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Yoga Practice

Turning to the actual Yoga practice we come first to the posture of the Yogin called the asana. He must attain such a perfect posture that all efforts to that end should cease, and there should not be any movement of the body. One should think how this great earth is set at rest and thus secure strength for the mind to keep itself steady in its own posture.

After having secured stability in the posture a person should try the pranayamas. The pauses that come after a deep inhalation and after deep exhalation are each called pranayama: the first is called external and the second internal. There is however a third mode, when the lungs are neither too much dilated nor too much contracted and there is another total restraint, where cessation of both these motions takes place by a single effort, just as water thrown on a heated stone shrivels up from all sides.

These can be regulated by keeping the eye upon space, span and numbers. Thus as the breathing becomes slower the space that it occupies also becomes smaller and smaller. Space is again of two kinds, internal and external. At the time of inhalation the breath occupies internal space which can be felt even in the soles of hands and feet, just like the slight touch of an ant. To try to feel this touch along with deep inhalation serves to lengthen the period of cessation of breathing. External space is the distance from the tip of the nose to the most remote point up to which breath can be felt by the palm of the hand or by the movement of any light substance like cotton placed there and just as the breathing becomes slower and slower the distance traversed by it also becomes smaller and smaller. Regulations by time are seen when attention is kept over the time taken up in breathing the shortest time being a moment which is the fourth part of the twinkling of the eye. So regulation by time means the fact of our attending to the moments or kshanas spent in the acts of inspiration, pause and expiration. These pranayamas can also be measured by the number of normal durations of breaths. The time taken by the inspiration and expiration of a healthy man is the same as that which is measured by snapping the fingers after turning the hand thrice over the knee and is the measure of duration of normal breath; the first mild attempt is called udghata and matras or measures are measured by 36 such udghatas; when it is double it is the second udghata, middling, when it is trebled it is the third udghata called intense. Gradually the Yogin acquires the practice of pranayama of long duration being daily practiced and being increased in succession to a day, fortnight, a month and so on. He proceeds first by mastering the first udghata, then the second and so on until the duration increases up to a day, fortnight, a month as stated before. There is also a fourth kind of pranayama transcending all those stages of unsteady practice when the Yogin is steady in his cessation of breath. It must be remembered, however, that while the pranayamas are practiced, the mind must be fixed by dhyana and dharana to some object, external or internal, without which these will be of no avail. By the practice of pranayama mind becomes fit for concentration, and steadiness is acquired, and this steadiness is the same as concentration, as we find also in the sutra "dharanasu ca yogyata manasah."

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