Breathing Exercises for Wellness

Breathing is an essential element of health. The following breathing practices improve body, emotion, and mind. Practice a little bit regularly, and stay grounded.

Full Breaths

Full breathing:
Breathe easy, be content.

Inhale slowly and fully by letting your chest rise, then your solar plexus, then expand your belly (pull your diaphragm down) to pull air deep into your lungs. Air will fill all the way down to around your naval all the way up to your throat.

Exhale slowly and completely by relaxing. Let your diaphragm relax and rise naturally, your lungs will release air. To remove stagnant air and exhale completely, compress your abdomen gently at the natural end of your exhale so that you force out any remaining air you have (be gentle so to not disturb your insides, you are doing this to help refresh them not stress them).

Four-Fold Breathing

Some call this square breathing, 4×4 breaths, four-way breathing, grounding breaths.

Begin by exhaling completely.
Inhale as described in the full breathing comment. As you do count to 4. This count should be comfortable for you, it is not 4 seconds, it is just breaking up the natural time it takes for you to inhale fully into 4 sections. 1, 2, 3, 4 at your pace. Whatever the pace is, keep this same pace throughout this exercise.

Hold your breath in for the same pace count 1, 2, 3, 4.

Exhale as described in the full breathing comment. 1, 2, 3, 4.

Hold your exhale out for the same pace count 1, 2, 3, 4.

Repeat this process 4 complete times with your awareness following the breath and the count. This will help you with energy.

Basic Qi’gong Form for Four-Fold Breathing

Mindful body movements can be added to this ‘4 square breathing’ as in Daoist qi’gong exercise.

Begin in basic qi’gong posture. You can learn simple and comfortable qi’gong forms in videos or local instruction. Legs shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, feet straight forward or slightly angled. Relax and practice good posture, as if a golden string runs from your tailbone up through the back of your head and out the top of your head to support you.

Inhale as you bring your arms from resting position up to shoulder-height with relaxed full arm length outward. As you raise your arms, also raise your body by straightening your legs, but keep your knees at least slightly bent at all times.

Hold breath in as you gently drag your hands close to your chest (near where your chest and shoulders meet), letting your arms calmly fold at elbows to do so. Try to keep your hands at a constant elevation – comfortable shoulder height – as you draw them near.

Exhale as you smoothly lower your hands from near your chest to near your hips, keeping hands near your body (~1″ in front of you). Let your body ease into gravity, bending your knees as you sink into a slight squat.

Hold breath out as you move your hands forward, near hip-height, until your arms are in a relaxed full extension.

As you begin the next cycle with an inhale, raise your arms in front of you to shoulder-height as in the beginning. Continue with four fold breath and hand motion, slightly straightening upward with inhales and squatting downward with exhales.

Complete the practice with an exhale that presses your attention and qi into the ‘lower cauldron‘, storing energy in one’s center of gravity, at the location three-finger-widths below one’s belly button and within mid-way between front and back. Relax as you release that exhale and continue relaxed, down-to-Earth breathing. Feel gravity and peace, and give thanks to all practitioners of all time in service to all.

Daoist Microcosmic Orbit diagram

Advanced: Microcosmic Orbit

These practices, with good intention and effort to be humble and grounded, can enhance one’s daily life and work. It is discouraged to begin with the microcosmic orbit if a strong foundation is not first cultivated, as advanced breathing exercises can be unsettling and disruptive to one’s mental equilibrium without preparation and support. First cultivate regular practice of simpler breathing exercises and giving attention to gravity and nature, daily for weeks before beginning advanced breathing exercises. Ideally consult a qualified guide to mentor advanced breathing exercises. May peace be upon you.

When breathing it is beneficial to feel your energy moving down through your body as you exhale and then up from your feet and to your crown when you inhale. It can also be helpful to visualize a white light moving with the energy, or even visualizing this first. Taking at least a few moments to do this can assist you in quickly balancing your aura though it may also be done throughout the day to continually keep yourself in balance as well as assist you in developing higher sensitivity to the aural body and its correspondence to the physical body, as well as just performing some conscious breath work which calms you down and promotes red blood cell production. The color white is visualized because it is the color associated with the air element as is recognized by the central nervous system, so the exercise further is working with that and the pineal gland.

via HB

Alternatively to up and down I find breathing inwards and outwards from the entire body to be a beneficial experience, perhaps even more balanced but both are necessary. The microcosmic orbit is based more on clearing your channels too, but if not performed with other balancing energy works such as the elemental balance exercises and grounding exercises the microcosmic orbit can actually cause other problems and imbalances due to lack of grounding and energy.

via HB

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  1. […] equal segments: in, hold, out, hold. Some call this 4-square breathing, and you can search and find further guidance about […]

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