RHYTHMS OF LIFE

“Everything in the universe has rhythm, everything dances”
Maya Angelou

Rhythm and synchronization are concepts employed in music, linguistics, psychology, biology, and physics. Rhythms of life. Rhythm, the patterning of the universe and central to the human body and experience. The primal beat of the drum and indigenous dance has its evolutionary roots in the beat of the heart. Rhythms are found in language, movement, the way we breathe, think and live. Rhythm is all around us, it’s the base of creation, in the rise and fall of the sun, the shift of seasons, the lapping of the waves and the sounds of nature, the inhale and exhale of your breathe. Rhythm is the language of life.

This breathing, beating, rhythmic  life.

The word breathe stems from the Latin word spirare and corresponds to the word spirit.  There is something poetic about breathing, from its very rhythmic pattern to its metabolic process of absorbing, transforming, and releasing, that we breathe the breath of all our ancestors and all those earthlings yet to come. It is the rhythm of contraction, expansion, transformation and connection.

We cannot live without breath, it is our primary source of energy,qi,prana, of life.  From a physiological standpoint, we need optimal breathing to assist smooth basic functioning all our systems: so how we breath in our daily lives becomes critically important; ideally a balanced cadence of the inhale and exhale, equalizing the pH to balance our blood gases. An oscillation of drawing in and letting go, a dance between our internal and external world.

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The respiratory system is comprised of airways, blood vessels, muscles, bones, and the lungs. Together they work to diffuse oxygen into cells and remove waste carbon dioxide. As you inhale, the dome -ike diaphragm contracts together with the external intercostals, flattening out, and the ribcage elevates as the lungs expand. With the exhale the ribcage contracts along with the lungs and internal intercostals and the diaphragm recoils. What we tend to feel as the expansive and active part of the breathing cycle is in fact the passive part, with the downward movement of the resting diaphragm. Your breath needs to be ever adaptable, adjusting according to your needs, when you run, your demand for oxygen soars but when you sleep, it diminishes. Rhythmic movement is relational movement.  Optimal breathing needs to be fluid, a steady rhythm.

Breathing is an autonomic function organized around your physical requirements and mental responses. We can access our breath intentionally, and it can be altered with practice and play, subsequently creating a portal for introspection and awareness (neuroplasticity too!). It is this mind/breath/body awareness forms the basis of most meditative traditions and can potentially alter our perceptions and increase our internal awareness through interoception (a blog for another day). Yoga tradition places importance on the power of the breath, using it consciously for purifying and energy management and it offers us various breathing methods in pranayama, to change the flow of energy within, to change our state. How we breathe changes us. Our capacity to notice this changes us.

The rhythm of your breath is controlled by your nervous system and correlates to your heartbeat, as you inhale your heartrate accelerates and with the exhale it decelerates. The heart rests on the diaphragm and the fascial connections create a rhythmic dance through movement, heart and diaphragm massaging each other, with each and every breath. When one part moves another responds accordingly. The heart has four chambers coordinating the inflow and outflow of oxygenated blood to and from the lungs, this pumping action is caused by the alternating contractions and relaxations of the myocardium which is stimulated by impulses of the sinoatrial node (pacemaker) and forms the cardiac cycle. This rhythmic heart rate diminishes from birth.

There are four detectable sounds our heart makes which are created by contraction, closure, expulsion, and vibration. The first two are easily audible, the last two less so. The sound you feel in your chest is called the apex beat. The pulsation of your heart and breath are connected to the pulse of all your organs and is monitored and controlled by your nervous system, the conductor, which regulates the alchemy of your body. Thus emotions, memories and thoughts all have a profound impact on your health, the symphony of all your organs and the pulsating, rhythmic flow of your entire being. With our breath and our hearts, we shout, we laugh, we grieve, we love.

This expansion and contraction, action, and rest, these vital oscillations, the breath, and the heartbeat, are rhythms of relational interaction and connection, the pulsating dance of elements and the balance and harmony within polarities. One part must contract for another to expand, not so that it diminishes but because its function is to move and adapt in accordance with another for the wellbeing of the whole. When one part becomes too powerful, it overwhelms to the detriment of the whole and disharmony and dis-ease manifest. A harmonious rhythm of all parts forms a harmonious whole. Effort and ease for the economy of the whole. This is reflected in human relationships, in our social engagement system and our capacity and need for co-regulation. A collective where each contributes to the whole for the good of the tribe, a balance of power and love.

Your breath and your heartbeat are stories of rhythms that reflect all rhythms of life on earth.

Take a deep breath…