Your living breath is all important.
You can fudge a little while leaning how to meditate in areas like your posture, where you meditate and how long you meditate.
Don’t mess around with your breathing.
Get breathing right from the start. If you put in the time and effort to create good breathing habits now, you’ll find that mastering the other, more difficult parts of meditation become much, much easier and faster.
Your breath is inextricably intertwined with your thoughts and emotions. By mastering your breath, which is relatively easy, you can get a big head start on taming these two monsters that all of us struggle with.
If your breath is calm and even, your thoughts are calm also. If your breath is deep and regular, your emotions flow naturally.
You become a different, happier, more relaxed person.
To discover how to meditate and breathe properly, and the fantastic benefits, keep reading.
3 Benefits of Deep Breathing
You were born breathing right. All of us were. It’s not difficult to retrain your breathing because you instinctively know how to breathe properly already.
Have you ever watched a happy, relaxed baby breathe?
Baby’s tummy rises and falls with only a little chest movement. When she breathes in, her tummy rises. When she breathes out, her tummy falls.
As we begin experiencing the conflicts of life, our breathing pattern changes.
Emotions like anger, sadness and fear cause you to tighten up your abdomen. Social conditioning, like believing washboard abs are necessary, forces your breath up into your chest. Stress and tension freeze your diaphragm (the sheet of muscle that divides your chest and abdomen).
Soon, breathing short shallow breaths centered high in your chest becomes your habit. Your emotions stop flowing, and you may even lose the ability to fully experience them. Releasing stress and tension becomes more difficult.
Benefit 1. The very well known Framingham study found a direct correlation between decreasing pulmonary capacity and early death. People who maintain the full inhalation capacity of their lungs live longer.
Benefit 2. Shallow breathing does not move your lymph. Without freely flowing lymph, your cells starve for nutrients and are poisoned by wastes at the same time. Deep breathing drives your lymphatic system. Your deep breaths pump your lymph. It flows through your cells, bringing in fresh nutrients and taking away wastes.
Benefit 3. Prana (subtle energy) infuses the air around us. Yogis practice Pranayama (deep breathing) to infuse themselves with prana. Devoted practitioners gain the ability to become weightless and transform themselves into pure light. You can begin experiencing the benefits of breathing in prana by doing the simple breathing exercises below. In the last exercise, a visualization and a mantra will get you started on breathing prana.
3 Abdominal Breathing Exercises
Use one of the meditation postures discussed in How to Meditate –Your Posturewhile doing these exercises. Keeping your spine straight but relaxed and your chin level is important because your lungs will be able to fill completely.
Exercise I. Finding Your Breath
Keep your chest still while doing this exercise. Only your tummy moves in and out –just like the happy baby.
- Place the palm of one hand on your stomach right below your navel.
- Breathe into your hand. Use your incoming breath to push your hand out with your stomach.
- Press in with your hand. Use your hand pushing on your stomach to push the air up out of your lungs.
- As you become used to abdominal breathing, make your breaths slower, smoother, longer and more even, until they become rhythmical and easy, without effort or strain.
- Notice invigorated relaxation spreading throughout your body. Your emotions calm. Your thoughts slow.
If your shoulders are moving up around your ears, your chest is puffed out like a rooster and your face is turning red, you’ve got something wrong! Just relax into the exercise and allow your belly to move in and out naturally while the rest of you remains relaxed and still.
- Breathe in through your nose filling your belly and then your chest with air. Visualize fresh clean air coming in.
- Blow out through your mouth with your lips pursed –like you are blowing out through a straw. Empty your chest first, then your belly. Visualize dark stale energy, stress and unwanted emotions (anger, sadness, fear) going out.
Be sure to exhale fully, emptying your lungs completely of stale, carbon dioxide filled air on the out breath. You’ll then have plenty of space for fresh, clean, oxygenated air to come in.
We’ll try doing three things at the same time in this exercise. This occupies your mind and forces it to focus instead of busily chasing thoughts. Using the ancient mantra So Hum energizes, calms and balances you –all at the same time.
- As you breathe in slowly through your nose, say Sooooooo silently in your mind. Visualize brilliant white light coming in your nostrils and going up into your brain, lighting it up.
- As you breathe out, say Hummmmmm silently in your mind while relaxing into the brilliant light, allowing it to spread down throughout your entire being.
Try sets of three breaths in the beginning. You can gradually increase to sets of nine. Stop if you get too light headed or dizzy.
People who are prone to anxiety should NOT attempt any of these breathing exercises.
Your breath is the crucial element of learning how to meditate and of your entire meditation practice. Only finding a loving, compassionate teacher is of importance equal to your breath. Buddha attained Enlightenment by simply observing his breath. We’ll explore how he did it next week.