For most beginners, there is always the worry of how to breathe properly when meditating. Some people wonder if they should breathe in through the nose and breathe out through the mouth, or breathe in and out through the nose or simply fill in their lungs with air without minding its passage.
Also, the pace of breathing is a matter of concern for many.
And while there are so many techniques that employ different breathing methods, experts on the practice recommend one way of breathing while doing your meditation practice.
We explain in length what to know about breathing and how to breathe during meditation.
What People Think About Breathing And Meditation
When it comes to meditation, no matter what style you are doing, it is strongly recommended that you learn how it is done and do it as you should so that you can enjoy its full benefits.
There are different breathing techniques available and many styles have a set way of breathing.
This being said, many people tend to overthink about the whole practice, thinking that you have to change completely and adapt yourself to it.
They feel like they will have to change the way they breathe, sit, think and do things in general.
The thought of it gets many people anxious and worried if meditation will work for them with all the requirements it has and the changes they are needed to make.
However, meditation is not as hard or demanding as many people perceive it is.
And breathing should definitely not be a major point of concern for the meditator, even when they are just starting out.
The Essence of Focusing on Breathing During Meditation – Mindfulness!
We all have to be breathing to be alive which makes it a natural and crucial process for everyone of us.
When it comes to meditation, breathing has another special purpose hence the need to be slightly concerned about how we breathe.
See, breathing is always happening in the present moment. We are breathing now and we will keep breathing in the moment.
It is practically impossible to breathe in the past or the future like we get lost in past or future thoughts.
Breathing therefore makes a good anchor for mindfulness during meditation.
In his book “Stepping Into Freedom: Rules of Monastic Practice For Novices” Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, author, teacher and poet, says, “Feelings come and go like clouds in a wind sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor”.
When we focus on our breathe, the very activity of breathing in and out, and all the other effects it comes with in terms of feelings and sensations, we become more mindful.
Mindfulness allows us to enjoy the fullness of the present moment. It also helps us focus our attention which is important for a good, interactive meditation experience.
And when we get lost in thought, as we necessarily must until our minds are fully trained to remain mindful, we can always get back to breathing to bring us back to the “now” moment.
As the Indian spiritual master and author, Amit Ray, says, “When life is foggy, path is unclear and mind is dull, remember your breath. It has the power to give you peace. It has the power to resolve the unsolved questions of life.”
How you breathe and your focus on it are needing for every meditator.
How to Breathe The Right Way When Meditating
Even though experts stress on the issue of breathing and being focused on it, it is not as hard as it appears. It is actually very easy to do by taking advantage of the fact that it is a natural process.
We all have a natural rhythm of breathing and that is only what we need to be aware of.
Some people believe that they have to train themselves to breathe in a different way that might be harder than usual, all for the sake of reaping meditation benefits, which is quite the contrary.
Breathing occurs naturally and it has its own rhythm, even when our thoughts and focus are far away. And we ought to work with the same rhythm without making any changes at all.
Meditation experts insist that the only thing we should do is to use breathing as the anchor to mindfulness by being aware of the entire process.
By the entire process, we mean taking note of the inhalation process and what it does to your body as well as the exhalation process.
Taking note of how air goes in through the nose into your lungs, how your chest and diaphragm responds and how affects your chest, rib cage and other organs of the body.
Don’t mind about the pace of breathing, just let it happen as it naturally does.
Also, focus on breathing through the nose and breathing out either through the nose or the mouth. The mouth is a great way to help you calm but you need to find your own sweet spot as an individual.
While your attention is on this process, your mind becomes rooted in the present moment.
In summary, let your body keep doing its thing but this time round, be aware of the natural process of breathing.
However, if you are a beginner, there are some breathing techniques you can employ, on top of becoming aware of the natural breathing, to help calm your mind and quiet the racing thoughts so that you are better able to meditate with few to no distractions.
Some of these techniques include:
* Deep breaths – There are many styles of meditation that work with the deep breath technique as the initial stage of the exercise. The meditator will often be told to take a few deep breaths, breathing in deeply for a few seconds, holding their breath for a couple of seconds and then breathing out for a longer time than they took to breathe in.
Say, you breathe in for 3 seconds, hold the breath for 2 seconds and then breathe out for 4 to 5 seconds.
Deep breaths help you relax and let go of the tension in your body and mind so that you can concentrate on the meditation session while you are calm and relaxed.
* Counting breaths – Counting breaths is another way to keep your mind involved and your attention grounded on the activity of counting. For most people, being aware of the breath can be hard to work with right off the bat. But when counting breaths, they tend to be more involved and can keep their attention levels on the practice for longer.
Here, you inhale and exhale naturally, and count that as one. Then do it again, and that becomes two. You keep doing that until you get to 10 and then go back to one. Something to keep in mind while doing this is that, you are doing it to help you raise your level of mindfulness, not to become a better counter, so to speak, or count the most breaths.
Andy Puddicombe, a mindfulness and meditation teacher and co-founder of the Headspace app, recommends these techniques to be often used as the initial stages for meditation for beginning meditators who have an issue with directing and maintaining their focus on the practice and what it requires.
When you do this and feel your concentration is at its optimal level and you are now calm and focused, you can the let the natural process take over as you keep doing the other things that the style of meditation you are doing expects you to.
Essentially, breathing should not be a worrying issue as you go about your practice. It is essential but not as demanding. You only need to ground yourself well for the practice and then breathe naturally.
Breathing helps you be aware of the present moment and remain there as you meditate, and more if you wish. If you train your mind to breathe naturally and be aware while meditating, you shouldn’t have any more worries.
Practice doing that and you will get better at it in good time.