|Posted by Yogendra Nath Yogi on May 16, 2011 at 7:46 AM|
Breath and Yoga
Life causes us to breathe, and breath causes us to live. Breath leads us into the outer life, and it will lead us into the inner life–to the principle of Life itself. Therefore meditation practices involving the breath are found in many mystical traditions.
Breath plays such an important part in the technique of Om Yoga because the breath is the meeting place of body, mind, and spirit.
“The breath and the mind are completely interconnected and interrelated.”
The breath and the body are completely interconnected and interrelated, as is seen from the fact that the breath is calm when the body is calm, and agitated or labored when the body is agitated or labored. The heavy exhalation made when feeling exhausted and the enthusiastic inhalation made when feeling energized or exhilarated establish the same fact.
The breath and the emotions are completely interconnected and interrelated, as is seen from the fact that the breath is calm when the emotions are calm, and agitated and labored when the emotions are agitated or out of control. Our drawing of a quick breath, when we are surprised, shocked, or fearful, and the forceful exhalation done when angry or annoyed demonstrate this.
The breath and the mind are completely interconnected and interrelated, as is seen from the fact that the breath is calm when the mind is calm, and agitated, irregular, and labored when the mind is agitated or disturbed in any way. Our holding of the breath when attempting intense concentration also shows this.
Breath, which exists on all planes of manifestation, is the connecting link between matter and energy on the one hand and consciousness and mind on the other. It is necessary for the vitalization and functioning of all vehicles of consciousness, physical or superphysical.
“Ultimately, we come into contact with the Breather of the breath, our own spirit.”
We start with awareness of the ordinary physical breath, but that awareness, when cultivated correctly, leads us into higher awareness which enables us to perceive the subtle movement behind the breath. Ultimately, we come into contact with the Breather of the breath, our own spirit. In many spiritual traditions the same word is used for both breath and spirit, underscoring the esoteric principle that in essence they are the same, though we naturally think of spirit as being the cause of breath(ing). The word used for both breath and spirit is: In Judaism, Ruach. In Eastern Christianity (and ancient Greek religion), Pneuma. In Western Christianity (and ancient Roman religion), Spiritus (which comes from spiro, “I breathe”). In Hinduism and Buddhism, Atma (from the root word at which means “to breathe”), and Prana.
The identity of the breath with the individual spirit, the atman (self)
The breath is the spirit in extension. “The Self is the breath of the breath.” (Kena Upanishad 1:2) “The breaths are the Real, and their Reality is the Self.” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.1.20)
The breath is a key to experience of the Self. When we relax and make ourselves aware of the breath, the mind naturally turns within and begins tracing the breath-thread back to the consciousness of which it is the dualistic manifestation. This is accomplished by breathing naturally and letting the breath do as it will rather than by forcing it into artificial modes.
The breath can lead us inward into the center–to the spirit. When we observe the breath, we actually observe our spirit acting. “He who breathes in with your breathing in is your Self. He who breathes out with your breathing out is your Self.” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 3.4.1) Through the breath we can become established in the consciousness that is the Self.
The identity of the breath with the Supreme Spirit, Brahman
But breath is much more than an individual matter, and therefore is more than a means to uncover the individual consciousness of which it is a manifestation. It is also a bridge to the Infinite Consciousness, being rooted in the Supreme Spirit. The breath is the living presence and action of God.
“O Prana, lord of creation, thou as breath dwellest in the body.” (Prashna Upanishad 2.7)
“When one breathes, one knows him as breath.” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.7)
“Self-luminous is that Being, and formless. He dwells within all and without all. He is unborn, pure, greater than the greatest. From him is born the breath.” (Mundaka Upanishad 2.1.2,3) Since the breath rises from God, it can be resolved back into God.
“Breath is a part of Brahman.” (Chandogya Upanishad 4.9.3)
“The being who is the breath within–him I meditate upon as Brahman.” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.1.6)
“Breath is the Immortal One.” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.6.3)
“The breath is real, and He [Brahman] is the reality of the breath.” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.3.6)
“The shining, immortal person who is breath is the Self, is Brahman.” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.5.4)
“Which is the one God? The breath. He is Brahman.” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 3.9.9)
“They who know the breath of the breath…have realized the ancient, primordial Brahman.” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.18)
“The breath is the Supreme Brahman. The breath never deserts him who, knowing thus, meditates upon it. Having become a god, he goes to the gods.” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.1.3)