Seeds of Light Foundation
- YOGA AS A UNIVERSAL SCIENCE -
YOGASANA AND PRANAYAMA.
In the system of Yoga propounded by Patanjali, there is a gradual inward withdrawal and focussing of force for the purpose of achieving the universality of being, which is the establishment of the Purusha in himself. This system starts with the Yamas and the Niyamas which are disciplines connected, firstly, with the externalised form of consciousness in its movements in terms of social relationships, and secondly, with the externalisation of the very same consciousness in its relationship to the body. Now, a further step in the line of this practice takes the form of the discipline of the body itself. This practice is called the Asana.
The Yoga Asanas are so very well known, especially in these days, throughout the world practically, that they have almost tended to replace the purposes of Yoga proper, and many people imagine that the Yoga Asanas are themselves the goal of Yoga. This misconstruing of the significance of the Yoga Asanas is due to the excessive emphasis laid upon their practice, ignoring their more important utility in the internal discipline of the whole system for a nobler purpose. Yoga does not mean Yoga Asanas, though Yoga Asanas constitute a very important limb in the practice of Yoga. The necessity for this item of practice arises, because of our being vitally related to the bodily organism.
There are almost infinite relationships of consciousness in this world of space and time, and the primary form of the externalisation of consciousness is what is called the body-consciousness. In a gradual descent from its universal state, consciousness has come down lower and lower, gravitating towards greater and greater densities of expression, until it has become very heavy, laden with matter, almost getting identified with matter itself. That is body consciousness. We cannot help feeling that we are the body. We are nothing but that, we are only that! This is a very unfortunate state, because it is the worst of the states into which consciousness has descended. In this state, consciousness has lodged itself in matter, identified itself with it, become matter itself; it has sold itself into the form of the body.
subject has become the object in a literal fashion. To make matters worse,
it has moved further away from the consciousness of the body into the
diverse social relationships. All these diseased conditions of consciousness,
we may say, have to be taken into consideration in a hazy movement backwards
towards the state universal, which is the primary, pristine Purusha. Inasmuch
as the consciousness of the body is one of the levels of experience, one
of the stages into which consciousness has descended, and one of the stages
through which it has to pass in its ascent, the discipline of the body,
of the muscular and the nervous systems, is necessary in a very important
Difference Between Yogasanas and Physical Exercises
The exercises which go by the name of Yoga Asanas have attracted the attention of the people the world over for a very important reason. The outward games, especially of the western type, and the physical exercises have a marked difference from the aim of the practice of the Asanas. There is a tremendous difference between the intention behind the practice of the Yoga Asanas and the playing of games like cricket and football. There is an externalisation of energy in ordinary games, whereas there is an internalisation of energy in Yoga Asanas.
One gets exhausted after playing games but one feels energised after a session of Yoga Asanas. Strenuous physical exercise results in heavy breathing, perspiration and a rapid heart-beat; the breath gallops in external games. Nothing of the kind happens in the practice of Yoga Asanas. On the other hand, after Yoga Asanas, the breath is cooled down, calmed, and there is no violent beating of the heart as happens in the case of games, and there is neither perspiration nor exhaustion. There is a satisfaction, rather than a tiredness. These are some of the outer symptoms and indications which differentiate Yoga Asanas from the games of ordinary type.
Apart from this difference, the Yoga Asanas have spiritual connotation. Interpreted merely as another system of physical exercise, the Yoga Asanas may not appear to have any connection with spirituality. But, in truth, everything connected with Yoga is somehow or the other related to the intention of the spirit finally. This is the peculiarity of the culture of India. Everything has some connection with the spirit, even the least ritual of worship, and the smallest gesture of adoration, or study or practice. Because the culture of India has one great aim before it, namely, to spiritualise every activity; and, in this light, no work in the world should be there bereft of the element of the spirit.
even the Asana is a spiritual exercise, though one may not be able to
easily understand how a physical exercise can be regarded as spiritual.
