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Basic Yogic Breathing Control

"PRANAYAMA"

Prana has been said to translate as "breath." In actuality, the Sanskrit word "Prana" means life-force or life-energy. In fact, classic Pranayama with its inhale/retain/exhale teaches that during the retention segment, one should consciously retain the prana, then release the ordinary oxygen from the lungs during exhalation, storing the prana in the solar plexis (power) chakra.

Pranamaya is the "science of prana," and linear yards of books have been written about it! However, prana is the basis of Hatha Yoga, and should be studied by anyone on a spiritual path, eastern or western. Interestingly, the literal transliteration is Prana + Yama. Yama has a dual meaning: restraint and death. ;) Meditate on that!!

It would be impossible to go into any detail without taking up gig's of memory, but I've included a few basic prana/breath techniques for novices interested in getting started--they're also useful for more experienced people as regular practice.

"Breath is Life. He who controls breath controls life."

"When the breath is controlled, the mind is controlled.""When Prana is met and conquered, one gains ascendency over death."

"Prana, the vital breath, is born of Self. Like a person and his shadow, the Self and the Prana are inseparable. Prana enters the body at birth, but does not die with the body." 
--Prana Upanisad."The wise speak not of senses of speech, sight, hearing, feeling, but only of a group of Pranas, for these are all the manifestations of Prana." --Charakha Samhita.

Let's get *BASIC* now!!

Several of the oldest Tantras state that the body is a Yantra, the breath its Mantra. In order to facilitate better understanding of this concept. "Bhramari Breath" is an excellent starting point. It is simple, aids concentration, and provides a feeling of oneness with body and breath, a consciousness, rather than a simple autonomic nervous system function. Technique: Take a deep breath, exhale all stale air from lungs, contracting abdominal muscles to squeeze out the last remnants. Inhale through the *nose* while making a buzzing sound, like that of a bee, with the inhalation. Retain for a few seconds (as long as comfortable; working toward longer retention with practice, but not forcing), concentrating on storing the Prana Energy in the solar plexus (*manipura chakra*; literally manipura means 'jewel of great consciousness)--or for non-chakra oriented people, the area above the navel--and separating the Prana from the regular "air." Now exhale, through the nose, making a humming sound. Focus your mind on the sounds during inhalation and exhalation, on vital life energy being stored and saved during breath retention. Each in-retain-out counts as one "cycle." Begin with five or so cycles, adding more as you master Bhramari Breath and it becomes natural to you.

COMPLETE BREATH is the second basic that should be mastered. Most people breathe shallowly, and even those who draw breath down to the abdomen consciously may be missing a step along the way! Again, blow out all air, contracting abdomen to help.

Inhale deeply, *pulling* the breath toward the abdomen, expanding it. Continue inhaling, next *pulling* into the rib cage/middle of lungs. 
Continue, *pulling* breath into upper lungs, chest, and throat area. Retain for a few seconds; be sure your face is relaxed. No tension. Let it be natural.

Exhale slowly, releasing air oppositely from inhalation: first *pull* out of throat/chest, then from ribcage/mid lungs, finally *pull* from the abdomen, contracting abdominus recti, forcing all air out.

Work up to longer inhalation/retention/exhalation holds as complete breath becomes more natural. Do not "count" with a clock; allow your body to be your clock. The ratio should be 1:1:1 with complete breath, unlike certain other prana techniques. As well as the mental/mystical benefits, complete breath increases oxygen supply to the blood--hemoglobin levels. Also slows the heart rate. Calming effect on central nervous system. Complete breath is used in conjunction with many Hatha Yoga asanas (*postures*).

VITALIC BREATH: Very easy. Strengthens lungs, energizes. Breathe through nose in short, sharp sniffs until lungs are expanded to capacity. Blow out through mouth, making a loud HAAA! sound. If desired, focus on bringing in energizing prana, blowing out all tension and anything that separates you from realizing your spiritual goals.

