Rhythmic Breathing: A Key to Unlock Your Potential

By Pratik Pandey

You have immense potential, but it is yet to be explored. You have not tapped even a minuscule amount of your inner resources. Rhythmic breathing is the key that can help you unleash your hidden powers and lead you toward health, creativity, everlasting youth and self-realization.

Dark clouds enveloping Sun
I got up a bit early in the morning today. Sun was still looking like a small orange ball, playing hide and seek with the clouds. The majestic clouds were dark and vast, enveloping most of the dawn sky. It was an unusual sight, especially in the month of May in a tropical country like India. Breeze was carrying freshness and was delivering touch of invigorating zest every now and then. Silence was wrapping entire vicinity in its immensity. A beautiful dawn like this makes song of silence even grander, intoxicating your entire being with inexplicable bliss. What was this bliss? Why was there sheer sense of joy that words cannot describe?

I pondered on it for a while and unknowingly drifted back into grandeur of nature. Nature has the power to direct one toward perennial bliss, which is always there within but you tend to forget that. Rhythm is the key that nature holds. If you observe nature closely, you will find everything is rhythmical. Look attentively toward a river and observe how it flows. There’s a rhythm in it. Listen to the sound it makes, there’s music in it; perhaps the most melodious music that you ever heard.

If there is anything grand in this life, anything worth living for, anything that touches your heart and leaves you anew, it has to contain the rhythm. If you are in love or you have ever been, you know what a precious feeling it is, don’t you? What is the secret of love? It is this rhythm that makes world go round and helps the flower of love to bloom. Scientists claim that two people in love are completely in sync with each other. They always make rhythmic movements and even speak in a sort of rhythm. In studies after studies, researchers found that a subtle dance took place when two people in love communicate with each other. Not only lovers, but whenever two people communicate deeply with affection, rhythm is created. Malcolm Gladwell, in his famous book “The Tipping Point”, says:
“Subsequent research has revealed that it isn't just gesture that is harmonized, but also conversational rhythm. When two people talk, their volume and pitch fall into balance. What linguists call speech rate — the number of speech sounds per second — equalizes. So does what is known as latency, the period of time that lapses between the moment one speaker Stops talking and the moment the other speaker begins. Two people may arrive at a conversation with very different conversational patterns. But almost instantly they reach a common ground. We all do it, all the time…
When Tom Gau and I sat across from each other in his office, then, we almost immediately fell into physical and conversational harmony. We were dancing. Even before he attempted to persuade me with his words, he had forged a bond with me with his movements and his speech. So what made my encounter with him different, so much more compelling than the conversational encounters I have every day? It isn't that Gau was deliberately trying to harmonize himself with me.”
Yogis say when whole of your being is in rhythm; you reach to a state of perfect health, you feel divine ecstasy in your heart and you connect to the cosmic consciousness. What are diseases, but breaking of rhythm of vital energy or Prana in some organs of your body. What is stress? What causes lack of happiness in life? The moment there is no harmony or rhythm in your psychological structure, happiness ceases and clouds of gloom surround you. When there is no harmony between two people, you face a lot of problem in your relationships. This lack of harmony mars your communication skills and creates friction with all sorts of relationships - with your beloved, with your boss, with your parents, with your neighbor. To understand and learn the techniques to improve your communication, you might also like to read - Improve Your Communication Skills with Yoga.

In our lives, we focus on material things and sensate pleasure, and strive to achieve these things. I wonder sometimes how childish we are. We are like the person who lives near Ganges, but digs a well to satisfy his thirst. We already have the perennial source of happiness, unbound creativity and power to get what we want in us. Unfortunately, we have lost the rhythm in our lives and it is the source of all our miseries, be it illness, stress, depression, dullness or many of the other problems that we face in our daily routine. There is this one cosmic rhythm that manifests itself in nature, in body, mind and all other things. When this rhythm is disturbed in nature, there are consequences like famines, earthquakes, epidemics. When it is disturbed in the body, there are various diseases. When it is disturbed in mind, there are depression, illusion, stress and all sorts of mental troubles.

Rhythmic Breathing: Secret Formula for Health, Fitness & Vigor

Rhythmic Breathing harmonizes body, mind & soul
How to restore this primordial rhythm? The wrong ways of living have destroyed inherent harmony and created strife. Happiness, joy, ecstasy, health, creativity, success, peace and zest are our birthright, and we must reclaim all of these. Yogis say that there is a simple method to get this rhythm back that holds the key to solve all our problems – our breathing, motion of our lungs. Arthur Avalon, in his book Shakti and Shakta, says, “Breathing is a manifestation of the Cosmic Rhythm to which the whole universe moves and according to which it appears and disappears.”

