Balance your Hormone Secretions through Bhramari Pranayam

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One of the most underestimated pranayam techniques is BHRAMARI.  But this is one of the most powerful of all pranayamas and most easy to do techniques with the lowest risk of doing it incorrectly.

Benefits of regular Bhramari practice over time:

  • Helps reduce anger, anxiety, mental agitation, promotes, relaxation and calm, and can bring you as close as possible to a meditative state of mind. Studies have shown that Bhramari Pranayam relaxes the cerebral cortex and activates the parasymathetic system that is responsible for calmness, relaxation and promotes sound deep sleep.
  • Stimulates the balanced secretion of hormones by the endocrine glands. The vibrations produced by the nasal bumblebee like tone when chanting Mmmm sound during Bhramari stimulates the hypothalamus.  The hypothalamus is a small pea sized part of the brain which helps maintain homeostasis. It forms a link between the nervous system and the endocrine glands by releasing hormones that stimulate the pituitary gland to either secrete or inhibit the secretion of hormones by the endocrine glands in our body. Together the anterior and posterior pituitary gland secrete hormones that control the production of the growth hormone, thyroid stimulating hormone, adrenocorticotropic hormone, lutenizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, prolactin, vasopressin, oxytocin and the neurotransmitter dopamine .
  • Corticotropin (CRH) releasing hormone is secreted by the hypothalamus in response to stress. Higher CRH is associated with Alzheimer’s and depression. It stimulates the production of pituitary adreno-cortico tropic hormone (ACTH) which is produced in response to biological stress and results in increased production and release of cortisol by the adrenal gland. Increased cortisol has negative effects on the immune system, lengthens wound healing time, and leads to osteoporosis by reducing bone formation.
  • Dopamine ( a neurohormone released by the hypothalamus) has an influence on the motor control centers. A loss of dopamine is associated with Parkinson’s disease and pain associated with Parkinson’s. Imbalance in dopamine levels has found to be associated with social anxiety, apathy, schizophrenia etc.
  • The nasal tone humming/buzzing Mmmm sound during slow nasal exhalation boosts production of nitric oxide.  Nitric oxide dilates arteries, improving blood circulation  and oxygen to the heart, decreases plaque growth (which causes atherosclerosis)  and blood clotting, lowers high blood pressure.  Nitric oxide is produced naturally in our tissues and sinuses when we breathe through our nostrils, but if we breathe through our mouth we cannot utilize this nitric oxide.

According to http://www.atsjournals.org/doi/full/10.1164/rccm.200202-138BC

“Nasal NO was measured with a chemiluminescence technique during humming and quiet single-breath exhalations at a fixed flow rate. NO increased 15-fold during humming compared with quiet exhalation.”

When to practice?

Practice twice a day if possible for ~ 5 minutes in morning or 5 minutes in evening which should come out to 20 breath cycles/rounds each.

How to practice?

shanmukhi-mudra-300x266

Image: http://www.abhyasayoga.in/shanmukhi-mudra/

 

Sit comfortably.  Make sure you have a good posture or back support if needed.

Close you eyes. Place your thumbs on the ear flap/cartilage and press down gently to cover the ears. You may place the tips of the index finger near your third eye and the tips of the middle  fingers gently on the inner corner of your eyes and the remainder fingers just rest below on your face in a natural position. Alternately you may do this in Shanmukhi mudra with the ring finger may be placed on either side of the nostrils and the little fingers rest on either side of the mouth.

Mouth should be closed, lips touching gently but teeth slightly apart and jaw relaxed. Your tongue can rest gently behind the bottom palate.

Begin by inhaling (3-4 seconds) and as you exhale slowly through your nostrils start chanting Mmmm.(Short but full inhalation and slow exhalation).

The sound you emanate should resemble the buzzing of a bee.

Note:

  • Avoid any yogic, meditative or pranayam practice immediately after a meal.
  • If your arms get tired it is ok to take a break. You can break down your practice into 4 sets of 5 rounds each. So a total of 20 rounds or more based upon your preference.
  • If you get breathless it is because you are holding your breath while chanting Mmmm sound. Make sure to exhale an a smooth controlled manner through your nose as you chant.
  • Upon completion it is better to not get up immediately, but to sit for a few minutes.

References:

http://www.news-medical.net/health/Dopamine-Functions.aspx

http://www.biology-pages.info/H/Hypothalamus.html

https://www.drwhitaker.com/boost-nitric-oxide-levels-to-improve-health/

http://www.normalbreathing.com/index-nasal.php

http://www.atsjournals.org/doi/full/10.1164/rccm.200202-138BC

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PRANA-The Quanta of our Vitality and Energy

Prana is the vital life force or life breath and is the subtle essence of vata or air element.  It is responsible for life in an individual.  It is responsible for vitality and energy and the processes of respiration, circulation, digestion, excretion etc.  Heart chakra is described as a divine lotus with 12 petals that have Sanskrit letters. Prana lives in the heart along with past desires and egoism.

The different modifications of this prana, results in ten principle types of pranas. These are:

Pran– located in the heart chakra and responsible for respiratory and circulatory functions.

Apan-located in the root chakra and is responsible for elimination

Saman-located in the solar plexus chakra and responsible for digestion

Udana-located in the throat chakra and is responsible for sound

Vyan-located in the sacral chakra and is responsible for movement and circulation throughout the body?

Naga-responsible for eructation/burping

Kurma– responsible for opening eyes

Krikara-responsible for hunger and thirst

Devadatta-responsible for yawning

Dhananjay– responsible for hiccoughs/hiccups

Of these the first 5 are important ones and of them the first two-pran and apan are the most important. The heart is the seat of pran, the anus is the seat of apan, the navel region is the seat of samana, the throat is the seat of udana and vyan moves throughout the body. The remainder vayus, are in charge of functions like eructation (naga), opening eyes (kurma), hunger and thirst (krikira), yawning (devadatta) and hiccups (dhananjaya).

