Length and Rate of your breathing

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.

Length and Rate of your breath

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.)

IMG_5568

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.

 

Length and Rate of your breath

Soul in Sushupti the deep sleep

I have written about the Soul in Dream states/Swapna awastha in this post here.

There are four states of existence, Awake – Jagruti, Swapna -Dream, Deep sleep – Sushupti and Turiya – the fourth state e.g. in deep Dhyan.

The deep sleep is a very mysterious state. Modern science has accepted that the deep sleep phase is essential for the body to rest and rejuvenate. Your body repairs itself when you are in the Sushupti state. The mind and the soul also refresh themselves. And when you wake up you feel that you are reborn. But modern science is unable to explain why and how this happens. Modern medicine generally studies physical bodies and dead bodies, so the secrets of the living body are beyond its practitioners. What is Life? If you want to know how your body, mind and soul function, you have to study the living body composed of the Panch-kosh in which the Pran flow and the Jivatma/soul resides in it.

Soul in Sushupti the deep sleep

A quick recap of the body’s energy structure. The thinnest naadi /energy channel is called the Sushumna. It has 6 energy vertices/chakras from the coccyx to the third eye roughly along the vertebral column. There are 6 more chakras in the head. The Third eye chakra is called the Ajnya chakra and is the seat of the individual soul.

‘Behind’ the Ajnya chakra is the Kutasth कूटस्थ. It is a Sanskrit word शब्द which means, unchangeable, supreme, immoveable, uniform, at the top, located within a multitude, etc. This is the Krishna of the Bhagwat Gita, Vaikunth the abode of Vishnu, Kailas the abode of Shiv, the Bhairav of the Vidnyan Bhairav Tantra resides here. The unknowable ‘dark’ yet ‘self-illuminated’, Parabrahma /Eternal Reality is located at the Kutasth.

There is an oft-repeated story of two similar looking birds, the only difference is in the behaviour. One eats the fruits from the tree and the other just sits and observes the first bird.

  • The bird who eats the fruits is the Jivatma/individual soul with its baggage of karma which resides at the Ajnya chakra.
  • The bird who just observes is Parabrahma residing the Kutasth.

But the interesting thing is that खग does not just mean ‘bird’, it also means wind/ energy of the wind/ vital energy/ pran. And to ‘eat’ is also means to ‘experience‘. The Parabrahma is also called the Mahapran, Great vital energy. (This allegory defines the Jivatma and the Paramatma in several deep ways, so think on what else this simple story tells you.)

The manifested soul/ Jivatma exists outside the Kutasth, at the center of the Ajnya chakra. It cannot consciously enter the Kutasth. The entire purpose of spiritual practice is to get the Jivatma to enter into the Kutasth! You can imagine how difficult this is, you have to rebalance all karma, control your vital energy/pran then set the kundalini free from its sleeping place under the lowermost Mooladhar chakra. Take it up the thinnest inner layer of Sushumna (i.e. the Brahmanaadi within the Sushumna) then navigate the energy whirlpools of all the chakras carefully, open the three locks (granthi) on the way etc. Only then can your soul, Jivatma consciously enter the Kutasth and experience the Ultimate Reality. This is Moksh.

ajnya chakra yantra

This is the Yantra of the Ajnya chakra. The two petals are the Ida and the Pingala naadi in cross-section. The circle is the Sushumna. The downward pointing equilateral triangle is a cross-section of the Brahmanadi. The central dot/Bindu is the Jivatama/individual soul. In some yantra diagrams, Om ॐ is written in place of the dot/Bindu. It means almost the same thing. (The sequence of creation is – Parabrahma – (Purush with) Devi – Naada (of two types Naad-anth and Nirodhini) – Om – Bindu.)

So when you are awake, the individual soul/Jivatma is located in the Ajnya Chakra. It coordinates the movement of pran from the Universe into the body and allocates it to the Ida, Pingala or Sushumna. It orders (ajnya) the inward movement of the vital energy/ pran.

The next state of existence is the Dream. When you are dreaming, Swapna, the Jivatma uses the Sookshma sharir (do read the post on Panch kosh) to travel within the astral dimensions and its own sub-subconscious layers. (Astral travel is a variant of this where the Jivatma moves out of the boundaries of its bodies for brief periods.)

Soul in Sushupti the deep sleep

But what happens during deep sleep, Sushupti is very interesting. The Jivatma moves from the center of the Anjya Chakra to the ‘door’ of the Kuthastha and is actually allowed entry. It rests with the Parabrahma! The objective of your entire spiritual practice is achieved in Sushupti! But there is a difference between the two, else everyone would get Moksh in deep sleep.