Have you ever paid attention to your breathing? Observe it deeply. Breathing takes place because of the motion of our lungs. There is a rhythm in natural breathing. But we have lost it and our breathing is irregular now. Interestingly, breathing is only phenomenon in our organism that is both conscious and unconscious, i.e. we can control the flow of our breath if we want to, or it takes place automatically. So, by making our breathing rhythmical, we can slowly bring in the harmony in our entire organism that makes us healthy and youthful. In Raja Yoga, Swami Vivekananda explains:
“The nerve centre that controls the respiratory organs has a sort of controlling effect on the other nerves, and rhythmical breathing is, therefore, necessary. The breathing that we generally use should not be called breathing at all. It is very irregular. Then there are some natural differences of breathing between men and women. The first lesson is just to breathe in a measured way, in and out. That will harmonize the system. When you have practiced this for some time, you will do well to join to it the repetition of some word as "Om," or any other sacred word. Let the word flow in and out with the breath, rhythmically, harmoniously, and you will find the whole body is becoming rhythmical. Then you will learn what rest is. Compared with it, sleep is not rest. Once this rest comes the most tired nerves will be calmed down, and you will find that you have never before really rested. 
The first effect of this practice is perceived in the change of expression of one's face; harsh lines disappear; with calm thought calmness comes over the face. Next comes beautiful voice. I never saw a Yogi with a croaking voice. These signs come after a few months' practice.”

How to Breath Rhythmically?

In order to breathe rhythmically, we should breathe using our diaphragm. Rhythmic breathing using diaphragm is sometimes called “diaphragmatic breathing” too. In this method, chest should not move much. Swami Rama describes process of rhythmic breathing using diaphragm as follows:
“We all are breathing but we are not breathing correctly, that’s why we suffer. Diaphragmatic breathing—how healthy it is. If you do not do diaphragmatic breathing, no Pranayama can be learned by you. The teachers cannot teach you properly. Many teachers do not understand the importance of deep diaphragmatic breathing and they teach many methods of Pranayama and these won’t help. Deep diaphragmatic breathing is primary, something basic, that will help you prepare for Pranayama, for higher methods of breathing exercises. Now watch the movement of your abdomen as you breathe. When you push in your abdomen it will help your diaphragm, the healthiest muscle in your body, to push in your lungs which will help you to exhale completely, expelling carbon dioxide. When the abdomen moves outward, it will expand the lungs and create more space for the oxygen. Deep diaphragmatic breathing is very good for your health.”
In order to make breath rhythmical, we should avoid following four bad habits:
  • Noise in the breath
  • Shallowness
  • Jerkiness
  • Pause between inhalation and exhalation
These four habits rip off our breath with rhythm. While inhaling and exhaling, there should be no sound. Presence of any sound shows that air is not moving naturally and there is some obstruction. On the other hand, shallowness causes lack of oxygen in our system. Therefore, we should avoid shallowness at all cost. Jerk in breathing process is the biggest enemy of natural rhythm. If there is jerk during inhalation or exhalation, rhythm is destroyed. If you observe your breathing, you will find that sometimes there is a pause – either before exhalation or before inhalation or anywhere else during breathing. This pause that takes place unconsciously is detrimental for restoring rhythm. Therefore, we should avoid aforementioned four poor habits for practicing proper rhythmic breathing.

Remember, breathing is a very delicate process. We must not use any force to regulate our breathing. Exertion of force can harm your inner organs irreparably. Here, patience is the key. First of all, start observing your breathing for some time twice a day. Sit comfortably keeping your head, neck and spine straight for 10 minutes and just be aware of your breathing – inhalation and exhalation, and the pause between the two. After few days, try breathing rhythmically for 5 minutes. Slowly, the duration can be prolonged. Keep practicing and soon you will feel joy and peace rising in your heart. I am just reminded of a joke:
The FBI was hiring for a high position and after basic training they had three people left, two men and a woman. They asked the first man to come to HQ and told him, “Your wife is in the next room, we need you to take this gun and shoot her”. He wouldn't do it so they sent him home. They asked the next man the same thing but he said he couldn't do it so they sent him home. Then the woman came and they gave her a gun and told her that her husband was in the next room and needed to be shot. She went in and there were clicking noises then crashing noises in the room. She came out and said, “The gun was loaded with blanks, so I had to kill him with the chair”. :)
Unceasing determination is a must for success. No matter what happens, keep practicing and you will get such rewards that you wouldn't have imagined in your dreams.

While I was walking on a long road in the morning, enjoying the richness and beauty of the nature, it occurred to me that path of Yoga was also quite long. Rhythmic breathing is the first and most important step on this road. It is going to unlock your immense potential and transform your entire being. Do not let the clouds of doubt and complacency loom over your head. This is where metamorphosis begins – welcome to the life of adventure, bliss and ecstasy. Let’s breathe rhythmically now. Om!

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