Pranayama and SandhyaVandanam

This is the third part in our Series about Sandhyavandanam, after an  intro to SV and then Achamanam.  Once achamanam is done, we do the Pranayama which is a “regulator of the life energy or breath called Prana”.

Prana or Ki is that vital energy or life force which keeps the body alive and healthy. In ancient times, knowledgeable men referred to this power by various names. In India, it was called ‘Prana’. In Greek, it is called ‘Pneuma’, in Polynesian, ‘Manna’, and in Hebrew, ‘Ruah’, which means “Breath of Life.”

There are very many theories about our breath and one of them talks about our life span measured in number of breaths.  What this essentially means is that by shallow and short breaths, we tend to shrink our lifespan and conversely by resorting to long and deep breaths, we are expanding our longevity.

Just while writing the post, I looked at the word Pranayama and split it into Prana + Yama and wondered if there is a huge significance to the name itself.  When Prana stops, Yama takes over!! Or in other words, after Prana, there is Yama.

On a more serious note, there are huge benefits for the mind, body and soul through Pranayama itself.  (It is no wonder that Swami Ramdev is challenging the entire medical establishment that he can cure any chronic ailment including Diabetes, cancer and even AIDS through Pranayama)

To know the therapeutic effects of Pranayama, we need to understand what happens when our breathing is regulated?

Inhalation stimulates the system and fills the lungs with fresh air; retention raises the internal temperature and plays an important part in increasing the absorption of oxygen & exhalation causes the diaphragm to return to the original position whereby the air that is full of toxins and impurities is forced out by the contraction of intercostal muscles. The abdominal muscles are therefore massaged leading to a tone-up of the various organs of the body. Due to the proper functions of these organs, vital energy flows to all the systems thereby restoring health to the individual.

It is to be remembered that the success of Pranayama depends on proper ratios being maintained between inhalation, exhalation and retention.

As mentioned earlier, pranayama is for the entire system   Through pranayama the mind can be brought under control. In many spiritual traditions, it is known that by concentrating on the breath, you can still the mind, develop one-pointed ness and gain entry into the deeper realms of the mind and consciousness.

Now, there is so much about Pranayama but we will keep the focus with specific reference to SV.

During SV, we perform Pranayama with an added impetus.  While performing Pranayama, we repeat the Gayathri Mantra with some prefixed and suffixed verses during the phase of retention of the breath called Kumbhaka.

The first set of mantras to be recited before Gayathri Mantra during pranayama refer to the 7 worlds or regions of the Universe starting from Earth (Bhuh).  Each of these worlds are prefixed by om and hence are individual mantras.  The reason for reciting this set of mantras is to signify that the soul of a person travels through these 7 worlds after death before attaining the Lord.  All these worlds are only forms of the Supreme Lord Brahman constituting his body.

Then we recite the Gayathri mantra, which again is so significant to be covered in a small paragraph.  We will look at the significance of GM in a separate post later.  As a start, GM is a mantra that protects the chanter and one of its several meanings is “ I meditate on the Supreme Lord in the orbit of the Sun which activates our intellect’

The third portion of Pranayama Mantra during SV is called Gayathri Siras which points out that Water, Radiance, Juice and Nectar are all forms of the Supreme Lord, Brahman.  (In fact, although I have recited this siras many times, I did so without realizing the significance.  When I read the explanation in English, I could see for myself that apah (water), jyothi (light or radiance), rasa (juice), amrutam (nectar) )

I found it very fascinating that the 7 worlds in the first part of the Pranayama Mantra have an influence to the 7 chakras or energy centers as well as 7 glands of the body.

I could go on and on but my objective of this series of blog posts is to kindle the interest on SV and take advantage of it.  There is a wealth of information on Pranayama on the net and offline too.  (I found the book titled “Sandyaavandanam” published by Sri Nrisimhapriya trust, Mylapore, Chennai (044 24611540) very informative and easy to read.  It costs Rs.35)

Coming back to the topic, I also saw a reference to a Meditation Mudra to be kept during Pranayama.  I have never done this but intend to start today.  Here the thumb and forefinger of the left hand are joined together while the left palm faces upwards.

The palm of the hand and tips of fingers have chakras and are capable of absorbing life energy from the surroundings.  This also helps in respiratory control during pranayama.  Left hand is also known as “amrita hasta” meaning “ a hand with nectar”  (I think we should from now on treat the left hand and lefties with more respect!!)

I believe that the recommended posture for doing pranayama during SV is sitting but I have always done it standing, possibly to make it easy to perform the next steps in SV.  Remember that we do achamanam while squatting (the bottom and the heels not in contact with the earth) and therefore doing pranayama while sitting would mean that we get up for the next activity.

Let’s explore this wonderful world of SV together in the coming days.

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19 Comments

  1. Lakshminaraayn VS said,

    September 20, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Badri,

    I find the 3 blogs on SV, Achamanam and Pranayam very interesting. I have been practising Pranayam regularly for the past 3 years but not very regular on my Sandhyavandanam (3 days a week at best). But have been motivating my son to do it regularly. He does it – but not with the concentration that it merits – but doing it regularly (twice every day) is more important at this stage – concentration can come later!! I will print out a copy for him as well.

    • badrirag said,

      September 20, 2010 at 4:03 pm

      Lux,

      Its great that your son does SV twice a day!! And once he starts seeing the science behind it, he will do it more awarefully and that is simply superb!