Asana is spiritual, because of the intention behind its practice, the
purpose for which it is done, and the effect it produces on the mind particularly.
The Hatha Yoga system has an enumeration of many Asanas - eighty four,
mainly - all aiming at the bringing about of a flexibility in the various
parts of the body, so that there may not be any kind of undue pressure
exerted by any 'part or limb of the body causing pain, ache and discomfort.
Instead of the body controlling us, we have to control it. Generally,
we are controlled by the body, because it has its own idiosyncrasies and
predilections. The body aches when we do not attend to it according to
its requirements. But, if we have some sort of a restraint and control
over the functions of the body, it yields to our requirements, especially
when we want to be seated for a long time for meditation or Japa.
Training for Continuous Sitting in One Posture
The body cannot place itself in one particular posture for a long time. The body also cannot sit in one posture for a long time for a similar reason. Just as the mind is distracted due to its own desires, and therefore, cannot concentrate itself on any particular thing for a protracted period, the body too cannot sit in one posture, because it is fugitive, it is itching, it is restless. This restlessness of the body is caused by the restlessness of the Pranas, which again is due to the restlessness of the mind. The body, the mind and the Pranas are thus internally related, affecting one another in such a way that if anything happens to one, it is felt by the others. Though the physical exercises known as the Yoga Asanas run into a large number, the system of Patanjali pinpoints one particular exercise or Yoga Asana for a particular purpose.
Inasmuch as the purpose of Yoga Asanas is the higher reach of Yoga and not the Asana itself - the Asana is not an end in itself, but a means to a higher purpose - many types of physical postures are not prescribed, though they may be admitted and acquiesced in and permitted for some time so that the body may finally accustom itself to being seated in one posture for a long time. There is no objection to the performance of many Asanas. It is quite all right. But, the intention is not to go on doing them endlessly throughout one's life. The purpose is to discipline the body to such an extent that it can then sit in one posture only.
The definition of Asana given by Patanjali is very impersonal and he does not give it any particular name such as Sarvangasana or Sirshasana. His definition of Yogasana is psychological, rather than physical. Whatever posture is capable of yielding fixity of the system and is comfortable can be regarded as a suitable Yoga posture. This is a very generous definition of Yogasana with a broad coverage. But, when Patanjali says, "comfortable posture", it should be understood in its correct perspective. Many may regard the sleeping posture as the most comfortable, because when we are tired, we always lie down. But then, the comfort that is permitted by Patanjali is only in so far as it is in consonance with the requirement of Yoga, and sleep certainly cannot be regarded as one of the requirements. And therefore, while "comfortable posture" is what he mentions, he does not necessarily mean a posture that will tend to loss of consciousness as in sleep.
There are various positions which the body can assume. It can assume a standing position, a sitting position, or a lying down position. These are the three ways in which the body can be fixed. Now, inasmuch as Patanjali says that anything that is comfortable and conducive can be regarded as the necessary posture, we have to find out what is the best posture which will meet these requirements. It cannot be said that the standing posture is the comfortable one, because one cannot go on standing for a long time, inasmuch as the legs have to be supporting the whole body, and a part of the mind has to go to the legs in order that they may be able to support the body. If the mind is totally withdrawn from the legs, one may fall down. That is not the purpose of Yoga. So, the standing posture is certainly not suitable for meditation practice. The lying down posture is again not suitable, because one may slowly be induced to sleep.
neither standing nor lying down is suitable. It goes without saying that
the only other thing left out is the seated posture. How to sit? Here,
again, no details are given in the Sutra of Patanjali.
Yogasana - An Aid to Concentration
We have to read the meaning between the lines. Sthira-sukham asanam is the Sutra - that which is fixed and is comfortable is the posture. Just as we have to bear in mind the final intention of Yoga in anything that we do in this world, we have to bear the very same thing in our mind even in the practice of this posture. Concentration of the mind is the intention. Therefore, any seated posture which will help in the concentration of the mind should be regarded as that which is conducive and comfortable. It is a position comfortable. for the practice of concentration, which is permitted in the light of the aim of Yoga, and not just a position of ordinary physical comfort.
we are told that we have to be cautious in the selection of this physical
seated posture, because the body is connected to the muscles, the muscles
to the nerves, and the nerves to the mind; and so, whatever be the posture
we choose for ourselves for the purpose of Yoga, it has to bear a relationship
to the mind's purpose, which is meditation. Any kind of awkward position
of the body such as the leaning position, would also have an effect upon
the nerves and the muscles, and therefore indirectly upon the mind. A
harmonisation or balancing of forces is Yoga finally, and any crookedness
of the body, bending down or leaning backward or leaning sideways, would
not be helpful in the bringing about of a harmony in the nervous system
indirectly permitting the flow of the Pranas in a harmonious manner. If
we lean, bend or crouch, there will be a tendency to clogging of the Pranas
in the nervous system, and so we will feel the result of it in the form
of some sort of a discomfort. Therefore, usually it is said that one should
sit straight with the head, neck and spine in a straight line.
Effortlessness in Asana Practice
Now, this prescription of the straight line position of the body should not make one feel discomfort again, because it is clearly mentioned that the posture should be a comfortable one. One should not be conscious that one is sitting with some effort. Effortless should be the practice of the Asana. Prayatna-saithilya is a very important phrase or word that Patanjali uses in this connection. Effortless should be the Asana. It should not be done with effort because then it does not serve the purpose.
The Yoga student should not strain his nerves and get intensely conscious that he is sitting. The purpose of the meditation posture is to get rid of the consciousness of the body to the extent possible, not to intensify the body consciousness. The intention is not to be fixed in the idea of the body itself, but to be free from the idea of the body so that the balancing of the body will liberate, in some measure, the connection of the mind and the Pranas and the body. It is common knowledge that whenever we are balanced, either physically or nervously or mentally, we are less conscious of the body. When there is a balancing of thought, we do not think that we have a body at all; this is especially so when we are perfectly healthy.
Even children do not know that they have a body. They play, run about buoyantly, as if they are light spirits rather than heavy bodies. We become too much conscious of our body when we are ill and when there is something wrong somewhere in our system. If everything is perfectly all right and we are fully healthy, we may not be even aware that we are existing physically. But we are not always so healthy. We have some difficulty or the other, and therefore, we are aware that we have a body. The idea that we are the body has to be removed by the introduction of a system of balance gradually. It begins with the Asana.
So, while it is said that it has to be a seated posture with the spine straight, it does not mean that we should be conscious that the spine is straight. Usually, we never sit with the spine straight. We bend or kneel. Now, when we are told that we have to sit with the spine straight, and we try to sit straight, we become automatically conscious of our effort to sit straight. In the beginning, this consciousness cannot be avoided. But, there is a way in order that we may slowly get freed from this consciousness of our being in a posture. One may lean against a perpendicular wall. In the beginning this can be done and there is no objection. Because, when one leans against a perpendicular wall, one is to some extent seated straight, and there is no necessity to think that one is sitting like that. There is no conscious effort to sit straight while one sits leaning against a perpendicular wall. So, this can be continued for a long time, until one is able to be free from this need for a support like the wall; and it may take some months. Then one will feel relaxed and happy the moment one sits.
It is surprising how, even by sitting effortlessly in a comfortable posture, we feel a satisfaction from inside - from where it comes we cannot know. This satisfaction, this happiness, has come merely because of the balance. The balance that we speak of has some reference to the Sattva Guna. Wherever there is a balance of anything, there is some sort of a reflection of Sattva in some modicum. Because of the effortless seatedness of the body in a perfectly balanced way, there is a joy felt within on account of a sympathetic reaction of this balance, communicated to the nervous system and to the mind finally. The mind feels happy in an instant.
