How does pranayam facilitate activation of the kundalini?



Pranayam is included in Hathayoga. The eight parts of Ashtangyoga (Eight fold Yoga) advocated by Patanjali are 1. Yam (restraints), 2. Niyam (regulations), 3. Asans (postures), 4. Pranayam (controlled breathing), 5. Pratyahar (introversion), 6. Dharana (concentration), 7. Dhyan (meditation) and 8. Samadhi (superconscious state). Pranayam is the fourth part among them.

1. Origin, definition and vital energy

A. The word pranayam (प्राणायाम) is derived from two words pran (प्राण) and ayam (आयाम). Ayam means to regulate or suppress. Pranayam means regulating the vital energies (pran) in the body.

B. The word pranayam is formed from pran (प्राण) + ayam (अयाम). Ayam means to increase. Pranayam means increasing the vital energy.

C. Out of the subtle (subtle means those which cannot be perceived by the five senses, mind and intellect) frequencies in the atmosphere the proportion of the 360 tama predominant frequencies emitted from the earth is 40%. These are gross among the subtle frequencies. The 108 sattva predominant frequencies coming from the ajanaj or the star region (nakshatralok) too are 40% (refer ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 25 – Composition of the Universe). These are most subtle. In pranayam the word ayam is derived from a (to come/to absorb) and yam (continuously). 360 tama frequencies and 108 sattva frequencies are continuously entering the body. The main aim of pranayam is to increase the ability to face these 360 tama frequencies. ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 26 – Man’ provides information on the vital body (prandeha). Acquiring control over that vital body, that is vital energy is itself pranayam.

     The vital energies performing various functions in the body have various names. The main among them are the panchapran (five main units of vital energy) and the panchaupapran (the five sub-units of vital energy). Actually there is only one vital energy but according to its functions they are named as panchapran and panchaupapran. With every breath and thought the total oxygen leaves its position in the Brahmarandhra. During inspiration it descends from the Brahmarandhra and on expiration resumes its place in the Brahmarandhra. So also in the interval between two thoughts it goes to the Brahmarandhra.

D. Out of the nine serpents (navanag) – the nine groups of pure spiritual particles, five serpents move within the body as the five internal energies (five vital energies, panchapran). The remaining four are not present in the body of an average person and do so only with spiritual progress, that is all the principles in the universe (brahmanda) enter the subtle body (pinda).

1.1 Panchapran (the five main units of vital energy)

  • 1. Pran: The act of inspiration and the process of incorporation of oxygen into every cell occur because of the ‘pran’ vital energy. Both, the energy performing these functions and the total vital energy too is called ‘pranshakti’. Hence there is a possibility of confusion in the meaning. To avoid such confusion one should remember the simple rule that when words like pran, apan, udan, etc. are used, in that context it refers to the ‘pran’ energy causing inspiration. Otherwise one should consider it as the total vital energy. The main seat of pran is in the heart.
  • 2. Udan: This energy flows upwards. The act of expiration and speaking occur because of this energy. Actually inspiration is an action and expiration a reaction. Its main site is the throat.
  • 3. Saman: Intestinal movements occur because of this energy. To experience the saman energy place the tip of the middle finger of the right or left hand on the navel, note the experience and then read the following section. The moment the finger touches the navel, inspiration or expiration stops, that is, kumbhak occurs. To activate the kundalini (spiritual energy) movement of the saman energy is required. To achieve that, nadibandha (blocking of the channels) is performed. The energy causing nadibandha is called kilak. Kilak is the energy produced by expulsion of saman energy. Its main seat is the navel.
  • 4. Vyan: Most of the voluntary and involuntary actions in the body (beating of the heart, etc.) occur because of this energy. It has no specific seat and is distributed throughout the body.
  • 5. Apan: Excretory functions of the body such as sweating, urination and defaecation, passing flatus, ejaculation, delivery of a baby, etc. occur due to this energy. Its main site is the anus.

स्‍पर्शान्‌ कृत्‍वा बहिर्बाह्यांश्चक्षुश्चैवान्‍तरे भ्रुवो: ।
प्राणापानौ समौ कृत्‍वा नासाभ्‍यन्‍तरचारिणौ ।। – श्रीमद्‌भगवद्‌गीता ५:२७

Meaning: Rejecting external objects and concentrating the gaze midway between the two eyebrows, sages equalise the pran and apan within the nose, keeping only the Final Liberation (Moksha) as their ultimate target. – Shrimadbhagvadgita 5 : 27.

An offering is made unto these vital energies prior to commencing a meal.

The function of some vital energies in relation to the universe is as follows:

  • Pran: the sun
  • Apan: the earth
  • Saman: the hollow/cavity between the sun and the earth.

1.2 Panchaupapran (the five sub-units of vital energy)

  • 1. Nag: causes belching
  • 2. Kurma: causes blinking
  • 3. Krukal: causes sneezing
  • 4. Devdatta: causes yawning
  • 5. Dhananjay: This energy is spread throughout the body and persists in the individual’s body for sometime even after death.

2. Breathing

2.1 Definition and meaning

Everything that is done to maintain one’s existence and form is called breathing. Breathing starts from the time of conception. The act of absorption of air, water, and food by the body cells is referred to as ‘chay (चय)’ and that of excretion as ‘apachay (अपचय)’. The word chayapachay (चयापचय) is derived from the combination of the words chay and apachay.

2.2 Through the nine openings (navadvars) and the skin

In living organisms, tama and sattva predominant frequencies, that is energy enters and leaves the body through the nine openings and the skin. These nine openings are also called the nine centres (navachakras).

The nine openings in
the body and the skin
The amount of
energy entering
the body in all
organisms %
The amount of
energy expelled
by the body in
all organisms %
1. The opening Number    
   a. Eyes 2 2 2
   b. Ears 2 2 1
   c. Nostrils (through the
      medium of air)
2 64 50
   d. Mouth (through the
      medium of food and
1 30 2
   e. Penis 1 1 1
   f. Anus 1 1 1
2. Skin 43
Total 9 100 100

2.3 Account of the energy

  Amount of energy %
Saint of
70% level
Saint of
90% level
1. Input      
   A. Absorption of energy from
        outside the body
      1. Through air (nose) 50 30 5
      2. Through water (mouth) 20 10 5
      3. Through food (mouth) 20 10 5
      4. Through eyes, ears,
          penis and anus
10 10 5
   B. Energy produced in
        the body
0 40 70
Total accumulated energy 100 100 90
2. Output / Expenditure      
   A. Use of energy for oneself 10 5 2
   B. Release of energy 90 50 20
Total accumulated energy 100 55 22
3. Accumulated energy =
    Input – expenditure
0 45 68

With practice of pranayam since less energy is spent on oneself it could result in accumulation of energy.

2.4 Breathing in unison (samashvasan)

The expulsion and absorption of energy by all the cells in the body simultaneously, is called breathing in unison. Such breathing occurs because of pranayam. As a result of breathing in unison since unified energy is used, less energy is utilised and thus it accumulates in the body. Similarly if one synchronises one’s breathing with that of any person or animal then one can come to know his or its thoughts and emotions. So also one can control him. These two can be achieved with pranayam.

3. Types

There are several types of pranayams. Information on them can be obtained from a number of books on the subject. Since information on pranayam only from the spiritual viewpoint is discussed here all the types have not been explained in detail.

Slow breathing [is referred to as purak, abhyantarvrutti (attitude) or Brahma], holding it for sometime in the chest [is called purak kumbhak or antar kumbhak, stambhavrutti (pillar attitude) or Vishnu], slow expiration [is called rechak, bahyavrutti (external attitude) or Mahesh] and finally holding the breath for sometime (is called rechak kumbhak or bahya kumbhak). Kumbhak not related to internal or external is called ‘keval (simple) kumbhak’. When kumbhak is practised controlling one’s breath it is called ‘sahit kumbhak’. When kumbhak occurs automatically, without any effort it is called ‘simple kumbhak’.

3.1 Focussing one’s attention on the breath

On an average one breathes 21,600 times per day. Focussing one’s attention on the breath is considered as continuous chanting (ajapajap) of the ‘So’ham (सोऽहं)’ (He is I) mantra. Continuous chanting is that which occurs without one’s own efforts.

3.2 Anulom-vilom pranayam

The word anukaran (अनुकरण) is formed from two words ‘anu (अनु) + karan (करण). ‘Anu’ means that which is already existing and ‘karan’ means an action. With reference to this, anulom means the act of breathing as one usually does. In ‘pratilom (प्रतिलोम)’, ‘prati (प्रति)’ means opposite and ‘pratilom’ means doing the opposite of inspiration, that is expiration.

There is no need to contemplate on how many seconds purak, kumbhak and rechak take because as one reduces the breath gradually, after some years one can practise kumbhak for a maximum period of time. This is the very motive of pranayam. Generally, the duration of inspiration is thrice that of expiration. One should try to equalise the two. In the final stage, the duration of expiration should be a little more than that of inspiration.

A. Chandranulom (Chandrabhed): In this, both the inspiration and expiration are done through the left nostril [through the moon (Chandra) or Ida channel]. The right nostril is closed with the thumb of the right hand. In the beginning one should perform nine such rounds (avartans). Later as one gets habituated to them one should perform twenty-five to thirty rounds. At such times the duration of purak and rechak should be equal. When performing them one should chant a long Omkar in one’s mind.

B. Suryanulom (Suryabhed): In this, both the inspiration and expiration are done through the right nostril [through the sun (Surya) or Pingala channel]. The ring or little finger of the right hand is used to close the left nostril.

The benefits of these types of pranayam are as follows. Usually breathing occurs as follows. Breathing occurs for about an hour through the right nostril. Then for two to four minutes through both the nostrils. Then again through the left nostril for an hour and later for two to four minutes through both. Then again through the right nostril. This cycle goes on continuously. By practising anulom-vilom pranayam one gradually gets used to breathing through both nostrils. This facilitates the opening of the Sushumna channel.

3.3 Antar (internal) kumbhak pranayam

The act: Slow inspiration (purak) – holding the breath for sometime (kumbhak) – slow expiration (rechak).

3.4 Bahya (external) kumbhak pranayam

The act : slow inspiration (purak) – slow expiration (rechak) – holding the breath for sometime (kumbhak).

Besides getting habituated to surviving without oxygen the benefits of pranayam are obtained faster with bahya kumbhak than with antar kumbhak. However the risk in pranayam is higher with bahya kumbhak.

Bandha and kumbhak: ‘In the science of Hathayoga some bandhas from among the types of postures (asans) have been mentioned. They are yogabandha, mahabandha, mahavedha, uddiyan, mulbandha, jalandharbandha, etc. While holding the breath during kumbhak one needs to close some openings out of the nine openings in the body. These yogic bandhas prove very useful for that purpose. A bandha is also useful in directing vital energy from a specific part of the body into another. If one wishes to acquire mastery over pranayam then one should practise bandhas.’(1) Kumbhak (breath holding) performed without bandha may cause headaches, a paunch, etc. Information on various bandhas is given in ‘Chapter 24 : Asan, Bandha and Mudra’.

3.5 Sammishra pranayam

The act : slow inspiration (purak) – holding the breath for sometime (kumbhak) – slow expiration (rechak) – holding the breath for sometime (kumbhak).

3.6 Shuddhikriya pranayam

A. Kapalbhati: Kapal (कपाळ) means the forehead and bhati (भाती) to illuminate. Since the cavities in the bones of the nose and forehead are purified by it, this type of pranayam is called kapalbhati (कपालभाती). It is performed by inspiration followed by sudden contraction of the abdomen, expiration and then inspiration while relaxing the abdomen.

B. Bhasrika: Bhasrika means the bellows of the blacksmith. This is a mixture of kapalbhati and ujjayi pranayams.

C. Normal breathing, kapalbhati and bhasrika: In normal breathing, inspiration is active while expiration is passive. In bhasrika both inspiration and expiration are active. In kapalbhati, as usual the inspiration is active but expiration is more active. Generally, the rate of respiration is sixteen to eighteen breaths per minute. In both, bhasrika and kapalbhati the rate rises to fifty to hundred per minute. There is a higher chance of hyperventilation with carbon dioxide when performing bhasrika rather than with kapalbhati.

3.7 Nadishuddhi (Nadishodhan) – Purification of channels

Nadishuddhi can be done in two ways as follows.

  • 1. Samanu – that is by chanting a bijamantra
  • 2. Nirmanu – that is by some physical action without chanting a bijamantra.

A. Technique

  • 1. Close the right nostril with the right thumb.
  • 2. Breathe in very slowly, silently and regularly through the left nostril (purak).
  • 3. Close the left nostril with the little finger and / or the ring finger.
  • 4. Hold the breath for as long as possible without effort (purak kumbhak). (Some do not advocate holding the breath.)
  • 5. Remove the thumb of the right hand from the right nostril and breathe out very slowly, silently and gradually through the right nostril (rechak).
  • 6. Hold the breath for as long as possible, without effort (rechak kumbhak). (Some do not advocate holding of the breath.)
  • 7. Breathe in slowly, silently and gradually through the right nostril.
  • 8. Close the right nostril with the right thumb.
  • 9. Hold the breath for as long as possible without effort. (Some do not advocate holding the breath.)
  • 10. Remove the little and/or ring finger and breathe out very slowly, silently and gradually through the left nostril.
  • 11. Do not breathe in for as long as possible without effort. (Some do not advocate holding of the breath.)

This is called one round (avartan) of nadishuddhi. Inspiration and expiration are acts to be performed steadily in one rhythm. In the beginning, one should perform seven to eight rounds of nadishuddhi practising the steps from numbers 2 to 11.

B. Benefits

  • Generally breathing occurs as follows. Inspiration and expiration takes three to four seconds. Hence respiration occurs fifteen to twenty times in one minute. When practising pranayam both the acts of inspiration and expiration should be performed slowly, that is, both should take ten to fifteen seconds instead of three to four seconds each. Initially no matter how hard a seeker tries to breathe slowly, the lungs get filled with air within five to seven seconds of breathing through both the nostrils. However if one tries to breathe in slowly through one nostril then it takes ten to fifteen seconds for the lungs to get filled up with air. The same holds good for expiration. No matter how slowly one expires through both the nostrils it takes atleast five to seven seconds. On the contrary, if one expires slowly through one nostril, it takes ten to fifteen seconds. Thus breathing occurs slowly. Hence when practising pranayam initially, to develop the habit of breathing extremely slowly, this technique is useful.
  • Ida and Pingala [refer ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 38 – Path of Activation of Spiritual Energy (Kundaliniyoga).] This technique is useful for regulating the energy flow through these channels and to facilitate the activation of the Sushumna channel. By practising this pranayam one is also able to activate either the Ida or Pingala, as desired.

C. Limitations: Once one is able to breathe slowly one should stop using the nirmanu technique, since it involves the movement of hands and consequently the mind cannot concentrate fully.

D. Anulom-vilom and nadishuddhi pranayam

1. Breathing extremely slowly Efforts are required Occurs naturally
2. Increasing or decreasing the
    sattva and raja components
    according to the requirement
Impossible Possible
3. Altering the flow of vital energy
    through the IdaPingala
    channels so as to facilitate
    worldly activities.
Impossible Possible
4. Obstacles in meditation due to
    movement of fingers
Meditation becomes
easier since there
are no movements
of fingers

E. Other techniques

  • When inspiring through the left nostril utter the vayubijamantrayam’ in the mind, sixteen times. Do not expire till it is chanted sixty-four times and after thirty-two times expire through the right nostril. Later when inspiring through the right nostril chant the agnibijamantraram’ in the mind sixteen times. Do not expire till it is chanted sixty-four times and expire slowly through the left nostril after chanting it thirty-two times.
  • When inspiring through the left nostril chant the vahnibijamantratham’ sixteen times. Do not expire till the vayu bijamantrayam’ is chanted sixty-four times. Then chanting ‘lam’ the amrutbija or pruthvibijamantra thirty-two times gradually expire through the right nostril. Then when inspiring chant ‘lam’, when holding the breath ‘yam’ and when expiring ‘tham’ in the mind in the same proportion as given above.
  • Inspire till Lord Brahma’s bijamantraa’ is chanted slowly, sixteen times in the mind. After inspiration chant Vishnu’s bijamantraou’ sixty-four times. When expiring chant Shiva’s bijamantram’ thirty-two times.

In the above three techniques the proportion of purak, kumbhak and rechak is 1:4:2.

3.8 Shitalikaran pranayam

This pranayam overcomes anxiety, stress and helps in keeping the mind calm along with physical relaxation. It also increases the immunity of the respiratory system against disease. Out of these pranayams, sadant pranayam is useful for those suffering from pyorrhoea (pus in the gums).

A. Sitkari: First expire. Then turning the tongue inwards press its tip below the upper teeth. Hold the lips as they remain when one is smiling. Cavities are created between the edges of the lips and the twisted tongue. Inspire air through these cavities making the sound ‘si’. Once the chest is filled with air, stop purak, close the mouth and do rechak. Repeat this four to five times.

B. Shitali: First put the tongue out a little, from in between the lips, and lift it on both sides. Thus the tongue assumes the shape of a canoe. Then compress the tip of the tongue with the lips, creating a cavity there. Gradually inhale air through this cavity. The air passing over the tongue becomes cool and enters the chest. After purak is complete close the mouth and do rechak through the nose. This constitutes one round (avartan). Perform three to four such rounds.

