|Year : 2022 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 34-41
Nine techniques of Prāṇāyāma from One yoga-Sūtra? A review of 15 Saṃskṛta commentaries of Yogasūtra 1.34
Department of Research, Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
|Date of Submission||24-May-2021|
|Date of Acceptance||10-Jan-2022|
|Date of Web Publication||26-Apr-2022|
Dr. Jayaraman Mahadevan
4/10, First Trust Cross Street, Mandavelipakkam, Chennai - 600 028, Tamil Nadu
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
The current pandemic situation has put a lot of strain on both the human respiratory system and mind. As contemporary sources are to be explored to find solace and solution, ancient yogic resources in this regard should also be systematically studied. With this as background, a study of hitherto less noticed Sūtra in the first chapter of Yogasūtras-pracchardanavidhāraṇābhyāṁ vā prāṇasya (1.34) was done based on 15 Saṃskṛta commentaries ranging from 4th to 20th century CE. This Sūtra mentions about a practice of prāṇāyāma toward attainment of calmness of the mind. Calmness of mind is an indicator of subjective wellbeing – which will be necessary in facing the challenges posed by the pandemic confidently and effectively. A systematic study of these commentaries reveals nine unique techniques of Prāṇāyāma toward steadiness and calmness of the mind (Cittasthairya and Cittaprasādana). It is to be noted that these techniques are not to be found in any of the numerous Haṭhayoga texts that run parallel to the period of the commentaries of Yogasūtras. Although the commentaries also add other insights on the practice including the kind of food for the practitioners, the mechanism of working of this Prāṇāyāma in bringing about the outcomes, and so on, this paper focuses on the nine techniques only, to draw the attention of researchers and practitioners for further exploration, validation, and utilization.
Keywords: Calming the mind, Prāṇāyāma, Saṃskṛta commentaries, Yogasūtras
|How to cite this article:|
Mahadevan J. Nine techniques of Prāṇāyāma from One yoga-Sūtra? A review of 15 Saṃskṛta commentaries of Yogasūtra 1.34. J Appl Conscious Stud 2022;10:34-41
|How to cite this URL:|
Mahadevan J. Nine techniques of Prāṇāyāma from One yoga-Sūtra? A review of 15 Saṃskṛta commentaries of Yogasūtra 1.34. J Appl Conscious Stud [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Dec 9];10:34-41. Available from: http://www.jacsonline.in/text.asp?2022/10/1/34/343847
| Introduction|| |
The world is passing through a tough situation due to the recurring waves of pandemic-COVID. It is to be noted that this pandemic attacks the respiratory system and leads to fatality. This pandemic apart from affecting the respiratory system of the body also throws the mind off balance by creating anxiety, stress both in the infected and also those who are the near and dear of the affected. Thus, along with propagation of existing practices to calm the mind, hitherto unknown methods to calm the mind need to be mined.
With this as background, a study of the less noticed Sūtra in the first chapter of Yogasūtras-Pracchardanavidhāraṇābhyāṁ Vā Prāṇasya (Yogasūtra 1.34) was done based on 15 Saṃskṛta commentaries that range from 4th to 20th Century CE.
This Sūtra mentions about the practice of prāṇāyāma toward steadiness and calmness of the mind (cittasthairya and cittaprasādana). In the pandemic situation, practices for cittasthairya and cittaprasādana– indicators of subjective wellbeing are to be explored. This might help in facing challenges posed by the pandemic confidently. A systematic study of these commentaries revealed nine prāṇāyāma techniques that known to be prevalently practiced. It is to be noted that these techniques are not to be found in any of the numerous Haṭhayoga texts that run parallel to the period of the commentaries of Yogasūtras and are hence unique. Further, along with the techniques, there are discussions in the commentaries on dietary prescription for the practitioners, the mechanism of working of these Prāṇāyāma in bringing about the outcomes of calming the mind, and so on. However, the focus of the paper is bringing to the fore the nine techniques to draw the attention of researchers and practitioners for further exploration and validation.
| The Sūtra and the Context|| |
The Yogasūtra which is the focus of this paper is
racchardanavidhāraṇābhyāṁ vā prāṇasya (yogasūtra 1.34)
Or (he gains stability of mind) through exhalation (pracchardana) and retention (vidhāraṇa) of breath (Rukmani, 2001).
