Meditation and breathing techniques

5 Ways to Practice Breath-Focused Meditation

3. Nadi Shodhana and Pranayama (Alternate nostril breathing)

Origin: Hinduism

Translation: “Channel purifying”

What It Is: Similar to kundalini, pranayama is a type of meditative practice that involves controlled breathing, turning your focus to your body and finding balance internally. Nadi shodhana, or alternate nostril yoga breathing (ANYB), is the technique of breathing through one nostril at a time while closing the other nostril manually, to alternate breathing and airflow. According to a study published in December 2017 in Medical Science Monitor Basic Research, ANYB significantly reduced blood pressure and increased alertness. The study showed that systolic blood pressure, the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart beats, dramatically decreased in participants after 18 minutes of ANYB practice. They were also able to perform a vigilance task in less time.

Additionally, ANYB has been shown to have a balancing effect on the right and left hemispheres of the brain, according to research in the International Journal of Psychophysiology. Hillary Clinton credits this method of breathing for getting her through the aftermath of the presidential election.

How to Do It: Sit comfortably and rest your right hand on your knee while using your left thumb to gently close your left nostril. Inhale slowly through the right nostril, then close it with your ring finger. Take a moment and then exhale through the left nostril. Repeat this on each nostril 5 to 10 times. Research shows that 15 to 18 minutes of alternate nostril breathing is ideal.

4. Zhuanqi (Breathing until the breath is soft)

Origin: Taoism

Translation: “Unite mind and air”

What It Is: Taoist meditation emphasizes quieting the body and mind to find harmony with nature. Zhuanqi, similar to Buddhist meditation, is a meditative breathing technique in Taoism that aims to unite breath and mind by focusing on your breath until it is soft. This can be done by observing the breath until it is quiet. It utilizes the abdominal muscles to elevate the diaphragm and push out air.

How to Do It: Sit comfortably with strong posture and your eyes half closed and fixed on the point of your nose. Breathe with your abdominal muscles until the breath is soft or quiet. To effectively use your abdominal muscles, place your right hand on your stomach and your left on your chest. Breathe deeply and watch which hand moves more and in which direction. The goal is to have the hand on your abdomen move more and in an outward and inward motion.

5. Kumbhaka Pranayamas (Anatara and Bahya) (Intermittent breath retention)

Origin: Hinduism

Translation: “The control of prana through retention of the breath”

What It Is: Kumbhaka pranayamas are a type of breathing exercise that uses intermittent breath holding following inhaling or exhaling. The pause of breath holding should be shorter than the inhaling or exhaling period. Holding air in the lungs after inhaling is called antara (inner) kumbhaka, and momentarily holding the breath following exhaling is called bahya (outer) kumbhaka. A study in the Indian Journal of Medical Research found that short breath holding was associated with a 56 percent increase in oxygen consumed. Additionally, a study published in January 2018 in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology determined that intermittent breathing could be useful in preventing metabolism issues due to changes in the rate your body uses and burns oxygen.

How to Do It: Sitting with the spine upright, exhale all of the air in your lungs out through your mouth. Close your lips and use your nose to inhale slowly until your lungs are full. For antara, hold the air in your lungs for a count of three to five seconds and then slowly release. To practice bahya, after emptying your lungs, hold your breath for three to five seconds before inhaling.

Whether you’re an experienced meditator or looking for new ways to just take a deep breath, breathing techniques for meditation have been proven to have a wide range of short-term and long-term health benefits.

“Many people come to meditation because they want to feel less stressed out or anxious, to sleep better, or any of these other touted results of the practices,” says Rinzler. “But there’s more to it than just getting a good night’s sleep. The practices are transformational for one’s whole life if given the proper time and instruction.”

Mindful Breathing

How to Do It

The most basic way to do mindful breathing is simply to focus your attention on your breath, the inhale and exhale. You can do this while standing, but ideally you’ll be sitting or even lying in a comfortable position. Your eyes may be open or closed, but you may find it easier to maintain your focus if you close your eyes. It can help to set aside a designated time for this exercise, but it can also help to practice it when you’re feeling particularly stressed or anxious. Experts believe a regular practice of mindful breathing can make it easier to do it in difficult situations.