C. Sadant: First press the teeth against each other and mould the lips, as if smiling. Then inhale air slowly, making a sound through the space between the teeth. When inspiration stops, perform rechak through the nose. This is one round. Perform three to four such rounds.

3.9 Mudra pranayam: Bhagshaha shvasan (breathing with various parts of the body)

‘This is a type of breathing to be done before doing pranayam. This breathing proves useful to facilitate proper breathing and to make full use of the functional capacity of the lungs.

A. Adham (breathing through the abdomen): Perform the chit mudra. Sit erect either in sukhasan (the ease posture), vajrasan (the adamant posture) or padmasan (the lotus posture ). Take a deep, slow breath (purak). Let the abdomen relax slowly during inspiration. Hold the breath only for a second (antar kumbhak) and then contracting the abdomen gradually expire (rechak). Before taking the next breath, hold it again for a second in this state itself (bahya kumbhak). Then gradually relaxing the abdomen perform purak. Continue this slow cycle of inspiration-expiration. Do not give jerks or apply pressure. Let the breathing be continuous and regular.

    When performing purak since the abdomen is relaxed, the diaphragm between the chest and abdomen is reduced. As a result, a cavity develops in the lungs (specially the lower zones). Naturally the external air does not reach these zones. Due to the rhythmic movement between the abdomen and diaphragm, the abdominal organs receive equal massage and the blood circulation too increases.

B. Madhyam (chest breathing): Perform the chinmay mudra. The posture adopted should be the same as above. When performing purak instead of the abdomen, relax the chest to a greater extent but gradually. When performing rechak contract it slowly. Do not allow abdominal movements to occur. With this type of breathing, air enters the middle zone of the lungs.

C. Adya (breathing with the help of shoulders): Perform the adi mudra with the hands. The posture adopted should be the same as above. When performing purak slowly raise the shoulders, anteriorly. When performing rechak lower them posteriorly.

     Raising the shoulders creates a cavity in the upper zone of the lungs and the air inhaled enters that part. Otherwise since one’s respiration is superficial that part of the lung is not used much.

D. Yogic breathing: Perform the Brahma mudra with the hands. “Yogic breathing” is a combination of the above three types of breathing. Breathing should be done first with the help of the abdomen, then the chest and finally with the help of the shoulders. During expiration too the same organs should be contracted in the same sequence. This breathing should be performed calmly and regularly without strain on any part or tightening of the face.’(2)

3.10 Other pranayams

A. Ujjayi

  • ‘Expire completely and wait for a moment. Then start inspiring slowly through both the nostrils. Let the soft palate feel the air entering. When breathing let the glottis close the food pipe and wind pipe equally so that the air flowing through the half closed wind pipe makes a hissing “s” sound.
  • Making a gesture of swallowing, bend the neck and let the breath be held automatically. Maintaining this state for some moments make attempts to be aware of the breath held below the throat.
  • Then keeping the glottis half open and making the hissing sound “s” let the air be exhaled through the left nostril.
  • Let the glottis open completely and expel all the air.
  • This constitutes one round (avartan): Do 4 to 5 such rounds.

    In the other types of ujjayi, inspiration-expiration is done through each nostril. The importance in this type is attributed to decreasing the respiratory rate by compressing the palate upwards.’(3)

B. Bhramari

  • ‘Inhale through both the nostrils and let the air circulate in the mouth imitating the sound of a drone. Let the entire body feel the vibrations generated. Then let the breath stop automatically.
  • While exhaling, mimic the melodious sound of a female honeybee. Now it becomes easier. Wait after exhalation for a second. Repeat these rounds several times.

About bhramari it is said: “By practising pranayam this way the yogi experiences Bliss beyond description !” ’ (4)

3.11 According to the day and night

From sunrise to sunset one should inspire through the left nostril and expire through the right. From sunset to sunrise one should inspire through the right nostril and expire through the left.

During the day, when there is sunlight one should inspire through the left nostril so that the moon channel (Chandra nadi) is activated and at night, in the absence of the sun one should inspire through the right nostril so that the sun channel (Surya nadi) is operational. Thus if one performs acts contrary to the environment then the effects of the environment on oneself are reduced. Also with breathing through one nostril throughout the day one gets used to slow breathing, quickly.

3.12 Sanhita pranayam: Sagarbha and agarbha (nirgarbha) pranayams

The pranayam done chanting a mantra is called sagarbha and that done without a mantra is called agarbha (nirgarbha). The mantra is naturally chanted mentally because if done loudly then one will only be able to expire.

A. The three step (tripad) Gayatri: In this, Om (ॐ) appears twice as given below.

ॐ भूर्भुव: स्‍व: ।
ॐ तत्‌ सवितु: वरेण्‍यं भर्गो देवस्‍य धीमहि ।
ॐ धियो योन: प्रचोदयात्‌ ।

Om bhurbhuvaha svaha.
Om tat savituhu varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi.
Om dhiyo yonaha prachodayat.

     In the three step Gayatri if one mentally chants the first step during inspiration, the second when holding the breath and the third during expiration then pranayam with purak, kumbhak and rechak in the proportion of l : 4 : 2, too occurs.

B. The four step (chatushpad) Gayatri: In this four step Gayatri besides the three Oms of the three step Gayatri, the fourth is added after ‘prachodayat’. Due to this fourth Om, kumbhak (breath holding) after rechak (expiration) also occurs.


[1]. Vol 6. Pg. 33 First Edition, Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh. Publisher : Pandit Mahadevshastri Joshi, Secretary, Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh Mandal, 410 Shanivarpeth, Pune 411 030.

Yoga – Asane, Pranayam, Mudra, Kriya. First edition, June 1996. Publisher : V.N.Limaye, Sachiv – Vivekanand Kendra Prakashan, Marathi Section, 1890, Sadashiv Peth, Natubag, Pune – 411 030.
[2]. Pg. 53                  [3]. Pg.56
[4]. Pg. 58.


Righteousness – key to control desires


Control Over Sexual Desire

Generally that what is referred to as intercourse is the external union. This chapter is in relation to this union. The real union however, is that of the embodied soul (jiva) with The Supreme God (Shiva); it is the internal union.

1. Universal Sexuality

A. Sexual intercourse (sambhog): In ‘samyak bhogayati (सम्‍यक्‌ भोगयति)’, samyak (सम्‍यक्‌) means maintaining a balance and bhog [bhagaha (भग:)] means radiance. Thus sexual intercourse (sambhog) means that by means of which one maintains an equilibrium and acquires the experience of radiance. Sexual intercourse is thus any act performed with the motive of creation. The process of preparing a medicine (rasayan) by combining two chemicals is also called sambhog.

B. An universal sacrificial fire (vishvayadnya): A sacrificial fire (yadnya) is any process through which something is generated after offering an oblation in it. Sexual intercourse is the sacrificial fire of universal creation. The process of universal creation started through the vishvayadnya of the completely nude Earth and God and it still continues. Since sexual intercourse is a symbol of creation it is considered to be pure. In the universe, sexual intercourse goes on everywhere, continuously. The union (sambhog) of the air in a room and the rotating fan produces the offspring, breeze. The introduction of sacrificial offerings of radiance in the form of semen from the penis into the sacrificial pot of the fire (in the form) of the vagina is sambhog (sexual intercourse). Since there is generation of progeny from it, the vagina is called mahabhagoshtha or mahabhag and the uterus is called the garbha region (garbhalok).

2. The sex life of an animal, man and a progressed seeker or a saint

A. ‘There is a vast difference in sexual attitudes between man and other animals. In animals, intercourse occurs only during the fertile period (rutukal) and never during pregnancy, hence untimely ejaculation does not occur, and physical fitness never fails. The Supreme God created the Vedas in the same way as a father aware of the lamentable state of man arising from this relationship, wholeheartedly preaches essential knowledge to his son.’(1)

B. Since there is only physical union, intercourse in animals is in an unevolved state. In man however, it is evolved since along with the physical body there is union of the mind as well. Only this kind of intercourse has the right to be called ‘human intercourse’. Intercourse with a prostitute or without union of minds, is intercourse between animals.

C. When a progressed seeker or a saint has sexual intercourse, along with the body and mind the embodied soul (jiva) too is involved in it. There the emotion is that of surrender. Hence in that intercourse one may experience Bliss (Brahmanand). (Surrender is the preparedness to forget one’s existence, as otherwise each one struggles for one’s independent existence.) An embodied soul whose spiritual practice has been arrested (an evolved soul) enters the product of conception of such an intercourse.

3. Why is sexual desire the most powerful among all desires?

The table given below compares sexual desire and other desires. From this one will realise why sexual desire is the most powerful of all desires.

  Other desires Sexual desire
1. The sense organ Mostly, only one sense
organ fulfills a desire
e.g. desire to eat a
jalebi (an Indian sweet)
is satisfied by the
Most of the sense
organs are involved in
the fulfillment of this
desire e.g. the eyes,
ears, tongue, lips,
(skin), nose, etc.
2. Unfulfillment Less often Most often
3. Causes of unfulfillment    
   A. Dependence on another
     person for fulfillment of
     the desire
Absent Present
   B. Social inhibitions Absent e.g. a jalebi can
be eaten anywhere
Present e.g. one
cannot have sex
   C. Opportunities for
More Less

The analysis of happiness experienced at orgasm is given in ‘Science of Spirituality : Vol. 1B – Spirituality’ under ‘Happiness and Bliss’.

A quote from the Yogavasishtha (5.52.21) says

कुरङ्‌गालिपतङ्‌गेभमीनास्‍त्‍वेकैकशो हता: ।
सर्वैर्युक्‍तैरनर्थैस्‍तु व्‍याप्‍तस्‍याज्ञ कुत: सुखम्‌ ।

    Meaning: (Sage Uddalak preaches to Adnyachitta) sense objects such as words, speech, etc. are so disastrous that those embodied souls attached to a particular object like the deer, bumble-bee, kite, elephant and fish get destroyed. Then is it astonishing that man who gets engrossed in all these five objects is wrought with tragedy? How will he be happy?

Since man has intense sexual desire the Manusmruti (2.215) says

मात्रा स्‍वस्रा दुहित्रा वा न विविक्‍तासनो भवेत्‌ ।
बलवानिन्‍द्रियग्रामो विव्‍दांसमपि कर्षति ।।

     Meaning: A man should never sleep on the same bed or sit on the same seat along with his mother, sister or daughter because attraction of the sense organs is so strong that it could drive even a great scholar towards them.

4. Types of sexual desire

Good: Good sexual desire is not bad, instead is laudable, as it is necessary for procreation. Hence, the deity of sexual desire is called a deity, Kamadev and not an enemy.

Bad: Sexual desire in illicit relationships, rape, etc. is bad.

5. Benefits of acquiring control over sexual desire

One will agree that it is necessary to gain control over bad sexual desire but it will puzzle one as to why one should acquire control over good sexual desire. It is answered as follows:

A. The table below shows the percentage of obstacles various sexual acts pose to spiritual practice.

Sexual act Obstacle in spiritual
practice %
1. Thinking about a woman / man 0.5
2. Masturbation after a sexual thought 2
3. Exhibiting sex organs to others 5
4. Reciprocal masturbation 10
5. Intercourse due to other’s wish (parechcha) 30
6. Intercourse due to one’s own wish (svechcha) 100*

* 100% obstacle means loss of five turns of chanting of a mala (rosary) done with spiritual emotion (bhav).

B. Whatever be the motive of the sexual desire, the impression that ‘fulfillment of sexual desire means happiness’ develops in the subconscious mind and to be able to experience that happiness again and again, sexual desire gets aroused. Thus it hinders the speed of traversing from happiness to Bliss, that is spiritual progress.

C. By avoiding sexual pleasure not only is one able to control sexual desire but also the energy and time required for it is prevented from being wasted. This energy and time can be utilised benevolently, to make spiritual progress. The energy utilised in sexual intercourse is greater than in any other physical activity. Even modern science has proved this.

D. If short lasting happiness is experienced continuously then there will be no time left to devote to the study (spiritual practice) of everlasting happiness (Bliss). If one restricts the experiencing of object pleasure then one gets time for the study (spiritual practice) of unlimited happiness (Bliss). To achieve this while experiencing happiness within the limits of Righteousness (Dharma), one should remain more and more bound by limitations.

E. Even a drop of semen ejaculated has the potential to create an embodied soul (jiva) laden with divine consciousness (chaitanya). So, instead of ejaculating it if it is retained in the body then imagine how much divine consciousness the body will acquire.

F.  सुगंधो योगिनो देहे जायते बिंदुधारणात्‌ ।।
     यावद्‌ बिंदु: स्‍थिरो देहे तावत्‍कालभयं कुत: ।।१।।
     एवं संरक्षयेद्‌ बिंदुं मृत्‍युं जयति योगवित्‌ ।।
     मरणं बिंदुपातेन जीवनं बिंदुधारणात्‌ ।।२।। – योगप्रदीपिका

     Meaning: If the semen remains constant then strength of the body builds up, steadiness is achieved and there is no fear of life. Hence yogis conserve semen and win over death. Seminal loss means death and its conservation is the best possible way of attaining immortality.
                                                                  – Yogapradipika

6. Methods of acquiring control over sexual desire

‘Once Baba asked Shrikrushna, “Supposing I get attracted to a woman and the outcome is bad then is it my fault? O Lord, is it not You who have given me that desire?” Shrikrushna responded, “Yes, the fault is yours. Though the bad thought entered your mind you did not make use of the good intellect bestowed upon you. This is your fault”.’(2)

Some people feel that desire may decline after its fulfillment. For example one day if one devours jalebis till one is fed up, then from that day onwards one will never feel like eating jalebis again. However, the possibility of this occurrence is just one in one lakh. Hence, saying that one will acquire control over sexual desire by experiencing sexual pleasure is unreasonable. Therefore –

न जातु काम: कामानामुपभोगेन शाम्‍यति ।
हविषा कृष्‍णवर्त्‍मेव भूय एवाभिवर्धते ।। – श्रीमद्‌भागवत ९.१९.१४

According to this quote, from Shrimadbhagvat (9:19:14) if one continues to obtain gratification instead of the desire decreasing, it keeps increasing just like a fire which burns even more brilliantly after pouring clarified butter (ghee) into it.

The various methods of acquiring control over sexual desire are given below.

6.1 According to the Path of Action (Karmayoga)

A. Preventing arousal of sexual desire

द्रष्‍टा दृश्‍यवशात्‌ बद्ध: ।

     Meaning: Drashta (द्रष्‍टा) means the observer, drushyavashat (दृश्‍यवशात्‌) means because of the vision and baddhaha (बद्ध:) means being entrapped in bondage. Hence if a scene arousing sexual desire is present then the seeker will get entrapped in it. If not, then the possibility of sexual desire being aroused is less. However, usually one cannot have control over external scenes.

If a stimulus arousing sexual desire reaches the mind through the five senses, then there is a possibility of it being aroused. To prevent this from happening one should block one’s sense organs from receiving sexual stimuli. This itself is called pratyahar. It is well-known that Lakshman always looked at Sita’s feet. H.H. Saint’s Guru, H.H. Swami, never looked at women. When speaking to women He would fix His gaze on the tip of His nose. There is a rule in the Swaminarayan sect that male seekers should not remain in the proximity of women; the reason for this is the same.

B. Decreasing sexual activity stepwise: In context to acquiring control over sexual desire, first let us understand the stages in sexual desire and their fulfillment. In adolescence, a boy gets sexual desire for different women. Later, when he falls in love or marries a girl, sexual desire for only one woman is aroused instead of for many, or sexual activity is performed with only one woman. In view of reducing sexual activity with one’s wife, the scriptures state that one should not indulge in sexual activity on various auspicious days. As activity decreases, automatically desire too decreases. It is for this very reason that after entering the stage of the retired householder (vanaprasthashram) from that of the married householder (gruhasthashram), sexual activity is completely forbidden.

C. Path of Deliberate Rigour (Hathayoga): Sexual desire is of two types – voluntary and involuntary. By acquiring progressive control over acts such as breathing and blinking by doing spiritual practices such as pranayam and tratak respectively, one can acquire control over involuntary sexual desire. As a result, one can also acquire control over voluntary sexual desire.

D. Observing celibacy (brahmacharya): Brahmacharya (ब्रह्मचर्य) is derived from two words Brahman (ब्रह्म), towards Brahman and charya (चर्य), to walk. Thus it means going (from happiness) towards Bliss, because Brahman is Blissful. In the literal sense celibacy is applicable to all seekers, but conventionally it refers to a seeker who does spiritual practice avoiding the experience of sexual pleasure, since adolescence.

When defining brahmacharya a quote states that ‘ब्रह्मचर्याणां 
सर्वावस्‍थासु मनोवाक्‍कायकर्मभि: सर्वत्र मैथुनत्‍याग: ।’ meaning the sacrifice of intercourse in all states of the body, mind and speech is known as celibacy.

स्‍मरणं कीर्तनं केली श्रवणं गुह्यभाषणम्‌ ।
संकल्‍पोऽध्‍यवसायश्च क्रियानिष्‍पत्ति एव च ।
एतद्‌ मैथुनं अष्‍टांगं प्रवदन्‍ति मनैषिणा: ।

Meaning: 1. Thinking of a woman, 2. Description of her qualities, 3. Playing games with her, 4. Listening to her talk, 5. Speaking to her when alone, 6. Wishing to acquire her, 7. Trying to acquire her and 8. Actual intercourse are the eight types of sexual intercourse.

