This blog is essentially 'sleeping'.

I've deleted or returned to draft 80% of the blog, gone are most, if not all, of the videos I posted of Pattabhi Jois, gone are most of the posts regarding my own practice as well as most of my practice videos in YouTube, other than those linked to my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book).

Mostly I've just retained the 'Research' posts, those relating to Krishnamacharya in particular.

Blog Comments are turned off, there are no "members" of this blog .



Dania Stavrou’s thesis on Kumbhaka - A vital pause. 

Note: Krishnamacharya included Kumbhaka in virtually all his asana instruction in Yoga Makaranda ( Mysore 1934).
See too Dania’s ’study’ page here with some other articles

We finally know who the woman in this photo is. Her name is Libbie Mathes and she studied asana and pranayama with Krishnamacharya for four years in the 1960s, this photo was taken in 1963, see her article here


Introduction : Simon Borg-Olivier Breathing part 1 and 2

1. Pranayama as taught to me by Srivatsa Ramaswami


3. Ramaswami's Mantra meditation Newsletter February 2012

4.  Ashtanga pranayama inc. links

5. P R A N A Y A M A  -  An Absolute necessity by  T.K.SRIBHASHYAM,

6. Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga Pranayama as found in Lino Miele's book, 'Ashtanga Yoga'.

7. BNS Iyengar Ashtanga pranayama ( as taught to him by T. Krishnamacharya).

8. Krishnamacharya's Personal Pranayama practice? from Emergence du Yoga by Krishnamacharya's Son T. K. Sribashyam

9. The pranayama section from Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu ( Mysore 1941)

(full translation of Yogasanagalu into English now complete and available on the free Downloads page).

10. The pranayama section from Yogasanagalu's  additional chapter (1972).

11. Kaivalyadhama School Pranayama.

Introduction - Simon Borg-Olivier

I highly recommend these two articles by Simon Borg-Olivier with his background in Molecular biology as well as Physiotherapy (along with thirty odd years teaching)  as an introduction to pranayama.

"In this blog I will be discussing the the physical and physiological effects of breathing. There are two main reasons we breathe. The main reason is the physiological reason of getting oxygen into our cells. Perhaps surprisingly to many people the best way to achieve this is to safely breathe as little as possible (hypoventilation) to stimulate the Bohr effect which says significant carbon dioxide must be present for oxygen to be able to enter the cells (see our recent blog). The other reason we breathe could be called physical reason and it includes the effects on joints, muscles, nerves, the mind, emotions, blood floor, digestion, reproduction and immunity. In this blog on breathing (Part 1) I will be focusing on the physical effects of breathing. If you breathe, or use the muscles of breathing in certain ways you can radically improve and/alter strength, flexibility, nerve function, blood flow and internal organ health. Many people inadvertently only focus on this reason for breathing and in their enthusiasm and often lack of knowledge they over-breathe (hyperventilate) and thus miss the primary purpose of breathing. In the next blog on breathing (Part 2) I will be focusing on how to achieve the physiological effects of breathing. The advanced practitioner can control their breath in such a way the both the physical and physiological benefits of breathing are achieved at the same time".


1. Along the lines of how I was taught by Srivatsa Ramaswami
(Ashtanga pranayama half way down page)

I've just posted a bunch of Pranayama videos on Youtube for the sister blog , Vinyasa Krama Sequences and subroutines and thought I'd make the most of them and make this Pranayama week here too. They basically outline stages in developing a practice, I've broken them down so you can start wherever you feel most comfortable.

The videos aren't great, the sound quality is poor, sorry, but if you crank up the volume I think you can get an idea of what's going on. Also, my chanting is quite awful, sounds a lot better in my head which is where it tends to stay. Mostly I give instruction and a count for the first round and then just do it for the next couple. I'd hoped the recording would pick up the sound of my breathing but it doesn't really catch it. In the later videos I try recording a voice over but that's a nightmare to sync. They are what they and if anyone is curious or had wanted to start building a practice they might be something to be going on with. I'll go into a little more detail on each video over the next couple of days but if your tempted to dive in right away here's a suggestion.

Start off with some Kapalibhati HERE and then move on through the main Pranayama videos. Try Pranayama 1 and 2 and see how comfortable that is, you might want to keep the exhale at an eight count rather than ten, that's fine. If your comfortable there give Nadi Shodana a try, videos 5 & 6, they have the same ratio. At this point you might want to try learning the Pranayama mantra (see the chant page at the top of the blog, it printed out as well as some MP3's of Ramaswami teaching it ) and chanting along, it has the same ratio as the first ujaii video. After a couple of days, sessions or weeks start increasing the ratios with videos 3 & 4 and/or 6 & 7. When your ready you might like to try and increase the retention of the breath long enough to chant the full mantra 15-20 seconds depending how fast you go. I tend to start off fast and then settle down to a slower chant half way through my practice.

If your linking here from the Youtube videos and aren't an Ashtangi then I should probably say something about bandhas. You could give them a miss at first and just go through the videos missing that part out altogether although some would argue it's not pranayama without them. Start with what feels comfortable, a nod in their direction perhaps. So three bandhas here, very very simply put Mula bahanda (rectal lock, just lightly clench and lift the rectal muscles for now, it gets more subtle as you go on), Uddiyana is where you see me draw in my belly and lift. Mine is a little extreme here, it's how I tend to practice but also makes clear what's going on for the video. To start with you might like to imagine a thread that draws your belly button back towards your spine, it's a start. The third lock is Jhalandara, throat lock, just bring your chin down towards your chest, ideally the space between your clavicle

The first four videos are straight forward Ujaii breathing (constrict the throat to make yourself sound a little like Darth Vader) building up the ratios. The first one is 1;1;1, five seconds inhale, five holding the breath and five exhaling. The second one has the same ratio but includes the bandhas so 1;1;1;1. The next one doubles the exhale 1;1;2;1 and the fourth doubles the holding of the inhale so 1;2;2;1 thats 5 second inhale/ 10 seconds hold /10 seconds exhale/ 5 seconds for the bandhas.

The next group, five, six and seven are basically doing the same thing, building up the ratios, but employ Nadi Shodana, alternating the nostrils.

Pranayama 8 is one of my favourites. It's Ujaii Pranayama but with mantra. While inhaling you chant in your head the first part of the Pranayama mantra then chant the second part while holding the breath and chant the final part as you exhale. I've made it 1;1;1;1; but you can slow down the speed of your chanting to change the ratio.

Pranayama 9 is my standard, everyday, Pranayama practice. The ratio is 1;4;2;1 and I chant the full pranayama mantra while retaining the breath after the inhale.

The final video is Viloma Ujaii with mantra and at the same ratio 1;4;2;1. This alternates the nostrils as in nadi Shaodana but also includes ujaii breathing. It's tricky but quite something once you get the hang of it.

I should also mention the Kapalibhati I put up a couple of weeks ago as I always do that before starting my Pranayama, kind of the link between my asana practice and the Pranayama.

123. yogic postures for `breathing exercises p247
The following Pranayamas are taken from Ramaswami's other book 'Yoga for the three stages of life'.
126. The Locks ( Bandhas) p250


Pranayama Mantra

This is the original I received from Ramaswami

And cleaner version I made myself

Here it is again so you can format it as you wish

Pranayama Mantrah

प्राणायाम मन्त्रः 

ओं भूः ओं भुवः ओं सुवः 
ओं महः ओं जनः ओं तपः ँ् सत्यं

Om bhUh . Om bhuvaha . Ogm suvaha . 
Om mahaha . Om janaha . Om tapaha . Ogm satyam

ओं तत् सवितुर्वरेण्यं भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि 
धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात् 

Om tat savitur varENiyam bhargO dEvasya dhImahi .
dhiyO yO nah pracOdayAte ..

ओमापो ज्योती-रसोऽमृतं-ब्रह्म भूर्भुवस्सुवरोम् 

OmApO jyOti rasO’amRutam brahma bhUrbhuvassuvarOm

Learn more chants by Srivatsa Ramaswami HERE


And here's a link to a page that translates (below) and explains the mantra

AUM bhUH, AUM bhuvaH, AUM svaH, AUM mahaH
AUM janaH, AUM tapaH, AUM satyam

AUM, the primordial sound, resides in all elements of the universe. It permeates the earth (-bhUH), water (-bhuvaH), fire (-svaH), air (-mahaH), ether (-janaH), intelligence (-tapaH) and consciousness (-satyam).

AUM tatsaviturvarenyM bhargo devasya dhImahi
dhIyo yo nH prachodayAt.h.

We pay homage to Gayatri, the one who shines like the sun (tat savitur), the one who destroys all our sins through her everlasting and effulgent light. Dear Goddess Gayatri, please illuminate our path towards our higher consciousness and lead us to our true purpose in life

AUM Apo jyotiH rasomRRitaM
brahma bhUR bhuvaH svar AUM..

Please shine your light (-jyotiH) in our path so we may partake of the everlasting nectar (rasomRRitaM) of brahman while chanting the primordial sound, AUM'!

3. Ramaswami's Mantra meditation Newsletter February 2012


Considerable amount of literature is now available on Pranayama (from
ancient and contemporary yogis), an important anga of Yoga, even
though a smaller and smaller number of Hatha yogis do a smaller and
smaller number of pranayamas. In fact according to Brahmananda who
wrote an important commentary of Hathayogapradeepika, Hatha yoga is
indeed Pranayama. Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras succinctly gives the
parameters of pranayama along with the benefits. Hathayoga pradeepika
and several other hatha yohga texts talk about a variety of pranayamas
with different ratios in considerable detail and as I said enough
literature is available on pranayama. However since it is also the
anga prior to the antaranga or meditation, parts of yoga pranayama has
been used to prepare oneself for meditation. If in pranayama you can
introduce some noble thoughts for meditation like an uplifting mantra,
bhava thought or an image such pranayamas are called sagarbha
pranayama or pranayama pregnant with lofty ideas. Sri Krishnamacharya
in his “Nathamini's Yoga Rahasya” says that sagarbha pranayama is
several times more beneficial; more than the mechanical pranayama done
generally by hatha yogis.