Sometimes, especially when trying to calm yourself in a stressful moment, it might help to start by taking an exaggerated breath: a deep inhale through your nostrils (3 seconds), hold your breath (2 seconds), and a long exhale through your mouth (4 seconds). Otherwise, simply observe each breath without trying to adjust it; it may help to focus on the rise and fall of your chest or the sensation through your nostrils. As you do so, you may find that your mind wanders, distracted by thoughts or bodily sensations. That’s OK. Just notice that this is happening and gently bring your attention back to your breath.

To provide even more structure, and help you lead this practice for others, below are steps for a short guided meditation. You can listen to audio of this guided meditation, produced by UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC), in the player below; if it doesn’t play, you can find it here or download it from MARC’s website.

  1. Find a relaxed, comfortable position. You could be seated on a chair or on the floor on a cushion. Keep your back upright, but not too tight. Hands resting wherever they’re comfortable. Tongue on the roof of your mouth or wherever it’s comfortable.
  2. Notice and relax your body. Try to notice the shape of your body, its weight. Let yourself relax and become curious about your body seated here—the sensations it experiences, the touch, the connection with the floor or the chair. Relax any areas of tightness or tension. Just breathe.
  3. Tune into your breath. Feel the natural flow of breath—in, out. You don’t need to do anything to your breath. Not long, not short, just natural. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. It might be in your abdomen. It may be in your chest or throat or in your nostrils. See if you can feel the sensations of breath, one breath at a time. When one breath ends, the next breath begins.
  4. Now as you do this, you might notice that your mind may start to wander. You may start thinking about other things. If this happens, it is not a problem. It’s very natural. Just notice that your mind has wandered. You can say “thinking” or “wandering” in your head softly. And then gently redirect your attention right back to the breathing.
  5. Stay here for five to seven minutes. Notice your breath, in silence. From time to time, you’ll get lost in thought, then return to your breath.
  6. After a few minutes, once again notice your body, your whole body, seated here. Let yourself relax even more deeply and then offer yourself some appreciation for doing this practice today.

Breathing Meditations

Breath Awareness Meditation

Listen to our Breath Awareness Meditation or read instructions below:

Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Take a few moments to “simply be”. Notice whatever is being experienced in the moment — sounds, physical sensations, thoughts, feelings — without trying to do anything about it. Continue like this a little while, allowing yourself to settle down.

Now bring the attention to the breath. Simply notice the breath as it moves in and out as the body inhales and exhales. Notice how the breath moves in and out automatically, effortlessly. Don’t try to manipulate it in any way. Notice all the details of the experience of breathing — the feeling of the air moving in and out of the nose, the way the body moves as it breathes, etc.

The mind will wander away from the breath — that’s fine, it doesn’t matter. That’s a part of the meditation! When you notice that you are no longer observing the breath, easily bring your attention back to it.

Let all of your experiences — thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations — come and go in the background of your awareness of the breath. Notice how all of your experiences — thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, awareness of sounds and smells — come automatically and effortlessly like the breath.

In time, you can become aware of the tendencies of your mind. You will see how it resists certain experiences and tries to hold onto others. The natural settling down of the mind allows you to notice these underlying tendencies and creates the possibility to let them go. If you experience a resistance to what is occurring, an attempt to change what is happening, a tendency to hold on to some experience — let it go.

Deep Breathing Meditation Technique

Empty your bowels and bladder before you begin. Shower or wash your face so you will feel more alert.

Roll out your yoga mat and do a physical practice before meditating. The yoga poses will help stretch and strengthen your body. Focus on poses that work your abdominals, to strengthen your spine, and hip openers to prepare your body to sit in stillness.

Set aside time each day to meditate. Choosing the same time and place for your practice will help you create a regular routine.

When you can sit comfortably in meditation for three to five minutes, increase your time to 10 to 15 minutes. As you gain more experience, gradually lengthen your meditation time to 30 minutes or longer.

Sit upright whenever meditating. Reclining on a couch or lying on your back make it more likely you will doze off.

The exhalation is the most important part of the breathing cycle. Breathing out completely will create more room for a deeper, fuller inhalation. Full exhalations help remove impurities that have accumulated in the lower part of your lungs.

TOP 9 Best Breathing Techniques For Meditation and Mindfulness

Breathing is the key to achieving mindfulness. It’s essentially why you feel significantly more amazing doing yoga than you do during aerobics; you’re controlling your breathing while treating yourself to all the benefits that follow a calm, steady stream of fresh air.

