Q. How long should the Hong-Sau technique be practiced?
A. As long as you enjoy practicing it. This is one technique (unlike many other yoga practices) that cannot be overdone in the sense of putting a strain on the nervous system. Yoganandaji used, as a boy, to practice it as much as 7-1/2 hours at a time. He once told a disciple that if one wants to become a master in this life, he should practice Hong-Sau two hours daily. No technique, however, should be practiced to the point of boredom or fatigue. Beginners, especially, may do better to practice only half an hour at a time, perhaps even less. For others, let enjoyment be your key, lest you slip gradually into the pernicious habit of meditating mechanically, without that keen sense of blissful anticipation which is so necessary to any real meditative progress. When your enjoyment of the technique begins to lessen, cease your practice at least for that session. When your enjoyment of meditation itself lessens, stop meditating, or take a break (you might rest in Savasana (The Corpse Pose) before making another effort.
Q. When the Master said to practice Hong-Sau two hours a day, did he mean at one sitting?
A. Yes, if possible. But if not, I am sure he would have agreed to your dividing this time into two or more shorter periods. Remember, no fixed time can guarantee success in yoga practice. Suggested times should be taken only as general guidelines.
Q. May one practice this technique in idle moments as well, apart from one’s prescribed periods for meditation?
A. Indeed, yes! Anywhere, practically: sitting at your desk in the office, or in public places, or at a party when you are not involved in the conversation. Before others, however, don’t be obvious about what you are doing. Sit back, and close your eyes as if you were resting them, or look straight ahead, as if reflectively.
Q. What proportion of one’s meditation should be devoted to the practice of this technique?
A. It is difficult to advise in this matter, except to say that this is one of the most important techniques of yoga. The longer and more deeply you practice any technique, the sooner you will become proficient in it. It is for you to decide how long, in proportion to other techniques, you want to watch the breath. Regardless what techniques are practiced, however, at least the last quarter of one’s meditation time should be devoted to simple meditation, without any practice of techniques. As my guru put it, intuition (which he defined as the soul’s power to know God) is developed by prolonging and deepening the peaceful after-effects of one’s practice of the meditation techniques.
Q. Should one concentrate on the breath and also at the point between the eyebrows?
A. Not until the attention focuses itself naturally on the flow of breath at the beginning of the nose — that is, the point at which the breath enters the nasal cavity in the head. To do so otherwise would constitute a division of concentration which would be self-defeating.
Q. What if, during one’s practice of this, or of any other, technique, one is suddenly lifted into a divine state of consciousness? Assuming that it was the technique that induced this state, should one continue his practice, or abandon it to deepen one’s enjoyment of this state of consciousness?
A. That depends on whether the technique actually induced the state you refer to, or only prepared you to receive it. Certain divine states, if actually caused by the practice of a technique, may be deepened by continuation of that practice. Otherwise, and generally speaking, the technique should be abandoned in order that you might deepen your enjoyment of, and identification with, the divine experience.
Q. Sometimes I find that my breath, instead of pausing longer and longer at the rest points between inhalation and exhalation, continues its normal rhythm, but becomes shallower and shallower to the point where it virtually disappears. Is this all right?
A. Yes, it is quite all right. In any case you should let the breath follow its own course, instead of deciding for it what rhythm it ought to follow. But such extremely light breathing indicates a satisfactory state of concentration.
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These techniques are based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi.