Breath and Meditation

     It is very important to commence your meditation practice half an hour before sunrise and sunset and this time is called Sandhi kala. During this time dual nostril ( Sushumna) operation is in progress and aids in centering. Another important point to note is to expressly state the purpose and time for which you are going to meditate. You can choose any asana (posture) with a relaxed body and vertical spine. You could sit on the edge of your bed or a chair with your back away from the backrest.  

     The next important factor is the position of your eyes. You can choose Shambhavi Mudra eye, where you focus your closed eyes on the middle of the eyebrows ( eyebrows center) and be in a relaxed state or you could choose the Agochari Mudra , where you focus your eyes on the tip of the nose near the nostrils. You could use Chin Mudra of the hands when you are seated on the chair so that the back of the palms rest on the thighs. If the place is noisy, you may plug your ears with earplugs.

     Once you have relaxed in your asana with the above mudras, it is time to start your meditation. Imagine Mahaprana (Vital Cosmic energy) all around you and a hollow body within. You are now absorbing this Mahaprana from the space around you ( This space and Prana transcend the entire Cosmos). This Mahaprana is called prana when it enters your body. Prana being energy is not perceptible to your senses. Now, clearly feelchin the path of the pranic energy ( not the physical air youbreathe) as it enters your body. The starting point of this prana, outside the body is called BahyaDvaDashanta (BDD) ( external point twelve finger widths from the eyebrow center). This prana then enters the nostrils, goes to the eyebrow center , to the top of the head and rests at a point twelve finger widths below the throat center , inside your body. This point is called Hrit. 

So, the inhalation goes from the external BDD to the Hrit point. Now, wnidra1.2ith the eyes in Shambhavi Mudra, listen to the sound of the breath as it moves in and out. Be with the breath as it moves from the outside-in to inside-out completing its cycles as you visualize the path in your mind’s screen. If you continue this process for half an hour, you will achieve centering. If you feel drowsy, you may lie flat on your back on the bed and the practice will continue. If instructed by a Guru, you may merge a mantra like “Om” with each inhale and exhale or you could merge the HamSah (हंसः)  mantra which is being chanted automatically without your awareness. Use Ha (ह) with the inhale ending with am at the Hrit ( Ha + am ० = Ham (हं) and Sa (स) with the exhale ending with ‘ah’ at the BDD ( Sa + ah := Sah (सः)



Breath and life span

Breath and life span

Ancient seers measured life by the number the breaths (inhale plus exhale) we take.  On an average a normal human being breathes at a rate of 15 breaths per minute or 21,600 breaths per day. Now, the maximum life span allocated to an individual is:

15 breaths/min x 60 mins x 24 hours x 365 days x 120 years = 9,46,080,000 breaths.

The total number of breaths allocated to each individual is fixed, however, the rate at which these breaths are consumed varies dramatically from individual to individual. Because of the stress associated with unfulfilled desires of the modern materialistic world, humans always breathe at a much higher rate. As the mind is more subtler, stress immediately affects the breathing rate. This causes breathing to be shallow and the number of breaths allocated are consumed at a much faster rate. When a human being is under stress, along with the reduced time of each breathing cycle, the space up to where the breath is projected from the nostril increases e.g. fear causes quick shallow breathing and one can feel the breath reach up to the navel. This dramatically reduces the lifespan of humans in the modern age. So, the first way to increase life is to spend time alone with the senses internalized , and take deep long rhythmic breaths to relax the mind.
You need not learn any advanced  technique just yet. Just sit or lie on the ground with the spine straight and take deep long breaths without using force, but with full awareness of every breath. The best time for this is before sunrise, at the junction of day and night,called the Sandhi Kala.  As you proceed with this breathing, the time span of  each breath continuously increases and after a some time you will achieve a rate of 5-6 breaths per minute or even lesser. Now, you will feel completely relaxed and closer to the center.
It is very difficult to remain aware of the breath while doing work, as the mind along with the senses, being externalized, continuously distracts the individual. This method of breath awareness is the first dharana or method mentioned in the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra and was also used by the  Buddha in the form of Anapanasati yoga.
PRANA VAYU.jpg          As the Manomaya Kosha or the mental body is more subtle than the breath or the Pranamaya Kosha , breathing alone is not sufficient. This breathing must be accompanied with mind awareness for faster results. It seems too simple a method to be just aware of every inhale and exhale. Try it for thirty minutes and see the results. Very few people are relaxed and aware enough to focus on each breath for more than 3-4 minutes. So, the secret to a long life is deep,long rhythmic breathing and with awareness, liberation.
Now more on breath. Even though we feel only the air we breathe, this is at a gross level. Air is just the medium through which Maha-prana or cosmic consciousness enters the human being. The Prana Shakti or life force, at the individual level assumes the five sheaths from the physical sheath to the bliss sheath , which is closest to the spirit or the supreme self. Now, the Pranamaya Kosha or the vital energy sheath divides into sub-pranas:
  1. Prana , functions in the thoracic region
  2. Apana , functions below the navel
  3. Samana , located between the heart and navel
  4. Udana , functions in the throat and face region
  5. Vyana , pervades the whole body
              One of the keys is to retain this middle breath between inhale and exhale and lengthen the retention time though various techniques.
illustration-showing-the-nadis-and-chakras-e1354813761199.jpgThe universal prana which is now individualized is spread through the entire body by 72,000 subtle channels called nadis. Out these 72,000 nadis, 10 are important. They are:
Ida ,Pingala, Sushumna, Gandhari ,Hastijihva ,Poosha ,Yashaswini, Alambusha ,Kuhu and Shankhini. Now Ida ,Pingala, Sushumna the negative, positive and neutral channels,are the most significant. Ida is the negative or female channel responsible for cooling and relaxation. Pingala is the positive or male channel which energizes the body. Ida is related to the conscious mind, Pingala to the sub-conscious and Sushumna to the un-conscious mind.
Ida runs on the left side of the spine, Pingala on the right and Sushumna in the center. All these three nadis join together at the level of the third eye and then proceed together as one.

