Sunday, 20 May 2012

More of Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu translation ; Pranayama

See the ongoing Yogasangalu translation project for the translation so far.

Translation by Satya Murthy.

Follows on from the earlier post Final page of first section.

Second Section


Special Direction

When practicing the above listed yogasanas people with heavy bodies must do more rechaka while people with lean bodies must be doing more puraka.  These are called langhanakriya and brahmanakriya, respectively.

Most important asanas shirshasana, sarvangasana, mayurasana, paschimatanasana and baddha padmasana must be practiced daily without failure.

Other asanas are practiced according to their convenience as people become proficient.

By practicing shirshasana, sarvangasana and thier variations at very early morning, great benefits are obtained.

Those who want to expand intelligence, heart energy and Jnanendriayas (sense organs) must practice these asanas ( shirshasana and sarvangasana) for long periods.

After practicing this, practice 15 minutes of one of the pranayama routines followed by 5 minutes of shavasana, without failure.


There are many types of pranayama.  The special pranavayu kriya sadhana that improves life expectany, brightens prana, corrects inhalation and exhalation from lungs is called “pranayama.”

The radiance that shines on the face and other organs is called prana shakti.  Some people call it as atma shakti.
This radiance seems to disappear from the face and different organs in a person with disease.

We see that the radiance is totally lost in all parts of a dead body.

We need to try to improve this radiance day by day.

The only way to improve this is by the 4th step of yoganga called “pranayama.”

The basis of pranic energy is prana vayu(air).  This is not like the air around us. It is very subtle, with amazing lighting speed like a warm flood of radiance.

This is hidden in the chest cavity.  The cavity is between the two lungs.

The same place is the location of the atma and the antaryami (inner controller). The bright radiance exists because of them.

When its movement is normal, the pulse from the heart is regular and our life is full of hope and joy.

If this is poisoned, our movements become slow and ultimately  becomes stop and go.  Finally the heart and the organs stop working and the body’s radiant brightness disappears. This stage is called death in common language.

To summarize this,

“यावत्प्रानः स्थितो देहे तावज्जीवनमुच्यते”

“Yavatpranah sthito dehe tavajjivanamuchyate”

meaning, our bodies are only alive until the pranavayu and pranashakti takes residence and keep it radiant, once they are lost, there is no life according to people who have experience in yoga shastra.

In order to make this pranavayu and prana shakti always permeate our body, there are three important types of pranayama - 1. Suryabhedana 2. Ujjayi 3. Sheetali

Procedure -


Exhale slowly and deeply through the right nostril (keeping the left nostril closed with the right pinky and ring fingers). After a brief interval, inhale in the same way with the same nostril.  After, hold your breath as per capacity (5 seconds initially) exhale through the left nostril the the same way as described before (close the right nostril tightly with the right thumb and loosen the two fingers on the left side).  Inhalation and retention are same as before.  During retention, both nostrils must be closed by the respective fingers.

Exhalation is “rechaka”, inhalation is “puraka” and retention is “kumbhaka” according to Yoga shastra.  How many rechaka we perform, the same number of puraka and kumbhaka must be performed.  This is Suryabhedana.  Right side puraka, left side rechaka, and no puraka on left side according to some.

This improves pranavayu, pranashakti, knowledge and life expectancy.


I asked Satya about the pranayama and whether there was any confusion here between Suryabhedana , which I understood to be single nostril breathing, and nadi shodana, alternate nostril breathing.

"Apparently according to K, Suryabhedana is exhable and inhale through the same nostril, hold  and then switch to the other nostril.  Maybe that is the distinction with alternate nostril breathing where you inhale with one nostril and exhale through the other.  My pranayama knowledge is very basic and I will defer to your expertise.  

I checked again, and the translation is correct. Exhale and inhale through the right nostril first, hold and then switch to the left side.  He does mention in the last but one paragraph that some people do it as what you are referring to, inhale through the right and exhale through the left, the more traditional alternate breathing". Satya

I'm wondering if my confusion here is with that first exhalation where the last of the breath is just exhaled through the right nostril before beginning the pranayama proper.

