Yoga enthusiasts say that by practicing rhythmic breathing you become attuned to the rhythm of the Universe. Rhythmic breathing helps you establish a direct contact with the whole world. You come to experience a sense of oneness with the universe. The result is that the feeling of separateness disappears and with it fear, loneliness, frustration, doubt, despair and other miseries. Rhythmic breathing is a great exercise for relaxation.
Benefits of Rhythmic Breathing
Everything in the universe is in vibration, from the atom to the planets themselves. In all vibration there exists a certain rhythm, so rhythm pervades the universe. The movement of the planets around the sun, the ebb and flow of the tide, all follow rhythmic laws.
Our bodies are also subject to rhythmic laws called biorhythms. Sleep and waking periods also have a rhythm. Sleep is governed by the steep cycle. The waking period has precise cycles of varying metabolic rates which differ between individuals. Some people are wide awake early in the morning, while others reach their peak efficiency in the afternoon or evening.
The yogis say that the deep rhythmic breathing exercise will allow the body to re-establish its own natural rhythm and attune us more to the cosmic rhythm. This will protect us from any negative external influences.
The deep rhythmic breathing exercise, by falling in with the rhythm of the body, also allows the body to absorb a lot, more oxygen than just normal deep breathing.
Rhythmic breathing is done in the same way as deep breathing, but it is timed to the rhythm of your heartbeat. Inhalation and exhalation should be done to the same number of beats, as this establishes an even rhythm.
First assume the correct posture. If you cannot comfortably remain in the Lotus Pose, get into an easy cross-legged position or even sit on a chair. Remember to open your belt, unhook your bra, loosen your girdle or tie if you happen to be wearing any of these items. Keep the spine straight, with hands on knees, and start by taking a few deep breaths, and then stop.
Now put the second, third and fourth fingers of your right hand on the left wrist to find the pulse. Carefully listen to the pulse beat, and after a short while start counting 1-2-3-4 several times, to the rhythm of the beats.
Continue mentally counting 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4 until you fall into this rhythm and can
follow it without holding your pulse. Then put your hands on your knees and take a deep
breath while counting 1-2-3-4; hold the breath while counting 1-2; exhale while again
Do the above exercise three times the first week, and add one more round each week, until you are doing seven breaths. It's best to build up the number of breaths gradually, because if you are not used to doing yoga breathing and you overdo it, you will purify your system too quickly. This will cause your body to release toxins from your tissues into the blood circulation too quickly, resulting in unpleasant symptoms such as headaches, skin rashes and fatigue.
The yogi rule for rhythmic breathing is that the units of inhalation and exhalation should be the same, while the units for retention and between breaths should be half that of inhalation and exhalation; that is, a ratio of 2:1:2:1.
Sometimes beginners find that inhaling for eight seconds is too difficult. If this is the case, inhale for six seconds, hold the breath for three seconds, exhale for six seconds, and pause for three seconds before taking the next breath. In a few weeks you will easily be able to do 8:4:8:4.
Rhythmic Breathing With Visualization
The rhythmic breathing exercise is made much more potent if you use visualization while doing the breathing.
Visualization works on the principle that whatever you concentrate on, an extra supply of oxygen and prana (life force) will be directed to that area. The secret of successful yoga is combining the exercise with visualizing the specific area the exercise affects.
The technique is simple. When you breathe in, visualize the prana accumulating in the solar plexus area, just above the navel, behind the stomach. The solar plexus is where the body stores its energy. When you retain the breath and breathe out, visualize the prana going to the brain. Just concentrate on the brain area.
This visualization technique achieves two things. Firstly it produces a reserve of energy in the solar plexus, thereby increasing your general energy level. Second, since some of the stored energy is directed to the brain, brain function and vitality are increased.
The rhythmic breathing exercise can be done on the morning and in the evening. Do not overdo this in the beginning. Start with three or four rounds, adding one round per week until you finally reach the desired number, perhaps sixty or more.
This exercise can also be done with different asanas, if lotus pose is too difficult for you. See the asanas given under meditation for description of suitable asanas with this exercise.
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