Kvetoslav Minarik
On Breathing Practice and Pranayama:

    Yogic breathing exercises can be pursued not before the being has got rid of all desires and become satisfied and the mind of man immersed in itself without any cravings. If one is full of desires or burdened with cravings, then it is this tension, this aiming at the outer things that breathing exercises reinforce. This is the origin of the motive power that drives the mind after external things. And this is the very opposite of the goals of yoga, which is the stability of one’s spirit that shall become capable of cognizance.

    If the moral conditions of yoga are not fulfilled – the chief one being the non-covetousness – then the breathing practice increases centrifugal tendencies of the being, that foolish activity by means of which man aspires to gain things exclusively reserved for sensual lusts. This is the very opposite of the intentions of spiritual yogic education.

    That is why the one who aspires after the spiritual perfection by means of yoga should first focus his efforts to the suppression of all lusts. And not before he had thrown away either the longing for the knowledge or for the sensual sensations, which manifests itself by the fact that the mind “does not go outward”, out of his being, then is he allowed to apply breathing exercises to enhance his spiritual growth. If this condition is not fulfilled, his covetousness will become uncontrollable as it was reinforced by the concentrated power of his mind. This inertia leads the vital energy in a unwanted direction just in the time when man is being distracted through his everyday duties. It means that yoga allows strengthening the energy and activity only after the being has stopped rushing after sensual lusts and when it dwells in peace. In that case all the forces of the being are directed toward the achievement, i.e. toward the realization and the knowledge of qualities of the mind residing actually on a supra-secular, transcendental level.

    But breathing practice itself is a problem, too. If the mind is distracted by cravings or lusts, the organism itself seems to modify otherwise refreshing substances of the inhaled air and turns them into igniters of uncompromising desires. And a skilled yogi recognizes it as a fire, a rajasic element; through this element’s effect the mind of man is transformed into an animal, whose life is characterized exclusively by primitive inclinations or lusts. But if there is a peace of mind, non-covetousness, if the mind is free from any relations to sensual things exciting lust, then the rhythmic breathing, the breathing exercises, will give rise to the mind of spiritual type. And that mind often grows out from the sphere of our world and under circumstances grows into the transcendental world.

    But I speak of breathing exercises only. It means that breathing is based on the will of the yogi to perform controlled breathing with the control of the natural function of breathing. But this is not the proper yogic breathing. It is only the beginning of it. The next stage of the breathing is achievement of pranayama. Breathing exercises change into pranayama after “the breath has united with the body” by means of a good awareness of the body during the breathing. This creates conditions for making pulses of the reviving breath substances rhythmic. Thus the rhythm of the vital force is attained, which can be designated as attainment of a state, which we denote as a union with the breath of nature or if you like as a union with infinity.

    By means of pranayama yogis induce harmony of their spiritual beings with the airy stimulants of the universe, with the breath substances, and through them it is possible to get to the physical substances of breath that are no more only a part of the air layer of the earth but also that physical field sometimes called the dispersed spatial matter. In this way yogis establish contacts with substances of the universe and when they achieve a transfer of their consciousness onto that macrocosmic base, the values of space and time will begin to change for them. This is the boundary between immanent and transcendental region of the cosmos. Beyond this boundary the yogi realizes the state of transcendency registered by his own wakeful personal consciousness.

    Pranayama is thus achieved when the yogi whose mind is devoid of any relations to the objects of lusts from the sensual world brings forth the rhythm of the movement related to all factors of breathing as e.g. the movement of the lungs and perception of the inhaled air. If the rhythm is thorough, it is pranayama, whose distinguishing mark is fading of feelings indicating relation of the man to the outer world. And that rhythm soon transfers the man into the transcendental sphere where people are often seized by ecstasy.

    Ecstasy is what the yogi must resist. He must stabilize his mind by good awareness of the body, occaasionally of the physis in general. Thus he incorporates into his usual experience an element of ecstasy as a natural state of his mind, which is not defiled by vehement animality conviced that the realism in perception must necessarily be accompanied by orientation of the mind and the contents of the consciousness towards things of our sensual world. In this way the man achieves spiritual relaxation, i.e. the transfer of his mind and consciousness into the spheres beyond the usual suffering. This new position of man is first of all that always desired goal, the goal of a life without suffering.

    Yoga, however, does not care about this relaxation, or rather merely about this relaxation. This is regarded as a secondary result of the yogic progress. Something like evaporation when water boils. It is necessary to proceed. After the rhythm of breathing, pranayama, has brought the yogi into the realm of transcendency and has given him knowledge of the law of the existence of life without suffering, the relaxation starts to lose its importance. The yogis go in for analysing substances that have entered their consciousness after the mind had been released from the phenomena of our world inducing sensual desires. This sort of an analysis assists the yogis in discovering of elements or substances more and more different from our sensual world until they finally attain the knowledge about what does not desintegrate any more under the power of the analysis. On this level, situated on the peak of the substances of the dissected and distinguishable world, they cognize that when the being “snuggles” to the supreme quality of the transcendental world, the “undulation” of the mind stops. This is the true redemption, the stabilization of the mind that does not suffer any more from tendencies to fall into the changeable world denoted by the word “samsaro”.