Generally, when we sit like this for Yoga, we are told that we may choose one or two or three or four of the usually prescribed postures of Yoga, or the meditation poses, known as Padmasana, Siddhasana, Sukhasana and so on. Here again, we have to remember that the posture should be effortless. It does not mean that we have to strain ourselves to sit in Padmasana with ache in the joints and in the knees. We can have other Asanas which may be more comfortable. The point to be borne in mind always is that we are not going to practise Yoga for the sake of the Asana, but we are going to practise the Asana for the sake of Yoga.
Padma, Siddha, Sukha and Svastika are generally the four types of seated posture suggested in the Yoga system, together with the other prescription that the spine, the neck and the head should be straight. Also, the practitioner should not have any kind of difficulty in maintaining the balance. Gradually the effort that is necessary to be seated should be relaxed. In the beginning, some sort of an effort is necessary. We know it very well. At the very outset we cannot be effortless, but later on, we have to be effortless. When the acrobat climbs on a wire in a circus, a certain amount of effort is necessary to place oneself in that balance. But, later on, it becomes effortless. When one sits on a bicycle, a little bit of effort is necessary to place oneself in balance. Afterwards the cycle carries the rider effortlessly. Prayatnasaithilyata is effortlessness of practice in the Asana. There should not be the slightest effort. The practice should be spontaneous. One should not feel pain. One should not be eager to change the position or get up. That should not be the case. At least for an hour one should sit, and one can begin with a lesser duration, say, half an hour or fifteen minutes.
Psychical Fixation in the Practice of Asana
There is another very important and interesting point that Patanjali mentions: Ananta-samapattibhyam. This is a term which has been interpreted in many ways by the commentators. 'Ananta-samapatti' is a term which literally means the acquirement of a mood of infinitude. This is a peculiar thing. We do not know what it actually means. What is the mood of infinitude? This is the pure literal translation. There are some orthodox interpreters who say that Ananta means the mythological snake or the cosmic serpent which is supposed to support the whole world with its thousands of hoods, concentrating itself on the fact of there being a huge world an its head in such a way that it maintains its balance without the least movement.
I remember an old lady telling me, when I was a small child, that earthquakes were caused by this great serpent changing the globe from one hood to another, whenever it got tired by keeping the whole earth on a particular hood for a long time. So, when a change took place, there was a shake. Well, this is a Puranic and mythological belief, and some commentators on this Sutra of Patanjali tell us that 'Ananta-samapatti' in this Sutra means the feeling of that position of balance and fixity which the Mahasesha, the cosmic serpent, maintains while he supports the world or the earth on his hoods. But, the other meaning of the word 'Ananta' is infinitude or an unending expansion. 'Anta' means limit, 'Ananta' means without limit. So, a limitlessness of attitude or mood is what is expected to be maintained. This seems to be a more rational meaning than the other mythological one. The idea of infinitude immediately brings about a fixity of the system. This seems to be like arguing in a circle sometimes, because the idea of infinitude cannot arise in the mind unless we are in a state of meditation; and we have not yet reached the state of meditation as we are still in the practice of Asana only. The Asana is for the sake of the attainment of that idea of infinitude which is presupposed already in the practice of the Asana.
This is the difficulty in understanding the real meaning of Patanjali's instruction. However, tentatively, we can take it in this way that the infinitude suggested here is not the infinitude in its reality, but, a psychological concept of infinitude which we can entertain even now, even before we enter into the higher stages of meditation and Samyama. We can have a psychological conception of endlessness. That is not a difficult thing for any one of us. Because, to think of a limit to anything is to think of finitude. We think of the vast space or the horizon, beyond which we cannot extend our mind; and we will find that our mind will stop thinking further as it has nothing to think beyond that.