Hence a seeker should not indulge in any of the above activities. A seeker’s celibacy is destroyed by anyone of the above eight sexual acts. A married householder’s celibacy however is destroyed only by the actual sexual act. The more one progresses towards the sattva component the more are the restrictions.

‘A man should indulge in sexual activity for procreation only with his wife during the rutu period (on ten days excluding the first four days of menses), excluding the day and the three hours of the night (prahar), in his own home. With this behaviour celibacy is retained, steadiness develops and healthy and virtuous progeny is born.’ (3)

The holy texts state that a householder experiencing sexual pleasure only once a month can be considered a celibate.

When performing purashcharan (reading of holy texts, chanting of a mantra) it is essential to observe celibacy. During the recitation of the Gayatri purashcharan, periodic reading (parayan) of the Shri Gurucharitra, etc. along with the one performing the purashcharan, his wife, priest and other close acquaintances too should observe celibacy.

E. Emulating saints: Since there is a possibility that a seeker’s mind may wander he should follow the above rules. Some people are puzzled as to why saints too behave in that way. The answer is as follows:

  • One of the objectives of a saint is to set a good example to to seekers and His devotees. If the Guru looks at women, then a seeker in the primary stage will think ‘the Guru does not practise what He preaches’. Such thoughts may reduce his faith in the Guru.
  • ‘Question: Swami, why do You always look down?

    Answer: I am looking at Lord Rama’s image within Me !’

6.2 According to the Path of Devotion (Bhaktiyoga)

To prevent arousal of sexual desire due to sensations from the five sense organs one should develop the attitude of reacting to every sensation as if it were a sensation in relation to God. For example if one hears a song of one pining for her lover (like ‘when will my eyes meet yours O beloved?’), one should think or imagine that one is pining for God. Desires are destroyed by devotion alone and not by mantras. Destruction means its conversion to spiritual love. One cannot decipher whether love is erotic or spiritual, hence even great people sometimes falter. Spiritual love means love for the woman / man, devoid of desire.

If one attempts to see God in every individual then sexual desire does not get aroused.

6.3 According to the Path of Knowledge (Dnyanyoga)

One should think that everything one sees is Brahman.

6.4 According to the technique of autosuggestion

Refer to the technique of autosuggestions in ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 3 – Practice of Spirituality’.

A. To prevent sexual thoughts from entering the mind the autosuggestions to be given are ‘I will continuously think only about spiritual practice, for example ‘whenever I am not talking to anyone or thinking about a useful task, I will start chanting……’.

B. Using ‘the psychofeedback technique’ the suggestions that may be used are as follows :

  • ‘Whenever I get sexual thoughts I will become aware of them and will start thinking about spiritual practice’ can be given. Mostly the suggestion begins to take effect within three to four months.
  • If after three to four months there is still no effect with the above suggestion then give the following suggestion : ‘Whenever I get sexual thoughts I will become aware of them and pinch myself hard’. By using this technique, the usual impression that ‘sexual thoughts mean happiness’ is replaced by ‘sexual thoughts mean pain’ in the subconscious mind. Hence, sexual thoughts start decreasing.

C. To erase the association from the subconscious mind that sexual activity means happiness, the following suggestions can be given:

‘During sexual intercourse, specially during orgasm, thoughts about spiritual practice (e.g. chanting) will continue in my mind’. With such a suggestion when one does not derive happiness from sexual activity, eventually sexual thoughts start decreasing.

D. Imagery in a hypnotic trance : Using this technique of autosuggestion, one can give a suggestion like, ‘when walking on the road I was not distracted by beautiful women passing by or the exciting posters as I was thinking about spiritual practice or chanting’.

E. Thoughts regarding sexual activity : If one thinks about sexual activity with someone with whom it is impossible, then since the sexual act cannot be performed, naturally the gratification obtained at orgasm is not obtained. This facilitates reduction of sexual desire. To accomplish this, one can give suggestions like, ‘when masturbating instead of fantasizing that I am having sex with my spouse (lover), I will imagine that I am having sex with the woman / man I saw in the picture’. With such suggestions sexual desire for the spouse starts decreasing. Since it is impossible to indulge in sexual activity with the person in the picture, the overall sexual desire starts decreasing.

In brief, in most people, ‘in childhood there is no sexual desire -> later, sexual desire for many women / men develops -> more sexual desire for only one woman / man develops -> sexual activity is performed with only one woman / man. If one goes exactly in the reverse direction stepwise, that is sexual activity with only one woman / man -> more sexual desire for only one woman / man -> sexual desire for many women / men -> no sexual desire, then it is possible to acquire control over sexual desire. However, those who consider even thinking of another woman / man as sinful, should make use of other suggestions instead of these.

F. To increase the effectiveness of the other paths, the concepts from the respective path can be given as autosuggestions to impress them upon the mind. This facilitates their acceptance, for example :

  • According to the Path of Knowledge, to actually experience the concept that ‘everything that I see is Brahman’ this sentence should constantly be remembered as an autosuggestion.
  • To decrease the attraction for another’s body if the thought that ‘the body is just a mass of flesh, excreta and urine’ is impressed upon the mind through autosuggestions then sexual desire declines rapidly.

G. The following table shows how one can gain stepwise control over sexual desire. Going to the number, higher than the one applicable to oneself, by giving suggestions to oneself means completing one stage.

  • If the numbers 1, 16, 31 and 46 are applicable to one then one should give suggestions to oneself so as to achieve the motives under numbers 2, 17, 32 and 47. As a result, the frequency of those activities starts decreasing.
  • If it is not possible for one to reduce the frequency of the activities under numbers 1, 16, 31and 46 one should give auto-suggestions so as to achieve the motives under numbers 6, 21, 36 and 51. Hence even though the frequency of sexual activity does not decrease there is a qualitative improvement in the activity. For example, if instead of number 1 one is able to act according to number 6 then though the frequency of sexual activity is once or twice a week, it is only with one’s spouse instead of different women / men.
  Once or
twice a
Once or
twice a
5-6 times
a year
Only once
in several
1. Sexual intercourse        
    Different women/men 1 2 3 4
    Own spouse (wife/husband) 6 7 8 9
    Others (specify) 11 12 13 14
2. Sexual desire        
    Different women/men 16 17 18 19
    Own spouse (wife/husband) 21 22 23 24
    Others (specify) 26 27 28 29
3. Fantacy during masturbation        
    Different women/men 31 32 33 34
    Own spouse (wife/husband) 36 37 38 39
    Others (specify) 41 42 43 44
4. Experiencing orgasm when
    fantasizing about sex
    Different women/men 46 47 48 49
    Own spouse (wife/husband) 51 52 53 54
    Own spouse with someone
56 57 58 59
    Any women with any man 61 62 63 64
    A nude woman/man 66 67 68 69
    A woman/man 71 72 73 74
    Vague 76 77 78 79
5. Noctural emissions        
    Ejaculation without being
    aware of the dream
81 82 83 84
    Realising that ejaculation
    had occurred, the next day
86 87 88 89
6. Others 91 92 93 94

6.5 Following Righteousness (Dharma)

The general tendency of people is to behave well with one who makes them happy. Average people tend to call a person who behaves nicely with them, good. Keeping exactly this secret of the attitude of an average person in mind, the code of the married householder has been framed. Moreover this secret itself lays the foundation of the religious code of the married householder’s life. The furthest limit of worldly happiness is sex. Hence in the Ayurveda intercourse is called the seat of Bliss (Anandsthan). In other words, though in the Satyayug carrying forward the lineage was the motive behind intercourse, gradually with the successive yugs it began to decline and the objective that intercourse should concomittantly result in progeny came into being. Mentally one has to go from the Kaliyug to the Satyayug, that is one has to make spiritual progress. Hence one should remember that life is not meant for enjoying material objects but these objects are necessary only to facilitate the journey of life. This is the very basis of our culture.

For one who is unable to love platonically, sexual intercourse is a means of uniting with the mind, by gradually developing physical attachment. Man acquires intense worldly happiness from the woman he marries. So also, the woman. Thus the implied meaning of marriage is that the couple should love each other deeply. The quality of love is that, as one starts loving someone and along with it follows Righteousness and remains in the holy company of renunciants, gradually it acquires a dimension of love without expectations. Love slowly shifts from the body to the mind. This itself is called widening of the horizons of love. Hence for the one who is unable to renounce material objects all of a sudden, the method of reducing it stepwise, is marriage. As the physical attachment of the couple starts decreasing they are able to love their children proportionately more and more. That is, they wish for the well-being of their children. Welfare means the fulfillment of human birth! From this one will realise how wrong is the belief that by following Righteousness, man becomes detached and more and more inactive day by day. Holy texts of great sages who have realised God will themselves illustrate how vastly expansive Their love for others is, that is how much They love the world.

The holy text Navanath Bhaktisar gives an apologue of King Bhartruharinath. To see how much Queen Pingala loved him, the king falsely informed her that he was dead. Upon hearing this, she became a sati (entered the pyre). When Bhartruharinath came to know of it he was about to jump into the pyre when the others stopped him. Then for twelve years he remained in the crematorium waiting for Queen Pingala. What is amusing is that inspite of having twelve hundred queens, his love had shifted from the body to the mind. Pingala too became a sati as her love had shifted onto the psychological plane. The twelve hundred queens were only physically attached and hence they did not become satis. Since the king was fed up of physical love he did not want their bodies but he wanted Pingala. Later Gorakhnath released the king from the Great Illusion (Maya). One gets sattvik (sattva predominant) Bliss in another’s company only when attachment for the physical body is reduced.

6.6 Satsang (holy company)

By remaining in satsang, due to an increase in the sattva component, atleast during that period sexual thoughts do not enter the mind.

6.7 The Guru’s grace (Gurukrupa)

So long as there is duality there will be sexual desire. Only when one reaches non-duality does it end. To accomplish it, there is definitely no better path than the Guru’s grace.

6.8 Realisation of God (Ishvarsakshatkar)

विषया विनिवर्तन्‍ते निराहारस्‍य देहिन: ।
रसवर्जं रसोऽप्‍यस्‍य परं दृष्‍ट्‌वा निवर्तते ।। – श्रीमद्‌भगवद्‌गीता (२.५९)

Meaning: A man who does not eat is liberated from all desires except the sexual desire. However after acquiring spiritual knowledge of The Supreme Brahman the attraction for all desires including sexual desire, disappears. – Shrimadbhagvadgita 2.59

Implied meaning: If man remains hungry, that is without food then one feels that his desire is dead, but this does not happen. Only since the body does not receive nourishment the desire appears to have died. Just as a tree dries up and appears lifeless if it does not receive sufficient water for many days and regains its freshness when the roots start receiving some water, so also if man remains without food then his sense organs become incapable of experiencing object pleasure. This however is not detachment. Once he starts eating again as earlier, the sense organs get attracted towards objects. Then ‘how to detach oneself from objects?’ ‘By eliminating the desire for them’, is the description given to express the purport. Then when will one be totally detached from objects ? It is answered as ‘with the realisation (sakshatkar) of The Supreme (Param) Brahman, the soul, the objects are destroyed totally and one acquires the realisation of God only with the Guru’s grace.

7. ‘Seminal loss means death’

Swami Vivekanand, Swami Shivanand, etc. have expressed concepts like ‘seminal loss means death’. Without considering in whose context they were said, in India two to three generations have accepted these statements as established facts and this has caused considerable loss to them. Doctors all over the world unanimously emphasize that loss of semen during intercourse, masturbation or in nocturnal emissions does not cause any harm and research has proved that seminal ejaculation is harmless. Inspite of this being so, how could Swami Vivekanand or Swami Shivanand make wrong statements? This is a doubt which many young people harbour. If one tries to understand the context of this statement, it will be clear that neither the doctor nor the Swami is wrong.

Intended for whom?: This statement was not directed towards the average person. It was meant for seekers desirous of spiritual progress.

The intention behind the statement: The intention behind making the statement was to wipe off the existing impression or to prevent the development of the impression that ‘ejaculation means happiness’ in the subconscious mind of a seeker following the path of Yoga. Other examples of this are famous statements like ‘the mother is a goddess (मातृदेवो भव ।)’ along with ‘a woman is just a mass of blood and flesh’. Such statements are meant to create aversion that is ‘dislike in the mind’ according to psychology. Only seekers should contemplate on these statements in this context. Others should not even read them.

8. Progress

A. Control according to the spiritual level: The table below explains how the sexual life at various spiritual levels is. From that a seeker will realise how much control over sexual desire he has acquired.

level %
Amount of sexual
activity %
Sexual thoughts and
happiness acquired
through sexual activity %
20 100 100
30 80 90
40 60 70
50 40 40
60 20 20
70 10 5
80 2
(Rarely in the dream)
90 0 0

B. Urdhvaretas: Urdhva (ऊर्ध्‍व) means the zenith and retas (रेतस्‌) means semen. Urdhvaretas (ऊर्ध्‍वरेतस्‌) means the one whose semen flows upwards. In an average person semen flows downwards. He is called adhoretas. Contrary to this, the semen of evolved people specially those following the path of Yoga gets converted into oja (precursor of divine energy), hence they are called urdhvaretas. The oja circulates throughout the body. Since the oja has an effect on the physical body, their physical bodies appear radiant and lustrous. A similar lustre is seen on the bodies of eunuchs who have been castrated. (Some acts in Yoga teach how the excreted semen, urine, etc. is to be reabsorbed.)

As one becomes an urdhvaretas gradually the passage of seminal excretion becomes narrow. Though the passage becomes narrow, the sexual desire is not reduced. If one indulges in sexual activity under such circumstances, then when semen is ejaculated through the narrowed seminal passage instead of happiness one experiences pain. This facilitates further reduction of sexual desire.


Jivitvidya Athva Satyam Shivam Sundaram. Second edition, 1979. Author : Late Hari Ganesh Godbole. Publisher : Govind Yashvant Rane. G.Y. Rane Publishers, 2040 Sadashiv Peth, Tilak Road, Pune 400 030.
[1]. Pg. 42        [3]. Pg. 43


Chanting of Lord’s Name: Best tool for observing silence


1. Definition of Path of Silence (Mounyoga)

Achieving progressive control over the organs of speech, body and mind is moun (silence). According to the Path of Devotion (Bhaktimarg), ‘forgetting to speak as a result of remaining engrossed in contemplation of God’, is the real silence.

2. Types of Moun

2.1 According to the state

The table below gives information on the different types of silence (moun).

  Silence of speech
(Vak-moun). The
silence of hearing
Silence as of
Deep sleep
1. Signs Not uttering a
single word means
silence of speech
(Vak-moun) and
not even hearing
one’s own speech
is silence of hearing
Remaining still
akin to wood
without any
gestures etc. (In
reality more
energy is wasted
in responding by
nodding gesturin-
g or saying ‘ham,
hum’ than in
The silence
in all three
dream and
who has
2. The organ or
    body involved
    in the practice
    of silence
The organs of
The physical
The mental
and causal
3. The spiritual
    level % after
    attaining the
60 70 80 85
4. The mode of
    speech in
Madhyama Pashyanti Pashyanti Pashyanti

* Information on the four modes of speech viz. Vaikhari, Madhyama, Pashyanti and Para is given in ‘Science of Spirituality: Chapter 9 – Path of Chanting The Lord’s Name (Namasankirtanyoga)’.

2.2 According to the cause

A. Incidental: If one feels that expressing one’s opinion will complicate the issue or will be unacceptable to the other, then under those circumstances, an individual observes silence.

B. Occasional

  • When performing ritualistic worship (puja), chanting, etc.
  • When eating
  • When performing religious observances on certain days of the week like Thursday, auspicious dates (tithis) like the eighth day (ashtami) and the eleventh day (ekadashi) of the Hindu lunar calendar and during the four months of Shravan, Bhadrapad, Ashvin, Kartik (chaturmas) of the Hindu lunar calendar.
  • When listening to the story of Mangalagouri
  • During menses

C. Daily ablutions

उत्‍सर्गे मैथुने चैव प्रस्रावे दन्‍तधावने ।
श्राद्धे भोजनकाले च षट्‌सु मौनं समाचरेत्‌ ।।

Meaning: During cleansing processes like defaecation, urination, blowing the nose, cleaning wax from the ears, removing discharge from the eyes, etc. and also during intercourse, when one has a bleeding wound, when brushing teeth, performing religious rites for the departed (shraddha) and when eating, one should maintain silence.

3. Benefits of observing Moun

3.1 According to physiology

A. According to physiology:

  • One can conserve the energy wasted in speaking by observing silence.

3.2 According to psychology

  • Several worldly problems are a consequence of speaking. By observing silence they are naturally avoided.
  • One can avoid telling lies.
  • Speaking is a result of thinking and emotions. If one does not express one’s thoughts and emotions like anger, then gradually they come under control and the impressions from the subconscious mind decrease. This means that observing silence with the body makes it easier to achieve silence of the mind.
  • Usually since one is not multilingual, the barrier of language can be overcome by speaking with gesticulations.
  • Concentration and contemplation are possible because of silence.