Sagarbha pranayama done with pranayama mantra from the vedas, which
also includes the potent gayatri as a part of it, has been in vogue
since the vedic times. Sri Krishnamacharya in his yoga work
“Nathamuni's Yoga Rahasya” gives a number of instructions for doing
pranayama towards the end of the first chapter. He commends the use of
Pranava and the pranayama mantra with gayatri while doing pranayama
practice. Usually pranava (OM), the most potent mantra and the mother
of all mantras, as a stand alone mantra is used by renunciates like
consummate yogis and advaitins. And the gayatri impregnated vedic
pranayama mantra is used by householders and others in all pranayama.
In fact Manu in his famous Manusmriti says that the pranayama mantra
which consists of prnava, the seven vyahritis, the gayatri and the
head or siras portion should be recited while holding the breath in
Kumbhaka three times to be called as pranayama. Sri Krishnamacharya
also emphasizes the need to meditate on the meaning of the mantras
like the suggestion of Patanjali in YS.

Most people who do ritualistic pranayama in India use the pranayama
mantra referred to earlier. Manusmiti says as follows

“sa vyahritim sa pranavaam
gayatriim sirasa saha
trifpateth ayataf pranah
pranayamassa uchyate

Here is the translation“Pranayama is that in which the seven vyahritis
(bhuh bhuvaha...) each preceded by pranava (OM) then the gayatri, then
the siris are (silently) recited.”

It should be chanted (silently) while holding the breath (kumbhaka).
When it is done three times it is called panayama. The pranayama
mantra is 64 syllables and takes about 20 seconds to chant, more or
less. The verse quoted above says three times and some interpret it as
chanting the mantra three times while holding the breath, but
generally it is chanted once and three such pranayamas will make one
bundle of pranayama. If you try to do the chant thrice in one go it
would taken a minute and holding the breath for one minute could be a
real challenge to most and so most people stick to the earlier

What about the duration for inhalation and exhalation? Sri
Krishnamacharya says in Yoga Rahasya that it should be vishamavritti
indicating that the time duration for inhalation exhalation and breath
holding would vary. So many go by the 1:4:2 ratio.

One may inhale for 5 seconds then chant the mantra during internal
holding for 20 seconds and then exhale for 10 seconds. The breath
holding after exhalation is considered a hathayoga practice and many
orthodox people who do pranayama as part of the Puja or Japa ritual
dispense with bahya kumbhaka and the bandhas. The quickie pranayama is
three times but it is recommended that on should do 10 times the
samantra pranayama.  (Contrast this with the hathayoga approach of
going up to 80 times mantraless pranayama).

Since children sometimes as young as 5 were initiated into vedic
studies, it becomes obligatory for them to do sandhya and hence mantra
pranayama and silent gayatri chant. But then because they are young
they may not be taught to do calibrated pranayama. Usually in course
of time they would learn to do long inhalation and exhalation say in
nadishodhana. Later they will be taught the whole vishamavritti
pranayama as explained earlier.

So the mantra is chanted silently in pranayama. But most people just
chant the mantra without the pranayama--they may merely touch the nose
but not do the pranayama. So we have one set of people who do
pranayama without mantras as most hatha yogis do and another group
especially in India who chant the mantra faithfully but do not do the
prnayama at all and thus both lose out. It even led the much revered
previous Sankaracharya of Kanchi to remark that if only Indians would
hold the breath (kumbhaka) rather than just touch/hold the nose they
would all become great yogis and spiritual persons.

My Guru also said that when doing any mantra in japa, in pranayama or
meditation, one should think of the meaning or import of the mantra.
That makes it lot more powerful and meaningful. What does this mantra
signify, many times we get initiated into a mantra routine without
knowing what it means. All yogis know that Patanjali insists on
contemplating on the meaning of pranava when doing pranava japa to get
the grace of Iswara.

“Om Bhuh, om bhuvah, om suvah, om mahah, om janah, om tapah, om
satyam; then the gayatri and then the siras which runs like this, ”om
apah jyoti rasah amrtam brahma bhurbhuvassuvarom” is the pranayama
mantra. This mantra appears in Mahanarayana Upanishad, the last
chapter of Yajur veda. This upanishad also contains several beautiful
mantras used on a daily basis like the offering to the five pranas
(before taking food), meditating within the heart etc. I got the whole
chapter (about 45 minutes of continuous chanting) recorded some 25
years back by “Sangeetha” and I believe it is available in some stores
in Chennai, India. You may learn the pranayama mantra—visit my website and click on the “Learn Pranayama Mantra
chant” tab.

So what is the meaning of this wonderful pranayama mantra? Again there
are different interpretations. The conventional meaning for the seven
vyahritis is seven different worlds starting with the world we live in
to six other higher worlds. But the word loka is interpreted in a more
esoteric sense by a few scholars. They say that the words loka and
look are derived from the same root . And the seven lokas are the
seven perceptions of the ultimate reality which is Brahman the pure
non changing consciousness.

So this approach which gels with the advaita philosophy would be as
follows: According to the Upanishads, Brahman in its pristine state is
alone and there was no time or space (aksha and avakasha) in
contention. The Brahman once thought that it should become many
(bahusyam praja yeyeti). Then in the next stage It deeply contemplated
as to how it should create the universe and make many microcosmic
individual consciousness. This state was known as the stage of tapas
of the Brahman (sa tapo tapyata). Then after deep contemplation and
planning It created the entire Universe (idam sarvam asrujata). After
this creation the Brahman entered and permeated the entire Universe
(tat eva anupravisat) and every being as the individual Self.

The seven vyahrutis are considered as representing the seven states of
the same consciousness four at the microcosmic level and three at the
cosmic level. So when doing pranayama during breath holding
internally, one would say 'om bhuh', contemplate on the consciousness,
represented by pranava or 'om during the waking state. Then as the
second vyahriti 'om bhuvah ' is recited, one would think of the same
consciousness being aware of the individual dream state.

'om suvah” would refer to the same consciousness witnessing the deep
sleep stage. Om mahah, the fourth vyahriti is the consciousness beyond
the three earlier mentioned known amongst the vedantins as the fourth
state of the mind (turiya) or the yogi's kaivalya state. The same
consciousness now is identified with the Brahmana that created the
Universe (Om Janah). Then the next mantra, the sixth “Om tapah” would
represent the Brahman as one deeply contemplating and finally the
pristine state of consciousness “Om satyam” the one and only Brahaman.
With this the abhyasi is able to identify and meditate upon the same
one Brahaman as seen in different states. The theory that there is
only one consciousness that exists both at the cosmic and at the
microcosmic level is the bedrock of the advaita (No two
conciousnesses) viewpoint. So an advaitin while doing pranayama is
able to reinforce the advaitic conviction.

Then the second part of the pranayama mantra is the gayatri mantra. It
again refers to the ultimate reality as the inner light. Just as the
sun with its lustrous orb lights the entire world, the Brahman/Self
lights the entire chitta or the internal world of the meditator, so
that the chitta vrittis are experienced or 'seen' in the mind's eye .

The last portion known as the siras or the head, is an encomium to the
ultimate Brahman. It refers to It as OM., pure consciousness, the
universal light, the essence of the entire Universe, immortal
(unchanging), the source of the universe, and is known to the
individual as the inner Self during the three states of waking, dream
and deep sleep.

This meaning of the pranayama mantra is vividly brought to the mind as
the pranayama mantra is recited silently during antah kumbhaka. Then
it is known as samantraka or sagarbha pranayama. According to Manu
this samantra pranayama is the greatest Tapas/meditation.

It is said that those who are well versed in the chakras are able to
identify the seven vyahritis with the seven chakras in the body using
the respective bijakshara or seed mantras. Some make an effort   to
visualize the cosmic Brahman  in the seven chakras in the microcosm

There are other types of mantras used. For instance saivaites tend to
chant the siva mantras as they hold the breath as mentioned in the
Tamil Saiva classic “Tirumandiram”. The mantra “sivasiva” of four
syllables is chanted 16 times during one breath hold corresponding to
64 syllables as in the pranayama mantra referred to earlier.

Here is a pranayama for renunciates:

While doing puraka or inhalation the thought would be that the entire
universe is ultimately drawn into the Brahman. Then while in
antahkumbhaka the contemplation would be that the outside Universe and
I are no different from the Brahman. Then while exhaling the ego “I'
with the entire Universe is discarded as nothing but an illusion, not
real, not significant. And in bahya kumbhaka one would contemplate
that pure Brahman alone is real, It alone exists.

Those who believe in the reality of world and the trinity (Brahma,
Vishnu and Siva), would use pranayama to reinforce their faith.

Inhaling through the left nostril one should think of the four faced
Brahma the creator aspect of the trinity and of blood red hue (rajas
guna) while chanting Om 16 times. Then closing both the nostrils  and
holding the breath in  kumbhaka one should think of the white colored
(satva guna) Hari, the protector/sustainer chanting pranava 64 times.
Then while exhaling through the right nostril one should meditate on
Siva of dark color (tamo guna) chanting pranava 32 times. Then one
should start inhaling through the right nostril for 16 matras chanting
pranava 16 times and continue the pranayama for a predetermined number
of times with both mantra and bhava.

Different smritis and very old yoga texts refer to a variety of
pranayamas with and without mantras. Almost all the puranas have a
section on yoga which describe different asanas and pranayamas. (I
think with all this evidence one may say with some conviction that
Yoga is more than 100 years old). For more information on pranayama
you may consider referring to my book “Yoga for the Three Stages of
Life” pages 189 to 211.

Sri Krsishnamacharya's Yoga teachings were unique and very rich. In
Vinyasakrama asana practice, breath synchronization with slow
movements is an essential element. One would start the movement with
the beginning of inhalation or exhalation and complete the movement
with the completion of that breathing phase. The time taken in actual
practice may be between 5 to 10 or 12 seconds depending on one's
capacity and control. If it goes below 5 seconds one would stop the
practice and rest to regain the vinyasa krama acceptable breath. My
Guru, Sri T Krishnamacharya would say 'breathe with hissing sound' (a
la cobra, refer to ananta samapatti in YS) or 'with a mild rubbing
sensation in the throat'.

In this way, with long deep inhalation and exhalation, the intercostal
muscles are stretched and toned up and by the time pranayama is
started the accessory muscles of breathing are well exercised so that
one has a well oiled breathing apparatus for a very productive
pranayama practice. And while doing pranayam introduction of mantras
and bhavas helps to bring the mind to a focus which will be of
considerable help when one starts the meditation process. Thus Sri
Krishnamacharya following the tradition of yoga described in old yoga
texts like the yoga sutras, the puranas, smritis and other ancient
texts helped to understand and achieve the best of an outstanding
ancient system called Yoga.

