Our life is determined by rhythms, and the first and most obvious rhythm of our daily life is the coming and going of our breath. In and out. Expanding and contracting. Coming and going.
Breathing is a fascinating thing. It is the only bodily function that works both automatically and deliberately, you know. You can make yourself breathe deeply, you can breathe in and out through your nose, or through your mouth, or in through one and out through the other. You can deliberately breathe into your stomach or into your chest, you can breathe quickly or slowly. All these things are under your control. You can also hold you breath, even until you pass out, if need be! But once you do, you will in fact start breathing again because breathing will continue whether you like it or not. If you do not think about it, your body breathes all by itself.
Have you ever tried to watch your own breathing? If you do, you will quickly realize that all of a sudden, breathing seems a difficult thing. If you watch your breath for the first time, you suddenly feel like you are quickly running out of breath, or do not get enough air, and breathing regularly becomes almost impossible. But as soon as you stop thinking about it, your breathing goes back to normal.
Our breathing is a reflection of how well we are doing overall. If we are breathing deeply and regularly, we are calm and composed, our organs and muscles are well fed with oxygen, and our general well-being is pretty good. If, on the other hand, our breathing is shallow or irregular, or if we hold our breath involuntarily (that is, without noticing it), something is not going quite so well. This might be because we are in a stressful or strenuous situation, or because our thoughts are stressful in one way or another. In any case, shallow, irregular or interrupted breathing make for poor general well-being, be it while we are awake or while we are asleep.
Quite obviously, breathing well is good for us. It is no big surprise that practices which aim at a well balanced body and/ or mind start with controlled breathing. Indeed, watching yourself breathe for the first time can be a difficult thing, but the more often you do it, the easier it gets, and just about all meditative practices use the rhythm of our breathing to calm and relax the body as well as the mind.
If you feel that something is not quite in balance in your life, familiarizing yourself with breathing exercises might be a good first step for you. There are many prayers and meditative mantras that are particularly designed to be prayed or repeated along with the rhythm of your breathing. For stress reduction, anxiety control or sleep help, there are plenty of exercises suggested online that you can try out.
Have a look around. Try things out. Find your own rhythm. Breathe.