3.3 According to the science of Spirituality

  • It helps to develop an introverted attitude. Ritualistic worship (puja), reading holy books, periodic reading of holy texts (parayans), meditation and chanting The Lord’s Name are all a type of silence.‘Observing silence is of great importance in the study of establishing communion with The Lord. Since it is directly related to speech, when the mind wanders towards the world forgetting God, speech becomes one of its important media. Communion with God is not possible without introversion. Unless the mind gives up the habit of wandering outwards, which it does rapidly through the medium of speech it cannot become introverted. Hence when speech is curtailed, the extroverted nature of the mind automatically becomes feeble.’ (1)
  • The raja component begins to decrease and hence, the sattva component increases.
  • If a certain thing remains unused, it accumulates. For instance if money remains unspent, it gets accumulated and one becomes financially prosperous. Similarly, if one does not speak then the energy in words increases, that is one acquires the supernatural power of speech (vaksiddhi) by which whatever one speaks comes true. One also acquires the ability to bestow a curse or a boon.
  • After acquiring the supernatural power of speech, that is the state when whatever is spoken comes true, if one observes silence, one does not have to repent for that which has come true due to what was uttered accidentally.
  • The individual learns to maintain the stance of an observer. Due to these benefits, it is said ‘Silence can achieve everything (मौनं सर्वार्थसाधनम्‌ ।)’ (2)

4. Practical suggestions

A. The stages in silence of speech (vak-moun), silence of hearing (karnamoun)

  • Not speaking that which will hurt others
  • Avoiding useless discussions, chattering, arguments, etc.
  • Speaking less
  • Speaking only what is essential
  • Speaking only on Spirituality if one has to speak, at all.

B. Initially whilst observing silence, it is better not to remain in the proximity of others. Thus there is no question of either speaking by accident or getting thoughts about others. If it is not possible to practise silence in one’s home, then it should be practised in isolation. Since one cannot express any thoughts, initially one gets frustrated from within. Considering this point as well, remaining in solitude proves beneficial.

C. In the period of silence one should not read newspapers, listen to the radio, watch television, etc. as there is a possibility of getting distracted.

D. One should give prior instructions verbally or written, about what food one will eat, etc. as more energy is expended in expressing thoughts through gestures, rather than actual speaking. Besides, there is a possibility of misinterpretation by others.

E. One should practise silence for one to two hours on working days and five to six hours on holidays. Then the period of silence should be increased to one full day, a week, a fortnight, a month and so on. Each period of observance of silence consists of forty days. This is called an anushthan. After one anushthan one should break the period of silence for atleast two to four days. Subsequently one may observe another anushthan.

F. In the period of silence one should engage in chanting, concentration, meditation or introspection, so as to avoid thoughts in relation to speech.

    ‘The real support for silence is chanting The Lord’s Name itself. Without chanting, the one practising silence can get deluded. Chanting is the real secret of silence.’
                                                          – Saint

H. It is essential to observe silence when performing vowed religious observances (vrats, vaikalyas) and periodic reading of holy texts (parayans). As a result, the sattva component as well as the spiritual emotion (bhav) increases and the benefits derived from it are augmented.

5. Achieving silence of speech (vak-moun) automatically

In any path of Yoga, when desires and instincts and queries of the mind are over, the attitude becomes introverted and silence of speech is automatically achieved.

6. A sage (muni), a sage with steady intellect (sthitapradnya muni) and a great sage (mahamuni)

A. A sage (muni): The one who speaks on no subject other than Spirituality is referred to as a sage.

B. A sage with steady intellect (sthitapradnya muni)

Vachamyam is a seeker who observes silence. The description of such a saint is given in Shrimadbhagvadgita (2.56) as follows:

दु:खेष्‍वनुव्‍दिग्नमना: सुखेषु विगतस्‍पृह: ।
वीतरागभयक्रोध: स्‍थितधीर्मुनिरुच्‍यते ।।

Meaning: He who is unperturbed by sorrow, is unattached to happiness, love (affection), fear and anger is called a sage of steady intellect.’(2)

C. The great sage (mahamuni)

He who has renounced words is a mouni
Hence one can practise the Yogas with fervour
                                                   – Shri Dasbodh 17.5.9

Implied meaning: ‘Despite speaking, the liberated souls do not speak. Silence and spiritual knowledge are The Lord’s secret manifestations, all the others are expressed manifestations. Hence, silence (moun) is described as a psychological penance, instead of a vocal one. That is, as long as there is desire for objects the silence of speech cannot be considered to be the real silence. Brahman is described as the ‘Wordless Brahman’. Hence those who are liberated while still embodied and have experienced that ‘I am Brahman’ are said to be practising silence although they are speaking. Of the different types of silence, deep sleep silence (sushuptimoun) and great silence (mahamoun) are of this type. In short, speech is worldly, not speaking is Spirituality and silence is Brahman. In other words, losing awareness of one’s silence is the true silence !’ – Saint

7. Limitations

A. No great discomfort is caused by practising silence of speech (vak-moun) and silence as of wood (kashthamoun). Others however, are at a loss to understand the one practising it. In order to achieve silence of deep sleep (sushuptimoun) and great silence (mahamoun), one has to undertake spiritual practice as advised by the Guru. Silence of speech and silence as of wood are the tools, while deep sleep silence and great silence are the targets.

B. ‘In the science of Yoga who is a learned fool?

     The one who practises postures (asans), pranayam, etc. without following the restraints (yam) and regulations (niyam).’(3)

     The same tenet is also applicable to those practising silence of speech and silence as of wood. [Yam and niyam are the first two parts from the Ashtangyoga (Eightfold Yoga) of Patanjali and are related to the mind. Refer ‘Science of Spirituality: Chapter 36 – Path of Meditation (Dhyanyoga)’.]

8. Comparison with other paths of Yoga

Refer ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 40 – Comparison of the Various Paths of Yoga’.


[1]. Svasvarup Anusandhan Athava Antaryatra, Pg. 105. Author : K.V. Belsare. Publisher – P.M. Tilak, Tridal Publications, Near Prarthana Samaj, Girgaon, Mumbai 400 004.

[2]. Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh. Vol. 7, First edition, Pg. 432. Editor and Publisher : Pandit Mahadevashastri Joshi, Secretary, Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh Mandal, 410, Shanivar Peth, Pune 411 030.

[3]. Sadhubodh : Shri Gulabrao Maharaj Virachit Prashnottarattmak Sukti Ratnavali. Ashtamayashti, Pg. 24. Publisher : Shri Dnyaneshvar Madhuradvait Sampradayik Mandal, Dahisath, Amravati.


How does mudra assist in meditation?


1. Asans (postures)

Asans are of two types, external (for example a seat made of wool, grass, deerskin, tiger skin, etc.) and physical (postures). Information on external asans (seats) is given in ‘Science of Spirituality: Chapter 3 – Practice of Spirituality’.

Definition: It is the ability to remain seated comfortably in one position for a considerable period of time (स्‍थिरसुखमासनम्‌ ।) [Patanjal Yogadarshan, 2/46].

Mastery over postures (asansiddhi): If one is able to sit still without any movement for upto half an hour then it is said that one is able to maintain a posture. If one acquires the ability to perform postures for upto three hours then he is said to have acquired mastery over them.

Types: There are eighty-four lakh types of postures, that is as many types as the species of living organisms. Only a few of them have been discussed here.

  • Postures useful for meditation: Padmasan (the lotus posture), vajrasan (the adamant posture), etc. Meditation becomes easy once one is able to sit still in one place according to the above definition.
  • Postures used as exercise: Paschimottanasan (the forward stretch), mayurasan (the peacock posture), etc.
  • Postures for relaxation: Shavasan (the corpse posture), makarasan (the crocodile posture), etc.

1.1 Benefits

A. According to physiology:

  • As a remedy for illnesses: Postures are useful in illnesses related to muscles and joints, the respiratory system and the heart.
  • Exercise: For instance with most abdominal postures internal organs are exercised.

    The distinctive feature of postures is that, when performing them instead of the body expending energy, it receives exercise. Not only this but when postures are practised, physical energy gets converted into mental energy and one feels refreshed and energetic rather than exhausted.

  • Relaxation: With some postures like shavasan (the corpse posture) the body gets relaxed.
  • Purification of the body: If one practises only postures as spiritual practice then the physical body can be purified at the most by 20%. Any other spiritual practice can bring about the same amount of purification. By practising postures the maximum purification that can occur in the various bodies is 7 % in the vital energy body (prandeha), 5% in the mental body (manodeha), 2% in the causal body (karandeha) and 1% in the supracausal body (mahakarandeha). With the Guru’s grace (Gurukrupa) the vital energy body can be purified upto 30% and all the other bodies upto 100%. For further information refer ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 40 – Comparison of the Various Paths of Yoga’.

B. According to psychology

  • A reduction in psychological stress: By performing postures 3% of people with mild stress recover and in 2% the stress decreases. The mechanism of reduction in psychological stress is elucidated in the following point.
  • An increase in concentration and Bliss: The body and mind influence one another. Whenever there is some anxiety in the mind, there is a rapidity of movements of the organs in the body, for example a person is unable to sit still in one place, his heart beats fast, breathing becomes rapid, etc. On the other hand, when the mind is calm, the movements of the organs in the body slow down. Similarly when the body movements are rapid, the mind too runs faster. Contrary to this, the less the movements of the body, the less are the thoughts in the mind. While maintaining a posture since the movements of the voluntary muscles in the body are completely at a standstill, the thoughts in the mind decrease markedly. In short, concentration of the mind increases and one experiences Bliss. Later, when the voluntary organs are brought under control, the involuntary organs too can be controlled. At that time the mind becomes thoughtless. The same concept can be explained in spiritual terminology as : without controlling the organs of action mastery over postures cannot be achieved. Once mastery over postures is gained, the seeker becomes a master of Yoga (yogarudh) and when he becomes a master of Yoga he can control his mind.

C. According to the science of Spirituality

  • Reduction in the raja component and consequent increase in the sattva component: Movements occur due to the raja component. Thus naturally, when movements are decreased, it facilitates a decrease in the raja component. Hence the proportion of sattva component rises.
  • Facilitation of clearance of the path of kundalini (spiritual energy): Several postures make the vertebrae of the spinal column strong and flexible. As a result the obstacles in the Sushumna channel running through their cavities are overcome.

1.2 Practical suggestions

A. Learning from an expert: ‘The loss that occurs to individuals, from practising Hathayoga is more than the benefits. For instance people who are underweight should not perform shirshasan (the head stand) and those practising it, should always perform it at the end of a session of postures. Thereafter one should not perform any other postures. After performing all the postures, to overcome the stress and exhaustion which the various bodily organs face, one should remain in shavasan (the corpse posture) for 15 minutes; thereafter practise shirshasan and then repeat shavasan for another fifteen minutes. No matter how skilled one may be in the yogic posture, as a rule, one should never perform shirshasan for more than four minutes.’

B. Avoiding the menace of insects: To avoid the menace of mosquitoes, houseflies, ants, etc. one should use a mosquito net, a fan, insect repellants, etc.

C. Preliminary exercise (warming up): In order to get rid of lethargy and to bring about flexibility, one may do spot jogging or jog for some distance and also perform all types of movements of each of the joints, four to five times. As a result of this it is easier to practise postures. After this preliminary exercise one should perform shavasan for fifteen to twenty minutes and then commence the other postures.

D. Other exercises and postures: A gap of atleast one hour should be maintained between postures and other exercises.

E. Empty stomach: If one has had a light meal (snacks) then for two hours after it or atleast three to four hours after lunch one should not perform postures. One should not eat or drink anything for one hour after performing postures.

G. Bath: Either of the two, bathing or postures may be done earlier. However there should be a gap of atleast half an hour between them.

H. The seat:

  • In the beginning one should sit on a mat so that the ground will not hurt.
  • Once one is able to maintain postures, the energy that is not utilised for the activity of the body is liberated and can enter the ground. To prevent this one should use a bad conductor of energy like grass, deerskin, wool, wood, etc. as a seat for the posture. (Saints use wooden slippers to prevent energy loss through the feet). The energy conserved in this way can be used for the purification of channels and to open the Sushumna channel. [Refer ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter – 38 Path of Activation of Spiritual Energy (Kundaliniyoga).]

I. Direction: While performing postures one should sit facing the east or the north, as they are favourable for physical and spiritual progress.

J. Postures useful for meditation

  • When practising the posture, one may sit cross-legged. If one is able to sit in padmasan (the lotus posture) or ardhapadmasan (the half lotus posture), then it is ideal. However for those over forty, it is better to pay more attention to meditation than to waste time in mastering padmasan.
  • If it is not possible to sit with the legs crossed then one may sit leaning back in a chair or may lie down as in shavasan (the corpse posture).
  • When sitting one should sit erectly. Thus due to uniform distribution of weight on the vertebrae one is able to sit for a longer period.
  • As far as possible do not lean against anything. However if not possible then one may lean against something.

K. Avoid undue fatigue: One must feel exhilarated after performing postures. One should not practise too many postures such that they will cause fatigue.

L. Experiencing physical discomfort: Initially one experiences discomfort like tingling and numbness of feet, itching, pain, etc.

  • One should try to bear the discomfort.
  • If the discomfort is severe, then one may perform the postures for five minutes to begin with and gradually increase the duration.
  • Initially in order to distract the mind from discomfort one should perform postures while watching television, listening to the radio or during conversation. After a few weeks no discomfort is experienced.

M. Women and postures: One should not perform postures during menses and also from the fifth month of pregnancy till three months after delivery.

N. Meditation on chanting (japadhyan): Once one is able to maintain a posture, to keep the mind occupied in something, in the beginning one should do chanting and thereafter when one makes progress in postures one must meditate. During that time, therefore one can do chanting or meditation and one need not find separate time for them.

O. The timetable for daily practice: The following table gives the types of postures and their duration if one wishes to practise postures daily for 30 or 60 minutes.

‘Types Number Duration (Minutes)
30 60
A. Warming up exercises
1. Jogging or spot jogging     2
2. Bending forward and backward 10 1 1
3. Twisting the torso 10 1 1
4. Back stretch, forward stretch 10   1
   Shavasan (corpse posture)     2
   Agnisar (expiration in uddiyyan)
   and nouli (abdominal corrugator)
   Suryanamaskar (solar bent posture)   3 6
B. Postures
1. Ardhakatichakrasan (side stretch)   2 2
2. Ardhachakrasan (half wheel posture)   0.5 0.5
3. Padahastasan (leghand posture)   1 1
4. Parivrutta trikonasan (reverse
    triangular posture)
5. Pashchimottanasan (forward stretch)   1 2
6. Suptavajrasan (adamant posture)
    and ushtrasan (camel posture)
  0.5 1
7. Yogamudra and shashankasan
    (rabbit posture)
  2 2
8. Ardhamatsyendrasan (semi-master
    fish posture)
  2 2
9. Mayurasan (peacock posture)     1
    Relaxation in shavasan     3
10. Bhujangasan (serpent posture)   1 1
11. Shalabhasan (grasshopper posture)
      or Dhanurasan (bow posture)
  0.5 0.5
12. Sarvangasan (shoulder stand) and
      repetition in reverse order
  3 3
13. Halasan (plough posture)     2
14. Matsyasan (fish posture)   1 1
      Relaxation in shavasan   4 4
15. Shirshasan (head stand)     2
      Repetition of shavasan     6
C. Pranayam
1. Kapalbhati 60 0.5  
  120   1
2. Nadishuddhi (purification of channels
    of spiritual energy)
9 2 2
    Chanting of ‘Om’ thrice     1
D. Moun (silence)   2 2
    Prayer   2 2
    Total duration (Minutes)   30 60’(1)

1.3 Absorbing the sweat in one’s body

One school of thought advocates that one should not sweat while practising postures whereas the other says that the sweat should be absorbed in the body for the following reasons.

  • Everything has originated from Brahman (God) and man too was created from It. Since one has to go from man to Brahman again he has to do everything in the reverse manner for example shirshasan (head stand), take in water through the anus, take in urine or semen through the penis, vomiting, similarly absorbing sweat back into the body, etc.
  • Sweating is a function of the apan vital energy. Absorbing sweat back into the body is contrary to the action of apan. Hence it becomes possible ‘to combine pran and apan vital energies (प्राणापान समायुक्‍तो)’- Shrimadbhagvadgita 15:14.

1.4 Who should not practise yogic postures?

The postures contraindicated in various conditions (for instance a person suffering from cervical spondylosis should not practise shirshasan) are given in books on yogic postures.

‘In the science of Yoga who is a learned fool?

The one who practises postures (asans), pranayam, etc. without following the restraints (yam) and regulations (niyam).’(2) The same tenet is also applicable to those practising only postures. [Yam and niyam are the first two parts from the Ashtangyoga (Eightfold Yoga) of Patanjali and are related to the mind. Refer ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 36 – Path of Meditation (Dhyanyoga)’.]

1.5 Comparison with other paths of Yoga

Postures (asan), bandha, mudra and keval kumbhak: From the spiritual point of view postures, bandhas and mudras are hardly of 0.l% importance in comparison to keval kumbhak (spontaneous cessation of breathing).

2. Bandha

Origin: The word bandha [बन्‍ध्‌ (bondage)] is derived from the root word bandha [बन्‍ध (to tie)].

Definition: A bandha refers to stoppage of flow of the vital energy (pranshakti) in one of the channels, by obstructing it.

2.1 Effects and significance

When the supply of energy to an organ is reduced with a bandha it helps to decrease the desires of that organ.

