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Breath Control, or Pranayama

Assuming the posture at first O Brahmana! keeping his body erect, [his mind] alert, with his eyes fixed on the tip of the nose, the [upper] teeth not touching the [lower] teeth, the tongue adhering to the palate, the mind at ease, showing no nervousness, the head slightly inclined, the hands bound in the yoga gesture [of Chin-mudra, the yogi] should practice pranayama according to the prescribed rules. (Trishikhi Brahmana Up. 92-94.)

All the previous exercises of muscular and nerve control were but a preparation. The real technique of yoga begins with the control of the ten vital energies (pranas) and rhythms, of which breathing is the most important.

"The voluntary interruption of the movement of breathing in and out is pranayama." (Yoga Darshana 2, 49.)

"The concerted action of the respiratory and excretory energies, prana and apana,(1) is called pranayama."

By controlling these vital energies, the mind is rapidly brought under control, mainly by the holding of the breath for a considerable time; this, to be effective, must be done without any feeling of discomfort and is really achieved only in. Rajadhiraja Yoga.

"The soul purified by pranayama realizes the Supreme Spirit, the Para Brahman, hence, according to the scripture of Principial Revelation, the Shruti,there is nothing higher than pranayama." (Shankaracharya Com. on 2, 7 of Shvetashvatara Up.)

"The Lord of yoga, through breath-control, gains the eight superhuman powers. He crosses beyond the ocean of sin and virtue and freely wanders in the three worlds." (Shiva Samhita 3, 61.)

(1) The word "apana" meaning "undrunk" or "unbreathed" air has an intentional dual meaning in yoga. It refers both to the external air not yet breathed in and to the excretory energy which drives digested aliments on their downward course. The union of prana the vital breath and apana therefore means sometimes the combination of the breathing with the excretory energies.

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