Deep sleep is defined when you are sleeping, perfectly relaxed, regularly breathing, calm, peaceful and seeing no dreams. In this phase you/Jivatma, become one with the Mahapran/Parabrahma. During this period you are unaware of everything. You are surrounded by nothing of this manifested Universe and are in the embrace of the Eternal. However there exists a thin ‘veil of ignorance’ between you and the Supreme. Thus you have no awareness of your identity with the Supreme.

This rest with the Parabrahma is the reason why the body, mind and soul are completely refreshed after the Sushupti phase of sleep. But then why would you come back from the Kutasth? If Moksh means entry into the Kutasth, you are doing it every night! So why come back to the Ajnya and take over the body-robot again? There are three reasons,

  1.  You are the Jivatma the individual soul, you have a load of karma to work through. When you went into deep sleep, this job was only partly complete, you still have to finish it. You finish in the morning what you had left incomplete the night before.
  2. The veil does not allow complete merger of your individual consciousness with the Eternal.
  3. Moksh is possible only when you are aware and conscious of what is happening. In deep sleep, you are not aware. In the samadhi states/ deepest spiritual practice, you are aware/ conscious of your merger with the Eternal.

When the individual soul enters the Kutasth and rests with the Parabrahma in deep sleep, it is like a a pot full of salt water with a tightly sealed mouth plunged into the Ganga. When it awakens from the deep sleep, the same pot is taken out of the river with the same salt-water in it. Similarly the individual soul is enveloped by its desires. It goes to rest and recover with the Eternal in the Kutasth. During this period it temporarily suspends all senses/ activities/ego etc. It comes out of the Kutasth again to get more experiences. It does not become identical with Eternal Reality. However the soul experiences deep happiness during Sushupti and rejuvenates.

(If you force someone to remain awake or not allow him to enter the deep sleep stage for a few days he will die as soul will not be able to rejuvenate  within the Kutasth.)

Another connected thing. Indians have a habit of having a bath first thing in the morning. If the kids delay having a bath, the elders will scold. Now observe your energy dynamics before, while and after bathing to know why bathing after waking up is essential. (I hope you can see your own aura by this time?) Well, when you are in deep sleep, the individual soul has sort of left the body and gone to the Kutasth. The movement of vital energy/pran is restricted to the upper chakras of the head. The rest of the body gets the bare minimum stand-by levels of pran. This Sushupti phase is like a ‘mini-death’. The Jivatma restarts the body as you wake up, but the naadis are still under the last night’s deep sleep effect so pran does not flow so smoothly in them. When you take a bath, i.e. put water on your body, your aura stops projecting out. Only when you dry your body, it flares around your body again. You feel a ‘warmth’ as you dry yourself, this is your aura enveloping you again. All this resets the energy of the body and ‘fixes’ the rejuvenation that your soul has experienced in last night’s deep sleep, so the entire body benefits.

The human soul is a very strange thing. It knows its Reality (continuously recites Soham) and rejuvenates itself within the Eternal every single night in deep sleep/ Sushupti. But it allows the desire to experience to pull it back to the body/Universe it has manifested. And yet tries to again go back to Itself during its waking state!

(For more reading, the Brahma Sutra.)

 

Soul in Sushupti the deep sleep

The Mantra Soham Hamsa and OM

Every practice of Sanatan Dharm/ Hinduism, the ‘eternal right action’ requires that,

  • you remain in control of your breathing pattern,
  • focus at your third eye
  • and mentally recite a Mantra.

Unless these 3 conditions are satisfied you will not gain control over the pran/vital energy moving in your energy body. And if you do not control the pran, you will not be able to do anything else further.

If you do the breathing or the yogic posture/Asan without the accompanying Mantra, the Sadhana/practice becomes tamasic in nature. The energies invoked will be unmoving, dull and eventually discordant. You are working with your own personal energies, do not experiment. If you do make errors, you will suffer on the internal levels, you might gain physical health but spiritually you will remain nil.

Reciting the Mantra mentally is compulsory. Mantra is not ‘religious’. It is a form of the Universal energy, you are entraining your personal energy with it, so that you attain the Ultimate.

