We are breath, or more more correctly we are linked to this manifested creation primarily by the movement of air through our nostrils. To go beyond the limits imposed by the manifested, the first step is control of the breath. If you control your breath, you naturally control the pran moving within you. If you can control your pran, you automatically control your mind. Your mind is like a ball in your hand, it jumps up and down with the movement of pran. If you still the movement of pran, you also still your mind. The pran’s movement stills when you still your breathing, ie achieve Keval Kumbhak state, where there is no breathing in nor breathing out. If your Mind goes still, you achieve the ‘unmani-state’, beyond-Mind. After you reach this Unmani state, you hear the continuous ‘Nada’, the sound of the unmanifested. If you can dissolve your limited consciousness in the sound of the Nada, you achieve the Eternal.
Our regular breathing is very turbulent. It depends on the physical movement of the body but it also depends significantly on your emotions and your thoughts. Check your breathing pattern when you are happy, sad, angry, upset, relaxed, focussed, etc and observe for yourself how it varies.
All texts on breathing and Dhyan will talk about the length of the breath and the rate of breathing.
- This is how you determine the length of your breathing in comparison to your own finger-widths, a measure called angula. Switch off the fan in your room first, it should not be windy inside. Place some cotton fibres or a very thin thread on the back of your hand and keep it at some distance from your nose. Be at rest, relax and breathe normally. As you exhale on the cotton fibres they will move with the force of the exhaled air. Try to find out till what distance from your nose, the cotton fibres visibly move with your exhaled breath. Measure this distance from your nostrils to the fibres with a piece of thread. Now count how many finger-widths long is your breath when you are at rest.
- Now to measure your breathing rate. Sit in a relaxed position. Set a timer for 5 mins. Count your breathing, ie one inhale and one exhale is one breath. eg If you count 52 breaths in 5 mins, then it is average at about 10 breaths per minute. eg If it is 68 breaths in 5 mins it is approximately 14 breaths per minute. As per science, the average human breathing rate at rest is 12 per minute.
Your life span is measured in breaths, not years. If you breathe slowly, you will live longer, look younger and be more healthy. But you should not force yourself to stop/slow breathe, if you do so, you will damage your body and your nadi-s. This should happen spontaneously and it will happen gradually as you do your spiritual practice.
(This photograph of my Sat-guru was taken in 1990, he was physically 85yrs old then.)
If your breathing is fast, forced, laboured, intense etc the air will be displaced for a longer distance from your nose. ie the length of the breath will increase. As per the texts, this is how the activities affect your breath, eg eating increases the length to 18 angula, walking increases it to 20 angula, running to 24 angula, sexual activity to 60 angula etc. If the length of the exhaled breath is longer, it reduces your life-span. The reason is that with every exhaled breath, you are also exhaling pran from your system. Generally you lose more pran than you pull in from the universe as your exhaled breath is always longer than your inhaled breath. And if the exhaled breath is made longer by engaging in strenuous activities or mental turbulence, even more pran goes out. (So over-indulgence in sexual activity is not advisable for spiritual aspirants, 60 angula long-breath!)
When you breathe slowly, without any jerks, the exhaled air moves out with less force, ie it’s length in angula becomes shorter. As the breathing becomes slow, it also becomes less turbulent, the flow of the pran in the nadi-s becomes smoother, more subtle, thinner? It actually becomes a fine needle of pure gold/ silver shimmer. In Dhyan, you are supposed to actively open your central Sushumna and close the Ida and Pingala. When such smooth subtle flow of pran moves through the Sushumna it effectively ‘cleans’ it out. Once the Sushumna is ‘clean’, all karmic impurities/ blockages are removed, it becomes very easy for the kundalini to rise up through it in one continuous smooth flow. It is always better for the spiritual aspirant if the Kundalini moves only after the Sushumna is clean from the Mooladhar to the Brahmarandhra.
So the point is that if you reduce the breathing rate and reduce the length of breath which actually happens simultaneously, you will increase the length and quality of your life and also gain control over your pran, Mind and also on the people around you and the environment you live in. Here is what the texts say,
- If it is 10 angula, you gain peace of mind which lasts for a long time.
- If it is 9 angula, you can spontaneously write, prose, music etc which have deep impacts on others.
- If it is 8 angula, you will be able to speak spontaneously without hesitation. Your words will cause deep impact on those who hear you.
- If it is 7angula, your vision will change, seeing into the past, present, future, parallel is possible now.
- If it is 6 angula, you can move your body through air.
- If it has gone to 5 angula, now onwards, your progress in your spiritual practice becomes very fast.
- If it goes to 4 angula, you will attain the eight major siddhis (anima, mahima, garima, laghima, prakamya, ishitva, vashitva, kamavashayitva) and the several minor siddhis.
- If it goes down to 3 angula, you gain the nava nidhi vidya the 9 types of consciousnesses. These are said to be under the control of Yaksharaj Kuber.
- If it goes upto 2 angula, then the body is not longer a binding, you can change the shape of your 5-layered body.
- If it reduces to 1 angula, you can become invisible and exist in just the subtle or causal body. Time, space and other dimensions lose their dominion on you.
- Finally when the breathing stops, ie there is no exhalation or inhalation, Keval Kumbhak is attained, now the further process of Self realization starts in real earnest.
So as you do your spiritual practice, with time, your breathing will slow down and stop intermittently and then fully. It is nothing to be scared of. You don’t need air to remain alive in this created world. You need only pran, and it can be pulled in not just through the nostrils but also via the skin and majorly through the top of the head. This ability to consciously pull in pran increases, as you do your spiritual practice. So as an aspirant, your only job is to breathe with Soham, the rest of it will happen spontaneously and naturally.