[Query] Is it safe to practice Pranayaam reading from books?
kR^iShNam vande jagadgurum
Everything depends on the purpose or goal and the extent of success one wishes to accomplish. Generally, shuddhi of yoga sharIra can be achieved by the use of one of the panchabhUTas playing the role of the primary element and one or more of the rest forming auxiliary elements. Of these, AkAsha is not an oft prescribed element due to practical difficulties involved in its use as an element for cleansing. Water and Fire are the chief methods used for this purpose, vAyu used as an auxiliary element to the latter. Mantra Yoga, for example, is a Fire method to start but transforms to a water method as one moves along. prANAyAma is not a recommended safe practice today, especially from reading books, for various reasons. First, prANAyAma is a part of a bigger scheme of aShTAnga yoga and the current approach of its isolated practice does not produce desired results. Probably, if practiced for some simple benefits, it might be useful but as a complete spiritual path, it may not generate the promised benefits. With air pollution, irregular food habits and lack of correct technique, prANAyAma can be disastrous. vinyAsa, pUraka, kumbhaka, Asana, desha and kAla are the six basic angas of prANAyAma without the correct knowledge of which, prANAyAma does not produce the desired effects.
Moreover, practicing prANAyAma as an isolated practice generates energy but to lack of techniques required to assimilate, circulate and route this energy, various problems are encountered. There are 7 terminal channels, 64 forbidden apertures and 4 apertures of death in the sUkShma sharIra. When any of these subtle meridians or channels is disturbed by unregulated breathing practices, serious illness or death can occur. Breathing is basically of two patterns, which the great masters classify as pre-birth and post-birth. Both these have different effects on the body and mind and the various prANAyAma techniques use them in different ways and measures to accomplish the cleansing and awakening of various components of the sUkshma sharIra. For prANAyAma to make a significant impact on the body, the minimum period of dedicated practice is 9 years, which is 12 times the length of time one spends in the womb of mother. Number 12 is very significant due to the number of months in a year and the rAshi chakra and the sameness of the macrocosm and the microcosm orbit are well known to Yogis. The exact significance of these numbers, as taught to KriyavAns, should be learnt from Sadguru.
When observed subtly, there are four different variations of prANa in the sUkShma sharIra. At sunrise, due to sun's slow increasing heat, air expands and slowly rises. At noon, when sun is overhead, volume further expands and the rise is rapid. At dusk, as heat begins to disperse, volume begins to contract and slow descent begins. At midnight, the air cools and sinks. As these changes occur in the macrocosm, similar and associated changes occur within oneself and practicing any breathing technique, which disturbs and contradicts this natural pattern leads to diseases and mental instability. These four patterns, knowledge of which is important not only to a yogi practicing prANAyAma but also to one into practice of swara yoga, varies slightly in different people based on their vAta, pitta and kapha prakR^itis and to identify these four variations, the SiddhAchAryas have devised various techniques. Also, forcing the breath and jerky breathing due to lack of correct technique, when practiced over a long period of time, can injure not only the respiratory system, but also the several important components of the energy body. Another common side effect that seems to be prevalent with people practicing prANAyama over a long period without either right attitude or technique is the corruption or destruction of vIrya or ojas. Without the inner transformation of the generative seed, there is no spiritual progress in this path. When the chakras at the tip of nose and the heart are united and the resulting wave of energy is pushed to the sacral center through the right use of mudrA, bandha and prANAyama, the circulating prANa purifies the shukra and facilitates the much desired transformation. But, the slightest error can result in de-vitalization of the shukra or cause it to drain, nullifying all the previous progress of years. Eye, which perceives objects, when not controlled, leads to sinful thoughts, destroys the circulation process at the sacral seat of the fiery Shanmukha, reversing the inner alchemical process to produce undesirable results. Hence, without yama and niyama, no serious prANAyAma practice is recommended.
Here is what a great Siddha who transcended the limitations of mortality and limited consciousness prescribed for Kali Yuga. rAma nAma japa. Ra is fire and ma is water. The interaction of these two letters is the inner alchemical process that prepares one to perceive the inner silence, enabling the yogi to recognize the pratyagAtman, ever resplendent in sAkShi bhAva.
bhUmau nivR^ititruditA payasA pratiShThA
vidyA.anale maruti shAntiratItashAntiH |
vyomnIiti yAH kila kalAH kalayanti vishwam
tAsAM vidUrataramamba padaM tvadIyam ||
pralIne shabdaughe tadanu virate binduvibhave
tatastattve chAShTadhvanibhiranupAdhinyuparate |
shrite shAkte parvaNyanukalita chinmAtragahanAm
svasamvitiiM yogI rasayati shivAkhyAm paratanum ||