Rechaka Pranayama - 2:1 Breathing

Rechaka Pranayama practice in Yoga Meditation is quite different from that of modern yoga studios. Rechaka or 2:l breathing is described here for those participating in Yoga Mentoring with Radhikaji. This is an excerpt from her book Mastering Pranayama.

In his Lectures on Saundaryalahiri, Swami Rama says, "Breathing exercises are different. They are superficial. They are important, but they are superficial. They are not called pranayama. They prepare you to do pranayama.  Pranayama are the deeper exercises.  They can be done mentally."

This may come as a surprise to many, who are convinced that pranayama is only about breathing exercises. Generally the manner in which these breathing exercises are practiced cannot lead to any higher understanding of pranayama. Mastering Pranayama, the science of Energy, means understanding the 7 Step Program. 

Mastering Pranayama: The 7 Step Program

Mastery in Pranayama, the science of energy, begins with the breath. 

The seven step process includes: 

  1. establishing natural and effortless diaphragmatic breathing
  2. establishing even or equal breath, that is inhalation is equal to exhalation
  3. establishing silent breathing, without noise
  4. establishing smooth breathing, without jerkiness 
  5. eliminating extended pauses between inhalation and exhalation
  6. establishing the elongated breath, increasing the length of inhalation as well as exhalation
  7. beginning to understand, experience and eventually attain mastery over prana itself

Before you start Rechaka or 2:1 Breathing you must have already established point 1, and should have natural and effortless diaphragmatic breathing at all times of the day.

The very first and most basic step: Check your breathing counts

The average person has a short and uneven breath. Such a person may breath in 4 seconds and may breath out 3 seconds.  In fact the breath may be even as short as 3 seconds in and 2 seconds out.  

If we take the average breath of an average person to be something like 2 seconds in and 2 seconds out, then such a person breathes at the rate of 15 breaths per minute.  

In order to start breathing practices, "you have to see the capacity of your inhalation and exhalation first, and always go with it," says Swami Rama in Lectures on Saundaryalahiri. 

Place your finger in front of your nostrils and feel your breath. Count the length of both, the inhalation as well as the exhalation. The counting method is recommended because it does not encourage a dependency on any external objects such a watch. Count silently in the mind. Count so that one count is equal to one second. 

Check your breath at different times of the day. You may notice differences in the counts, depending on the time of the day, degree of tiredness and your emotional state.  Accept the most common count as the base to start from.

Rechaka or 2:1 Breathing with counting

In 2:1 breathing, known as Rechaka, the exhalation is twice the length that of the inhalation. Do this consciously. 

Let us assume your natural breath count is: 2 seconds in, 3 seconds out.

Sit in your chosen meditative posture and do this practice silently. You may sit in:

  • Maitri Asana - the Friendship pose 
  • Sukhasana - the Easy Pose 
  • Svastikasana - the Auspicious Pose or 
  • Siddhasana - the Accomplished Pose

Take the lower count, that is, in this case 2 seconds.

Breathe out 4 seconds and breathe in 2 seconds. This is one breath. 

Do this 10 times. This is  one round. 

After a round breathe normally for a couple of moments. Take the time between rounds to come back to your normal breathing. This may not seem to make a difference initially, but as you increase the counts, you will find these short breaks of normal breathing useful.

Do another 2 rounds, remembering to take a break of normal breathing between the rounds.

Do this as part of your daily practice for about  4 weeks.

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2:1 Breathing without counting

After you have integrated the 2:1 breathing practice with counting, you may notice that counting silently somehow disturbs the flow of the breath and makes it jerky. You may also notice that the breath is noisy and that there are unconscious extended pauses between inhalation and exhalation as well as between exhalation and inhalation. 

In the method without counting you are able to devote your attention to the finer aspects of the breath. You can use the equal breathing without counting to:

3.establish silent breathing, without noise

4.establish smooth breathing, without jerkiness 

5.eliminate extended pauses between inhalation and exhalation

2:1 breathing in sitting position:

Sit in a meditative posture. Breathe out from crown of the head to the base of the spine and breath in from the heart centre to the crown of the head.

2:1 breathing in supine position: 

Another method is to breathe out from crown of the head to the tip of the toes and breathe in from the base of the spine to the crown of the head.

This way the time you exhale is double that you inhale.

In the method without counting you are able to devote your attention to the finer aspects of the breath. Do this for another 2-4 weeks. This is an important step and should not be overlooked. 

Elongating the breath in Rechaka

After about 4 weeks of practicing 2:1 Breathing increase the counts to 6 seconds out and 3 seconds in. Do 3 rounds of 10 breaths each. 

After another 2 weeks, increase the counts to 8 seconds out and 4 seconds in. Once again do 3 rounds of 10 breaths each. 

Keep increasing the counts every  second week, until you reach 30 seconds out and 15 seconds in. You will have achieved this gradually and gently over 7-8 months.

Elongated breath with Rechaka

 

About Rechaka or 2:1 Breathing Swami Rama says "Now what is happening when you breathe?  What happens to your breath?  It goes to the storehouse called lungs, and then from there goes to the other parts of the body, and then returns as carbon dioxide to your lungs.  Here you are forcing yourself not to allow the toxins to be built, and any toxins that are there, should be expelled.  Unique method.  You just double the ratio here.  If you have capacity of inhaling, one, two, three, four, then you should learn to exhale one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.  You might become breathless.  It means you have misjudged your capacity.  Come down to three.  Do not go so fast. Your face will tell you that you are doing breathing exercises. There will be a glow in your face."

Now you are on the threshold of point 7. beginning to understand, experience and eventually attain mastery over prana itself. 

Our YouTube Channel THATfirst Satsang has many clips arranged topic-wise in the playlist. Topics include: Samaya Srividya, Pranayama, Self-Enquiry, Schools of Tantra, and many more. Subscribe to the channel!

Dangers of Pranayama

There are serious dangers involved in doing pranayama practices without a trained teacher from an unbroken lineage and ancient tradition. 

Swami Rama says in Lectures on Saundaryalahiri, "Many teachers do not practice and then teach others just to do experiments. That's a very dangerous thing to do.  In books there are many things written. Some of the writers wrote them without knowing.  They took from here and there and wrote a book. Bad yoga practice can lead you to very dangerous situations for which there is no medicine. Suppose your pranic vehicles are disturbed because of your foolish practices that you have read through books. Where is the medicine for that? Therefore, a teacher is needed, and the teacher should be skilled enough not to mislead their students, not to make experiments on them. Let teachers make experiments on themselves. So, we have always in the scriptures, warnings, yellow mark on the scriptures, 'Don't do it!' It's a tradition."

Disturbance of pranic vehicle due to wrong Pranayama practice can lead to many imbalances causing, among other things:

  • Headache
  • Erratic mood change
  • Depression
  • Tendency to colds and congestion
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness

Prolonged practice of incorrect pranayama techniques can lead to serious and permanent disturbance or imbalance of the nervous system.  

The only practice you can do safely without guidance is Diaphragmatic Breathing.

Precautionary Measures

  • It is imperative that pranayama practice should not be done out of books, websites or videos.
  • Pranayama practice should be undertaken only with highly experienced and qualified teachers. By this I mean, only teachers from an unbroken lineage and ancient tradition. 
  • Avoid teachers that mix practices from different traditions.
  • If you do not find an experienced and qualified teacher, then it is better not to do any pranayama practice. 
  • Retention (Kumbhaka) is not recommended, unless you are guided by a highly experienced teacher. 

Comments:

Arnold from Romania:
Hello ! So i'm doing the Rechaka pranayama for a few month now and i started to notice that when on the inhalation i tend to go up the front of the body and on the exhalation down the back. I did some reading and it seems like most people do it the other way around. Is there a difference ? Should i stop or ?

Radhikaji from THATfirst:
@Arnold from Romania, the practice is always done along the spine. The spine is behind and not in front. This is true for inhalation as well as exhalation.

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