Of all the methods of contacting and drawing into ourselves universal life force, yoga breathing is the most effective. In East Asia the universal life force is known by various names including qi, ch’i or ki. In Sanskrit yoga terminology it is called prana, and yoga breathing – pranayama.
As we breathe, we not only take in air, but also prana. By controlling the breath – and controlling prana – we can enjoy dramatic spiritual advancement. People have reported marked improvements in health, physical fitness, stress management, sleep, alertness, positive outlook, emotional balance, clarity, self-discipline and even memory as a result of this one simple practice. At a deeper level, yoga breathing will gradually result in the development of psychic abilities, and an enhanced intuition. It will improve our ability to give spiritual healing, and also our ability to channel energy through prayer.
Perhaps most importantly, like all spiritual practices, yoga breathing also helps to maintain and enhance spiritual motivation.
It is one thing to want to help the world one weekend and then forget about it, it is quite another to devote your whole life to such a high calling, with all the stresses and strains it entails – and with the ever-present detunement from unspiritual influences in the world around us. Yoga breathing is an excellent way to keep the flame of selfless spiritual ambition burning, and to make it burn ever brighter.
Importance of regular practice
Like many spiritual practices, it will, however, be of little effect unless it is done regularly. Fifteen minutes a day is a good starting point for many people, but even just two minutes is better than nothing. If we start with an achievable target to maintain, we can always build on it as we gain spiritual confidence, and as the practice becomes more of a pleasure than a chore. Serious yogis can spend several hours a day doing yoga breathing – and there really is no limit to how much we can do, if we are fit enough, providing other essential tasks, including service to others, are not neglected.
Watching the mind
Yoga breathing is not about emptying the mind, but about concentrating the mind. Concentrating on something spiritual and positive will automatically empty the mind of its usual daily clutter – by replacing this clutter with a single spiritual focus. However, this is easier said than done. At first, rather than trying to force the mind to do this, we should just watch the mind. This is sometimes referred to as “watchfulness” or “mindfulness”. Allow thoughts to come to you, and just observe them, quietly – dispassionately. By doing this, the conscious mind will eventually get bored of this, and turn to the higher mind – the superconsciousness – for guidance. Then we can properly get down to our concentration. Even then, however, the mind will still wander, unless you are already very accomplished in yoga. Don’t be disheartened, just bring yourself back and carry on. At times the conscious mind will virtually scream at us that it doesn’t want to do spiritual practices, like a spoilt child. When this happens, like with a spoilt child we should be gentle but very firm. This is the path to superconscious wisdom.
Below are two extracts from Realize Your Inner Potential, a book in which Dr. King teaches a simple yet comprehensive series of yoga breathing exercises:
No shallow breather can be a deep thinker. If you breathe shallowly you can never have glorious visualization or glorious visions. Relatively speaking, the deeper your breath, the more controlled your thoughts.
Through deep breathing, you not only draw into your body certain gases, but you draw into the body, and through the bodies, and out again from the bodies, certain of the pranas, which are the universal life forces around which the whole of creation exists. Without the five minor pranas and the five major pranas, creation as we know it could not exist. Everything you see is an amalgamation of these ten energies, whether it be a glass or the water in it, or a tablecloth, or the floor, or your head, or your brain cells, or even your subtle bodies. It is an amalgamation of five major energies and five minor energies, coupled with the physical matter which these energies have drawn around themselves. So, this prana becomes a life force, and if it is breathed in and controlled through the bodies, then this is one sure way to develop.
The Aetherius Society runs workshops on yoga breathing at many of its centers.