Meditations from the Tantras CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR


In the chapter-twenty-four Benefits: This is a very simple pranayama practice, but one which has powerful and subtle effects on the pranic body. It is very useful for practising during meditation, for it brings about great calmness of mind. When ujjayi pranayama is practised a slight pressure is exerted on the carotid sinuses in the throat which eventually lowers the blood pressure. This in turn reduces the tension and thought processes in the mind. In this way ujjayi pranayama is conducive to meditation practices.
Practice note: Ujjayi pranayama is generally practised in conjunction with khechari mudra, which helps to minimize the tendency for the throat to become sore.
Bhastrika Pranayama (bellows breath)
Technique 1: Basic method
Sit in a steady meditation pose with the hands in jnana or chin mudra.
Close the eyes and relax completely.
Be sure that the spine is perfectly erect and the head is level and centred.
Take a deep breath in and breathe out forcefully through the nose.
Immediately breathe in and out with the same force.
Count 10 breaths. This is one round.
Practise up to 10 rounds.
Practice note: Gradually increase the speed, keeping the breath rhythmical. Inhalation and exhalation must be equal.
Technique 2: Left, right and both nostrils

Sit in any comfortable meditation asana.
Perform nasagra mudra (see page 122), closing the right nostril with the right thumb.
Breathe in slowly through the left nostril.
Then begin rapid exhalations and inhalations as in technique 1.
Count up to 20 breaths.
The last exhalation should be slightly more forced and prolonged.
Close the left nostril, open the right and breathe in deeply and slowly through the right.
Begin rapid exhalations and inhalations through the right nostril, counting up to twenty.
The last exhalation should be deeper and prolonged.
After breathing through the right nostril, release nasagra mudra and place the hand on the knee.
Repeat the same process breathing through both nostrils.
This is one round, consisting of left, right and both nostrils together.
Practise 5 rounds.
Technique 3: with Antar Kumbhaka
Commence bhastrika in the left nostril and continue for 30 breaths.
Then inhale deeply through the left nostril, close both nostrils and hold the breath for as long as is comfortable.
Exhale fully through the left nostril.

Close the left nostril and open the right. Practise 30 rapid breaths.
Then inhale fully through the right nostril, close both nostrils, and hold the breath for as long as possible.
Exhale through the right nostril, release nasagra mudra and practise 30 bhastrika breaths through both nostrils.
After the last exhalation, inhale again fully through both nostrils, hold the breath in kumbhaka for as long as is comfortable, then exhale again through both nostrils.
This is one complete round.
Perform up to 10 rounds.
Do not strain.
Technique 4: with Antar Kumbhaka and Jalandhara Bandha
Practise technique 3. Increase the number of breaths to 40.
Practise jalandhara bandha during antar kumbhaka.
Equalize the duration of kumbhaka through the left and right nostrils. Practise a maximum of 10 rounds.
Technique 5: with Antar Kumbhaka, Jalandhara and Moola Bandhas
Practise technique 4. Increase the number of breaths to 50.
Include moola bandha with jalandhara bandha.
Increase the duration of kumbhaka.
Practise up to 10 rounds.
Technique 6: with Bahir Kumbhaka and Maha Bandha

The number of breaths may be increased up to 100.
Bahir kumbhaka (external retention) is practised instead of antar kumbhaka (internal retention). Hold for as long as possible.
Maha bandha is performed during kumbhaka, i.e. jalandhara, uddiyana and moola bandhas together.
Practise 10 rounds.
Precautions: A feeling of faintness or perspiration indicates that the practice is being executed incorrectly. Avoid violent respiration, facial contortion and excessive shaking of the body, as these also indicate incorrect practice.
One should be relaxed during the entire technique.
Beginners should take to its practice cautiously, preferably under expert guidance.
Contra-indications: Bhastrika should not be practised by people with high blood pressure, vertigo, circulatory problems or any coronary or respiratory ailment.
Benefits: This is one of the important pranayamas for meditation, as it purifies and forges the mind and nervous system by a process of oxygenation.
Bhastrika makes the mind introverted and one-pointed, and so it is very usefully practised just before one sits for meditation.
Practice note: Bhastrika pranayama should be followed immediately by a meditation practice such as japa, chidakasha dharana or antar mouna.
Note: The word bhastrika literally means ‘the bellows’,

