Is it right to say that pranayama is unnecessary in the practice of raja yoga?
No, pranayama forms one of the eight limbs of raja yoga.
Is it dangerous to practise pranayama without the assistance of a guru?
People are unnecessarily alarmed. You can practise ordinary pranayama exercises without the help of a guru. A guru is necessary if you want to practise kumbhaka or retention of breath for a long time and unite apana with prana. The books written by realized yogins can guide you if you are not able to find a guru. But it is better to have a guru by your side, or you can get the lessons from him and practise them at home. You can keep regular correspondence with him. You can retain the breath from half a minute to one or two minutes without any difficulty or danger. If you cannot find a realized yogi, you can approach senior students of yoga. They also can help you.
Will the practice of pranayama alone awaken the sleeping kundalini shakti?
Asanas, bandhas, mudras, japa, meditation, strong and pure irresistible analytical will, the grace of guru, devotion, all these will also awaken the kundalini shakti.
What are the effects of the practice of khechari mudra?
It will help the student to stop the breath. One can have precise concentration and meditation. One will be free from hunger and thirst. One can change the breath from one nostril to another quite easily. One can have kevala kumbhaka, spontaneous breath retention, also very easily.
What are the symptoms when the prana and apana are united and when the prana passes into sushumna nadi?
When prana and apana are united, the united prana-apana will pass through the sushumna and the practitioner will become dead to the world, that is, one will lose the consciousness of ones body, environment and the world but will have perfect awareness. One will feel a divine thrill, divine ecstasy and the experiences of the lower stages of samadhi. When the prana proceeds higher in sushumna, different kinds of experiences at different chakras are felt by the practitioner (which cannot be described but should be experienced). When the prana reaches sahasrara, the yogi attains samadhi.
If one incorporates the practice of maha bandha in ones pranayama, should one also maintain the proportion of 1:4:2?
Yes, in maha bandha the proportion for inhalation, retention and expiration is 1:4:2.
Is pranayama necessary for getting darshan, a vision or glimpse, of the Lord?
When the prana is taken up to the tenth door, brahmarandhra, at the crown of the head, will the practitioner feel a pinprick?
If I try to keep the ratio 1:4:2 when I practise pranayama, I am not able to concentrate on my ishta devata. If I try to concentrate, I cannot keep up the ratio 1:4:2. Kindly advise what to do.
Try to keep the ratio for two or three months. A strong habit will be formed and the ratio will be kept up automatically. Then you can concentrate on your tutelary deity. The mind can do only one thing at a time.
What is the object of inhaling through the left nostril and exhaling through the right nostril and vice versa?
This will make the breath rhythmical, steady the nerves and the mind, and allow the sushumna nadi to flow, which will be beneficial for meditation. It will keep up a perfect harmony in the system. The five koshas, sheaths or dimensions of the human being, will vibrate rhythmically.
I am regular in my sadhana. The jerks still continue though they are not so frequent as before. Kindly advise me on this matter.
Through the practice of pranayama and meditation, the cells and tissues are vivified. They are charged with new prana. New pranic currents are generated. These give rise to jerks in the beginning. They will disappear soon.
Will you be kind enough to elucidate apana vayu? We inhale air, thereby oxygen is absorbed by blood-cells as well as plasma. But from that oxygen, how is apana formed? In what part does it reside? What is its nature? How and where do prana and apana unite? Kindly explain scientifically mentioning parts affected thereby.
Apana is not formed from oxygen. Apana is energy. Apana resides in the lower part of the abdomen, in mooladhara, in the descending colon, rectum and anus. Its nature is downward motion. Its function is ejection of urine, gas and excreta. Prana and apana are united by kevala kumbhaka, kumbhaka, moolabandha, jalandhara bandha and uddiyana bandha, and they are united in the navel or manipura chakra.
Can there be any dangerous result in the practice of pranayama as some people think?
There is no danger in practising pranayama, asanas, etc. if you are careful, and if you use your common sense. People are unnecessarily alarmed; there is danger in everything if you are careless. If you are careless in going down the steps of a staircase, you will fall down and break your bones. If you are careless when you walk in the busy parts of a city, you will be crushed by a motor car. If you are careless when you purchase a ticket at the railway station, you will lose your money-purse. If you are careless in dispensing mixtures you will kill the patients by giving poison, a wrong medicine or administering medicine in overdoses.
Even so, when you practise pranayama and other yogic exercises you will have to be careful about your diet. You should avoid overeating. You should take light, easily digestible and nutritious food. You should not go beyond your capacity in retaining the breath. You should first practise inhalation and exhalation only (without retention of breath) for one or two months. You should gradually increase the ratio as advised by your teacher from basics to 1:4:2. Then in that ratio you gradually increase the count to 16:64:32. You should exhale very very slowly. If these rules are observed, there will be no danger at all in the practice of pranayama and other yogic exercises.