This is the 34th sūtra in the first pāda of Yogasūtras. Sage Patañjali mentions seven methods beginning from Sūtra 33 to 39 toward calming and focusing the mind and thereby preparing it for the practice of Samāpatti that is detailed from the Sūtra 41 till the end of Pāda 1 of Yogasūtra. As can be noted from the direct translation, the technique proposed in this Sūtra is connected with the regulation of the breath toward attainment of calmness of the mind.
| Utility of the Practice|| |
It is very important at the outset, to ascertain the utility of the practice with little more clarity and detail before getting into the details of the technique. Various commentaries to this sūtra bring out the utility of the technique given. A few significant views from the commentators are quoted below:
Sage Vyāsa's commentary, the principal commentary states –
Tābhyāṃ vā manasaḥ sthitiṃ saṃpādayet (Śāstrī, 2007b).
By these two (pracchardana and vidhāraṇa), one should achieve the steadiness of the mind.
Tattvavaiśāradī states –
Tadetābhyāṃ pracchardanavidhāraṇābhyāṃ vāyorladhukṛtaśarīrasya manaḥ sthitipādaṃ labhate (Śāstrī, 2007b).
By pracchardana and vidhāraṇa when the body becomes light, the mind also becomes steady.
Bhojavṛtti states –
Prāṇāyāmaścittasya sthitimekāgratayā nibadhnāti sarvāsāmindriyavṛttināṃ prāṇavṛttipūrvakattvāt. manaḥ prāṇayośca svavyāpāre parasparamekayogakṣematvātkṣīyamāṇaḥ prāṇaḥ samastendriyavṛttinirodhadvāreṇa cittasyaikāgratāyāṃ prabhavati (Śāstrī, 2009a).
All the activities of the senses presuppose the activity of Prāṇa. As Mind and the Prāṇa are mutually connected, Prāṇa (by this practice) regulates the activity of the all the senses and thus becomes capable of leading the mind to single pointed focus.
From the above the positive impact of this practice on the mind, body and senses are evident. It is to be noted that such positive influences through yoga are needed at the level of the mind – that leads to subjective wellbeing. When the mind is established in a state of subjective wellbeing – external challenges posed by the pandemic etc., can be faced with confidence.
| Questions on the Sūtra|| |
The benefits of the practice are no doubt significant. But the perusal of the mere sūtra raises lots of questions such as-how should exhalation (pracchardana) be done? Should it be done through nostrils or through the mouth? If it is through nostrils then, should the exhalation be done through one nostril or by both nostrils? With regard to retention of the breath (vidhāraṇa)-Does the word Vidhāraṇa means only retention of breath? If it is retention of breath, then should it be done immediately after exhalation or does it point to retention of the breath within after inhalation? and so on.
| The Commentaries: the Source of Answer|| |
The answer to these can be explored from the numerous Saṃskṛta commentaries of Yogasūtras that have emerged with unbroken continuity since the composition of Yogasūtras. The commentaries that could be consulted for finding these answers are as follows: (chronologically arranged) - (1) Commentary of Sage Vyāsa (3rd or 4th CE) (2) Tattvavaiśāradī of Vācaspati Miṡra (9–10th CE), (3) Rāja-mārtāṇḍa of Bhoja, (10th Century CE) (4) Vivaraṇam of Śaṅkara-Bhagavatpāda (13th Century [?]), (5) Yogavārṭīkā of Vijñānabhikṡu (15th Century CE), (6) Pātañjalarahasya of Rāghavānanda (16th Century CE, (7) maṇi-prabhā of Rāmānanda-yati (16th Century CE), (8) pradīpa of Bhāva-gaṇeśa (17th Century CE) (9) vṛttiḥ of Nāgojī-bhaṭṭa (18th Century), (10 and 11) Yogasiddhānta-candrikā and, Sutrārthabodhinī by Nārāyaṇatīrtha (18th Century CE) (12) yoga-sudhākaraḥ of Sadāśivendra-sarasvatī (18–19th Century CE) (13) candrikā of Ananta-deva-paṇḍita (19th Century CE), (14) Bhāsvatī of Hariharānanda Āraṇya, (19th century CE), (15) yogavallī of śrīkṛṣṇamācārya (20th century).