You may access the earlier Newsletter by visiting my website
www, and clicking on the Newsletter tab. Any comments
or suggestions please e mail to

Best wishes

Srivatsa Ramaswami


4. Ashtanga pranayama

See also 
Pattabhi Jois' Pranayama in Lino Miele's 'Ashtanga Yoga'. Clearer layout and practice sheets.

My post on Derek Ireland Ashtanga Led Primary CD and Pranayama CD

My post on Manju Jois' pranayama videos- Pranayama techniques

My Preview / Review : David Garrigues' Vayu Siddhi, Pranayama DVD/book set

My post on Manju Jois' pranayama videos- Pranayama techniques



ANTARA KUMBHAKA Suspension of breath after full inhalation BAHYA KUMBHAKA Suspension of breath after full exhalation BANDHA Bondage or fetter
BEDHANA Bhid = to pierce, break through CHANDRA Moon
JALA (As in jalandhara) Net, web, mesh KUMBHAKA Retention of breath
PURUKA Inhalation RECHAKA Exhalation SITALI Sitala = cool SURYA Sun UDDIYANA Flying up

Jalandhara Bandha: During Antara Kumbhaka (inhale retention) Uddiyana Bandha: During Bahya Kumbhaka (exhale retention) Mula Bandha: All of the time
1) Rechaka Kumbhaka and Puruka Kumbhaka 2) Puruka Rechaka Kumbhaka
3) Nadi Shodhana
a. Sama Vrtti
b. Visama Vrtti 4) Bhastrika
5) Bhedana
a. Surya Bhedana
b. Chandra Bhedana 6) Sitali

3 Ujjayi breaths (with ujjayi breathing, ratio of inhale to exhale is 1 : 1) Inhale, with the exhale chant AUM

a. Rechaka Kumbhaka
Inhale, exhale then hold breath
Repeat for a total of three breaths
Then immediately begin Puruka Kumbhaka
b. Puruka Kumbhaka
Inhale, hold breath, then exhale
Repeat for a total of three breaths
c. The ratio of the length of the inhalation of breath to the exhalation of breath should be 1 : 1
d. Ratio of the length of the retentions for exhale (rechaka) vs inhale (puruka) is 2 : 3, for example, if the retention after the exhale lasts 6 seconds, the retention after the inhale should last 9 seconds
e. 3 Ujjayi breaths as a transition before next stage of pranayama

a. 3 breaths with retention after both the inhale and the exhale
b. Ratio of retentions for inhale (puruka) vs exhale (rechaka) should be 5 : 4. for example if the retention after the inhale lasts 10 seconds, the retention after the exhale should last 8 seconds
c. 3 Ujjayi breaths as a transition before next stage of pranayama

a. Sama Vrtti (same action)
1. inhale through both nostrils
2. exhale through left nostril, no retention

3. inhale right, hold 1st retention 4. exhale left, hold 2nd retention 5. inhale left, hold 3rd retention 6. exhale right, hold 4th retention
7. inhale right, hold 5th retention 8. exhale left, hold 6th retention
9. inhale left, hold 7th retention 10. exhale right, hold 8th retention

11. inhale right, hold 9th retention 12. exhale left, hold 10th retention
b. Visama Vrtti (irregular action) 13. inhale right, hold 11th retention 14. exhale right, hold 12th retention 15. inhale right, hold 13th retention 16. exhale right, hold 14th retention 17. inhale right, hold 15th retention 18. exhale right, hold 16th retention
19. inhale right, hold 17th retention 20. exhale left, hold 18th retention
21. inhale left, hold 19th retention 22. exhale left, hold 20th retention 23. inhale left, hold 21st retention 24. exhale left, hold 22nd retention 25. inhale left, hold 23rd retention
26. exhale left, hold 24th retention
27. inhale left, hold 25th retention 28. exhale right, hold 26th retention
29. inhale right, no retention
30. exhale left
c. Ratio of inhalations, exhalations and retentions is 1 : 1 : 1 : 1
d. 3 Ujjayi breaths as a transition before the next stage of pranayama


a. In a seated position, hold the tops of the feet and pull them back into the abdomen
b. Slow inhalation
c. Perform a series of rapid, vigorous exhalations followed by reflexive inhalation through both nostrils (50 to 100 cycles)

d. Pull the lower abdomen back strongly during the exhalation, using both uddiyana bandha and mula bandha
e. With the last exhalation, fully empty the lungs
f. Slow inhalation

g. Long retention after inhalation, 20 – 40 seconds
h. Exhale
i. Repeat the inhale, vigorous exhale/reflexive inhale x 100, slow inhale, hold x 20 - 40 seconds, exhale sequence for a total of 3 cycles
j. 3 Ujjayi breaths as a transition before the next stage of pranayama


a. Surya Bhedana
1. Inhale through both nostrils 2. Exhale left, no retention

3. Inhale right, long hold (retentions are for 30 – 60 seconds)
4. Exhale left
5. Inhale right, long hold 6. Exhale left
7. Inhale right, long hold 8. Exhale left

b. Chandra Bhedana
9. Inhale left, long hold 10. Exhale right
11. Inhale left, long hold 12. Exhale right
13. Inhale left, long hold 14. Exhale right

15. Inhale right, no retention 16. Exhale left
c. 3 Ujjayi breaths as a transition before next stage of pranayama 


a. Open the mouth and form the lips into an “O”
b. Curl the tongue and extend it slightly through the lips
c. Inhale through the tongue, short retention (3-6 seconds) d. Exhale through both nostrils
e. Repeat for a total of three breaths
f. 3 Ujjayi breaths


Begin chants during exhalation

Om Narayanam Padmabhuvam Vashistam Shaktim Tatputra Parasharancha Vyasam Shukam Gaudapadam Mahantam Govinda Yogaindram Athasya Shishyam Shri Shankaracharyam
Athasya Padmapadancha Hastamalakancha Shishyam Tantrotakam Vartekakara Mukyam Asmat Gurun Santatamanatosmi

(I am always bowed to our teachers—Narayanam, the first teacher, Brahma the Lotus Born, Vashista and his son Shaktim, Vyasa and his son Parasharancha, Gaudapada the Great, Govinda, Lord of Yogis and his disciple Shri Shankaracharya, and his disciples Padmapadancha and Hastamalakancha, and the author Varteka Trotakam)

Vande Gurunam Charanaravinde Sandarashita Swatma Sukhava Bhode Nishreyase Jangalikaya Mane Samsara Halahala Mohashantiye Abahu Purushakaram
Shankachakra Asi Dharinam Sahasra Shirasam Swetam Pranamami Patanjalim OM

(I respectfully bow to the lotus feet of my teacher, who teaches the knowledge of the Self that awakens us to great happiness, who is the Jungle Physician and dispeller of the poison of conditioned existence. Taking the form of aman up to the hands, holding a conch, a discus and a sword, and having a thousand heads of white light, Pantanjali, I bow to you.)

Sahanavavatu Sahanau Bhunaktu Saha Viryam
Karava Vahai Tejas Vinau Adhitamastu Ma Vidvisha Vaha-i-i
OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

(May wisdom protect and nourish us, let us work together for wisdom, may our study be illuminating, may we never be at discord)

OM Namo Brahmavidibhyo Brahmavidya Sampradaya Karatrobhyo Namo Vomsharishaibhyo Namo Mahadibhyo Namo Gurubhyaha
Sarva Uplaplava Rahita Prajnanaghana Pratagarthaha
Brahma Iva Aham Asmi
OM Tat Sat

(Salutations to Brahma and the originators of His wisdom, salutations to the sage of our family lineage, salutations to the great teachers. I am Brahma only, perfect consciousness, devoid of al misfortune.) 


5. P R A N A Y A M A  -  An Absolute necessity in YOGA
- A  dedicated homage to my father and teacher,

                       Whatever be the reason for teaching Yoga, it is a certainty that the pupil, slowly but definitely, quests for the ULTIMATE REALITY.  Even if multitudes of methods, school, ideas and individuation have drifted Yoga from its real value, yet, it is because of the incessant search of pupils that Yoga continues to have an important place in the inner reflections of people all around the world.
           This drift from the real nature of Yoga might have many reasons.  Amongst them the lack of importance given to PRANAYMA in one's practice cannot be ignored.

Very often false reasons are invoked to keep PRANAYAMA away from one's teaching or practice.  Still, there is not one teacher nor one school that does not talk of PRANA.
          It is true that the Yogic way for the quest of inner Self and the Search for God Realisation through Pranayama is not a simple subject.  This should not be an excuse for not introducing it in the practice sessions of pupils whether they practice regularly or not.

      In fact, Pranayama maintains and  keeps our spiritual life alive, just as our breath that keeps our biological one alive.  For the same reason very often Pranayama is confounded with our physiological breath.  Indeed, the relation between the two seems so juxtaposed that we get mixed up.  It is just like a tool and the basic raw material out of which the tool is made up of.  The tool is so much and so often used that we seldom think of the importance of the basic metal that give birth to the tool.  Still, we know that the quality and the value of the basic material are the determining factors for the utility, value and life of the tool. Same way,  in the eyes of the Yogic Masters, our physiological breath is but a tool.

      The Great Masters of India used this relation to the utmost and derived great benefit in their spiritual quest.  They did not use the physiological breathing merely to increase  the vital reserves, but valued it more in a metaphysical sense.   Since the physical breath is but a product of the basic material, this product should help us `know' that basic material!      
      That is to say, by `going beyond' the product, in which the basic material is present, one should be able to find it in its `natural form'.  This,  the VEDAS and the UPANISHADS call  PRANA, and that which helps go beyond is  AAYAMA.  So much so, the means by which the physical breath is used to `go beyond' are termed
      PRANAYAMA is part and parcel of any Yogic approach worth its name.  Moreover, it is not out of place to take note that no Hindu ritual starts without a Pranayama.  This does not mean that Yoga is a religious act, but since it has its root in Hinduism, we cannot but consider it as our reference.

