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Yoga Sutras 2.49-2.53: Pranayama & Breath Control; Rung #4 of 8

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  • Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
    Yoga Sutras 2.49-2.53 PRANAYAMA AND BREATH CONTROL, RUNG #4 OF 8 http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras-24953.htm ************************ YOGA SUTRAS 2.49-2.53:
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 28, 2006
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      Yoga Sutras 2.49-2.53
      PRANAYAMA AND BREATH CONTROL, RUNG #4 OF 8
      http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras-24953.htm

      ************************
      YOGA SUTRAS 2.49-2.53:
      ************************

      Once that perfected posture has been achieved, the slowing or braking
      of the force behind, and of unregulated movement of inhalation and
      exhalation is called breath control and expansion of prana
      (pranayama), which leads to the absence of the awareness of both, and
      is the fourth of the eight rungs. That pranayama has three aspects of
      external or outward flow (exhalation), internal or inward flow
      (inhalation), and the third, which is the absence of both during the
      transition between them, and is known as fixedness, retention, or
      suspension. These are regulated by place, time, and number, with
      breath becoming slow and subtle. The fourth pranayama is that
      continuous prana which surpasses, is beyond, or behind those others
      that operate in the exterior and interior realms or fields. Through
      that pranayama the veil of karmasheya (2.12) that covers the inner
      illumination or light is thinned, diminishes and vanishes. Through
      these practices and processes of pranayama, which is the fourth of
      the eight steps, the mind acquires or develops the fitness,
      qualification, or capability for true concentration (dharana), which
      is itself the sixth of the steps.

      FOURTH RUNG IS PRANAYAMA:

      The fourth of the eight rungs (2.29) of Yoga is Pranayama, which is
      regulating the breath so as to make it slow and subtle (2.50),
      leading to the experience of the steady flow of energy (prana), which
      is beyond or underneath exhalation, inhalation, and the transitions
      between them (2.51).

      THE FOURTH PRANAYAMA:

      The three pranayamas are exhalation, inhalation, and the transition
      (2.50). However, the fourth pranayama is that continuous prana which
      surpasses, is beyond, or behind the others (2.51).

      THINNING THE VEIL OF KARMA:

      The experience and repeated practice of this fourth pranayama thins
      the veil of karma, which usually clouds the inner light, allowing
      that to come shining through (2.52).

      POSTURE IS THE PREREQUISITE:

      To successfully practice and attain the full benefits of breath
      control and pranayama, it is necessary that it be built on the solid
      foundation of a steady and comfortable sitting posture (2.46-2.48).

      PRANAYAMA IS PREPARATION FOR CONCENTRATION:

      Through these practices and processes of pranayama the mind acquires
      or develops the fitness, qualification, or capability for
      concentration (dharana), which is the sixth rung (3.1-3.3).

      SEE ALSO:

      Sutra 1.34 on breath for stabilizing mind
      http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras-13339.htm#1.34
      Soham Mantra
      http://www.swamij.com/soham-mantra.htm
      Soham online
      http://www.swamij.com/sohum-mantra-108.htm
      Soham CD
      http://www.swamij.com/cd-soham.htm
      Breathing Practices and Pranayama
      http://www.swamij.com/breath.htm
      Diaphragmatic Breathing
      http://www.swamij.com/diaphragmatic-breathing.htm


      *******************
      YOGA SUTRA 2.49:
      *******************

      Once that perfected posture has been achieved, the slowing or braking
      of the force behind, and of unregulated movement of inhalation and
      exhalation is called breath control and expansion of prana
      (pranayama), which leads to the absence of the awareness of both, and
      is the fourth of the eight rungs.
      (tasmin sati shvasa prashvsayoh gati vichchhedah pranayamah)

      tasmin = upon that (perfection of meditation posture)
      sati = being accomplished
      shvasa = inhalation
      prashvsayoh = exhalation
      gati = of the uncontrolled movements
      vichchhedah = slowing, softening or braking of the force behind
      pranayamah = expansion of prana, regulation of breath

      SLOWING THE FORCE BEHIND BREATH:

      Imagine that you are driving a car, and that you quickly accelerate
      by firmly pressing the gas pedal with your foot. Imagine that when
      you want to slow down, you sharply press your foot on the brake
      pedal. In both cases there is a firm pressure being exerted. Now,
      imagine that you very gently press the gas pedal to accelerate, and
      that you very gently press the brake pedal to slow down. You are
      using less force in both accelerating and decelerating. That backing
      off, or slowing of the amount of force is what is done with the
      exertion towards exhalation and inhalation (vichchhedah). Through
      that slowing process, there is an expansion of awareness of the
      entire field of prana, which is called pranayama.