| Clarity on the Technique from the Commentaries|| |
It is to be noted that the commentaries listed above fall into two categories-the principal commentary- (i) Sage Vyāsa's commentary (Rukmani, 2001) and its sub-commentaries (Śāstrī, 2007a, 2007b, 2009a; Śāstrī & Śāstrī, 1952) and other (ii) independent commentaries (Gopālabhaṭṭa, 1910; Śāstrī, 2007b, 2009a; Śāstrī & Śāstrī, 1952). Discussion on the technique presented in the Sūtra is carried out under this two-fold division of the commentaries.
Techniques from Sage Vyāsa's Commentary and its Sub-commentaries
The principal Yogasūtra commentary by Sage Vyāsa states the following regarding the practice.
Kauṣṭhyasya vāyornāsikāpuṭābhyāṁ prayatnaviśeṣādvamanaṁ pracchardanaṁ, vidhāraṇaṁ prāṇāyāma (Śāstrī, 2007a).
Exhaling the air from the abdomen with special effort is Prachardana and vidhāraṇa is Prāṇāyāma (holding the breath outside?).
From the commentary about the following questions arise-
- What is exhalation with special effort?
- What is the meaning of Vidharana? Does it mean holding the breath after exhalation?
Hence we need to look into the subcommentaries of Sage Vyāsa's commentary to attain clarity.
It can be seen from ensuing discussion based on the sub-commentaries that these two aspects have been looked at from different perspectives and hence various viewpoints arise from the sub-commentaries. This in turn contributes to the variety in techniques of practice of this Prāṇāyāma.
What is exhaling (pracchardana) with special effort?
It would also be useful and relevant to note the multiple views in the sub-commentaries on “exhaling with special effort” stated by Sage Vyāsa earlier,
- Tattvavaiśāradī states-exhalation with special effort refers to
prayatnaviśeṣādyogaśāstravihitādyena kauṣṭhyo vāyurnāsikāpuṭābhyāṃ śanai recyate (Śāstrī, 2007b).
Exhalation as per the prescription of yogaśāstra-(i.e) exhalation should be done slowly.
- Vivaraṇa-This commentary adds that
pracchardanam kauṣṭhyasya vāyorātamitorudvamanaṃ nāsikābhyām, na mukhena (Śāstrī, 2007b).
Exhalation of the air from the abdomen has to be done to the limit (capability?) only through the nostrils and not by mouth.
- Yogavārttika– also states that exhalation with special effort refers to
ekataranāsāpuṭena… sūkṣmarūpeṇa yogaśāstroktarītyā, vamanaṃ recanamityarthaḥ (Gopālabhaṭṭa, 1910).
' Exhalation as per the prescription of Yogaśāstra-(i.e.,) the effort in exhalation should be subtle.(Does this imply that while exhaling one should not make any noise?) And exhalation should be done through any one of the nostrils.
Yogasiddhāntacandrikā, an independent commentary, follows the view of Yogavārttika with regard to exhalation through one nostril (kauṣṭhyasya vāyoḥ pracchardanam ekataranāsāpuṭena mātrāpramāṇena śanaiḥ śanairbahirniḥsāraṇam (Gopālabhaṭṭa, 1910)). But it is interesting to note that, Sūtrārthabodhinī commentary, by the same author of Yogasiddhāntacandrikā, bats for exhalation by both nostrils (nāsikāpuṭābhyāṃ prāṇasya praccharddanaṃ recanam [Śāstrī, 2007b]).
- Bhāsvatī makes a significant observation-when it is states – Praśvāsaprayatnena saha dhāraṇīye deśe tiṣṭhet tādṛśaprayatnād bamanaṃ praccharddanaṃ (Śāstrī, 2007b).
