Meditation Exercise 1: The Four-Fold Breath



pink flowers on a pegboard surrounding the text "and breathe..."
and breathe

The four-fold breath technique has been one of the foundations of my meditation practices over the years. It makes me conscious of my breathing and helps me to be more mindful and connected with my body. The reason that it’s called the four-fold breath is that you’re going to be working in counts of four, just like 4/4 time in music. There are also four phases to this technique, the inhale, hold, the exhale, and hold. All together you’ll be inhaling for four counts, holding your breath for four counts, exhaling for four counts, and holding for four counts. You’ll then repeat this throughout the rest of your session while you’re saying your mantra or doing your visualization. Soon, you’ll notice that you won’t even think about the counting, you’ll just naturally breathe this way in meditation.


Another thing to be mindful of while performing this exercise is the way that you breathe. You will want to breathe deeply into your belly, and not into your chest. In the west, we’re always concerned with our belly and appearing “fat”. The truth is, no one is going to be watching you or caring about the way that you look while you meditate. You’re doing this for you, so do it well!

How do you know if you’re breathing with your belly or your chest? Put one hand on your chest and one on your belly. Now, just breathe for a while. Do you feel your hands moving? Are they both moving, or is just one of your hands moving more than the other? The goal is for the hand on your chest to be moving very minimally, if at all, and the hand on your belly to be moving with each inhale and exhale.


Exercise:


Find a comfortable position and close your eyes.

Next, begin focusing on your breathing.

Inhale for four counts.

Hold your breath for four counts.

Exhale for four counts.

Hold your breath for four counts.

Repeat throughout your meditation, and use this to recenter yourself if you become distracted.


Happy Meditating!



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