      BREATHING AND PRANAYAMA PRACTICES:

      This sort of slowing, softening or braking of the effort in breath is
      used with such foundation practices as breath awareness,
      diaphragmatic breathing, alternate nostril breathing, and two-to-one
      breathing. The entire science of breath and pranayama rests on this
      foundation.
      http://www.swamij.com/breath.htm#awareness
      http://www.swamij.com/breath.htm#diaphragmatic
      http://www.swamij.com/breath.htm#alternate
      http://www.swamij.com/breath.htm#twotoone

      ELIMINATE THE PAUSE:

      One of the most important aspects of regulating the breath is the
      elimination of the pause between breaths. The question of intentional
      breath retention (kumbhaka) is a separate matter, and is built on a
      solid foundation of well regulated breathing. By consciously
      practicing the elimination of the pause, allowing the transitions
      between breaths to be very smooth, with a backing off of effort, a
      deep sense of calm comes. This is the preparation for deep
      concentration and meditation, which is described in sutra 2.53.

      SANDHYA, IDA AND PINGALA:

      This deep calm is called sandhya, the wedding of sun and moon, the
      energy flows of ida and pingala. From this place the mind only wants
      to be quiet and calm, going inward to meditate, with the opening of
      sushumna. (See the pages on describing ida and pingala and balancing
      ida and pingala)
      http://www.swamij.com/kundalini-awakening-1.htm
      http://www.swamij.com/kundalini-awakening-2.htm

      ABSENCE OF AWARENESS OF BREATH:

      At some point the attention moves inward, past the breath. The senses
      turn inward (pratyahara, 2.54-2.55) towards concentration,
      meditation, and samadhi (3.1-3.3), the last three of the eight rungs
      of Yoga. When this absence of awareness of breath happens, it is as
      if one forgets he or she is breathing, although it is not a mere
      forgetting like when one is absent-minded. Rather, it is a case of
      transcending breath awareness. This is similar to awareness of body
      (2.46-2.48) falling away when attention becomes absorbed in the
      breath, and to worldly awareness falling away when attention becomes
      absorbed in the body and sitting posture. In this systematic process,
      attention moves inward through all the levels of ones being.
      http://www.swamij.com/yoga-meditation-what-systematic.htm
      http://www.swamij.com/yoga-meditation-what-levels.htm

      ONE OF THE PREDICTABLE OBSTACLES:

      In earlier sutras (1.30-1.32) nine predictable obstacles and four
      ensuing companions were described, one of which was irregularities in
      the breath (1.31). Although one-pointedness was introduced as the
      antidote (1.32) for all of those obstacles, a subtler, more specific
      approach is being introduced here, which is more intimately involved
      with the obstacle of irregular breath itself.
      http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras-13032.htm
      http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras-13032.htm#1.31

      AWARENESS OF BREATH:

      One of the finest methods there is to stabilize and calm the mind is
      breath awareness. First, be aware of the transitions between the
      breaths, and allow them to be smooth, without an abrupt transition,
      and without pausing between breaths. Consciously practice seeing how
      delicately smooth you can make the transitions. Allow the breath to
      be quiet, and to have no jerkiness.

      ELONGATION OF EXHALATION:

      Second, after establishing sound and steady awareness of the breath,
      allow the exhalation to gradually elongate, such that the amount of
      time spent exhaling is longer than the amount of time inhaling. The
      air will move outward more slowly with exhalation than with
      inhalation. Gradually allow the ratio to be two to one, where the
      exhalation is approximately twice as long as the inhalation.
      Pranayama is often translated as breath control. The root ayama
      actually means lengthening. Thus, pranayama more specifically means
      lengthening the life force.

      NOT RECHAKA, PURAKA, AND KUMBHAKA:

      There are other breathing practices that include rechaka
      (exhalation), puraka (inhalation) and kumbhaka (intentional holding
      of the breath). These practices are not the intent here in this
      sutra, particularly not the practice of breath retention. Though
      these may be useful practices at some stage of practice, they are not
      the subject of this sutra in relation to stabilizing the mind and
      making it tranquil.


