Meditation is very effective for calming down, releasing stress and anxiety, while becoming more mindful and aware. But what if we can’t relax enough to begin our meditation practice in the first place? What if our monkey mind just keeps on chattering on?
Enter breathing meditation. A conscious, deep and full breath is probably the easiest technique for calming down and a fast way to enter a more meditative state.
When you just can’t calm down to meditate
Meditation has many benefits – it helps us calm down and relax, release anxiety and stress, become more mindful and aware, gain insight into ourselves, let us feel more joy and fun, help us regain energy.
But what if we’re too worked up to even begin a meditation practice? Our mind won’t shut up, its as if our thoughts are thinking themselves.
I’ve had days when I’m stressed, trying to solve some problem, emotions run rampant – I know a meditation would be the most productive use of my time, as afterwards I’d be in a much better state to address whatever really needs my attention.
But I just can’t get into the meditation – my mind races, I feel anxious and distracted all over the place.
In times like these the only consistently reliable solution I’ve found is to begin consciously taking deep, full, slow breaths. Affirmations won’t work, visualisation and focusing or other mind-based techniques won’t help either. But after about eight full breaths I’m in a different state of mind and already approaching a mediative state.
The simple and powerful technique of conscious breathing cuts through all the mental and emotional noise, affecting our physical body directly – just like smiling produces positive emotions – which in turn allows us to change our emotional state more easily.
In other words, conscious breathing shifts our energy.
Natural way to slow down and relax
Conscious breathing is an age-old natural way to slow down, calm your mind and relax. The technique is quite simple – take a deep breath, feel your belly and lungs expand, hold for a moment and then slowly exhale to a count of four. Repeat four to eight times, as is comfortable.
Now, notice how you feel both physically and emotionally.
Breath meditation benefits:
Physically relax. We breathe deeper when we are calm, and tend to take shallower breaths when we are under stress. But deliberately taking deeper and fuller breaths will signal the body to relax. It’s a shortcut we can use to quickly calm down, release stress and anxiety, and center ourselves.
Calm down monkey mind. Breathing deep not only relaxes us physically, but the immediate, here and now, physical nature of the act helps us center and focus in the now, slowing down our mind.
Achieve meditative state faster. Physically relaxing and calming down our monkey mind allows us to enter a meditative state more easily.
Powerful meditation in its own right. When pressed for time, taking deep, conscious breaths can serve as a meditation – you will feel calmer, refreshed and rejuvenated, it will be easier to focus again. Good for breaks during the day.
Become more mindful and aware, with a relaxed yet focused attention.
How Deep and Conscious Breathing Will Help You Achieve Meditative State Faster and Easier
Breathwork is integral part of meditation practice.
If there’s one thing I learned from my first spiritual teacher (who just happened to be my boxing coach) is that breathwork – deep and conscious breathing – is an integral part of a meditation practice. He demonstrated to me how active breathing meditations can shift my energy and put me in a meditative state just minutes after a hard workout. Afterwards I’d feel so rejuvenated that I’d be ready for another such workout. It was an amazing experience and here’s the short version of it.
It began when me and a couple of co-workers decided to go to a boxing class. It was tough, the workouts were challenging to the point where I could barely lift my hands afterwards, and driving back home was an exercise in trying to keep my hands on the steering wheel. But at the end of the classes the coach would do something strange – he’d get us all in the ring, all sweaty and exhausted, and he’d guide us through a series of breathing and focusing exercises. In a matter of minutes our breathing would stabilize, become deep and even, we would feel more relaxed but attentive, aware that something was going on and nobody wanted to ruin that strangely nice state of being. In the end he’d guide us through a simple meditation.
Mind you, we are talking about 20-something guys who came to learn boxing. Who are now breathing and meditating, following the coach’s lead even though they have no idea of what is going on, but they sense intuitively that it is good for them. To our amazement, after the meditation we’d all feel so rejuvenated, as if all we had done was just breathe and only now the heavy workout would begin.
Seeing our openness, he gave us gradually more challenging breathing exercises and active meditations, but that is another topic to explore.
But the gist of the experience is this – it is worthwhile to begin with an active breathing exercise to shift energy, and only then follow up with a sitting meditation. That way we can much faster and easier achieve a deep meditative state.
It is a good idea to begin with an active breathing exercise to shift energy and follow up with a sitting meditation.
Your Turn to Practice Breathing Meditation
Have you noticed how your breath becomes faster and shallower when you are stressed? Taking a deep, conscious breath signals your body to relax. For this reason, it is smart to start your meditation sessions with breathwork. Deliberate breathing pattern will calm you down and help you achieve peace, relaxation and inner focus much faster. In other words, conscious breathing is the fast track to meditative state.
Try this simple breathing exercise right away.
- Let’s start with some mindfulness and awareness – notice how you feel right now. What is your emotional state? Are you stressed, anxious or relaxed? Is your breathing fast and shallow, or slow and deep, full?
- Now take a slow, deep, full breath. Count to 3 while inhaling, pause for a moment, then exhale to the count of three and pause. Then another, and another.
