Yogi's have long addressed the concerns of maintaining the body in optimal health-zappers, and other extreme measures are not necessary if one refines their practice of yoga. God has given his domain to Man-We are God..God resides in Us-so of course all we need is present in us. We are It and It is Us.
Suryabheda Kumbhaka, Ujjayi Kumbhaka, Sitali and Bhastrika are the four divisions of the Sahita Kumbhaka.
Suryabheda Kumbhaka destroys the intestinal worms and the four kinds of evils caused by Vayu.
Ujjayi purifies the body, removes diseases and increases the gastric fire. It also removes the heat caused in the head and the phlegm in the throat.
Sitali cools the body. It destroys gulma, dyspepsia, pliha, consumption, bile, fever, thirst and poison.
These forms of Sahita Kumbhaka purify and prepare the entire physiological organism for the arousal of the Kundalini Sakti and for the experience of the non-dual Brahman.
Apart from bringing a number of wholesome physiological changes, Bhastrika Kumbhaka pierces the three knots or the Granthis. The Yoga-Kundalini Upanishad then proceeds to prescribe the practice of the three Bandhas, for the Yogic student. The process by which the downward tendency of the Apana (breath) is forced up by the spincter muscles of the anus, is called the Mulabandha. By this Bandha the Apana is raised up. It reaches the sphere of Agni or fire. Then the flame of the Agni grows long, being blown about by Vayu. In a heated state, Agni and Apana commingle with the Prana. This Agni is very fierce.
chapter 6 KUMBHAKA
when we now speak of the various forms of kumbhaka you should not try to understand it all at once in the first few sentences. Everything that follows is so important that some details have to be made clear first. So do not let your thoughts race away; whatever is not explained now will be discussed later on.
(44) There are eight kumbhakas: suryabhedana, ufjayi, sit^ari, sitali, bhastrika, bhramari, murccha and plavini.
(45) At the end of inhalation [puraka] one should do jalan-dhara band ha; and at the end of kumbhaka and the beginning of exhalation [recaka] uddiyana bandha should be done,
How does this work out in practice? The yogi sits cross-legged on the floor, hands on knees, and inhales deeply. Then he holds his breath, with chin pressed against the chest, abdomen withdrawn. This is jalandhara-bandha.
As soon as his breath is short he raises the head and exhales as deeply as possible. When he has reached the limit he again holds his breath, straightens up the body and draws in the abdomen, whereby a pressure is created on the stomach area, which is increased when he again presses the chin against the chest. The first part of the practice (inhalation and jalandhara bandha) concerns the upper half of the spinal column, the "moon"; the second part (exhalation and uddiyana bandha) involves the "sun" in the center of the body (solar plexus). But something else is added, as the next sutra tells us:
(46) When at the same time the throat is contracted and mula-bandha practiced [i.e., the sphincter of the anus is contracted], breath flows through the sushumna, driven by [the pressure exerted by] the navel region [at the time of exhalation].
Anyone who tries this practice and thinks he has succeeded in guiding the breath through the sushumna had better remember the purity of the nadis; with the second attempt, he should become aware how tense he is during this practice. The purpose of the asanas as taught in Part One is to train the body so that no unnecessary exertion will deplete the extra prana supply that has been acquired. It is not sufficient to install the wiring and have proper outlets; it is also necessary to have current in proper voltage and amperes. Otherwise the result is either no light at all or a short circuit. We must be especially careful to avoid the latter; for human "fuses" cannot be replaced.
(47) By contracting the anus [to force apana] upward and forcing prana down from the throat, the yogi becomes a youth of 16 years and is forever free from old age.
Or, staling it more modestly: he who succeeds in uniting the two main currents in the body will thereby eliminate the causes of premature old age. The most significant of these causes is the lack of utilization of the body's natural regenerative powers. Here, two limited main currents arecombined that complement each other; together they accomplish what they cannot do singly. Prana and apana are "knotted" in the navel area (nabhi
granthi), creating an aggregate that gives youthful strength to the aging yogi. This is the first step in raja yoga.
