Sufi Element Breaths

Breathing in through the nose, out through the nose…

Thus begins the ancient Sufi elemental healing breath for Earth. In through the nose, out through the nose. The Earth breath connects us to the denseness of Earth, the minerals, the hard, strong fibers, the metals and lush deep soil, cleaving together, standing upright and reaching downward into the earth, gathering nutrients and holding firm. This is the Earth breath.

For more than two thousand years, seekers of the mystical Sufi traditions have been practicing these purification breaths every morning. Early in the 1900’s, professor Hazrat Inayat-Khan arrived in New York from India and began teaching these Element Breaths to eager students in the West. Students of these ancient Sufi teachings now span the globe and gather frequently in centers around the world for meditation and retreats, for renewal, awakening and discovering hidden wisdom.

In through the nose, out through the mouth. This is the Water breath. Visualize ancient streambeds, deep pools of water and micro-droplets of water being drawn up by the roots of plants. Imagine a soft rain shower spreading pollen or dancing drips on leaves and petals. In through the nose, out through the mouth, slow and steady, soaking, gentle and wet, purifying and washing clean.

Next comes Fire, sipping the air in through the mouth, out through the nose. On this planet, our existence depends upon the great fire, our Sun. Everything we do needs this heat; the intense activity of Fire draws the plants up from the earth and within our bodies enables us to metabolize food. Fire lights our way and our ideas are transformed with light. Fire is brilliant, super-charged, penetrating warmth.

In through the mouth, out through the mouth. This is Air. Hear the winds in the trees fanning through pine needles, whispering secrets, moving unseen from far away. Feel the breeze on your skin, watch it bend the corn and ripple through grain. Air moves in mysterious ways.

Lastly, the Ether breath is very subtle, very refined. In through the nose, out through the nose, although you can barely feel it moving through your body. This is Ether. Instead of you doing the breathing, the divine breath is breathing for you. This breath connects you with all living things, all breathing, all appreciating Earth, Water, Fire and Air. It all comes together in the Ether, the unseen, the ethereal knowing.

Shahana Devon Beckett is a student of Pir Zia Inayat-Khan, grandson of Hazrat Inayat-Khan. The Sufi Order of Greater Boston hosts retreats and classes with Pir Zia. For more information please visit or call 617-522-0800.

See also:
Expanding Sufi Mysteries Of Breath
Breathing in SunDo Qi from the Mountains of Korea