Pranayama & Meditation
‘Yoga’ word meaning is union. Yoga was developed to achieve union of God and Soul. In order to achieve this goal; body, mind and soul must be in complete harmony. Therefore, yoga is for complete progress of body, mind and soul. There are 8 limbs of yoga. Pranayama is one of the 8 limbs.
Pranayama has the capacity of freeing the
mind from untruthfulness, ignorance and all other painful and unpleasant experiences
of the body and mind; and when the mind becomes clean it becomes easy for the
person to concentrate on the desired object and it becomes possible for him to
progress further in the direction of meditation.
By Yog asanas, we remove the distortions and disabilities of the physical body and bring it into discipline. However Pranayama influences the subtle and the physical bodies in a greater measure than Yogsanas do and that too in a perceptible manner. In the human body, lungs, heart and brain hold very important positions and they depend on each other heavily for their health.
Physically, Pranayam appears to be a systematic exercise of respiration, which makes the lungs stronger, improves blood circulation, makes the man healthier and bestows upon him the boon of a long life. Physiology teaches us that the air (Prana) we breathe in fills our lungs, spreads in the entire body, providing it with essential form the body, take them to the heart and then to the lungs, which throws the useless material like carbon dioxide out of the body through the act of exhalation. If this action of the respiratory system is done regularly and efficiently, lungs become stronger and blood becomes pure.
However, most of the people do not have the habit of breathing deeply with the result that only one-fourth part of the lungs is brought into action and 75 percent remains idle. Like the honeycomb, lungs are made of about 73 million cells, comparable to a sponge in their making. On normal breathing, to which we all are accustomed, only about 20 million pores in the lungs get oxygen, whereas remaining 53 million pores remain deprived of the benefit, with the result that they get contaminated by several diseases like tuberculosis, respiratory diseases and several ailments like coughing, bronchitis etc.
In this way, the inefficient functioning of the lungs affects the process of blood purification. Heart weakens because of this with a constant possibility of untimely death. It is for this reason that the importance of Pranayama has come to be recognised, for a healthy long life. Several diseases can be averted by regular practice of Pranayama.Hence, it is obvious that the knowledge of the science of Pranayama and its regular practice enables a man to lead a healthy and long life.
Mental disturbances like excitement, anxiety, fear, anger, disappointment, lust and other mental perversions can be calmed down by regular practice of Pranayama. Besides, Pranayama practice improves the functions of the brain cells with the result that memory and the faculty of discrimination and observation improves, making it easy to perform concentration and meditation.
Some rules for Pranayam
Different treatise advocating or dealing with the subject of Pranayama describe several methods and each of them has its own importance. However, it is not possible for most people to do all these exercises daily. Hence, with the blessings of our teachers and in view of our experience, we have evolved seven methods of Pranayama , which incorporate into themselves, almost all the peculiarities of Pranayama rendering them scientific and useful from a spiritual point of view. All these seven types of Pranayama can be done, as a routine and in a time bound programme of about 20 minutes. The person who does these exercises daily and regularly can attain following benefits which are briefly described as under:
Benefits of Pranayama:
Swami Ramdev (yoga guru in India) claims and there are many testimonials on this regard (www.divyayoga.com) that:
Types Of Pranayama:
There are many types of pranayama. Following are main:
- Bahya – External
- Abhyanter – Internal
- Stamph – Cessation
- Bahaya-abhyanter-akshepee – Internal and external restrain
- Bahya with bandh
- Nadi Shodhnam
Meditation’s Effects on the Body: When practicing meditation, your heart rate and breathing slow down, your blood pressure normalizes, you use oxygen more efficiently, and you sweat less. Also, your adrenal glands produce less cortical, adrenaline and noradrenalin, you make more positive hormones, your body ages at a slower rate, and your immune function improves. Your mind also clears and your creativity increases. People who meditate regularly find it easier to give up life-damaging habits like smoking, drinking and drugs.