      *******************
      YOGA SUTRA 2.50:
      *******************

      That pranayama has three aspects of external or outward flow
      (exhalation), internal or inward flow (inhalation), and the third,
      which is the absence of both during the transition between them, and
      is known as fixedness, retention, or suspension. These are regulated
      by place, time, and number, with breath becoming slow and subtle.
      (bahya abhyantara stambha vrittih desha kala sankhyabhih paridrishtah
      dirgha sukshmah)

      bahya = external
      abhyantara = internal
      stambha = holding, restraint, suspension, stationary, retention,
      cessation, transition
      vrittih = operations, activities, fluctuations, modifications,
      changes, or various forms of the mind-field
      desha = place, spot, space, location
      kala = time, period, duration
      sankhyabhih = by these three, number, count of
      paridrishtah = regulated by, observed by
      dirgha = made long, prolonged, slow
      sukshmah = and subtle, fine

      TRAIN THREE ASPECTS OF BREATH:

      Three aspects of breath and prana are trained when doing any of the
      specific breathing practices:
      http://www.swamij.com/breath.htm

      1) EXHALATION: Training the exhalation is removing the jerkiness,
      allowing the flow to be slow and deep, as well as diaphragmatic.

      2) INHALATION: Training the exhalation also means eliminating
      jerkiness, breathing slowly, and using the diaphragm.

      3) TRANSITION: Between exhalation and inhalation, and between
      inhalation and exhalation there is a transition, which is experienced
      as suspension, retention, or cessation, etc. The training of the
      transition is to make it very smooth, as if there were no pause at
      all.

      SUSPENSION MEANS TRANSITION:

      When the word stambha is translated as suspension or retention, this
      can be taken to mean the intentional holding of the breath over some
      period of time, which is a practice called kumbhaka. However, it is
      stambha that is used here, not kumbhaka. Between exhalation and
      inhalation there is a transition when one is neither exhaling nor
      inhaling. Between inhalation and exhalation there is also a
      transition when one is neither inhaling nor exhaling.

      SLOWING THE BREATH:

      A slowing or braking process was described in the last sutra (2.49).
      This gentle regulation and releasing of effort is very important to
      understand and practice with all three aspects of breath: exhalation,
      inhalation, and transition.

      REGULATION BY PLACE, TIME, AND NUMBER:

      During breathing practices, the cycles of breath (exhalation,
      inhalation, and transition) are witnessed and regulated in three ways:
      http://www.swamij.com/breath.htm

      1) PLACE (desha, spot, space, location): The awareness of breath or
      its flow of energy is intentionally focused in some location, such as
      the diaphragm, one or both nostrils, up and down the spine,
      throughout the whole body, or with attention placed in one point
      (navel, heart, or eyebrow centers, etc.). The different points of
      attention will bring different experiences and different depths of
      benefit.

      2) TIME (kala, period, duration): The timing of exhalation,
      inhalation, and transition are also consciously regulated. The pause
      between breaths is gently eliminated, or later, in the case of
      kumbhaka practices, might be intentionally lengthened. Exhalation and
      inhalation might be made of equal duration, or exhalation might be
      lengthened, such as in two-to-one breathing. As the pauses are
      eliminated, the exhalations and inhalations might become quite slow,
      transcending the gross breath (2.51), and bringing a great peace to
      the mind, leading to concentration and meditation (2.53).

      3) NUMBER (sankhyabhih, count): One may count the number of seconds
      or heartbeats associated with inhalation and exhalation, causing the
      number to be the same for exhalation and inhalation. For example, one
      may initially count 6 seconds each for inhalation and exhalation,
      which is a total of 12 seconds per breath, or 5 breaths per minute.
      With two-to-one breathing, one might exhale 8 seconds and inhale 4
      seconds, which is also 12 seconds per breath, or 5 breaths per
      minute. The counts may be made higher, allowing the breath to be
      longer. Another way of counting is by measuring the distance below
      the nostrils at which the flow of air can be felt with the hand or
      fingers. The further the distance can be felt, the quicker the
      breath. The less the distance the air can be felt below the nostrils,
      the slower the breath.

      SLOW AND SUBTLE ARE THE GOALS:

      The goal of the practices are to make the breath slow (dirgha, made
      long) and subtle (sukshmah, made fine). It is very useful to keep in
      mind that these two are the goals, regardless of which specific
      breathing and pranayama practices are being done. It allows the mind
      to stay focused on why the practices are being done, and how they fit
      into the scheme of the eight rungs of Yoga (2.29), leading to deep
      meditation and samadhi (3.1-3.3).

      POSTURE IS PREREQUISITE:

      To successfully practice and attain the full benefits of breath
      control and pranayama, it is necessary that it be built on the solid
      foundation of a steady and comfortable sitting posture (2.46-2.48).
      Surely one can do breathing practices without the foundation of
      posture, but the benefits are not as rich.

