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The Four Degrees of Breath Control

(a) The First Three Degrees

The first three degrees of breath control are measured according to the duration of the chalice, i.e. of the holding of the breath.

In the first degree, the small breath control, the chalice lasts about sixteen and a half seconds; in the second degree, the intermediate breath control, about thirty-three seconds; in the third degree, the higher breath control, it last about fifty seconds.

Thus, the duration of the more usual breath controls, in seconds, will be:

breathing in inner chalice breathing out outer chalice
small 4 16 1/2 8 1
intermediate 6 33 1/4 10-12 2
higher 8 50 12-16 3

After perfecting the higher breath control, the duration of the chalice may be further increased by practicing the Breathing Bellows. If the chalice lasts for more than five minutes, a good deal of air will have been assimilated and the breath may have to be drawn in a second time before breathing out. When the higher breath-control is perfected, the vital breath will be felt to rise through the central artery of the subtle body towards the head. At first, it climbs very slowly like an ant; then, as the artery becomes purified in the region of the three main Centers (granthi), it leaps up like a frog, and when, further, by practicing the Breathing Bellows, the chalice has been increased in length and the Centers pierced, it flies upward like a bird and enters the Center of the Thousand Petals at the top of the head.

Practicing the chalice, the head at first grows heavy, but in a few days it clears and its powers of resistance increase to such an extent that no trace of pain is felt. In six weeks, the vital breath should move fast, the mind become concentrated and bliss be experienced.

(b) The Fourth Degree of Breath Control

"To transcend the outer and inner spheres of perception is the fourth degree." (Yoga Darshana 2, 51.)

By getting beyond the objects of both the outer senses and inner faculties, such as volition, discrimination, etc., the transcendent, fourth degree of breath-control is reached where complete cessation of movement takes place and where nothing remains measurable by time, space or number.

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