Understanding the Middle Breath as Udgitha, OM.

Sri Aurobindo translates Chhandogya Upanishad, Chapter One, Section Three, Verses 3-5:  “Thereafter verily ye shall worship Vyana the middle breath as Udgitha.  For when one breathes forth it is Prana, the Main Breath, and when one breathes down it is Apana, the lower breath.  Now this which is the joint and linking of the main breath and the lower breath, is Vyana — and Vyana, it is Speech.  Therefore ’tis when one neither breatheth forth nor breatheth down that one giveth utterance to Speech.  But Speech is the Rik — therefore ’tis when one neither breatheth out nor breatheth in that one uttereth the Rik.  And Rik it is Sama — therefore ’tis when one neither breatheth out nor breatheth in that one chanteth the Sama.  But Sama it is Udgitha — therefore ’tis when one neither breatheth out nor breatheth in that one singeth Udgitha.  Hence whatsoever actions there be that are of might and forcefulness as smiting out fire from the tinder or leaping a great barrier or the bending a stark and mighty bow, it is when one neither breatheth out nor breatheth in that one doeth these.  And for this cause ye shall worship the middle breath as Udgitha.”

Prana is recognised both the primary force in the manifestation, as well as the primary breath in the individual being.  In order to distinguish different internal actions, this Prana is denoted by different names based on the function it takes on in the body.  Vyana, the breath-pervasor, is the link between Prana and Apana, the main breath and the lower breath.  These verses focus on Vyana as the link between these other forms, and point out that Speech and chanting the verses of the Veda, and concentration on any intense function occur while one is holding one’s breath.  Holding the breath is a function of Vyana as it spans the gap between the inward and the outward breath.

If we observe ourselves closely, we note that whenever we concentrate intensely on anything we tend to hold our breath.  Many exercises in Pranayama include extended conscious control of the breathing with “holds” introduced between the intake and expulsion of air.  These holds can be of considerable length and are considered essential to gaining control over the movement of energy in the consciousness and the activation of the energies of the various chakras.  Note that pranayama practices by those without training or guidance can lead to severe disturbances to the health and wellness of the being, the body-mind complex, so it is important to understand the functions and the consequences of any actions taken in this regard.  What we are looking at here are the natural activities of the body and the breath when any strenuous focus or effort is undertaken, which shows us the role of the middle breath in moderating the link between body, vital force and mind.

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Chhandogya Upanishad, pp.349-366

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.