When working with clients in my legal practice and on State Design, one of the most effective foundation techniques I teach them to practice is the four-sided or four-part breath. This breathing technique may be practiced while sitting or standing, and the benefit of proper practice is a settling of the mind and body.
I emphasize proper practice because I have seen plenty of people start breathing in some random, rapid, and shallow way and wonder why the four-sided breath technique is not working. The reason is that they are not practicing the technique at all by randomly, rapidly, and shallowly breathing. Obviously any technique cannot work if the technique isn’t being practiced correctly.
Proper practice also involves routine practice. The four-sided breath improves in quality and effect over time.
Proper technique begins with placing the tongue on the roof of the mouth behind the teeth and touching the tongue to the palate. The light pressure of your tongue at this spot stimulates the pituitary gland.
Sit in a chair or on the floor with a straight back or stand with a straight and neutral spine. Relax the arms and shoulders, especially if using the technique while standing. Gently draw your breath down into your lower abdomen, inhaling for 3-4 seconds. Pause and hold for 2 seconds.
Exhale fully for 3-4 seconds, focusing on exhaling as completely as possible. Don’t force the air out harshly, but do try to thoroughly empty the lungs, as the quality of your next inhale will ride on the quality of your exhale.
After the exhale, pause and hold for 1-2 seconds, then gently draw the breath back in to the low abdomen over 3-4 seconds and repeat the cycle.
If using the four-sided breath in the midst of a challenging situation or negative state, repeat the cycle for at least 4-5 rounds and allow the mind and body to settle.
I encourage clients to dedicate time to practice this technique for 10-20 minutes every day. During practice, allow your thoughts to rise and fall as they will. Acknowledge the thoughts and let them go, returning to the breath. No matter what arises, positive or negative, simply note it and return to the breath. Longer-term practice of the technique will help make the centering and calming effects practically automatic and readily accessible in any situation.
In my legal practice, I can use this technique during hearings and depositions and during intense negotiations and meetings. At home, I can use the technique when the children are acting like hooligans. At times when I find myself in a fear-based state like anger, I use the breath to shift into a chosen optimal state.
The four-sided breath allows me to stay centered and focused in and through any situation and creates the space necessary to intentionally choose my optimal states and responses. In daily life, I use the four-sided breath to center myself, choose to embody a state of joy or power or compassion, and then reengage the situation before me.
I have seen clients use the technique to shift from anxious and fear-based states to joyful and love-based states in a matter of a few minutes. I have seen clients shut down anxiety and shift to power and love after a few rounds of breathing. The four-sided breath settles the mind and body and creates the space to choose your optimal state and engage life from that chosen state. The key, as mentioned before, is proper practice.