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The Power of the Breath

Hazrat Inayat Khan

The power of the breath, called kundalini by the Hindus, circulates within the spine along basic channels or 'nadis'. This most important subject is incorrectly disregarded by some who imagine that distress might be the result of opening up the chakras through the use of breathing exercises. It is like saying that the eyes of a child should never be opened to reality for fear of being exposed to temptations. All virtue lies in self-control, not in ignorance. Life is only really worthwhile if it is lived fully.

Breath is the central theme to be considered in life since the breath governs the entire physical and mental mechanism of our being. Along with the importance of the purity of the breath channels, rhythm in breath is the magic key which can unlock all the treasures which the breath can offer. Rhythm is a natural tendency which is seen in all creation. No atom would move if it were not subject to the laws of rhythm. Orderliness in one's life is a sign of rhythm. When the rhythm of the breath is in disorder, all things go wrong and one shows an appearance of an unbalanced state, either physical or mental or both.

Breath is our life. It is the breath which holds all the particles of our being together. Therefore, when this power fails, there is also a disturbance in our control over the various particles of our being. When the breath is in order, it has a revivifying function, absorbing out of space both spirit and substance required for our well being, while purifying us of all that is undesirable. When there is irregularity in the rhythm of breath, or deficiencies in the breathing organs, or the influence of noxious substances which pollute the breath flow, the entire mechanism is put out of balance.

Breath is the medium through which the outer life and the life within are connected. Through the channel of breath, all elements that the body requires are absorbed, as well as the subtle vibrations of prana, which the mind receives in the form of intuition, inspiration and magnetism. It is also with the help of breath that negative thought-waves and undesirable elements which have been absorbed can be neutralized.

When a breathing exercise is given, it is above all the rhythm in that exercise which is meant to be observed, and not only the breathing. The breathing is another aspect of the exercise. It can be either very dense (called Kasif by the Sufis) or fine (called Latif by the Sufis). The dense breath is used when making physical effort, whereas the fine breath is that which penetrates through all the chakras and the finest channels, reaching the innermost parts of our being.

Once one becomes conscious of the natural rhythm in the breath, which is like the movements of a swing, one can then add to it a chosen thought expressed in a word mentally repeated with each inhalation and exhalation. This is called Fikar by the Sufis. He who has not gained power over his breath is like a king who has no authority over his kingdom. However, even when the techniques of contraction (holding in or out) and of expansion (the exhalation) have been developed, all is still of no avail unless one knows what to absorb from the in-coming breath and what to expel in the outgoing breath.

This all explains why it is so important to really know something about the working of Fikar which, when practiced for some years, not only helps to regulate the rhythm of the breath (and in so doing insures an appropriate blood circulation with all the positive advantages related to health in general), but it also helps to develop concentration and thereby memory as well as the ability to free one's mind from undesirable thoughts and feelings.

The more length and breadth or capacity in the breath, the more resource there is for creative thought. Length in breath denotes length in life. Some who have much volume in their breath may lack length in the exhalation. Others might have length in the exhalation but might lack capacity in the inhalation. It is the harmonious proportion of length and capacity which brings about the perfect balance in the breath and thereby also physical and mental balance.

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