We imbibe prana when we breathe.  Hence, the reserves of prana can be increased by performing pranayam which leads to good health of mind and body.

Anulom Vilom increases the vital capacity of the lungs and helps purify the energy channels in the astral body. According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika~ The body of a person whose energy channels or nadis are pure will be lean and glowing. Purification of nadis leads to good health.”

Bhastrika also known as bellows breath involves forceful inhalation followed by forceful exhalation. It is beneficial in cases of allergies, asthma. It makes the lungs strong. It should not be done during pregnancy and menstruation.  For people with high pitta/internal heat, sheetali is a better option.

Bhramari helps strengthen prana and is good for thyroid, thymus and the parathyroid glands. Bhramari means bee, so one makes the sound of a humming bee when performing this pranayam. One should close their ears with their thumbs, inhale and upon exhalation, simultaneously hum with the mouth closed.

While Bhastrika and Bhramari help increase prana, Shambhavi mudra can result in a quantum increase in prana.

Sitting in the lotus pose helps balance prana, ojas, tejas and helps open the heart chakra.

Being honest with our feelings and emotions builds prana, ojas and tejas.

According to David Frawley’s book, Yoga and Ayurveda –

“These three forces (ojas, tejas and prana) are interrelated. Prana and tejas are rooted in ojas and can be regarded as aspects of ojas. Tejas is the heat and light energy of ojas that has an oily quality and, like ghee can sustain a flame. Prana is the energy and strength that comes from ojas after it has been kindled into tejas. Ojas proper is the potential, the stamina of the mind and nervous system for holding tejas and prana. Ojas has the capacity to turn into tejas (heat), which has the capacity to turn into prana (electricity).”

Recommended Reading: Ojas and Tejas

Resources: Secrets of the Pulse, By Vasant Lad, Shiva Samhita

Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a revered text on Hatha Yoga was written by Svatmaram sometime in the 15th century C.E. Chapter 1 starts out by Svatmaram paying respect to Lord Shiva, the supreme teacher of Hatha Yoga. He names a number of revered sages of the past (Matsyendra, Goraksha etc) who conquered death through Yoga and still roam this Universe. He states that the purpose of Hatha Yoga is to attain success in Raja Yoga.  Below is an overview of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika for informational purposes only.  A detailed description of these asanas in conformance with the practices today can be found online.

Chapter 1-Asanas 

One achieves success in yoga through enthusiasm, open mindedness, courage, knowledge of truth and solitude. Yoga gets destroyed through excessive talking, overeating, and physical strain, spending too much time in the company of people, restlessness and performing unnecessary rituals. A yogi who is celibate, moderate in eating habits, detached and persevering in yoga will achieve success within a year. A moderate diet that is satisfying, soothing and sweet is best. Foods that are bitter, sour, spicy, oily green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, alcohol, mustard, meat, asafetida, garlic etc are not recommended. Also food that is too salty, dry, and stale or has been reheated is prohibited. A yogi should avoid travel, company of bad people, early morning baths and any procedures that might harm the body. Wheat, rice, barley, milk, ghee, sugar, mung beans etc are favorable for the practicing yogi. Whether young or old, weak or strong, everyone can benefit form the practice of Hatha Yoga. One who practices yoga is bound to achieve success. One cannot achieve success in yoga by merely talking about it, reading about it or by donning certain attire. It is only practice that will bestow success in yoga. The yoga asanas mentioned by Svatmaram are:

1. Swastikasan

2. Gomukhasan or Cow Pose

3. Virasana

4. Kurmasan or Tortoise Pose

5. Kukkutasan or Raised Tortoise Pose

6. Uttankurmasan

7. Dhanurasan or Bow Pose

8. Matsyendra asan

9. Paschimottan asan or Forward bend Pose

10. Mayurasan or Peacock Pose

11. Shavasana or Corpse Pose

Out of the 84 asans taught by Lord Shiva, Svatmaram describes the 4 most important ones:

1. Siddhasana also known as Vajrasan, Muktasan, and Guptaasan

2. Padmasan or Lotus Pose

3. Simha asan, Singha asan or Lion Pose

4. Bhadraasan or Gorakshasan or Baddha Kona asan described as the destroyer of all diseases

Chapter 2-Pranayam

Pranayam which should be undertaken only upon successful mastery over the asanas/poses. The mind and breath are interconnected. A steady breath means a calm mind and a calm mind helps steady the breath. Therefore one must learn control over the breath. When impurities are present in the nadis (energy channels in the astral body), it is impossible for the breath to flow through the sushumna (the most important nadi in the astral body, which corresponds to the spinal canal in the physical body). Therefore it is important that one practicing pranayam, should do so in a sattvic (pure, virtuous) state of mind.

The yogi should be seated in Padmasan (lotus pose) and inhale through the left nostril, hold per capacity and exhale through the right nostril. He should then inhale through the right nostril, hold per capacity and exhale through the left nostril. The exhalation should not be forceful. The nadis of a yogi practicing this pranayam for 3 months will become pure. Pranayam done correctly will cure a person of diseases, whereas done incorrectly it could cause diseases. The disorders of pawan (air element/breath) cause hiccups, asthma, cough, headaches, earaches, pain in eyes etc. Hence one should pay careful attention when inhaling and exhaling. The body of a person whose nadis are pure will be lean and glowing. Purification of nadis leads to good health.

A person who has too much fat and phlegm in the body should do pranayam only once he has completed the shatkarmas i.e.

1. Dhauti,

2. Vasti,

3. Neti,

4. Trataka,

5. Nauli and

6. Kapalbhati

Some Yoga masters do not believe in the need of observing the Shatkarmas as doing Pranayam alone can remove all impurities.

