Chaturtha Pranayama – A Handy Pranayama

From Early Teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Volume II

Is there a pranayama which can be practised in front of someone else without being noticed?

There are many breathing exercises or pranayamas expounded in yogic literature. All of them are beneficial in so far as they energize the lungs, stimulate the digestive fire, regulate the breathing system and calm the mind, but they are not handy in the sense that they cannot be practised at any place or time, or in front of anyone. For instance, one would certainly feel awkward practising bhastrika, kapalbhati, sheetali or sheetkari while travelling in a train. Hence we need a handy pranayama which is practicable at any place, or even in front of a person without being noticed.

Let me acquaint you with a handy edition of pranayama called rhythmic pranayama, technically known as chaturtha pranayama. The beauty and speciality about this pranayama is that it can be practised throughout the day at any place and unobtrusively, yet it bestows mental peace and elevation much quicker than any other pranayama. The practice is simple: inhalation, pooraka, and exhalation, rechaka, with equal duration. If you inhale for five pulse beats, exhale for the same time span, making the duration of pooraka equal to that of rechaka. Gradually, the duration must be prolonged and stabilized by inhaling slowly and exhaling for the same duration.

In the beginning, practise inhalation and exhalation through alternate nostrils: inhale through the left nostril, exhale through the right. The next time, inhale through the right and exhale through the left. Thus, continue inhaling from the nostril through which you exhaled a moment before and continue exhaling through the other. After you have perfected this practice, introduce a rhythm according to your capacity. If you inhale for five seconds through the right, exhale for the same duration through the left, and vice versa.

Can you suggest some counting methods?

Counting must be done mentally, while you practise this pranayama. You can count numerically, or if you like, the best way of counting is through the repetition of any simple mantra such as Om, Ram or Om Namah Shivaya, exhaling for as many repetitions of the mantra as you have inhaled. Then proceed to practise through both the nostrils, applying the same method of inhalation and exhalation. You can also practise this pranayama in the position of shavasana which will give you absolute peace and sound sleep.

Does japa with chaturtha pranayama make the practice more effective?

Japa done with this pranayama becomes very effective within a short period and works as a medium of introversion more effectively than the mala. There are some sadhakas who split their mantra in two and set them with the inhalation and exhalation. If they repeat So while inhaling, they repeat Ham while exhaling, or if they repeat O . . . while inhaling they repeat Mm . . . while exhaling which is a good technique for the beginner. Some others do not split their mantra but repeat Om Namah Shivaya twice or thrice or as many times as they are able to do while inhaling and while exhaling, they repeat the same mantra the same number of times. This is a powerful method of japa sahita pranayama. I have even come across such sadhakas who inhaled for one hundred Oms and exhaled to the same extent. However, a beginner is not advised to attempt such a high level of pranayama.

Can one practise telepathy by using chaturtha pranayama?

Those sadhakas attempting telepathy during inhalation and exhalation count the number of pulse beats on the right wrist, feeling it by pressing it with the four fingers of the left hand. However, the rule of equal breath in and equal breath out is always maintained. First, they press the pulse with the right thumb and feel its beat with attention. Then they mentally repeat by counting on the pulse beats, one, two, three, four, five, and so on, simultaneously inhaling the breath until they have filled the lungs. After the inhalation is complete, they exhale, simultaneously counting out on the pulse beat to the same count and duration as the inhalation. Thus, they continue for hours together until they are able to handle the first technique of wireless telepathy.

What are the effects of practising chaturtha pranayama?

This pranayama becomes prolonged as well as subtle after considerable practice, culminating in sudden introversion of the chitta. If there is tamo guna in the practitioner, chaturtha pranayama will induce sound sleep. If there is rajo guna in the sadhaka it will induce dreams. If there is a combination of all the gunas in the sadhaka, it will first induce dreams and later on, sound sleep.

When there is an abundance of sattwa holding sway over rajas and tamas, chaturtha pranayama will bring about true visions and dreams and then sleep. In the case of pure sattwa prevailing, chaturtha pranayama will culminate in samprajnata samadhi or viveka khyati, a state that is neither dream nor sleep. If a sadhaka is above the three gunas and there is an abundance of true vairagya in him, chaturtha pranayama will establish him in his real swaroopa. Full-time sadhakas can practise chaturtha pranayama throughout the day without any harm or bringing about heat, unconsciousness, dryness, or pressure on the heart, etc. Of course, the golden rule is always that one should proceed gradually, taking into consideration one’s physical as well as mental limitations.

Fifth International Yoga Convention, Raigarh, November 1968