Breathing is one of the first things that you do when you’re born. If we told you that you probably don’t breathe correctly, you might not believe us. After all, you’ve been breathing your whole life, and you don’t often think about it. That’s the problem.
Yogis have advocated breath control for centuries. In Hindu yoga, pranayama are breathing exercises that are thought to clear obstacles in the body and encourage the flow of life energy. By doing this, you create balance, optimize your body’s ability to heal and energize yourself.
There are many ways to practice breath meditation. We delve deeper into the subject later in this article. Basically, breathing meditation involves focusing your attention on your inhale and exhale.
How Does Breathing Meditation Help You?
Buddha continually encouraged breath meditation. He believed that mindful breathing forged the path to enlightenment.
Focusing on your breathing can improve the way that your body functions. It improves blood flow and carries more oxygen to your tissues and organs.
Andy Hix, the director of a mindfulness consultancy in the UK, says that breath meditation offers a slew of benefits, including:
- Cultivating patience
- Improving your ability to focus
- Heightening calmness, clarity and creativity
- Increasing self-awareness and self-control
- Emphasizing concentration on the present instead of getting caught up in the past or future
Many studies have been done to look into the benefits of breath meditation. There is clinical evidence that mindful breathing can reduce stress and treat depression, anxiety and trauma.
Focusing on your breath can change your brain. In one study, researchers looked at the effects of mindfulness breath meditation vs. loving-kindness meditation on mood.
To practice breath meditation, participants were simply asked to concentrate on the sensations of breath in their bodies. When they lost focus, they could bring their attention back to their breath. To practice loving-kindness meditation, participants were instructed to think of something positive about themselves while repeating affirmations.
Both types of meditation produced positive effects. They activated part of the brain that is responsible for approaching challenges instead of avoiding them. In people who tended to brood over their negative state, the breath meditation was more effective in increasing their level of optimism.
Belisa Vranich, the author of the book “Breathe,” says that breathing is “meditation for people who can’t meditate.” Just as meditation can calm you down, lower your heart rate, and reduce stress, so can controlled breathing.
The Basics Of Breath Meditation
One of the goals of meditation is to clear the mind of distractions. However, it’s virtually impossible to ask your mind to stop thinking about a particular topic. Instead, you have to replace the ideas going through your mind with other thoughts.
Because you always have your breath with you, you can focus on it wherever you are. As you become aware of your breath, you give yourself something new to concentrate on. Distracting mental chatter melts away.
The easiest way to practice breathing meditation is to notice the sensation of breath entering and exiting your nostrils. Don’t attempt to change the way that you breathe. Inhale and exhale normally.
If you notice that your mind starts to wander, don’t judge or reprimand yourself. Simply come back to noticing your breath.
5 Other Meditative Breath Exercises To Try
Once you are able to create some stillness in your mind by concentrating on your breathing, you can develop the technique further.
As people move through life, they develop poor breathing habits. Sitting causes us to lose core strength, which can set us up with negative breathing practices. If you do have strong abdominal muscles, holding them in too tightly can also prevent you from breathing properly.
Belly breathing allows you to move your breath into the lower part of your body. To practice this, sit on a chair with your feet on the ground or cross-legged on the floor.
Inhale through your mouth, expand your belly and lean forward. As you exhale, lean back in a relaxed manner, feeling your waist narrow. Make sure that you exhale fully.
This exercise teaches your diaphragm to move properly with every breath. Over time, you will find it easier to perform this meditation.
If you find your mind wandering during meditation, try counting your breaths. You can count “one” on the inhalation and “two” on the exhalation. Finding yourself at a higher number means that you’ve lost focus. That’s ok. Bring your attention back to your breath without judgment and begin again.
Once you are adept at observing the breath without losing focus, start to notice the point at which the inhalation changes to exhalation and vice versa. Concentrate on this still area of breath. You might start to become aware of the fact that there is not an absence of breath at this point. It is a continuous experience that can teach you that stillness can be present even while you’re active.
When you practice this relaxing breath exercise, keep your tongue against the ridge on the roof of your mouth as you inhale and exhale. Begin by closing your mouth and inhaling quietly through your nose to a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven, and then exhale completely through your open mouth while counting to eight. Your exhale should make a whooshing sound.
If you can’t hold your breath this long, speed the entire exercise up by counting faster. Maintain the same ratio of exhaling for twice as long as you inhale and holding your breath for seven beats, though.
Beginners should only do this exercise for four total inhalations and exhalations at a time. It may make you feel lightheaded until you have more experience. After about a month of practice, you should be able to perform eight cycles comfortably at once.
This exercise naturally relaxes the nervous system. It can control your fight-or-flight response, helping you to stay clear and calm in the face of anxiety.
If you have tried these exercises and still have trouble keeping your mind on your breath, you can follow along to a meditation. Many of these can be found on YouTube, including this meditation for sympathetic breathing.