When the vital energy flowing through one channel is stopped, it changes its path of flow, that is flows through another channel. For example when the triad of the bandhas, jalandhar bandha, uddiyan bandha and mulbandha is performed, the vital energy flowing through the Ida and Pingala channels starts flowing through the Sushumna, that is the energy flows upwards. This is elaborated in ‘Science of Spirituality : Chapter 38 – Path of Activation of Spiritual Energy (Kundaliniyoga)’. ‘In the science of Hathayoga some bandhas which are a type of postures have been described. They are yogabandha, mahabandha, mahavedha, uddiyan, mulbandha, jalandhar bandha, etc. During kumbhak (breath holding) one needs to close some of the openings from among the nine (navadvar) in the body. These yogic bandhas are very useful for that purpose. Bandhas are also useful for drawing vital energy from a specific part of the body and for stabilising it in another. The study of bandhas is necessary if one wishes to acquire mastery in pranayam.’(3) If kumbhak is practised without a bandha, ailments such as headache, abdominal distension, etc. can develop.

If a bandha is practised prior to practising kumbhak in pranayam, the kumbhak can be effectively practised for a longer duration because though no oxygen enters the body at that time, due to the bandha, the stored energy is utilised in the required place.

2.2 Types

A. Mulbandha: Here contraction of the anus is done for as long as possible sitting in sahajasan (the ease posture), padmasan (the lotus posture), etc. Due to the contraction there is pressure on the Muladhar chakra which helps to activate the kundalini (spiritual energy). According to the Gherand Sanhita (3/12, 13) mulbandha is practised in the following manner: The centre of the part between the anus and the sex organ is pressed with the left foot. The right foot is then placed over the sex organ. Thereafter the anus is contracted and the navel is drawn in. This bandha can be performed during various activities such as inspiration, breath holding, expiration, chanting The Lord’s Name, etc.

B. Uddiyan bandha: This word is derived from ut (उत्‌) and di (डी). The meaning of the root di is to fly. This helps the kundalini to ascend (fly) hence it is known as uddiyan bandha. Here the abdominal muscles are contracted inwards as much as possible for a maximum period of time. After practising kumbhak in expiration, this bandha is practised before inspiration. The uddiyan bandha changes the downward velocity of the apan vital energy and unites it with the pran and saman vital energies. As a result the dormant kundalini is activated and the udan vital energy helps the pran or kundalini to ascend through the Sushumna channel.

C. Jalandhar bandha: After breathing in, the chin is kept pressed to the chest for as long as possible. Consequently the energy flowing in the Ida and Pingala channels stops. In this bandha the vital energy cannot go below the Vishuddha chakra.

D. Tribandha: The triad of bandhas. Here the three bandhas mulbandha, uddiyan bandha and jalandhar bandha are performed simultaneously. Tribandha is also known as bandhatraya.

E. Mahabandha: ‘With the left ankle, pressure should be exerted on the anus. Subsequently the right ankle should be placed over the left.The jalandhar bandha should be performed after contracting the perineum.’ (Gherand Sanhita 3/14, 15).

2.3 Who should not practise bandhas?

If one is suffering from piles, fissures, etc. one should not practise mulbandha. Those suffering from peptic ulcer should not practise uddiyan bandha. In case of cervical spondylosis one should not practise the jalandhar bandha. One should not practise postures or bandhas without the guidance of experienced teachers of Yoga as it could be harmful.

3. Mudra

3.1 Origin and meaning

Mud (मुद्‌) means to impart Bliss. This is the root from which the word mudra (मुद्रा) is derived. The word mudra has two meanings viz. a symbol (e.g. abhaymudra – the sign of protection) and an act of imparting Bliss.

‘According to the spiritual practice and sects, mudras acquire various meanings.

  • The specific configuration of hands, feet, fingers and other parts of the body is known as a mudra. For example dhenumudra (mudra of the cow), ghantamudra (mudra of the bell), bhusparshamudra (mudra of touching the ground), abhaymudra (mudra of protection), etc.
  • The symbols of the instruments of Lord Vishnu such as the conch, discus, etc. sported on their bodies by Vaishnavites are also known as mudras.
  • The glass or crystal earrings worn by ascetics (sadhus) of the Gorakh sect.
  • Those practised in Hathayoga: Bhuchari, khechari, chachari, agochari, etc.
  • In secret tantrik spiritual practice, the woman who has sexual relations with a seeker posing as the companion seeker. (In the Tantra sect other mudras are also important.)
  • Certain postures of the hands adopted in dance, drama, sculpture are known as ordinary mudras.’(4) The science of dance was created by taking words from the Rugveda, music from the Samaveda, mudras from the Yajurveda and emotion (rasa) from the Atharvaveda. In dance, dramatic representation plays a very important role. One form of that representation is the mudra.
  • Specific physical actions performed during particular rituals in ritualistic worship (karmakand).

3.2 Effects and significance

  • The mudra imparts stability just like postures.
  • The various types of mudrapranayams have effects on various parts of the lungs.
  • Due to a mudra, vital energy (pranshakti) flows through a specific channel thus increasing the effect of vital energy on oneself or others, that is Bliss is experienced. For example in abhaymudra vital energy flow is directed towards another.

Those who can sense vibrations from the subtle dimension to some extent may perform the following experiment. Bring together the tips of all the five fingers of the hand and then separate them. Observe what vibrations one gets while drawing them close and separating them. Repeat this four to five times. Then hold the thumb and index finger as done by westerners when eating with a fork and spoon and release them. Repeat this four to five times. Observe what vibrations are experienced with both actions. After one is sure what vibrations were felt, read the following paragraph.

More energy is experienced when all the five finger tips are brought together than when the fingers adopt the posture of holding the fork and spoon. That is why when eating, Indians use fingers instead of a fork and spoon. Morsels of food thus charged with energy are put into the mouth; that extra energy helps in digestion.

3.3 Types

Some postures are also referred to as mudras, for example sinhamudra (mudra of a lion), Brahmamudra, viparitkarni mudra (reverse mudra). Here instead of these only the main mudras in which the mudra part is more important than the posture are discussed.

A. Mudras for physical purification

  • Yogamudra: Certain mudras are performed in some postures. They are referred to as yogamudras. Yogamudras are specially performed in order to exert pressure on the lower abdomen and thus change the direction of energy flow.
  • Mahamudra: ‘The anus is compressed with the left ankle and the right leg is extended. The big toe of the right foot is held with both the hands. The neck is contracted and the gaze fixed on the tip of the nose.’ (Gherand Sanhita 3/4)

B. Mudras associated with pranayam

  • Chit mudra
  • Chinmay mudra
  • Adi mudra
  • Brahma mudra

C. Mudras useful for meditation

  • Shanmukhi mudra: ‘Sit in a posture and spread the fingers of both hands. Shut the eyes with the index fingers, the nostrils with the middle fingers, the upper and lower lips consecutively with the fourth and little fingers and the orifices of both the ears with the thumbs. With the movement of the middle fingers close each nostril alternately and breathe as is done for nadishuddhi (purification of the channels of spiritual energy).

    By closing four out of the five sense organs (viz. eyes, nose, ears and tongue) the perception of external stimuli decreases and tranquility of the mind is facilitated.’(5) At that time if one concentrates on the rhythm of respiration (chanting a mantra along with it) then one begins to slip into meditation.

  • Khechari mudra: In this mudra the tip of the tongue is turned upwards and inwards towards the throat and the gaze is focussed between the eyebrows. ‘Kha (ख)’ in khechari (खेचरी) is associated with akash (absolute ether) and chari (चरी) indicates movement. This mudra can take the kundalini (spiritual energy) upto the akash in the Brahmarandhra. Hence it is named as khechari. Also due to this mudra, the body becomes healthy.
  • Shambhavi mudra: Sitting in a posture, the pupils should be moved upwards such that they lie below the upper eyelids and the eyes should be kept half open. At the same time the gaze should be fixed between the two eyebrows. The Adnya chakra is influenced by this mudra. One is also able to see light if one performs this mudra for a long time.
  • Dhyanmudra (samadhimudra): During meditation, if one sits in padmasan (the lotus posture) and places the palms of both hands with fingers apart on both the knees then one assumes the dhyanmudra.

D. Mudras mainly useful in spiritual practice with expectation

  • If an undertaken task appears impossible to accomplish then it can be achieved with chanting accompanied by certain mudras. The text Arya Manjushri Mul Kalpa mentions several such mudras.
  • To keep the body fit and healthy one should perform certain mudras along with bijamantras of the five cosmic elements in proximity to specific parts of the body.
  • For acquisition of mental peace and satisfaction the Sharadatilak recommends the bilvamudra along with the mantraklim”.
  • To combat disease the use of mainly the surabhi, pran, apan, vayu, pruthvi, apa, apanvayu, surya, linga, shankha and other mudras is prevalent.
  • To control desire, anger and insomnia the mudras kamajayi, shakat and dnyan have been recommended.
  • To develop an impressive personality the sarvavashankari, sarvankush and sarvakarshini mudras from the ritualistic worship (puja) of Shrividya are useful.
  • For spiritual progress and a spiritual code of conduct the pranapan, linga, surabhi, trikhanda, and yoni mudras are useful.
  • If mudras are to be used for overcoming anger then first one has to study the two sciences viz. classical music as spiritual practice (Svarasadhana) and examination of the pulse (Nadipariksha) and only then decide which mudra is to be used.’(6)

E. Twenty-four mudras of the hands: One will realise how innumerable the mudras are from the following mudras performed merely with the hands during certain rituals of worship.

सुमुखं संपुटं चैव विततं विस्‍तृतं तथा ।
व्‍दिमुखं त्रिमुखं चैव चतु: पंचमुखं तथा ।।

षण्‍मुखाऽधोमुखं चैव व्‍यापकाञ्‍जलिकं तथा ।
शकटं यमपाशं च ग्रंथितं चोन्‍मुखोन्‍मुखम्‌ ।। 

प्रलंबं मुष्‍टिकं चैव मत्‍स्‍यं कूर्मं वराहकम्‌ ।
सिंहाक्रांत महाक्रांतं मुद्‌गरं पल्‍लवं तथा ।।

एता मुद्रा न जानाति गायत्री निष्‍फला भवेत्‌ ।
एता मुद्रास्‍तु कर्तव्‍या गायत्री सुप्रतिष्‍ठिता ।।

Sumukham samputam chaiva vitatam vistrutam tatha
Dvimukham trimukham chaiva chatuhu
panchamukham tatha

Shanmukha’dhomukham chaiva vyapakanjalikam tatha
Shakatam yamapasham cha granthitham chonmukhonmukham

Pralambam mushtikam chaiva matsyam kurmam
varahakam Sinhakrant mahakrantam mudgaram
pallavam tatha

Eta mudra na janati Gayatri nishphala bhavet
Eta mudrastu kartavya Gayatri supratisthita

  • 1. Sumukh: Fold both the hands placing the corresponding fingers over each other (like namaskar made on the chest).
  • 2. Samput: The left hand should be placed with the palm up. The right hand should be placed on it with the palm down creating a hollow between the two. This shape resembles a pearl oyster with its shells enclosing each other.
  • 3. Vitat: The two hands should be held together at the wrists. The rest of the hands (that is the palms along with the fingers) should be kept open.
  • 4. Vistrut: The left hand should be held below and right above, parallel to each other with a distance of one foot between them, in an erect posture.
  • 5. Dvimukh: Both the hands should be held with the corresponding fingers touching each other such that two openings one above and one below are formed in the middle portion between the two palms.
  • 6. Trimukh: A third opening should be made by keeping a hollow between the two thumbs, in addition to the two mentioned above.
  • 7. Chaturmukh: A fourth opening should be made by creating a hollow between the index and middle fingers, in addition to the three given above.
  • 8. Panchamukh: A fifth opening should be kept in between the middle and fourth fingers, in addition to the above four.
  • 9. Shanmukh: A sixth opening should be kept in between the ring finger and the little finger, in addition to the five given above.
  • 10. Adhomukh: Both wrists should be held together keeping the open part facing the ground.
  • 11. Vyapakanjalik : Both the palms should be cupped together and rotated horizontally.
  • 12. Shakat : The thumbs and index fingers of both the hands should be held together. The left palm should be held facing downwards, the middle and ring finger of the right hand placed on the respective fingers of the left after placing the right hand facing downwards over the left hand. Then the little fingers of both the hands should be bent inwards.
  • 13. Vamapash : The middle and ring fingers of both the hands should be flexed. The corresponding thumbs should be flexed and held over them tightly. Then the right palm should be placed over the left held below such that the middle and ring fingers touch one another and the middle and ring finger of the left hand should be pressed with the left thumb.
  • 14. Granthit: All except the index fingers of both the hands should be kept pressed under the thumb. Then the left palm should be placed upturned and the right facing downwards and the index fingers of both should be joined like the joint of a chain.
  • 15. Unmukhonmukh: Joining the fingers of both the hands together and keeping the left hand down and the right hand on top one should place the tip of the fingers upon each other. Then in this state the hands should be rotated so that the right hand comes down and the left up and then vice versa.
  • 16. Pralamb: The left hand should be kept facing upwards horizontally towards the right side, the elbow of the right hand should be kept vertically on the open hand (this is akin to a right angle).
  • 17. Mushtik: Fists of both the hands should be made and that of the right should be placed over the left.
  • 18. Matsya: The fingers of both the hands should be straightened, the left hand should face down and the right should be placed over it such that the thumbs of both the hands point towards both the sides and the fifth finger of the left hand followed by the ring finger, middle finger, ring finger and fifth finger will follow sequentially. Then the thumbs of both the hands should be moved like the fins of a fish.
  • 19. Kurma: The fingers of both the hands should be facing downwards. Then placing the right hand over the left the corresponding fingers of both should be united over one another and a hollow should be made in between the palms.
  • 20. Varah: The corresponding fingers of both the hands should be touched to one another. Then the left hand should be kept facing upwards and the right facing downwards, over it. The tips of the four fingers should be kept in a fashion akin to the snout of a boar (varaha).
  • 21. Sinhakranta: The little fingers and thumbs of both the hands should be joined. Holding the wrists together the rest of the fingers should be kept wide open akin to the open jaw of a lion.
  • 22. Mahakranta: The left hand should be held straight facing upwards and the right should be held straight facing downwards maintaining a distance of one foot between them.
  • 23. Mudgar: The elbow of the right hand should be placed upon the left hand and making a fist of the right hand, the arm should be held straight, vertically upwards.
  • 24. Pallav: The thumb of the left hand should be held with that of the right and both the hands should be turned outwards such that the external surfaces of the hands join together while the thumbs remain united. Then the fingers of both the hands should be flapped like wings.’(7)


Yoga – Asane, Pranayam, Mudra, Kriya. First edition, June 1996. Publisher : V. N. Limaye, Sachiv – Vivekanand Kendra Publications Marathi section, 1890, Sadashiv Peth, Natubag, Pune 411 030.
[1]. Pg. 64     [5]. Pg. 62

[2]. Sadhubodh : Shri Gulabrao Maharaj Virachit Prashnottarattmak Sukti Ratnavali. Ashtamayashti, Pg. 24. Publisher : Shri Dnyaneshvar Madhuradvait Sampradayik Mandal, Dahisath, Amravati.

Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh. Publisher : Pandit Mahadevashastri Joshi, Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh Mandal, 410, Shanivar Peth, Pune 411 030.
Vol.3 to 10 : First edition Vol.1 and 2 : Second edition
[3]. Vol. 6, Pg. 33     [4]. Vol. 7, Pg. 430

[6]. Hastamudra – Eka Daivi Vidnyanacha Parichay. Santakrupa Divali 1994 issue, Pg. 35. Author: Mr. V. R. Bapat

[7]. Shri Gurucharitra Kathamrut. First edition, Gurupratipada, 25 February 1986, Pg.770. Editor : Krushnabhakta Divakar Anant Ghaisas. Publisher : Dhananjay Balkrushna Dhavale, Samarth sadan, First Bhatvadi, Girgaon, Mumbai 400 004.


What is the motive behind enduring pain in Hathayoga?

What is the motive behind enduring pain in Hathayoga?


1. Origin and meaning of Hathayoga

A. Hatha (हठ) means obstinacy or forcefulness. Hathayoga [हठ योग (Path of Deliberate Rigour)] means gradually increasing the ability of the physical body to endure stress by forcefully inflicting different kinds of stresses on it. Consequently it amounts to increasing the tolerance of the mind. Sage Markandey is considered to be the founder of this Yoga. Till the state of union with Brahman (Brahmasthiti) is achieved, every type of spiritual practice is in a way a form of Hathayoga. ‘Asan, Bandha, Mudra’, ‘Tratak’, and ‘Pranayam’, all come under the purview of Hathayoga.

B. ‘Gorakshanath in his text book “Siddhasiddhant Paddhati” gives a different spiritual meaning of Hathayoga as follows:

हकार: कीर्तित: सूर्यष्‍ठकारश्चन्‍द्र उच्‍यते |
सूर्यचन्‍द्रमसौर्योगाद्घठ योगो निगद्यते ||

    Meaning: In Sanskrut, ‘ha (ह)’ indicates the breathing which occurs through the right nostril while ‘tha (ठ)’ that which occurs through the left nostril. They are referred to as the sun (surya) and the moon (chandra) respectively. The vital energies pran and apan popularly known as the surya and the chandra are to be united and this being a difficult task, it is referred to as Hathayoga.’(1)

C.Ha (ह)’ means Shivabija and ‘tha (ठ)’ means Vahnibija (fire) that is Shakti (Primal Energy). Hathayoga in other words is the union of Shakti with Shiva (Supreme God).