KAPALABHATHI: Also easy to master. There are many variations; this being a quite simple rendering, no less beneficial than more advanced techniques. Sit in Lotus position, or with legs crossed; back and head kept straight. Inhale, keep mouth closed, and "sneeze." With mouth closed--the lower abdomen will balloon out. Snap it back in sharply. Begin with ten-fifteen rounds, work up to 50 and above *naturally* without forcing. You should feel nothing in upper lungs, chest, or throat area. On a purely physical level, Kapalabhathi also pumps oxygen in, increases hemoglobin levels, has soothing effect on many glands, and can be used for relief by asthmatics or smokers ;). Attention focused on solar plexus chakra. After rounds complete, sit quietly, feeling bodily changes and mental effects on yourSelf.

PRANA-VAYU RASA: or vigorous cycle. A recharging breath cycle. To be performed while standing, with eyes closed, or turned upward, focused on AJNA CHAKRA, the *third eye* chakra in middle of forehead. 
(1) Inhale, lock air in chest. Swing arms twice backward and twice forward vigorously. 
Exhale. (2) Inhale. Stretch arms forward at 90 degree angle from body; swing them out sideways at shoulder level twice. Exhale, drop arms. (3) Inhale. Swing arms up twice and down twice, parallel at sides, arch small of back slightly. Exhale, drop arms. (4) Inhale, lock breath in chest again. Stretch arms slowly forward. Clench fists and pull them against the chest. Retain breath while shaking entire body. Exhale. (5) Inhale. 
Swing arms overhead and bend body to the right from the waist, *not* collapsing the ribcage. Concentrate on parts being stretched. Exhale while straightening, repeat to the left. (6) Inhale. Retain breath, massage ribs. Exhale. (7). Inhale. Retain breath, patting breasts or pectoral muscles. Exhale. NOTE: the idea of recharging prana is to tap individual energy/life force (*Atman*) and unite it with universal energy/life force (*Brahman*). Physically, it energizes, provides limbering of physical body, cleanses and exercises lungs.

PRANA SUKHA/HEALING BREATH: Literally, "breath of joy; joyous life-force." This breath is the simplest extension of simple prana into "rhythm." One must consciously alter the time spent on each part of the breathing cycle. The rhythm of Prana Sukha is said to be perfectly suited to extraction of vital energy from the atmosphere. The ratio of inhalation/retention/exhalation is 1:4:2. In other words, inhale, hold breath four times as long as inhalation takes, then exhale, taking twice as long as inhalation. The inhalation establishes the time ratio for the other two; never progress into discomfort. Generally, begin by inhaling just slightly longer than when breathing unconsciously and proportion retention and exhalation thereto. Gradually increase, to comfort.

Sukha slows down breathing process, which is beneficial to both body and mind. IMPORTANT: Do *not* "count" either mentally or verbally, the rhythm lengths. Counting is a *logial* process which can sometimes interfere with meditative/spiritual *abstract* practice. Measure the rhythm against pulse, heartbeat, or by focusing the mind on the sounds of inhalation and exhalation of breath, and of the heart beating during retention. This is ideal, as it creates an audio rhythm and helps the body and mind merge. The Gheranda Samhita suggests: "In entering, the breath makes the sound 'SOH' and in exiting, the sound 'HAM.' Thus the breath makes the power word SOHAM; (or, I am It). The subtle sound reverberates in the root chakra, the heart chakra, and the third eye chakra. The Yogi should perform this repetition consciously." Another measuring process is concentration on a mantra, such as AUM, or whatever one's personal prefernce. Feel the rhythm of each AUM.

PRANA AS APPLIED TO TANTRIC SEXUAL UNION

The above beginning prana practices should be mastered first: they form the basis for deeper exploration into pranayama and Hatha Yoga. There are many prana breaths which apply directly to Tantric practice and Tantric lovemaking. 
A true follower of the Tantric path should develop complete breath until it is totally natural; then healing breath to purify the vital and subtle channels of the body. This, physical and emotional damage from the highly-charged, intense energies created by Tantric Union can be prevented.