      DIVERSITY OF VIEWS ON PRANAYAMA:

      There are a wide range of opinions and teachings about breathing and
      pranayama practices. Some are compatible and some are conflictual,
      and it seems unlikely that the differences will, or can be completely
      resolved and integrated. Understanding this allows one to be able to
      choose wisely about which practices to follow, as well as how and
      when to implement them. Some of the confusion stems from not
      understanding the subtler, more internal practices of meditation, and
      thus believing that pranayama has solely to the more mechanical
      aspects of muscular breath regulation. The deeper pranayama practices
      have more to do with awareness than mechanics.


      *******************
      YOGA SUTRA 2.51:
      *******************

      The fourth pranayama is that continuous prana which surpasses, is
      beyond, or behind those others that operate in the exterior and
      interior realms or fields.
      (bahya abhyantara vishaya akshepi chaturthah)

      bahya = external
      abhyantara = internal
      vishaya = region, spheres, realms, fields
      akshepi = going beyond, surpassing, setting aside
      chaturthah = the fourth

      THE FOURTH PRANAYAMA:

      The fourth pranayama is that continuous prana which surpasses, is
      beyond, or behind those others that operate in the exterior and
      interior realms or fields. It refers to that pure prana that is
      beyond the three aspects we know as exhalation, inhalation, and
      transition between these. It is a process of transcending breath as
      we usually know it, so as to drop into the energy of pure prana that
      is underneath, or support to the gross breath. This comes after
      working with the three pranayamas, and these rest on the foundation
      of the Yamas, Niyamas, and Asana, which are the first three rungs of
      Yoga.

      LIKE WAVES AND THE OCEAN:

      Imagine that you are sitting at the ocean, just where the waves come
      ashore. When a wave comes, it washes over you and runs up the beach.
      Then, the wave turns around, and recedes over you, going back to the
      ocean. Then, the current turns again, and another wave washes over
      you. Over and over, you experience this cycling process. This is like
      the breath, which exhales, transitions, inhales, transitions, and
      then starts the process again. However, imagine that you swam away
      from shore some distance, and dove down to the bottom (wearing your
      scuba tank). There, you would sit on the bottom with no waves coming
      or going. You might feel a very gentle motion, but very slight; you
      are beyond, or deeper than the surface motion of the waves. So it is
      also with breath.

      THE FOURTH PRANAYAMA TRANSCENDS THE WAVES:

      Similarly, in the fourth pranayama, your attention transcends the
      process of coming and going of exhalation and inhalation, as well as
      the transitions between them. In the fourth pranayama, you experience
      the prana itself as an ever existing force, beyond the surface
      currents. Through that pranayama the veil of karmasheya (2.12) that
      covers the inner illumination or light is thinned, diminishes and
      vanishes, allowing the inner light to come shining through.

      SEE USEFUL GRAPHIC AT THIS SUTRA (2.51):
      http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras-24953.htm#2.51


      *******************
      YOGA SUTRA 2.52:
      *******************

      Through that pranayama the veil of karmasheya (2.12) that covers the
      inner illumination or light is thinned, diminishes and vanishes.
      (tatah kshiyate prakasha avaranam)

      tatah = then, thereby, thence, from that
      kshiyate = is destroyed, thinned, diminishes, vanishes
      prakasha = light, illumination
      avaranam = veil, covering

      RESULTS OF THE FOURTH PRANAYAMA:

      Through the experience and repeated practice of that fourth pranayama
      the veil of karmasheya (2.12), which covers the inner illumination or
      light is thinned, diminishes and gradually vanishes. The practice of
      pranayama, and the repeated experiencing of the fourth pranayama
      (2.51) is a most significant part of breaking the alliance of karma,
      which was introduced in previous sutras (2.12-2.25).


      *******************
      YOGA SUTRA 2.53:
      *******************

      Through these practices and processes of pranayama, which is the
      fourth of the eight steps, the mind acquires or develops the fitness,
      qualification, or capability for true concentration (dharana), which
      is itself the sixth of the steps.
      (dharanasu cha yogyata manasah)

      dharanasu = for concentration, for dharana
      cha = and
      yogyata = fitness, preparedness, qualification, capability
      manasah = mind

      FITNESS FOR CONCENTRATION:

      Through these practices and processes of pranayama, which is the
      fourth of the eight steps, the mind acquires or develops the fitness,
      qualification, or capability for true concentration (dharana), which
      is itself the sixth of the steps (3.1). Implicit in this is the fact
      that pranayama leads to the withdrawal of the senses (pratyahara),
      which is described in the next two sutras (2.54-2.55).
      http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras-25455.htm

      http://www.swamij.com
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