      Coming to the practical aspects, Yogic Science has given clear cut rules for the introduction of Pranayama in any Practice Session.  Later studies have given light on their physiological actions on the human body as a whole.
Here we shall content ourselves with some fundamental principles:

  1.  Those that act mainly on the Physiological functions,
       as for eg. UJJAYI ANULOMA and SHITHALI.
  2.  Those that act mainly on the Nervous System,
3.  Those that work on the mental plane,
       as for eg. NADI SHODHANA with Bahya Kumbhaka and
       SURYA BHEDHANA,     
4.  Those that maintain the Spiritual Quest,
       both of them as SAGARBHA PRANAYAMA
       Let us briefly recapitulate the technique of the above Pranayama, remembering that the Pranayama are done in a sitting posture (VAJRA ASANA or PADMA ASANA), and that the back should be straight, without any cushion or pillow under the hips.

UJJAYI ANULOMA: Inhalation (PURAKA) through both nostrils in UJJAYI, Exhalation (RECHAKA) through Left Nostril, without ujjayi, Inhalation through both nostrils in Ujjayi, and Exhalation through the Right Nostril, without Ujjayi.  These two breaths making one Cycle of Ujjayi Anuloma. 
SHITHALI:  Slightly open the mouth, bring out the tongue, fold it lengthwise, to make it resemble a tube, Inhale (aspire) through the mouth.  At the end of the Inhalation, draw back the tongue, close the mouth, and Exhale through Ujjayi, by both the nostrils. 
UJJAYI VILOMA:  Inhale through the Left Nostril, without using Ujjayi, Exhale through Ujjayi, with both the nostrils open.  Inhale, again through the Right Nostril, without using Ujjayi, and Exhale through Ujjayi, with both the nostrils open.  This forms one Cycle. 
UJJAYI PRATHILOMA:   Inhale through Ujjayi, Exhale by the Left Nostril, Inhale by Left Nostril, Exhale by Ujjayi, Inhale by Ujjayi, Exhale by Right Nostril, Inhale by Right Nostril, and  Exhale by Ujjayi.  These 4 breaths make one cycles, and to be of any value, a minimum of 4 cycles or 16 breaths is needed.              

NADI SHODHANA:  This is a Pranayama where no ujjayi should ever be used.  Inhale by the Left Nostril, Exhale by the Right Nostril, Inhale by the Right Nostril, Exhale by the Left Nostril. 
      It is to be noted that a Pranayama can have KUMBHAKA: either after Inhalation (called ANTAH KUMBHAKA) or after Exhalation (called BAHYA KUMBHAKA)                 

SAMA VRITHI:  Sama Vrithi is a Pranayama imperatively practiced in NADI SHODHANA.  In this Pranayama, while following the technique of Nadi Shodhana, the time allotted to Puraka, Antah Kumbhaka, Rechaka and Bahya Kumbhaka should be the same.  For eg. Puraka = Antah Kumbhaka =   Rechaka = Bahya Kumbhaka = 5".

SURYA BHEDHANA:  Once again, this Pranayama should be done only in Nadi Shodhana.  Here, the Puraka, Antah Kumbhaka and Rechaka would have a proportional time measure.  The Antah Kumbhaka should be 4 times the measure of Puraka, while that of Rechaka should be of twice the measure of Puraka.  To cite an example: Puraka = say 8", the Antah Kumbhaka = 32" while the Rechaka = 16".

           It goes without saying that a Practice session has to have a Pranayama at the beginning and one at the end, and  a minimum of 12 breaths in each.

1.     UJJAYI ANULOMA or SHITHALI are the Pranayama that is to be introduced at the start of any Practice Session.  Ujjayi Anuloma is more congenial in Autumn and Winter, whereas Shithali is better suited to Spring and Summer.  Ujjayi Anuloma removes weariness coming from excess of mental or physical work, sentimental or emotional shock, fatigue coming from improper digestion in the small intestines leading to unwholesome assimilation.  It also stabilises the mental state.  Moreover, it has the possibility of providing and maintaining continuity in the mental states obtained in different Sessions.
SHITHALI is more a Pranayama that establishes the digestion, maintaining an `acide-base balance'.  It soothes the sense perception, has a tendency to remove the weariness of the sense organs.

      If ANTAH KUMBHAKA is more complementary to Ujjayi Anuloma, Shithali goes generally well with Bahya Kumbhaka.  In Ujjayi Anuloma, the duration of Kumbhaka should not exceed half the time of Puraka, while in Shithali, either Antah Kumbhaka or Bahya Kumbhaka should not exceed 5".

      The specificity of the 2 Pranayama is that they can be given at the beginning and or at the end of a Session.

2     UJJAYI VILOMA is a Pranayama, acting more on the nervous system, even though the practitioner finds relief in his mental state.  It soothes the nervous irritations, or excitements coming mainly from emotional, affective or sentimental overcharge in one's life.  Its action is very fast, so much so, it should be practised for a short duration say, for a continuous period of 15 days, followed by Ujjayi Anuloma which stabilises the results obtained through Ujjayi Viloma.  As the technical word Viloma indicates, the `movement' of the mind in this Pranayama is transcendental but `intensified', it is not advisable to practice Ujjayi Viloma at the end of a session, if the practitioner is to have a social life immediately after his practice.  Care should be taken in not introducing Ujjayi Viloma in case of mental depression, or in depressive tendencies.  Ujjayi Anuloma is the Pranayama for all sorts of mental depressions.
UJJAYI PRATHILOMA acts both on the nervous systems and on the thought processes So much so, it removes all nervous excitement, bringing back to normalcy the nervous impulses, removes the interferences of superficial thought processes thereby providing a clear mental space.  We can say, that Ujjayi Prathiloma suits to those who live under such extreme emotional stress that they are unable to forget it, neither are they able to do anything else.  Once again this Pranayama is to be practised for 2 weeks, replaced by Ujjayi Anuloma.  It is to be remembered that Ujjayi Prathiloma should be practised for a minimum of 16 breaths.  It works very well in the beginning of a session.  If practiced late in the evening, it induces sleep.  If this Pranayama is introduced, care should be taken to see that Ujjayi Anuloma finds its place in the end of the session. This Pranayama is very suitable to get oneself free from the after affect of emotional shocks.

      While Bahya Kumbhaka is more suitable to Viloma, no Kumbhaka is advisable in Prathiloma.
As for NADI SHODHANA, it is always a Pranayama of the end of the session.  For convenient practice of Nadi Shodhana, one should have had some practice of Ujjayi Anuloma, Sarvanga Asana, and if possible Shirsha Asana.  The action of this Pranayama, without Kumbhaka, is not so much on the biological changes in the body.  Its action is more on the clarity of sense perception, removal of sense confusions, attentiveness of the mind.  It should not be practiced when there is nervous irritability, emotional shock, or fear of spiritual sentiments, particularly  in those who do not believe in the value of a Divine Support, or where there is excess of fatigue.  Suitable Pranayama should be practiced at first to improve one's condition before working on Nadi Shodhana.  It is always conceivable to have done either Badha Kona Asana or Maha Mudra or Paschimathana Asana as the last Asana before doing Nadi Shodhana.

3.    NADI SHODHANA with Bahya Kumbhaka influences more the mental plane.  When we talk of mental plane, we talk of the emotions (ANUBHAAVA) and sentiments (STHAAYI BHAVA), having their physical or physiological response.  A disturbed mind, is the mind whose natural functions are overtaken by emotions or sentiments.  As long as these persist, mind will not be clarified, and without a clear mind (MANASSHUDHI) it is not possible to have an insight.

      Nadi Shodhana with Bahya Kumbhaka breaks the link between the emotions, sentiments and their physiological response.  So its action is more on the interrelation between the physical mode of emotions, and the emotional or sentimental impulse.  It goes without saying that this Pranayama comes in the end of a session, that the duration of Bahya Kumbhaka should not exceed on fourth the time of Puraka, that the conditions mentioned for Nadi Shodhana (without Kumbhaka) apply here as well.
      SURYA BHEDHANA in view of the important Kumbhaka it has, can be practised only when one has the physical and mental capacity and capability to assume the Kumbhaka.  Here we come to some of the important Pranayama of Yoga.  The technique clearly shows that this Pranayama outwits the physiological basis of the respiratory system.  Yet, when well practised, does not alter the O¨-CO¨ relations, and thus does not create any adverse reaction in the chemical imbalance in the body.  Moreover this Pranayama has the possibility of maintaining the Alpha Waves at will.  If the great Yoga Masters relayed on Surya Bhedhana, it should have been because they found that it works at the root of our emotions.  A regular practice of this Pranayama provides a proper control of the emotional activities of the mind.  This needs ample preparation and constant practice of Mudras like the Viparitha Karani, Maha Mudra, Ashvini Mudra and Asanas like Badha Kona Asana, Ardha Matsyendra Asana etc.  That is to say, those that have the centre of action at the root of our emotional response -- the Naval (NAABHI).  To obtain good results, this Pranayama is to be practiced sitting, facing East.

4.    For any spiritual quest, one has to purify the mind, in a way as to free it from sentiments, that are against those of the Creator or God.  At the same time, the Home of the Soul, the Heart (HRUDAYA) should be cleared of all emotions, except those that are Divine.  This can be done only if the  outward tendencies of the sense perceptions revert towards Inward Insight (ATMA AVALOKANA).  Since the Mind follows the senses, the sentiments follow the mind, the emotions follow the sentiments, PRANA follows the emotions, and the Soul (ATMA) follows Prana, we have to work in such a way as to reverse these outward tendencies.  That is to say, as long as the sense perceptions do not look Inward, it would not be possible to bring back the Prana, the Mind and Soul into the Heart.  This is the essential role of the Pranayama of the 4th Category.                 
All the Pranayama under this heading belong to principle of Nadi Shodhana. They are always to be practised at the end of a session.  Further, they are to be followed by Nadi Shodhana with Concentration on HRUDAYA.  The practice session containing Pranayama of this category should contain Asanas like Matsya Asana, Bhujanga Asana, Dhanura Asana, Sarvanga Asana, Shirsha asana, Ardha Matsyendra Asana, Badha Kona Asana, Paschimathana Asana.  Moreover, the number of breaths used in all the Asanas and Mudras put together should be inferior to the number of breaths of all the Pranayama finding their place  in the same Session. All the Pranayama of this series should be done facing East.
      According to Hindu Tradition, the Pranayama under this category should be SAGARBHA (= Conceivable).  That is to say, during the practice of these Pranayama, the image in the Mental Space should be that of God, or a Divine Object of Contemplation, and there should be silent muttering of God's name (or a Mantra).  Non believers in God, or those not having conviction in such an entity should adopt appropriate means.  They can use a non-physical object like an unique Star, a Horizon Point or the Dark Hallow of the Early Morning Rising Sun.  In any case, the object in the mind should be beyond the Time-Space Reality.