Oxygen revitalizes you, resets your mind, body and spirit and allows you to feel better. Combine that with meditation and mala beads, and you’ll feel reborn.

However, not all breathing is created equally. You likely learned this in your yoga classes. You have to teach yourself how to breathe properly in order to maximize the benefits, and there are several breathing techniques you can use, in particular, when meditating.

Here are some of our favourite breathing techniques we like to use when meditating with our mala beads.

The Common Yoga Breathing Technique

If you do yoga on the regular, you likely already know this technique as its most commonly used throughout different styles of yoga. It’s often used to calm your breathing, so you can relish the benefits of fresh oxygen. To do this breathing technique, follow these steps:

  1. Take a slow, deep breath in
  2. Pause
  3. Slowly let your breath out
  4. Pause

Equal Breathing

A breathing technique that’s certain to help calm the mind, body and soul is called equal breathing. It’s perfect for reducing stress, calming your nerves and increasing focus, and can be done anywhere and at any time. Here are the steps for this breathing technique:

  1. Take a slow inhale through your nose for a count of four
  2. Slowly exhale through your nose for a count of four

Count for Four

A common breathing technique for meditation is to simply count to four, then count backward from four, all timed with your breath. You can also use different numbers, depending on your preferences but as you’ll see in this post, a count of four seems to be the common denominator. Here are the steps:

  1. Breath in – count one
  2. Breath out – count two
  3. Breath in – count three
  4. Breath out – count forth
  5. Breath in – count three
  6. Breath out – count two
  7. Breath in – count one
  8. Breath out – count two
  9. Repeat

Abdominal Breathing

Abdominal breathing is one of the easiest breathing techniques, so it’s commonly recommended for beginners starting to meditate. However, it works for everyone and can be used in and outside of meditation, as it’s a powerful way to reduce stress at any given time. It also only takes a couple of minutes to do, making it perfect for any type of situation where you need to recollect yourself. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Place one hand on your chest
  2. Place the other hand on your stomach
  3. Take a deep breath in through the nose
  4. Feel your hand on your stomach move as you inflate your diaphragm with air
  5. Slowly release your breath

The Stimulating Breath

The Stimulating Breath is also called the Bellows Breath and it’s great for increasing alertness and energy. It can take some practice to perfect but once you do, you’ll feel invigorated and will become completed addicted to the way it makes you feel. Here are the steps:

  1. Quickly inhale and exhale through your nose, as short as possible, ensuring the duration is equal for both
    1. Aim to get three inhales and exhales per second
  2. Continue for five seconds
  3. Slowly increase your time throughout your practice until you reach one full minute

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Another common breathing technique used during meditation and yoga is the alternate nostril breathing – and yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Doing this technique allows you reenergize your mind, body and spirit. Here are the steps:

  1. Plug your right nostril with your right thumb
  2. Take a deep breath through the left nostril
  3. Remove your thumb from your right nostril and plug your left nostril with your ring finger
  4. Slowly exhale
  5. Repeat

The 4-7-8 Count

The 4-7-8 count, also known as the relaxing breath technique, is one of the easiest to do and as a bonus, the benefits are exponential. This exercise can quickly calm the nervous system, so much so that it can feel like your nerves have been tranquilized. So, it’s amazing for anyone looking to calm their mind or who suffers from anxiety or sleep insomnia. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Rest the tip of your tongue at the top back of your teeth
  2. Let out a deep exhale, along with a big sigh or whooshing sound
  3. Close your mouth and slowly inhale through your nose for a count of four
  4. Hold your breath for a count of seven
  5. Exhale deeply and completely for a count of eight, being sure to let out a big sigh or whooshing sound
  6. Repeat

Skull Shining Breath

This breathing technique, also known as Kapalabhati, is a great way to shake off negative energy and warm up your mind, body and spirit. It can be used in the morning, prior to an exam, before your next yoga class or during meditation. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Take a long, slow breath in
  2. Quickly let out a powerful exhale from your diaphragm out
  3. Repeat

Mala Bead Breathing

If counting isn’t your thing or you’re simply too overwhelmed, distracted or stressed to keep count, mala beads are the perfect solution. Traditionally, these meditation devices were used to track your breath, sans any counting. You simply move your fingers along the mala beads, one for each breath. The key is to choose the right mala bead for your intention, as the energy from the natural stone can further your meditation and relaxation. Here are the steps:

  1. Choose a mala bead specific to your intention (reason for doing the breathing technique)
  2. Hold the mala bead in your right hand
  3. Drape it between your middle and index finger
  4. Starting at the guru bead, move your thumb along each smaller bead, breathing in for each
  5. Do this 108 times, until you’re back at your guru bead
Mala beads can also be used for every breathing technique mentioned.

