Whether it is the well-known Sudarshan Kriya of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar or the bhastrika, kapal-bhati and anulom-vilom pranayama of Swami Ramdev or any other type of pranayama, all have one factor in common—rhythm. Only the frequency and the time interval in the breathing pattern differ. Changing the pace of breathing thus affects the very nomenclature of the form and its consequential benefits.
The three types
The universe is replete with three types of rhythmic vibrations—slow, medium and high. The rhythmic synchronisation of breathing in harmony with the slow, medium or high frequency in the practice of pranayama fills the body with energy; soothes nerves; and calms the brain—brings about a state of mental tranquillity.
When we do slow, deep rhythmic breathing in harmony with the existence, it allows our body to re-establish its own natural rhythm and protects us from external negative influence. By combining the rhythmic vibration, the immune system is strengthened, the mind comes to rest and you become one with yourself.
A pattern for your breath
Breathing affects our state of mind and vice versa. For example, when we are emotionally disturbed, we tend to breathe faster, which also increases our heart rate. In the yoga sutras, Rishi Patanjali postulates a simple rhythmic breathing pattern.
This pattern can be achieved easily by just simulating the frequency of heart beats. The Rishi advocates a deep but slow rhythmic breathing pattern of 2:1:2:1 i.e. inhalation and exhalation to be done in equal number of heart beats and a gap in between the two, which is equal to half the number of beats. This makes the pattern simple and close to the natural breathing pattern of an infant.
- Sit in lotus asana or on a chair with the spine straight.
- Inhale slowly but deeply for eight seconds.
- Hold your breath for four seconds.
- Exhale slowly for eight seconds and expel all the air from the stomach.
- Keep the stomach in for four seconds.
- Inhale again and repeat the above steps.
- While inhaling, visualise that the prana [life force] is accumulating in the area just above the navel and below the diaphragm.
- While you retain the breath and breathe out [as in step 3 and 4], focus on the brain and visualise the prana going to the brain.
Here is what makes rhythmic breathing an effective technique:
- The deep but slow rhythmic breathing pattern has an edge over other types of pranayama because of its simplicity and effectiveness.
- People of all ages can practise it safely as long as they find it comfortable.
- It helps alleviate health problems like asthma, heart disease, diabetes and breathing disorders.
- Visualisation of breath on the specific areas of the body not only directs extra supply of oxygen or life force to that area and muscles, but also induces a deep state of meditation.