RE: Breathing Exercises (Doss)
Jul 02, 1996 09:38 AM
by Maxim Osinovsky
On Mon, 1 Jul 1996, Jim Meier wrote:
> 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;
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.
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