Breathing is the easiest, most affordable and inarguably, the most powerful form of therapy. So, choose a breathing technique and some mala beads that suits your needs, and reap the benefits of proper breathing.

Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response

Updated: April 13, 2018Published: January, 2015

The term “fight or flight” is also known as the stress response. It’s what the body does as it prepares to confront or avoid danger. When appropriately invoked, the stress response helps us rise to many challenges. But trouble starts when this response is constantly provoked by less momentous, day-to-day events, such as money woes, traffic jams, job worries, or relationship problems.

Health problems are one result. A prime example is high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. The stress response also suppresses the immune system, increasing susceptibility to colds and other illnesses. Moreover, the buildup of stress can contribute to anxiety and depression. We can’t avoid all sources of stress in our lives, nor would we want to. But we can develop healthier ways of responding to them. One way is to invoke the relaxation response, through a technique first developed in the 1970s at Harvard Medical School by cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson. The relaxation response is a state of profound rest that can be elicited in many ways, including meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation.

Breath focus is a common feature of several techniques that evoke the relaxation response. The first step is learning to breathe deeply.

Deep breathing benefits

Deep breathing also goes by the names of diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing, and paced respiration. When you breathe deeply, the air coming in through your nose fully fills your lungs, and the lower belly rises.

For many of us, deep breathing seems unnatural. There are several reasons for this. For one, body image has a negative impact on respiration in our culture. A flat stomach is considered attractive, so women (and men) tend to hold in their stomach muscles. This interferes with deep breathing and gradually makes shallow “chest breathing” seem normal, which increases tension and anxiety.

Shallow breathing limits the diaphragm’s range of motion. The lowest part of the lungs doesn’t get a full share of oxygenated air. That can make you feel short of breath and anxious.

Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure.

Practicing breath focus

Breath focus helps you concentrate on slow, deep breathing and aids you in disengaging from distracting thoughts and sensations. It’s especially helpful if you tend to hold in your stomach.

First steps. Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down. First, take a normal breath. Then try a deep breath: Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural).

Breath focus in practice. Once you’ve taken the steps above, you can move on to regular practice of controlled breathing. As you sit comfortably with your eyes closed, blend deep breathing with helpful imagery and perhaps a focus word or phrase that helps you relax.

Ways to elicit the relaxation response

Several techniques can help you turn down your response to stress. Breath focus helps with nearly all of them:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Yoga, tai chi, and Qi Gong
  • Repetitive prayer
  • Guided imagery

Creating a routine

You may want to try several different relaxation techniques to see which one works best for you. And if your favorite approach fails to engage you, or you want some variety, you’ll have alternatives. You may also find the following tips helpful:

  • Choose a special place where you can sit (or lie down) comfortably and quietly.
  • Don’t try too hard. That may just cause you to tense up.
  • Don’t be too passive, either. The key to eliciting the relaxation response lies in shifting your focus from stressors to deeper, calmer rhythms — and having a focal point is essential.
  • Try to practice once or twice a day, always at the same time, in order to enhance the sense of ritual and establish a habit.
  • Try to practice at least 10–20 minutes each day.

Disclaimer:
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

7 Breathing Exercises To Deepen Your Meditation Practice

  • December 3, 2015
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Did you know that the English word “spirit,” has it’s roots in the Latin word spiritus – which means “breath”?

We find a similar connection between breath and Spirit in many other languages. The Hebrew word ruach means “spirit, wind, breath, and/or mind.” The Greek pneuma, as well, means “air, breath, soul, vital force.”

The Sanskrit word prana refers to both the breath, and the cosmic life force that permeates the universe. The ancient Hindu sages developed the yogic discipline of pranayama (“breath extension”), a series of breathing exercises designed to work with this Divine, life-giving energy.

And they aren’t the only ones. Many other cultures, like the Tibetans, the Sufis, and shamanic societies around the world, developed their own sacred breathing techniques, as a way to enter visionary states, and access spiritual dimensions.

