Refining Exercise 5
REFINING EXERCISE NO. 5 - This Exercise Oxygenates the Blood, adds a little Carbon-Dioxide (CO2) into the blood Stream, and activates the Parasympathetic Nervous System. Method:
Square breathing  Inhale for 3 seconds  Retain (Breath) for 3 seconds  Exhale (Breath out) for 3 seconds (4) Keep (Breath out) for 3 seconds. Slowly increase duration to 5 seconds.
Start with three repetitions, gradually increase by 1 or 2 repetitions every fortnight (depending on how comfortable the performance feels), until the exercise can be continued for three minutes. Please do not extend beyond this time.
Yoga says that when you hold your breath for three seconds, the blood is oxygenated. Which makes you feel more alive, sensitive and vibrant. When you hold the breath for a further two seconds, it adds a little CO2. Not the CO2 already within us which is released by the cells as debris in the venal blood, but this extra CO2 acts as a natural antibiotic which keeps us healthy and free from minor ailments such as colds, fever etc. This holding the breath in and out slows the respiration and the pulse rate. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which has a calming effect on the whole body.
When we are born, the parasympathetic nervous system is working at a small percentage of its full capacity, which is necessary/enough to neutralise the excess secretions of the endocrine glands. This keeps us free from anger, irritation etc. With age, the parasympathetic nervous system nearly stops working and thus a lot of irritation and anger flows/resides in our system due to imbalance (secretion of adrenaline). By holding this exercise, we reignite the parasympathetic and thus ensure balance in the body/brain system.
At a psychological level, we live in a constant state of action-reaction. The direct result of this is a constant state of irritation. Irritation is a fuse which releases and wastes very fine psychic energy. After too much irritation, we feel spent and it creates a groove where we get more and more irritated. In our agitated state, we live in a constant state of reaction and we usually repent for our actions when we react.
The idea is to create a gap between action-reaction. Sage Patanjali calls the gap 'Nirodha Sanskara', Shi Tavariaji called it the 'pause'. Our thinking instrument is useless in creating a gap long enough for understanding to flower. The present moment is too fleeting for understanding to come from the use of thought and reason.
To help us not react in the present moment but to respond out of understanding, we need this understanding to come from some higher dimension. This understanding then will help us respond to the situation as a whole, and avoid automatic reflex action or reactions. We call this inspiration of the beginning of intuition. As we go deeper, intuition grows into perception and perception to spiritual reading. In this exercise, we breathe in and then a gap and then breathe out. Slowly as this training is absorbed by the body/brain system, we start experiencing higher and higher levels of understanding.
Also, in this living of action-reaction, we are constantly agitated or jerking the emotional body. This scars the emotional body leading to more granthis and negative patterns and at the same time, releases dangerous chemicals in the body which leads to diseases. By creating a habit of pause, we are giving the emotional body a chance to repose/collect itself before reacting. Thus, that reaction, which was just an extension of the agitation, now comes from an inner calmness. In ancient India, the yogis and rishis conducting research in areas beyond the conscious brain had to temporarily put the conscious brain to sleep, suspend the thought-forming structure temporarily. By pausing for longer periods and taking in larger amounts of CO2, they could induce trance in the conscious brain and then look beyond.