- Notice how you feel afterwards. Has your breathing slowed? Do you feel calmer and more relaxed? Happier and lighter?
That is the power of conscious breathing.
Let’s continue by exploring several breathing techniques.
How to Breathe Mindfully and Consciously during Meditation
Here are several easy breathing meditation techniques, suitable for beginners.
1) Just breathe.
Sit comfortably and breathe naturally, observing your breathing. Make sure to inhale deeply and breathe in a slow, comfortable rhythm. Focus on your breath – in and out – and the rhythm, to keep your mind from wandering.
Continue for a minute or two. Notice how you feel more relaxed and centred.
Bonus point: Sitting still, breathing naturally and being aware of the breath (not really focusing, but being aware, paying attention), is a good beginner friendly meditation technique. Notice the in-breath, your lungs filling, belly expanding, and the out-breath, air flowing through your nose. Put your attention on the light physical sensations – enough to keep your mind from running off.
2) Full and deep breath.
This exercise is best performed either sitting straight – your body will naturally straighten as you keep on inhaling. Or lying down on a firm surface, putting one hand on the belly and the other on the upper chest, to feel how they expand and rise up.
First step, breathe into the belly, feel it expand.
Second step, continue breathing in into the chest, letting the ribcage expand and rise up.
Thirst step, keep on inhaling into the upper chest and shoulders, allowing the shoulders to rise up, until you can no longer breathe in.
Hold for a moment.
Slowly exhale, in reverse order, starting from the upper chest, then torso and finally belly.
Notice the feeling of relaxation and peace, hold it for a moment, before taking the next breath.
Repeat three to eight times, in a comfortable pace.
3) Pattern breathing.
This is a slightly more complicated exercise, but it will quickly relax and center you.
Breathe in deeply to the count of four. Hold for the count of two. Slowly exhale through mouth to the count of eight. Hold empty to the count of four. Repeat the 4-4-8-4 breathing pattern several more times.
The first time I tried a pattern breathing exercise, it did not feel natural, counting was a challenge and I felt lightheaded afterwards.
But it was very effective – I felt relaxed, centred and focused. This breathing exercise is a great tool when you want to centre and enter a meditative state quickly and powerfully.
I don’t do this exercise regularly, but I’ve found that it fits nicely with walking meditation when you sync your steps and breathing rhythm.
Meditation Breathing Tips:
- How to breathe during meditation? It is a good idea to start meditation by deep breaths, it will help you slow down, relax and more easily enter a meditative state. During meditation, breathe naturally, in a rhythm that is comfortable. Don’t force yourself to breathe deeply if it does not feel comfortable or requires too much effort – it will become a distraction in its own right. At first, taking deep and conscious breaths may not feel natural or even comfortable, but you will quickly adapt and soon breathing deeply and fully during meditation will feel natural and relaxing.
- Should you breathe through nose or mouth? Unless you are performing a deep breathing exercise, then breathe through nose, as it is more natural. Though follow your own inner guidance and do what feel natural and best in the moment.
- Should you inhale through nose and exhale through mouth? Again, applies if you are doing a conscious breathing exercise, but will require too much focus for a meditation. During meditation breathing should be natural and feel comfortable.
Learning to breathe deeply and consciously can be transformative
How would your life change if you learned to shift your energy in a matter of few breaths – release stress and anxiety, feel calmer and more relaxed, become more aware and centred?
What would it mean for your life experience?
For your interaction with others, if you could shift your state of being in a breath or two and truly communicate, not just react from an ingrained habitual loop?
Here’s a bonus tip:
A deep, full breath takes about 5 seconds – enough time to refocus and centre yourself – and interact from a more grounded state of being. Give yourself and the other person the gift of a more pleasant interaction.
For your meditation practice?
The next time you can’t seem to calm down enough to begin a meditation – start with eight deep, full breaths and you’ll be meditating in no time.
A breathing exercise can be performed in a couple of seconds, anytime and place, and no one has to notice what you are doing. But you will be more grounded, mindful and aware. You’ll be present.
Do it now!
Take 3 to 8 deep breaths, exhale slowly and notice how you feel both physically and emotionally.
See how easy it is? Learning to mediate can become a never-ending task and a to-do list for the mind to obsess about. Keep it simple. Set yourself up for a win by showing yourself, experiencing directly how easy and fast it is to achieve a meditative state.
Keep breathing until calm.
- Meditation is a powerful way to calm down and centre yourself. But what if you can’t calm down enough to begin the meditation in the first place?
- Enter conscious breathing. Deep, full breaths are a natural way to calm down and relax.
- By learning a few simple breathing techniques you’ll be able to release stress and anxiety, become more relaxed and enter a meditative state in a matter of minutes.
- Breathwork is pleasant and a good meditation in its own right – it will leave you feeling relaxed, centred, rejuvenated and focused.
- Try any of the simple breathing meditation exercises and your own personal experience will be all the proof you need!
Try it now!
What was your experience like?
Were the exercises easy and comfortable for you? Did you find anything confusing, did I leave anything out? Were the steps clear and easy to follow?
Leave a comment, or write me a message – I personally ready each and every one and respond.