What is this primal connection between breath and Spirit? How can breathing exercises help us to deepen our meditation practice, and experience spiritual awakening and transformation?

Let’s take a look…

Meditation & Breathing

In any meditation training, one of the first things the instructor will do is bring your attention to your breath. It’s the primary focus to which you return, again and again, whenever the mind strays. Indeed, some methods of meditation consist of nothing but observing the breath.

Breathing is central to meditation practice for several reasons:

  • It engages both mind and body
  • It gives you an immediate and tangible object of focus, an anchor to keep you centered
  • It develops focus and concentration
  • It keeps you rooted in the present moment
  • It relaxes your body
  • It calms the mind and emotions

These last two are not as simple as they appear. That simply breathing can change our heart rate and metabolism, our mental and emotional state, offers us a significant clue.

If we can understand this, we are one step closer to understanding the power of the breath, and it’s important role on the spiritual path.

Breath & Consciousness

Breathing is one of the only automatic functions of the body that we can consciously control. For instance, we cannot will our heart to beat, or control the function of our glands, or our digestive system. But we can control our breath, make it faster or slower, even stop it altogether for a time.

Yet, when we stop focusing on it, our lungs keep breathing just the same.

That’s because breathing is run by the automatic nervous system (ANS), which also regulates those other important, but unconscious, vital functions (glands, digestion, circulation etc.) that we cannot control. Here’s the key: because our lungs are hardwired to the ANS, we can affect all those automatic, unconscious functions by controlling the breath.

For example, we know that taking slow, deep breaths helps us to calm down. The reason it works is because those slow deep breaths expand the bronchiole tubes in your lungs, which in turn triggers the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), whose job it is to constrict them again.

The PNS is the part of your nervous system designed to conserve energy. When activated, it not only constricts those bronchioles, it decreases your heart rate, increases blood flow to the digestive tract, and generally makes you feel safe and mellow.

But the power of conscious breathing goes far beyond mere relaxation. By accelerating your breathing, and increasing your air intake, you induce changes in your body chemistry. Your blood becomes heavily oxygenated, as carbon dioxide levels drop. This often causes tingling sensations and other physical symptoms.

It can also induce powerful altered states of consciousness.

These altered states vary tremendously, based on the individual, the method, the set and setting, and other factors. But they are often deeply healing and therapeutic, and involve processing repressed emotions and traumas, confronting addictions, problematic behaviors, and other personal issues.

Life changing epiphanies are not uncommon.

Occasionally, these breathing exercises can produce visionary states, spiritual experiences of profound meaning, beauty and connection – up to and including the ultimate mystical experience of union with God, being at one with the universe.

Now the ancient connection between breath and Spirit is starting to become clear, eh?

Using breathing exercises in order to achieve personal healing or visionary states is often referred to generally as breathwork. And it can be the perfect aid to your meditation practice.

I have put together these 7 breathing exercises, from sources both ancient and modern, which you can learn to do at home. Some are easy and gentle – others are extremely powerful. Try them all and see what works best for you!

1. Alternate Nostril Breathing

This basic technique is inspired by the yogic discipline of pranayama.

While sitting in meditation, raise your dominant hand up in front of your face, and rest the other hand on your knee. Place your thumb against the side of your nose; gently, but firm enough to block the air flow on that side. Then breathe in through the open nostril.

Now remove your thumb, and use your forefinger to close off the opposite side. Exhale, then breathe in again. Remove your finger, and block the thumb side again. And exhale.

The idea is to breathe in one side of your nose, and breathe out the other, and keep alternating. Your breathing should be easy and natural, not forced.

This practice is very effective at calming the mind, doing away with random thoughts, and bringing your attention fully into the present. It is an excellent way to begin your meditation session, or a perfect way to warm up and prepare for another, more demanding, breathing exercise.

2. Breath Observation

This method is perhaps the simplest of all – deceptively simple.

To practice, all you do is observe the breath without altering it in any way. Close your eyes and focus all your awareness on your nose. Breathe in and out naturally, through your nostrils, and feel each inhalation and exhalation as it passes in or out.

Don’t count your breaths, don’t hold your breath, don’t try to breathe any slower, or faster, or deeper than normal. Just watch.

That of course, is the challenge. The mind will wander this way and that, and you will constantly catch your attention straying from the breath. But the more you practice, the steadier your focus, and the easier it becomes.

