After a few minutes of relaxation as described in how to cultivate a predisposition, gradually absorb the mind in the breath, that is, be aware of the coolness of the inflowing prana deep inside the head, in the nerve cells, and the warmth of the outgoing prana (exhalation) inside the lower nostrils, while breathing spontaneously. There is no need to breathe deliberately slowly, for the concentration in feeling the breath will automatically make it slow and find its own rhythm. From time to time, repeat mentally “peace” (shanti) when inhaling and “liberation” (mukti) when exhaling, but the important thing is a sense of being filled with peace and feeling free from all tension and bondage like a free soul. The practice may be continued for, say, 10 minutes.
The purpose of this form of pratyahara is a conscious experience of the prana, the external form of which is the breath and the internal, the spirit or the soul. The Latin root, spirare, of the word respiration means “to breathe,” and is related to the word spiritus, the spiritual essence that gives life to the body through the vital principle, prana. By experiencing the breath through its coolness and warmth, one becomes aware of the source within by a sense of immense peace and freedom, the two psychological forms of expression of the spirit within.
After a month of practice, the first stage can be prolonged by continuing to feel the coolness deep inside the head even when exhaling, and ignoring the warmth of the outgoing prana, but renewing the cool feeling with the help of each inward breath. The psychological experience of this exercise is a state of fullness which can be guided by the repetition of the word paripurnam or its English form “spiritual fullness,” from time to time. This may be done for five minutes or more, depending on the ability to maintain attention.
Any practice in a prolonged state, especially in the beginning, loses its depth. Thus, after 10 or 15 minutes, detach the mind from the breath, keep the eyes closed and feel restful for a minute or two. One may also loosen up the shoulders, neck and legs, if there is tension.