right nostril or through the left. On Sunday, Tuesday and Saturday, breath passes through the right nostril (Sooryakalai or Pingalai). On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, it passes through the left nostril (Chandrakalai). Breathing occurs through the left nostril on the waxing period Thursday and through the right nostril on the waning period Thursday. If there is any change in the above said regulation of breathing, diseases will occur. If the breath does not pass through the intended passage, at 4’0 clock in the morning then it should be changed. If one lies down on the side of the nostril by which the breath should not pass, then the breath will change its course to pass through the other nostril, immediately. It is also good to block the nostril by pressing it with the finger to change the course of the breath. From these, it is clear that the passages of breath are changeable within minutes according to our convenience.

Method of practice of Pranayama

1. Sitting in a comfortable, steady and relaxed position.

2. Place the right thumb on the superficial surface of the right nose and press it

3. Breath out to the left nostril slowly and completely.

4. Noiselessly breath in through the same nostril and

5. Close it with ring and middle fingers of the right and while

6. Opening the right nostril to breath out.

7. Breath out noiselessly, slowly and completely with the right nostril

8. Breath in again with the right nostril in the same way.

The above said process is considered as one pranayama. Then the process is gradually increased up to 15 times or according to one’s own will.

Advantages

1. Pranayama yields benefits for all functions like respiration, blood circulation,

digestion, excretion, secretion and for improving muscle tone, removing congestion of blood and release of tension

2. It helps considerably to calm down an irritated and excited mind and make it

steady.

3. Meditation can be done easily after a few rounds of Pranayama.

4. It is also held to awake the serpent power and create blissful state of

consciousness.

Pratyakara

Retrieving the mind from objects of enjoyment. The practice of both posture and breathing exercise leads to a progressive desensitization that shuts out external stimuli. When consciousness is effectively sealed off from the environment, this is the state of sensory inhibition.

Dharana (concentration)

Concentration is the holding of the mind in a motionless state. Patanjali’s term for concentration is Dharana, which stems from the verbal root ‘dhri’ means’ to hold’, what is being held is one’s attention which is fixed on an internalized object. Dharana is an important step from the medical point of view since the Yogi can see how the prana (energy) is transmitted in the body and how it encounters different chakras (plexus of nerves) etc.

Dhyanam (meditation)

The act of thinking deeply about something. Meditation is a method by which a person concentrates more and more upon less and less. The aim is to empty the mind while paradoxically remain alert. Meditation is a state of concentration of mind on one single object so that the same experience arises continuously in the mind again and again without there being any other experience that may intervene. From deep meditation, one can attain Samadhi.

One can practice meditation to attain the state of Samadhi in several ways. Some of the common ways are reciting words (mantra), by chanting Aum, by using a material symbol like a phallus (Sivalinga) or an idol or picture or the flame of a lamp. The most important aspect in each of this method is to stop the process of desire. Unless one can able to stop the desire, one’s mind cannot become steady.

Scientific researches on the state of meditation have shown clearly that physiologically many advantages are gained by the practice of meditation such as slowing of the heart, breath and mind. This helps in prevention and cure of a wide range of stress disorders such as diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, psoriasis, sleeplessness, indigestion, acidity, gastritis etc.

Thus meditation has proved to be an important technique of modern form of Yoga especially suitable for the solution of problems peculiar to modern times. When meditation is combined with other techniques of yoga, its effect is greatly enhanced for treatment of a wide range of health problems or disorders.

Samadhi (ecstasy)

Samathi is the state of super consciousness. It is said to lead ultimately to self- knowledge (Atmagnanam), which is the culmination of Yoga according to sage Patanjali and also according to the ancient authorities of hatha yoga. Samadhi is union with the Lord. The state of Samadhi is beyond description. It is beyond the reach of mind and speech. One has to feel this him self. Just as salt becomes identical with water through union, so the identity of mind and self is named “Ecstasy”. When the mind and the life force merge and dissolve, the balance is named as Ecstasy.

Basic fitness in daily life is a common need of every one. Yoga can fulfill this need irrespective of the type of work one does, one’s role in life or the type of food one

eats. However, this benefit may not be possible if one do not practice the correct technique of yoga or practice it irregularly. Yoga can help every one play his or her roles more efficiently, more smoothly and more comfortably. Two main advantages of Yoga are prevention of disorders and ailments and maintenance of health and fitness in daily life. Other advantages include flexible muscles, supple joints, relaxed and tension free mind and efficiently working vital organs such as the heart, lungs, endocrine glands, liver, pancreas and brain.

Yoga practitioner should fill only half of the stomach with solid food, a quarter with water and the remaining one fourth should be left empty. This is a golden rule that one needs to observe for every meal especially if one practices yoga regularly.

Conclusion

The relation between the fire kindled by the ascent of kundalini through the plexuses and the inner heat need some emphasis here. Its awakening and its journey through the centers are brought about by a technique whose essential task is that of arresting respiration. The adopt further endeavours to keep the Kundalini in suzhumunai and make it rises to the top of the head, that being is final goal where it is represented in the form of a thousand petalled lotus. The abundant salival secretion produced in this process of obstructing the cavum by turning the tongue back and inserting the tip of it into the throat is expounded as celestial ambrosia (amirtha, Gnana muppu, Yoga muppu) which is capable of rejuvenating the entire system through Astanga Yoga.