The Mystical Breath

The Spiritual Teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan

Volume VII – In an Eastern Rose Garden

THE MYSTERY OF BREATH

To a mystic the subject of breath is the deepest of all the subjects with which mysticism or philosophy is concerned, because breath is the most important thing in life. The very life of man is breath. He lives in the presence of breath, and in the absence of breath man is called a corpse. After death the organs of the body are just the same as before; the only thing that is lacking is breath.

Breath is that within ourselves which keeps all the parts of the body in connection with one another, working together, depending upon one another; it is that which enables man to move, to put his muscles into action, to keep the whole mechanism of the body at work. There is no other force or power concerned with all this than the power of breath.

Mystics know that it is regularity of breath that brings good health; that irregularity of breath is the cause of all illness. Many teachers and students of physical culture know that it is not the exercises and practices of this culture that cause the muscles to develop, that impart strength and vigor to the body. They know, as did the ancient mystics in India, that it is a matter of the breath. To practice for one moment with the help of the breath will do more than a whole day’s exercises carried on without considering the help of the breath. In the latter case the muscles cannot be developed, whereas in the former case the physical body is easily developed with little physical practice. That this is true, is easily shown by looking at the porters at railway-stations in India. If physical labor were the only thing needed to develop muscles, would they not all be veritable Sandows?1

In India we can study particularly well how men work with heavy things. Sometimes a man will carry on his shoulder a burden that it would ordinarily be impossible for a man of his physique to carry. Yet such a man cannot only lift it, but he will walk with it. And when one watches him one will find that the secret lies in his way of breathing. If he did not breathe correctly he could not possibly carry such a weight over the shortest distance. There was in India a man called Rama Muti. He could lift elephants and stop motorcars running at speed. When this man, who was not extraordinary in build, was asked where he got his gigantic strength, for he looked like an ordinary human being, not like a monster, he said, ‘You know, and yet you do not know. The secret lies in the breath, which is all power.’

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