The ratio duration of inhalation, kumbhaka and exhalation is important and changes as one progressively develops the ability to hold the breath for longer periods of time. For the initial stages of practice keep the duration of inhalation and exhalation the same as practised in stage 2, maintaining the 1:2 ratio. During this time slowly increase the time of antar kumbhaka, starting with a few seconds and increasing by a second every few days according to circumstances. Don’t progress too quickly or hold the breath for a long period in the beginning for this will gain nothing in the long run. If you perform a mighty retention in the first round, for example, it is more than likely that you will start gasping for air in subsequent rounds and will not be able to maintain the same long kumbhaka. Progress slowly but surely.
As a rough guide you should aim during this stage of practice to increase the period of antar kumbhaka so that it is the same as the period for exhalation. In other words, if for example you exhale for a count of ten, then over a period of time, whether weeks or a month, try to reach such a stage that the kumbhaka also takes a count of ten.
Thus at the end of this stage try to make the ratio of duration of one round as follows: Inhalation – 1: antar kumbhaka – 2: exhalation – 2: inhalation – 1: antar kumbhaka – 2: exhalation – 2. That is, 1:2:2:1:2:2.
Some people will find it easy to attain this ratio; others will require more time. Whatever the case, don’t rush, for there is plenty of time. Those who find it easy to reach tbis ratio should start to increase the duration of inhalation, kumbhaka and exhalation, keeping the ratio fixed. Other people should persevere with their practice taking as long as is necessary to master it.
Awareness We emphasize again that awareness of breath and mental counting is essential. This is necessary to relax the mind by withdrawing it from its normal rut of problems and to make it one-pointed. At the same time awareness of counting is vital in order to keep track of the ratio of inhalation, kumbhaka and exhalation and to alter it where necessary.