Pranayama: Chaturtha Pranayama

Chaturtha pranayama is both a pranayama and a meditative practice. It combines breathing, mantra and chakra awareness. It is a very powerful technique that is not widely taught.

Definition

The Sanskrit word chaturtha means ‘the fourth’. There are two reasons for this name:

  1. The first three types of pranayama are widely regarded as pooraka (inhalation), rechaka (exhalation) and kumbhaka (retention). Chaturtha pranayama is said to be the fourth type that follows them. In this case the English translation can be ‘the fourth pranayama’.
  2. According to the Mandukya Upanishad there are four states of awareness. These are firstly, jagrat (waking state), which corresponds to the externalized perception of the world; secondly, swapna (the dream state), which corresponds to perception of the sub-conscious mind; thirdly, sushupti (dreamless state), which corresponds to intuitive perception of the collective unconscious; and finally, turiya (the fourth chaturtha), which is the transcendental state where words and definitions fail to reach.

Thus, chaturtha pranayama is one method, of many, which induces the fourth state of superconsciousness. In this case it can be translated as ‘the pranayama of the fourth state’.

Remember also that the word pranayama comes from two words – prana and ayama where prana is bioplasmic energy and ayama is to expand into a new dimension (of time and space). Therefore, pranayama is a method of inducing a new dimension of awareness by the manipulation of prana. Chaturtha pranayama is said to lead to the fourth dimension.

Chakra locations

To do the full practice one must know the location of the chakras. These positions have been clearly illustrated in previous lessons.

Stages 3, 4 and 5 of chaturtha pranayama can be used to develop sensitivity to these chakra trigger points.

Pronunciation

In the practice you have to do manasik japa (mental repetition) of the mantra Oml In this practice the ‘A’ and ‘U’ sounds of Aum merge into the single sound ‘O’. The ‘O’ sound should be synchronized with inhalation and the ‘M’ sound with exhalation.

Sitting position

Sit in any comfortable position. If you are able, sit in padmasana, siddhasana, siddhayoni asana, swastikasana or vajrasana; if not, sit in sukhasana3.

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