as used by a blacksmith to heat metal.
Kapalbhati Pranayama (frontal brain cleansing breath)
Technique 1: Basic method
Sit in a steady meditation pose with the hands in jnana or chin mudra.
Close the eyes and relax the whole body.
Perform a series of rapid respirations with the emphasis on exhalation; practise to the speed of about one breath per second, for 10 breaths.
The exhalation should be strong and forced, and the inhalation completely automatic, as if it is occurring of its own accord.
When this can be done comfortably, increase the number of breaths to 20.
Technique 2: with Antar Kumbhaka
Practise 20 breaths as for the basic method.
On completion of the last exhalation, breathe in fully, hold the breath inside for as long as comfortable, then exhale completely.
Practise 5 rounds.
Technique 3: with Antar Kumbhaka, Jalandhara and Moola Bandhas
Repeat technique 2, but during antar kumbhaka, practise jalandhara and moola bandhas. Do not strain.
Increase the number of breaths up to 30 per round, then to 50 per round.
Practise up to 10 rounds.
Technique 4: with Bahir Kumbhaka and Maha Bandha

Practise 50 breaths.
Then inhale slowly and deeply, exhale completely and practise maha bandha.
Keep your awareness in the region of chidakasha.
You can bounce your awareness off the front, side and back walls of chidakasha, and also off the floor and ceiling.
Retain this attitude for as long as is comfortably possible.
Then release maha bandha, exhale slightly and slowly inhale.
Take a few natural breaths if necessary, and then repeat.
At first practise only 2 rounds.
Practise up to 10 rounds.
Precautions: Kapalbhati should be learned only after one has mastered bhastrika pranayama. This is a very powerful technique. Be careful not to strain.
Contra-indications: Kapalbhati is not for people with high blood pressure, vertigo, coronary or respiratory ailments or any related type of disease.
Benefits: This is one of the best preparatory techniques for meditation. It completely voids the mind of all thoughts and visions, and makes the practitioner completely introverted spontaneously. It will increase the efficacy of any meditation practice performed after it and will greatly help the practitioner to ascend to subtle realms of awareness. This power is also its drawback, however, and so it should be learned and practised with great care.

Practice note: After the end of your daily practice of kapalbhati, practise chidakasha dharana for at least ten minutes.
Note: The Sanskrit word kapal means ‘cranium’ or ‘forehead’ and bhati means ‘light’ or ‘splendour’ and also ‘perception’ or ‘knowledge’. Hence kapalbhati is the practice which brings a state of light or clarity to the frontal region of the brain.
Bhramari Pranayama (humming bee breath)
Sit in a meditation pose with the hands in jnana or chin mudra.
Inhale fully through both nostrils.
Retain the breath inside and perform jalandhara and moola bandhas.
Hold the retention and bandhas for a count of five.
Then release the bandhas and raise the two hands to the level of the ears.
Plug the ears with the index fingers, keeping the other fingers lightly clenched and the elbows extended straight out. Keep the mouth closed with the teeth apart.
Slowly exhale while producing a long, continuous humming sound like that of a bee.
Feel the vibrations; be conscious only of this sound in your head. After exhalation, lower the hands, inhale and repeat the practice.
Start by practising 5 rounds, and add one round daily.
Precautions: Bhramari pranayama should never be practised in the prone position, for this can place great

tension on the glottis.

Benefits: Bhramari stimulates and awakens the awareness of the nada, the subtle sounds within the practitioner. It relieves cerebral tension, removes anger, anxiety and frustration and lowers the blood pressure.
Note: The name bhramari literally means ‘the bee’. This is the humming pranayama which is used primarily in the practice of nada yoga, the yoga of psychic sounds.
For more information on these practices refer to Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha and Prana Pranayama Prana Vidya, published by Yoga Publications Trust.

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