In the Tuesday class we have been trying a practice called the ‘Square Breath’. This might seem like an odd shape for breathing; the lungs are anything but square! However, the name refers to the image we visualise during the practice. We imagine a yellow square in front of us and use this to help us ensure that the four parts of each breath are the same length.
The square breath represents a modification of our normal breathing pattern. Not only do we want the inhalation and exhalation to be the same length, but we are also introducing a distinct pause between each breath. The pauses are the same length as the breaths themselves. This breath retention is called a kumbhaka and it slows down the whole breathing process, balancing our levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide. It is said that when the breath is still the mind is also still. Exploring these short periods of silence can increase our sense of relaxation.
Visualising a yellow square can also contribute to a feeling of peace. It symbolises the earth element, and therefore has a connection to the root chakra, muladhara. Imagining this shape in front of us as we sit and breathe can make us feel more grounded, as we experience the connection to the earth. We draw the awareness gently around the image of the square in time with our breath. Each side represents each of the four parts of the complete breath. As the breath should never feel strained, you can adjust the size of the square you visualise to suit your needs in this simple yet effective practice.