Challenges with the Hong-sau Technique


When I am practicing Hong Sau, my breath starts becoming restless and its frequency increases. Please guide me.

—deepak pradhan, india


Dear Deepak,

What you are experiencing is not unusual. There can be a number of reasons for restless breathing or for your feeling of needing to breathe more frequently. I’ll mention a few possibilities and offer solutions.

You may be trying too hard. You need to be very relaxed and not really TRY to do this technique in an active way. It is more like observing whatever your breath wants to do, with no attachment at all. Sort of like watching another person breathe, or watching ocean waves gently come and go.

You must be VERY relaxed to do this technique well. Perhaps do some relaxation techniques, yoga postures, or pranayama (breathing exercises) before you begin.

If, at any time, your breath seems to need to be more frequent or feels “restless,” then allow it to do whatever it will. You job is only to observe it and mentally say the mantra along with it. Do NOT try to control it.

Never hold your breath or force it to stop or go more slowly. If you feel you need to breathe more frequently, then do so! If you seem to be out of breath, then take one or two deep breaths and continue the practice. Let your breathing be very natural. It will then calm down of its own accord.

One important part of this technique is begin to notice or enjoy the pauses between breaths, generally just after an exhalation. At first this pause might only be a second or less. Again, do not force this. Just observe and enjoy it. It’s a very peaceful feeling!

As your mind becomes calmer, your breath will become calmer also, and you then don’t feel the need to breathe so much (this is because the brain is needing less oxygen, due to its calmed-down state).

Another suggestion: on a vibrational level, your breath is actually making the subtle sounds of “Hong” (like the ringing of a gong) when you inhale and “Sau” like a sigh when you exhale. So instead of mentally saying the words, sensitively try to listen for them, or tune into their vibrations. It’s what is already happening – you are just trying to tune in!

What is really going on is that there is a current of energy which rises up your spine and makes you want/need to inhale, and down your spine which makes you want/need to exhale. This current or vibration of energy has the mantra “sounds” of Hong and Sau. Try to hear them – they are there, within you. This is very relaxing also, sort of like listening to gentle ocean waves.

Finally, don’t get discouraged. Practice the technique regularly and daily and eventually it will get better and deeper for you.

And don’t forget to sit in complete silence and stillness for a while before you stop meditating, after stopping Hong-Sau; during this quiet time, enjoy the peaceful after-effects of this powerful technique of meditation.