Shvasa Prashvasa

Definition - What does Shvasa Prashvasa mean?

Shvasa prashvasa is a Sanskrit term that means "uneven breathing" or "unsteadiness." In a yogic context, it refers to one of the effects or symptoms of the obstacles that block the path to enlightenment, as described in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. Shvasa translates as “breathing,” “hard breathing” or “aspiration” while prashvasa translates as “inhaling” or “breathing in.”

More specifically, anxiety, stress and a distracted mind (citta-vikshepa, or that which scatters the thoughts) can lead to irregular breathing, or shvasa prashvasa.

Yogapedia explains Shvasa Prashvasa

To overcome the obstacles and their symptoms, including shvasa prashvasa, the yogi must clear his or her mind by focusing on smooth, regular breath. Yogic breathing exercises, or pranayama, and meditation are particularly useful tools to eliminate shvasa prashvasa.

Shvasa prashvasa is one of the four symptoms of the obstacles that block the path of yoga. The others are:

  • Duhkha (sadness/pain)
  • Daurmanasya (depression)
  • Angamedzhavatva (physical weakness/tremors)

The Sutras list nine main obstacles:

  • Viyadhi (physical or mental illness)
  • Siana (lack of discipline)
  • Sanshaya (doubt)
  • Pramada (indifference/carelessness)
  • Alassane (laziness/apathy)
  • Avirati (attachment to pleasures/lack of control or restraint)
  • Brantidarshan (delusion)
  • Alabdha-bhumikatya (lack of progress)
  • Anavastitatva (unsteadiness/mental instability)
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