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Breath and Pran are two different things altogether. But we cannot see them apart from each-other. Breath is Sthula (gross) and Pran is Suksham (subtle). It is the vital force. Breath is the external manifestation of Pran. Pran permeates everything and everywhere. It is through the agency of breath that we partake of this vital force ceaselessly. All the things of the world that have life, energy and mobility are infused with Pran. Man is sanskrit in called Prani because he possesses Pran. Electricity, Heat, Magnet, Light, Sun, Water, Fire, Air are all the manifestation of Pran. Ultimately atom also contains Pran.
The two substances that lie at the base of the creation of this universe are-Akash (Ether) and Pran. Pulsation of Pran in Akash is the real cause of creation. Pran transcends both Mind and Senses. It is why in our scriptures Pran is known as the elder brother of the Mind. In the sleeping state when the mind calms down, it is the Pran that continues functioning. Pran is present even when mind is absent in deep sleep.
It is not a startling fact that the sum total of all esthitical power is static? Similarly the sum total of all the universal pranic power does not undergo any change. The energy that activates or vitalises our nervous system is the same energy that permeates the whole universe. The process by which the Pran is controlled by the regulation of breath is called Pranayam. A person who knows the art of controlling his Pran, also comes to know the art of controlling the universal Pranic-Energy.
Our lungs are divided into three parts :
When we take a deep breath, all the three parts of the lungs are fully charged with Pranic energy. Not only this, he circulation of this energy in the naval region and its flow into the middle section and there after its total penetration into the lungs is the main function of Pranayam. Ordinarily every human being breaths. But the question arises how the breathing process of a common man is different from the one who is practicing Pranayam?
When we breathe in the natural manner, we cannot
stimulate the different parts of the body equally well. Consequently the
functional capability of lungs and other organs of the body starts deteriorating
and their purification also does not take place. The practice of Pranayam
makes them more active and healthy.
One of the most important functions of Pranayam
is to bring about the stability of the mind. Our saints and sages had
realized the secret of it from very ancient times. In Rig Ved the description
of Pranayam is described as under.
Neophytes who start the practice of pranayam from
the very beginning will find this technique of pranayam very useful. Though
simple in practice, yet it is very helpful in making the respiratory system
Thereafter inhale slowly through the right nostril and exhale slowly through the left nostril. This constitutes one round. Repeat 15 such rounds, give rest to the breathing process after every fifth round. While resting, place the right hand on the right knee in gyan mudra pose. Continue the practice of this pranayam for one week.
The practice of above mentioned pranayam will enable
the practitioner to acquire the capacity to perform the Nadi Shodhan Pranayam.
* Dhauti Kriya (This comes under Shat-Kriyas)
Special importance is attached to this technique of Pranayam as it is instrumental in purifying the entire nervous system in the body. That is why it is called Nadi shodhan. The vayu cannot enter the nadis if they are full of impurities and those organs that are strengthened by those nadis lose their functional strength and hence the sadhak fails to achieve any spiritual advancement, such as the realization of the self.
This Pranayam is different from other types of Pranayam in the sense that while it makes the respiratory process quite rhythmical, it also makes our breath extremely subtle. The term 'subtle' means that we should not hear the sound of the breath. We must inhale and exhale slowly and inaudibly.
Just after the performance of yogasans, the practice of Sarvangasan is very beneficial, likewise the practice of Nadi Shodhan Pranayam should round off the practice of other types of pranayam. It is highly beneficial in the sense that it is very useful and helpful in meditation. Our scriptures have therefore advised the practice of Nadi Shodhan before meditation.
The benefits of this pranayam are as follows.
With the neck & spine erect , sit down in Padmasan. Keep the eyes gently closed, rest the left hand on the left knee in Gyanmudra Pose. Placing the two fore fingers of the right hand at the root of the thumb close the right nostril gently with the right thumb. Start inhaling slowly but deeply through the left nostril. Close the left nostril with the ring finger (Anamica), retain the breath in Antrik kumbahk. Now remove the thumb from the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril slowly. Thereafter, start inhaling slowly through the right nostril and draw deep breath. Do Antric Kumbhak accordingly to the capacity.
Removing the ring finger from the left nostril expel the breath slowly from the left nostril. This is one round, increase the rounds gradually with matra.