Baba Ramdev demonstrating  pranayama is not everyone’s cup of tea, but millions across the globe swear by his breath control techniques in Yoga.

People claim that every ailment from the common cold and migraine to paralysis and perhaps even cancer being healed through his prescriptions of pranayama based asana, breath control combined with physical postures. Medical professionals claim otherwise. Truth, as always, is in between.

As part of Patanjali’s Yoga methodology, pranayama was part of the tool kit in one’s spiritual progress, not a medical cure in Hindu scriptures. Pranayama helped in integrating one’s mind body with one’s inner energy.

It is absolutely true that deeper one’s breath is and more regulated it is, more energetic one feels. Our breath is the very essence of our energy. We live only as long as we breathe.  However, many pranayama techniques, unless supervised, can lead to trouble.

Many followers swear by the esoteric initiation of a highly regarded Indian guru, whose foundation is a pranayama technique. When we met with a top rated medical specialist who also a research scholar in Yoga, with my complaint of a chronic backache and my wife’s migraine, the doctor’s first question was whether we were this guru’s disciples. We were fortunately not.

When i asked him why, he said he had many patients who had practiced this guru’s techniques and suffered from problems like ours and many more! Very few of his followers talk about this. They perhaps feel that pain is the price to pay for ‘spiritual’ progress.

Apart from physical health issues, pranayama poses a far more dangerous mental health issue. Our breath is the fuel of our desires. Our breath pattern reflects our emotional health. We can control our emotional state through breath control. For instance, watching one’s breath can reduce anger.

Powerful pranayama techniques can inflame the embedded unconscious memories lying dormant within us. They can change our emotional state. They can lead to severe mental disturbances.

Pranayama, breath control, is part of a larger tool kit in Patanjali Ashtanga Yoga. It must integrate with several other practices to enhance one’s inner energy.

If you feel left out and feel you must practice some method of pranayama, practice this. It is a very safe breath based dharana techniques taken from one of the oldest Hindu scriptures of tantra. One can use it as an aid to meditation.

  • Sit comfortably and stable with eyes closed, with hands on knees. If you like, keep the first three fingers of both hands touching.
  • Inhale deeply to count of 5 or 7.
  • Retain breath for a count of 5 or 7.
  • Exhale breath for count of 5 or 7.
  • Stay without breath for count of 5 or 7.
  • Repeat again 5 to 7 times, starting with inhalation as in steps 2 to 5.

These retention of breath or no breath are your Doors Of Perception.  Focus on these pauses. Extend as much as you can. They lead to the no-mind state!

That’s what Yoga is about!