We have gone to the farthest extent of the horizon, we think of the vast space, and we go on thinking of the space beyond millions of light-years away, and the mind stops thinking. It has nothing to think. There are no objects outside. This is a kind of psychological assumption of infinitude. When we think in this manner, we are fixed psychically in some way. And the psychic infinitude introduced into the system by the adoption of this method produces a sympathetic vibration in the nerves, a vibration which is communicated to the muscles and the body. So we feel happy. So, these seem to be some of the suggestions given by Patanjali in the Sutra Prayatna-saithilya ananta-samapattibhyam.
Even a mere sitting, without any thought whatsoever, for days, or even months, will help one much. At the very outset, it will be difficult for anyone to concentrate, even to chant a name. The mind will not be agreeable to any kind of concentration in the beginning. So, let there be no thinking. Let the mind think anything it likes. Let it go on wandering in a hundred and one ways. The Yoga student should not bother, but let him be seated, just seated. That itself is a great achievement. Even sitting is a great thing. One cannot sit like that for a long time. One should not imagine that sitting for two hours or three hours is an ordinary thing. It is an achievement by itself. It is a great thing. And, therefore, one can legitimately feel some satisfaction if he is able to sit at least for an hour without changing his posture. Then, gradually, like a good friend speaking to a friend, he may speak to his mind the sense organs and the Pranas about the purpose for which he sits.
which is the seated posture, is the real beginning of Yoga proper. Here
we enter into the true, real, proper court of Yoga, because man is essentially
a body and it is this idea that leaves him last. One may be rid of one's
connections with human society, but one cannot rid oneself of the idea
that one is a body. One may go away from the din and bustle of social
life to the top of a mountain, or into a desert area, or inside a cave,
but, one can never feel that one is not a body. It is a very difficult
imposition upon us, and therefore, the practice of Yoga begins in right
earnest, in its proper spirit, from the stage of Asana.
What Is Body-Consciousness?
The physical position maintained in the form of the Asana is coupled with the activity of the senses. We must know a little bit of what we are inside, apart from the mere fact that we appear to be bodies. We are bodies as we appear to be on the surface, but the body itself is a very complicated structure. It is made up of little bits of many things, like a building which has layers of bricks placed one over the other, and many other things besides, like plastering and girders. Likewise, the body is not one whole, indivisible being. It is a complex structure of bits of matter and forces which pump in energy to move it in a particular direction for a specified purpose.
The sense organs, such as the eyes and the ears, are inseparable from the body. We see with the eyes, we hear with the ears, we smell with the nose and so on. In fact, the body seems to be a kind of vehicle employed or utilised by the senses for their activities. The senses cannot work except through the body. Now, the whole of what we call the body may be said to be a bundle of sensations. What is the body but sensations? The idea of the body, the notion that one is the body, is nothing but a bundle of sensations grouped together into a heap in a concentrated form which goes by the name of the body. The sensations of colour, of sound, of smell, of taste and of touch, blending together in a concentrated focussing fashion, become body consciousness.
So, body consciousness is a very difficult thing again to understand. We sometimes may doubt whether we have a body at all except a heap of sensations. Minus these sensations, there cannot be a body. There are thinkers who believe that there is no solidity of the body, that it is only an illusion presented before us in a powerful manner, that we are deluded into the belief that the body is a solid substance which we touch and feel, while it is only a bundle of electric energy.
This is a very hard thing for us to understand and to accept, because we live in a very gross, prosaic world, where we have been brainwashed by the mind into the belief that the body is a hard substance, though theorists in physics, science and philosophy tell us that the so-called hardness is nothing but a sensation of touch.
So, Yoga takes us further inwardly into a subtler realm of practice and concentration, whereby we accommodate ourselves to the doctrine of our being bundles of sensations, rather than heaps of physical matter or even chemical substances. We are not astronomical pieces of matter, we are not bundles of chemical compounds. We are forces inside which jet themselves outward with a vehemence unspeakable, and this velocity of the forces is what makes us unconscious of our relationship to the internal layers of our system. The force with which the energy within us moves outward in the direction of space and time is so uncontrollable and impetuous that we are made unconscious of the connectedness of our personality to the higher layers of our being.
