Proper regulation of respiration by the
conscious mind results in the development of the controlled activity of
the mind. To stop the restlessness of the mind, and canalise its
functioning, it is essential to be aware of breathing. Shallow, hasty and
irregular (spasmodic) breathing must first be regulated to be deep, slow,
calm and rhythmic. Even in Kayotsarga, breathing is not stopped,
but is made subtle.
Deep, slow and rhythmic breathing is an
essential condition for regulating mental process. Very slow inhalation
and complete exhalation (by the use of diaphragm) is called dirgha
svasa deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing.
Complete awareness of breathing and
nothing else but breathing is the basis of Svasa Preksa. Attention
can be kept focussed on a single point in the respiratory tract, e.g.
nostrils or it can travel the entire tract during inhalation as well as
exhalation. Various facets of breathing, such as movement of the
diaphragm, rate of breathing and depth of breathing can conveniently
become the object of Svasa Preksa.
Svasa Preksa can be practised in two
ways viz. dirgha svasa and samavrtti svasa.
Dirgha Svasa Preksa
As already explained above, Dirgha
svasa is slow and complete exhalation and deep inhalation. The first
step in this process is to regulate the rate of breathing by reducing the
number of breaths per minute. Normally a healthy adult's rate of breathing
is 15/17 breaths per minute (b.p.m.). By practice of diaphragmatic
breathing, this rate can be drastically reduced. Even casual practice can
easily bring it down to 10/12 b.p.m. And further regular practice can
reduce the rate to 6, 4 or even 2 or 1 b.p.m.
Regulation of breath, reduction in its
rate, and the rhythm results in steadying the mind. Simultaneously, urges
and impulses, emotions and passions and their impelling forces--the primal
drives -- all become amenable to control. When the breath is shallow and
its rate high, primal drives and passions are aroused, strengthening the
urges and emotions. Quick breathing acts as a vehicle for all these
distortions. One can easily pacify the passions by regulating the breath.
If one slows down the breath-rate and commences rhythmic breathing, the
passion forces would at once be retarded. This is because they are
deprived of the vehicle, and without a transport they cannot make much
headway. A practitioner of meditation would, in due course, be able to
perceive in advance the onslaught of rising passions, and thus will be
prepared to nullify their attack by resorting to 'dirgha svasa'.
The rising passion would then begin to subside. Thus by blunting the
sharpness of their attack, a sadhaka saves himself from being the
victim of the dreadful urges and emotions.
Breath is a reality of the present
moment. Practice of Svasa-preksa leads the sadhaka to live
equanimously and impartially. He will also get rid of tension as a side
As stated above, Preksa Dhyana is
the technique of seeing one's own self. Breath is the gate-way to the
self(consciousness). To commence the internal trip, one must pass through
the main gate way of breath. And when mind and breath become inseparable,
companions, the journey begins. In theory breath is a part and parcel of
the self; and so one can realize the goal of reaching the self via the
breath. In practice, seeing oneself simply means perception of all aspects
of breath by the conscious mind.
Samavrtti Svasa Preksa
Like Dirgha Svasa Preksa, Samavrtti
Svasa Preksa is also an important process of this meditation system.
Here breath is exhaled through one (say, left) nostril and inhaled through
the other (right). Then exhaling through the right, it is inhaled through
the left. Throughout the process, the perceptive mind is closely linked
with the breath. As in Dirgha Suasa Preksa, breath is regulated to
be rhythmic. In due course by the practice of this, one can develop the
inherent capacities of the subconscious mind such as extrasensory
perception, clairvoyance etc.