The approach to nadi shodana I was taught by Ramaswami, as taught to him by Krishnamacharya in the 1950's-80's, was to inhale through the right, hold exhale through the left hold inhale back through the left, hold exhale through the right hold and repeat. the is often described as a balancing pranayama

This differs from Krishnamachrays approach to nadi shodana in the Yogasanagalu (1941) above, where we are instructed to inhale through the right, hold, exhale through the left, hold inhale again through the right, hold and exhale again through the left and so on. Here the inhalation is always through the right nostril and the inhalation always through the left.

Ramaswami goes into more detail on this in Yoga for the Three Stages of Life p208-209 

"The first pranayama should be nadi shodana with the use of alternate nostrils. It is referred to as anuloms sand viloma by some (they are however differently inputted by different schools). A kumbhaka called suryabheda with the requisite bandhas should then be practiced. It should be followed with ujjayi, sitar, sitali, bhastrika, or any other pranayama". p208

On p209 he quotes the Yogasikha Upanishad.

" There are four types of kumbhaka to be practiced, suryabhedam, ujayii, sitalam and bhastram, which are known as sahita-kumbhakas. One should practice them and kevala-kumbhaka, facilitated by the three bandhas". p209

Ramaswami's description of suryabheda-kumbhaka, a nadi shodana pranayama is the same as we find in Yogasanagalu.

Ramaswami also mentions on p209 that ..

"Suryabheda is believed to heat up the system. hence those with low blood pressure and lethargy may benefit from it. Some schools say that candrabheda, which reverses the prices of suryabheda can help with these hypertensions." p209

In Yogasanagalu then, Krishnamacharya is choosing to present a version of nadi shodana that is perhaps the most effective for banishing lethargy, tamas, and thus inducing a more satvic state in preparation for the meditative limbs.

Breathing in asana
Krishnamacharya mentions different breathing options dependent on weight...

"When practicing the above listed yogasanas people with heavy bodies must do more rechaka while people with lean bodies must be doing more puraka.  These are called langhanakriya and brahmanakriya, respectively".

We find this too in Ramaswami writing, reflecting his studies with Krishnamacharya in the 1950's-80's, here for example in relation to backbends.

"In some of these backbends it may be easier and more desirable to use to use smooth exhalation rather than an inhalation. People who are obese, old and therefore less supple, anxious and tense or have some medical condition, such as hypertension, would do well to adopt exhalation, or longhand kriya during the backbends. because these are belly down positions, persons belonging to this group will be more comfortable and will achieve better results in Langhana kriya". p138 

We find several instances where in langhana kriya is mention as an option in Ramaswamis book as well as, in some cases,  the procedure for the longhand kriya option.


  1. Just now getting around to reading about the Surya Namaskar and now about this part on pranayama from the AsanaGalu. Lots to catch on! very interesting.

  2. Think you'll like the surya namaskara booklet Claudia. 300 sury's, no wonder K was disapproving of them. Interesting to see in that booklet that the Rajah was influenced by Sandow and the health and fitness craze. The approach taken to the Sun salutation is then, just as Singleton suggests, related to the physical fitness obsession of the time but I think we can see that K manages to keep his teaching of asana separate, similar movements in and out of the asana but the focus clearly on breathing, longer stays in postures, bandhas.

    The only suryanamaskara Ramaswami teaches is the more traditional kind with mantras

    I wonder if the reason K was such a 'tyrant' in the Mysore years was anything to do with how uncomfortable a situation it was trying to stay true to yoga while in an environment promoting physical gymnastics.

    Perhaps why he was disapproving of Pattabhi Jois' use of this kind of Suryanamaskara in his Power Ashtanga

  3. Hi,
    Thank you so much for the translation project. You may find these useful:

    1. Thank you for the link Chandra, I did see it when it came out and have a copy ( quoted from it in my most recent post in fact so yes very useful). Good to watch the video of AG Mohan introducing it again though so thank you again.



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from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included. "So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta