At the Samadhi Silent Retreats we practice the ancient art of Pranayama to Settle The Mind.
Pranayama is a Sanskrit compound word, "vital breath" + "restrain". This very mindful practice, which has many variations and patterns, allows for intense inward immersion which can lead to Samadhi. Pranayamas are breathing exercises that are specific in length and duration.
The Pranayama usually has three parts:
Deliberatly inhaling with attention: pūrak (to take the breath inside),
Pausing to hold the breath in: kumbhak (to retain it),
Focusing on the exhale: rechak (to discharge it)
For example, a Pranayama breathing formula may be 1:4:2, using a base number of 4, this would indicate inhaling for a count of 4 (1x4), retaining for a count of 16 (4x4), exhaling for 8 (2x4)
One very popular Pranayama that we teach, which does not have a focus on the PAUSE in the middle, is very common to Yoga practitioners, the Ujjayi Pranayama - also known as "victorious or conquering breath" is breathing in and out while making the "HA" sound with closed lips. This sounds like that breath you make when you are faking being asleep. Two things are happening here, the slightly closed airway typically results in a parasympathetic response (lowered heart rate, lowered blood pressure, increased digestive activity, stimulation of the vagus nerve, etc...), and the air passing through the upper sinuses stimulate a relaxation response in the brain.
Another popular breathing technique uses the fingers to close off each nostril one at a time, called Alternate Nostril Breathing or Nadi Shodhan Pranayama, (shown at right.) This technique helps clear out blocked energy channels in the body, which in turn calms the mind immediately.
We practice multiple Pranayama breathing exercises which use the Will Of The Mind to consciously direct the breathing. By giving the mind something to focus on other than the worldly chatter, the focus dissolves and gives an opportunity for Samadhi silence to occur.
"The benefit of practicing these ancient arts, is attaining the state of Samadhi or “Absolute Silence of the Mind.” By utilizing a single point of focus, the practitioner can become so consumed in awareness that it can lead to a pause in the mind chatter, and then the silence of Samadhi can reveal inner truths that are rarely accessible."