Hathayoga was mainly practised in the Shaiva and Nath sects. Matsyendranath and Gorakshanath widely propagated Hathayoga. Hathayogapradipika is the fundamental text of the yogis of the Nath sect. However the real motive behind practising Hathayoga is not limited to merely bringing about an increase in the tolerance of the mind but to activating the kundalini (spiritual energy) and taking it upto the Brahmarandhra.

2. Synonyms: Tapashcharya

Tap (तप) (to get heated / to stand the test of time) is a word from which the word tapashcharya (तपश्चर्या) (penance/austerity) has been derived. To do penance means to deliberately inflict physical and psychological pain upon oneself. It also means to accept the unhappiness inflicted upon oneself, willingly. The natural tendency of man is to turn away from pain. He is always thinking of how to avert unhappiness. On the contrary an individual performing penance accepts unhappiness and in order to increase his mental strength inflicts pain on himself. Pain arising from disease, accident, etc. is imposed on man. However the one doing penance himself creates pain and unhappiness and endures it. In short, that which one has to undergo due to selfishness is psychological distress (manastap) and that which one endures selflessly is penance (tap). There is a mental illness in which the patient gets pleasure by experiencing pain. Hence he inflicts pain on himself. However such a patient can be distinguished from a seeker by his other symptoms.

3. For whom it is directed?

A. Hathayoga is indicated for one whose sensuous desire is uncontrollable.

B. ‘For those who wish to master the Hathayoga it is advisable to commence practice from the age of 15-16. After that, it is not at all advisable to practise it. As for the elderly even intending to practise Hathayoga is a great mistake.’(2)

4. Types

Hathayoga has five parts namely, the shatkarmas (the six actions), asan, pranayam, mudra and bandha.

4.1 Physical types: Rituals of the six actions (shatkarmavidhi)

‘It is said that seekers suffering from obesity or physical disorders related to phlegm (kaph) and bile (pitta) should first practise the six actions and make the physical body pure and healthy. These six actions are – dhouti, basti, neti, tratak, nouli and kapalbhati. They are known as the acts of purification (shuddhikriyas).

A. Dhouti: The main types of dhouti are vamandhouti (dhouti by vomiting), dandadhouti (dhouti with the hand) and vastradhouti (dhouti with a cloth). In vamandhouti, lukewarm salt water is to be drunk quickly till one feels nauseated. Then one should induce vomiting. In dandadhouti a tube 1 metre in length and 1 centimetre in diameter is inserted through the throat upto the stomach. Then after one bends, the water starts regurgitating. After all the water has regurgitated, the tube is removed. In vastradhouti, a soft cloth four fingers broad and of fifteen arms length is swallowed little by little. Its other end is held tightly with the thumb and the index finger of the right hand. After swallowing it completely it is pulled out, gradually. Thus there are different types of dhoutis. With the practice of dhouti,impurities in the body such as phlegm, bile, etc. are eliminated. It specially brings about purification of the digestive system.

B. Basti: A pipe equivalent to the breadth of six fingers with its internal diameter of the size of the little finger is made from bamboo or silver. One stands immersed in water upto the level of the navel either in a river, lake or tank and inserts the pipe upto a length equal to four fingers breadth into the anal passage. Then one tries to suck air into the abdomen. As a result, water enters the abdomen through the pipe. After stepping out of water, the act of nouli is performed and attaining the utkatasan (hips-up posture), water from the stomach is expelled. With such practice diseases of the liver, pancreas and stomach, generated from the three humours are cured. This act is performed in the morning on an empty stomach.

C. Neti: This is of four types. Jalaneti (with water), dughdaneti (with milk), ghrutaneti [with clarified butter (ghee)] and sutraneti (with thread). In sutraneti a thread the length of a hand’s span is smeared with wax or clarified butter and one end is made thin. Then it is inserted into the nostril and pulled out through the throat. Both the ends of the thread are held together and pulled forward and backward. Owing to the practice of neti defects in the nose, eyes and head are overcome. Its distinctive feature is purification of the respiratory tract.

D. Tratak

E. Nouli (the abdominal corrugator): One sits either in the simple cross-legged posture or stands and bends cupping one’s knees with the hands. Then flexing both shoulders, the abdominal muscles are rotated rapidly from south to north and north to south. Nouli is very useful to promote digestion and control hyperacidity.’(3)

F. Kapalbhati

4.2 Psychological types

  • Not doing the things one likes to do, that is, not experiencing happiness
  • Curbing one’s desires and ambitions
  • Doing things one does not like to do
  • Tolerating (physical) pain and unhappiness
  • Sacrificing selfish motives.

5. Theoretical discussion of Hathayoga

5.1 Bindu (dot)

The word bindu (dot) is used in the following context in Hathayoga or at times is used with reference to any one of the following meanings.

  • Mahabindu (the great dot): The entire inner creation
  • Parabindu (the supreme dot): A form of God
  • Sukshmabindu (the subtle dot): The individual mind
  • Shulabindu: The sperm.

5.2 Benefits derived from unhappiness and pain

  • Endurance of pain increases mental strength.
  • One begins to feel compassion towards others who are experiencing pain.
  • An individual realises his limitations due to unhappiness and pain. One’s vanity is destroyed and the mind is diverted to The Omnipotent Supreme God.
  • Detachment towards worldly life develops and the mind turns to Spirituality.
  • By experiencing unhappiness destined actions are completed. Hence pain is a blesssing in disguise.
  • The spiritual progress of a person can be perceived from his ability to endure pain.

5.3 Losses occurring from experiencing happiness

  • When one gets habituated to experiencing happiness, if one is unable to get it even for a day, one feels unhappy. For example those who like to watch television feel unhappy when the television set is out of order even for a day.
  • Often even after experiencing happiness, the desire for pleasure is not fulfilled completely. For instance inspite of enjoying sexual pleasure for a thousand years King Yayati asked his son Puru for his youth so as to be able to enjoy more sexual pleasure.
  • In old age, though desires persist one is unable to fulfill them as the energy is insufficient. This results in unhappiness.
  • Sometimes one harms the body in the pursuit for happiness. For example, playing cards throughout the night, overeating favourite foods, etc.
  • After death the desires in the mind persist but there is unhappiness as there is no physical body to fulfill them.

5.4 How do the impressions on the subconscious mind decrease by practising Hathayoga?

Happiness is experienced when desirable events occur or desires are fulfilled, whereas unhappiness is experienced when undesirable events occur or desires remain unfulfilled. Hence ‘occurrence of something desirable means happiness and that of something undesirable means unhappiness’ is the impression created in the subconscious mind. Hence an individual feels that a favourite event should repeat itself and an undesired one should not. As one’s desires continue to get fulfilled, the impressions in the like and dislike centre get reinforced. The only way to prevent this from happening is sacrifice of happiness and acceptance of unhappiness. Thus it is possible to acquire control over the like and dislike centre and similarly over all desires except the sexual desire from the desire and instinct centre.

6. Practical suggestions

How to practise acceptance of unhappiness and sacrifice of happiness as a practice of Hathayoga, is given below.

6.1 Acceptance of unhappiness with the five sense organs

An average person’s idea about a hathayogi is one who does penance by sitting or lying down on a bed of thorns or nails, by standing on one foot with one hand raised or by piercing the tongue with a needle. However, in reality to accept unhappiness, one need not resort to such drastic measures. The simple and easy methods given below are as effective as the drastic ones.

A. Nose: Deliberately walking past or stopping at a place with an offensive odour. For example, a heap of garbage on the roadside.

B. Tongue:

  • Continuing to eat a vegetable (bhaji) or curry even if it is too pungent or if a burning sensation is produced in the mouth by biting a chilli.
  • Instead of spitting out rotten peanuts, grams or bitter almonds, continuing to eat them.
  • Eating dishes which one does not relish.
  • Fasting, not eating or drinking despite feeling hungry or thirsty.

C. Eyes: Deliberately looking at unpleasant things like a heap of garbage, dirt, filth, dead rats, cockroaches, animals, etc.

D. Skin:

  • Walking in scorching heat instead of shade.
  • In winter, bathing with cold water instead of warm, not using a blanket, not wearing warm clothing, etc.

E. Ears: Listening to songs, speeches, abuses, quarrels, etc. disliked by one.

6.2 Sacrifice of happiness with the five sense organs

  • Nose: Not using favourite perfumes, soaps, powders, etc.
  • Tongue: Not eating favourite dishes.
  • Eyes: Not watching what one likes, for example favourite television programmes, plays, movies, not reading favourite books, etc.
  • Skin: Trying to sleep without a mattress and pillow even if one is unable to do so.
  • Ears: Not listening to favourite songs.

6.3 Reducing the use of motor organs

  • Mouth: Speaking less, refer ‘Path of Silence (Mounyoga)’.
  • Penis
  • Do not exhaust the body, for example by exercising too much, travelling excessively, fasting too often or living in extreme climate.

7. Signs of mastery over Hathayoga

1. A lean body, 2. A pleasant face, 3. Radiant eyes, 4. A melodious voice, 5. Free from disease (hence longevity), 6. Purification of the channels (nadis) .

8. Duration required to make progress

One can make maximum 50% progress with the help of Hathayoga. This generally requires twelve years of penance. (After seven years all the cells in the body except the nerve cells change).

9. Automatically mastering Hathayoga

When one’s attitude becomes introverted, through the practice of any path of Yoga, Hathayoga is automatically mastered. This is because due to the introverted attitude the mind concentrates on spiritual practice or the Bliss which is acquired from it and thus the consciousness of the body (dehabuddhi) starts decreasing.

10. Limitations

‘In the science of Yoga who is a learned fool?

The one who practises postures (asans), pranayam, etc. without following the restraints (yam) and regulations (niyam).’(4) The same tenet is also applicable to those practising only tratak. (Yam and niyam are the first two parts from the Ashtangyoga (Eightfold Yoga) of Patanjali and are related to the mind.

11. Dangers

Practising Hathayoga without the guidance of experienced hathayogis could lead to adverse effects on the energy flow in the body and thus cause physical or psychological problems.

12. Comparison with other paths of Yoga

A. Hathayoga and Path of Chanting The Lord’s Name (Namasankirtanyoga): Hathayoga being a tama predominant act, one needs to bring hunger and thirst under control, with efforts. However the Path of Chanting The Lord’s Name being sattva predominant and as one is engrossed in chanting, hunger and thirst are automatically forgotten.

B. Hathayoga and Rajayoga: In Rajayoga first control is gained over the mind and consequently over the vital energy (pran) and the physical body. As a result, in the state of meditation or the superconscious state (samadhi) control over only breath holding (kumbhak) and mastery over postures (asansiddhi) is automatically achieved. On the contrary in Hathayoga one can first achieve control over the physical body and vital energy through asans and pranayam. Then one automatically enters a state of meditation.

How does tratak help in increasing ones sattvikta?

How does tratak help in increasing ones sattvikta?


1. Origin and meaning of Tratak

A. Trutak (तृतक): Trut (तृत) means that which is broken yet existing in one line. The word tratak is derived from the word truti (तृटी). Tratak is the method of joining pieces which are linear, that is a method of creating a line of radiance with gradual efforts thus attempting to stabilize the gaze. When one says this occurs in half a nimesh, the nimesh or nimish refers to the duration required for the opening or closing of the eyelids. A 30th of a nimesh is known as a tatvar and a 100th of a tatvar is known as a truti.

B. Tru tiryayate (त्रु तीर्ययते), kakayate (काकयते) is a method of steadying one’s gaze akin to a crow, that is by fixing the gaze in one direction and turning around.

C. Tratak also means gazing continuously at one point with the mind or eyes, without blinking. One is supposed to stare at the object of tratak till it is impossible to keep the eyes open or till they start watering.

The object used for tratak is known as the ‘object of tratak’. (That on which one meditates is known as the ‘object of meditation’.)

2. Types of tratak

2.1 External tratak

External tratak means staring at an external object and bringing about concentration of the mind by steadying the gaze till it is no longer possible to do so.

2.2 Internal tratak

Internal tratak is looking at an object with inner vision, that is, with the mind, keeping the eyes closed. The main aim of doing tratak is to increase the power of concentration. By staring at an object, the power of concentration can be increased. Similarly, by imagining that one is staring at an object with the eyes actually closed, the objective of doing tratak is fulfilled. Hence, those who are blind or are unable to do tratak even for a few seconds, should do tratak imagining that they are ‘staring at a point’ (e.g. a point midway between the eyebrows).

2.3 Types of external and internal tratak

A. Tratak on a dot (bindu tratak) and tratak on an idol (murti tratak)

Tratak on a dot is concentrating one’s attention on a small dot and tratak on an idol is focussing it on an idol. As a result, mainly the gaze is steadied and it leads to increased concentration. (Refer point 4 B).

B. Tratak on a circle (vartul tratak)

First look at the small circle ‘A’ for one to two minutes and note whether you feel pleasant or distressed. Repeat the same with the big circle ‘B’ and then read further.

There were thirty-five seekers at a satsang (spiritual meeting). They had the following spiritual experiences.

Experience Figure ‘A’ Figure ‘B’
1. Pleasant 8 26
2. Distressing 12 2
3. Nothing 15 7
Total 35 35

The majority felt better looking at the bigger circle in comparison with the smaller one. The reason for this is given as follows : ‘यत्‌ भूमा तत्‌ सुखम्‌ नाल्‍पे सुखमस्‍ति | – In Sanskrut, bhuma (भूमा) means vast. That which is vast gives happiness while that which is small does not’. – Upanishad. Based on this principle the majority felt better looking at the bigger circle.

C. Tratak while moving the gaze along the circumference of a circle (parigh tratak)

First move the eyes gradually along the circumference of the circle drawn above, in the clockwise direction, nine to ten times, commencing from the top. Note whether you feel pleasant or distressed. Then once again, commencing from the top, move the eyes nine to ten times gradually in the anti-clockwise direction. Once again note whether you feel pleasant or distressed. Then read further.

Thirty-seven seekers at a satsang (spiritual meeting) participated in this experiment and had the following spiritual experiences.

Experience Moving the gaze
clockwise direction anti-clockwise direction
1. Pleasant 20 9
2. Distressing 8 19
3. Nothing 9 9
Total 37 37

Another experiment in which the participants were asked to move the gaze along the circumference of an imaginary circle, with the eyes closed, yielded similar results.

When the eyes were moved in the clockwise direction, first the Ida (moon) channel of the observers was activated. Hence when doing tratak most of them felt pleasant. As against this, when the eyes were moved in the anti-clockwise direction, the Pingala (sun) channel was operational, hence most people experienced discomfort. Since one feels pleasant while moving in the clockwise direction, circumambulation of an idol in a temple is performed in the same direction.

D. Tratak on a spiral ring (valay tratak)

First look at both these figures for one to two minutes and record your observation. Then read further.

The same thirty-seven seekers from the previous experiment participated in this experiment. They had the following spiritual experiences.

Experience Figure ‘A’ Figure ‘B’
1. Pleasant 18 18
2. Distressing 16 17
3. Nothing 3 2
Total 37 37

Now commencing from the outer end of the figure ‘A’ move the gaze along the line till its inner end. Start from the outer end once again. Repeat this seven to eight times and record what you experience. Follow the same method when looking at figure ‘B’ and only then read further.

Seekers at the satsang (spiritual meeting) who participated in the previous and this experiment were the same and they had the following spiritual experiences.

Experience Figure ‘A’ Figure ‘B’
1. Pleasant 27 9
2. Distressing 9 22
3. Nothing 1 6
Total 37 37

From the above two experiments, one must have realised that when looking at the spiral ring whether one gets a pleasant or distressing experience depends mostly on the technique of doing tratak, rather than the figures themselves. In the second experiment most people felt pleasant when looking at the spiral ring in figure ‘A’ since the Chandra nadi (moon channel) was active. However when looking at figure ‘B’ since the Surya nadi (sun channel) was active most people felt distressed. In short, one’s action of looking at the figure that activates the corresponding channel is responsible for endowing a pleasant or distressing feeling, rather than the figure itself.

E. Tratak on a wall (bhinta tratak): Do tratak on a wall with stains or with faded paint for about two minutes. Note what you experience and then read further. An example of the experiences one gets is given below. After a few months or years one is able to see figures stepwise as follows:

  • Horrifying faces
  • Pitiable faces
  • Smiling faces

In certain psychological tests, figures composed of dots are shown and one is asked to describe what one sees. The individual expresses what he sees according to the impressions in his subconscious mind. In this tratak what is seen in the first two stages is due to the impressions on the subconscious mind. The happy or smiling faces seen in the third stage are a visible manifestation of Bliss experienced by the seeker.

F. Tratak on vast objects (maha tratak): Maha tratak means doing tratak on vast objects. This increases the power of concentration. Besides, at a time, one is able to concentrate on vaster objects rather than on just a dot. One of the benefits derived from this is that one acquires the ability to view the entire aura around a person’s head. As against this, in tratak on a dot one can view the aura only in a particular region, for example the aura above the head or above the ears.

G. Tratak on a flame (jyoti tratak): Out of the five cosmic elements viz. pruthvi (absolute earth), apa (absolute water), tej (absolute fire), vayu (absolute air) and akash (absolute ether), the last two are invisible. Hence one cannot do tratak on them. One can do tratak on the pruthvi element (e.g. the idol of a deity), the apa element and the tej element (e.g. a flame, the sun, etc.). The benefits and limitations of using these objects for tratak are given below.