      The SAMAVRITHI, to be effective should have a minimum of duration of 8 sec. at each phase (or 32 secs for one breath), and it is always practised in Nadi Shodhana.  This Pranayama works at the base of our Verbal Expressions.  This, in the Manifested State (VYAKTHA) is located in the Perineum (MULA), while at the Unmanifested state (AVYAKTHA) it is situated in NAABHI, considered as the Link between the Creator and Man.  From the Manifested Sound Expression, the Shabda (the sound) assumes `colour' through the emotions, which find their root at Naabhi.  (It is to be noted that the SHIRSHA or the fontanelle becomes the link between Man and the Creator, in his transcendental path).  So much so, Naabhi has a dual role:  That of linking the creator with man, and that of `shading' the manifested sound through emotions.  This manifest sound, is what is at the basis of expression--spoken or otherwise, and when used through words, becomes language or as the Indian Psychology calls ALAMKARA (= Aesthetic Language).  All our reactions -- sentimental or emotional --  raise from the interactions or the disequilibrium amongst these various localisations.  As long as a perfect balance is not acquired between these, man is subject to emotional disturbances and they will not provide him Peace of Mind (CHITHA SHANTI).  SAMAVRITHI PRANAYAMA acts in this direction.  Its main centre of action is at Naabhi, and its aim is to delay the emotional activities, a delay sufficient for the mind not to follow the emotions.  The actions of this Pranayama is not felt immediately, but in our daily life.
      It is imperative to have had long practice of the Pranayama of the 3rd Category, before putting into practice those indicated in this last category.  Moreover, this Pranayama is efficacious only if the mind is in concentration with some Vital Points like Naasagra, Kanta, Hrudaya, Kurma Nadi, Naabhi.  The Points to be chosen depends on the psychological constitution and emotional set up of the student.  This Pranayama has a good complementary if Ujjayi Anuloma 16 breaths is introduced at the beginning of a session.  Similarly, Samavrithi is not to be practiced when one is under an emotional stress or in a depressive mood.  Also, it is advisable not to practice this Pranayama when one is not used to Concentrate on Vital Points.  The above mentioned actions of this Pranayama reside mainly on the  Concentration Points introduced (SAGARBHA PRANAYAMA).  If practiced as a respiratory exercise, it has every chance of bringing to surface emotions with their physiological response.  The importance of this Pranayama in Yoga is to be measured from the fact that it is one the very few Pranayama with Kumbhaka as long as Rechaka  that the Yogic Literature describe. 

      We now come to the Pranayama that has already been reviewed under the 3rd Category (SURYA BHEDHANA).  Technically speaking, this Pranayama is the same as the one we studied before.  But in this category the aim is to render Prana its natural and original function of being in close association with ATMA, and to show ATMA the path of the Supreme soul (PARAMATHMA) or the Creator.  (It is here that we understand the meaning of Prana Aayama: extending Prana towards the Creator).  In this Surya Bhedhana, concentration is an essential factor.  The concentration during Puraka (Inhalation) is used in such a way as to centralise all the mental faculties including the sensorial ones in HRUDAYA, to stabilise them in HRUDAYA during Antah Kumbhaka, so that cleared of all influences with regard to the external world, the mind reflects  itself, during Rechaka, its Original Nature of revealing the qualities of Atma.
      This Pranayama is also called ABHYANTARA VRITHI (or the Inner Movement), because the Sense and the Mental activities instead of going outward, turn inwards.  In this Pranayama, the Concentration Points applied are: Naasagra, Bhrumadhya, Lalaata, Kanta, Kurma Nadi and Hrudaya.
      Yet another Pranayama, which should be practised facing East.  The effect of this Pranayama, is increased if followed by a Prayer.  It would not be a repetition, if it is said that a Practice Session having this Pranayama should have only the Asanas and Mudra as is indicated under Sama Vrithi.  Moreover, the only occasion when Nadi Shodhana, can be introduced as a Pranayama at the beginning of the session, is when Surya Bhedhana as mentioned here finds its place in the end of the session, and the Asanas and Mudra are those that are mentioned under Sama Vrithi.

      Here are but some indications for the application of Pranayama, and it is beyond doubt that if properly used, under the keen observation and guidance of a Teacher, any student of Yoga will find the real value and benefit that Yoga Stands for.


6. Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga Pranayama as found in Lino Miele's book, 'Ashtanga Yoga'.

Unlike the asana vinyasa descriptions, I've tended to find the presentation of the Pranayama instructions in Lino's book confusing and impossible (for me anyway ) to follow. I've been meaning to lay them out in a clearer, easer to follow form for years.

This was intended for my own use but thought I might as well share it with anyone else interested.

See the Pranayama page at the top of the blog for more on pranayama and different variations of the Ashtanga pranayama sequence, Derek Ireland's CD is my favourite.

My own Pranayama practice tends to be just as I was taught by Srivatsa Ramaswami, based on the use of a pranayama mantra.... but I still like to explore, especially the different variations of the Ashtanga pranayama sequence.

Print out practice sheets at bottom of post.

(please let me know if you pick up on any errors)

The First Pranayama 
(Recaka-Kumbhaka- pranayama or Puraka-kumbhaka-pranayama

Sit in padmasana making spinal chord erect, 
expanding the chest 
sit facing the east.


Part I
Inhale (puraka) and exhale (recaka) both nostrils - slowly, fully

remember your teacher, your own personal God

Part II ( with bandhas)
Do full Puraka and full Recaka

afterwards one must do  mulabandha and Uddiyanabandha

maintain bandhas

Part III (with Kumbhaka)
Again do a slow and full (dirgha) Puraka and Recaka.

Then one must do Kumbhaka (retaining the breath) for as long as comfortable.

Recaka (exhalation) with Kumbhaka
Slowly Puraka
Slowly Recaka
Kumbhaka (20 seconds)

repeat three times

Puraka (inhalation) with kumbhaka (engage jalandhara bandha)

Slowly Puraka
kumbhaka (30 seconds)
slowly Recaka

repeat three times

Part IV 
reckaka and puraka (without kumbhaka

repeat five times

NB: In this pranayama if the recaka- kumbhaka is done for 20 seconds then puraka kumbhaka is done for 30 seconds i.e. 2:3 ratio


The second pranayama 
Puraka-Recaka-pranayama (kumbhaka after both recaka and puraka)

Part I
Inhale (puraka) and exhale (recaka) both nostrils - slowly, fully

remember your teacher, your own personal God

Part II ( with bandhas)
Do full Puraka and full Recaka

afterwards one must do  mulabandha and Uddiyanabandha

maintain bandhas

Part III
slowly puraka
kumbhaka (as many seconds as comfortable)
recaka (slowly, comfortably)

puraka- kumbhaka
recaka- kumbhaka

repeat three times


Part IV reckaka and puraka (without kumbhaka

slowly puraka
slowly recaka

repeat five times

The Third pranayama
(nadi shodana)
Samavrtti and Visamavrtti pranayama or Anuloma and Viloma pranayama
Inhale through both nostrils

Do sankha-mudra ?
(does he mean vishnu mudra below, the usual mudra for nadi shodana)

close right nostril (with tip of thumb high up on nostril), exhale left nostril
Part 1 - Samavritti pranayama

close left, inhale right
( as many seconds as is comfortable)

close right, exhale left
(same length as in recaka-kumbhaka above)

inhale leftkumbhaka
(Same period of time)

exhale right - kumbhaka

inhale right - kumbhaka

exhale left - kumbhaka

inhale left - kumbhaka

exhale right - kumbhaka

inhale right  - kumbhaka

exhale left  - kumbhaka
moving into
 Part II Visamavrtti pranayama

inhale right - kumbhaka
exhale right - kumbhaka

inhale right - kumbhaka

exhale right kumbhaka

inhale right - kumbhaka

exhale right - kumbhaka

inhale right - kumbhaka

exhale left - kumbhaka

inhale left - kumbhaka

exhale left - kumbhaka

inhale left - kumbhaka

exhale left - kumbhaka

inhale left

exhale left - kumbhaka

inhale left - kumbhaka

finish with...
exhale right - kumbhaka

inhale right

exhale left


= 26 Recaka-Kumbhaka and puraka-kumbhaka
same number of both

bandhas as proscribed in first three pranayamas
One can increase the number of seconds by practice

Bhastrika pranayama
(Bellows breath)

Sit in padmasana in erect position

inhale (fully), 
tighten Mulabandha, draw up diaphragm (uddiyanabandha)

5x long, slow, full inhalation and exhalation

full inhalation
hold feet (which are in padmasana ) such that the heels press both sides of navel

exhale rapidly and inhale rapidly ( like a bellows pressed by a smith)

When you feel tired or exhausted

exhale fully
inhale fully
kumbhaka ( as long as is comfortable)

exhale slowly
inhale deeply

Repeat bhastrika

When you feel tired or exhausted

exhale fully
inhale fully
kumbhaka ( as long as is comfortable)

Repeat bhastrika

When you feel tired or exhausted

exhale fully
inhale fully
kumbhaka ( as long as is comfortable)

after this, (the third time)




Practice sheets

7. BNS Iyengar Ashtanga pranayama ( as taught to him by T. Krishnamacharya).

Sadhana Yoga: Life&Yoga into Yoga into Life


The Eleven-Step Prāṇāyāma System Instructional Manual As taught by BNS Iyengar

Written by SchoolYoga Institute


In this section, conscious breathing is referred to as prāṇāyāma. The theory and practice of prāṇāyāma is discussed.
The director of Vinyasa Ashtanga Patanjala Yogashala, Mysore India, BNS Iyengar learned Ashtanga Vinyasa system and Prāṇāyāma system from his guruji, Krisnamacharya who taught royal family members and other influential yogis in the 1920’s.
The Eleven-Step Prāṇāyāma System—Step-by-Step taught by Guruji BNS Iyengar to his stu- dents. This system has been video-taped in January 2004 and edited by Ping Luo, director of SchoolYoga Institute, in the forms of DVD and Instruction Manual. No content of this sys- tem can be reprinted or copied without permission from the SchoolYoga Institute as a mutual agreement between Guruji BNS Iyengar and SchoolYoga Institute.
The DVD starts with Guruji’s brief introduction to prāṇāyāma and his Prāṇāyāma System. It then follows with 11 steps of demonstration and explanation from easy to difficult. It ends with discussion on Yoga philosophy in general.
The Instructional Manual provides a brief introduction to prāṇāyāma based on Guruji’s teach- ing and then follows with step by step instruction on each of the 11 steps of the prāṇāyāma system.
Definition of Prāṇāyāma
Prana is life force and cosmic energy and yama is regulation and restraint. Prāṇāyāma is the art of breathing; it leads to a control of the mind in a result of emotional stability, concentration, and meditative stage. Prāṇāyāma bridges the mind, body, and soul and serves as a vehicle to a journey of self realization: a state of joy and happiness.
The grossest manifestation of prana in the human body is the motion of the lungs. This motion acts like a flywheel that sets other forces of the body in motion. The practice of prāṇāyāma is to control the motion of the lungs, by which the prana is controlled. When the subtle prana is controlled, all gross manifestation of prana in the physical body will slowly come under con- trol. When we concentrate and consciously regulate the breathing, we are able to generate and store a greater amount of prana and energy. The person who has abundant pranic energy radi- ates vitality and strength. This can be felt by all who come into contact with him or her.

