An Eight-Step Guide to the Four-Fold Breath
- Find a comfortable position laying on your back, knees slightly bent.
- Place one hand on your chest, and your other hand on your abdomen.
- Breathe for a few moments, allowing only your chest to rise and fall. The hand on your abdomen should remain as still as possible. This is the shallow breathing you've spent much of your waking life doing already.
- Breathe for a few moments, allowing only your abdomen to rise and fall. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible. This is diaphragmatic breathing, sometimes also known as belly breathing. Your ab muscles shouldn't be involved, your diaphragm does most of the work here. This may be tricky to get used to if you've absolutely never consciously done it before... but you have done it as a child and still do it every night while you sleep, you will figure it out very quickly.
- Breathe for a few moments, with both your abdomen and chest. You want your abdomen to rise before your chest during the inhalations, and your chest to fall before or simultaneously with your abdomen during the exhalations. Don't worry about trying to make them perfectly even or such, just ensure that if there is a difference that it's your diaphragm which is doing most of the work, rather than your chest. You likewise want to involve your nasal cavities more than your mouth, especially on the inhalations. It is easiest to simply keep your mouth closed on the inhalations.
- Continue breathing, now counting to four on inhalation, holding your breath in a count of four, exhaling for a count of four, holding your breath out for a count of four, and repeating the cycle over with the next inhalation.
- Remove your hands to a comfortable position, generally with the palms upward. They can be on your thighs, by your sides, wherever they are the most comfortable and the least distracting.
- Focus your mind, as much as possible, on the counting and especially on the breaths themselves. Feel the air flowing into and out of your lungs. Feel the movements of your body as it does. Don't lose track of the count.
Do this exercise for no less than five minutes each day without interruption. Good times would be upon waking, before bed, and before or after anything stressful. If you begin to feel out of breath or dizzy, you were going too slowly or too quickly; a count of four doesn't necessarily mean four seconds. Consider learning how to find your own radial pulse and following the rhythm of your own heartbeat.
- When you feel you're competent with this method for a few days, do it while sitting up.
- When you feel you're competent with this method for a few days, do it while standing up.
- When you feel you're competent with this method for a few days, do it while walking around.