Sivananda Yoga FAQ
Q 1: What is the purpose of singing Kirtans constantly?
A: Singing of Kirtans constantly will produce divine vibrations within and these vibrations are so powerful as to counteract all external forces distracting the human mind and arrest the wanderings of the mind, bringing peace and happiness to the individual. There is a mysterious power in the Divine Name that singing it purifies the heart and mind and makes the Kirtanist God-conscious.
Q 2: When the Jiva undergoes transmigration and takes another birth after leaving this physical body, is it necessary that we should perform the Shraddha ceremony for him? He is no more in the heavens. To whom will the ablations go?
A: The Pitris remain in heaven, Pitri Loka or Chandra Loka, for a very long period. The enjoyments in heaven and the peace of the departed soul are enhanced by the performance of the Shraddha ceremony. Likewise the sufferings of the departed soul in worlds other than heaven are mitigated by the performance of the Shraddha ceremony. Thus, in both cases, the performance of Shraddha is a great help.
Even if the individual takes another birth immediately after death, as happens in rare cases, the performance of Shraddha adds to happiness in the new birth. So, it is the imperative duty of everybody to perform the Shraddha ceremony for his parents and forefathers. The Shraddha ceremony should be performed with great Shraddha or faith as long as you live. Faith is the main support for religion.
The various religious observances imposed upon mankind by the Shastras tend to purify the ignorant man. The Shraddha ceremony, being one of the obligatory duties as per the injunctions of the scriptures, also tends to purify the mind. Besides this, the forefathers are also pleased and their good wishes and blessings tend to our material and spiritual growth.
Q 3: How did Maya arise in Brahman?
A: This is an Ati-prasna or transcendental question. You will find this question coming up to your mind in various forms: When did Karma begin? When and why was the World created? Why is there evil in the world? Why did the Unmanifest manifest itself? And so on. The same question is asked by Rama in Yoga Vasishtha. Vasishtha says: “You are putting the cart before the horse. You will not be benefited by an enquiry into this question at all. Meditate and realize Brahman. You Will then know the answer to this question. The problem itself will have dissolved by then”. No one can answer this question. When Knowledge dawns, the question itself vanishes. Therefore there is no answer to the question at all. The Brahma Sutra says: Lokavat Tu Lila Kaivalyam. It is only to pacify your doubt. It is really not an answer, for there can be no answer. Yet, the question will arise in the case of every seeker after Truth. You cannot help it. You will have to use your discrimination, pacify the doubt, and then through intense Sadhana and meditation, realize God. Then the doubt will vanish. A great Yogi and Jnani was worried with this doubt for twelve years. Then he told me: “The worry is over now. It troubled me for twelve years. I could not find an answer. So I have given up that pursuit and have taken to meditation, Japa and Kirtan. Now I find peace and progress”. Faith in the Guru, in the Grant Sahib, Kirtan, Japa, meditation and practice of righteousness– these will enable you to progress in the spiritual path and will take you to that where there is no questioning possible.
Be simple, innocent, childlike, righteous, generous and charitable. This will make you divine. – Sri Swami Sivananda
PRANAYAMA – Pranayama During Meditation
If you do concentration and meditation, Pranayama, comes by itself. The breath becomes slower and slower. We will practice this Pranayama daily unconsciously. When you are reading a sensational storybook or when you are solving a mathematical problem, your mind is really very much absorbed in the subject-matter. If you closely watch your breath on these occasions, you will find that the breath has become very very slow. When you see a tragical story being enacted in the theater or a film-show, when you hear a very sad striking news or some glad tidings, when you shed tears either of joy or sorrow, or burst into laughter, the breath is slackened—Pranayama comes by itself. In those Yogic students who practice Sirshasana, pranayama comes by itself. It is obvious from these examples that when the mind is deeply concentrated on any subject, the respiration slows down or stops. Pranayama is being done automatically. Mind and Prana are intimately connected. If you turn your attention to watch the breath on those occasions, it will regain its normal state. Pranayama comes by itself to those who are deeply absorbed in doing Japa, Dhyana or Brahma-Vichara (enquiry of Atman).