One can achieve various mysterious powers from the practice of kumbhakas. There are eight kumbhakas:

1. Suryabhedana- hailed as the best kumbhaka to cleanse the skull, destroy bacteria in the sinuses and destroy and diseases related to vat/vayu (wind element in the body) like asthma, hiccups, arthritis

2. Ujjayi- can be done walking or standing. Removes all phlegm related diseases of the throat, increases digestive fire

3. Sheetkari- gets rid of all diseases, removes lethargy, hunger and thirst

4. Shitali- destroys fever, pith (bile/heat) related disorders and enlargement of spleen and toxins

5. Bhastrika-removes diseases of the vayu, kapha and pith (wind, phlegm, bile elements or air, water and fire elements) and awakens kundalini

6. Bhramari-promotes bliss

7. Murcha-promotes happiness and clarity of mind

8. Plavini-allows one to float in water

Pranayam consists of inhalation, retention and exhalation. Breath retention also known as kumbhaka is of two types: sahita and kevala. One should practice sahita kumbhaka until they master kevala kumbhaka which is retention of breath without any inhalation or exhalation and retention of breath as desired. Kevala kumbhaka awakens the kundalini. Awakening of kundalini opens up the sushumna nadi (spinal canal).

The following are the signs of someone whose nadis are purified and has achieved success in Hatha Yoga: lean body, clear eyes, glowing face, anahat nada, increased appetite due to increase in digestive fire.

Chapter 3-Mudras

There are ten mudras that were taught by Lord Shiva. These mudras destroy death and old age. Success in these mudras bestows upon the practitioner the eight siddis which are (ability to become small, big, extremely light, extremely heavy, ability to reach very high, become invisible, tame animals and mesmerize people, attain god like qualities. I will not be going into detail of explaining these mudras as they are not to be trifled with and should be done under the guidance of an experienced guru. The ten mudras are:

1) Mahamudra-frees one from diseases like leprosy, consumption, digestive disorders, etc, ability to become small

2) Mahabandha- conquers death, ability to become small

3) Mahavedha- gets rid of grey hair, wrinkles, ability to become small

4) Khechari-success in this mudra destroys poisons, disease, old age, death

5) Uddiyan- destroys old age, conquers death

6) Mulabandha-destroys old age, improves digestive fire, awakens kundalini

7) Jalandhar Bandha-destroys all throat related diseases, old age and death

8) Viparitkarani- destroys wrinkles, grey hair, old age within 6 months of practice

9) Vajroli-conquers death

10) Shaktichalan

Chapter 4-Samadhi

Samadhi is the destroyer of death, the means to attaining happiness and bliss. Raja Yoga, samadhi, unmani, manomani, amaratva, laya, tattva, shunyashunyam, parampadam, amanaskam, advaitam, niralamban, niranjanam, jivanmukti sahaja and turya are all synonyms. As salt dissolves in water, the unity of atman and mind is called samadhi. It is the state of unity in which all thoughts disappear and the jivatma (individual) becomes one with the paramatama (supreme).

Samadhi is obtained when the prana flows through the sushumna. One who has controlled the breath has controlled the mind. One who has controlled the breath can control the mind. Desires and breath are the two causes of the mind. Just as milk and water blend and become one, mind and breath are untied in action. They both go hand in hand. When one is suspended, the other gets suspended. The mind is the master of the senses and the breath is the master of the mind. If the mind is firm, the breath is firm.

The practice of shambhavi mudra and khecahri mudra is described as the mudras that lead to unmani. Shambhavi mudra is a quick means to attaining unmani. In shambhavi mudra, eyes should be half closed and gaze should be fixed on the tip of the nose.

There are 4 stages of yoga: arambha, ghata, parichay and nishpatti. In the first stage when the Brahma granth (knot) is pierced through, bliss arises. A tinkling sound can be heard in the body. The yogi will have a divine body, full of radiance and fragrance and will be free from all diseases. In the second stage, the Vishnu granthi is split open and the yogi can hear a sound similar to that of kettle drums emanating from the vishuddhi (throat) chakra. In the third stage, the sound of drum can be heard. The breath then enters the Ajna (third eye) chakra. The yogi attains freedom from old age, disease, misery, hunger and sleep. In the nishpatti or final stage, the Rudra granthi is pierced and the sounds of a flute and veena become audible to the practitioner.

One can attain indescribable bliss by practicing nada. The practitioner should concentrate on the sound he hears when he closes his ears with his hands. After 15 days he will attain success. In the initial stages, loud sounds will be audible. As the practice improves, the yogi will be able to hear very subtle sounds. The various sounds heard in the initial stages in the body are as follows: ocean, cloud, kettledrum, and jharjhara drum. In the middle stages the yogi can hear sounds of drum and conch together, bell and drum. In the final stages he can hear the tinkling bell, flute, veena and bee. The yogi should try to hear past the loud sounds and try to focus on the subtle sounds only. Let the mind dissolve in the sound. Don’t let it stray towards any outside objects. Accumulated sins are dissolved by simply concentrating on nada. The yogi who has attained Samadhi cannot be eaten by time, or bound by karma. He is free from smell, taste, form, touch, sound and himself. He is free from heat, cold, sadness and happiness, honor and dishonor. He cannot be hurt by weapons, people, mantras and yantras.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gherand Samhita

Gherand Samhita which means Gherand’s collection is a revered yogic text. It was recorded as a conversation between Chanda Kapila and Gherand in which Chanda Kapila asked Gherand to impart him knowledge about the physical discipline of Yoga that would lead to knowledge of the tattvaas (truth). Gherand responds by saying that there are no fetters like those of illusion, no strength like that which comes from the discipline of yoga, no friend better than knowledge and no enemy greater than ego. Just as by learning the alphabet, one can read, similarly by practicing yoga one can obtain knowledge of the truth.

