There are three types of Pranayama, viz., Adhama, Madhyama and Uttama (inferior, middle and superior). The Adhama Pranayama consists of 12 Matras, Madhyama consists of 24 Matras and the Uttama occupies a time of 32 Matras. This is for Puraka. The ratio between Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka is 1:4:2. Puraka is inhalation. Kumbhaka is retention. Rechaka is exhalation. If you inhale for a period of 12 Matras you will have to make Kumbhaka for a period of 48 Matras. Then the time for Rechaka will be 24 Matras. This is for Adhama Pranayama. The same rule will apply to the other two varieties. First, practise for a month Adhama Pranayama. Then practise Madhyama for three months. Then take up the Uttama variety.
Salute your Guru and Sri Ganesa as soon as you sit in the Asana. The time for Abhyasa is early morning 4 a.m., evening 4 p.m. and night 10 p.m. or 12 p.m. As you advance in practice you will have to do 320 Pranayamas daily.
Sagarbha Pranayama is that Pranayama, which is attended with mental Japa of any Mantra, either Gayatri or Om. It is one hundred times more powerful than the Agarbha Pranayama, which is plain and unattended with any Japa. Pranayama Siddhi depends upon the intensity of the efforts of the practitioner. An ardent enthusiastic student, with Parama Utsaha, Sahasa and Dridhata (zeal, cheerfulness and tenacity), can effect Siddhi (perfection) within six months; while a happy-go-lucky practitioner with Tandri and Alasya (drowsiness and laziness) will find no improvement even after eight or ten years. Plod on. Persevere with patience, faith, confidence, expectation, interest and attention. You are bound to succeed. Nil desperandum-Never despair.
THE VEDANTIC KUMBHAKA
Being without any distraction and with a calm mind, one should practise Pranayama. Both expiration and inspiration should be stopped. The practitioner should depend solely on Brahman; that is the highest aim of life. The giving out of all external objects is said to be Rechaka. The taking in of the spiritual knowledge of Sastras is said to be Puraka, and the keeping to oneself of such knowledge is said to be Kumbhaka. He is an emancipated person who practises his Chitta thus. There is no doubt about it. Through Kumbhaka the mind should always be taken up and through Kumbhaka alone it should be filled up within. It is only through Kumbhaka that Kumbhaka should be firmly mastered. Within it, is 'Parama Siva'. At first in his Brahmagranthi there is produced soon a hole or passage. Then having pierced Brahmagranthi, he pierces Vishnugranthi, then he pierces Rudragranthi, then the Yogin attains his liberation through the religious ceremonies, performed in various births, through the grace of Gurus and Devatas and through the practice of Yoga.
PRANAYAMA FOR NADI-SUDDHI
The Vayu cannot enter the Nadis if they are full of impurities. Therefore, first of all, they should be purified and then Pranayama should be practised. The Nadis are purified by two processes, viz., Samanu and Nirmanu. The Samanu is done by a mental process with Bija Mantra. The Nirmanu is done by physical cleansing or the Shatkarmas.
1. Sit on Padmasana. Meditate on the Bijakshara of Vayu (Yam) which is of smoke colour. Inhale through the left nostril. Repeat the Bijakshara 16 times. This is Puraka. Retain the breath till you repeat the Bija 64 times. This is Kumbhaka. Then exhale through the right nostril very, very slowly till you repeat the Bijakshara 32 times.
2. The navel is the seat of Agnitattva. Meditate on this Agnitattva. Then draw the breath through the right nostril repeating 16 times the Agni Bija jb (Ram). Retain the breath till you count the Bija 64 times. Then exhale slowly through the left nostril till you repeat mentally the Bija letter 32 times.
3. Fix the gaze at the tip of the nose. Inhale through the left nostril repeating the Bija "b (Tham) 16 times. Retain the breath till you repeat the Bija Jeb (Vam) 64 times. Now imagine that the nectar that flows from the moon runs through all the vessels of the body and purifies them. Then exhale slowly through the right nostril till you repeat the Prithvi Bija ueb (Lam) 32 times.
The Nadis are purified nicely by the practice of the above three kinds of Pranayama by sitting firmly in your usual posture.
MANTRA DURING PRANAYAMA
The Mantra for repetition during the practice of Pranayama is laid down in the Isvara Gita: "When the aspirant holding his breath repeats the Gayatri thrice, together with the seven Vyahritis in the beginning, the Siras at the end and the Pranava, one at both ends of it, this is, what is called the regulation of breath."
Yogi Yajnavalkya, on the other hand, declares thus; "The upward breath and the downward breath, having been restrained, regulation of breath is to be practised by means of the Pranava (OM) with due regard to the unit of measure of the Mantra.
This repetition of the Pranava alone is meant for the Paramahamsa Sannyasins. It has been declared in the Smritis, that ordinary contemplation is to be practised, through the inhalation and other stages of breath-regulation at one's navel, heart and forehead, with reference to the forms of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva respectively. For the Paramahamsa however, the only object of contemplation has been declared to be Brahman. "The self-controlled ascetic is to contemplate upon the supreme Brahman, by means of the Pranava," declares the Sruti.