Daily Readings from the Works of Swami Venkatesananda

Insights and Inspirations — Importance of Pranayama

April 18, 2024

     In order to come face-to-face with that which we called prana, Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras (The Yoga Sutra of Pantanjali) prescribes a very simple technique. The text says: “Vomit all the air, then hold; exhale completely and then suspend the breath". When the breath is suspended in this manner, thought comes to a standstill, and a different type of intelligence begins to function. In that, the true nature of prana is seen.

      My guru himself was very fond of pranayama. Even when he could not do the yoga asanas because of so many factors, he continued pranayama. In the same way, even if his students could not do the asanas, he recommended pranayama because pranayama purifies the nadis directly.

      In The Yoga Sutras the benefits of the practice of pranayama are given in one sutra: “When you practice pranayama, the veil that covers the truth (the reality) disappears, so that there is clarity of perception and understanding. The mind and intelligence become clear, and the mind acquires the ability to concentrate easily."

      In The Yoga Sutras,  kava khumbhaka is exalted. Kevala kumbhaka is suspension of breathing; that is without breathing in, without breathing out, the breath is suspended. There is a feeling that the whole breathing apparatus is open. Perhaps the air circulates without you having to breathe in or out.

      The state of mind is shown to be linked to the breathing. If you want to diagnose the state of your mind, watch your breathing. If it is steady and gentle, the mind also has these characteristics. If the breathing is agitated, the mind also is agitated. Therefore The Yoga Sutras insist  upon the kevala kumbhaka state where the breath is suspended.

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