August 01, 2020

Sutra 1.34: Oar of the Breath

Samadhi Pada: Yoga of Being in the Now

    1.34 Pracchardana vibharanabhyam va pranasya
    • pracchardana = exhale
    • vibharanabhyam = with control
    • va = or
    • pranasya = prana / of the breath

Sutras 1.32-1.39 almost act as a mini-series within the context of the first book (or pada) of the sutras. Sutra 1.32 says that calm and power comes from focusing the mind and having a single pointed focus. Sutra 1.33 advocates working towards peace in relationships by providing four locks (possible obstacles) and four keys (to surmount these hurdles). Working towards peace in relationships provides space to focus on meditation in order to acquire this internal calm and power. The next few sutras (1.34-1.39) provide various practices and techniques for one pointed focus in meditation. Not all of these techniques are required for everyone to practice, and not all of them will work for all people. It's just another example of how Patanjali stresses that yoga may be for everyone, but not everyone will practice it in the same way. People are different and will require different ways and paths to get to the same place. These next six sutras all begin with the word "or" and one of my teachers described them as the "6 oars" that help you row towards the path of peace.

This week's sutra uses the oar of the breath. Though Patanjali does talk about breath control here and in future sutras, he doesn't really give specific practices. It's as if he's once again saying "here's a path, but you need to have your own experiences and experiments in order to determine how you can best get to the place of peace." In my research, I came across many different interpretations of this sutra from those that stressed the exhalation, to the retentions being the most important, to simply lengthening all parts of the breath. So instead of trying to navigate through all of these interpretations, I'm simply here to offer you a breath practice that was the basis and foundation of my training and which has worked wonders to help me find calm and peace when I've needed it most. My challenge for you is to sit for at least 10 minutes every day this week and practice this technique. It may sound familiar as I have given you this challenge before, but I promise (especially if this is your path, or "oar") there's rarely a time that you'll regret sitting for a moment to length the depth and quality of your breath.

This breath does involve retentions, so please be mindful that it should NOT be practiced by those with hypertension, heart disease, asthma, ulcers or when pregnant. If you feel any strain, irritation or cramping while practicing any form of breath control or pranayama, please STOP and return to your natural form of breath. If you would like to practice the breath on your own, the technique and how to practice it was introduced in the Sutra 1.9-1.11 blog post. Otherwise, feel free to grab some headphones, find a comfortable spot to sit and allow me to guide you through the technique of Savitri breath (to download a copy of this meditation, on your desktop click the arrow in a square on the right). 
Happy breathing! 

Sutra 1.34 Or with control of the breath, especially the exhalation, the mind becomes clear.

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