We are like people caught in the current of a flooded river, or a river that has burst the bounds and is rushing forth with a tremendous speed, like the Ganga in spate. It damages everything, breaks villages, brings down houses and destroys people. It can go anywhere and do anything because of the speed with which it moves. The speed with which the energies of our system move outwardly in terms of objects in space and in time is such that we are unconscious of what is happening. We are given a blow on our head by the velocity of the forces with such intensity that we become unconscious of what we are, and of our relationship to the higher levels of our being, and we are helplessly driven in any direction in which the energies move.
Yoga tells us that there is a necessity to restrain the force of these
sensations, the powers of the senses which project themselves outwardly
and drag the body in any, direction they like. This practice which follows
the seatedness of our body in a posture, an Asana, is known as Pranayama
and Pratyahara. To some extent, Pranayama and Pratyahara go together.
The bringing of the energies back to their source is the purpose of Pranayama
and Pratyahara so-called. Just as we have varieties of Asana in the Hatha
Yoga system, we have varieties of Pranayama also. Hatha Yoga concerns
itself principally with the practice of Asanas and Pranayama, and secondarily
Pranayama - Subduing the Vital Energy
Pranayama is the harmonisation of the breath or the vital force. Prana is the vital energy and the process of the subduing of its activities is known as Pranayama. The Pranas are the energies that propel themselves outwardly in terms of objects through the vehicle of the body, and they have a say of their own in the activity in which they are involved. They do not seek our permission. They do not ask us, "Where shall we move tomorrow?". They have already decided what to do and we have to accept the way in which they move. Thus, we carry on our activities in daily life as a matter of routine, helplessly driven, as it were, by the current of habit. But, to be subjected to a habit would be to be a slave of that habit. And Yoga is the mastery of the Pranas, the senses and the mind, and the gaining of a freedom from the slavish subjection of ourselves to their activities.
These are the technicalities of the discipline of the Prana, and Patanjali has something to say about all these things. Here again, as in the case of the Asanas, he does not go into the complicated technicalities of Hatha Yoga. He has some simple prescriptions, very psychological rather than physical, in their intention. The expulsion of the breath, the inhalation of the breath, and the retention of the breath are the three processes of breathing. We exhale, we inhale, or we retain. Nothing else can be done with the Pranas. Here, one has to say something as to what Prana is. Prana is not breath in its gross form. The air that we feel moving in and out through the nostrils cannot be identified with what is called the Prana. While the air that is pumped out or sucked in by force in exhalation and inhalation is inseparably connected with what we regard as the Prana, the two are not identical with each other, just as an effect produced by electricity cannot be regarded as electricity itself, though one cannot be separated from the other. A particular activity in a given direction made possible by the power of electricity is not the same as electricity.
Likewise is the Prana different from what we call the breathing process. The breathing process, the breath that one can feel in the form of air moving through the nostrils and working through the lungs, is an outward indication of the internal movement of the forces of vitality called the Pranas. Prana is vital energy. It is superior to air, superior even to the oxygen which activates the lungs. Therefore, the physiological activity of the body, the respiration, is to be regarded as an outward symptom of an internal activity of the Prana and not as the activity of the Prana itself. Because, in the system of psychological analysis conducted by Yoga, Prana is situated in the astral body and not in the physical body.
are three bodies - the physical, the astral, and the causal. The physical
body is what we study in physiology, but the astral body is not a part
of the physiological system; anatomy and physiology do not touch the astral
body. The astral body is also known as the subtle body, and in Sanskrit,
we call it the Sukshma Sarira, sometimes as the Linga Sarira. The Sukshma
Sarira or the subtle body has many details within itself. The Pranas,
the senses, the mind, the intellect are all in the subtle body. We may
say that the subtle body is only a name that we give to a conglomeration
of all these things - intellect, mind, senses and Pranas.
