Hityashvut means feeling settled, calm, possessed of equanimity, and is one of the goals of spiritual practice. I recently taught this entry-level technique at an American Medical Association national conference on physician health. Many of the people in the room had no history of spiritual practice, and yet the physical and awareness effects of this simple, ancient practice astonished them.

  • Stand comfortably, with your head aligned to the heavens and your feet grounded on earth.
  • Find an image for breathing that works for you – perhaps that of filling yourself with an energizing or purifying color of light or air.
  • Envision your head as the first letter, yud. י
  • With your arms outstretched in front of you, palms up, draw into your head a breath full of energy, life, or light, according to your preference. Allow your arms to come toward your body as you do this.
  • Your shoulders and two arms form a hey. ה
  • As you exhale to release this light, energy, life breath that filled your yud, release it through a flowing release of your arms outward and down, forming your hey.
  • Your torso, from the pelvis upward, is your letter vav. ו
  • Relax your upper hey, shoulders and arms.
  • Open your legs slightly and draw the image of energy, air, breath of life up through your pelvis, through your organs, and into your heart.
  • Your hips and legs form the final hey in The Name. ה
  • Release the breath of air, light, life through your heart, organs, pelvis into your legs, and reground it in the earth.
  • Practice this sacred cycle until you can do it without reading the instructions and are just praying/breathing in yud, exhaling hey, inhaling vav, exhaling hey, breathing naturally with an awareness of being filled with the Source of Life and Light.

This can be silently practiced almost anywhere – between classes, patients, during services, while stuck in traffic. Derived from medieval mystical sources, it also fits well with the verse in the morning prayer service: elohai neshamah shenatata bi tehorah hee, “G*d, the breath you have placed in me, pure is She.”

Goldie Milgram in Meaning & Mitzvah