When Yoga, whether Hatha, or Jnana, or Karma, or Bhakti, or any other form of Yoga, becomes established, Pranayama is possible. The best understanding of Pranayama is the pause between study and practice. It is the moment when breath stops - when love so fills the body, mind and heart that our breath is taken away - the moment of redeath, and rebirth. Swami Sivananda said that such a moment permits us to perceive within ourselves numerous faults: for we finally understand what our goal is. Then, like a smith burning, beating and blowing away the impurities of gold, we turn our strength inwards. And begin to breathe again. Take your very first first breath!
Swami Swatmarama says that merely learning to sit and control the breath is sufficient to the establishment of Yoga, for within that simple act is the knowledge required to master ourselves and eat healthy and moderate food. The practice of Pranayama, this purification, will naturally result. The Buddha Gotama asked, who, upon passing by a mirror and seeing their face covered in filth, will not try to clean it? Or noticing a stain in their clothing will not wash their clothes?
The Yogi in Pranayama clings to life; they are not ready to die, for they clearly see their work. They will cling to each breath. Indeed, the sensation of redeath and rebirth is such that a breath is naturally inhaled, almost spasmodically. Like being doused in cold water and quickly waking up from a dream! How then the Yogi succeed in their goal, when desiring and attached to life? By purifying themselves, they will unattach, and uncling; the breath becomes more regular. They learn to live - and die - in continence, one breath at a time.
Do you have the strength to await death like a temp worker or day-worker waiting for their wage at the end of the day? To quit when their boss tells them to go home, or remain at work as long as required?
Once regularity in breath is gained, the Yogi begins to control the manner of their breath: breathing first through one side of their nose, than the other; exhaling through alternate nostrils - quite as easily as most of us would eat on one side of the mouth or another. Invigorated, they practice morning, noon, evening, and midnight; four times a day, they practice and rest. Like breathing in and out.
Then, the Yogi begins to flex their strength: their practice becomes constant. Day and night, driven by self-improvement, and without exhaustion or weariness, motivated by love and compassion, they perform the duty of their birth within their Ashrama. They do not suffer from disease, nor do they suffer from discomfort of any kind. They are not motivated by pleasure or praise. They desire only success!
Their duties become more secretive, more anonymous, as they become more natural; praise and pleasure are avoided as much as pain and punishment are not avoided; the action of life becomes as selfless as any act of Yoga!
The duties of a Yogi are merely purification (Dhauti), digestion (Basti), discerning truth through logic (Neti), awareness or perception (Trataka), flexing or exertion every moment of body and heart and mind (Nauti) and passive or non-action (Kapala Bhati). In the four Ashramas, these duties are undertaken in different ways. While some Yogis will actually physically cleanse their nostrils and even their bowels, this is not the appropriate practice for all Ashramas, where discerning truth through logic and expelling what is foul might be best accomplished in matters of business and trade, or in the protection of a community through the establishment of justice.
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