There are two paths to healing our bodies and mind. In one, we rely on medicine and external aids. In the other, we make use of the body's capacity to heal itself from within. Self-healing is not just a process of healing; it is an inner journey of self-discovery, expansion of consciousness which brings clarity in perception, leading to a feeling of well-being and wholeness with joy and happiness. In the midst of all our scientific and technological advances – from potent medicine to robotic surgery, we have forgotten that the greatest healer lies within. There are many subjective tools to inner healing but the easiest and most effective, is the use of breath.
We take our breathing for granted and do not realise that there is a direct link between our breathing and our health. Total Health is physical, emotional, and mental wellness. If we can breathe in rhythm all 24 hours, there will be a tremendous improvement in our health – total health. Our mental state swings like a pendulum, from one extreme imbalance to another, hardly ever being in equilibrium. This is the major reason for all disease. Ill-health, in turn is another imbalance the mental state now has to deal with. Breathing in rhythm calms this mental state, and puts our bodies and minds in an optimal state of receptivity, because of which even in the most chronic of diseases the body and the mind allow modern medicine to cure faster and better.
When we observe the breathing of a baby we will be able to see three things.
Mr S.N. Tavaria studied this rhythm in great depth and found that the waves in the deep ocean have the same rhythm (unlike the breakers that come to the shore).At a very young age, Mr. Tavaria was taught by his teacher to breathe in rhythm. This rhythm is mentioned in an ancient scripture called the 'Swar Nadi' shastra, of which only fragments remain today. 'Swar' means breath and 'Nadi' means pulse. He observed the rhythm that he had been taught was the same with which a baby is born and is the one intrinsic in the waves of the ocean.
So that he could share the benefits of this rhythm with as many people as possible, he gave a count to the rhythm – 1-2-3 to breathe in and 5-6 to breathe out. We do not count 4 because between inhaling and exhaling is a small gap which cannot be counted.
Mr. Tavaria found that by breathing in rhythm coupled with the right technique, not only has a profound effect in improving our health, but also calms our chattering brains, reducing stress and negativity.
The emotional state of the child decides how soon he will forget this natural rhythm he was born with. The minute we say do this and do not do this, or when he is in emotional states of fear, anxiety or other stressful feelings the immediate effect is on his breathing. The weight of the emotion makes him hold his breath momentarily; he forgets the rhythm and starts breathing in a way that is dominated by the prevalent emotion. This then becomes our so called natural breath, which is nothing but a breath ruled by emotions.
Before we learn to breathe in rhythm we must learn the right technique to breathe in. Do we lift the belly, do we breathe into the chest or do we lift the whole torso? When we observe a child we see that it breathes mainly using the belly. That is the belly enlarges on an inhalation. So belly breathing is one technique of breathing. (Video). Similarly when we see the way cats and dogs breathe we see that they lift their whole torso while breathing. (video).
To understand the technique of breathing better let us divide breathing into four types. 1) High breathing.2) Mid-breathing. 3)Low or belly breathing. 4) Total breathing.
High breathing is clavicular or collar bone breathing. In this breathing only the upper part of the chest and lungs, the narrow part, is moved. Simultaneously the diaphragm is raised which compresses the lower lungs preventing their expansion downwards so a minimum amount of air enters the lungs. There is maximum effort with minimum benefit. Even though as children we breathed with our bellies, as we grow old we become habitual chest breathers. Our upbringing influences the way we breathe. The need to have a flat stomach, to stand tall and to lead with the chest all inhibits the natural belly breathing we were born with. Emotional states also affect our breathing. Fear, anxiety, anger, and other stressful feelings can unconsciously activate chest breathing, inhibit abdominal breathing, and even cause us to hold our breath or stop breathing momentarily. (Explain). Mid breathing is better than high breathing but inferior to lower breathing. It is intercostals or thoracic breathing. We normally see it in individuals who are less stressed and play a sport.
Low breathing or diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing is far better than the two mentioned. This is the breathing extolled in health books and by the new age health gurus. Here we simply let the belly expand as we inhale. The chest also moves a little but most of the breath comes in by letting the belly out. By expanding the belly the intestines are pushed away and the lungs have enough room to expand fully. As the diaphragm plays an important part, it is also called diaphragmatic breathing. Even though this breathing has numerous health benefits it is still inferior to total breathing and even more so when the total breathing is done at a specific rhythm. (explain). Further because we are breathing with the belly the breath becomes a deep breath. It is good to practice deep breathing as an exercise but if we do deep breathing all the time it can lead to a state of continuous hyperventilation and damage in the body. Mr. Tavaria called this total rhythmic breathing as Three step rhythmic breathing. 3Srb for short. The three steps are 1) technique, that is we use the technique of total breathing which we will explain later. 2) volume , the volume of breath is normal or slightly more than normal so that it does not become deep breathing. Further because it is a total breath where we lift both the belly and chest the breath gets evenly distributed throughout the lungs. 3) the rhythm we just explained. Now before we how to do rhythmic breathing, let us take a look at the connection between emotions, thoughts and breath. Actually all healing is about emotional healing. Modern medicine says that the autonomic nervous system is the centre that controls the functions of the body. It consists of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems which work to excite or inhibit certain actions and secretions of the body. They work in opposition to one another, which is when one is working the other is switched off and vice versa.