Prana, mind and Virya (seminal energy) are under one Sambandha (connection). If you can control the mind, Prana and Virya are controlled by themselves. If you can control Prana, mind and Virya are controlled by themselves. If you control the Virya by remaining as an Akhanda Brahmachari without emission of even a single drop of semen for 12 years, mind and Prana are controlled by themselves. Just as there is connection between wind and fire (light), so also there is connection between Prana and mind. Wind fans the fire. Prana also fans the mind. If there is no wind, fire or light gets steady. Hatha Yogins approach Brahman by controlling Prana. Raja Yogins approach Brahman by controlling mind.
In this Pranayama you need not close the nostrils. Simply close the eyes if you practice it in a sitting posture. Forget the body and concentrate. If you practice this during walking, just feel minutely the movement of the air that is inhaled and exhaled.
Pranayama While Walking
Walk with head up, shoulders back and with chest expanded. Inhale slowly through both nostrils counting OM mentally 3 times, one count for each step. Then retain the breath till you count 12 OMs. Then exhale slowly through both nostrils till you count 6 OMs. Take the respiratory pause or rest after one Pranayama counting 12 OMs. If you find it difficult to count OM with each step, count OM without having any concern with the steps.
Kapalabhati can also be done during walking. Those who are very busy can practice the above Pranayama during their morning and evening walks. It is like killing two birds with one stone. You will find it very pleasant to practice Pranayama while walking in an open place, when delightful gentle breeze is blowing. You will be invigorated and innervated quickly to a considerable degree. Practice, feel and realize the marked, beneficial influence of this kind of Pranayama. Those who walk briskly, repeating OM mentally or verbally do practice natural Pranayama without any effort.
Pranayama in Savasana
Lie down on the back, quiet at ease, over a blanket. Keep the hands on the ground by the side and legs straight. The heels should be kept together, but the toes can remain a little apart. Relax all the muscles and the nerves. Those who are very weak, can practice Pranayama in this pose while lying on the ground or on a bedstead. Draw the breath slowly without making any noise, through both nostrils. Retain the breath as long as you can do it with comfort. Then exhale slowly through both nostrils. Repeat the process 12 times in the morning and 12 times in the evening. Chant OM mentally during the practice. If you like you can practice the ‘easy comfortable posture’ also. This is a combined exercise of Asana, Pranayama, meditation and rest. It gives rest not only to the body but also for the mind. It gives relief, comfort and ease. This is very suitable for aged people.
The breathing in men and women is very irregular. In exhalation the Prana goes out 16 digits and in inhalation only 12 digits, thus losing 4 digits. But if you inhale for 16 digits as in exhalation then you will have rhythmical breathing. Then the power Kundalini will be roused. By the practice of rhythmical breathing you will enjoy real good rest. You can control the respiratory Centre that is situated in medulla oblongata and other nerves also, because the Centre of respiration has a sort of controlling effect on other nerves. He who has calm nerves, has a calm mind also.
If the units of exhalation and inhalation are the same, you will have rhythmical breathing. If you inhale till you count 6 OMs, exhale also till you count 6 OMs. This is breathing in and out in a measured manner. This will harmonize the whole system. This will harmonize the physical body, mind, Indriyas and will soothe the tired nerves. You will experience full repose and calmness. All the bubbling emotions will subside and the surging impulses will calm down.
There is another variety of modification of rhythmic breathing. Inhale slowly through both nostrils for 4 OMs; retain the breath for 8 OMs (internal Kumbhaka); exhale slowly through both nostrils for 4 OMs; and retain the breath outside (external Kumbhaka) for 8 OMs.
Repeat the above process a number of times according to your strength and capacity. You can gradually increase the duration of inhalation and exhalation after some practice of 8 OMs and the period between breaths to 16 OMs. But never try to increase the duration until you are sure that you have power and strength to do so. You must experience joy and pleasure in doing the same. You should not feel any undue strain. Pay considerable attention to keep up the rhythm. Remember that the rhythm is more important than the length of breath. You must feel the rhythm throughout your whole body. Practice will make you perfect. Patience and perseverance are needed.
The divine light and grace will descend only upon the Sattvic or the pure mind, because only a pure mind can receive it. – Sri Swami Sivananda