Having not done this in some time, I found it refreshing to begin the practice again.
Measured breathing (specifically the four phase or four fold breathing technique) is very helpful for relaxation and reducing anxiety – at least for me. The practice itself is found in the cultures of India, as far as I can tell. I was first introduced to the practice from a mystical society called The Golden Dawn. Years later, when I went to a Hindu Ashram, I found they practiced the same technique.
Typically this practice is used to set up a meditation practice. A pre-cursor to meditation, if you will. The practice could be summed under the umbrella of Pranayama – which is energy control through the control of the breath.
The practice is rather simple. All breath is handled via the nostrils, with a closed mouth. One should make sure the nasal passageways are clear of obstruction and try the following steps:
- Inhale, mentally counting to a set number (4, for example)
- At the point where the lungs are full, hold the breath for the same count (4, in this example)
- Slowly release the breath through the nostrils, for the same count (4, in this example)
- Once the lungs are empty, hold the breath again for the same count(4, in this example)
With each cycle, the breath should become smoother and more sublime. Depending on one’s stress and anxiety levels, the breath might start without any calm (jerky and rushed.) Over several cycles, one should start to feel the breathing become very smooth.
The above is a general practice – there is no religious overtones or mystical aspects. You are simply monitoring your breathing (which produces a state of mindfulness – being aware of the present moment) and you are controlling your inhale/exhales consciously.
If you become aware of tension in part of the body, put attention on that part of the body, as you continue with the measured breathing. Direct those areas of the body to relax and let go of the tension.
This will naturally produce a more relaxed state in an individual.