Excerpts taken from the Book -- Yoga From Confusion To Clarity, written by Professor Satya Prakash Singh and Yogi Mukesh. Prana means vital force and yama means control. Thus the English translation would be ‘control of the vital breath’. I. IMPORTANCE OF PRANAYAMA Citta has two causes for its existence, desires and vibration of prana, if one of them is subdued then the other is automatically controlled. Out of these two, one should control prana. ( Yogakundalyopanisad, Chapter I 1-2) The self is enslaved by the prana, etc. wind moves up and down through the right and the left nostrils and since this movement is so rapid that it is impossible to observe and experience them. Like a bird whose wings are tied with a string is frequently pulled up and down so is the self too is pulled by the prana and apana, etc. As the prana pulls the apana and similarly the apana pulls the prana, thus the self as a result of these movements moves frequently up and down and one who knows this process of upward and downward movement is a yogin. (Yogacudamani Upanisad, 27-30) Therefore, one should practise pranayama to control prana and apanaas per Sandilya Upanisad’s statement: Pranayama is union of prana and apana and it is threefold, namely, exhalation, inhalation and retention (recaka, puraka and kumbhaka) (Sandilya Upanisad,I.6.1) COMMENT: Pranayama is a penance that helps in reducing different kinds of diseases besides its being the bridge between the Ultimate Reality. On the physiological aspect it gets rid of waste products and toxins from the body and on the mental plane it subdues the fluctuations of the mind. Thus by its practice several diseases can be averted as well as cured. Moreover it improves the functions of the brain cells. II. SUITABLE PLACE FOR PRACTICE An aspirant (of yoga) should resort to the plain and unpolluted land which is free from pebbles, fire and sand. Neat and clean should be near a river, with no direct sunrays. (Svetasvatara Upanisad, II.10) The nerves should be purified by following the procedure in the precedent verses. Subsequently, one should detach oneself from all attachments, choose a solitary place, collect all the materials required for the practice of yoga, make a seat of darba kusa or black deer, etc. and meditate till control of organs is established. To achieve the results one should regularly practise svastika, etc., asanas. (Triskhi-Brahmana Upanisad, II.88-90) He (yogin) should remain in the state of concentration at a place that has natural landscape and construct a hermitage or at the peak of a mountain, at the bank of a river, under the shade if bilva tree (Hindi:bael, English: stone apple) solitary place in the forest. He should sit in any posture facing the East or the North. His neck, head, and the body be kept erect and mouth should be closed. (Jabaladarsana Upanisad, 5.4-5) COMMENT: Various instructions are involved in the practice of pranayama. They are: The place should be clean and quiet. Free from dust and smoke. The stomach should be empty before the practice. Pranayama should be practised after asanas and before meditation. To be practised in sitting postures such as padma, svastika,sukha and siddha. If practised in the house, the room should be well ventilated. Minimum four to five hours gap between meals and pranayama is mandatory. One should not take bath after the practice for at least four hours. It is better to have bath and then the practice of asanas to be succeeded by the practice of pranayama.