Along with effort to exhalation, it should be ensured that one stays in the place where Dhāraṇā practice is intended.
The view of Bhāsvatī probably implies-by exhalation one should visualize that the mind is being channelized to the place where, Dhāraṇā is going to be practiced next. Thus it becomes evident by the view of this sub-commentary that this prāṇāyāma technique is a component of Dhāraṇā and it is not a standalone breathing technique. This indeed is a unique observation.
Vidhāraṇa in sub-commentaries
Two views on Vidhāraṇa emerge from the sub-commentaries.
(i) The sub-commentaries Tattvavaiśāradī and Vivaraṇa clarify that –
recitasya prāṇasya kauṣṭhyasya vāyoryadāyāmo bahireva sthāpanaṃ na tu sahasā praveśanam (tattvavaiśāradī) (Śāstrī & Śāstrī, 1952).
The holding of the breath that has been exhaled outside and not allowing it to enter quickly.
Yadyapi pracchardanenāpi prāṇaḥ āyamyate, tathāpi bahirvṛttirna nirudhyata iti vidhāraṇaṃ prāṇāyāma iti viśeṣyate (vivaraṇa) (Śāstrī & Śāstrī, 1952).
Though by exhalation also, the breath is regulated (and hence prāṇāyāma), the breath exhaled is not stopped in that process. hence holding (the breath outside itself) is designated as prāṇāyāma.
Thus, it is evident from both the above sub-commentaries that-keeping the Prāṇa that this exhaled, outside itself and not allowing it to enter immediately-is Vidhāraṇa.
Vivaraṇa also clarifies that –
Vāyorātamitorudvamanaṃ nāsikābhyām, na mukhena (Śāstrī & Śāstrī, 1952).
Exhalation, to the extent possible, has to be done through the nostrils and not through the mouth.
Bhāsvatī another sub-commentary to Sage Vyāsa's commentary-concurs with what Tattvavaiśāradī states on vidhāraṇa–
yathāśakti kiyatkālaṃ yāvad vāyoragrahaṇam (Śāstrī, 2007c).
The nongrasping (noninhalation) of the breath (from outside) to the extent possible.
(ii) Yogavārttika, another sub-commentary, in contrast to the above views, states –
Vidhāraṇaṃ kumbhakaṃ taccārthātpūraṇānantanaramiti bodhyam, recanottaraṃ pūraṇaṃ vinā vidhāraṇāsaṃbhavāt (Śāstrī, 2007c)
Vidhāraṇa refers to retention of breath. It should be understood that retention of breath has to be done after inhalation, as it is not possible to hold the breath after exhalation.
To substantiate the above view regarding retention of breath inside, Yogavārttika provides the following justification:
Prāṇāyāma ityuttarācca.'prāṇāyāmaśca vijñeyo recakapūrakakumbhakā' ityādismṛtibhistrayāṇāmeva militānāṃ prāṇāyāmatvakathanāditi (Śāstrī, 2007c).
“(Sage Vyāsa has) uttered the word prāṇāyāma (in the context of Vidhāraṇa). And Prāṇāyāma as per the smṛtis always refers to the combined involvement of the three components-exhalation, inhalation and holding the breath. (And so, though in the Sūtra, exhalation and retention alone are stated, inhalation has to be inserted after exhalation before retention of the breath within).
Two independent commentaries-Pradīpā and vṛtti of Nāgojībhaṭṭa follow the views presented in Yogavārttika with regard to vidhāraṇa (prāṇasya pracchardanaṃ vamanaṃ, recanamiti yāvat. vidhāraṇaṃ kumbhakam, taccārthātpūrakānantaraṃ, recakottaraṃ pūrakaṃ vinā vidhāraṇāsambhavāt prāṇāyāmatayāsya bhāṣye proktatvācca-pradīpa and prāṇasya pracchardanaṃ vamanaṃ recanam. vidhāraṇaṃ kumbhakam. etacca pūrakopalakṣaṇam-nāgojībhaṭṭavṛttiḥ). The quotes from these two commentaries are not translated as they do not add anything new (Śāstrī, 2009b).
