Pranayama in the light of consciousness - part 1

Apparently, Pranayama ever had a more central place in the practice of yoga than is in these days. Although the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are cited often as text central of yoga, which is practiced today in name of yoga, is on a mat or pad, has a relationship more direct with texts medieval more recent, as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Type Godfrey Devereux.


In this and other similar texts, there are considerably more content dedicated quality and detail to the regulation of the breath that postural practices. However, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and other medieval texts clearly indicate that Hatha Yoga is a preparation to Raja Yoga.

At the same time, it seems to be a direct link between the methodology of regulation of the Hatha Yoga breathing known as Pranayama and the presentation of Pranayama in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Particularly in the Yoga Sutra II.50 where Patanjali uses the Sanskrit terms for "place", "time" and "number". It is not very difficult to associate those words with the core aspects of the popular methodology of Pranayama. Place)DESA in Sanskrit) can relate to the four stages of breathing: inhalation, exhalation and internal suspension, external suspension. Time)Kala in Sanskrit) can relate to the length or duration of the phases of respiration. Number)Samkhya in Sanskrit), you can relate the number of rounds or cycles practiced.

At first sight this seems to confirm that the practices of Hatha Yoga are directly related to the older "classic" yoga presented by Patanjali, but might not be the case. The issue with which we first is the translation and interpretation, especially the Yoga Sutras. We need more than language ability to translate a text dealing with roots and subtleties of human experience, in which the dynamics of cognition, perception, and consciousness are analyzed directly in relation to the experience. We also need a clear understanding of the territory which is being analyzed, and modern education does this understanding. Only can give is of a privacy deep with the intelligence human and its ability of generating a vision clear of them dynamic functional of the cognition human. This intimacy is possibly only provided by the deep meditation.

Without the depth of adequate experience, no amount of linguistic fluidity allows to raw and terse statements of the Yoga Sutras are performed with precision. If so, perhaps not should be surprised find that most interpretations and translations of the text of Patanjali, if not all, express the assumptions and prejudices of the commentator rather than the understanding of Patanjali. In fact, any commentator who do not clarify that possibility, probably should not be reliable to understand the subtleties of human intelligence. In which case, can hardly be reliable for interpreting the Yoga Sutras.

The eight members of yoga, presented by Patanjali in the second and third chapter of the Yoga Sutras, they are perhaps the best-known part of his text, which does not mean that they are clearly understood. If we go to the Sanskrit used Patanjali to present the third and fourth member, Asana and Pranayama, comes to light a second problem of intention or technique. Although Asana is usually considered a technique that involves the body, there is nothing technical in the words of Patanjali, which are clearly descriptive rather than prescriptive. There is no reference to any specific form or positions. Only to experiential qualities.

Patanjali presents Pranayama

Patanjali as stated in the beginning of his presentation of Pranayama that this occurs within Asana)tasmin sati), We need to understand what is Asana if we want to understand what is Pranayama for Patanjali. Indeed, Patanjali describes Asana in four sutras of two words. The first juxtaposes sthiram (firmness or stability) to ND (ease, joy). The second juxtaposes prayatna (effort, stress) to saithilya (relaxation, ease). The third juxtaposes Ananta (endless, infinite) to samapatti (privacy, merger). The room juxtaposes dvandvha (dualities opposites) to anabhighatah (immunity, significance).

This is clearly descriptive rather than prescriptive, describing an experience more than a technique. An experience in which the body feels radically differently than usual. The majority of practitioners of yoga postures have had such a change of perception in which your body is not already perceived as a three-dimensional structure finite and precisely localized. Indeed this could be it feature that defines be "in the area" or "flow" on a mat: the character perceived of the body is dissolves in a presence amorphous of delight within which them distinctions dualistic, functional and structural, between right and left, up and down, area previous and rear, forward and back, inside and outside already not have relevance any , or even presence.

If so, Pranayama as Patanjali would be a deepening of that somatic experience not dual, or linear, through awareness of the breath. Almost any experienced meditator could probably confirm this type of experience, in which the settlement of the body in stillness leaves as most consistent feelings and obvious those generated by respiration. The attention is naturally driven then by those feelings towards a deep intimacy)samapatti) with the presence of breath. Instead of taking control of respiration, which would not be possible within a somatic experience without functional and structural benchmarks, Pranayama is a natural extension of the experience without dimensions of Asana. The functional and structural characteristics of respiration (dualistic) would become meaningless, irrelevant and undetectable while the conscience would be absorbed towards them flows deep of consciousness itself.

That is exactly what Patanjali States in the last sutra of his presentation of Pranayama: "Dharanasu ca yogyata manasah" It makes a link explicit among Pranayama and the first phase of the "meditative mind", Dharana, which is the sixth member presented by Patanjali. Though this seems to skip the fifth member, Pratyahara, however Patanjali presents it immediately.

Intention, regulation and control

In their presentations of Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi is very hard to find both prescription as technical. It is not difficult to see that Patanjali is describing a deployment step by step of awareness towards the inside, from the body and his breath through the mind until the consciousness. The Yoga Sutras they are a "map of what is" and "what happens" rather than an "instruction manual".

In his presentation of Pranayama could have an exception of this consistency descriptive. Not only in its use of the words DESA, kala and Samkhya but also, and perhaps most tellingly, in his use of the word viccedah. Four contemporary commentators (Feuerstein, Stiles, Iyengar and Huston) offer options in English (here in Spanish) for this keyword: cut, stop, stop, interruption.

These words seem to clearly imply intention, regulation and control, however may not be the case. In fact, Anyone who has experienced a deep inner awareness display in the clear presence of consciousness knows that an event so not can never be produced by effort or control. Even the hint of effort or intention to lighter keeps the mind in its dualistic and linear constraints. Rather the deployment inside the flow of awareness presented by Patanjali as clear and elegantly, happens only and exactly because It has been left go all effort and intention on the understanding of consciousness flowing free. This, of course, is what means surrender, or accountability: not subject to any higher power, let us resist the presence of natural intelligence, and such resistance occurs especially in our attempts to make something happen.

(To resume soon the 2nd and final part)

Godfrey Devereux

Translated by Sergio Teodosio

Published and shared with Yoga network by dynamic Yoga Institute

Translation notes. Consciusness: Consciousness. Awareness: consciousness. Conscious awareness: conscious awareness.

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By • 28 Jul, 2016 • section: Signatures