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The Gita speaks on pranayama

The mind, the 'fickle monkey' as the Upanishads say is inherently programmed to run behind the stimuli sensed by the sense organs
Last Updated : 30 May 2023, 21:19 IST
Last Updated : 30 May 2023, 21:19 IST

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Pranayama is a well known term referring to the practice of controlled breathing as a means to mental and physical well being. While speaking on its practice and benefits on the worldly plane, the Gita goes further and shows how this practice is an aid in man’s inner, spiritual development, contributing to his personality holistically.

The basic process of Pranayama, as many would know, is first sitting in an upright posture with the spine at right angles to the ground, then inhaling deeply, called Puraka while closing the other nostril with the right hand fingers, holding the breath for some time, called Kumbhaka and then exhaling while closing the opposite nostril, called Rechaka, then again holding the breath followed by the same cycle of inhalation, holding and exhalation. As revered Swami Chinmayananda explains, this process, when done in a sustained manner with due attention to each step, helps in attaining control over the Prana defined as “the various activities and processes that occur in a living body”.

These various bodily processes can be broadly grouped under five headings, namely 1) ingestion, 2) digestion, 3) absorption, 4) assimilation and 5) excretion. Attaining the ability to exercise control over these bodily functions confers immense benefits on the physical health of man. Now comes the crucial part which the Gita speaks of. The ability to establish control over the body functions has its effects on the mental aspect of man also. When Pranayama is carried out in the due manner as mentioned earlier, it demands powers of concentration, the ability to focus the mind only on what is being done at the moment, to the exclusion of all other extraneous matters. The mind, the “fickle monkey” as the Upanishads say is inherently programmed to run behind the stimuli sensed by the sense organs. When the mind is under control, the sense organs are under control and thus man is not a puppet under the senses. This is the reason why Pranayama and meditation go hand in hand, because the very objective of meditation is establishing one-pointedness, be it an image of one’s deity, over the primordial sound ‘OM’, or any other thing that the practitioner visualises. The ability to concentrate steadies the mind, which helps achieve higher things in life, while simultaneously conferring bodily benefits.

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Published 30 May 2023, 17:46 IST

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