The sympathetic works in sympathy with our emotions especially those related to fear, danger, and excitement, hate and irritation. It is the fight or flight nervous system, very useful when we need to be physically active, vigilant and focused. It sends blood and nerve impulses to our muscles when we want to run, increases the heart rate, blood pressure and respiration. It, constricts blood vessels, dilates airways in the lungs, releases sugar stored in the liver and floods the body with adrenaline, giving it everything to sprint that extra yard. At the same time it decreases movement in our digestive organs, inhibits relaxation, sleep and sometimes the sexual function.
The parasympathetic system helps the body to slow down and restore itself. It activates the functions of digestion, sleep, relaxation and sex. It reduces the blood pressure, the respiratory rate, dilates the blood vessels and constricts the air passages in the lungs thus activating the body’s natural self healing mechanisms.
Whenever we are angry, negative or stressed out our responses are directed by the sympathetic nervous system. This in turn gives rise to compulsive and aggressive thoughts and emotions which govern our actions. This immediately affects our breathing and leads to secretions in the body that give us more stress and an unpleasant feeling of life in general. Wrong breathing in turn increases our emotional states of fear, anxiety, sadness and anger, the primary emotions that lead to disease. The emotions in turn cause us to breathe faultily creating a vicious cycle which leads to disease and total breakdown of the bodies self healing processes.
The key to turning on the parasympathetic nervous system is learning how to relax. Rhythmic breathing goes a long way in turning on the natural relaxation response of the body. It helps us to go into a zone of deep relaxation which automatically activates the self healing processes of the body and increases our level of joy and awareness. Every healthful breath we take harmonizes all the negativity we hold in the form of stress, anger, irritation, complaining, aggressiveness and so many repressed tensions.
Now let us learn how to do rhythmic breathing. 1) the technique. In an inhalation where we feel the first push of the breath is very important. If it pushes the belly we activate the parasympathetic nervous system and if it pushes the chest the sympathetic. So it becomes very important that we feel the first push of breath in our bellies. Then we fill the chest, the middle and lastly by protruding the abdomen the air is draw into the lowest part of the lungs. 2) Volume. Even though we do not take a deep breath the air we breathe is evenly distributed throughout the lungs from the apex to the base. This allows for maximum absorption of oxygen and storage of energy. 3) We now introduce a rhythm. The rhythm is 3 seconds to breathe in and 2 seconds to breathe out which we count as 123in and 56 out. That is 12 breaths a minute.
Please do see that the rhythm is the ratio of inhalation to exhalation. The speed is 12 breaths a minute.
To help us practice a music has been made. We play the music at night as we go to sleep and breathe in rhythm. After some time we will go to sleep but the music will continue and for some time we will be breathing in rhythm in our sleep. This is the beginning of habit. When we sleep only our conscious minds sleep. The subconscious remains awake. Our present habit of breathing lies in the subconscious. We breathe in tandem with our emotions. We are now training our subconscious to learn a new habit of breathing in rhythm. Over a long period of time we learn to breathe in rhythm. Now we cannot be swayed by negative emotions such as fear, anger irritation because for us to become negative the breathing has to follow, but the breathing remains in rhythm. Similarly to hold stress our breathing must change but because the breath is in rhythm we do not hold on to it.
We know that when we are angry our inhalations we have shallow inhalations with strong exhalations, in anxiety and fear the breaths become rapid shallow and irregular, I grief and sorrow we have a spasmodic crying breath, in impatience short and jerky ad chaotic breaths, in guilt we have a suffocating breath and in boredom a shallow lifeless breath. As we breathe in rhythm all this changes and just as emotions affect breathing, our rhythmic breathing will give rise to emotions of love, compassion, kindness and wonder. We will experience a deep state of comfort, energy and receptivity.
Just by breathing in rhythm we transform our whole lives. Each breath becomes healthful, healing and brings a state of joy and happiness which is self generating and not dependant on outer circumstances and events.