In the Yoga teaching, emphasis is placed upon the importance of alternate nostril breathing; that is in the using of first one nostril, and then the other, in the act of breathing, one nostril being "shut off' by the pressure of the finger to its side while the other one performs its function. It is only when the oriental teaching concerning the two currents of pranic energy, the Ida and the Pingala, are understood that one begins to get an inkling of the reason for the practice of this method. Let us consider this principle for a few moments.
I have shown you in the preceding chapter that the pingala, or right hand channel of the sushumna, carries the positive currents of pranic energy, and the ida, or left hand channel, carries the negative currents.
The Yogis teach that if one is tired and feels a need of renewed energy, he may obtain the desired strength by breathing through the pingala (right hand) nostril, for a few moments, shutting off the left hand nostril by the pressure of the forefinger tip to the side of the nostril. In this way, one obtains the benefits of the positive currents alone.
On the other hand, if one feels nervous, worried or under tension, and feels the need of calmness, poise, confidence, and harmony, he may obtain the desired effect by breathing through the ida (left hand) nostril, holding the other nostril closed as previously mentioned. In this way he obtains the benefit of the negative currents alone.
Let me emphasize the value of this alternate breathing technique to you as it is a very useful method in times of stress to secure strength and energy, or poise and rest.
The Yogis also teach that nature provides for mental, physical, and emotional balance in the individual by an involuntary shifting of the breath from one nostril to the other, in alternate measure, depending upon the hour of the day or night. They claim that at certain hours of the daily twenty-four, a person is found to be breathing chiefly through one particular nostril, the use of other being comparatively slight. Later on, at a succeeding hour, the process is found to be reversed, and the other nostril is now the active one.
Now, the Hindu magicians claim to have discovered that there are certain occult advantages to be gained by a voluntary practice of alternate breathing. In this way a correlated rhythmic activity is established which is productive of an alternate play of action and reaction between the positive and negative pranic currents. This, once developed produces a state of mental, physical, and emotional harmony which is accompanied by a state of mental, physical, and emotional strength and power.
As Parimal Bandhu explained it, "By the process of alternate breathing, we can control the various nerve currents that are running through the body. First, we begin by recognizing them, and then we slowly get control of them. The Yogis consider that there are three main currents of prana in the human body. One they call Ida, another Pingala, and the third Sushumna. Pingala is on the right side of the spinal column, the Ida is on the left side, and in the middle of the spinal column is the Sushumna, a vacant channel. Pingala and Ida are the currents operating in every man and woman, and through these curreny we perform the functions of life. Sushumna is likewise present in every person, as a possibility, but is in operation only in the Yogi and those of high psychical development. The aim of the magician is to achieve the ability of putting the Sushumna into operation, and the means of achieving this aim is through the science of Pranayma via the control of the breath.
"The method of Oriental Rhythmic Breathing for putting the Sushumna into operation is this: let the student practice breathing in a harmonious, rhythmical manner for a few days, following which he may begin the practice of alternate breathing in a special way. The right nostril is closed off, and the lungs are slowly filled through the Ida, the left nostril, at the same time concentrating the mind and visualizing the passing of the nerve current down the Ida (the left side of the spinal column) and striking on the last plexus, which is the seat of the Kundalini. Hold the current there for a short time, and then visualize slowly drawing that nerve current with the breath through the triangular shaped plexus to the other side of the spinal column (the Pingala side). At this point, release the right nostril and close off the left, and slowly exhale the breath through the right nostril as the current is visualized as passing up the Pingala (the right side of the spinal column).
"The process is now performed in reverse. In other words, while still closing off the left nostril inhale slowly thru the right nostril while visualizing the nerve current as passing down the Pingala to strike upon the right side of the
last plexus, passing through the Kundalini from right to left this time. Then close off the right nostril and release the left, and as you exhale through the left nostril visualize the nerve current as ascending up the Ida.
"Thus the process is continued alternating back and forth the breathing and the visualizing of the nerve currents, and is repeated as desired. It functions as a means of charging the Kundalini with Prana, causing "the serpent power" to stir and eventually rise and ascend the vacant channel of the Sushumna. Admitedly the technique is not easy, but this is the alternate rhythmic breathing method as practiced by the magicians, which combined with the proper concentration developes power."
Aside from its magicial uses, alternate breathing renews the human battery, and electrifies all the nerve currents of the body. It stimulates organic-functions to high activity, and brings well being and harmony to the individual. Here is a simple method of alternate breathing for this healthful purpose. Follow these seven points in the practice:
1 Assume a relaxed posture (asana).
2 Begin the exercise with a thorough breathing out (exhaling) of the air in your lungs using both nostrils.
3 Then, press your extended forefinger against the side of your right nostril, thus shutting off the inflow of air through it, and inhale deeply through your left nostril, counting 6 units during the inhalation.
4 Retain the breath in the lungs for 3 units.
5 Then press your finger against the side of your left nostril and release the right nostril, and exhale the breath slowly through it for 6 units.
6 Then while still maintaining pressure in shutting off the left nostril, inhale the breath slowly through the right nostril for 6 units.
7 Retain this breath in the lungs for 3 units. Then release the left nostril, close off the right, and exhale the breath slowly through the right nostril.
The process then begins all over, exhaling and inhaling through one nostril, and then the other, alternately, while always maintaing the count of 6 units in inhalation, 3 units in retention, and 6 units in exhalation.
Perform the exercise for only a few minutes at each session. Do not overdo it.
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