Fourfold breath is a well known breathing exercise in both Eastern and Western tradition. In the East it is known as a yogic pranayama techinque, in the West it is associated with the Hermetic tradition. In both cases the mental, physical and spiritual benefits are based on normalizing breathing and raising energy/chi/prana. While the breathing technique is the same in all cases, there are different visualization techniques that can be used to improve it.
This is the breathing technique that is universally used:
- It can be performed sitting or lying down
- Begin by exhaling
- Inhale to the count of four
- Hold the air in to the count of four.
- Exhale to the count of four.
- Hold the air out to the count of four
- Repeat for as many cycles as you feel comfortable
Doing this breathing exercise without any visualizations will also provide significant effects. But the point of this exercise is to increase energy AND to circulate it throughout the body. This is where visualization comes in handy. Here are three effective variations:
Solar and Lunar Fourfold Breath
This is the most popular visualization technique. It’s recommended to perform the solar breath in the morning and lunar breath at night.
- The solar breath is useful for increasing expressive, physical, dominant and fiery energy associated with the Masculine, Sun and Yang.
- The lunar breath is useful for experiencing a more subtle, relaxing, passive and cooling energy commonly associated with the Feminine, Moon and Yin.
Fourfold Solar/Lunar Breath Variation #1
Damien Echols teaches this particular variation in his book High Magick: A Guide to the Spiritual Practices That Saved My Life on Death Row:
- Inhale: the Sun/Moon is rising up and shining its rays upon you.
- Hold breath in: the Sun/Moon is towering above you and shining more of its energy into your being.
- Exhale: the Sun/Moon is descending and its rays are moving from your head downwards until the Sun dissapears
- Hold breath out: the Sun/Moon is one with the earth, making it bright and filled with energy, which means that you are also filled with energy since you are one with the earth regardless of whether you’re sitting or lying down. Feel and see the bright energy of the Sun/Moon illuminating your entire body
Fourfold Solar/Lunar Breath Variation #2
This is a more body-oriented variation:
- Inhale: Visualize bright energy of Sun/Moon moving from the base of your spine to the top of your head
- Hold breath in: You are fully illuminated with energy
- Exhale: The energy moves downwards until it disappears into the ground
- Hold breath out: The ground is illuminated with the energy as are you
Microcosmic Orbit Fourfold Breath
This is a combination of fourfold breath and a powerful QiGong visualization technique for circulating energy within the body. Personally, I prefer this technique to the others because it moves the energy in a 3D fashion and it’s more effective this way. It’s a tiny bit more complicated but I’ll try to make it as simple as possible:
In the previous variations you are moving the energy up and down. But in microcosmic orbit you are moving the energy up through the spine to the top of the head and then down through the tongue, heart, solar plexus, down to the belly just below the navel where the energy is stored. So you are moving energy up through the back of your body, and you are moving it down through the front of your body.
In order to connect the back and front part of the body, keep the tongue on your upper palate. Try to say “Garry”. When saying the “G” the tip of your tongue will get in the right spot. Keep it there as you perform this meditation.
- Inhale: Move the energy of the Sun/Moon up through the back
- Hold breath in: Keep the energy in the head
- Exhale: Move the energy down to the belly and store it there
- Hold breath out: Feel the pool of energy in your belly expanding to other parts of the body and radiating outwards due to its abundance
This is an incredibly effective breathing exercise and it’s very simple and convenient at the same time. You don’t need a perfectly silent environment to get into it either.
My advice is to test all of these visualizations and see which one works best. The microcosmic orbit variation looks more complicated at first but it’s actually easier to perform for some people because it’s more detailed and specific.
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