Below is a brief summary of the Gherand Samhita based on translations by Srisa Chandra Vasu and with mild cross-reference to the translations by James Mallinson. I did not go into the depth of describing most of the processes described in the text as some of them are complicated and should be approached with extreme caution, under the guidance of an experienced guru. I have described the different pranayams and the 3 forms of meditation as mentioned in the text. I have listed the 32 asanas (poses) mentioned in the Gherand Samhita. A description of these asanas in conformance with the practices today can be found online. I will address some of the more practical asanas and mudras in a later article.

Gherand touches upon the subject of karma and rebirth. One’s karmas cause a person to be reborn and once reborn the person gets caught up in karmas again, so it is a cycle or a wheel that never ends. One feeds the other. One perpetuates the other. He says that the body should be purified and strengthened and the exercises that lead to this purification and strengthening can be put in the following seven categories:

1. Purificatory- through the shat karmas or six steps

2. Strengthening-through regular practice of asanas/poses

3. Steadying-accomplished through mudras

4. Calming-through pratyahar

5. Lightness of body-through pranayam

6. Perception-through meditation

7. Solitude or isolation-accomplished through Samadhi

1. Purificatory-accomplished by following the shat karmas which are:

a. Dhauti which is of 4 types

i. Antardhauti (internal cleansing)

1. vatasara(wind purification)

2. varisura (water purification)

3. Vahnisara (fire purification)

4. Bahiskrita

ii. Dantadhauti (teeth cleaning) which is purification of

1. teeth

2. root of the tongue

3. both ears

4. frontal sinuses

iii. Hridayadhauti (heart cleaning) by using

1. stick

2. vomiting

3. cloth

iv. Mulashodhana (rectal cleaning)

b. Basti which is of 2 types:

i. Jala basti (wet) done in water

ii. Sukshuma basti (dry) done on land

c. Neti

d. Laukiki

e. Trataka-cures all eye disease and clairvoyance is induced

f. Kapalbhati which is of 3 types which destroys all disorders related to phlegm (kapha)

i. Vat krama (alternate nostril breathing without force and without kumbhaka).

ii. Vyut karma (drawing in water through the nostrils and expelling it through the mouth

iii. Sheet karma (drinking water through the mouth and expelling through the nostrils)

2. Strengthening-through regular practice of asanas/poses. Shiva described 840,000 asanas as many as there are species of living beings. Out of this 84 are the best and of these 32 have been found most useful for mankind. Those 32 asanas are:

1) Siddhasana or Perfect Pose

2) Padmasana or Lotus Pose

3) Bhadrasan or Happy Pose

4) Muktam or Free Pose

5) Vajram or Adamant Pose

6) Swastika or Prosperous Pose

7) Singham or Lion Pose

8 ) Gomukh or Cow mouth Pose

9) Vira or Hero Pose

10) Dhanur or Bow Pose

11) Mritasan, or Shavasan or Corpse Pose

12) Guptam or Hidden Pose

13) Matsyam or Fish Pose

14) Matsendra or King of Fish Psoe

15) Goraksha

16) Paschimottan or Forward Bend Pose

17) Uttkatam

18) Sankatam or Dangerous Pose

19) Mayuram or Peacock Pose

20) Kukkutam

21) Kurma or Tortoise Pose

22) Uttana Manduka

23) Uttan Kurmakam

24) Vriksha or Tree Pose

25) Manduka or Frog Pose

26) Garuda or Eagle Pose

27) Vrisham or Bull Pose

28) Shalabh or Locust Pose

29) Makara or Crocodile Pose

30) Ushtram or Camel Pose

31) Bhujangam or Snake Pose

32) Yoga

3. Steadying-accomplished through mudras

Through the practice of these mudras, the yogi can accomplish victory over death, decay, old age, diseases. The mudras described in the Gherand Samhita are:

1) Mahamudra 2) Nabho mudra 3) Uddiyana Bandha 4) Jalandhar Bandha 5) Mula Bandha 6) Maha Bandha 7) Mahabheda 8 ) Khechari Mudra 9)Viparitkarni 10) Yoni Mudra 11) Vajroni Mudra 12) Shakti chalani 13) Tadagi (tank) Mudra 14) Manduki Mudra 15) Shambhavi Mudra 16) Panchadharan or five dharanas (see below) 22)Ashwini 23) Pasini 24) Kaki 25) Bhujangini

The five dharana mudras are mudras through which a yogi can accomplish anything. He can travel between realms and through space, and can travel at the speed of mind.

1) Parthivi-earthy

2) Ambhasi-watery

3) Vayavi-aerial

4) Agney-fire

5) Akashi-sky/ethereal

4. Calming-through pratyahar or dharana or restraining of the mind

a. One should bring their restless mind/thoughts under control whenever it wanders off and gets distracted by material sense objects. Mind follows sight. SO bring the mind under your control.Whether it is praise or criticism by others, good speech or bad speech, good smells or odors, tastes etc, one should constantly practice withdrawal of the mind from distracting thoughts and bring it under his control.

5. Lightness of body– accomplished through pranayam through the practice of which, one becomes god like

a. The requirements for success at pranayam are an appropriate space, appropriate time, moderate food, and purification of nadis.

b. In order to achieve success in pranayam, one should not practice in a foreign land (as in a far off land he may lose faith), in a forest as there is danger for one’s safety, in a city as curious people will cause distraction

c. Pranayam should be practiced in a hut, free from insects, in a secluded place

d. Pranayam should not be commenced in summer (May, June), rainy (Jul, Aug), winter (Nov, Dec), frigid cold (Jan, Feb) as one will contract disease. A beginner should begin his practice in Spring (Mar, Apr) or fall (Sept, Oct) as one attains success with this and also does not contract any illness

e. A yogi should eat moderately (mit-ahar) to attain success and avoid illness.

