Our word “spiritual” comes from the Latin word “spiritus” that denotes breath or wind. A spiritual practice is a breathing practice.
Here’s a simple breathing practice that came from India and has recently been popularized by Andy Weil. It only takes about 90 seconds (for 4 cycles), and it should be practiced at least twice daily.
You’ll find it a relaxing tonic. If you already have another spiritual practice like zazen, you may use this as a warm-up.
- Place the tip of your tongue touching the inside of the ridge that is just above the inner surface of your front teeth and leave it there throughout this breathing practice.
- With your lips and teeth closed, inhale through your nose for a silent count of 4.
- Hold your breath for a silent count of 7.
- With your lips and teeth open, exhale completely for a count of 8 while making an audible “whoosing” sound.
- Repeat this cycle at least 4 times and resume breathing normally.
If you practice this in public, modify step 5 so that you are exhaling silently.
What’s important is the 4/7/8 ratio—not how long your counts are.
I suggest always using the practice upon arising in the morning and just before going to sleep at night. Also, please use it whenever you feel yourself beginning to get upset or agitated for any reason. If you are especially upset, just increase the cycles from 4 up to 8. You are not limited to doing it only twice daily.
It can be done sitting, lying, or standing.
It really is relaxing and very easy to do. It may seem so simple that it couldn’t possibly help, but please just do it twice daily for several weeks so that you master it. That’s the only trick to it. Surely you have 3 minutes daily to begin to quiet your mind!
You’ll be glad that you did.