It is to be noted that the sub commentary - Pātañjalarahasya does not add any insight on these two questions.
Thus as stated earlier, divergent views from the sub-commentaries on the two points above contribute to divergent techniques of practice of this Prāṇāyāma. These varied techniques are consolidated in the ensuing section.
Techniques of practice of Prāṇāyāma based sage Vyāsa's commentary and its sub-commentaries
Based on the textual evidence and discussions presented above and also with further inputs from the commentaries, two types of techniques of practice emerge from Sage Vyāsa's commentary and its sub-commentaries. (a) Four purely breathing techniques-this is based on the views of Tattvavaiśāradī and vivaraṇa (Rukmani, 2001), vivaraṇa alone (Śāstrī, 2007b), vārttika (Śāstrī, 2009a) and (b) a Dhāraṇā based breathing technique in Bhāsvatī. These are presented in a step-by-step manner for clarity.
Four purely breathing techniques
(i) Tattvavaiśāradī-Vivaraṇa-technique (Rukmani, 2001): (Refer quotations 6, 7, 11, 12, 13) It has two steps.
- Step 1: One should slowly exhale the breath from the abdomen (Intending a deep exhalation) through the nostrils and not through the mouth
- Step 2: Then, one has to retain the breath outside.
It is to be noted that Tattvavaiśāradī-Vivaraṇa-Technique is agreeable to an independent commentary Maṇiprabhā (nāsikāpuṭābhyāṃ prāṇasya pracchardanaṃ-recanaṃ recitasya prāṇasya bahireva vidhāraṇaṃ yathāśakti [Śāstrī, 2009a]).
Bhojavṛtti, an independent commentary, while agreeing to this technique, makes an important addition. It is as follows:
Pracchardanaṃ kauṣṭhyasya vāyoḥ prayatnaviśeṣānmātrāpramāṇena bahirniḥsāraṇam. vidhāraṇaṃ mātrāpramāṇenaiva prāṇasya vāyorbahirgativicchedaḥ (Śāstrī, 2009a).
Exhaling and holding the breath outside should be done with mātrā-pramāṇa (measure of duration/count).
Tattvavaiśāradī-Vivaraṇa-Technique recommended mere activity of exhalation and retention, but the actual regulation of breath happens only when there is tab on the duration of these breath related activities. Because of this Bhoja's views are valuable.
(ii) Two techniques in Vivaraṇa alone (Śāstrī, 2007b)
A unique statement in Vivaraṇa contributes couple of techniques of this practice. The statement is as follows:
Pracchardanavidhāraṇābhyāṁ vyastābhyāṁ samastābhyāṁ vā (Śāstrī & Śāstrī, 1952).
By pracchardana and Vidhāraṇā that are together (as part of same technique) or separately (as two different practices).
This comment leads to the understanding that when pracchardana and Vidhāraṇā are considered as part of the same technique–the technique is same as that of Tattvavaiśāradī-Vivaraṇa-Technique stated previously.
But two techniques emerge when these two are themselves considered two independent techniques going by the above view (as per quote 21) of Vivaraṇa. Pracchardana itself becomes a technique and Vidhāraṇā becomes another technique.
But it has already been quoted from vivaraṇa that Pracchardana should be done through the nostrils and not through the mouth and has to be done to one's capacity. (Refer prior quote [Śāstrī, 2007b].)
In the context of Vidhāraṇā it has been stated that one has to hold the breath outside or desist from breathing in after exhalation according to one's capacity. (Refer prior quote (Śāstrī & Śāstrī, 1952).)
These are the details that are to be remembered while practicing these two as two separate practices.
This kind of view on breathing with just one component is hitherto not known from any other commentary or any other Yoga text.
(iii) Yogavārttika technique (Śāstrī, 2009a): (Refer prior quotations (Gopālabhaṭṭa, 1910; Śāstrī, 2007c)) This has three steps.
- Step 1: One has to exhale breath through any one nostril from the abdomen in a subtle manner (without making any sound of exhalation)
- Step 2: After that one has to inhale the breath
- Step 3: Then, the breath has to be retained within.