Breath Basics

Every living being breathes. So, all these words in my blog are for living beings, and especially for living beings with awareness : humans! Breathe does not discriminate on divisions created by humans for their selfish motives : race,religion,caste,color or creed.So, these words for all who can read and who live on this mother earth under the same Sun and Moon.
You are alive because you breathe! The most significant factor to note is that the breath does not need you, it goes on despite of you : right from birth to death, from childhood, adolescence, married life, old age and the various events,circumstances, emotions and feelings that the body and mind experiences, there is one unchanging constant : breath. This is because breathing is an autonomous process.So, breath is the the most important factor to any human being and yet the least explored. People have conquered the moon and mars but are yet to discover the potential of this phenomenon within you, the very cause of your existence, which gives you a name. You breathe and you have a name, you stop and you are a dead body without a name.
We know so little of this magnificent resource because we spend very little time with our own Self. We are forever surrounded by things and people being a slave to our senses : the very senses which are powered by breath. The only time we are centered within is when we are in the state of deep sleep, but alas this centering is without awareness.
i do.jpgThe breath is the vital link between the body and the mind. So, we can use breath for fulfillment of worldly desires as well as for realization of the self and liberation. For all worldly desires we use the mind and for self realization the mind is transcended. This is very important to know at the very start of this journey. Self realization does not need the mind and senses, because it the very Self (absolute consciousness) that powers the mind and the senses. We are so much driven by our unending desires that we are never centered in the SELF , and are forever on the periphery/circumference with I DO, I OWN, I HAVE, I FEEL and so on.

kosha.jpgBefore we go to use breath, we must know some fundamentals about the human being. The human body is just one layer of sheath called the Annamaya Kosha or the food body. There is a subtler sheath called the Pranamaya Kosha or the pranic body responsible for physiological functions like digestion. A more subtler dimension is the Manomaya Kosha or the mental body in charge of the mental and emotional processes. Now Prana or breath becomes the link between the body and the mind. Following the mental body is an even subtler sheath called the Vijnanamaya Kosha or the intuitive body responsible for psychic and causal aspects. The fifth and the subtlest sheath is the Anandamaya Kosha or the bliss body for transcendental awareness. These sheaths are directly related to the different states of the mind or the psychological aspect.

      So, we now come to the four states mind. In the attached picture the white area represents the infinite substratum called super consciousness or God consciousness which is the basis for the other states. The conscious state of mind is when you are awake. In wakeful awareness most humans are slaves of their senses.  Sub-conscious mind or the dream state is followed by deep sleep. These layers correspond to the Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta frequencies of the brain. The most important point to note is that there exists a gap between each state, where you are one with HIM. HIM, your true SELF.

Now, let us put this all together! The food body and the pranic body are associated with the conscious state of mind and form the Stula sharira or the gross body. The mental body and the intuitive body are associated with the dream state or the sub-conscious mind and form the Sukshma sharira or the astral body. Finally the unconscious and superconscious psychological dimensions of the bliss body and form the causal and cosmic body.