How Can I Attain Breathlessness in Meditation?


What is the circumstances in which the incoming and outgoing breath breath of a sadhaha stops copmpletely while pursuing/practising Hang-sau tecnique and its impact ?

When does stoppage of life-force take place while practising Kriya and its impact ?

—Thangarajumuthiah, India


Dear Tang,

When the mind concentrates on the breath with the intention of meditating and stilling the breath, the breath and mind form a synchronized metabolic loop in which (like feedback from a microphone to a speaker and back again) the breath begins to be quiet as the mind begins to one-pointedly concentrate upon the breath.

The silent chanting of the powerful Hong Sau bija mantra acts like a soothing vibrational “waterfall.” The mantra has a specific relationship to the movement of prana, subtle astral energy, in the astral spine. The combined effect of focusing on the breath and chanting the mantra not only quiets the breath and heart rate but draws our attention (in part by our visual focus behind closed eyes gazing through the point between the eyebrows, known as Shambhavi mudra) inward, away from the body and the report of the five senses.

It is important to understand that one does not “will” or attempt to force the breath to stop. Rather, our will is, by way of positive interest and deep relaxation, happily focused one-pointedly on the breath, the mantra, and the visual awareness at the point between the eyebrows.

The first stage is simply to notice that the breath and heart become quiet. The second stage is to anticipate this with a sense of calm, joyful expectation owing to the great relaxation and soothing impact of having a quiet heart and breath rate. The third stage, beyond will power and control, is that for brief moments, the breath will stop. It does so in one of two ways:

1. The breath stops at the end (bottom) of the natural exhalation cycle.

2. Or, instead, the entire cycle of inhalation and exhalation becomes so shallow as to verge on the point of vanishing all together!

When this happens, you will easily and quickly observe that the slightest mental thought acknowledging that the breath has stopped will cause the breath to return. In addition, and for some people or once in a while, the autonomic nervous system responds with a slight “panicked” jerky inhalation. Our nervous system is designed to keep us breathing no matter what and for obvious reasons. But the rishis discovered long ago that higher states of consciousness are accessed when one enters a state of breathlessness and that this could be achieved by calm concentration on the breath. The training needed for this takes time and ever deeper practice. The otherwise normal and appropriate reaction to not breathing can be overcome with this “secret of breath mastery.”

Does decay to the brain and nervous system tissues result if we are not breathing? No! The rishis also discovered that through this technique, a “pranic switch” happens which redirects the “alternating current” of inhalation and exhalation (and its dependency upon air for life) into a “direct current” that sustains the cells of the body on the inflow of prana (life force) through the medulla oblongata at the base of the brain. Thus it is that yogis have demonstrated the ability to appear lifeless and not breathing for hours, days, weeks, and even months.

In the practice of kriya, a similar phenomenon results except that in kriya we are using will power to move the physical breath in a particular manner as we are taught. Paramhansa Yogananda and his line of kriya yoga masters indicate to us that we should practice both Hong Sau AND Kriya (respectively) “until breath becomes mind.”

Time and space does not allow a more complete explanation here but when the mind is so concentrated upon one of these yoga-techniques it is natural for the physical breath to recede in favor of an awareness that the prana (energy) (which is the immediate source and cause of the physical breath) as its sole origin. Thus one practices either Hong Sau in the astral spine or Kriya in the astral spine without the necessity for the physical breath. This occurs through the pranic switch described above. More could be said about this process in the practice of kriya but this is not the medium for that explanation.

I hope you find this helpful and “en-light-ening!”

Joy to you,

Nayaswami Hriman

Seattle WA USA