Pranayama 129
In Patanjali’s 195 Sanskrit sutra, he described Ashtanga as eight limbs yoga. The eight limbs are the yama, niyama, prāṇāyāma, āsana, pratyāhāra, dhāraṇā, dhyāna, and samādhi which had been practiced in India long before Patanjali composed his yoga sutra. In the system of Ashtanga yoga, prāṇāyāma, the third limb, is practiced to make breath long, deep, subtle, and meditative. Like other limbs it prepares practitioners to the state of samādhi. A consistent practice of prāṇāyāma, especially at the final phase of BNS Iyen- gar Prāṇāyāma System for 46 days leads to awaken kundalini shakti according to BNS Iyengar’s teaching.
Mechanically, prāṇāyāma consists of inhalation (puraka), exhalation (rechaka), and re- tention (kumbhaka). The subtle control of the three parts requires practice and dedica- tion. It leads to life longevity due to slower breath according to BNS Iyengar.
Preparation for Prāṇāyāma
Find yourself in a comfortable sitting pose, padmasana (lotus), bhadrasana (half lotus), swasticasana (cross-legged), virasana (hero pose), sitting on a chair with feet flat on the floor and upper legs parallel to the floor, or laying down on the floor (savasana) with a straight back, and tuck in the forefinger and middle finger of your right hand. Use the right thumb to control your right nostril and right ring finger and pinky to control your left nostril. Guruji explains the purpose of this hand mudra; when we practice prāṇāyāma there is nothing to do with our inner soul (index finger) and our intellect (middle finger) so these two fingers are tucked away while we make a connection between our super soul (thumb) and body (ring finger) and mind (pinky).
Breath Awareness
Have students sit, stand, lay down facing up, or be in any postures and ask them to breathe slowly and consciously. Then direct students attention to the following:
  • Feel the rising and falling of the abdomen
  • Feel the rising and falling of the chest
  • Be aware of long, deep, and subtle inhalations and exhalations
  • Be aware of cool air entering into the nostrils, throat, and lungs and the warm air
    exiting from the lungs, throat, and nostrils
  • Be aware of rising energy or prana from the bottom of the spine to the crown of the
  • Feel aliveness of body parts, hands, fingers, arms, and legs
  • Feel the energy radiate to every part of the body
  • Breathe in long and deep and breathe out even longer and deeper
  • Breathe in long and deep, hold the breath for a few seconds, and breathe out long
    and deep, hold the breath for a few seconds.
Abdominal Breathing
Have students, in any comfortable postures, be aware of breathing. Encourage students to make full use of the diaphragm by drawing air into the lowest and largest part of the lungs. As students inhale, ask them to be aware that the abdomen is rising. As they exhale, the abdomen is falling. The verbal instruction can follow: “Inhale: abdomen or belly in. Exhale: the abdomen or belly out.” Make a note that in Sivananda based Hatha Flow āsana practice, abdomen breathing is used throughout.
Full Yogic Breath
In the full yogic breath, inhalation happens in three stages. First, the diaphragm moves down- wards into the abdomen, drawing air into the lowest part of the lungs. Then the intercostal muscles expand the rib cage and pull air into the middle part of the lungs. Lastly, air comes into the upper part of chest, as called clavicular breathing.
Sit in a cross-legged position. Inhale slowly, feel the abdomen expand first, then the rib cage, and finally feel the air fill the upper chest. As you exhale, the air leaves the lower lung first, then the middle, and lastly the top part.
Kapalabhati—“shining skull” or “fierce breath”
Kapalabhati is considered to be so cleansing to the entire system that, when practiced on a regular basis the practitioner’s face shines with good health and radiance.
  1. Sit in a cross-legged position, with your back straight and your head and spine erect. Take 2-3 deep abdominal breaths to prepare.
  2. Contract the abdominal muscles, allowing the diaphragm to move up into the thoracic cavity, and push the air out of the lung forcefully.
  3. Passive inhalation takes place after deep and forceful contraction. The lungs automatically expand and inflate with air. Do not force the inhalation.
  4. Continuously repeat the pumping quickly and follow with passive inhalation until a round is completed.
  5. At the end of each round allow 2-3 full yogic breaths, then hold breath for 30 seconds or up to 2 minutes.
  6. Beginners start with 3 rounds with 20-30 pumps each and gradually increase to 5 rounds of 50-120 pumps.
Anuloma Viloma—Alternate Nostril Breathing
The exercise helps calm the mind, making it lucid and steady, preparing for meditation. It puri- fies the nadis and practicing it helps store and control prana, vital energy. It balances the psy- chic system and makes the body light and the eyes shiny. It strengthens and cleanses the entire respiratory system. It helps balance the hemispheres of the brain. Because the breath naturally alternates between the two nostrils, changing approximately every 2 hours, practicing anuloma viloma helps balance “hot” sun-like right nostril and “cool” moon-like left nostril.
1. Sit cross-legged with your back straight and head and spine erect. Position your left hand in chin mudra (index finger touches middle finger) and your right hand in Vishnu mudra (index and middle fingers fold into the palm while the thumb, ring finger, and pinky extend). Breath deeply for 2-3 breaths.
  1. Inhale through both nostrils and bring the right hand to the nose and close the right nostril with the right thumb.
  2. Exhale with the left nostril slowly and completely for 8 counts/seconds.
  3. Inhale with the left nostril deeply for 4 counts/seconds.
  4. Retain the breath with both nostrils closed with thumb and ring finger for 16 counts/ seconds.
  5. Exhale with the right nostril for 8 counts/seconds
  6. Inhale with the right nostril for 4 counts/seconds
  7. Retain the breath for 16 counts/seconds
Repeat the same process for at least three rounds up to 10 rounds a day. As students be- come more advanced the “count” of the exercise may be increased, but always in a ratio of 1-4-2, e.g., 4-16-8, 5-20-10, 6-24-12, 7-28-14, 8-32-16.
Breathing exercises are the practices to purify and strengthen the physical body as well as to calm the mind. Steady practice of prāṇāyāma arouses the inner spiritual force and brings ecstatic joy, spiritual light, and peace of mind. The body becomes strong and healthy, the voice becomes sweet and melodious, the nadis purify, and the mind becomes one-pointed and prepared for dhāraṇā and dhyāna.
Here we start to introduce bandhas as an integral part of and an essential part of advanced prāṇāyāma practice. They are practiced in order to awaken the potential psychic energy known as kundalini, which is said to reside in a coiled, dormant state at the base of the spine. The bandhas regulate the flow of prana (life force) within subtle energy channels known as nadis. Bandhas are a series of internal energy gates or centers within the subtle body which assists in the regulation of pranic flow.
The word bandha means lock. Bandhas are used along with mudras to lock and to seal the prana into certain areas. When engaging in locks (holding the bandhas) energy is forced to flow through these pathways. We are then able to assimilate this energy on a cellular level as the prana bathes and feeds our subtle body and balances the gross nervous system. The three bandhas are applied in the advanced prāṇāyāma practice are discussed here. They are moola bandha, uddiyana bandha, and jalandhara bandha.
Jalandhara bandha and uddiyana bandha are engaged simultaneously during breath re- tention and this unites prana and apana. Engaging all three bandhas simultaneously is called mahabandha.
1. Moola Bandha is the root lock and is located at the base of the spinal column. In males the seat of the moola bandha is the perineal muscle which is located in front of the anus and behind the genitals. In females it is located near the top of the cervix. A good way to understand the location is to hold the urge to urinate.
When first practicing moola bandha consciously and gently contract the anus in order to engage the appropriate area. After you practice for awhile you will only engage the necessary muscle.
2. Uddiyana Bandha is located two inches below the navel. To engage the uddiyana bandha exhale fully and draw the intestines and the navel up towards the back so that the abdomen rests against the back of the body high in the thoracic cavity.
3. Jalandhara Bandha is the chin lock. To engage the bandha extend the chin forward and then draw it back into the notch which is formed where the two clavicle bones meet: at the bony protrusions below the Adam’s apple. Place the top of the tongue flat against the roof of the mouth and slide it back so that a vacuum is created in the back of the throat. At the same time press the chin firmly against the chest.
  1. With your right hand in Vishnu mutra, close your left nostril.
  2. Inhale through your right nostril.
  3. Close both nostrils and retain your breath while applying jalandhara bandha, moola bandha, and uddiyana bandha.
  4. Hold your breath as long as it is comfortable.
  5. Release the head and release the bandhas.
  6. Exhale through the left nostril. This is the end of one round.
Repeat up to 20 rounds.
Ujjayi is also called victorious breath. This unique form of breathing is performed by creating a soft sound in the back of throat while inhalating and exhalating through the nose. The swirling action is what creates the unique sound which has been described as wind in the trees, a distant ocean, and a cobra snake.
  1. Sit in the meditative position and close your mouth.
  2. Inhale through both nostrils in a smooth uniform manner while partially closing the epiglottis in order to produce a soft sobbing sound of a sweet and uniform pitch.
  3. At the end of inhalation close both your nostrils with your right hand in vishnu mudra and apply moola bandha and jalandhara bandha while holding your breath.
    4. Exhale with the left nostril. 
    5. Then inhale through the right nostril. This is end of one round. Repeat up to 20 rounds.