A Dhāraṇā based breathing technique
Bhāsvatī Technique – (Refer Quotations [Śāstrī, 2007b, 2007c]) As stated earlier, this sub-commentary considers this breathing practice as part of Dhāraṇā. It has three steps. The steps are as follows:
- Step 1: One should exhale the breath with an effort of channelizing the mind toward the place (within the body or outside) where it is to be fixed
- Step 2: Then, one has to hold the breath outside according to one's capability. While holding the breath outside, one should ensure that the mind is fixed in the place chosen for Dhāraṇā and no other thoughts remain in the mind
(The third step from this commentary, which was not discussed in the previous section, is now presented with reference).
- Step 3: After that, still keeping the mind fixed in the object, one should inhale. After that one should exhale and continue the practice. One should keep repeating this until the mind attains the state of single-pointed focus (tataḥ prayatnena saha cittasyāpi dhāraṇīye deśe sthāpanamanyacintāparihārāśca, tataḥ punardhyeyagatacittastiṣṭhan vāyuṃ līlayā''camya punaḥ praccharddanamityasya nirantarābhyāsena cittamekāgrabhūmikaṃ kuryāt [Śāstrī, 2007b]).
Thus Sage Vyāsa's commentary and sub commentaries contribute five techniques of practice.
Techniques from independent Saṃskṛta commentaries
Now let us consider unique techniques presented by commentators independent of Sage Vyāsa.
[TAG:2]Yogasudhākara technique [/TAG:2]
According to this commentary, the technique of practice is as follows:
Prāṇasya śarīrāntargatasya vāyoḥ pracchardanaṃ dvātriṃśanmātrāpramāṇena śanaiḥ piṅgalayā bahirvirecanam. recitaṃ paścādiḍayā ṣoḍaśamātrāpramāṇenāntarāpūrya pūritasya punaścatuḥṣaṣṭimātrāpramāṇena vidhāraṇamāntarakumbhakaḥ (Śāstrī, 2009c)
Slow exhalation of the breath for a duration 32 mātrās through the piṅgala (right nostril) is Pracchardana. After exhalation, inhaling for a duration of 16 mātrās through the ida (left nostril) and retaining the breath within in for a duration of 64 mātrās is āntarakumbhaka.
Based on the text above, we can see that the practice involves three steps. The practice is termed as Āntarakumbhaka. The steps of the practice are:
- Step 1: One has to exhale through the right nostril for a duration of 32 Mātrās (counts)
- Step 2: After that one has to inhale through the left nostril for a duration of 16 Mātrās
- Step 3: Then, one has to retain the breath within for a duration of 64.
Yogasudhākara also clarifies that Bāhya-kumbhaka is also possible in the same manner (recitasya voktapramāṇena bahireva vidhāraṇaṃ bāhyakumbhakaḥ [Śāstrī, 2009c]). However, the technique has not been elaborated.
This commentary makes an important departure about the technique of practice from all previous views. The commentary states:
Pracchardanaṃ kauṣṭhasya vāyorbahirvamanam. nātyantavegāt nātyantavilambādidaṃ kartavyam. vidhāraṇaṃ nāma pariśuddhabāhyavāyorjihvoṣṭhanāsikābhiḥ pānam, jihvayeti śītalī, oṣṭhābhyāṃ śītkārīti pānakriyayoranayoḥ saṃjñā (Varadachari, 1986).
Prachardana is exhalation. It has to be done neither too fast or nor too slowly and Vidhāraṇa (unlike all previous commentators) is inhaling pure air, which may be done through the tongue-śītalī or through lips-Sītkārī or through both the nostrils.
The marked departure in this commentary is Vidhāraṇa is considered as inhalation in this commentary.
We see three techniques of practice emerging, based on three ways of inhalation (Vidhāraṇa), in two steps each, from the commentary:
- Technique 1
- Step 1: exhalation is to be done neither slowly or quickly
- Step 2: inhalation through the rolled tongue (śītalī).
- Technique 2
- Step 1: exhalation is to be done neither slowly or quickly
- Step 2: inhalation through the lips/teeth (sītkārī).