f. Foods allowed are rice, mung beans, urhad, chick peas, barley, wheat, cucumber, eggplant, yam, sago, radish, jackfruit, plantains, figs, foods that are pure, cooling and sweet.

g. the five greens leaves i.e. holy basil (tulsi), amaranth leaf, parvar leaf, lamb’s quarters and brahmi should be revered by the yogi. Food should be consumed to occupy 50% of the stomach. Another for ¼ of water and the other ¼ should be kept empty.

h. Bitter, acidic, salty and roasted foods should be avoided. Excess of leafy green vegetables, masur beans, pumpkins, onions, hing (asafetida) etc. should be avoided. Very hot, stale and hard to digest food should be avoided a swell as food that is too cooling or exciting.

i. Fresh butter, ghee milk, sugar, date, cardamoms, nutmeg, dates, rose apple, pomegranate, sweet juice and nourishing, easily digestible and cooling foods should be consumed by a yogi.

j. Early morning baths (before sunrise), fasting should be avoided as they harm the body. A yogi can remain without food for 3 hours. In the beginning a meal of milk and ghee twice a day at noon and in the evening is recommended.

k. He should sit on a seat made of kusa grass or tiger skin or antelope skin and face east or north with a calm disposition and practice nadi shuddhi (purification of nadis or energy channels in the astral body) prior to commencing pranayam.

l. The air element cannot flow through nadis that are cloggd with impurities. One needs to purify these energy channels prior to performing pranayam

m. Purification of nadis is of 2 types-samanu and nirmanu. Samanu is done with a beej mantra and nirmanu is done in conjunction with dhauti cleansing practices (the dhauti has already been mentioned above).

n. The yogi should sit in Padmasan and after completing the rituals towards his guru begin purifying his nadis.

o. Nadi shuddhi is done by inhaling and mentally chanting the beej mantra for air which is ‘yung’for 16 counts, retaining the breath for 64 counts of the mantra and exhaling for 32 counts. Do the same starting with inhalation from right nostril and mentally chanting the beej mantra for the fire element which is ‘rung’ in the same ratio as above. Then focus the gaze on the tip of nose and visualizing the reflection of the moon inhale while mentally chanting ‘thum’ 16 times, retain 64 times chanting ‘vam’ and exhale 32 times chanting ‘lam’ while also visualizing the the nectar from the moon is flowing into the nadis. This helps purify the nadis and prepares one to begin practice of pranayam.

p. Kumbhakas or breath retention is of 8 types: sahita, surya bheda, ujjayi, sheetali, bhastrika, bhramari, murcha and kevali. Sahita kumbhaka is of 2 type-sagarbha (performed with repetition of beej mantra) and nirgarbha (without mantra repetition).

q. In sahita kumbhaka, the best ratio is puraka or inhalation 20 secs, kubhaka or retention for 80 seconds and rechaka or exhalation for 40 seconds. The moderate ratio is 16:64:32 and the beginner ratio is 12:48:32

r. Success in the practice of the beginner pranayam results in profuse sweating of the body, the moderate one results in quivering (in the area of the spinal cord), and the best one results in levitation.

s. Practice of pranayam results in calmness of mind, cure of diseases, awakening of mental faculties, awakening of kundalini, levitation, and attainment of bliss.

t. Suryabheda pranayam consists of inhalation through the right nostril, as per one’s capacity, followed by retention until perspiration comes forth from the tips of the nails and roots of the hair while doing jalandhar bandha, and smooth exhalation through left nostril. This kumbhaka destroys decay, death and increases the bodily fire. It helps awaken kundalini.

u. For ujjayi pranayam one should draw in air through both nostrils and hold it in the mouth and also draw in air from the chest and throat and hold it in the mouth followed by Jalandhar bandha and breath retention for as long as possible. Ujjayi helps one get rid of all sickness and disease, decreptitude and death. A different version is given in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika according to which the yogi should keep the mouth closed and inhale through both nostrils while constricting the throat muscles so that a hissing sound is produced, hold the breath (perform kumbhaka) and exhale through ida (left nostril). This Ujjayi can be done walking or standing. It destroys all diseases of the throat, increases digestive fire and destroys diseases of the nadis.

v. For shitali pranayam, stick the tongue out and inhale through the lips and tongue and into the stomach, retain for a while and then exhale through both nostrils. This is great for indigestion, phlegm and bile related disorders and promotes bliss.

w. Bhastrika kumbhaka involves quick inspiration and expiration though the nostrils twenty times and at the end perform kumbhaka. This destroys all disease and keeps illness away. The yogi should practice this 3 times a day.

x. Bhramari pranayam should be practiced past midnight so no animal sounds are audible. The yogi should inhale and retain breath while closing the ears with his hands. He will hear various sounds in his right ear. The first sound being that of crickets followed by lute, thunder, drum, beetle, bells, gongs, trumpets, mridanga (drums) etc. Last sound heard is that of anahat, which arises from the heart. With successin bhramari one gets Samadhi (union with cosmic consciousness).

y. Murcha is done by retaining breath and focusing the attention in the space between the two eyebrows. This brings happiness and bliss.

z. Kevala Kumbhaka is the retention of breath without inhalation and exhalation. Upon inhalation through both nostrils, the yogi should hold his breath. This kumbhaka should be performed eight times a day, once every 3 hours, or one may do it thrice a day-morning, noon and evening. There is nothing that a yogi cannot accomplish with success in kevala kumbhaka. The breath of each person makes the sound ‘So’ during inhalation and ‘hum’ during exhalation. Sohum or soham is the also called the Ajap (without chanting) Gayatri as every human being constantly performs 21,600 times a day (15 breaths per minute) without being aware of it. The mantra is also called hamsa or hansa. This repetition takes place in three places-in the root chakra, the lotus located in the heart chakra and in ajna chakra ( the third eye- the space where the two nostrils meet). The vibration of sohum matches the natural vibration of our breath. It means, “I am That”. Internal/mental chanting of this mantra (Sooooo with inhalation and hummmmm with exhalation helps one attain stillness and realize their true self).

