The breath supplies oxygen to all our vital organs. It gives us energy and it keeps us alive. Breathing meditation is a conscious way to practice deep, intentional breaths. When we become anxious or we worry, our breaths can become short and shallow. Practicing deep, slow breathing and help slow our heart rate, calm us down, and create clearer thinking.
Breathing and meditation are two concepts that are inextricably linked. The term respiration means the exchange of gas – oxygen and carbon dioxide – achieved between the organism and the external environment. During this exchange, nerve impulses stimulate the contraction of the diaphragm which consequently changes shape. The dome of the diaphragm flattens and thus elongates the thoracic cavity. The contractions of other muscles raise the rib cage, making it wider and deeper. Breathing meditation is a kind of meditation involving both these processes to bring many different benefits to our body and our mind.
Breathing meditation aims to slow down mental movement to the point where the gap between two successive thoughts can begin to be perceived and recognized by the practitioner. Generally speaking, breathing meditation is used to calm the mind and develop inner peace. This meditative breath can be used alone or as a preliminary practice to reduce distractions before starting a meditation session and to slow down the rhythm of our bodies to deal with anxiety and emotional struggles in a brand new alternative way.
During breathing meditation, the practitioner focuses on the movement of the abdomen during inhalation and exhalation. It is important that meditation breathing is not altered or intentional, but remains simple and fluid. The end of each exhalation must, in a very natural way, imply a slight pause. It is important not to block the pause after exhalation, but to leave it floating to prevent the abdomen from tightening and ending up causing wheezing. Furthermore, the practitioner must take care not to let himself sink into a state of subtle lethargy during the pause that follows the exhalation.
Usually, during the pause after exhalation, one feels a certain tranquility that resounds in the mind; in inspiration itself, thoughts tend to become agitated again. You must learn to take advantage of this little respite of the mind in the pause that follows the expiration and not allow it to resume its agitated movement during the next inspiration.
Let’s try to breathe naturally, through the nostrils; the goal is to become aware of the sensation of our breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. This feeling is the object of meditation. The goal is to focus completely on it, excluding everything else. At the beginning, our mind will be restless and engaged by different thoughts. This is because we are becoming more aware of how stressed our mind is.
We will be tempted to follow the thoughts that arise unconsciously, but it is important to resist, letting them go, returning to focus on the sensation of the breath. If we realize that our mind has moved away and is following those thoughts, we must immediately go back to focusing on the breath. By doing even 10-15 minutes a day of breathing meditation, we will be able to greatly reduce our stress level.
Breathing meditation is an easy to practice but deeply effective tool to relax and bring our attention back to the present moment, something we all need in our stressful daily lives.