If you stay with it long enough, eventually all your thoughts will fall away, and you will experience the profound silence and stillness of pure consciousness – your true nature.

3. Ocean Breath

This is another easy, gentle exercise, inspired by a yogic breathing technique.

To practice, take long, slow, deep breaths through your nose. With each inhalation, fill your lungs to capacity, expanding your belly and diaphragm to take in as much air as possible. Then slowly exhale, gently contracting the muscles in your abdomen to remove every last bit of air.

When done correctly, each breath should make a sighing or hissing noise, like ocean waves rolling and crashing into the shore, and then receding. You can even visualize this in your mind, if you like. Or simply focus on your breathing.

This exercise quickly creates a state of deep relaxation. If practiced for a greater length of time, your sense of self can fall away completely, as you feel the prana, the cosmic energy of the universe flowing through you, ebbing and flowing like the tide… and realize that you are one with it.

4. Relaxing Breath

This practice, developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, is also called “4-7-8 Breath.” You’ll see why in a moment. He calls it “a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system,” and an effective way to deal with all sorts of stress, anxiety and tension.

It even helps you fall asleep!

It’s easy to practice. Start by placing the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, just behind your front teeth. Now inhale quietly through your nose, while silently counting to four; hold your breath to count of 7; then exhale noisily through the mouth to a count of 8.

How fast or slowly you count isn’t as important as how steady you count. It’s the ratio of 4:7:8 that’s important. When you first start, you might wish to count somewhat quickly. As you become more comfortable, you can count more slowly, taking fuller breaths and holding them longer.

5. Cleansing Breath

Close your eyes, and take a deep breath in through your nose. As with the Ocean Breath method, you want to fill your lungs to capacity, expanding your chest and belly.

But this time, as you breathe in, visualize the air you breathe as a pure, white, life-giving energy. See it filling you up, from head to toe. Feel it flowing through your body, bringing new life and energy to every cell.

When you’ve taken in all the air you can, hold your breath for as long as it’s comfortable – anywhere from 3 to 10 seconds should do it (or longer, if you’re a professional swimmer, or a pearl diver, or something).

During that time, imagine that this pure white light is healing and cleansing your mind and body. Wherever there is any pain or tension, any blockage, any illness or imbalance, any fear or negativity, feel it cleansed and purified by your breath, by the pure prana energy.

Now exhale slowly through your mouth, and visualize it as a dark cloud of toxins and painful emotions. All your stress, anger, frustration and sadness, everything you want to release and let go of, it all comes spilling out with every exhalation.

See it. Feel it. Make it real.

Repeat this process as long as necessary, until you see yourself healthy and radiant and filled with pure love. This exercise can leave you feeling tremendously rejuvenated, peaceful and happy and light as a feather.

6. Fire Breath

This powerful technique is inspired by different yogic breathing practices from both the Hatha and Kundalini yoga traditions.

It is easy enough to begin. Breathe in and out through the nose, quickly and forcefully. There should be no pause between breaths, but rather a fast, steady, unbroken rhythm. When done properly, you should feel the muscles of your diaphragm working quickly in and out, like a bellows.

It sounds simple, but it can be very challenging to maintain this technique for any length of time. Your diaphragm my start aching, you may feel short of breath, you might just feel silly or bored and want to quit.

And that’s okay. Listen to your body, and don’t push yourself too much, too fast.

Working with this technique for even a short time will leave you feeling alert, energized, and ready for anything.

But with time and discipline, you can learn to break through that resistance, and ride the Fire Breath into powerful altered states of consciousness, where healing, and rebirth, and mystical union with the Divine, and all that good stuff happens…

7.Shamanic Breathing

Inspired by various modern methods of breathwork, this technique is easier to do than the Fire Breath, but just as powerful – especially when accompanied by shamanic drumming, or other high-tempo, rhythmic, trance-inducing music.

Find a safe and comfortable place, preferably an inner room where you can turn off the lights and enjoy deep darkness. Turn on your music of choice, lie down and close your eyes.

Breathe in and out through both your nose and mouth, to maximize air intake. And simply breathe deeper and faster than you normally would. Exactly how fast is up to you. But the faster your breath, the quicker you will start to feel the effects.

What effects, you ask?

Well, tingling for starters. Then perhaps some mild trembling or muscle contractions. You might also feel a sudden, powerful and unexplainable surge of emotion – anger, sadness, pain, etc. – that can be overwhelming. Or you might start to tune out, get bored and sleepy.

