प्रच्छर्दनविधारणाभ्यां वा प्राणस्य॥३४॥
pracchardana-vidhāraṇa, vā, prāṇa
- Peace of mind is also developed by the expelling or retaining of the breath.- CT
- Or that calm is retained by the controlled exhalation or retention of the breath. -SS
- Or stability of mind is gained by exhaling and retaining the breath. -EFB
Remember, Patanjali is offering ways for us to get rid of the obstacles or blocks to the mind, so he is describing ways to keep a peaceful mind.
The other ways to develop a peaceful mind, that have been previously mentioned are; concentrating on a single object (the highest form of concentration being fixing the mind on God through the recitation of OM) and cultivating attitudes of friendliness, compassion, delight, and dispassion.
Now we add to the list working with the breath. Later in the text working with the breath is called “pranayama.” In later text (later than Patanjali), text from Tantra and Hatha, working with the breath is called kumbhaka.
Kevala kumbhaka is the spontaneous retention of the breath. Yogic philosophy links the breath and the mind together, claiming that if the mind is calm the breath is calm and if the breath is calm the mind is calm.
Prana here refers to “life force energy” that we can most easily experience through our breath. Some commentators say that Patanjali meant retaining the breath outside the body. Who knows? He doesn’t elaborate.
Other pranayama terms:
Pranayama is intended to be practiced with concentration, if not the mind can become more disturbed. This is why pranayama is intended for a higher level practitioner. There is a certain level of discipline and purity required before having a beneficial experience in pranayama.
I am not saying that working with the breath is not valuable without first developing one’s concentration. We can all agree that the mind and the breath are intimately related. We also know through our own experience that the breath is related to the nervous system, and through science, we know that the brain is a part of the nervous system.
Working with the breath helps to calm our nervous system. Our bodies become light and our minds become steady. Commentaries on this sutra suggest you should keep the chest still and use the abdominals to control the breath. The spontaneous retention of the breath is also largely discussed. When the breath is suspended, so is the mind. The spontaneous suspension of the mind is considered to be the most desired experience.
From a western position working with the breath can help to introduce more oxygen into the blood, lowering or stabilizing blood pressure. It can help the nervous system switch from a stress mode (fight or flight) to a relaxed mode, which can reduce stress and anxiety that can cause disruptions in the bodies natural process. I found the following article, and I included a paragraph below. It is very informative if you are interested in the benefits of pranayama from a western science perspective.
“Slow pranayama breathing techniques show the most practical and physiological benefit, yet the underlying mechanism how they work is not fully elucidated in the research (Jerath et al., 2006). However, Jerath and colleagues hypothesize that “the voluntary, slow deep breathing functionally resets the autonomic nervous system through stretch-induced inhibitory signals and hyperpolarization (slowing electrical action potentials) currents…which synchronizes neural elements in the heart, lungs, limbic system and cortex.” As well, investigations have demonstrated that slow breathing pranayama breathing techniques activate the parasympathetic (inhibitory) nervous system, thus slowing certain physiological processes down that may be functioning too fast or conflicting with the homeostasis of the cells (Jerath et al., 2006).”
2. Prayer Ritual
Practice 10X Rounds
- Use your mantra.
- Say your mantra to yourself 5 times out loud.
- Say your mantra in a whisper 5 times.
- Say your mantra silently in your mind 5 times.
*When you catch your mind engaged in an activity that you find harmful, use your mantra to reset your mind.
Pay special attention to your breath today. Notice the somatic sensations related to each part of the breath, inhalation, exhalation, and the retention between each. Notice how the mind and the breath are related.
Dirga Pranayam is the full Yogic Breath.
- Start ujjayi, create a nice long breath, balancing the inhalation and exhalation.
- Visualize in the space between the bottom of your ribs and your navel as the central point of your being.
- As you inhale feel the energetic body expanding out, spherically, in all directions. (3-Dimensionally)
- Pause-Kumbhaka- spontaneously
- Let the exhale come naturally, feel the energetic body contracting back into the body at the central point of your being.
- Kumbhaka -spontaneous pause.
- Reapeat for 5 minutes noticing the feeling of continual expanding and contracting of your being in a rhythmic way.
- Draw your attention into yourself. Removing your awareness of the objects of your senses.
- Focus your minds eye on your object of meditation or on OM.
- Practice for 10 minutes.
- When you feel your mind wander be so gentle in bringing it back. *Remember we are like infants in this journey. Treat yourself as you would your own child.
- End by touching your heart and repeating your name 3 times.
- What is your somatic experience of the breath during inhale?
- During exhale?
- During kumbhaka?
- What is your mental experience during breath work?