[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]

RE: Breathing Exercises (Doss)

Jul 02, 1996 09:38 AM
by Maxim Osinovsky

On Mon, 1 Jul 1996, Jim Meier wrote:

> here's
> my two cents' worth on breathing exercises:
> Pranayama (or Breathing Exercises) takes the individual from strictly
> theoretical knowledge/booklearning into practical occultism.

I am going to advocate here a perspective on breathing exercises that may 
be called strictly orthodox. 

Jim, _all_ eight parts of Patanjali's raja yoga are practical, so pranayama 
does not come first as a practice. Restraints and observances (yama and 
niyama, purification of the mind and heart) are to be practiced, too, to 
achieve practical, not just theoretical purity of life.
Another reason for not overestimating importance of pranayama is the fact 
that in Patanjali's raja yoga the first 5 steps (including pranayama) are a 
preparation for the last three ones (samyama).

> First off, Pranayama is defined by Patanjali in his YOGA SUTRAS as the
> fourth of the eight parts of the self-discipline of yoga: 1) Restraints 2)
> Observances 3)Posture 4) Regulation of Breath 5) Abstraction 6)
> Concentration 7)Contemplation 8) Samadhi [IK Taimni's translation, THE
> SCIENCE OF YOGA].  The Regulation of the Breath is described *only* after
> the preliminary purification work has been done: Restraints of Harmlessness,
> Truthfulness, Non-Theft, Sexual Continence and Non-Acquisitiveness;
> Observances of Purity/Cleanliness, Contentment, Aspiration, study of Self
> and Devotion to the Ideal.  Only *after* these are established in the life
> of the aspirant -- along with Asana, poise or right balance -- is is proper
> to consider breathing exercises.

> Pranayama is one of the examples in occultism where it is so
> easy to mistake the symbol for the substance: "regulation of the breath" is
> really just a clumsy way of saying in English "regulation of Prana" -- not
> the same 

> It is important to differentiate between "deep and calm breathing" to quiet
> the bodies before meditation and the specific
> inhalation/exhalation/interlude training that is true Pranayama.

>are a number of texts
> that have been translated as well as such classics as Arthur Avalon's
> SERPENT FIRE to fire the imagination.  Hans-Ulrich Rieker's THE YOGA OF
> LIGHT (ISBN number 0-913922007-2) is a translation of the Hatha Yoga
> Pradipika, one of the Pranayama classic texts.  

There is definitely a difference between Patanjali's pranayama (let's 
call it pranayama-1) and pranayama in the context of kundalini yoga or hatha 
yoga (pranayama-2). It's better not to mix them up, otherwise one may get 
an impression that Patanjali's pranayama-1 is not a true pranayama 
because he never told about any kind of breathing exercises--just 
about simple rhythmic breathing  (not to be confused with 'deep and calm 
breathing referred to above). Yes, pranayama is best understood as 
'control of prana'; however, in some of the best raja yoga books (not 
those heavy on promises of quick path to success and supernormal powers) 
one may read that it actually means _mental_ control of prana achieved 
through concentration and meditation and not through elaborated breathing 

In the context of theosophy, the science of prana is very important (see 
e.g. Rama Prasad's "The Nature's Finer Forces"). On the other hand, one 
may notice that elaborated breathing exercises are condemned as harmful 
in all the primary sources that may be broadly called the theosophical 
tradition: H.P.B. (e.g. "From the Caves and Jungles of Hindustan"), Alice 
Bailey ("A Treatise on Cosmic Fire" and "The Light of the Soul"--a 
translation and interpretation of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras), and Agni Yoga 
(passim). All these sources consider hatha yoga a caricature and 
distortion of true yoga, i.e. Patanjali's raja yoga. (This is how hatha 
yoga is to be evaluated now; to put it in the right historical 
perspective, it is to be remembered that hatha yoga has been a quite 
respectable thing long ago, in Lemurian times, when the first 
dense-physical human race needed to put a lot of effort and energy into 
mastering their newly acquired physical bodies. Hatha yoga is not sound 
_now_, in the present Aryan race.) As to the kundalini 
yoga, it in part has something to do with the Atlantean heritage; 
however, it 
is a separate issue since we would need to take into account a 
lot of other things like Hindu Tantricism, Kashmir Shaivism, 
kalachakra, and so on.   

>I certainly wouldn't
> recommend anyone to start serious breathing exercises without personal
> instruction from someone experienced. 

I would't recommend anyone to start ANY serious breathing exercises, 
whether under the expert supervision or without it.  

Maxim Osinovsky

[Back to Top]

Theosophy World: Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application