I acknowledge this picture from the Net.

Obelix, and possibly Popeye too, became as strong as they did by holding their breath. Nothing lost in trying.

Shiva goes with many names, often 108 and sometimes 1008.  The oldest Vedic reference to the one who we now call Shiva is Rudra in the Rig veda. Rudra is the howler, the screamer, the primordial force that at once terrifies and consoles. Perhaps Rudra is that part of the Universal Consciousness that seeks its counterpart visibly and volubly.

Did Bhairava  come in later? Some say that he appeared when an angered Shiva cut the fifth head off Brahma. Perhaps he came in to decapitate Daksha after Sati’s death. These references are puranic, which are post Vedic. But then, Bhairava appears here in Vigyana Bhairava Tantra, as part of a text that is possibly pre Vedic. I shall let the scholars debate this and resolve how old Bhairava is.

Bhairava is the fearsome aspect of Shiva. As Kala Bhairava he dances with time. Several times in this dialogue, Devi addresses Shiva lovingly as Bhairava, as her own higher Consciousness. No where in this dialogue Shiva as Bhairava emegerges fearsome. I don’t know enough to answer these apparent contradications.

Coming back to the verses, in the next verse Shiva says:

In the middle, my love, as you stay still and unmoving

Not knowing, Bhairava emerges in awareness

I have translated the word Shakti in this verse referring to the pranic energy as Shakti, Shiva’s other half and nirvikalpa as the state of not knowing the knower.

Shiva says: As the pranic energy in the form of the upward prana and downward apana stays still in between, Consciousness emerges.

Most references i know refer to prana as the incoming and inhaled breath, and apana as the outward and exhaled breath, though one reputed source indicates otherwise. I go by the dictionary meaning of apana, which means outward and therefore exhalation.

Just try this. What as you hold you breath between inhalation and exhalation. While inhaling as puraka and exhaling as rechaka, you are observing the breath and often may have thoughts. When you hold the breath in between as kumbhaka, try as you may, you will not be able to think .  Thinking will break the pause and lead to inhalation or exhalation.

Kumbhaka, retention of breath in between, is the space of silence of the mind, where the vikalpa , the knowing or imagining or thinking stops. You are in the not knowing stage. The observer no longer exists. The observer is an unthinking, unknowing witness. This is the state of nirvikalpa samadhi.

This is Bhairava.

Swami Satyasangananda Saraswati refers in The Ascent published by Bihar School of Yoga to the Bhagavad Gita verse 4: 29 in relation to this verse.

Krishna says that this pause resulting in the fusion of prana and apana is a great sacrifice. The sacrifice is the dropping of thoughts and therefore, desires. Krishna earlier says that material sacrifices are meaningless unless desires are sacrificed. Desires can only be sacrificed if thoughts are sacrificed. The easiest way to sacrifice thoughts is to hold your breath!

This state is the yoga Patanjali talks about as ‘chitta vritti nirodaha’ , the cessation of the movements of the mind.

What an easy way to stop the mind. All one needs to do is to hold one’s breath! Obelix and Popeye knew all about this.

So, dear reader, practise this. As you inhale and exhale and pause between breaths, stay with the space of pause, hold your breath and just witness. Let whatever happens, happen. Just BE.

You may witness Bhairava.