Sitkari purifies the blood, quenches the thirst, and cools the system.

1. Touch the tip of your tongue to the upper palate. 2. Inhale through your mouth.

3. Exhale through both of your nostrils.


Sitali purifies the blood, quenches the thirst, and cools the system. 1. Fold your tongue into a tube and protrude it between your lips. 2. Inhale through your mouth.

3. Exhale through both of your nostrils.

Kapalabhati and bhastrika may appear similar; however, in kapalabhati only the dia- phragm is used. In bhastrika the entire respiratory system is brought into play.
  1. Perform 10 and up to 30 rapid expulsions followed by a deep inhalation.
  2. Hold your breath and apply moola bandha and jalandhara bandha with your right hand in vishnu mudra.
  3. Exhale through your left nostril. This is the end of one round
Repeat up to 10 rounds. Brahmari
1. Inhale through the nose; producing a snoring sound.
2. Exhale to produce a humming sound. Repeat up to 10 rounds.

Phase One—1/1 (Alternation of Nostrils with Rechaka/Puraka)) Prepare for prāṇāyāma

  1. Inhale through both of your nostrils.
  2. Exhale through your left nostril long and deep (close your right nostril with your right thumb, let go of impurity via your left nostril, Guruji emphasized this all the time).
  3. Inhale through your left nostril.
  4. Exhale through your right nostril.
  5. Inhale through your right nostril.
  6. Repeat steps 2-5 two more times.
  7. Exhale through your left nostril.
  8. This above process (1-7) completes 1 cycle and continues for a total of 12 cycles.
Take a few natural breaths after each circle and make sure to use chips for counting purpose (12 chips).
Phase Two—1/1/1 (Alternation of Nostrils with Puraka/Rechaka/Kumbhaka)
Prepare for prāṇāyāma
  1. Inhale through both of your nostrils.
  2. Exhale through your left nostril long and deep (close your right nostril with your right thumb, let go of impurity via your left nostril, Guruji emphasized this all the time).
  3. Inhale through your left nostril.
  4. Retain the breath.
  5. Exhale through your right nostril.
  6. Inhale through your right nostril.
  7. Retain the breath.
  8. Repeat steps 2-7 two more times.
  9. Exhale through your left nostril.
10. This above process (1-9) completes one cycle and continues for a total of 12 cycles.
Take a few natural breaths after each circle and make sure to use chips for counting purposes

Phase Three—12/12/12 (Alternation of Nostrils with Puraka/Rechaka/Kumb- haka)
Prepare for prāṇāyāma
  1. Inhale through both of your nostrils.
  2. Exhale through your left nostril long and deep (close your right nostril with your right thumb, let go of impurity via left nostril, Guruji emphasized this all the time).
  3. Inhale through your left nostril for 12 counts.
  4. Retain the breath for 12 counts.
  5. Exhale through your right nostril for 12 counts.
  6. Inhale through your right nostril for 12 counts.
  7. Retain the breath for 12 counts.
  8. Repeat steps 2-7 two more times.
  9. Exhale through your left nostril.
    10. This above process (1-9) completes 1 cycle and continues for a total of 12 cycles.
Take a few natural breaths after each circle and make sure to use chips for counting purposes (12 chips).

Phase Four—15/15/15 (Alternation of Nostrils with Puraka/Rechaka/Kumbhaka)
Prepare for prāṇāyāma
  1. Inhale through both of your nostrils.
  2. Exhale through your left nostril long and deep (close your right nostril with your right thumb, let go of impurity via your left nostril, Guruji emphasized this all the time).
  3. Inhale through your left nostril for 15 counts.
  4. Retain your breath for 15 counts.
  5. Exhale through your right nostril for 15 counts.
  6. Inhale through your right nostril for 15 counts.
  7. Retain the breath for 15 counts.
    8. Repeat steps 2-7 two more times.
    9. Exhale through your left nostril.
    10. This above process (1-9) completes 1 cycle and continues for a total of 12 cycles.
Take a few natural breaths after each cycle and make sure to use chips for counting purposes (12 chips).
Phase Five—Sitali and Sitakari (cooling) Prāṇāyāma
This prāṇāyāma inhalation is completed through the mouth only, without jalandhara bandha. Prepare for prāṇāyāma with both hands on the knees

1. Inhale with curled tongue (U shape) long and deep. 2. Exhale for 12 counts using Ujjayi breath.

3. Repeat steps 1-2 for 12 cycles

Take a few natural breaths after each cycle and make sure to use chips for counting purposes (12 chips).
Phase Six—Bhastrika and Kapalabhati (fierce) Prāṇāyāma
Bhastrika means blow. Air is forcibly drawn in and out rhythmically. The sound is like that made by a blacksmith’s bellows.

Prepare for prāṇāyāma with both hands on the knees

1. Inhale and exhale quickly and soundly for 4-30 blows. 2. Retain the breath briefly.

3. Exhale slowly.

4. Take a few slow and deep ujjayi breaths.

5. Repeat steps 1-4 for 12 cycles.

Take a few natural breaths after each cycle and make sure to use chips for counting purposes (12 chips).
Phase Seven—18/18/18 (Alternation of Nostrils with Puraka/Rechaka/Kumbhaka)
Prepare for prāṇāyāma

1. Inhale through both of your nostrils.
2. Exhale through your left nostril long and deep (close your right nostril with your right thumb, let go of impurity via your left nostril, Guruji emphasized this all the time)
3. Inhale through your left nostril for 18 counts. 
4. Retain the breath for 18 counts.
5. Exhale through your right nostril for 18 counts. 6. Inhale through your right nostril for 18 counts. 7. Retain the breath for 18 counts.
8. Repeat steps 2-7 two more times
9. Finish with Exhale through left nostril
10. This above process (1-9) completes 1 cycle and continues for a total of 12 cycles.
Take a few natural breaths after each cycle and make sure to use chips for counting pur- poses (12 chips).
Phase Eight—18/18/24 (Alternation of Nostrils with Puraka/Rechaka/Kumbhaka)
Prepare for prāṇāyāma
  1. Inhale through both of your nostrils.
  2. Exhale through your left nostril long and deep (close your right nostril with your right thumb, let go of impurity via your left nostril, Guruji emphasized this all the time).
  3. Inhale through your left nostril for 18 counts.
  4. Retain the breath for 24 counts.
  5. Exhale through your right nostril for 18 counts.
  6. Inhale through your right nostril for 18 counts.
  7. Retain the breath for 24 counts.
  8. Repeat steps 2-7 two more times.
  9. Exhale through your left nostril.
10. This above process (1-9) completes 1 cycle and continues for a total of 12 cycles
Take a few natural breaths after each cycle and make sure to use chips for counting purposes (12 chips).

Phase Nine—18/18/30 (Alternation of Nostrils with Puraka/Rechaka/Kumbhaka)
Prepare for prāṇāyāma
  1. Inhale through both of your nostrils
  2. Exhale through your left nostril long and deep (close your right nostril with your right thumb, let go of impurity via your left nostril, Guruji emphasized this all the time).
  3. Inhale through your left nostril for 18 counts.
  4. Retain the breath for 30 counts.
  5. Exhale through your right nostril for 18 counts.
  6. Inhale through your right nostril for 18 counts.
  7. Retain the breath for 30 counts.
  8. Repeat steps 2-7 two more times.
  9. Exhale through your left nostrils
10. This above process (1-9) completes 1 cycle and continues for a total of 12 cycles.
Take a few natural breaths after each cycle and make sure to use chips for counting purposes (12 chips).
Phase Ten—24/24/24 (Alternation of Nostrils with Puraka/Rechaka/Kumbhaka)
Prepare for prāṇāyāma.
  1. Inhale through both of your nostrils.
  2. Exhale through your left nostril long and deep (close your right nostril with your right thumb, let go of impurity via your left nostril, Guruji emphasized this all the time).
  3. Inhale through your left nostril for 24 counts.
  4. Retain the breath for 24 counts.
  5. Exhale through your right nostril for 24 counts.
  6. Inhale through your right nostril for 24 counts.
  7. Retain the breath for 24 counts.
  8. Repeat steps 2-7 two more times.
  9. Exhale through your left nostril.
10. This above process (1-9) completes 1 cycle and continues for a total of 12 cycles
Pranayama 139
Take a few natural breaths after each cycle and make sure to use chips for counting pur- poses (12 chips).
Phase Eleven—24/24/30 (Alternation of Nostrils with Puraka/Rechaka/Kumb- haka)
Prepare for prāṇāyāma
  1. Inhale through both of your nostrils.
  2. Exhale through your left nostril long and deep (close your right nostril with your right thumb, let go of impurity via your left nostril, Guruji emphasized this all the time).
  3. Inhale through your left nostril for 24 counts.
  4. Retain the breath for 30 counts.
  5. Exhale through your right nostril for 24 counts.
  6. Inhale through your right nostril for 24 counts.
  7. Retain the breath for 30 counts.
  8. Repeat steps 2-7 two more times.
  9. Exhale through your left nostril.
10. This above process (1-9) completes 1 cycle and continues for a total of 12 cycles
Take a few natural breaths after each cycle and make sure to use chips for counting pur- poses (12 chips). 


Friday, 26 September 2014

Krishnamacharya's Personal Pranayama practice? 

If you were Krishnamacharya, if you had spent 80 odd years, pretty much your whole life, studying, practising and later teaching yoga, reading all the ancient texts, all the different approaches to practice in the original sanskrit; how would you yourself practice?

What for example would your own personal pranayama practice be like?

Last year I picked up the Original French version of Emergence of yoga, written by Krishnamacharyas 3rd son T. K. Sribhashyam.

My Review here

I took the section on Krishnamacharya's own practice ( apercu (overview?) in French, translated as 'Insight' in the English edition) and turned them into practice sheets and have been practicing them off and on all year

....along with the life saving session, presented as an example of Krishnamacharya's personal practice in the Movie Breath of Gods.

