Achieving the Breathless State in Meditation

Question

Hi,

I've seen more use of the phrase "Breathless state" in kriya yoga than any other path.

Common sense and most obvious experience tells one that oxygen is necessary to sustain life. In breathless state, when one is not drawing any oxygen from outside, how does the body hold on for a sustained longer duration, for an experienced meditator?

I've also read somewhere on internet that hallucinations are related lack of oxygen to the brain. I'm confused over this "Breathless state".

—Vinay, India

Answer

The “breathless state” is something that happens naturally as people have deeper experiences of meditation. It can happen for short periods (minutes) or much longer. Paramhansa Yogananda said that when one goes into the highest state of samadhi, the breath and heart can both stop for a prolonged amount of time.

Yes, common sense tends to take a deep breath when hearing such statements! Two things have helped me to accept the idea. The first is my own short experiences of cessation of breathing while meditating.

I’ve also spoken with many meditators who have had short, and long, periods of the breathless state. It happens naturally in deep meditation, when the mind is very calm and the body still — it doesn’t happen by simply holding the breath!

The yogis teach that when the mind is completely still, and in the highest states of samadhi, there is no need for breath to supply oxygen to the body or brain. This is why the breath tends to become very calm during a good meditation, even when it doesn’t stop.

There is great clarity of mind and inspiration during these times, as opposed to what people usually associate with holding the breath for too long — hallucinations and dizzyness.

It helped me to accept the physiological possibility when I read different accounts of children who had fallen through the ice of frozen lakes. In one case, the child stayed under water for forty minutes.

When they were revived, there was no brain damage, or any other type of harm. The doctors speculated that because their bodies were so cold, they were in some sort of suspended animation similar to hibernation. Thus, their bodies didn’t need oxygen for that time.

So yes, it is possible — theoretically and practically. Yet again, the yogis seem to have uncommon sense in certain matters!