A meditation practice is meant to cultivate awareness and a sense of peace, sharpen one’s ability to concentrate, reduce negative emotions, leaving the practitioner feeling calm and relaxed. Currently, with meditation more popular than ever, popping up everywhere from group studio classes to apps to be listened to on work commutes or long drives, achieving a blissed-out state seems relatively accessible for everyone.
Yet, if you’re new to the practice or don’t fully understand the ins and outs of breathing, breathing meditation may be more intimidating than relaxing. Sometimes we can get distracted wondering or worrying whether we should inhale and exhale through the nose or mouth. Here, breath meditation tips for beginners to help clear the mind, keep you grounded, and focused on the practice of breathing.
Breathing is something we often take for granted or don’t even notice. Breathing is an unconscious act and it’s what keeps us alive. Often, we may even forget to breathe during tense moments, which is the exact opposite of how the brain and body connect in order to calm down.
In fact, the quickest, most effective, and simplest way to stop stress in its tracks is to focus your attention on the act of breathing, becoming aware of each inhalation and exhalation. This focused attention to the breath is an important skill that helps to be able to handle negative emotions, anxiety, stress, and calm the fight or flight response.
Tune into the breath
The truth is that as long as you are breathing, you are winning, says Gwen Lawrence, yoga teacher and author of Teaching Power Yoga for Sports. There is, however, a certain way to breathe in order to help your brain calm down, shutting off the fight or flight response, explains Lawrence.
Fight-or-flight, or acute stress response, is a physiological reaction that occurs in the presence of mental or physical fear of danger. It’s triggered by the release of hormones that prepare the body to either stay and deal with a threat (fight) or to run to safety (flight). Focusing on the breath utilizing a meditation practice can help slow or stop this reaction.
Practice breathing via (only) the nose
The best way to cultivate calm is to practice diaphragmatic breathing. “It sounds complicated, but it couldn’t be easier,” she says. “It is simply to breathe in and out through your nose and deep into your belly.” Avoid breathing through the mouth and shallow in the chest, as that ignites the fire of fight or flight, which has its place in life but not during meditation, explains Lawrence.
According to yoga teacher Marco Rojas, breathing should be done in and out through the nose, not the mouth, as the nostrils contain cilia hairs that filter air as it passes through the nose. In nostril breathing, the inhaled air is moistened and warmed by the nasal passages. This moistened and warmed air is then better prepared to be received by bronchial tissues and lungs. Exhaling out the nose enable the retention of the warmth of the breath, and can also help develop slower, more focused inhales and exhales. The elongation of the breath assists in slowing down and calming the mind, leading to that state of relaxation associated with meditation.
Incorporate these breathing techniques and meditation tips into your daily routine and watch your worries and stress melt away.