प्रच्छर्दनविधारणाभ्यां वा प्राणस्य॥३४॥
pracchardana-vidharanabhyam va pranasya
Or (va) you can try lengthening the exhale (pracchardana) and observe the pauses in between breaths (vidharanabhyam) to cultivate a calm and clear mind.
PRACTICAL LIVING In the last sutra Patanjali offered the tool of practicing friendship to those who are well, compassion to those who are suffering, enthusiasm to those who are doing great things, and detachment from those who are causing suffering. In this sutra, Patanjali offers a new tool: the breath. Both of these suggestions are ways to calm the mind, to cultivate more peace and live with more joy. The word “va”, which means “or” indicates that he is telling us to try whatever works for us. Not one path is for everybody.
We may also need to use different tools at different times of our lives. For example, just before an important meeting, presentation or test, we may feel anxious, nervous, scared (i.e. not calm). Perhaps the previous tool of being friendly towards your boss at this moment my not help you calm your mind. But maybe the simple technique of lengthening your exhale may. Yogis have been saying for millennia that ‘as the breath is, the mind is’: “calle vattam, calle cittam”. Now, science has proven it on a cellular level. The longer and smoother the breath is, the calmer the mind is. To emphasize this point, think of when you or someone else is angry or anxious: they’re either holding the breath or the breath is short and shallow.
The second part of this sutra relates to the pause after the exhale (vidharanabhyam). The pauses in between the breaths happen organically whether we pay attention to them or not. Since a huge part of Yoga is to make the unconscious, conscious, Patanjali is recommending we become aware of these pauses. More specifically, he mentions the exhale and the pause after the exhale. Physiologically, when we inhale our heart rate accelerates and when we exhale it slows down. Yogis had an experience of this without knowing the physiology. They knew that the inhale was more energizing and the exhale was more calming. Since Patanjali is offering suggestions to calm the mind, he presents the tool of lengthening the breath and observing the pause after the exhale. During that pause, we are still, we are not even breathing. This can be a unique moment in our days since we are usually doing something. Practicing lengthening the breath and being aware of that pause can change us in different ways. Try it out! Experience it. Remember one of the first lessons we learned in Sutra I.1 is that Yoga is experiential, just reading this blog without acting won’t transform you.
Establishing a consistent practice of breath awareness could be what you need right now in your life. What if you timed yourself for 5 minutes everyday to just focus on the breath? Believe it or not, those daily 5 minutes can change you in profound ways: from the way you talk to others, to how you talk to yourself, to your entire attitude for the rest of the day. Give this practice a try right now, before you carry on reading. Here are some simple instructions to follow:
1. Sit in a comfortable position (on the floor or a chair) where the spine can be straight, yet the body is also relaxed.
2. Set an alarm for 5 minutes (you can increase the time if you want to after one week or so).
3. Close the eyes.
4. Become aware of your breath in and out through your nose.
5. Begin to lengthen the exhales (if you are familiar with the technique “ujjayi” use that).
6. Once you have a smooth rhythm flowing, become aware of the pause after the exhale, maybe consciously increasing it by one or two seconds (make sure it’s a comfortable pause).
7. If the mind gets distracted, kindly bring it back to focusing on the breath. If the breath is not enough for the mind to focus on, try linking the breath with one of the ideas below:
– mentally count the length of the inhale and try to gradually extend the length of the exhale to be twice as long as the inhale.
– choose something that you would like to cultivate more of in your life (Ex: self-love, trust, peace) and visualize that with each inhale you bring that to yourself, with each exhale you send it to another person.
IN THE YOGA WORLD It’s a blessing that Yoga has reached millions of people across the planet. From studios to hospitals, schools and clinics, many people know or have heard of the word “yoga”. Unfortunately, however, many of these people relate that word to physical exercise. We have lost the most profound meaning of this practice: to calm the mind and connect with something deep within us. If performing the hardest asana-s (yoga poses) lead to inner peace, the performers of Cirque du Soleil would be the calmest people. The reality is that these amazing performers are probably people who suffer just like any other person. So, knowing that just the physical practice is not enough (though maintaining physical health is important), we need to emphasize the importance of the breath since it is so intimately related to our state of mind.
Prana is the life force that exists within every living being. This sutra is suggesting we practice controlling the movement of this energy within us. This sutra presents the first steps towards pranayama – extension of our prana, or breathing techniques to calm the mind, which we will later explore in more depth. The steps suggested here could be summarized as follows:
1. Become aware of the breath.
2. Practice lengthening the exhale.
3. Become aware of the pause after the exhale.
4. Practice gradually lengthening the pause after the exhale.
5. Practice with consistency.
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON Amanda is a brand new friend. In fact, we just met yesterday! Having several things in common, we spent a long time sitting under a tree in a park on a beautiful day talking about Yoga, breathing, meditation, motherhood, and just life in general. Sometimes we meet people and we connect. I felt like we connected. Amanda comes to mind when writing this sutra because we spent some time talking about the importance of a simple meditation technique: breath awareness. She is a generous soul who is offering her time, expertise and home to other women who are willing to leave children, jobs, husbands and any other activities aside and just focus on the breath to experience some serenity. Simple, yet so powerful! Thank you Amanda for welcoming me on your lovely pink blanket and sharing your wonderful life experiences. I look forward to many more!
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and next week we will look at how the senses influence our state of mind!