When a person does tratak on an object all the three components namely sattva, raja and tama from that object affect that person. Out of the pruthvi, apa and tej elements the tama component is the most in the pruthvi, moderate in the apa and least in the tej element. Hence it is more beneficial if one does tratak on a flame which has the least tama component.

An experiment of tratak on a flame: Light a lamp with a wick soaked in clarified butter (ghee) and place it at the level of the eyes, about one and half to two metres away from them. Shut the doors and windows of the room and put off the fan to keep the flame steady. In the equatorial region of the earth doing this makes one feel hot. To avoid feeling hot one should take off one’s shirt. Take necessary precautions against the menace of flies and mosquitoes. During tratak, to prevent light from entering the room paste black papers on the window panes or carry out the experiment in complete darkness, after putting off the lights at night.

The experiment: First do tratak on the flame of a clarified butter lamp for two minutes. Record whether you feel pleasant or distressed at that time. Then do two minutes tratak on the flame of an oil lamp and note whether you feel pleasant or distressed. Repeat the same with a candlewick and record your experience. Then read the following paragraph.

Most people feel pleasant when doing tratak on the flame of the clarified butter lamp, a little uncomfortable with the flame of the oil lamp and distressed with the lit candlewick. The reason behind this is that clarified butter is sattvik (sattva predominant), oil is rajasik (raja predominant) and wax is tamasik (tama predominant). Hence tratak is done on the flame of a clarified butter lamp. Clarified butter made from cow’s milk is more sattvik than that made from buffalo’s milk.

See what spiritual experiences you get by doing tratak on a flame for several weeks to months and then read the further section. That will more or less make one cognizant about one’s progress.

One gets the following experiences stepwise when doing tratak on a flame.

  • Seeing the halo of the flame around it. The flame is referred to as Shiv or Parabrahman, the halo as Brahman or the body (anga). The indistinct portion seen beyond the halo is called the Great Illusion (Maya) or the sub-body (upanga). An average person is able to see this.
  • Seeing something in the halo.
  • Seeing something within the flame.
  • Seeing one flame beyond the other upto a total of six to seven flames. This is just like seeing several reflections in two parallel mirrors. These are the reflections of the flame in the mind.
  • Seeing a hollow in the flame, that is seeing nothing at all. This is a sign of the unmanifest (nirgun).
  • Seeing another flame within the hollow in the flame, is a representation of the manifest form (sagun).
  • Seeing a hollow in the flame and a flame in the hollow upto infinity. This is the visible representation of ‘not this, not this (neti-neti)’ from the Vedas. By doing tratak on a flame a seeker can conclude that ‘what can be seen is not the ultimate’. Also the seeker gets the spiritual experience that ‘the manifest and the unmanifest (the hollow) are not distinct from one another’.

H. Tratak on the sun (surya tratak): When doing tratak on the sun one should gaze at the sun in the morning and evening when its intensity is mild for only five to six minutes. However, one should not do tratak on the sun without the guidance of an expert because some invisible rays in the sunlight can have deleterious effects on the eyes.

I. Tratak on water (jala tratak): It is difficult to do tratak on water due to the following two reasons.

  • The object used for doing tratak should be steady. Since water is mostly not still, it cannot be used for doing tratak.

  • Even if the water is still, because of its transparency it amounts to doing tratak on the vessel in which the water is stored rather than the water.

When doing tratak on water, the edge of flowing water, the edge of a waterfall, ripples created by breeze on still waters, etc. are used as objects.

Doing tratak on a flame, water and the sun also incorporates the other benefits of tratak.

3. Benefits of tratak

3.1 According to physiology

A. Control over involuntary actions: The muscles in the body are of three types, voluntary (e.g. muscles of the limbs), voluntary and involuntary (e.g. muscles of the eyelids and respiration) and involuntary (e.g. muscles of the heart and intestines). Through practice of postures (asans) one can acquire control over only the voluntary muscles. However, the mind does not become completely steady without gaining control over the involuntary muscles. But it is not possible to acquire sudden control over the involuntary muscles. Hence, first one should make efforts to gain control over those muscles which are supplied by both the voluntary and involuntary nervous systems. Muscles of the eyelids and respiration are both of this type. The opening and closing of the eyelids and respiration both, can occur either voluntarily or involuntarily. Therefore, if one makes efforts to decrease voluntary movements of these muscles by doing tratak and pranayam then their involuntary movements too can gradually be decreased and brought under control. Once one is able to acquire control over these two involuntary actions in the body, other involuntary actions are also automatically controlled. Consequently, the raja component decreases and according to Ayurveda reduction in the raja component facilitates reduction in ailments caused by pitta (bile).

B. Preventing the wastage of energy: By practising tratak one is able to prevent the loss of energy expended in blinking. Owing to this, most of the voluntary and involuntary actions are reduced and approximately 8% energy is conserved. That energy can then be utilised to make spiritual progress.

3.2 According to psychology

A. An increase in the power of concentration of the mind and the memory: When one practises tratak one gets habituated to concentrating on a particular object. As a result the concentration power increases and consequently memory too improves. This is just like for example remembering something read with concentration, better.

B. Acquisition of the quality of the object of concentration by the individual: When one does tratak concentrating on some object, its image gets reflected in one’s mind. This is the merging of that object with the subconscious mind. By doing tratak on an object for several months, one’s subconscious mind starts imbibing the qualities of that object, that is a centre in the subconscious mind begins to develop. For example if one does tratak on an idol of a deity, one acquires the qualities of that deity. These benefits differ from those obtained in the context of imagination (association of ideas). This is explained in point ‘Tratak on a flame (jyoti tratak)’.

3.3 According to Spirituality

A. A decrease in the raja component: Doing tratak decreases the raja component and thus the proportion of the sattva component increases.

B. Activation of the subtle sense of vision: Activation of the subtle sense of vision is known as comprehension of the language of light (prakashbhasha). [With pranayam one can comprehend the language of sound (nadabhasha), that is one can interpret any language, even that of birds and animals.] By doing tratak, eyesight becomes sharper hence, subtle objects illuminated in the range of low or high frequency light waves or self-illuminated objects can be seen. Consequently the following two phenomena occur.

  • One is able to view the aura around a person or object.
  • One is able to get a vision of deities.

C. An increase in the visual power: Since the visual power is increased one is able to get a vision of radiant deities. Eyes of a person not doing tratak get dazed with bright light, so it is not possible for him to get such a vision.

The energy of the mind is primarily emitted through the eyes. Once the gaze is steadied at one point, the mind too becomes steady and the energy of the mind becomes concentrated. When the rays of the sun are focused at a point on a paper, with a convex lens, the paper can get burnt. Similarly, since energy is concentrated in laser beams, they can penetrate even thick metallic sheets. Thus when the energy of the mind gets concentrated, one can perceive others’ thoughts merely by looking into their eyes and can also make them behave according to one’s wish. The eyes which are more energetic are called sharp or radiant eyes.

4. Practical suggestions

A. Avoid movements of the body.

B. Moving the gaze gradually from a large portion to a dot: In the initial stages it is difficult to do tratak on only one point. To be able to accomplish it, between remaining without blinking and staring at only one object, priority is given to looking anywhere but without blinking. For that one should gradually move one’s gaze from the head to the feet of the idol and vice versa, without blinking. After some days one should gaze from the head to the knees and vice versa. After a few more days one should gaze from the head to the waist and vice versa. In this way, one should gradually reduce the part on which the gaze is fixed. Finally it becomes possible to do tratak staring only at the head or midway between the eyebrows of the idol. When reducing the portion on which the gaze is fixed looking only at the feet of the idol is better than looking at its countenance. Since the eyes of the deity are too radiant, those having psychic sensitivity find it difficult to look at its eyes. That is why the eyes of Lord Balaji of Tirupati in South India are half open. If they were to be wide open, then due to the energy in them devotees would find it impossible to look at Him.

C. The duration depending on the object of tratak

  • If the eyes start watering when doing tratak close them for a while and then start tratak once again.
  • When doing tratak on a dot (bindu tratak) begin by doing it for two minutes. Gradually increase the duration to upto three hours.
  • When doing tratak focussing on the tip of the nose first do so for one minute. Then gradually increase that duration to upto half an hour.
  • When doing tratak on a point midway between the eyebrows roll the eyes upwards and concentrate the mind on that point for half a minute. Then gradually increase that duration to upto half an hour.

5. The object of tratak (on what should one do tratak?)

If the object used for doing tratak is chosen according to one’s path of spiritual practice and one’s spiritual level, it complements one’s progress. A seeker in the primary stage is not distressed by doing tratak on an idol belonging to the pruthvi (absolute earth) element. As against this, if one practises tratak on a flame or the sun which belong to the tej (absolute fire) element, it can cause distress.

A. Those following the Path of Devotion: One may do tratak on an idol, picture or photograph of a deity, the Omkar, etc. depending on one’s liking. When there is an idol or photograph depicting the entire image, in the beginning one should do tratak concentrating on the feet.

B. Those following other paths: They should do tratak using a dot, a flame, the tip of the nose, etc. The disadvantage of doing tratak by looking at very nearby objects like the tip of the nose is that strain on the eyes occurs more easily.

6. Experiences and spiritual experiences (signs of progress)

First practise various types of tratak given in this chapter for a few weeks each and see what experiences and spiritual experiences you get. Only then read the section given below.

A seeker generally gets the following experiences stepwise.

  • 1. The object on which tratak is done becomes blurred, may appear to move or an aura may be seen around it. If tratak is done using an idol or photograph of a deity, the eyelids of the deity may appear to flutter, the lips may appear to move, etc.
  • 2. After a few weeks of practice one does not have to make efforts to keep the eyelids open. They automatically remain open, that is become steady.
  • 3. When doing tratak one can see blurred bright spots similar to the snow seen on the television screen when there is no transmission. Later such dots are also seen in the waking state, when the mind is thoughtless.
  • 4. One is able to see figures coloured white, blue, yellow, etc. which are either steady or in rhythmic motion, between the eye and the object of tratak.
  • 5. If one is doing tratak on an idol of a deity, one is able to visualise that deity’s form indistinctly even at other times.
  • 6. Seeing light waves coming towards the eyes.
  • 7. Seeing light waves emitted by the eyes.
  • 8. Going into meditation.

7. What should one do if one is unable to do tratak?

If one’s eyes are weak or one is unable to do tratak even for a few seconds, one should not strain them by keeping them open for long. As soon as the eyes are tired, they should be immediately closed and one should continue tratak by concentrating the mind on a point midway between the eyebrows. The same method should also be used by the blind.

In short, meditation occurs through the medium of the eyes while doing tratak. As against this while practising meditation the activities of the body and mind gradually come to a standstill and therefore tratak occurs automatically.

8. Automatic occurrence of tratak?

Once the attitude becomes introverted by practising any path of Yoga, tratak is automatically achieved. Owing to the introverted attitude, when one concentrates on spiritual practice or Bliss, the awareness of the body decreases and blinking automatically gets reduced.

9. Limitations

‘In the science of Yoga who is a learned fool?

The one who practises postures (asans), pranayam, etc. without following the restraints (yam) and regulations (niyam).’(1) The same tenet is also applicable to those practising only tratak. (Yam and niyam are the first two parts from the Ashtangyoga (Eightfold Yoga) of Patanjali and are related to the mind.

10. Comparison with other paths of Yoga

  Tratak Meditation (Dhyan)
1. Similarities    
    a. The seat (steady
is necessary is necessary
    b. Looking at one point is present is present
2. Differences    
    a. The main organ
        involved in spiritual
the eye the mind
    b. Discomfort to the
is present is present
    c. Blinking is to be avoided may occur initially, does
not occur later
    d. The object of        1.
is mostly gross

is steady

is gross or subtle

is steady or in rhythmic

    e. Emotions are absent may be present e.g.
when meditating on an
idol of a deity
    f. Dissolution of the
does not occur occurs

How to gain control over mind by practicing pranayam?

How to gain control over mind by practicing pranayam?


1. Benefits of pranayam

1.1 According to physiology

A. A reduction in the heart rate: Respiration slows down with practice of pranayam. As the respiratory rate decreases, the heart rate too decreases. Those with a low pulse rate have low risk of cardiac illness. If a middle aged and healthy individual has a pulse rate of less than seventy beats per minute then it is ideal.

B. Ability to survive without oxygen: While practising pranayam oxygen supply to all the cells in the body is reduced. As a result, even when the oxygen supply is reduced the cells adapt to it and function marginally or survive. Thus if an individual enters the gaganavashesh or turyaga states of the superconscious state (samadhi) then though there is complete cessation of breathing for sometime, the cells in his body do not die.

C. Control over involuntary actions: One can also gain control over involuntary actions of the body with pranayam just as described in ‘According to physiology’. However in this respect pranayam proves to be more beneficial than tratak. The reason for this is that blinking occurs only in the waking state, when the eyes are open. It does not occur during sleep and after closing the eyes. Thus tratak can be practised only in the waking hours. On the contrary, since breathing continues for twenty-four hours, in the waking hours as well as in sleep, practice of pranayam continues automatically. As a result, one can acquire control over the involuntary actions faster.

D.Cure of physical ailments: When an individual is able to control his breathing, he is also able to control the vital energy. He can use the vital energy wherever there is a disease or some anguish. A sattvik (sattva predominant) individual possesses enormous energy and he can direct it towards diseased organs as follows.

  • By touching the diseased part with his fingers
  • By focussing his gaze on the diseased part
  • By concentrating the mind on the diseased part

    If particular types of pranayams are performed then 20% of patients with physical ailments are cured while another 30% show improvement. Some examples of diseases in which various pranayams prove beneficial are given below.

  • 1. Repeated attacks of cold: Bhasrika, ujjayi (purak, sahaj kumbhak, rechak) and suryabhedan (rechak, purak)
  • 2. Bronchial asthma: Anulom-vilom (without kumbhak)
  • 3. Digestive disorders: Suryabhedan
  • 4. Fever: Shitali, chandrabhyas (with sahaj kumbhak)

Improvement in health: ‘My health has improved with pranayam. I have put on weight and have become strong. My skin has become soft and shiny. My saliva has become sweet. I am now aware of an aura around my head. In Baroda, there were several mosquitoes but they did not attack me. I went to Bangal in 1906 and started political work. At that time my pranayam became irregular. I also fell seriously ill and was saved from the jaws of death.’ – Maharshi Arvind (1)

1.2 According to psychology

A. Increase in concentration, memory and imaginative power: Once one starts concentrating on pranayam, the mind gets habituated to concentration and as a result the memory improves. ‘My experience is that with pranayam the brain gets enlightened. When I was in Baroda I used to practise pranayam daily for five to six hours, three hours in the morning and two in the evening. Then my mind used to function with great imaginative power and zeal. I used to write poetry then, on an average eight to ten lines per day, that is two hundred lines per month. However after pranayam I could write two hundred lines in just half an hour. Formerly my memory was weak; but after pranayam whenever I got the inspiration I would remember the lines of the poem exactly and would write them down at my convenience.’ – Maharshi Arvind (2)

B. Wandering of the mind decreases: Thinking and breathing are interrelated. If the mind does not wander from one topic to another, that is if it is steady then the respiratory rate is reduced. Contrary to this by practising pranayam, as the respiratory rate decreases so does the frequency of thoughts and that itself helps the mind to become steady.

C. Ability to control the mind: With practice of pranayam one gets used to concentrating on breathing. In one technique of pranayam, one concentrates on maintaining a steady rhythm of breathing. Since one gets used to concentrating on breathing, when it becomes rapid one immediately becomes aware of it. This implies that indirectly one becomes aware that either thoughts have increased or emotions are being aroused. Then as one regulates the breathing so that it returns to normal, one can control thoughts and emotions. The biofeedback technique discovered after 1960 A.D. is based on the principle of ‘awareness of psychological changes due to alterations in body functions’. In this technique expensive instruments are used to record blood pressure, body temperature, muscle tension, etc. On the other hand our sages had discovered the simple cost free technique of ‘concentrating on breathing’, thousands of years ago.

    Since during pranayam breathing is reduced, the oxygen supply to the brain is less. Less oxygen supply to the brain slows down its functions. Hence the waking state gradually starts decreasing and it facilitates entering a state of meditation. In one of the techniques of hypnosis, to reduce the oxygen supply to the brain, the carotid arteries are compressed for half to one minute. This reduces the oxygen supply to the brain and hence the wakefulness decreases and a hypnotic trance is induced. Since the above technique of hypnosis induction is dangerous, it is now obsolete.

D. Going into meditation: While practising pranayam the concentration is on breathing. This is akin to concentrating on a particular object during meditation. However when meditating on an object (the object of concentration) is usually fixed whereas in pranayam the mind concentrates on the rhythm of respiration. It is easier to concentrate on a moving than on a fixed object. Hence by concentrating on pranayam the chances of going into meditation are enhanced.

E. Cure of mental illnesses: If particular types of pranayams are performed then 3% of patients suffering from minor mental illnesses are cured while another 5% show improvement. Chanting The Lord’s Name proves more useful than pranayam in mental illnesses.

1.3 According to the science of Spirituality

A. Effects on the subtle body: Postures (asans) generally have an effect only on the physical body. However pranayam has effects on the subtle (mental) body as well. The organs are under the control of the mind and the mind under that of the vital energy (pran). Hence once control over vital energy is acquired, the mind and organs are brought under control. Purification of channels (nadishuddhi) too occurs with pranayam.

