How the Breath Evolves With Hatha Yoga Practice
Frequency of Breath
Questioner: For both Surya Kriya and asanas, the instruction is to breathe slightly deeper than normal. What is the idea behind that?
Sadhguru: Generally, most human beings are breathing somewhere between 12 to 15 times per minute. They use less than 20% of their lung capacity during normal breathing. If your lung capacity expands, the number of breaths per minute during normal breathing naturally comes down, without you controlling it.
If you stick to the classical form of yoga, over a period of time, your breath will become slow. There are very poetic expressions for this. They say, if your breath becomes 11 per minute, you understand the language of every animal and bird around you. If your breath becomes nine, you understand the very language that the Earth is speaking. If your breath becomes seven, you know everything that is worth knowing in existence. That means your body becomes so stable that there is no static, no crackle – it just perceives everything. Even now, the body perceives – otherwise you could not exist. You may not be conscious of it, but your body understands exactly how the Earth is spinning, what is happening with the Sun, what is happening with everything. As long as you live, your body is adjusting to all that.
When your breath becomes more and more stable, the disturbances of life are gone. You are able to clearly see what is happening. Either you achieve this through yogasanas or by becoming absolutely meditative. For example if you sit in Shoonya meditation, the breath becomes very slow, almost not there. In Shoonya, many of you may be breathing about nine to ten breaths per minute. Then again, at certain moments, you will breathe faster.
You can get there through meditative processes, but doing so by preparing the body is more reliable. With meditation, today your breath may naturally slow down, tomorrow it may not. But if you prepare the body, the progress is more stable. That is the strength of doing the practices every day – they steadily take you up. With meditative processes alone, one day it is fantastic, another day you may not be there at all.
If you intentionally stretch your normal breath, after some time, you will gasp. That is not evolution of the system. That is forcefully trying to do something. On the other hand, when you practice asanas, breathing slightly deeper than normal, over a period of time the duration of the breath may increase. Your normal breath will become slower, and so will your slightly-deeper-than-normal breath.
As your system evolves, the number of breaths you take per minute will naturally come down. You will start understanding what people around you are saying. You will understand the language of other creatures, the language of the planet, and the very language of the source of creation.
The body always understands because it is a piece of creation. It knows everything about creation. It is just that there is too much disturbance for you to realize that. It is like turning on the radio and there is static because of lightning, rain, or whatever, so you cannot hear the music. If the rain stops, suddenly the music comes out crystal clear to your ear. That is the whole process of knowing. You just have to stop the static.
The Effect of Rapid Breathing
Questioner: In certain asanas, for example in Bhujangasana in the Surya Kriya series, or in the Sarvangasana series, as well as in Matsyasana, we do rapid breathing. Why so?
Sadhguru: Wherever there is rapid breathing, there is an effort to turn a very physical process into an energy process. When there is an opportunity without risk, we are trying to use it. Kriyas have to be done with a certain care. Suppose your energies get activated without the right kind of preparation, while you are in the wrong posture, in the wrong attitude, in the wrong situation, your stomach is full or whatever else, what could be a great thing will turn into a disaster.
It is like a pot of gold came down from above, but it fell on your head and killed you! If a rock broke off from a mountain, fell on your head, and you died, it is one thing. If a pot of gold came down from above, but instead of you catching it, it fell on your head and you died, it is a disaster! So, when we do asanas, only certain postures where it is safe to do that, we seek to transform them into Kriyas.
Editor’s Note: Isha Hatha Yoga programs are an extensive exploration of classical hatha yoga, which revive various dimensions of this ancient science that are largely absent in the world today. These programs offer an unparalleled opportunity to explore Upa-yoga, Angamardana, Surya Kriya, Surya Shakti, Yogasanas and Bhuta Shuddhi, among other potent yogic practices.