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The Different Types of Breath Control

There are nine main types of breath control, each having different effects.

(1) The With-and-Against (anuloma-viloma, or loma-viloma)
(2) The Piercing-of-the-Sun (surya bhedana)
(3) The Victorious (ujjayi)
(4) The Cold-Maker (shitakari)
(5) The Cooling (shitali)
(6) The Bellows (bhastrika)
(7) The Rising (murccha)
(8) The Bee (bhramari)
(9) The Floating (plavini)

(1) With-and-Against (anuloma-viloma) should always be practiced first since it purifies both sides equally, strengthens the lungs and balances all the main elements of the body.

Take the posture of Attainment, or the Lotus posture or the Auspicious posture, and apply the Root contraction. Keeping the head, body and neck in a straight line, expel the impure air from the lungs through the nostrils. Doing this, the belly is drawn in and should be held thus. Then, through the lunar channel (chandra svara), i.e. through the left nostril, breathe in for four, eight or sixteen units of measure. Having done this, the belly is reinflated i.e. it returns to its normal condition. Next, apply the Net-holding contraction, pressing the chin against the cavity of the throat, hold the breath for sixteen, thirty-two or sixty-four units of measure, or as long as you can. Then breathe out for eight, sixteen or thirty-two units. While breathing out the belly draws in automatically and should be held thus while doing the Flying contraction. After breathing out, remain as long as possible without breathing. This is the Outer chalice. Next, with the same rhythm and timing, breathe in through the solar channel (surya svara), i.e. through the right nostril; hold the breath for as long as you can and slowly breathe out through the left nostril.

Thus one breath control, pranayama, is completed.

At first, only ten such breath controls should be done at a time, then daily increased by five; within a week, forty can easily be done, after which one should keep to that number or slightly increase it.

Within three months, this exercise will clean all the nerves, blood vessels and other inner channels. It gives resistance equally to heat or cold and can be practiced all the year round.

While holding the breath, the name or rune of one's own chosen deity should be mentally repeated.

The body should remain relaxed, natural and motionless, the eyes closed, and, when breathing in or out through the right nostril, the little and fourth fingers of the right hand should press the left nostril to close it; when breathing through the left nostril, the thumb of the right hand should be used to close the right nostril.

If in the beginning the holding of the breath for sixteen and a half seconds proves too long, then less may be done and the time increased gradually. After a practice of three to four months, the seeker should be able to begin the Intermediate breath control, and, after another three or four months, the Higher breath control.

Having reached the degree of Higher breath control, the gesture of Moving-in-the-Void (khechari) may be practiced and this greatly facilitates the holding of the breath.

When the seeker has reached the stage of the small breath control and the forty breath controls a day have become a habit, the practice of the Arch gesture, the Arch contraction, and the gesture of the Great Perforation--particularly the last which is very important in making the vital energy rise--is recommended by some of the Great Teachers (Acaryas). But these gestures should be practiced only by the strong and healthy, they do harm to the weak.

Morning and evening practices should preferably be equal in length, but if one is tired, the evening practice may be cut short although not altogether dropped.

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