The Mantra Soham Hamsa and OM

Now for doing Dhyan there are only 3 Mantra options,

  1. ‘Soham’- the best option if you want to experience Moksh – you mentally recite ‘So’ while breathing in and while breathing out ‘ham’ mentally. So together it is ‘Soham’. Anyone can do it without formal initiation from a living Guru.
  2. Or ‘OM’ – mentally recite one single OM as you breathe in and one single OM as you breathe out. This much can be done by anyone. (There is one another way of using the OM but you will need a proper enlightened Guru for its initiation)
  3. Or ‘Hamsa’ – mentally recite ‘Ham’ while breathing out and while breathing in ‘Sa’. Together it becomes ‘Hamsa’. This too can be done by anyone without any formal initiation.

‘So’ here is the Universal consciousness/ Param-atma and ‘ham’ is the narrow sense of self/ individual soul/ Jiv-atma.

  • So = Sa + O = success, knowledge, accomplishment + eternal Anahata/unstruck sound (there is sound but nothing was struck to create it)
  • Ham = Ha + M = Eternity + completion, endlessness, the Bindu – this is also a beej mantra when pronounced aloud as ‘hang’

When you breathe in, it is called Purak (filling). This is linked to ‘Sa’ (sa-kaar). When you hold your breath now it is called Antah Kumbhak (internal measure/base) this is linked to the vibration of ‘O’. When you breathe out it is called Rechak (emptying) this is linked to “ha’ (ha-kaar). And when you hold your lungs empty now this is called Bahya Kumbhak (external measure/base) linked to the ‘M’ vibration.

Kumbhak is the important part of breathing, here the inward and outward going breath are balanced perfectly and there is perfect stillness as described in the Vidnyan Bhairav Tantra. This is also the limit/joint, the conscious energy of Sandhya which is also called the Devi Mahamaya. She creates, maintains then destroys and is all pervading.

In the deeper Dhyan phases, the ‘sa’ and ‘ha’ Akshar somehow get ‘deleted’ and only ‘OM’ the primordial Nada remains. This will take some time but it will happen. You keep practicing and witness it when it does happen.

The Ida naadi is linked to the ‘Sa’ and the Pingala naadi to the ‘Ha’. When the ‘Ha’ and the ‘Sa’ get ‘neutralized’ (can’t find a better word) the OM remains. After this the Ida/ Pingala shut down and Sushumna naadi gets active. The pran from the Universe which enters through your third eye chakra moves into the Sushumna. It starts the process of ‘cleaning’ it out. Only when it is completely ‘clean’ and ‘through’, can the energy of self-identification /kundalini enter it and move through it till it reaches the top-most chakra, Moksh.

‘Soham’ is the energy which pulls the Kundalini up towards its merger with the Ultimate. ‘Hamsa’ in this sense would be the energy of manifestation and ‘Soham’, the energy of dissolution. Both are interlinked and equal in the real sense. For creation you need to have a dissolution first, then only can something be created. And for dissolution to happen you need creation in the first place which will be then dissolved. These two are very powerful mantra, but they still are defined. Each is defined in relation to the other, thus are not the Ultimate on their own. They are the link to the Ultimate.

The Ultimate is pure OM.

(How would you describe a pearl? White, small, round, pearly, iridescent, from an oyster, etc. But these terms describe its properties in relation to something else. They do not describe the pearl as such, stand-alone, on its own. Thus a pearl cannot be really described, or can it?)

Now these two mantras are also called the ‘Ajapa Gayatri‘. Ajapa means ‘not counted/recited’. Jap means to count and recite. If you pay attention to the ‘sound’ of your breath, it does sound like ‘so’ when breathing in and ‘ham’ as you breathe out. You are always reciting Soham when you are breathing, unconsciously. See, you are always reciting a Mantra as you breathe. Breath without Mantra is not possible. You do not realise it, but you are doing a 21,600 times jaap of Soham every day. But the trick is to be aware of this continuous sound of Soham. This awareness is called ‘Soham Yog’ or ‘Hamsa Yog’. Your Dhyan is the means to this goal.

When you recite Soham mentally with your breath you are ‘churning’ the internal pran/vital air with your focussed breathing, in and out. You are attracting the Ultimate consciousness by repeatedly calling out its name ‘Soham’ (it becomes OM later, your real name). And you are applying force on the closed door of the Sushumna by focussing on the third eye chakra. The door will open!

shri_smarth_sadguru_muppin_kadsiddheshwar_maharaj
Samarth Satguru Shri Muppin Kadsiddheshwar Maharaj

My Guru taught me the Mantra ‘Soham’ in this life 37 yrs ago. It is the simplest and safest means to achieve your spiritual goal, Moksh.

But do you have the Intention? How long will you Play till you decide to come Home?