- Technique 3
- Step 1: exhalation is to be done neither slowly or quickly
- Step 2: inhalation through the nostrils.
Although Yogavallī commentary does not specify whether exhalation has to be done through mouth or nostrils, it is common Yogic wisdom that exhalation through mouth in the course of prāṇāyāma leads to exhaustion. Textually, the view has been clarified in the Jyotsnā commentary to the Haṭhayogapradīpikā (vaktreṇa vāyoḥ nissāraṇaṃ tvabhyāsānantaramapi na kāryam balahānikaratvāt (Iyangar, 1972)). Hence, it can be safely assumed that the commentator of Yogavallī, foremost among practitioners of Yoga in the 20th Century, Yogācārya T Kṛṣṇamācārya, will be aware of this view and would certainly not suggest exhalation through mouth in Prāṇāyāma.
| Consolidation of Techniques|| |
It could thus be seen from the above discussion and also from [Table 1] that:
- The first set of commentaries led by Sage Vyāsa suggested five techniques of practice
- The independent commentaries suggested four techniques of practice (of which three of them come from yogavallī commentary).
Thus nine hitherto unnoticed and unutilized techniques emerge from the commentaries of yogasūtra for calming the mind.
With regard to the number of techniques, it could be argued that as this is just one Sutra, there is just one technique and all others are variations.
However, the commentary evidence presented above indicates that the Sutra itself has been read and interpreted variously. This is evident from the variety in the number steps in practice, meaning of the term Vidharana, adding a duration to the breathing components, doing the breathing through one nostril, inhaling through lips, tongue, etc. Further, it could be noticed that none of the commentators refute or object to the technique stated by others or state that it is an improvement upon the earlier.
| Uniqueness of these Nine techniques|| |
With regard to prāṇāyāma practices in other yoga texts, none of the known Haṭhayoga texts that have sections on prāṇāyāma state the practices of breathing in this manner.
- In Haṭhayoga texts including vasiṣṭhasaṃhitā, yogayājñavalkyasaṃhitā, Haṭhayogapradīpikā, Haṭharatnāvalī and Gheraṇḍasaṃhitā-it could be seen that nowhere, the practice of breathing starts from exhalation. All prāṇāyāma practices start only with inhalation
- Even though in Yogavallī commentary the commentator mentions the names of Sītkārī and Śītalī, the procedure prescribed in the Hatha Yoga texts for Sītkārī and Śītalī does not start with Pracchardana (Refer Haṭhayogapradīpikā 2.54 and 2.57). It starts only with inhalation
- The breathing ratio given in yogasudhākara might not be new (32 (exhalation):16 (inhalation):64 (holding the breath)). But it has to be noted that in yogayājñavalkyasaṃhitā, (that predates Yogasudhākara) where the ratio is initially stated-the technique of practice for which the ratio of breathing was suggested is different. The technique stated there is (yogayājñavalkyasaṃhitā Verse 6.4–7)-Inhalation through the left nostril (16 mātrās)-holding breath (64 mātrās)-exhalation (32 mātrās) through the right nostril, which is evidently different from what yogasudhākara has stated. Hence, this has to be considered as a unique technique
- Further, technique that has been stated in the Bhāsvatī commentary is very unique as it presents this Prāṇāyāma as part of Dhāraṇā. This is unlike any Bhāvanā or Dhāraṇā that has been stated in any of the known texts of Haṭhayoga that incorporates breathing.
These are the factors that establish the uniqueness of these techniques.
| Conclusion|| |
The nine techniques that have been brought to the fore through this study thus brings out the utility of the systematic perusal of Saṃskṛta Commentary literature of yogasūtra in bringing out hitherto unknown critical aspects of practice of yoga like prāṇāyāma. Further, it has to be stated that experiential insights and scientific validations with regard to these techniques can be attempted based on this exposition, which will further firmly establish the utility and efficacy of these techniques in bringing about calmness and focus of the mind and any other physiological outcomes also.
Note: All translations of the source texts, unless indicated otherwise, is by the author of the paper.
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