Breathing Exercises

How to Use the Fourfold Breath Mind Performance Tricks How to Use the Fourfold Breath | Mind Performance Tricks
The Fourfold Breath is a long-known method of rhythmic breathing that helps you calm your body down so that you can think clearly.

The Fourfold Breath, a kind of pranayama yoga, is an effective brute-force method of calming your body by consciously controlling your rate and pattern of breathing. It’s simple to learn, and easy to do and remember.

You can use the Fourfold Breath as an adjunct to deeper work, such as a warm-up (or a cool-down, strictly speaking) before meditation . It’s also useful as a means of gaining clarity and rationality when you’re stressed or panicked, a sort of emergency first aid for clear thinking.

In Action

When you learn the Fourfold Breath, wear loose clothes or no clothes and make sure that you can breathe freely. Sit comfortably; you might want to lie down, but not if you’re prone to falling asleep easily.

First, learn belly breathing:

Empty your lungs fully, until you can’t empty them anymore.

Inhale slowly and deeply with the lower part of your lungs; it will feel as though you are breathing with your belly, from approximately the area of your navel. Only your belly should rise, not your chest.

Repeat. Belly breathing might take you some time to learn. Don’t hurry it.

After you’re comfortable with belly breathing, learn chest breathing: breathing with the upper part of your lungs only. Since this is the way most people in Western culture breathe anyway, learning chest breathing should not be difficult to do. When chest breathing, only your chest should rise, not your belly.

Next, learn to combine belly and chest breathing for a full breath:

When you breathe now, fill your entire lungs, first by filling the lower part of your lungs with belly breathing, and then by filling the upper part of your lungs with chest breathing.

When you exhale, empty your lungs fully.

Finally, learn to breathe rhythmically, in a fixed, repetitive pattern. This is the Fourfold Breath proper. The pattern I learned, and which I have found most effective, is 4-4-4-4, as follows:

Inhale with a full breath to the count of four.

Hold the full breath in your lungs to the count of four.

Completely empty your lungs to the count of four.

Hold your lungs empty to the count of four.

Repeat.

i added a short video to help with the rhythm ‘Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha’ each repetition is on a 4 count … so you can concentrate more on letting go than actually counting .

Depending on your body’s rhythms, you might find other equivalent breath counts to be more effective, such as 6-3-6-3 or 8-4-8-4. Notice that these patterns are some variant of 2x-x-2x-x. Some teachers recommend entirely different rhythms, however, such as 4-2-4-2, or even a threefold breath such as 4-2-2 (inhale four, hold two, exhale two, repeat).1 Feel free to experiment.

You might be able to find the right rhythm for breathing by synchronizing your breath with your heartbeat. If you do so, you’ll know it; you’ll become even calmer very quickly, and might sink into deep relaxation.

Everyone’s body and mind are different, so experiment to find the best rhythm for you. Focus your attention on your breath and your counting, making sure that all your breaths are full and the count is steady. The Fourfold Breath is not a race; focusing on doing it slowly and steadily is part of what will help you relax.

In Real Life

If you learn to perform the Fourfold Breath invisibly, you will be able to Trick your breathing inconspicuously whenever you feel angry, threatened, or anxious. For example, I have used it at the dentist’s office, and I have used it to stay calm and friendly during job interviews.

If you train yourself to use the Fourfold Breath in stressful situations, you might find that it becomes a reflex. It was amusing to me that Frank Herbert described something similar in his science fiction novel Dune. Near the beginning of the novel, two characters are left in the desert to die. Both of them have undergone the mystical Bene Gesserit training, however, and they find that a calming breath pattern kicks in, allowing them to think clearly about their desperate situation. In this case, the fictional Bene Gesserit meditation exercises were definitely founded on fact.

Just as you can quell a potentially fatal allergic reaction with a timely injection of adrenaline, so you can stem an unpleasant or even dangerous panic reaction with the Fourfold Breath. However, adrenaline won’t cure your allergies (though immuno therapy might), and you shouldn’t expect this exercise to cure you forever of any panic attacks you are experiencing.

On the other hand, I don’t want to undervalue the Fourfold Breath either. If you do suffer from panic attacks, insomnia, or other stress-related ailments, just knowing you have a Trick that can help you control them may lead you to feel peaceful, and thereby reduce your problem’s frequency and severity a great deal. That in itself might be a life-changing experience.

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