The flows of prana, the mind, and sexual energy are interdependent. Breath control is vital to correct Tantric Union; breath is power. Fear not the power; but lean to use it carefully. Yoga and Tantric raditions believe in a five-fold division of Prana. "The original Prana contains four other Pranas, each assigned to rule over a specific bodily function. Together, these are the five subtle breaths."The original Prana is seen as upward moving; the Apana is downward moving. These are the first and most important of the five suble breaths. Tantra seeks to reverse the flow of Prana and Apana, then merge them, transforming the body/mind/soul. 
According to Krsna in the Bhagavad Gita: "Some Yogis offer the Prana into the Apana; others the Apana into the Prana." NOTE: traditionally, the Prana is considered *higher*, the Apana *lower*. Many spiritual paths have similar ideas; but remember, in Tantric Pranayama, they are not considered "good" vs. "bad," but different flows of energy, both vital, the union of which leads to enlightenment. The Gorakasatakham (*teachings of a great Indian Guru) states: "The Atman (individual soul) is in thrall to Prana and Apana. Whosoever knows and controls these two forces is a true Yogi and will taste the ecstacy of Liberation. Draw up the Apana and unite it with the Prana."The five subtle breaths take place in prana during the period of retention. 
Inhale Prana, as if it were a fluid, lighter than water. During retention, *see* the air divide into earth, water, fire, air and ether. Exhale with fire, burning up the impurities. Pause slightly before inhalation, concentrating on impurities returning to *earth* for regeneration.

THE CROW BEAK: The very first to master prior to Tantric Union. Roll the tongue into a "beak" drawing the sides inward to form a "straw" or "tube." Protrude rolled tongue through slightly parted lips and inhale through the tongue. Retain, exhale through nostrils. This process, also referred to as "Sithali" (*cool*) cools the body, activates liver and spleen, and strengthens the subtle pranas of *sight* and *sound.*

UNION OF PRANA AND APANA: Solar and lunar symbolism are central to Tantra, as they are to many other mystical teachings of both east and west. Most, interestingly, have similar meaning: anient Hebrew tradition conidered the sun masculine and paternal, the moon feminine and maternal; Taoist Chinese tradition considered the sun Yang/hot/masculine, the moon Yin/cool/feminine. As these beliefs developed at different times in far-flung places, perhaps a "Jungian" archetypal truth is at work here.

HA: literally sun. THA: literally moon. YOGA: derived from root word "Yug," meaning Yoke. HATHA YOGA = union of sun and moon. Hatha Yoga is derived from Pranayama. The breath is linked to celestial influences; thus, when breath is controlled, the influences are controlled. The synthesis of HA and THA brings equilibrium, union, the goal of all Yogis.

Tantra associates the Sun with the right side of the body, masculine energy, the element of fire, the color red, and intellect. The solar energy is stored in the solar plexus--power chakra--its energy is upward flowing (pranic) and considered celestial energy. The Moon is associated with the left side of the body, feminine energy, cooling (Soma) quality, the color white, the element of water and the intuitive processes. Lunar energy is stored between the Crown Chakra and Third-Eye Chakra, approximately the hairline, in a crescent-shaped portal. Its energy is downward flowing (apanic) and is considered earthly energy. The union of the two can be accomplished meditatively in Savasana with the assistance of visualization. With or without visualization, Pranayama has techniques to consciously unite HA and THA, both within the individual and within a Tantric couple, one to the other. Below are a couple of Solar/Lunar prana techniques.

ANALOMA-VILOMA PRANAYAMA: Alternate Nostril Breathing, also called SOLAR-LUNAR BREATH. A major key to control of sexual energy. Solar breath = Siva, transcendence; lunar breath = Sakthi, creative energy. When both exist in balance, the life-force travels the Great Axis (spinal column), rising through the chakras. Solar-Lunar breath employed in Tantric Union provides a thrill which impels the Atman in an evolutionary direction toward cosmic union and enlightenment. But this breath must first be controlled through the practice of *white* Tantra--solo, the union of HA and THA within oneSelf. Technique: Sit straight in Lotus or with crossed legs, back and head straight. The rhythm may be 1:1:1 or 1:4:2, as with healing breath above.

  1. Take right hand, bend index and middle fingers into palm.
  2. place hand above nose. Exhale.
  3. Close right nostril with right thumb. Inhale through left nostril, focusing mind on flow of air/ vital force/energy.
  4. Use thumb and ring finger to pinch both nostrils closed. Retain breath.
  5. Lift thumb, exhale through right nostril, keeping left nostril closed with ring finger.
  6. Inhale through right nostril, focusing as above.
  7. Pinch closed, retain breath.
  8. Exhale through left nostril, lifting ring finger. This constitutes one complete "round" of Solar-Lunar breath. Begin with five to ten repetitions of rounds; work up gradually to tolerance.