Spiritual Reason To Meditate – When a person follows 8 limbs of yoga the mind and the internal senses are purified and filled with truth. He daily advances in secular and spiritual knowledge till he obtains emancipation. He makes progress forever. Approaching God dispels all vices, sufferings and purifies soul ‘s actions and fills her with virtues, similar to God. Therefore it is very important to repeat the attributes of God, pray to Him and meditate on Him. With meditation the soul becomes so strong that it can even bear the mountain of misery.
God’s Attributes - God is existent, intelligent and blissful. He is formless, Almighty, just, merciful, unborn, limitless, unchangeable, beginning-less, unequalled, the support of all, the controller of all from within, omnipresent, all-knowing , un-aging, immortal, fearless, eternal, pure, and the creator of the universe. He alone worthy of worship. His principle name is OM.
Soul – Knowledge, effort, desire, jealousy, happiness, sadness are the attributes of the soul. Every living being has a soul. It resides near the heart. It is very small in size. It is never born or never dies. Soul has no gender or specie. It is moved by God from one gender to another, from one specie to another based on its own actions from human life. Entering soul into the body is conception/birth and departure of it is death.
Union - When a person wants to meditate, he should wash hands, ears, eyes, nose etc. with water, he should go to a secluded, clean place, take a comfortable seat facing towards the wind, keep body erect, head straight, practice deep breathing, check the tendency of the senses towards the external objects, fix the attention on the navel region, heart, throat, eye, crown, nose or anywhere in the spine. He should think of own self and the Super Soul and get absorbed in contemplating on the Supreme being.
Eight Limbs of Yoga:
1. Yamas - Restraints
2. Niyamas - Observance
3. Aasna - Posture
4 Pranayama – Control of Breath
5. Pratyahara - Abstraction
6. Dharna - Concentration
7. Dhyan - Meditation
8 Samadhi - Absorption
Yamas or Restraints -
Non-killing/non-hurting (ahinsa), truthfulness (satya), abstinence from stealing (astaeya), continence (brahmcharya) and non-covetousness (aparigrah) are the 5 restraints (yamas).
Non-killing/non-hurting means the total absence of harmfulness towards all living beings by all means (thought, word, action, carelessness) and at all times. The other restraints (yamas) and observances (niyamas) have their 'root' in non-killing/non-hurting. Their success lies in its success.
Truthfulness is that in which there is complete agreement between speech and mind. The speech and the mind should be in accord with what has been seen, inferred and heard. The use of speech is to convey to another one's own knowledge. It is truthfulness if it is free from dishonesty, does not cause misapprehension and is not meaningless and is employed for the good; but not for hurting any living being. If the speech that is uttered is for hurting of living beings it is not truthful but sinful. Hurting speech may seem virtuous and may bring outward form of virtue, but It will surely lead to the direst misery. One should, therefore, speak that truth which is beneficial for all beings after one has tested it.
Theft is to take objects belonging to others by unlawful means. Non-stealing is abstinence from theft. The real non-stealing is to give up even the desire for others belongings.
Continence (Brahmacharya) is the control of the generative organs.
Non-covetousness is to renounce the objects of pleasure with the consciousness that their collection, preservation and destruction involve pain to someone else.
The fruit if non-killing/non-hurting (ahinsa) is that enmity is given up in one's presence. The fruit of truthful conduct is that an action and fruition become dependent. When one is established in non-stealing all jewels approach him. With Continence (Brahmacharya) one acquires power and energy. The fruit of non-covetousness (aparigraha) is that one get the memory of past life.
Niyamas - Observance
Cleanliness (shoch), contentment (santosh), austerity (tapa), self-study (svaadhya) and contemplation of God (ishwar pranidhan)are the observances (niyamas).
Cleanliness is either external or internal. External cleanliness should be accomplished by means of water, etc. and internal by renouncing attachment, jealousy, untruth, etc.
One should acquire contentment, tranquility, by the practice of virtue (Dharma).
Austerity is to always act in accordance with the dictates of duty (Dharma).
Self-study is the reading and the teaching of the authentic scriptures, the Vedas and others.
