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Yogasana and Pranayama preparatory to Dhyana

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

We now move to Yoga-Asana, the third step of Patanjali’s eight-fold Yoga

sutra. It is designed to acquire physical fitness and agility of body. It not simply

facilitates acquiring a posture suited to effortlessly follow the process for a

continued stretch of time. Also, the mind and fundamental element of

consciousness will play out better, as the gross body platform serves as their

vehicle of operation. No wonder, the gross body is said to be the temple of

God. For, the divine force – fundamental element of consciousness - dwelling

within keeps us alive, which when withdrawn, the gross body becomes

dysfunctional and then disintegrates.


Yoga-asana is a set of physical exercises set in tune with the breathing cycle.

Pursuing the process, through regulated body movements and increased

supply of oxygen, the joints become supple, muscles become soft, and so

bodily agility gets toned up. The process, however, needs to be pursued under

the care of a trained expert. Keeping one’s health vulnerabilities in mind, only

he would know what exercises will prove beneficial. Unguided, it may prove

counterproductive.


Next in line comes Pranayama. The purpose is to ensure correct breathing as

that is key to healthy living as well as longevity. For, inbreath does not simply

bring in fresh oxygen supply. At subtle level it carries life forces (Prana as

termed in Indian context). So long as we are breathing, we are in receipt of life

forces that keep us alive, which when stops, the gross body becomes a dead

matter. Also, life forces animate all our dynamic functionalities. The way

respiratory system works, defines the quality of our physical and mental

health, and therefore, needs to be in shape.


Pursuing Pranayama, it becomes possible to slow down the breathing cycle,

which, in turn, retards the ageing process. For, the run of vital organs

correspondingly reduces, as they are tuned to the breath cycle. This way the

running time of the vital organs comes down, and thereby their servicing

abilities increase in terms of time frame. The beauty of the process is that it

helps augment oxygenation of the brain, which vitalises its dynamism further.

It will be interesting to note here that a tortoise is believed to breathe 3 to 4

times a minute and survives up to 300 years. An elephant supposedly breathes

10 to 12 times a minute, and lives for around 100 years. But a dog which keeps

breathing briskly has a life of around 12 years only. So, as we slow down our

breathing cycle, our aging process gets retarded. Evidently then, lifespan would

expand.


Breathing cycle relates to our state of mind as well. A human being ordinarily

breathes 18 counts per minute. But when in an agitated state, the breath

count goes up to somewhere between 30 to 36. So, by reducing our breath

count, we could keep in check mental agitation also.


Pranayam, though not difficult, but it is again a delicate process. Therefore, it

needs to be pursued under guidance of a trained expert. Purposely therefore,

the process as such is not being discussed. But in a passing reference, it needs

to be mentioned here that the process involves holding the breath for a while

(Kumbhaka as termed in Indian terminology) in between every inhalation and

exhalation. One is supposed to dwell on space in between the two, as this is at

rest. Not simply that, one’s attention is straightaway on the element of

consciousness available there. So, dwelling on this space, even for a small

stretch of time though, but it virtually puts us in a state of dhyana. As one

graduates in the process, one has direct realisation of the life forces driving us.

In this sense, pranayama can be said to be the beginning of dhyana process.

The above two processes do also help ensure body-mind coordination. For, the

body, mind, and nerves get duly toned up, vital to proper functioning of our

internal communication mechanism. The ground is now laid down for pursuing

the dhyana process proper.


The four steps of the Dhyana process to follow, need to be seen as

progressively succeeding stages of a singular process. For, the first step

Pratyahara, implies distancing from the outer world and turn the mind

inwards. It is in this very mode that the whole process is carried on. Dharana,

dhyana, and samadhi are again progressively growing three successive stages

of the process. There is no exclusive process dedicated to either of them. One

progressively and spontaneously keeps graduating from one stage to the

other.



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