Once again, the main part of pranayama is kumbhaka, and this can be performed in various ways.
(48) Sitting down comfortably in a good asana, the yogi should inhale through the right nostril.
(49) [Then] he should do kumbhaka until he feels that the whole body from head to toes is suffused by prana; then he should slowly exhale through the left nostril*
(50) This suryabheda kumbhaka should be practiced again and again for it cleanses the brain [forebrain and sinusces], destroys intestinal worms and all the diseases that arise from an overabundance of vata [wind].
This is the first and the most commonly practiced of the eight varieties of kumbhaka. We should also note that before we begin this practice we exhale deeply.
(51-52) With closed mouth inhale deeply until the breath fills all the space between the throat and the heart (i-e„ to the tips of the lungs). This creates a noise. Do kumbhaka and exhale through the left nostril. This removes phlegm in the throat and enhances the digestive power of the body. This is ujjayi and can be practiced walking or sitting, it keeps diseases away from the individual organs and the nadis, especially diseases that are due to kapha.
*"This is to be done alternately with both nostrils, drawing in through the one and expelling through the other." Pancham Sinh, Hatha Yoga Pradipika (translation with commentary) (Allahabad, 1915), p. 21
The noise mentioned is a special characteristic of this kumbhaka. It occurs in a perfectly natural way. We know that with straight body we should exhale deeply before each kumbhaka. During the short pause made after exhalation, when the abdominal wall is drawn inward, the glottis invariably closes. Inhalation through both nostrils simultaneously will cause the glottis to open abruptly; thus ensues the noise.
This kumbhaka seems to deal with the body onesidedly, for while we inhale through both nostrils at the same time, we exhale through the left only. This, of course, makes no difference to the lungs, but all the more to the nadis, and here the heart is especially involved. And that the heart is heavily influenced we can ascertain after the first round. Ujjayi kumbhaka should be practiced only by those whose heart is completely sound; otherwise it can lead to complications.
What is the special benefit of this kumbhaka, apart from its therapeutic influence on kapha? The heart rhythm does not function by itself. It is the pacemaker of all other bodily functions. In yoga it is sometimes necessary to change certain rhythms, and this is one of a number of methods. The organic rhythm is much too important a function to be subjected to willful experiments. The guru knows its meaning and purpose.
(53-55) With tongue protruding a little between the lips, draw in the breath through the mouth with a hissing sound [after kumbhaka]: exhale through the nose. This is sitkari. By repeating this, the yogi becomes beautiful as a god. All women admire him; he is in control of his actions and feels no hunger, thirst, or fatigue. He gains physical strength and becomes master of yoga, free from all dangers.
Obviously an enticing practice, and not even a dangerous one if one does not overdo it, as is so often the case with enticements.
We should, however, not be disappointed if we do not activate a love charm, but simply fan the pitta (the "fire of life") to heightened activity. We have already seen what benefits this brings in its wake, and here we should not expect anything further.
(56-57) With tongue protruding stilt further, inhate. Then follows kumbhaka and exhalation through the nose. This kum-bhalka, called sitali, removes illnesses of the spleen, fever, gall bladder trouble, hunger, thirst, and the effects of poison, as for example snake bites.
Here again the therapeutic purpose concerns pitta, but the practice has also another purpose. He who succeeds in inhaling and exhaling deeply with protruding tongue without having his stomach turn will feel that the breath follows an unusual path, for it gets into the stomach. And what happens there?
We remember that the countercurrent to prana is apana in the abdomen. The alert reader will long have wondered: If we must do so much breathing to acquire the extra prana how do we get the corresponding quantity of apana for the abdomen? For what accumulated there has long been washed out by vasti. Sitali is the practice that corrects this deficiency.
(58-60) Place the feet on the [opposite] thighs. This is padma-sana and removes all diseases. Having assumed this posture, exhale with closed mouth until a pressure is felt on the heart, the throat and the head. Then one draws in the breath with a hissing sound until it touches the heart. During all this time head and body are kept straight.
