In spirituality, there are number of exercises available that help enhance the mental concentration. These exercises help reduce the flow of negative thoughts, which in turn lessens the mental confusion. When these extra exercises are done along with the Muraqaba (Sufi meditation) the mind gains the needed mental focus ahead of time and the positive effects of Muraqaba emerge earlier as well.
Although there are plenty of these exercises available, here we are going to discuss breathing, as its success rate is also great.
In the emotional ups and downs and in the overall nervous system, breathing has a very essential role. During different emotional states, the rate of respiration fluctuates. In tragic circumstances breathing could become a challenge as people often feel difficulty in breathing after hearing tragic news. On the other hand, during anger the rate goes up. During peaceful moments the style of breathing becomes totally different. During this state, breathing becomes balanced and its rate goes down. However when something suddenly comes as a shock then we all simply gasp for air.
Spiritual abilities and breathing are closely inter related. According to spiritual science, breathing has two sides, ascending and descending. Inhaling is ascending movement while exhaling is descending. During the ascending mode, the person is closer to his or her spiritual state and in the descending mode moves towards the gravity. We are more close to our spiritual state when the inhaling is prolonged and the breath is retained longer then usual.
When respiration stops then our link to the body is disconnected. That is why in order to enter the sub-conscious senses, breathing does not have to be stopped, but it must be slowed down. A living example is dreaming or a state of deep trance. In these conditions, a person does respire however; the style of breathing is noticeably different from that of a normal breathing pattern. The rate of breathing is slower and the inhaling takes longer as well. Exhaling on the other hand is shortened. In other words, when we are under the influence of inner senses not only our breathing slow down but the duration of inhaling increases as well.
When this style of breathing is intentionally practiced then the subconscious state affects consciousness during the awakened state and its effects usually last longer.
Sit in a squat position.
Keep your back straight, however avoid having any part of the body tense.
Exhale from both nostrils so that the lungs are free from air.
Slowly inhale through nostrils.
When the lungs the lungs become full, exhale through the mouth without holding it.
During exhaling keep your lips round as if whistling, without holding it.
This exhaling and inhaling constitute one cycle. At the beginning start with eleven cycles and gradually go up to twenty-one.
This exercise helps in controlling the movements of lung muscles and it increases the duration of inhaling. The rate of respiration during Muraqaba should be as low as possible. However, it is imperative that the rate of breathing should not be slowed intentionally. Otherwise, the focus would shift to the respiration instead of the Muraqaba. The best way to avoid that is to inhale and exhale slowly for a while before starting Muraqaba. That way the respiratory rate will drop automatically.
Sit in a squat position just like the practice-1 and put your forearms in the knees. Inhale slowly from both nostrils. When the chest is full of air then hold the breath for five seconds. Then exhale through the mouth similar to whistling style. After a few moments rest repeat the process for five times. Next day increase the total to seven until the total number of cycles reach eleven. At this point, increase the hold period from five to six seconds however the total number of cycles will remain eleven. When holding the breath for six seconds is not causing any mental or physical strain then increase it to seven seconds. Unless and until one reaches full command of the practice, keep the hold period to seven seconds. Gradually it should be increased to fifteen seconds, which the maximum allowed time for hold.
After sitting in the squat position as explained in the practice-1, closed the right nostrils using the right hand thumb and inhale through the left nostril for four seconds. Hold it for four seconds. Now using the last two fingers of your hand closed the left nostril while the right nostril is still closed with the thumb. In this way, the remaining two middle fingers will be resting between the eyebrows. At this point release only the thumb from the right nostril and exhale from that nostril for four seconds and without stopping inhale from it for four seconds. Again, hold it for four seconds and close the right nostril with the thumb. Then from the left nostril release those fingers and exhale for four seconds. This constitutes one cycle. After a few moments rest repeat it three times. Increase one cycle every day until you reach seven cycles.
When doing seven cycles and four-second routine becomes comfortable, increase only the hold time to six seconds while the number of cycles will remain at seven. When holding the breath for six seconds and total numbers of cycles is done with ease then increase only the hold time for two more seconds and keep it increasing until the hold time reaches sixteen seconds.
When the seven cycles and holding time of sixteen seconds get easy then increase the exhale time to eight seconds. Final figures should be four seconds inhaling, sixteen seconds holding and then eight seconds exhaling.Continue practicing with these figures.
All respiratory exercises should be performed at least two and half-hours after a moderate meal. The best time for doing breathing exercises is pre-dawn. At that time not only we are mentally and physically alert but the ratio of oxygen in the air is also the highest. The electro-magnetic activity in the atmosphere is also at its zenith during that time.
The second best time for breathing exercises is before going to bed at night.
Sufi-Master Khwaja Shamsuddin Azeemi is the patriarch of the Sufi Order of Azeemia and the author of Muraqaba: The Art and Science of Sufi Meditation.