Practicing breathing techniques is a great way to start implementing an informal meditation routine. As a beginner it can be a simple and quick exercise to practice and will set the tone for all your other mindfulness activities. All you need is 5-10 minutes to start.
Mindfulness in essence is the practice of being present in the moment. It is a great tool for dealing with difficult experiences and it can help you become aware of what you are thinking and feeling at any given time. One of the attitudes of mindfulness point out the importance of being an impartial witness to yourself.
Often we approach our lives from a biased and subjective point of view. Our thoughts, emotions and behavior are all reflections of our future fears, past and current state of mind. Practicing mindfulness teaches us to become objective, by separating ourselves from our experiences. Ultimately, giving us the opportunity to work through our feelings and emotions instead of being overwhelmed by them.
Meditation is a technique we use as a means to bring ourselves to the present moment. Through your breath you quiet the mind and develop self-awareness, which leads to great insight. This then strengthens our ability to concentrate, awakens empathy and reveals our true nature.
Meditation in essence offers us a space for reflection and relaxation. It also improves our overall physical health and emotional well-being. There is no “right or wrong” way to do it. There are, however, many different types of meditation you can explore to figure out what works best for you.
During this type of meditation you assign yourself a mantra or a small phrase that must be repeated in a specific way. TM is usually practiced 20 minutes a day, twice a day to reach a state of relaxation and inner peace. TM is different to other forms of meditation because it discourages concentration.
Guided meditation is similar to visualization or guided imagery practice. During the meditation you form mental pictures and scenarios you or the guide find calming. There is a lot of focus on using your senses to create a state of stillness and relaxation.
Vipassana meditation highlights self-observation, where you focus on the deep interaction between the body and the mind. Through disciplined attention you observe physical sensations that arise throughout your body. Ultimately, training your mind not to wander but using concentration as a means to increase self-awareness.
Mindful meditation is similar to Vipassana in that we focus on the self. Through breathing exercises we are able to bring ourselves into the present moment. The difference is that we become curious to our thought patterns. When thoughts arise, we gently observe them and let them go without judgement. It teaches us to take a step back from our feelings and emotions, to pause and reflect rather than react.
When I started my mindfulness journey I struggled to focus on the present moment and to detach from my experiences. Breathing meditation exercises were my life-line. My breath became my anchor. I still use it as a point of reference whenever uncomfortable emotions and experiences pop up in my mind or when I got distracted from the here and now.
Breathing is something we do naturally all day everyday, but it is the only autonomous bodily function that we can consciously control. Unlike our other automatic body functions like our heart rate or controlling our digestive system we can control our breath and make it go faster or slower.
Think back to a time you felt stressed, one of the first things you will remember noticing is how shallow your breathing became and how your chest tightened. This restricted the amount of oxygen your body received and actually increased your feelings of anxiety and stress.
There is a scientific reason why people tell you to take a deep breath when you are feeling out of control. Deep conscious breathing decreases your heart rate and increases blood flow making you feel more relaxed and mellow.
Research has shown that breathing meditation exercises have both physical and mental benefits. When we practice meditation and breathing we can reduce our heart rate, lower stress and notice changed brain wave patterns.
The Meditating Brain
Breathing meditation exercises can be practiced while standing, sitting or lying down. For now just make sure you are comfortable. You can keep your eyes open or closed. Personally, I find closing my eyes helps me to focus better. If this is the first time you are practicing a breathing exercise, you will notice that thoughts will pop in and out of your head.
This is completely normal, and it may happen many times. All you need to do is acknowledge that the thought has come into your awareness. Then gently and with a little self-compassion, bring your focus back onto your breath. With continued practice this will eventually stop and your breathing will come naturally.
Try these meditation breathing techniques to start your morning or as breathing exercises for better sleep. I personally use these techniques when life feels a little overwhelming. I find them very useful when I need to center myself before I make silly choices or say stupid things. Its your call really – there are so many uses:
Below are 4 breathing exercises I try to do on a regular basis. Personally, I have found the mindfulness breathing techniques easier to practice, but choose the ones that work for you.
Sometimes called belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing. This exercise helps to strengthen the diaphragm and is the basis for almost all meditation techniques.
Please note that it can take a few practice rounds before you feel comfortable.
What is the 4-7-8 breathing technique?
This technique is based on Pranayama, which is an ancient Indian practice. It is also called the “relaxing breath” and is a great breathing exercise to encourage better sleep.
Breathing meditation exercises are the first step on your mindfulness meditation adventure. In the early stages of these exercises, thoughts will constantly pull your attention away from the task at hand. Keep bringing your focus back to your breathing – no matter what. If this is all you find yourself doing the first few times, that’s great. The more compassionate we are to ourselves the easier it will be to adopt an accepting mindset toward yourself, your thoughts and emotions. You will learn to let your experiences be, just as they are. Good or bad.