In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we read: “And Lord God took the dust of the earth, and formed the body of man; and breathed into the nostrils of man the Breath of Life; and man became a living soul.” And in the Songs of Solomon, we read: “Breath restores me to my exact self.”

A Deeper Level of Breath

Breathing is more than just pumping air in and out of our lungs. There is a deeper, more subtle level of breath, and that is the level of energy. In India they call it prana, in Japan it’s called ki, in China they call it chi. Certain tribes in Africa call it num. The ancient Hawaiians called it ha. In Hebrew, it is referred to as neshemet ruach chayim, the spirit of life within the breath.

All the Yogi, Sufi and Taoist masters as well as early Christian monks and mystics focused on their breathing and used the breath in their prayers and rituals. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find any genuine spiritual teacher or path that does not teach the vital importance breath.

One important lesson in spiritual breathing is that you cannot move energy with your muscles. In fact, it’s the energy that moves the muscles. And so, we need to approach the breath with conscious awareness and also with a sense of ease. The idea is to relax so much that the spaces between your cells open up and the energy can get into all the cracks and crevices of your being. Imagine your body like ice cream melting in the sun and your body becoming a puddle on the ground. And then gently breathe into that puddle.

2 Ways to Practice Spiritual Breathing

Here are two of my favorite spiritual breathing exercises or meditations. I hope you play with them. Adjust and modify them, combine them. Make them your own, and practice them every day.

1. Tapping Source and Channeling Essence

A basic spiritual truth is that the same energy that surrounds us and fills us, that permeates and animates us, also surrounds, fills, permeates and animates everything and everyone in existence. This breathing meditation is meant to bring that spiritual truth alive in us, to awaken a direct experience of it.

When you inhale, imagine drawing breath energy in from all around you and up from deep within you at the same time. Pull that energy down from the heavens and up from the earth at the same time. Focus and gather all that energy in your heart with the inhale. With the exhale, send that breath energy to every cell of your body, to every muscle, bone, joint, nerve and organ; and then allow it to overflow out to the world through the pores of your skin.

Imagine the breath as light—as love, joy and peace—rising up from within you and pouring in from around you. Fill your heart with the inhale, and then send that spiritual energy from your heart to your whole body, and then out into the world though your pores, like a flower releasing its fragrance.

2. Expanding Energy and Awareness

We are bigger than we think, we are capable of more than we have been taught or led to believe—perhaps greater even than we can imagine. This exercise is meant to open us to an experience of infinite being and infinite intelligence, to our infinite nature.

When you inhale, imagine or feel your whole body expanding. Track the sensations of expansions from top to bottom, side-to-side and front to back. You don’t have to imagine it; you can actually feel the breath opening and expanding you. Focus on these feelings of expansion.

When you exhale, relax and release the breath. Snap the exhale loose and allow gravity, the elastic tendency of your muscles, and atmospheric pressure to do the exhale for you, like a balloon popping.

As the breath pours out of you, imagine yourself continuing to expand beyond your body, beyond your borders, in all directions. Imagine yourself and the breath energy radiating like the sun. Expand with the inhale, and expand even more with the exhale.

With each breath, imagine or feel yourself growing larger and larger, until you are pure infinite space, encompassing and containing everything and everyone. You can breathe in and out through your nose, or you can breathe in the nose and the mouth, and use whatever breath sounds help to bring the experience alive in you.

Welcome to spiritual breathing!

For more on meditation and breath work, read The 16-Second Meditation You Need to Try Now, The Benefits of Meditation in a Modern World, and 4 Earth-Energy Meditations for Transformation.

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About the author

Dan Brulé is a pioneer in the field of breathwork, a world-renowned leader of the spiritual breathing movement, and one of the originators of breath therapy. He was first among the original group of internationally certified rebirthers, and is a master of prana yoga (the Hindu science of breath) and Chi Kun/Qigong (Chinese medical-breathing exercises). Over the past 40 years, more than 100,000 people in over 50 countries have learned the life-changing power of Dan’s breathing exercises, techniques and meditations.