*White* or solo HA-THA breath has physical benefits: balancing the breath greatly assists with gaining control of parasympathetic processes such as heartbeat, circulation and body temperature. It acts as something of a natural tranquilizer, calming nerves, relieving tension, and quieting mind. Mystically, it helps the individual unite the forces within him/herself and gain ascendency over Prana/Apana--which together equal the life force itself.

The GHERANDA SAMHITA illustrates a meditative white Tantric form of solar/lunar breathing: "Contemplate the primordial seed sound YANG, of the air element and heart chakra, and visualize this syllable as of a smoky color, filled with energy. Draw in the breath through the left nostril, repeating the syllable mentally 16 times. Restrain the breath while repeating the syllable mentally 64 times, then exhale all air through the right nostril during the period required to mentally repeat the syllable YANG 32 times."

TANTRIC PRANA PRACTICED BY A COUPLE, PRIOR TO TANTRIC SEXUAL UNION.

Ramana Dass illustrates one technique for a couple to combine tantra with mantra through prana. "Experience the other as a mirror of oneself; identify each partner's dual nature; surrender to the impersonal flow of these energies; and, finally, mege into that underlying union. Both partners sit in a comfortable position facing each other. The gaze of each is directed to the right eye and the breath coordinated in such a way that the inbreath of one partner is the outbreath of the other. Breathing is slow, deep, and trusting. Once coordination is established, both partners should visualize ocean waves as the breath experience, rolling inward and outward. After a short period, one partner begins to say, aloud, AUM with the outbreath, directing the AUM to the heart chakra of the other. 
This process is reversed as the first partner begins to breathe in anew, while the other now breathes out, AUM on his or her outbreath. After several complete cycles, a deepening of a concentration and fullness will be experienced by both, as well as a growing awareness of clear love and unity. The final period of resting in the realization of oneness may be had by closing the eyes while maintaining the sound and coordinated breathing."

PRANA DURING TANTRIC UNION.

When one is ready for Tantric lovemaking, the Siva and Sakthi principles unite within themSelves and each other. 
There is a convergence and synchronization of their breaths; life-forces merging into a vortex, physical and subtle energy exchange taking place. Lying on one side causes the opposite side's nostril to dominate the breathing pattern. The Tantras state that during lovemaking, the man should consciously draw in the exhaled air from the woman's left nostril though his right nostril, and allow her to consciously breathe in his exhaled breath from the right nostril through her left nostril. Face-to-face lovemaking with each couple lying on his/her side facilitates this exchange naturally.

One Tantric text states: "By meditating on the breath during lovemaking one should seize the life-force of the other with the life-force of oneSelf and bestow the life force of oneSelf on that of the other." During Tantric Union, the commitment of the couple is TOTAL--whether for the duration of the Act alone, for some set time limitation, for life, or for Eternity. The exchange of life forces, when done for the purpose of Tantric Commitment, binds souls together for Eternity, far transcending the Christian "till death do us part."

FINAL THOUGHTS FROM SOME MASTERS:"

The solar breath leads to transcendence; the lunar breath is a form-giving substance. Their union evokes the Eternal."--Prana Upanisad."

When the breath is unsteady, all is unsteady; when the breath is still; all is still. Control the breath carefully. Inhalation gives strength and a controlled body; retention gives steadiness of mind and longevity; exhalation purifies body and spirit."-- Goraksasathakam."

The oracle of breath unfolds its secrets to those who know the keys. The elements in breath are known as fire, water, earth, air and ether."--Swara Chinthamani.

The above tactics and practices are taken from traditional sacred texts; with some commentary added by Yogini Padma Ushas Suryananda of the Kali Yuga.

TAT TWAT ASIHARI AUM TAT SATAUM SHANTINAMASTETAT TWAM ASI(c) 1993 Rose 
Dawn Scott, other sources as cited.

This text is part of a Tantric file library available through Modem Magick, (619) 447-5010. The author is also available via modem at the above number. 


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