An Essay on
© 2008 by Academic Services International, Los Lunas, NM, USA
Raja Yoga - Continued
4. Pranayama - Energy ("control of breathing"): Pranayama really means "control of energy." It is practiced by sitting in an asana position and regulation the breath. This is commonly called "breathing exercises."
Some commentators suggest that the energy is directly regulated, and that breathing can merely accompany this act. However, all translated and correlated terms seem to mean the same thing:
Prana = energy = Ki = Qi = Chi = "breath"
There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of regulated breathing techniques. The basic format involves closing one nostril at a time as you breath in and out, from side to side.
Next comes the breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Finally, the breath is held in between inhalation and exhalation, and sometimes between exhalation and inhalation.
This "holding of the breath" (called Kumbhaka) has been described as the most beneficial act that one can perform, as well as an action that can permanently damage one's health. Okay - this is one of those controversial topics! Personally, I have never suffered ill effects from its performance.
Each inhalation and exhalation (and the Kumbhaka) is timed. For example: Breathe in for seven seconds, hold for seven seconds, exhale for seven seconds - doing this for seven cycles. As times goes by, the length of each action is increased.
This subject can be endlessly described. Please refer to the pranayama section in the Inner Teacher document that is found in the Appendix.
< Link to Inner Teacher document
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At the end of each practice session, write down the date, the type of pranayama, the time (in seconds) for each type, and the number of cycles (>).
The written record, used for all practices (asana, pranayama, dharana, and any results) can be invaluable at a later time when tracking your progress. Moving ahead with the practices, while neglecting the written record, is definitely not recommended (by me).
Of course, the yogis in India do not necessarily keep a written record. It is not included in the ancient texts. However, at least one contemporary, esoteric Order has strong feelings on the subject: "In the absence of a written record, any attainment whatsoever will not be recognized."