Rumi, one of the most well-known Sufis, spoke highly of the practice of deep conscious breathing (Hosh dar Dam or Habje-daem). As with everything else in Sufism, the emphasis is about remembering God; so, in the Sufi breathing practices, one attempts to remain in God’s presence with every breath.
There are two main breathing practices.
Here is the first technique (source):
- Close your eyes. Breathe normally a few times.
- Concentrate on the spiritual heart, while thinking about God. Feel his light in your heart.
- As you inhale, mentally repeat Allah, and feel that God’s lights are being sucked into your heart.
- As you exhale, mentally repeat Hu, and feel that the light of Hu is powerfully striking your heart.
- Gradually increase the breathing rate to three to four times your normal speed, while keeping the same visualization and mantra. Take shallow but rapid breaths. The inhalation should be longer than the exhalation. The exhalation is a bit short and forceful.
- Practice for ten minutes.
Sometimes this technique also involves long retention of breath, either after inhalation or exhalation.
Here are the instructions for the second technique (source), which includes five breathing cycles focusing on each of the five classical elements
- First series—earth: Begin by breathing naturally in and out through your nostrils for five full breath cycles. This first series of five breaths is focused on purifying yourself with the element of earth. As you inhale, imagine that you draw the energy and magnetism of the earth up into you. It circulates through your subtle energy systems and replenishes and renews the vitality and strength of Your body. As you exhale, imagine that the magnetic field of the earth draws all the heavy, gross elements or energies within you down into the ground to be purified and released. With each breath, you will feel revitalized, lighter, less dense, and clearer to the free flow of breath, life, and energy.
- Second series—water: Then with a second series of five breaths, imagine purifying yourself with the energy of water. Inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth, envision a waterfall of pure, clear energy pouring down into you from the heavens above, flowing through you, and dissolving, purifying anything within you that might block the flow of life-energy moving through you. With each breath, feel that you are washed clean and clear, as this stream of energy and light flows through you.
- Third series—fire: With the next series of five breaths, purify yourself with the element of fire. Inhaling through your mouth and exhaling through your nostrils, let the breath flow focus at your solar plexus as you inhale, and then rise up and radiate as light from your heart-center, shining out between your shoulder blades, and like a fountain of light up through the crown of your head. Inhaling fire, exhaling light, envision and affirm that this circulation of energy is a purifying fire gathering any remaining impurities or congestion and burning them into radiance and light in the fires of your heart.
- Fourth series—air: With the next cycle of breaths, imagine purifying yourself with the air element. Inhaling and exhaling through your mouth, imagine the air element sweeping through you like the wind blowing through the spaces of your whole body, purifying any sense of density or obstruction that may remain.
- Fifth series—ether: Finally, breathing very gently through your nostrils, envision yourself being purified by the most subtle element – the “ether” element of the ancients, or the most subtle energies that infuse space, or the quantum field of infinite potentials. Let this most subtle breath dissolve any remaining sense of solidity or density and let your heart and mind open to be clear and vast like the infinite sky.
- Closing: Energized and purified, sense the subtle, yet profound shift that has taken place in the course of only 25 breaths. Carry the sense of focus, calm, and deep connectedness from this practice into your next meditation or into your daily life.
The first technique is similar to the Kapalabhati Pranayama, one of the six purificatory practices of Hatha Yoga. The second is similar to the Tattwa Shuddhi practice of Tantra. There are also similar “element purification” practices in the Taoist and the Hermetic traditions.
Credit : Live and Dare