Breathing practices involve counting (which is also one of their meditative qualities – you need to focus on the counting to stay with the practice) of two things:
- Timing of each part of the breath – the number of seconds in each part of the breath.
- Counting a number of breaths.
We are going to need a few simple tools & techniques to help us do this.
As we saw in the 4 parts of breathing – Pranayama practices are based on timed breathing – the length of each part of the breath is indicated in seconds. So for an effective practice you are going to need something that makes an audible sound every second. The simplest tool is a simple mechanical clock that makes an audible clicking noise every second. Another popular alternative is a metronome.
There are plenty of metronomes on the market – some are mechanical, most are digital. I used to have this Wittner mechanical metronome until it fell and now has an interesting off-beat which isn’t very useful. I now use a digital metronome that I chose because one of it’s sound options feels natural & pleasant to my ear (I don’t like the digital sounds most digital metronomes make). I couldn’t find a reference for it online because it’s not a well-known make – but I did find this one which looks similar. If you go digital I suggest you visit a music shop and find something that suites your ear and budget.
You can also try this metronome application.
We will be using the left-hand to count breaths. We can use this technique to count to any number up to 12. We do this by moving and placing the thumb over 12 numbered areas on the hand.
You begin a counting sequence by placing the thumb on the first location. Then every time you begin a new breathing cycle by inhaling you move the thumb one position forward. With some practice you will become familiar with the association of numbers and fingers. This way you know which breath you are on by the position of the finger and your mind is free to focus on counting the seconds in every part of the breath.