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About Breath Meditation
Breath meditation is one of the most accessible forms of meditation, practiced globally by millions regardless of race, culture or religion. Breath is the foundation of our lives, yet how often do we focus on our breath? Generally only when we experience shortness of breath do we notice the importance or the gift of breathing at all. While breathing techniques are used in other forms of meditation, breath meditation does not involve focusing on an object, visualization or mantra. Breath meditation asks us to concentrate our awareness on our breath only, bringing much-needed attention to an involuntary function that we often take for granted.
The concept that there is a more proper way to breathe than others is a tricky one to wrap our heads around, as breathing is an instinct we exercise as soon as we exit the womb. But by focusing awareness on the breath and practicing breath meditation, we can develop new breathing techniques that will enable us to use our lungs to their fullest capacity, greatly improving our breathing and overall lung health. In fact, the Mayo Clinic recommends diaphragmatic breathing, the breathing technique practiced in breath meditation, as a treatment for emphysema.
Focusing the attention on the breath only and stilling the mind of all other thoughts is the cornerstone of all breathing meditations. You might have a million thoughts trying to distract you during a 10 minute breathing meditation, but by bringing your awareness back to your breath whenever a pesky thought breaks in, no matter how briefly you are able to hold that awareness, strengthens your mind. Consistently practicing breath meditation encourages you to be more peaceful, balanced and concentrated, and less distracted in all facets of your life.
Ever heard the expression just count to 10? Naturally, when you take a 10-second timeout you measure it with 10 deep breaths. Instinctively, you know that breathing deeply calms you down and reduces stress. Breathing meditations stretch those seconds to 10, 20 or 30-minute intervals of relaxed, stress-free breathing. Breath meditation can help free you from negative thought patterns and fine-tune your focus and awareness.
Choose a comfortable seated position. Legs can be crossed, in lotus position or you can sit in a chair with your feet resting comfortably on the floor to give added support to your back. You don’t have to sit ramrod straight, just try to maintain good posture throughout your meditation. Avoid lying down, as it is much too easy to succumb to sleep, which isn’t the intention of breathing meditations.
Practice diaphragmatic breathing through your nose, not your mouth. Your chest and lower belly should remain motionless when breathing with your diaphragm. You should be able to feel your lower ribs expand slightly out with each inhale. Breath should be natural and smooth, slow and deep. Concentrate on the feel of the breath flowing through the nostrils. Breath should not be jerky or controlled. If a thought interrupts your concentration on your breath, and it often will, resist giving in to the thought and expanding on it. Instead, bring your awareness back to the feel of your breath, strengthening your management of your mind and your resistance to distraction.
Guided breath meditations
Ten minutes of breathing meditation everyday is a great way to introduce this healthy practice into your busy lifestyle. For a more advanced guided breath meditation, study with a meditation expert who can guide you through more sophisticated breathing patterns. There are many wonderful books and DVDs available on guided breathing meditations as well, such as Rodney Yee’s Relaxation and Breathing for Meditation DVD.