6. Perception-through meditation

a. Meditation is of 3 types- sthula (gross), jyotirmay (luminous), and suksham (subtle). These meditations will help one directly perceive their true self.

b. Meditation on an image of guru is gross meditation, meditation on the lord as a bright light is called luminous or jyotis meditation and contemplation on Him as a point and kundali force is called suksma or subtle meditation.

c. Gross Meditation:

i. Close your eyes and visualize an ocean of nectar in the heart. In this ocean is an island made of gemstones and the sand of which is made of crushed diamonds and rubies. The island is flanked by kadamba trees that have sweet smelling flowers. There are other flowering trees like malati, mallika jati, champa, parijat, padma, and the fragrance of these flowers is everywhere. In the middle of this garden is the kalpa vriksha (wish fulfilling tree) with 4 main branches that represent the 4 vedas (revered Hindu texts) and numerous flowers and fruits. The sound of bees and cuckoo can be heard. Beneath the tree visualize a platform made of gems and on that platform visualize a throne made of precious gemstones. Seated on this throne visualize your deity. Contemplate on the form, garments, ornaments etc of this deity. This is sthula meditation or gross meditation.

d. Luminous Meditation:

• In the muladhar chakra (root chakra), the kundalini lies in 3and 1/2 coils. Here is a flame that represents the living being (jivatama). Meditate on this luminous flame. Through this meditation a yogi can directly perceive the soul.

• In shambhavi mudra, when the gaze is fixed at luminous ‘OM’, the third eye, between the two eyebrows without blinking subtle meditation is accomplished. Subtle meditation is superior to luminous meditation and luminous meditation is superior to gross meditation.

e. Subtle Meditation:

• This can be achieved by performing Shambhavi mudra without blinking. When through tremendous good fortune, a yogi’s kundalini awakens; she unites with the soul and leaves the body through the eyes. This Suksham or subtle dhyana is difficult to obtain.

7. Solitude or isolation-accomplished through Samadhi Yoga

a. Samadhi Yoga is attainable only by the very fortunate; through the divine grace of the guru, by one who is devoted to his guru, who has confidence in the knowledge and faith is his guru and himself, and whose mind is open to intelligence day by day. Samadhi or mukti (freedom) is attained upon separation of the mind from the body and its union with the supreme soul. “I” am intelligence, existence and bliss.

b. Samadhi is of 6 types:

i. Dhyan Samadhi (meditation samadhi)-accomplished by shambhavi mudra

ii. Nada Samadhi (sound samadhi)-accomplished by bhramari mudra

iii. Rasananda Samadhi (bliss in taste)- accomplished by khechari mudra

iv. Laya Samadhi (absorption)-accomplished by yoni mudra

v. Bhakti Yoga Samadhi-accomplished through contemplation on one’s deity

vi. Raja Yoga Samadhi, Unmani Samadhi, Sahajawastha Samadhi-attained through mano murchha mudra (trance)

Vishnu is in everything. Vishnu is everywhere. Know that the soul is eternal, the highest and is separate form the body. Let one be free from desires and passions, free from attachment to one’s body, family, riches, etc one will attain Samadhi. Upon attainment of Samadhi there is no rebirth (one is freed from the cycle of birth and death).

Shiva Samhita

The Shiva Samhita is one of the highly regarded texts on Hath Yoga; the other two being the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gherand Samhita. The Sanskrit verses are a conversation between Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati. The Shiva Samhita was believed to be written sometime between 15th-17th centuries. The author of this text is unknown.

Below is an overview of each of the five chapters, based on the translation by Srisa Chanra Vasu. In its five chapters the Shiva Samhita covers information regarding the following:

• Nadis, sushumna, ida, pingala

• Prana, 10 types of prana

• How one can attain success in yoga

• Who is worthy of doing yoga

• The signs of someone who is worthy of doing yoga

• The signs of someone whose nadis (energy channels in the astral body) have been purified by nadi shodhana (alternate nostril pranayam)

• The obstacles in yoga

• How to attain success in yoga

• Mentions 84 asanas (poses) of which only 4 are described and mentioned as the most important

• mentions only one pranayam which is nadi shodhana and the method of doing it, and how long it takes for the nadis to get purified

• Mantra yoga, shadow gazing, anahat sounds

Chapter 1

Talks about the means of liberation and the different methods for example-karma, vairagya (dispassion), charity, truth, ascetism, forgiveness, household duties, mantra yoga, visiting places of pilgrimage, that people believe will lead to emancipation, but Yoga shastra is considered to be the only true means for liberation. As long as one is attached to the fruits of his action he will continue to take rebirth. The very fact that you are born in a human body is because of your past life karmas. Spiritual knowledge is regarded as the only thing that will release people form the bondage of rebirths. The spirit is eternal and never dies but is reincarnated over and over again. The world is an illusion.

Chapter 2

Talks about the spinal column and the nadis of which 14 are important out of which arise numerous networks, branches an dsub branches of nadis that result in (350,000) nadis that supply various parts of the body and regulate the functions of the body. Of the 14 nadis, 3 are more important. These are ida, pingala, sushumna. Of the 3, sushumna is most important.

Sushumna, ida and pingala have been identified as the important nadis with sushumna being the most important. Inside the sushumna is the chitra nadi and inside it is the barahmarandra (the most subtle of all nadis). Chitra is the favorite of lord Shiva. By contemplating ont eh purest chitra nadi, the yogi can destroy all sins. Talks about location of kundalini at the base of the sushumna. Kundalini has 3 and ½ coils. The ida (representing moon)on the left side coils around sushumna (representing fire) and goes to the right nostril (representing sun) and the pingala coils around sushumna and goes to the left nostril. The sushumna has six energy centers, six lotuses known to yogis. It touches upon the fire in the abdomen that helps in the digestion of food, that nourishes the food, increases life, gives energy and destroys diseases.