(61-62) Again inhale and exhale as indicated, again and again, as a blacksmith worlds his bellows, in this way the prana is kept ill constant circulation in the body. When tired exhale through the right nostril. This is bhastrika kumbhaka.
There aretwo variations of the same pranayama, one slow, the other fast. It becomes most effective when both kinds are combined in one sitting. With too intensive practice, colored flames dance before the eyes and a blackout is imminent.
In this practice of pranayama the body becomes saturated with prana--in fact, it becomes so "overloaded" that even the inexperienced student can feel the prana. After about five rounds of the "bellows," hold the breath. What then becomes palpable in the fingertips is prana. After a little practice, this current on one's skin can even be felt by another person.
(63-64) When the breath flows through the body, close the nose with thumb, ring finger [and little finger --Trans.]. Having then performed kumbhaka according to the rule, exhale through the left nostril. This removes illnesses caused by an overabundance of pitta, kapha, and vata, and stimulates the gastric fire of the body.
Through this bhastrika kumbhaka alone it is not possible for the breath to penetrate the whole body. However, when we combine the protruding-tongue practice described above with the "bellows"--in the sequence mentioned--then this actually does happen. And with this another important step has been taken in the direction of the sleeping kundalini serpent.
(65) Thus kundalini rises quickly, the nadis are purified, it is pleasant, and of all kumbhakas the most beneficial, in this manner phlegm at the mouth of the sushumna is removed.
The procedure is as follows: In sitali kumbhaka the body is filled with apana. In bhastrika kumbhaka the necessary amount
of prana is created, and then for the first time, the two currents arebrought to face each other. Through jalandhara bandha, uddiyana bandha, and mula bandha, these two currents are knotted together (nabhi granthi) and now raja yoga can begin.
(66) Bhastrika kumbhaka should be practiced especially, for it forces the breath to pierce the three knots that are in the sushumna.
Although the "three knots" (Brahma granthi, Vishnu granthi, and Rudra granthi) areextremely significant, we shall give here only a short theoretical survey.
The three stations of human evolution ("focusing, unfolding, and change" [Rousselle], or the "via purgativa, via illuminativa, via unitiva" of the Christian mystic) are directly dependent on the three knots, which in the process of higher evolution have to be pierced. Each breakthrough is accompanied by a catharsis, which here, in kundalini yoga, also manifests on a physical level. [See Part One, Slokas 27-28 --Trans.]
We have now learned the essentials. The propitious exterior conditions have been established, the necessary asanas carefully practiced; and through proper pranayama the channels of prana, the nadis, have been purified. This is the first step to raja yoga. Then we began the "production" of prana:
1. By alternate inhalation and exhalation, left and right (surya bheda kumbhaka), prana was created.
2. Then the muscles of the throat and the anus sphincter were trained (bandhas).
3. The heart was then prepared for the heavy work ahead (ujjayi kumbhaka).
4. The volume of the lungs was increased (sitkari kumbhaka).
5. We learned the art of guiding the breath into the abdominal cavity (sitali kumbhaka).
6. There then followed the first serious attempt to test what had been learned (bhastrika kumbhaka).
At this point we have accomplished a great deal, but we are still far from the goal. Once the yogi has experienced what he has learned on this level of training, his real work can begin. To become a master in pranayama is simply a question of perseverance, patience and endless effort.
A few special pranayamas follow which should not be confused with the others.
(67) In/tale rapidly, producing the sound of a male bee. Then exhale with the sound of a female bee. This is followed by kumbhaka. The great yogis, by constantly practicing this, experience indescribable happiness in their hearts. This is bhramari.