There's a section in Emergence of Yoga titled 'Insight into my Father's practice session', I can't decide if 'insight' here means actual practices of Krishnamacharya as observed by the son or notes written down by the father, or practice sessions that are pretty much the kind of approach and content Krishnamacharya was taking at the time, after a lifetime of study and practice.

Nestled in amongst the integrated asana and pranayama practices is this example of a pranayama session. The book actually has a small chapter containing eleven other pranayama practice sessions. I don't remember this particular Pranayama session being in the original French version, I gave my copy away when the English edition came out so can't check.

It's a pleasure to practice, a nice mixture of pranayama's and I particularly like the employment of mantra's.

Ramaswami taught us to mentally recite a pranayama mantra built on the Gayatri in the kumbhaka after the inhalation, they are employed at each stage of the pranayama, mentally recite the Gayatri once on the inhalation, four times on the kumbhaka and twice during the exhalation.

I had the Krishnamacharya practice sheets I'd made up last year with me in Crete and practiced them after leaving Rethymno for Agios pavlos, I was looking forward to getting my hands back on the book after I arrived in Japan (I'd shipped my books over). Since arriving I've started working through all the examples of General practice in the order they're presented in the book. Sri Sribhashyam mentions that they are presented pedagogically and it's interesting to see how he's introducing the different elements of practice, alternatives to certain asana (sirsasana for example) more challenging asana, the Kumbhaka's (breath retentions) length of stay, the focal points (fascinating) and here, with Krishnamacharya's own practice, employment of mantra. The same goes for the pranayama chapter, they build up. If you find Krishnamacharya's pranayama session below too challenging for now then you can start with the first couple of pranayama's presented in the book.

The pranayama session nestled in amongst the integrated asana and pranayama practice sessions.

Difficult to read the small print?

Gayathri Mantra

Oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ
tát savitúr váreṇ(i)yaṃ
bhárgo devásya dhīmahi
dhíyo yó naḥ prachodáyāt

Narayana Gayathri Mantra

Aum Naaraayanaaya Vidmahe
Vaasu-dhevaya Dhimahee
Thanno Naaraayana Prachodayath

And because the Krishnamacharya Pranayama session above is quite involved here are the first two sessions from the Pranayama chapter in the book..


A link to my own adapted version of Krishnamacharya's "life saving practice' from last year, including a video.


9. Notes on Pranayama in the 1941 first edition of Yogasanagalu

A curious photo of Krishnamacharya seemingly practicing nadi sodhana while standing ( or is he merely demonstrating the mdura). in the text he mentions that pranayama should only be practiced whil in a suitable seated posture ( which might include the kneeling vajrasana)


First series requires many yogasanas and some pranayama
Second series needs some easy asanas and three pranayamas
Third series requires pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi
Later a table is shown that includes these.


Yoga practitioners must perform pranayama on an individual basis. However, yogasanas can be performed individually or as a group.

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 expectancy, 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.

Slowly and deeply Inhaling through both nostrils (puraka) while creating a sound in the back of the throat, hold (as per one’s ability) and then exhale (rechaka) through the right nostril.  After this, as before, puraka and kumbhaka and then exhale through the left nostril. Afterwards Puraka.  This increases appetite, improves digestive fire and cleanses the bile ducts.


Folding the tip of the tongue  like a boat and pushing it out about half an inch in front of the puckered lips, keeping it tight as per ability, perform puraka and kumbhaka through the boat shaped tounge.  During kumbhaka, the tongue must be withdrwan inside the mouth. Rechaka procedure is similar to that of Ujjayi pranayama.  

During exhalation (rechaka) phase of the second and third pranayama, hand and finger positions must be held as described in suryabhedana pranayama.

This reduces thirst, heat in the head, chest pain and vertigo. 


10. Final chapter from Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu (3rd edition 1972) Part II Pranayam

Many of my old students from Kannada land are requesting me to write about pranayama practice for propagation.  Therefore, I’m writing about it.  Since the current generation are developing a keen sense of intellect:

अनन्तं पारं बहुवेदितव्यं अल्पस्च कालः बहवस्च विघ्नाः।
यत् सारभूतं तत् उपाददीतहंसो यथा क्षीरमिवांबु मिश्रं॥

As per this saying from a great man, since it is impossible to write about innumerable varieties of “pranayama”, I’m only going to write about three important one according to my Guru’s teachings.

1 ) Nadishodhana, 2) Ujjayi and 3) Sheetali are the most important ones.  These can be practiced by both men and women.  The first one purifies the blood and blood vessels.  The second one purifies the gut and the lungs, eliminates phlegm and provides good sleep. The third one eliminates poisons from nadis (channels), nodules, internal receptacles and joints and helps keep the body temperature in equilibrium.  Cures indigestion, improves life-span, energy and memory. These benefits are obtained from all three types of pranayama.

However, those who want to practice pranayama must be proficient mainly in shirshasana, sarvangasana, mahamudra and baddha padmasana.  They must also be be practicing brahmacharya, pativratya (faithful in relations), consuming satvic food, and practice japa and meditation with faith. From time immemorial, vedas, sutras, puranas and prose and poetry have been advertised in different times.  In Kruta yuga (time period) the dharma of mental psychology and yoga dharma was propagated through the vedas, in Dwapara yuga through vedas and sutras, in Treta yuga via the medium of vedas, sutras and puranas.  In Kali yuga (current period), vedas, sutras, puranas, prose and poetic medium is being utilized for the propagation of yoga dharma.  These prose and poetry are called smrutis, bhashyas  and suktis by people according to their custom.

If any dharma and custom is to be beneficial to society, it has to be written down as root manuscripts according to any civilization.  This is generally called law and justice.  Shouldn’t the yoga dharma be propagated by Indian’s in this period of Kali yuga by way of sutra, purana, prose and poetry?

After contemplating on all this, in order to bring out the essence, the great saint Sri Bhagat Patanjali created yogasutras, Vyasa rishi generated bhashya in prose style in order to demonstrate the correct way for mankind.  In doing so, they deserved glory.  Similarly many great rishis have written yoga manuscripts.  Yoga related upanishads are also well known.  These are eternal, immemorial and momentous.

Many Kannada writers have also published yoga dharma manuscripts in Kannada language. The three types of pranayama practices mentioned before are also discussed in these kannada manuscripts. Those teachers who study these manuscripts and teach the public will protect the people.  Those who don’t will cause much harm.

Nadi shodana pranayama

Before learning to practice pranayama it is very important to know the meaning of classical terminology:

Pranayama: duration of breath
Rechaka:Exhalation of breath
Puraka: Inhalation of breath
Antahkumbhaka: Holding of breath after inhalation
Bahyahkumbhaka: Holding of breath after exhalation ( do not inhale immediately after exhalation)
Kumbhaka: Holding of breath

These four states of pranavayu must be long.  Then only it is called pranayama. In order to learn the limit of these duration, we have to know the differences. There are two types of pranayama called samavrutti and vishamavrutti.  Householders must use baddhapadma and siddhasana for others.

If the duration of rechaka, puraka and antahkumbhaka are the same, it is called samavrutti pranayama.  If there are differences, then it is called vishamavrutti pranayama.


Rechaka 5 seconds,  puraka 5 seconds,  antahkumbhaka 5 seconds, is called samavrutti pranayama. Start with 5 seconds and gradually increase to 20 seconds.  Maximum should be not more than 30 seconds.  All rechaka and puraka practice  (not for kumbhaka), must be subtle, slow, long and must be accompanied by remembrance of house holder deity and mantra.  One must not indulge in surprise or fear of 30 second duration.  By gradual increase it is possible to reach it in 3 months.  Power of prana is the basis of long lifespan.

In vishamavrutti pranayama, puraka 5 seconds, kumbhaka 20 seconds and rechaka 10 seconds.  Rechaka must be twice the length of puraka and kumbhaka 4 times.  Here know that kumbhaka is antahkumbhaka.  First start with samavrutti and only after we are adept in it, we should start vishamavrutti.  Otherwise, you may get chest pain.  Those who are unable to do vishamavrutti can only practice samavrutti.  The basic tenet of Patanjali, Upavarsha and Varshaganya rishis is that one must practice yoga with deep inhalations and exhalations.  Sit facing east or north direction.

If we examine the Rishi traditions, rechaka puraka and kumbhaka is performed while holding both sides of the nose just below the bony part using right fingers.

Starting from the right thumb fold the second and third fingers on the inside and extend and join the pinky fingers and the ring finger next to it and press the left nostril while holding the right nostril pressed with the right thumb.

Mrugee mudra

This position is called the “Mrugee mudra”.  While holding in this position, our palm is in the form of a deer face.  Therefore, the name.  By employing this hold, prana flows only in the targeted nadis (channels).  Nitya and Kamya are two types of pranayama.  Mrugee mudra is used for nitya pranayama while Hamsa mudra and Sookari mudra are used for Kamya pranayama.  No need to discuss these details.  Patanjala yoga sutra bhashya only mentions “pranayama” and does not discuss details or different types.  Please see “Yogamakaranda” and “Yoganjali” texts for more details.

While doing rechaka and puraka on the right side, left nostril must be pressed tightly and while doing rechaka, puraka on the left side, right nostril is pressed tightly.  During kumbhaka, both nostrils are held tightly using “Mrugee mudra”

Om Shantih Shantih Shantih


11. Kaivalyadhama School Pranayama

Four pages on developing a daily pranayama practice from the Kaivalyadhama school.
from this text The essence of Pranayama which of course includes more detail and explanation of cautions, preparations etc.

or better still read Kuvalayananda's own book on Pranayama from 1931 on Scribd - free download with trial subscription.

Note Krishnamacharya visited Kuvalayananda around the above book time this was written.


See also 
My Pranayama page inc. Srivatsa Ramaswami/Krishnamacharya approach as well as Tim Miller's presentation of the Ashtanga Pranayama sequence

My post on Derek Ireland Ashtanga Led Primary CD and Pranayama CD

My post on Manju Jois' pranayama videos- Pranayama techniques

My Preview / Review : David Garrigues' Vayu Siddhi, Pranayama DVD/book set

My post on Manju Jois' pranayama videos- Pranayama techniques

NOTE: I can't seem to find my old reviews of Richard Freeman's Pranayama cd and six part Pranayama course, I was planning on revisiting them anyway so expect a review in the near future, I'll add the link to this post.

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A Reminder

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


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