Repeat the Pranava (Om) as a means of contemplation of God and surrender all things to the Great Teacher, the Supreme Lord.
The fruit of the practice of cleanliness is one acquires purity of intellect, calmness of mind, concentration, victory over the senses and fitness for knowledge of the self. By contentment one obtains results, destruction of impurity and then one obtains the highest happiness. Austerity results destruction of impurity and one obtains the siddhis (accomplishments) of the body and the senses. Self-study obtains the communion with the beloved devas. By contemplation of God the state of absorption is reached.
Posture is that in which one is steady and at ease. The postures are Padmasana, Virasana, Bhardrasana, Svastika, Dandasana, Sopashraya, Paryanka, Hastinishadana, Ushtranishadana, Krounchanishadana, Samasansthana, sthirasukha, Yathasukha, etc. One may adopt the posture Padmasana, etc., or any other according to one's choice.
By conquering the posture one is not overpowered by the pairs of opposites such as heat and cold, etc. Also breath is regulated, i.e., the movements of in-breathing and out-breathing are checked. With the regulation of breath body does not move. When posture has been fully brought under control one is able to regulate the breath, i.e., to get the mastery over the air that goes into, and comes out of the body by skilful and gradual exercise, (in other words) to bring about the cessation of the movements of air by making it motionless and still.
Pranayama – Regulation of Breath
As in the act of vomiting all the contents of the stomach are violently expelled, so should the breath be expired forcibly, and held out as long as possible by drawing up the pelvic viscera. When discomfort is felt, the air should be gently taken in and held as long as possible. This process should be repeated according to one’s desire and strength. While practicing pranayama, one should contemplate on Om. This exalts and purifies the soul and develops concentration of mind. Never hold nose with hand, always practice pranayama as it. The pranayama is of four kinds:
a) External – The process mentioned above in which the breath is held out as long as possible.
b) Internal – In which the breath is held in as long as possible as above.
c) Cessation – In which the breathing is suddenly stopped at any stage of respiration.
d) Internal and external restrain – To restrain the internal breath when it is to go out, by breathing in, in opposition to it, and to restrain the external breath, when it seeks to get in, by breathing out to propel and stop it. By thus breathing oppositely the action of both expiration and inspiration is checked, and the respiration being controlled, the will and the senses are brought under subjection to the mind or soul.
Thus by the practice of Pranayama the veil of ignorance gets destroyed over true discrimination concealing the light of the indwelling ruler God and the ability of concentration is acquired. The mind of the worshipper acquires complete ability to fix itself in the contemplation of God. With the increase of body strength and activity the intellect becomes so subtle that it can easily grasp the most difficult subjects.
Pratyahara - Abstraction
Abstraction is when the mind is brought under control and it does not move or distract from the contemplation or shelter of God. As the mind is concentrated in the essence of God so the senses, i.e. with the conquest of mind is attained the conquest of senses. Then, when the senses become detached from their respective objects and cease to have any attraction for them, there is a complete and supreme control over the organs. Whenever such a devotee proceeds for contemplation of God, his mind and senses are instantly restrained.
Dharna, Dhyan, Samadhi - Concentration, meditation, absorption
Concentration of the thinking principle is the fixing of it on a particular point. Concentration is the fixing of the activity of the thinking principle on the navel plexus, the lotus of the heart, the aperture in the crown of the head, the tip of the nose, the tip of the tongue, etc. or on some external object. Meditation is uniform and unbroken flow on a particular point. The same (meditation) when shining with the light of the object alone and devoid, as it were, of its own form is absorption (Samadhi).
The distinction between meditation and absorption is this that in meditation activity of the mind is present in the shape of the mediator, the act of meditation and the object of meditation but in absorption the mind becomes devoid, as it were, of is own form and becomes absorbed in the Divine essence and its beatitude. 'The three (concentration), meditation and absorption) together are called Samyana. These three are the means towards the same end are jointly called Samyama, which is the technical term of all the three. It is the ninth limb of worship.