The jivah (being) residing in the human body, experiences the result of past karmas. All pleasures and sufferings are a result of karma. The person who has accumulated good karma enjoys happiness. From desires arise delusions, but that can be removed through knowledge that gives salvation or moksha. It then becomes clear that the world is just an illusion. One is in the body as a result of past karmas, but the burden of living in this body is considered worthwhile only if it is used to obtain Nirvana (enlightenment). The desires that bind a jivah (living being) cling to the person in each lifetime, it suffers similar misery. Practitioners of yoga should renounce fruits of all actions in order to rise above the illusory world. All desires can be dissolved through spiritual knowledge.

Chapter 3

Heart Chakra or Anahat Chakra

Heart chakra is described as a divine lotus with 12 petals that have Sanskrit letters. Prana lives in the heart along with past desires and egoism. The different modifications of this prana, results in ten principle types of pranas. These are pran, apan, saman, udana, vyan, naga, kurma, krikara, devadatta, and dhananjay. Of these the first 5 are important ones and of them the first two-pran and apan are the most important. The heart is the seat of pran, the anus is the seat of apan, the navel region is the seat of samana, the throat is the seat of udana and vyan moves throughout the body. The remainder vayus, are incharge of functions like eructation (naga), opening eyes (kurma), hunger and thirst (krikira), yawning(devadatta) and hiccups ) dhananjaya).

How to attain success in yoga? Who is worthy of doing yoga?

It stresses the importance of having a guru. Walking around the guru 3 times and touching his feet, serving him in thought, word and deed is considered auspicious. Yoga should be practiced with faith and perseverance. Yoga is for one who is sincerely devoted to attaining any knowledge. Those individuals who are slaves to sensual pleasures, lie, are hurtful in words, disrespectful of guru, keep bad company, and are skeptics, never attain success.

The six signs of someone who would achieve success in yoga are:

1. Confidence

2. Faith

3. Respect towards guru

4. The spirit of equality

5. Control of senses

6. Moderate consumption of food

The yogi should begin by first paying respects to Guru on left, Ganesha on right and then again to goddess Ambika on left. The yogi should practice breath regulating procedures while seated in padmasan on a seat in a clean location. He should inhale through his left nostril while closing the right nostril with his thumb. He should hold the breath as per his capacity and then release it through the right nostril without force. Then he should inhale through the right nostril, retain per his capacity and exhale without force through the left nostril. He should practice twenty kubhakas, (breath retentions), that would make 10 rounds of this cycle, 4 times a day early morning, mid-day, sunset and midnight. The nadis (energy channels in the astral body) will be purified if practiced this way for 3 months. Upon purification of the nadis, the yogi becomes purified and enters the first stage of Pranayam called Aarambavastha (beginning stage). The other 3 stages are: ghatavastha, parichay avastha, nishpatti avastha. They destroy all sorrow.

What are the signs of someone whose nadis have been purified through nadi shuddhi pranayam?

The body of such a person smells good, appears balanced, poised and beautiful. Other qualities found are good digestion, courage, strength etc.

What are the obstacles in Yoga?

Consuming foods that are acidic, astringent, salty, mustard, pungent items, wandering around/travelling too much, bathing before sunrise, fasting, oily foods, eating too much, violence, anger/hate towards others, company of women, talking excessively, agni seva (worshipping fire), unnecessary thoughts of anything besides salvation.

How to obtain success in yoga?

The practioner of yoga should consume ghee (clarified butter), milk, sweet foods, betel without lime, camphor, pleasant speech, a simple residence, listen to good talks, perform duties without attachment, take the name of Vishnu, listen to pleasant sounds (avoidance of debates, arguments, controversial talks, instigating talks), patience, forgiveness, austerity, cleanliness, devotion to guru.

The yoga practitioner should consume food when the breath flows through the pingala nadi (right nostril) and should sleep when it flows through the ida nadi (left nostril).

Pranayam should not be practiced when one is very hungry or immediately after a meal. If very hungry, one should consume a small amount of food like milk.

Food consumption should be in small quantities, but more frequently and kumbhaka (breath retention) should be practiced at the recommended times.

Once the yogi has full command over his breath (the final stage), nothing is impossible and he need not follow all these restrictions. In the first stage of pranayam, the yogi perspires. The sweat should be rubbed onto the body to prevent loss of dhatu (important elements). In the second stage the body trembles. In the third it is able to leap like a frog and in the final stage the yogi attains vayu siddhi (will be able to walk on air). The yogi becomes disease free. Once the body of this yogi becomes free from vayu (wind element), pitta (fire element-bile) and kapha (water element-phlegm), he can revert to regular diet. There would be no bad effects of consuming food in greater amount or small amount or even no food at all. He gains bhuchari siddhi (ability to jump like a frog). A yoga practitioner should not let obstacles prevent them from continuing on this path. He should chant Aum, while restraining hi senses. He destroys all his karma both present and past through the practice of this pranayam. He should practice kumbhaka for 1 and ½ hours. The accomplished yogi, through the practice of pranayam attains the 8 major psychic powers viz., vakya siddhi (prophecy powers), khechari siddhi (ability to transport himself anywhere), clairvoyance, subtle sight, power of entering another body, changing metal to gold, becoming invisible and flying in the air.When the advanced yogi can hold his breath for 3 hrs, he can balance himself on his thumb.

The next stage is parichaya which is achieved after all 6 chakras have been pierced. He has control over the five elements (ether, air, water, fire, earth). Meditating for 2 ½ hours on each chakra bestows tremendous powers. After this the yogi reaches the stage of nishpatti avastha. Having dissolved all the karmas, he drinks the nectar of immortality. He is now jivan mukta-individual liberated in the present life. When the yogi can drink nectar just by placing the tip of his tongue on his palate he is freed from the practice of all yoga. He is freed from disease, old age, death and obtains several powers. He does not feel hunger, thirst, fatigue or sleepiness. He is never reborn.