A strange kumbhaka for which there are many reasons, the most profound of which we will learn in Part Four. Whether or not we imitate a bee successfully is of minor importance. Essential is the humming sound which should be accompanied by concentrated inward vision. If the nadis are pure and there is no muscle tension, the humming inhalation brings with it the sense that one is absorbing something tangible (something that expresses itself in the sound) and thereby dissolving it. Kumbhaka then follows, accompanied by an extraordinary, suspended, potentially filled silence. Now exhalation follows--the longest process timewise--and here the humming becomes an experience. The vibrating sound seems to become a rushing noise that fills the whole atmosphere. A whole world seems to emerge, fashioned completely from vibrations. It becomes stronger and stronger until one is tempted to open the eyes, as one cannot imagine that this roaring sound exists only in one's own body. If one remains steady and does not yield to this desire to open
the eyes, then that feeling of happiness occurs, a feeling as though one had just witnessed an extraordinary natural phenomenon whereby one was allowed a glimpse into the divine workshop. One is convinced that with these vibrations one could tumble down whole buildings, that one could change the very structure of objects, as though . . . but now the breath is ended and it again becomes as strangely still as before. But this is not the calm of great expectations; it is the calm after the battle, still echoing with threats. When now the humming inhalation follows, a whole world seems to crumble. Everything one has built up disintegrates in a short, rough, seemingly cruel and hideous process.
Thus the pendulum swings from breath to breath, from creation to dissolution and from there back to creation again. Whether all this can happen without the influence of the guru is hard to say. My guru practiced along with me at first and then gradually dropped back without my noticing it.
In principle we have here the essence of a whole yoga system. He who has grasped the deeper sense of this kumbhaka and its related phenomena has saved himself years of study. One thing, of course, must be understood: he has knowledge, but he is not yet a master.
(68) At the end of inhalation do jalandhara bandha and then slowly exhale. This is murccha kumbhaka. It causes a kind of stupor of the mind and is very agreeable.
This kumbhaka too has its peculiarities, which even the text itself recognizes.
We recall the jalandhara bandha (Part Two, 45), which-- please note this--comes usually at the end of exhalation. Here it is reversed, and we recognize the many-sided character of this kind of practice. Here the purpose differs widely from our previous method, for now we have to learn to execute a practice while the observing mind disappears. That is, we are to study (in relative safety) the moment of consciously induced unconsciousness.
The strange trance state (to be discussed later) is, of course, not an unconscious state in the ordinary sense; rather it is extremely heightened consciousness, concentrated on a single point in which all else disappears. In other words, it is an unconscious state, generally speaking, but it is more precisely a heightened consciousness. Now the yogi must learn to recognize the image of the transitory stage, of the razor's edge between the superconscious and the unconscious. If he makes the slightest mistake later and falls from the superconscious into the unconscious state of a faint it can mean death or insanity. Here he is learning to anaesthetize discursive thinking without becoming unconscious; he has also not yet awakened the powerful force of kundalini.
(69) Having filled the lungs completely with air, the yogi floats upon the water like a lotus leaf. This is plavini kumbhaka.
Nothing else is mentioned. Nothing about health or long life, only a rather extravagant-sounding promise. For we all know, regardless of how deeply we inhale) we will hardly float along like a lotus leaf, no more easily, in any case, than we are used to in swimming.
Since this kumbhaka, though useful, is not in any way decisive, we shall only comment briefly: his body having been emptied completely through the much-debated process of shatkarma, the yogi (ills all the cavities with air: lungs, stomach, intestines. Thus the "floating like a lotus leaf" becomes more plausible.
So much for the eight varieties of pranayama. A few general remarks will close this subject.
(70) There are three kinds of pranayamas: Recaka pranayama (exhalation), puraka pranayama (inhalation) and kumbhaka pranayama (retention). Kumbhaka is also of two kinds:, sahita and kevala.
The types of prana aresummarized:
1. Prana that results from kumbhaka after exhalation.
2. Prana that originates from kumbhaka after inhalation.
3. Prana that is developed a. through holding the breath at any time and any place,
without force or exertion (sahita)
b. by holding the breath when the blood is overoxygenized (kevala).
(71) As long as one has not yet [fully] mastered kevala kum-bhaka, which means holding the breath without inhalation or exhalation, one should practice sahita.
(72-71) When kevala kumbhaka without inhalation and exhalation has been mastered, there is nothing in the [inner] world that is unattainable for the yogi. Through this kumbhaka he can restrain the breath as long as he likes.