The Place and Conditions for Breath Control
Breath control should be done in a place where there are no draughts, and which is clean and undisturbed; breath control must never be practiced in the open, for draughts prevent perspiring which is an essential element in the purification of the inner channels. Nor should the body be oiled, since this prevents impurities from being eliminated through the pores. The sweat coming out during the breath control exercises should be rubbed over the body to soften it and prevent the vital energy from radiating out and away.
Breath control must be practiced quietly, without any stiffening or the straightened body. The lungs should be kept supple, they will be able to take in more air and the holding of the breath will last longer. The holding of the breath, however, should not be lengthened too quickly for fear of injury to the lungs. If the lungs get tired and the air comes out in sobs, the practice should be immediately stopped, and, for some days, the sitting postures, the Inverted gesture or the Head posture alone should be practiced; this will strengthen the lungs. If the lungs do not allow of intensive practice of breath control, one should aim at entering the Royal Way of Re-integration without breath control, only by "listening-to-the-inner-sound" (nada anusandhana) and fixing-with-the-eyes (trataka).
"The wise seeker does not practice just after food nor when hungry. It is advisable to take some milk and ghee before practice." (Shiva Samhita 3, 44.)
The Results of Breath Control
"Then the veil over the Radiance is destroyed and the mind is capable of concentration." (Yoga Darshana 2, 52, 53.)
Vyasa, commenting on the above, says: "There is no austerity which leads higher than breath control. It purifies all impurity and the flame of knowledge is kindled."
The first achievement from the holding of the breath is the awakening of the coiled energy Kundalini. This coiled energy constantly radiates through the body and its sphere extends outside to about nine inches beyond the nostrils. It continuously draws in outside energies and radiates out its own.
During the first stages of practice, the seeker cannot hold his breath long enough to be able to concentrate his mind on each of the energy-giving Centers of the subtle body. He can maintain the roused coiled energy high up in the central artery of the subtle body only so long as he can hold his breath. He has then perforce, each time, after tasting the ambrosia of bliss, to fall back again to earth, that is, to the Root Center which corresponds to the element earth. Gradually, the coiled energy rises higher and higher and remains up longer and longer, until it remains altogether in the upper region, and the falling back to earth, the cause of rebirth, is removed, in the actual as well as in the figurative sense. This is what is meant by the saying of the tantras:
"Drinking and drinking, and again drinking and drinking, he falls onto the earth, but rising again and again, and drinking again and again, he knows not rebirth."
"At first perspiration comes in the body of the yogi; when perspiration appears it should be rubbed in the body, otherwise the basic elements in the body of the yogi are destroyed." (Shiva Samhita 3, 48 49.)
"At the second stage the body trembles, and at the third stage there is a tendency to leap like a frog (i.e. the seated yogi feels lifted from the ground and then again rests on it). By practicing this the yogi can rise in the air." (Shiva Samhita 3, 50.)
"When the yogi seated in the Lotus posture leaves the ground and remains firm in the air he should know that he has attained mastery over that life-breath which destroys the darkness of the world." (Shiva Samhita 3, 51.)
When the holding of the breath has attained sufficient duration for the seeker to concentrate his mind upon each of the Centers of the subtle body, the coiled energy rises and unites with the lord of each of the Centers. And, when meditation on each Center is finished, the seeker becomes the master of that element which corresponds with it. Gradually he conquers the five elements of the Centers, from the Root Center to the Center of Extreme Purity, and is freed from the bondage of the physical world. No passion has any hold on him who is now no longer slave to but master of all the elements.
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