There are 84 postures of which 4 are most important. These are siddhasan, padmasan, ugrasan (pashimottanasan) and swastikasan (sukhasan). Through paschimottanasan, vayu siddhi is attained and miseries are destroyed.

Chapter 4

Chapter 4 deals with 11 of the many mudras (positions). These mudras are Yoni mudra, Mahamudra, Mahabandha, Mahavedha, Khechari, Jalandhar, Mulabandha, Viparitkarana, Uddana, Vajroni, and Shaktichalan. For one who is seriously interested in pursuing this should practice with care, perseverance and faith only under the guidance of an experienced guru. The successful practice of these mudras per instructions can bestow upon the practitioner several supernatural powers like clairvoyance, ability to fly, become invisible, and walk on water, the ability to make prophecies. One is cured of all disease and decay, one’s sins are destroyed.

Chapter 5

Chapter 5 mentions the four types of yoga- Mantra yoga, Hatha yoga, Laya yoga and Raja yoga. These different styles are appropriate for people with different personalities, traits, and temperaments.

Mantra yoga is recommended for mild aspirants who are fickle, timid, cruel, greedy, cynical, diseased etc. The efforts of such aspirants will bear success in yoga after 12 years.

Laya yoga is for the average aspirant. Such aspirants are kind, merciful, desirous of virtue, sweet in speech, and who do not go through extremes in achieving anything.

Hatha yoga is for the above average aspirants who are mentally stable, energetic, sympathetic, forgiving, truthful, brave, and full of faith, devoted to their gurus, always engaged in the practice of yoga. Their efforts bear fruit in 6 years.

Raja Yogas is for superior aspirants who are in the prime of their youth, are moderate in their eating habits, in control of their senses, bold, energetic, knowledgeable, content, forgiving, religious, charitable, healthy, don’t waste time etc. The efforts of such aspirants bear fruit in 3 years. They are also qualified to engage in the other forms of yoga.

The chapter also talks about Prateek upasana- worshipping the shadow. It also talks about attaining nirvan through the practice of the following:

Closing eyes, nose, lips and ears with the fingers by placing the index fingers on the eyes, the middle fingers on nose, the remaining fingers on the upper and lower lips and the thumb on ears, the person can see his soul in the form of light. From the practice of this the yogi can hear mystic sounds. The anahat sounds in order are:

• the sound of a buzzing bee,

• flute

• harp

• ringing bells

• thunder

Lord Shiva praises as the superior most the following:

siddhasan, , kumbha, khechari mudra, and nada (mystic sounds). If a yogi constantly meditates on the third eye chakra, he senses a brilliant fire like lightning. By meditating on this light, all sins can be destroyed and one can attain the highest end. Upon experience, he can see and converse with the other accomplished siddhas.

Food consumed is of 4 types. Food that is chewed, licked, sucked and drank. The finest portion of food nourishes the subtle body. The second best part made of 7 elements nourishes the gross body. The most inferior portion of food is excreted from the body. Hence the first two by products of digested food are considered the best as they nourish the body. Vayu (air element) flows through the nadis (energy channels in the astral body). These nadis can be weak or strong and prana (life force) flows through them. It is clearly stated that one need not go searching for God outside of them. God is within you.

A Summary of the effects of meditation on the chakras as described in the Shiva Samhita.

Muladhar Chakra or Root Chakra: Meditate on the svayambhu linga. The one who meditates on this chakra (the svaaymbhu linga in the muladhar chakra) attains darduri siddhi (power to jump like a frog and ultimately rise into the air). He becomes free from disease and old age. He can see the past, present and future. He becomes master of all esoteric sciences. He can attain mantra siddhi by mere repetition. He is freed from all sins and attains whatever the mind desires. By constant practice he sees results in 6 months and air element enters the sushumna (spinal column). He conquers his mind

Swadishthan Chakra or Sacral Chakra: One who contemplates on this chakra, attains knowledge of all the sciences even though he may have never known about them before. He becomes disease free and can roam the universe fearlessly. He attains the powers of anima (ability to become small), laghima (ability to become huge).

Manipura Chakra or Solar Plexus Chakra: One who meditates on this chakra located in the navel region attains everything that he desires. He gets the power to convert base metals to gold, clairvoyance, the ability to find cures for diseases, and can see hidden treasure.

Anahat Chakra or heart chakra: If one contemplates on the flame called vanlinga that resides in the heart chakra (anahat chakra), attains knowledge beyond measure. He attains clairvoyance and can see the past, present and future. He can walk in air (khechari siddhi) and travel anywhere (Bhuchari siddhi). Through his clairvoyance he can perceive the yogins.

Vishhuddhi Chakra or the throat chakra: One who contemplates on this chakra attains the knowledge of the secrets of the Vedas (sacred Hindu tests). He never experiences and weakness of body.

Ajna chakra or the third eye chakra: By contemplating on this chakra, one attains the highest success. One attains the all the fruits as attained by contemplating on the above 5 chakras. One who meditates on this chakra while standing, walking, sleeping, or while awake, is free of sin.

Sahasrara or crown chakra: By contemplating on this chakra, one becomes god like. His mind becomes pure and he can see the future. All his sins get destroyed. All accidents are warded off.

Raja Yoga

The person who meditates on the void and shadow, attains numerous powers. Such a yogi doesn not identify with “I”. Hatha yoga and Raja yoga go hand in hand. One should learn Hatha yoga before moving on to Raja yoga. One who lives in the human body and does not practice yoga is living merely for the senses. One engaged in this yoga should not give up his household duties or professional responsibilities, but should not be attached to them. He should continue to perform them.

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