      Love

      Badri

  2. Fuzzy said,

    September 20, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    Hi Folks,
    I’ve been doing the SKY (Sudarshan Kriya Yoga and Practices) for over 5 years with the Art of Living Foundation’s programmes. What you are saying is very true and similar. Results are towards the same description, while experiences are different prescriptions. 🙂
    Interesting if we look into Yamas and Niyamas too.
    Do see if you can get to watch and listen to Sri Sri RaviShankar’s discourse on Pathanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It has wonderful ancient wisdom explained for the modern mind.
    Love,
    Fuzzy

    • badrirag said,

      September 21, 2010 at 6:59 am

      Hi Fazal,

      Thanks for sharing and as you have rightly observed, the routes are different but the destination is the same.

      Keep sharing and contributing.

      Love

      Badri

  3. September 23, 2010 at 6:07 am

    […] Sandhyavandanam, sedentary This is not a regular full-fledged post like the ones on Achamanam or Pranayama but something that came out of a reflection while performing  the  SandhyaVandanam this […]

  4. September 23, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    […] more about the benefits for the physical health from the various components of SV like Achamanam, pranayama and even the mere physical movements therein.  It is my fervent hope that SV becomes the default […]

  5. August 26, 2012 at 2:49 am

    […] physical movements in SV, Pranayama and SV and […]

  6. A.V. VENKITASUBRAMANIAN said,

    November 6, 2012 at 10:29 am

    I would like to know more about the pranayamam. I would be very happy if any body can explain step by step how to do the pranayamam while doing the sandya vandanam.

    • badrirag said,

      November 9, 2012 at 12:09 am

      Dear Shri Venkitasubrmanian,

      Thanks for asking. During SV, you perform Pranayamam everytime after you do Achamanam and before Sankalpam.

      The recommended posture is standing.

      1. You close your right nostril with the right thumb and take a deep breath inside.
      2. Close the left nostril now with the ring finger.
      3. With the breath inside, you are ready to chant the mantra.
      4. ‘Om bhuh om bhuvah om suvah om mahaha om janaha om tapaha pgum satyam
      5. Then you chant the Gayathri mantra
      6. Then you chant ‘om aapaha jyoti rasa amrutam brahma boorbhuvasuvarom”
      7. Then release the right nostril breathe out and release the left nostril too.
      8.Close the right ear with the right palm

      I hope you find this useful.

      Regards

      Badri

      • Ravi Kumar said,

        April 28, 2015 at 5:07 am

        Wrong Sir!

        You inhale through your left nostril while you recite Om bhuhu… At ohum satyam, you block the left nostril. you recite gayatri mantra closing both the nostrils. and exhale while reciting om apo jotihir..

      • badrirag said,

        April 28, 2015 at 5:13 am

        Well, that’s the way I have been doing so far. Will consult someone knowledgeable and make appropriate changes. thanks for sharing

  7. Ananth said,

    April 22, 2013 at 3:11 am

    Thanks. Dring Prata Sandhya, before reciting Gayathri we do Pranayama ten times – is the breath to be held for the entire duration or to be released after each recital of the pranayama?

    • badrirag said,

      April 22, 2013 at 4:49 am

      Ananth,

      I am not able to get your “.. we do pranayama ten times”. To the best of my understanding, when you complete one round of pranayama, you release the breath and close your right ear with your right palm and say “bhoor buva suvarom’.

      Hope this helps

      Badri

  8. prabhala venkateswarlu said,

    December 27, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    very good

  9. A.V. Venkitasubramanian said,

    January 14, 2015 at 8:57 am

    Kindly let me know whether any body can give us practical training for pranayamam in SV, in and around Mumbai. Most of the vadyars do not know about the Pranayamam

    • badrirag said,

      January 14, 2015 at 5:40 pm

      You are right about Vadhyars not knowing about pranayamam. you should contact some reputed yoga instructor. i know that Ramdev’s people are conducting free camps in parks to teach pranayamam. you can check if there is something in your vicinity. All the best

      • A.V. Venkitasubramanian said,

        February 4, 2015 at 5:21 am

        Thanks for your reply. I will try to get in touch with somebody who can help to do SV pranayam properly.

        In the meanwhile can you give some. idea about the chanting of Gayatrhi Mandram. I have read it in the Devi Bagavatam that it should be chanted mentally, even the person chanting should not hear it. I feel entire SV should be learned from the Guru to Sisya.

        If we have to tell our next generation to do the SV., we should do it properly and we should lead them by example rather than authority.

        Now a days there are so many classes teaches Sahasra Namam, Bgagavat geeta etc. I feel something to be done to teach SV properly to our next generation. We should not leave this job to the Vadyars, as most of them are either not aware of it, or not interested in it.

        This is my frank and personal opinion.

  10. Nagarajan TVS said,

    February 23, 2017 at 6:12 am

    Dear Sir
    According to a book by Sri Anna on SV pranayamam I would like share that during a complete Pranayamsm (purakam, kumbakam and rechakam) we do

    purakam with om bhu, om bhuvah till prachadhayat
    kumakam with siras+ om bhu om bhuvah++ GM and siras
    Rechakam Om bhu om bhuvah+ GM+siras

    The ratio 1:4:3 seems to be difficult but in practice it will be tuned
    and self do like this.


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