The Breath of Tranquillity does what it says on the tin – it calms and soothes. However, as I have explained before, the aim is never to impose a new regime on your breathing process, but to expand on the way you normally breathe, and get the most out of it. Breathing is a wonderful way to teach you how to listen to the body. With all the senses shut down apart from hearing and feeling, you become very attuned to what the body is trying to tell you. If the breath sounds harsh or strained in any way, you are over breathing which can disrupt the nervous system and even damage lung tissue. If you find yourself having to take little breaths in between the breaths you are counting, then you are holding the breath for too long and the distribution of gases in the lungs has become unbalanced. Go back to your normal breathing process for a few breaths. When you are ready, resume the breathing exercise, and try inhaling and retaining the breath for a shorter count.

  • Lie on your mat with your knees bent and hip-width apart.
  • Lengthen your neck by clasping your hands behind your head and lifting it off the floor slightly. Now slide your hands over the head towards the crown, feeling your neck release to its maximum. Then carefully, replace the back of the head on the floor.
  • Place your finger tips on your lower ribs with the fingers nice and relaxed.
  • Look up at the ceiling. Open your eyes as wide as possible, look down at the tip of the nose and then gradually, draw the eyelids down over the eyes.
  • Inhaling, take your right shoulder off the floor, broaden it out to the side as much as possible. Exhale, and replace it down on the mat again. Repeat on the left shoulder.
  • Allow the skin on your face to soften. Also soften the skin on the palms of the hands and on the soles of the feet. Soften the inner ears.
  • Inhale through the nose, and then exhale slowly through the mouth with a nice, long sigh. Go back to breathing in and out through the mouth.
  • Now begin to observe the breath: the air as it travels up through the nostrils; the tiny gap at the end of the inhalation; the passage of air as it travels back down the nasal passage again; the tiny pause before the new breath begins. Listen to the sound of the breath and continue to watch it in this way for a few moments.
  • The next time you breathe in, count how long it takes, slowly, e.g. one hundred and one, one hundred and two and so on. Do the same with the exhalation.
  • If the count differs for the inhalation and exhalation (it usually does), see can you even them up, gradually. Think of practicing a yoga pose where you try and stretch the body a little more each time. It’s the same here. See can you stretch the breath a little more, taking in more air than last time or letting more out air, as the case may be.
  • When the inhalation and exhalation are even, see can you hold the breath for half the time it takes to inhale/exhale. For example, if you inhale/exhale for 4, hold the breath for the count of 2; if you inhale/exhale for 6, hold the breath for 3 and so on. (Obviously this won’t work on odd numbers, so if you have to, wangle it until you are working only with even ones). DO NOT hold the breath after exhalation.
  • Continue breathing in this way for several breaths.  If you are following the 4 – 2 – 4 count, you can increase it after a few breaths to the 6 – 3 – 6 count, and then again if you wish to 8 – 4 – 8. Keep listening to the breath making sure that everything is smooth and harmonious.
  • Then, return to your normal breathing. Begin to pay more attention to the inhalation to help you become more alert. Stretch your arms behind you and your legs out in front of you. Inhaling, stretch the whole right side of the body, extending the arm out of the shoulder and the leg out of the hip. Exhale, and release. Repeat on the left side. Repeat again on both sides.
  • Roll over to one side, and supporting the back of the head with one hand, come back up to sitting again.