Learn Segmented Breathing: "4-to-1" Breath -To Breathe Away Stress!
Please Note: In this video Sangeet gives an introductory talk about “Segmented Breathing” and “4-to-1” breath followed by instructions on how to do it and concludes with a variation using the “Panj Shabd” mantra (the “Saa-Taa-Naa-Maa” mantra).
Dear Friends, Sat Nam!
The most basic of all meditations is any meditation done on the breath. This is a form of yogic breathing known as “Segmented Breathing” which breaks the inhale and exhale on certain numbers of sniffs that help clear the mind and give you conscious control over emotions and related physiological states. This is a technique that also serves as a meditation, especially when coupled with a mantra, as in this case we will chant mentally.
The ratio of 4 sniffs on the inhale to 1 long exhale is the most basic of all segmented breathing techniques. It helps you deal with states of stress, anxiety and panic while making you more clear-headed.
It can be practiced each morning as a way of preparing you for your day. In such a practice, 3-7 minutes is a good length of time and can be expanded to 11 minutes. During the day, when needed, a short 3-5 minutes should be sufficient to bring you recovery from an unwanted emotional state.
Adding a specific mantra, chanted mentally, also supports mental clearing and de-stressing. The mantra is one familiar to virtually everyone who has attended classes or practices Kundalini Yoga. It is known as the “Panj Shabd Mantra” using the sounds of “Saa-Taa-Naa-Maa.”
As you inhale in four equal sniffs, you resonate mentally the four sounds of this mantra – “Saa-Taa-Naa-Maa.” Then on the long exhale, mentally vibrate the two core sounds from which those four sounds were derived - “Saat Naam.”
Here's How To Do It:
Asana: Sit on the floor in Easy Pose (legs crossed) or sit in a chair with feet flat on the floor. Keep your spine straight during this process using a slight “neck lock” with the chin pulled back to straighten the cervical vertebrae.
Drishti: Eyes are closed. (Looking at the “Third Eye point” is optional.)
Mudra: Relax your arms and either place them on your knees in Gyan Mudra (the tips of the thumb and index finger of each hand touching each other) or bring hands into your lap and cup the left hand in the right hand, palms facing up.
Saa Taa Naa Maa
1. (Optional) Chant the Adi Mantra (the “Tuning In” mantra) three times before starting.
2. Begin this simple breath pattern: inhale through your nose in 4 equal sniffs, making a distinct sound with each sniff, and allow the diaphragm to drop lower with each breath. This will gradually expand your abdomen.
3. Without a halt, after the fourth sniff begin the long exhale by strongly pulling your navel backward toward your spine until all the air has left through your nose. Ideally, the length of the exhale will be equal to the time it took you to complete the four sniffs of the complete inhale. Notice there is a rhythm to this.
4. Do this sequence at east 3-4 times. After you have established a comfortable rhythm and have coordinated the movement of the inhaled breath, the lowering diaphragm and the navel pull for the exhale, begin to mentally vibrate the mantra “Saa-Taa-Naa-Maa” on the four sniffs in, and a long “Saat Naam” as you exhale.
Do this for 3-7 minutes, or even 11 minutes if the situation calls for it.
5. Gradually over several days of practice you can begin to slow the rate of your sniffs and increase the amount of air you bring in with each sniff, thus expanding your lung capacity. This will also enable you to draw out the exhale longer to match the four sniffs on the inhale. As your lungs expand, your mental calm will expand and you will become more in charge of all emotional states.
6. End with a single long inhale, hold for 5-10 seconds, then a long exhale and hold out for the same amount of time. Do this two more times. (Optional: Arms can be stretched high up above the head, with fingers spread wide and lowered on the final exhale.)
Saa – Infinity; Taa – birth; Naa – death; Maa – rebirth. In other words, the full cycle of creation. “Saat Naam” refers to one’s “true identity” and can also mean “truth is my identity.” It is the essential Self that all souls possess as a integral part of the Divine.
My prayer for you is that you adopt this breath technique as a way of life, a rich adjunct to your yoga and chanted meditations. It will serve you well!
Bless you in all ways, always,
Sangeet's original Blog Post on this breath / meditation is HERE.
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