Breathing meditation is one of the simplest and most relaxing types of meditation imaginable. It’s also popular with many newcomers to meditation because it is so easy to learn and so very effective at eliminating stress and anxiety. It will help you to focus your mind and let go of negative thoughts, and it will leave you feeling relaxed, invigorated and clear headed.
Most of the time breathing is something you do involuntarily. It’s just not something that you think about. But the rate and depth of your breathing is a good indicator of your overall sense of wellbeing and is well worth paying attention to from time to time. When you are relaxed, you breathe more slowly and more deeply, and the opposite is true when you are stressed or ill.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation that was threatening or dangerous? No doubt your breathing became very quick and shallow, and you may have even held your breath momentarily. This is due to your body’s natural response to danger. It’s usually referred to as the “fight or flight” response, and it causes your body to prepare itself for action by pumping blood to your muscles, increasing your blood pressure, your heart rate and your breathing rate.
The stress of daily life can cause similar changes in your physiology. Even if you are not in any obvious or immediate danger, stress and tension will have much the same effect on your blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rhythm. Often these changes go unnoticed until they lead to illness or exhaustion.
One of the best ways to undo this kind of stress is to practice a breathing meditation. When you take some time out to relax your mind and breath in a slower, deeper manner, you will literally reverse all of the negative effects of stress. You’ll find yourself feeling harmonious and at ease, and you'll wonder how you ever got by without the benefits of meditation. It’s not uncommon for people to say, “I didn’t realize how stressed I was until I tried this meditation”.
Before you start this meditation (or any other type of meditation) you may wish to take a few minutes to prepare.
Start by taking a seat somewhere comfortable, making sure that your spine is erect. Don’t strain yourself...this is supposed to be relaxing! Let your hands rest in your lap. Cup them together or let your fingers gently intertwine. Whatever feels natural and comfortable to you.
Close your eyes and take five slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathe all the way down into your stomach and fill your lungs completely, before slowly releasing each breath with a whispered “aaaaah” sound. Empty your lungs completely each time you breath out.
That felt pretty good didn’t it? Take another five breaths if you like. As you do, repeat the word “relax” to yourself each time you breathe out. Every time you breathe this way you send messages of relaxation to your entire nervous system. As a result, your heart rate will reduce slightly, your blood pressure will begin to ease, your muscles will begin to loosen and your mind will begin to relax.
Now let your breathing resume its normal rhythm. Don’t try to modify the way you breathe, just let your body do what comes naturally. You may find that your breathing becomes a little deeper all by itself during this meditation. That’s a good thing. The extra oxygen will do wonders for your body and mind, and will help you to slip deeper into a state of relaxation. You can breath through your nose or your mouth, whatever feels natural to you.
Your only task from this point forward is to keep your attention focussed on your breathing. This is usually easier to accomplish if you focus on one of the following aspects of your breathing:
1. The feeling of the breath moving in and out of your nostrils.
2. The feeling of your chest and abdomen rising and falling as you breathe.
If thoughts pop into your mind during this meditation (you're only human so they will surely do so) simply return your attention to your breathing. Likewise, if you experience any strong emotions or if you are troubled by persistent negative thoughts, don’t resist them. Allow them to come and go like clouds in the breeze, even if they are temporarily uncomfortable. The point of this breathing meditation is not to avoid negative thoughts and feelings, but rather to learn to take your attention away from them so that they are unable to “stick” to you.
Try this meditation for 10 to 15 minutes to start with, gradually increasing to 20 to 30 minutes over the coming weeks. Like all forms of meditation, you'll experience the best results if you practice this every day. Through regular practice not only will you go deeper, faster, you'll also be less likely to get stressed in the first place, so don't wait until you are melting down before you next try this meditation.
You may find it easier to focus on your breathing and to clear your mind if you count in time with your breathing. Try counting to three in your mind as you breathe in, and then counting to three again as you breath out. This simple exercise can really help to shut down any mental chatter and it will help to ensure that your breathing continues to flow.
Another way to improve your concentration during a breathing meditation is to listen to some Sonic Mantra meditation music. By breathing in time with the tempo of the music you will get into a hypnotic and relaxing rhythm that will really deepen your meditation.
At the completion of this breathing meditation, close your eyes and lie down for at least five minutes as you let your body and mind come back down to earth. You will be feeling very relaxed, perhaps even a little light headed, so take some time to rest. If you happen to fall asleep after this meditation, then you will find that your sleep is far deeper and more restoring than usual. Enjoy.
You can use this meditation to de-stress just about any time at all. Do you have a little time to spare on your lunch break? Try just five minutes of this breathing meditation. You’ll feel a whole lot more relaxed, and you’ll be doing wonders for your overall health.
Do you have a favourite type of meditation? Or is there a type of meditation that you just can't stand? Have you ever had any special experiences while practicing a certain type of meditation, or do you have a success story to share?
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