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The Qualifications for Breath Control

Any seeker of Liberation (mumukshu) who observes chastity, regulated diet and well regulated amusements, who speaks gently and speaks the truth, who is humble, without anger, patient, and who abstains from tobacco, hashish and other intoxicants, is qualified for the practice of breath control. He should practice it, however, with an expert teacher, a guru.

Those who are unchaste, busy with worldly affairs, go about much in the sun, approach fire, work much, study grammar and other sciences, who are not independent or do not observe the Observances and Abstinences, who are congenitally ill or have a weak heart, are not qualified for the practice of breath control.

Breath control may be practiced at any age, although it is best to begin when one is young (from seven to forty), and a good circulation is necessary with no heart or lung defect.

Before beginning breath control, at least one of the main sitting postures must be perfected so that one may without effort remain motionless for two or three hours at a time. In warm countries the Spring or cold weather are the best for beginning the practice of breath-control. In the Spring, Iymph is in natural ebullition, while in the winter, bile is effervescent which quickly remedies any deficiencies of Iymph. But first, one's own temperament must be understood in order to avoid places, countries or practices which stimulate the Iymph.

The Number of Breath Controls

Ancient authors enjoined the practice of breath control four times a day: at dawn, midday, sunset and midnight.(1) The Yoga Kundali Upanishad says that beginning with ten breaths at a time and increasing daily by five breaths, by the end of a fortnight's practice eighty breaths at a time should be attained, that is three hundred and twenty a day.

To be done properly, these three hundred and twenty breaths take more than six hours, but this is beyond the capacity of present-day people who should therefore begin from the ten breaths and increase only up to forty breaths at a time, after which they should come back to daily average of only twenty-five at a time. If tired, one may do one of the practices nominally only, namely, only for a few times, but it should never be dropped entirely. For most people, however, it is best to practice breath control only twice a day, once before sunrise after natural functions, purification and bath, and once two hours after sunset. When in bad health or tired, the night practice should be very short.

(1) "Four times, at dawn, mid-day, sunset and midnight, should the chalice be practiced." (Shiva Samhita, 3, 27.)

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