B. Spiritual progress: The energy loss occurring during the processof respiration can be avoided by practising pranayam. That energy can be utilised to make spiritual progress.

C. Activation of the kundalini (spiritual energy): If one performs various bandhas along with kumbhak then it helps the kundalini to get activated. One example of activation of kundalini is as follows. The uddiyan bandha changes the downward flow of apan vital energy and unites it with pran and saman vital energies. As a result, the dormant kundalini gets activated and the udan energy helps the pran or kundalini to flow upwards through the Sushumna channel.

D. A reduction in the raja component: Movement occurs because of the raja component. If movements decrease then automatically the raja component too decreases. For example movements decrease during sleep so the raja component decreases and the tama component increases. When performing pranayam, since the movement of all cells decreases, the raja component decreases. However since at that time one is in the waking state the sattva component increases.

E. Control over the mind: The mind is used to material objects since several births. Hence no matter how much one studies Spirituality due to the firm belief that happiness lies in material objects it is far too difficult for the mind to digress from them. If one diverts or tries to divert the mind away from objects even for a moment, one becomes very restless. Since one is habituated to keeping the mind steady with such objects, that is since the mind feels at ease experiencing the pleasure out of such objects, if one tries to withdraw from them, one experiences intense unhappiness, that is feels restless. It is because of this that Samarth Ramdas Swami has said, ‘When the embodied soul does not get material pleasure it becomes restless’ and ‘O man, if you wish to acquire happiness (Bliss) then refrain from material objects forever as they induce unhappiness. If you are clever enough then sing devotional songs (do spiritual practice) of my Lord Rama. This will keep you happy (Blissful) forever. Never again will you be aggrieved. You will become immortal’.

     Now to get out of material pleasure is a very difficult task. At the same time Samarth says that there is unhappiness in material pleasure, then how should one strike a balance? How will one realise that real happiness lies in surrender of such pleasure, without refraining from it even for a moment? This is because for past several births the mind is used to such pleasure and believes that it is under the control of organs. So it thinks that giving up material pleasure is next to impossible. To make this possible pranayam has been recommended. By practising it one slowly realises that one is controlled by vital energy (pran) and not the organs. Also as the vital energy is gradually steadied one begins to experience Bliss and also realises that illusory material pleasure is related to place, time and objects. One also becomes aware that illusory happiness depends on many things and the Bliss one gets from pranayam is independent of objects.Control over vital energy causes concentration and vice versa. However concentration does not mean the thoughtless state.

     One might ask, what is the use of pranayam to the one who has decided to make spiritual progress? The fact is that such a firm decision to make spiritual progress is very rare. Hence, one is led from various acts such as pranayam, etc. towards achieving concentration.

F. Development of the stance of a spectator (sakshibhav): Thoughts accompany breathing. However once one gets used to viewing breathing with the stance of a spectator one is also able to look at one’s thoughts with the same attitude. Eventually a stage is reached when one observes one’s existence with the same attitude.

G. Understanding the language of sound (nadabhasha): The language of sound depends on breathing. Since with pranayam one acquires control over breathing one understands the language of sound as well. Thus one can speak in any language,even that of animals and birds.

H. Knowledge of the three dimensions of time (trikal): ‘There is a science called “Svaroday” based on overcoming vital energy (pran). The migratory activity of animals is best studied based on it. Besides one can also perceive the knowledge of the three dimensions of time, difference between right and wrong, auspicious moments (muhurts), dreams, etc. based on this science. There are two notes namely that of the sun (suryasvar) and the moon (chandrasvar). When breathing occurs through the right nostril it is believed that the sun note or flow is operational while when breathing occurs through the left nostril the moon note or flow is said to be active. With subtle study on the sun-moon notes various facts have been put forward.’ (3)

I. Longevity: ‘The Swami said, “The number of breaths of every living being in this world, are predetermined. Once they are complete it has to quit. Those who feel they should not leave should preserve the same number of breaths for a longer period. That is, with pranayam they should reduce the number of breaths everyday and remain healthy, breathing as minimal as possible. Once one acquires control over the vital energy, respiration continues at a slow pace almost unconsciously. The yogis too attain the superconscious state (samadhi) in the same way controlling the vital energy and prolonging the predetermined breaths even for several centuries”.’

    ‘When one realises that the time of death is approaching, one should breathe in through both the nostrils and hold the breath. Later when the moment is overcome one should expire with half the speed. In this way Shrihari Changdev Maharaj lived for 1400 years.’ (4)

Some misconcepts about longevity obtained through pranayam

  • ‘On an average the rate of breathing is 15-16 breaths per minute. If one reduces it by practising pranayam or kumbhak, it can become 1-2 breaths per minute. This means that life will be prolonged 8 to 16 times. Pranayam means prolonging the lifespan by the limited and minimal use of the number of breaths bestowed by Nature. In other words, accepting this is rather difficult because in the first part of bhasrika pranayam and the act of kapalbhati one needs to breathe rapidly 100-150 or more times per minute. This means that with this variation the span of life is reduced 10-12 times. Thus by preaching these variations the old texts have made the same concept controversial.’(5)
  • The concept of longevity based on Gherandsanhita: ‘The Gherandsanhita when explaining the importance of kumbhak proclaims that only by reducing the duration of inspiration does man acquire longevity. There is a mention that the human body according to its past actions is 96 times as broad as its finger and its usual breath travels about 12 fingers beyond the body. It is also said that the same breath travels 16 fingers when singing, 16 fingers when eating, 24 fingers when walking, 30 fingers during sleep, 36 fingers during sexual intercourse and even further during exercise. The less the distance of the breath from the body the longer is the lifespan; on the contrary once the distance increases, the lifespan decreases proportionately.Naturally if the breath remains only in kumbhak then death will never ensue. When the breath remains within the limitations of the body, it is referred to as “keval (automatic) kumbhak” in the Gherandsanhita.

    Thus another reason for longevity or immortality is given in the Gherandsanhita. If that is so then why is one told to practise various yogic techniques such as bhramari, bhasrika and other pranayams, uddiyan bandha, nouli, shunya (zero) kumbhak [in which the inspired breath (rechak) is regulated and prolonged or expired and held that way for quite sometime]? This looks very inconsistent. Hence instead of accepting these concepts as the truth, one should remember that they are the faltering steps of the one trying to glorify them immensely or mere exaggerations made to promote the theory.’(6)

Reasons for misconceptions about the facts mentioned above.

  • 1. In a session of pranayam, bhasrika and kapalbhati is practised for a very short while. As a result, its specific benefits are definitely obtained. In addition, though due to rapid breathing for a short while the lifespan is reduced by 0.0001% yet the other pranayams practised along with them for a longer period facilitate the prolongation of life.
  • 2. On account of the bandhas practised in both bhasrika and kapalbhati, specific benefit of the bandha too is obtained along with that of the pranayam.
  • 3. No such false statements have stood the test of time. The fact that these statements have persisted indicate that they are the truth.

The breath of an average person ceases at the time of his death. However as the body and mind is habituated to kumbhak they can survive without breathing and thinking. It is only in keval kumbhak that a yogi remains in a state of super consciousness.

2. Practical suggestions

2.1 Restrictions

One should not perform pranayam in the following circumstances.

  • When one is hungry and/or thirsty or the stomach is full
  • When the nose is blocked due to cold, one has wheezing or cough
  • When the mind is overwhelmed with anxiety, depression or excitement
  • When exhausted
  • When feeling sleepy
  • When suffering from constipation.

2.2 Place

In the beginning, if possible one should practise pranayam during the day in an open space under a tree since the concentration of oxygen there is higher than in a closed room. If this is not possible then practise pranayam in a well ventilated room. Initially when reducing the breathing, if the air inhaled in the lungs is pure then one does not experience distress.

2.3 Time and period (kal)

Pranayam may be performed anytime, even at night. If possible, one should do it in the evening because at that time atmospheric pressure is less and this facilitates breathing. One should commence pranayam in the Vasant season (in the month of March or April) or in the Sharad season (in the month of September or October).

2.4 Seat (asan)

One should sit on deerskin, tiger skin or a white folded blanket placed on a seat of grass (kushasan) or a mat, covered with washed cloth.

2.5 Clothing

It should be loose and minimal.

2.6 The stomach should be empty

One should practise pranayam on an empty stomach, that is two hours after eating a snack and four to five hours after a meal. After performing pranayam one can eat after a lapse of half to one hour.

2.7 Procedure

  • When performing any kind of pranayam one should sit in sahajasan (the ease posture), padmasan (the lotus posture), siddhasan (the posture of an ascetic) or svastikasan (the benevolent posture).
  • One should sit facing either the east or the north.
  • The head, neck and body should be in one straight line.
  • Breathing through the nose: Excluding shitali and sitkari in all the other types, one should breath only through the nose.
  • In the beginning, one should perform kapalbhati thrice so as to overcome obstacles in the respiratory tract.
  • Types of pranayam: In the beginning, one should perform ‘purakrechakpurak’ slowly. After one or two months one should follow the purakkumbhak, rechak / purak’ pattern. Then after another one or two months one should continue with the ‘purakkumbhakrechakkumbhakpurak’ pattern.
  • Matching one’s temperament: ‘The study of pranayam should always be “tailor made”, and not “readymade” because character and personality are the decisive factors. Beginners should follow the pattern of “purak 6: kumbhak 8: rechak 5” as advised by Goraksha. According to physiology, this proportion (6:8:5) is closely linked to the natural pattern of breathing. Hence there are no chances of its ill-effects.’(7)
  • To make pranayam rhythmic one should not inspire or expire completely.
  • ‘While practising pranayam it is absolutely essential to perform some bandhas. When learning pranayam, from the beginning till the end it is necessary to perform mulbandha (constriction of the anal opening). At the end of purak while practising full kumbhak, jalandhar bandha (compressing the chin firmly against the jugular notch, in the neck), jivha bandha (raising the tongue and touching it to the throat) and contracting the part of the abdomen near the navel called “uddiyanpith” should be performed. This is called the uddiyan bandha while performing purak. After completion of kumbhak, the jivha and jalandhar bandhas are stopped and rechak is performed. At that time only mulbandha persists. At the end of rechak, jalandhar, jivha and uddiyan bandhas are again performed along with shunya or bahya kumbhak.’(8)
  • The six actions (shatkarmas) and postures (asans): If the six actions and postures are to be performed, they should be done first and finally shavasan (the corpse posture) should be practised.

2.8 What should be the frequency of practice?

In the beginning, five rounds of the chosen pranayam should be practised. Later, gradually the number of rounds should be increased to twenty.

2.9 Thoughts during pranayam

A. For those believing in God: They should do chanting. Prayog Parijat quotes the following –

पूरके विष्‍णुसायुज्‍यं कुम्‍भके ब्रह्मणोन्‍तिकम्‌ |
रेचकेन तृतीयन्‍तु प्राप्‍नुयादीश्वरं पदम्‌ ||

     Meaning: When performing pranayam one should meditate on Vishnu during purak, Brahma during kumbhak and Shiva during rechak. Their seats are the chakras at the level of the navel, heart and crown (Sahasrar) respectively. Some disciples meditate on their Sadguru at all the three times.’(9)

B. For atheists

  • They should either think about something useful like ‘good qualities are entering me’ during inspiration and ‘my bad qualities are being expelled’ during expiration or should concentrate on the rhythm of respiration.
  • ‘Concentration on the breath (prandharana): Concentrating on the breath is called “prandharana”. It is performed by counting the number of breaths, by becoming aware of the movement of air during respiration or by experiencing the cool or warm touch of the breath against the palate. This is a very easy and natural method of steadying the mind. In the science of pranayam, this concentration is expected.’
  • The use of Om: ‘One thinks of the syllabic foot “u” during inspiration, “m” during kumbhak and “a” during expiration.’
  • Ajapajapa: ‘In twenty-four hours, that is in one day and night every human being breathes 21,600 times. The sound “so” is generated during inspiration and “ham” during expiration. Every human being thus unknowingly continues to chant the mantraSo’ham” or “hamso”. This itself is the Gayatri mantra named “Ajapa”. Being aware of this is itself a kind of study of Yoga.’

3. Stages of progress

A. A decrease in the output of urine and stool.

B. Pranayam and Path of Activation of Spiritual Energy (Kundaliniyoga): ‘When the mind achieves concentration there is equalization of pran and apan vital energies. This itself is called kumbhak. When keval kumbhak is achieved, breathing stops. The pran vital energy has no function thereafter. So it tries to return to its original site, the Sahasrar. It has to travel through the Sushumna channel. Since for several births this attempt is not made, the difficulty it has to face in the Muladhar is called “its attempt to straighten the kundalini (spiritual energy) with jolts” in flowery yogic language. Hence in the holy text Dattamahatmya H.H. Shri Tembe Swami has said, “So long as the pran vital energy does not reach the Sushumna channel in proportion to the efforts of a seeker practising Yoga, those efforts are in vain”. Saint Eknath has also expressed the same point in other words in a devotional song (arti) as “When even the para mode of speech ceases to exist, what is the motive left? It is the end of the cycle of birth and death.”

    Later the real test occurs when the pran vital energy reaches the Adnya chakra. There, one acquires supernatural powers (siddhis) and the capacity to enjoy any type and amount of happiness. However rarely does one not fall prey to such attachment, due to the grace of the Guru and accomplishes one’s lifelong efforts. Only after successfully penetrating chakras serially from the Adnya to the Sahasrar does one really become a Sadguru. That is real liberation when still embodied (jivanmukti). ’ – H.H. Kane Maharaj, Narayangaon.

C. Deciding the duration of purak, kumbhak and rechak by counting numbers in the mind gradually: Different texts give different numbers. One can perform inferior, moderate and superior types of pranayam depending upon one’s progress.

  Inferior Moderate Superior
1. The amount
    (number of
    A. Purak 12 16 20
    B. Kumbhak 48 64 80
    C. Rechak 24 32 40
2. Physical signs Rise in body
Tremors in the spine
or hands, shivering
of the body
Frog leaps,
floating, finally
there is steadiness

D. A decrease in the speed of breathing: When breathing occurs only four times a minute one is aware of only the pure ‘ego’.

E. According to the duration of kumbhak: The duration of kumbhak gradually increases, stepwise. The more the kumbhak the greater is the period when the tendencies of the subconscious mind are overcome. The table below gives the stages of progress (states) and their features.

Ghatavastha Parichaya-
1. Minimum
    duration of
10 minutes 1 hour 2 hours 8 hours
2. External
Sleep Deep sleep Corpse like
3. Spiritual
    A. Happiness
         / Bliss
Happiness Bliss Bliss for a
longer period
of time
    B. Sound Tinkling Deafness Drum beats at
the mid-point
between the
    C. Others Prespiration,

4. The duration of kumbhak occurring automatically in some states from the Ashtangyoga (Eight fold Yoga)

The state The average duration of kumbhak
1. Introversion (pratyahar)* 30 seconds
2. Concentration (dharana) 2 minutes
3. Meditation (dhyan) 30 minutes
4. Superconscious state
    (nirbij samadhi)
8 hours

* Preventing the contact of sense organs with objects.

5. Dangers

A. No spiritual practice can cause harm to a seeker. However if pranayam is not done properly then it could lead to problems like cough, headache, earache, eye strain, indigestion, etc. If a seeker in the primary stage does kumbhak (holds his breath), specially the bahya (external) kumbhak from pranayam, deliberately for too long then he could lose consciousness due to a decrease in oxygen and increase in carbon dioxide and at that time there is a danger of some brain cells suffering from permanent damage. Hence Gulabrao Maharaj has said –

‘In the science of Yoga who is a learned fool?
The one who practises postures (asans), pranayam, etc. without following the restraints (yam) and regulations (niyam).’(10)

    The same tenet is also applicable to those practising silence of speech and silence as of wood. [Yam and niyam are the first two parts from the Ashtangyoga (Eightfold Yoga) of Patanjali and are related to the mind. A quote from the Hathayoga pradipika 19/265 says,

प्राणायामादियुक्‍तेन सर्व रोगक्षयो भवेत्‌ |
अयुक्‍ताभ्‍यासयुक्‍तेन सर्व रोगसमुद्‌भव: ||१९|| – हठ योग प्रदीपिका १९/२६५

    Meaning: If pranayam is practised in the correct way then all illnesses vanish. However if pranayam is done incorrectly then all diseases occur.

B. When performing pranayam, during kumbhak a thought in the mind persists consistently and till kumbhak is completed there is a possibility of the person behaving as if insane. To avoid this from happening, it is better to chant The Lord’s Name or to concentrate on the breath, during pranayam so as to keep the mind thoughtless.

6. Comparison with other paths of Yoga

A. In the Path of Transfer of Energy (Shaktipatyoga) mostly one enters the superconscious state (samadhi) after bahya (external) kumbhak while in the Path of Devotion (Bhaktiyoga), one enters the superconscious state mostly after antar (internal) kumbhak.

B. If one does only pranayam as spiritual practice then maximum purification of the physical body and vital energy body (prandeha) that can occur is 20% and 30% respectively. The same amount of purification can occur with any other spiritual practice. With pranayam, purification of the mental body, causal body (karandeha) and supracausal body (mahakarandeha) can occur upto a maximum of 10%, 2% and 1% respectively. However with the grace of the Guru (Gurukrupa) purification of the physical, vital energy, causal and supracausal bodies can occur upto 20%, 30% and 100% respectively.