The Several Functions of the Prana
The Prana is energy movement. It is activity of the vital force and it works in many fashions. There are several functions of the Prana, and because it has several functions to perform, it is given different names in accordance with the nature of its activity. Just as we can have different designations to a person in terms of the work that he performs, and just as the designation may change when the function changes, but the person remains the same irrespective of the changes in designation, the Prana remains the same irrespective of its activities. But it has various activities. Among the many functions of Prana, five are important. Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana and Samana are the Sanskrit terms for the fivefold function of a single-bodied energy called the Prana. Prana is a general term for the total energy of the system, and it is called by five different names when it performs five different functions.
As the tradition goes, Prana is seated in the heart - Hridi Pranah. Gude Apanah: The Apana is situated in the anus or the anal region. Samano nahhimandale: Samana is situated in the region of the navel. Udanah kanthadesesyat: The Udana is situated in the area, or the region, of the throat. Vyanah sarvasarirangah: Vyana is an energy which moves throughout the body. Now, these activities of the Prana are connected with the functions of the body so-called. The expulsion of the breath, or the exhalation of the breathing process, is conducted by the Prana. When we breathe out, the Prana comes out with force in some way. When we breathe in, the Apana works. When functions such as digestion of the food that we eat are carried on, the Samana works in the centre of the navel. The deglutition or swallowing of anything that we eat is helped by the functions of the Udana in the throat; Udana is also said to be responsible for the final isolation or separation of the astral body from the physical body at the time of death. It is also said to be responsible for taking us to sleep when we are tired or exhausted. Vyana is that force which circulates throughout the body and is responsible for the movement of the blood-stream through the arteries and the veins, and also it is the power that moves the oxygen that we take in through the capillaries of the lungs.
These names of the single Prana, therefore, refer to the functions of the Prana. Though, in the principal sense, we may say that it is one whole energy which ramifies itself like rays emanating from the sun in diverse directions, there are other functions of the Prana which are of a minor character, and according to the nature of these minor functions, apart from the ones mentioned already, the Prana assumes other names such as Naga, Kurma, Krikara, Devadatta and Dhananjaya.
To summarise: Prana is an energy, something like an electric force, we may say, but situated in the astral system, in the Sukshma Sarira. The whole Prana, in its totality, urges itself outwardly in space and time in the direction of objects of sense, and stimulates the sense objects. Even as we have the activities of the Prana in five major forms, the activities of the mind are carried on through the five senses in terms of objects outside. Sight, hearing smelling, tasting and touching are the five sensations. These are called the organs of sensation or the Jnanendriyas, because they bring some information to us, they give us knowledge. We gain conscious information from these five senses. Therefore we call them the Jnanendriyas or the senses of knowledge. There are senses of activity which are called the Karmendriyas. They are not identical with the senses of knowledge, because they are only functions in the form of a mere activity so-called, but they do not give us any additional knowledge. Grasping by the hand, locomotion by the feet, speaking through the tongue, and ejection through the genitals and through the anus are mainly the five activities of the set of organs called the Karmendriyas or senses of action.
So, we have ten senses in all, five of knowledge, and five of activity. We have the five forms of the functions of the Prana, and the senses and the Pranas work together in the daily activities of our life. The Pranayama process has a particular reference to the process of breathing - exhalation, inhalation and retention known as Rechaka, Puraka and Kumbhaka. We breathe out, breathe in, and retain the breath sometimes. Now, actually, by Pranayama in its essential meaning, what we are expected to understand is retention, and not merely breathing out or breathing in. The purpose of Pranayama is to retain the breath, and it can be retained after the exhalation or after the inhalation or suddenly without any consideration of the process of either exhalation or inhalation.
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