When we say Prana, we do not only mean the breath. But within the air, we breathe there is a subtle force which is the life force. For as you all know, when you do not breathe, you are dead. Everything in the world breathes: the plants breathe, the flowers breathe, everything breathes.
Within Prana is contained the vital force. The vital force is Divinity itself, for Divinity is life. Every time you take a breath, remember that you are breathing in God. Have you ever thought of it in that way? Every breath you take, you are breathing in life and life is but divine.
One can refine one’s breath by doing pranayama. By bringing the body into a regularity, you automatically install greater Prana or that vital force within you, which is so important. The more regulated your body is through pranayama through your breathing, the more of the vital force is taken deep inside because anything rhythmic can absorb the totality of Prana.
People do not know how to breathe. They just breathe here from the chest. The proper way to breathe is to breathe into the stomach first and then push it up to the entire system. With practice, it will become natural as it is natural with me. I breathe like that all the time.
Your entire system gets revitalized and detoxified as well. For example, I smoke cigarettes, and I have to go to a hospital every month when I am not on tours, and they give me a thorough examination, the heart, the lungs, and they find my lungs as clear as a baby’s lungs. The toxins that are inhaled from the cancer sticks are all thrown out, and no effect is felt at all.
The best way to get the maximum benefit of breath is to make the breath so refined that you absorb the vital force. When you sit down to meditate 20 minutes, half an hour, you will find your breathing slowing down, the metabolic rate drops. But apart from the metabolic rate, the great purpose in your breathing slowing down is that you are taking in finer breath. That is why it slows down. In other words, you are absorbing more of the essence of that vital force.
Do you know a man’s life is not to be measured by how many years he lives? A man’s life is to be measured by how many breaths he takes. The deeper the breathing, and in meditation when it becomes so slow, it must affect your entire system. It makes your life longer. Because you are breathing less and yet, you are taking in the vital forces of the air.
… Gururaj Ananda Yogi: Satsang US 1985 – 08
PRANA, THE VITAL FORCE
All spiritual practices are very simple. If someone gives you a spiritual practice which is very complicated please, try to question it.
In our system you are given the basic pranayama, the breathing into the count of four, retaining the breath to the count of sixteen, and exhaling to the count of eight. Pranayama is very, very important.
The breath we breathe is just but the grosser or outward expression of the vital force that we inhale with every breath. That is Prana. Prana is the vital force that sustains man. Therefore, in the scriptures you would hear, which is put very allegorically, that man was made of clay and God breathed into man and gave him life. The breathing that was meant was the vital force that was imparted into man by the outward breath. That vital force is Prana. Yama means the control of the vital force. The control of this vital force is very important.
STORIES ABOUT SOME INDIAN YOGIS
You might have read of stories about some of these yogis in India that would bury themselves for thirty days underground, and when they come out after thirty days, they are still alive and kicking. That is done by the control of the vital breath. That is not recommended because this is done for demonstration purposes. One goes through a long procedure for years and years to achieve this. It is part and parcel of hatha yoga.
What they do is that between the tongue and the lower palate, there is this little skin. Everyone has that. Then slowly and slowly, they cut this skin so that the tongue is separated from the lower palate, and they learn ways of elongating the tongue.
When they get buried what they do is this take in one deep breath, and then they roll up the tongue and block the entire passage. When this entire passage is blocked, then, of course, they cannot breathe out and neither in, and are sustained by the vital force, by the Prana that is taken in by this one breath. That is how they can be buried and come out alive. Controlling breath, that is exactly what is done. We do not need that. We do not want to be underground. We want to be above ground.
THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE IS PULSATING TO A CERTAIN RHYTM
The entire universe functions in a specific rhythmic pattern. Everything in the universe is done with precision: the movements of the planets, the coming and going of seasons, the movement in the galaxies. Everything is done to a wonderful precision. In that precision, in that motion, the whole universe is in a state of flux, a rhythmic flux or a rhythmic motion.
If you can stand apart from the universe, you would find the whole universe pulsating all the time to the rhythm of four, sixteen, eight. The entire universe is pulsating to that rhythm. When we do our pranayama exercise, we are tuning our individual rhythm to the universal rhythm, thereby drawing upon universal forces. That is why pranayama is very important. That pranayama exercise is helpful in our mantra meditation and our tratak meditation. All these practices are given to a person as a program are very much interlinked with each other.
Pranayama also attunes you to the universal rhythm, but it also produces a deep relaxation within you. When a person’s breathing becomes rhythmical, then automatically a relaxation comes about.
In pranayama, the most important thing is the exhalation. When the breath is retained to the count of sixteen, then people are prone to breathe out fast. But that is where the control is required, where you breathe out to the count of eight, where total exhalation occurs.
Exhaling gets rid of certain bodily toxins. It brings a rhythm to the system, but it also takes away a lot of the toxins from the body, and when man can exhale completely, he does not need to bother about inhaling. That comes automatically – you cannot leave the lungs empty.
As a matter of fact, most people do not know how to breathe. The best method of breathing, which the yogis have used for years and years and years, is to breathe so that the breath first goes down to the stomach, the stomach cavity is filled, and then it is pushed up to the entire lungs. That makes a total, a complete, breath. By breathing completely, many diseases can be avoided; many diseases can be overcome by producing this rhythmic breathing. It might sound very simple, but its effects are far-reaching.
These are elementary practices, and I am sure the counsellors spoke about it to you. We do not do things in our system, but we want to understand what we are doing.
… Gururaj Ananda Yogi: Satsang US 1977 – 27