All of these are different forms of resistance.

Resistance to going deeper into the psyche, and facing buried memories. Resistance to letting go of the ego, letting go of control, and surrendering to something bigger, something beyond. This resistance can be so intense that many people need a trained coach to guide them through it.

But once you break through, you enter a whole new world, of infinite possibilities.

I can’t tell you exactly what you’ll experience, or even whether it will be pleasant and enjoyable, or painful and frightening. But I can tell you this:

It will be exactly what you need for your healing, personal growth and spiritual awakening.

Because your soul knows – and it won’t let you down.

Yoga: Meditation and Breathing

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Most people think of yoga as poses and exercises that make the body more flexible and strong. But what many don’t know is that meditation and breathing are important parts of yoga.

Want to manage your anger so you don’t feel you’re always on the verge of blowing up? Want to feel less stressed and juggle all the things going on in your life? Need to focus better in class or while you do your homework? Yoga poses can help. But meditation and breathing really round out those benefits.

Meditation and Visualization

Meditation is a way to get quiet, calm, and focused. It trains your mind to slow down, relax, and stay positive. Meditating for just a few minutes a day can help you feel centered, balanced, and more in control — even during the times when you’re not actually meditating.

Making meditation one of your daily routines (like brushing your teeth) can help you feel more grounded when it seems like you’re being pulled in a million directions.

Here are some meditation exercises to try:

Focus on the Breath

Try this as soon as you get home from school:

  • Close your door, set a timer for 3-5 minutes, and find a comfortable place to sit.
  • Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
  • As you inhale, think about your lungs inflating, your ribs expanding, and the breath moving through your nasal passages.
  • As you exhale, think about your lungs deflating and the breath rushing out of your nasal passages.
  • If your mind starts to wander, calmly say to yourself “thinking” and then turn your attention back to your breath.

Visualize Success

This is a great thing to do when you feel stressed about something that’s coming up like a big test, sports game, or performance:

  • Set a timer for 3-5 minutes. Find a comfortable place to sit.
  • Close your eyes and picture things going well.
  • Visualize yourself feeling prepared and in control as you sit down for your test, or kicking the winning goal in soccer, or landing the lead role at your drama audition.

Visualization doesn’t take the place of actual preparation. But it can help you feel confident and manage the negative thinking that sometimes goes with stress.

Breathing

Breathing is one of the most important parts of yoga. Breathing steadily while you’re in a yoga pose can help you get the most from the pose. But practicing breathing exercises when you’re not doing yoga poses can be good for you, too.

It may seem strange to practice breathing, since we do it naturally every moment of our lives. But when people get stressed, their breathing often becomes shallower and more rapid.

Paying attention to how you are breathing can help you notice how you’re feeling — it can give you a clue that you’re stressed even when you don’t realize it. So start by noticing how you’re breathing, then focus on slowing down and breathing more deeply.

Try practicing these breathing exercises:

Belly Breathing

Belly breathing allows you to focus on filling your lungs fully. It’s a great way to counteract shallow, stressed-out breathing:

  • Sit in a comfortable position with one hand on your belly.
  • With your mouth closed and your jaw relaxed, inhale through your nose. As you inhale, allow your belly to expand. Imagine the lower part of your lungs filling up first, then the rest of your lungs inflating.
  • As you slowly exhale, imagine the air emptying from your lungs, and allow the belly to flatten.
  • Do this 3-5 times.

This kind of breathing can help settle your nerves before a big test, sports game, or even before bed.

This breath technique can help you feel more balanced and calm:

  • Sit in a comfortable position.
  • Place the thumb of your right hand on your right nostril. Tuck your first and middle fingers down and out of the way.
  • As your right thumb gently closes your right nostril, slowly exhale through your left nostril, as you count to 5.
  • Now, keeping your right thumb on the right nostril, slowly inhale through the left nostril, as you count to 5.
  • Lift your thumb, use your ring finger to close your left nostril, and exhale through your right nostril for 5 counts. Then inhale through your right nostril as you slowly count to 5.
  • Change back to putting your thumb over your right nostril. Lift your ring finger from your left nostril, and repeat the whole process — exhaling through your left nostril for 5 counts, then inhaling through the left nostril for 5 counts.
  • Continue this pattern (exhale, inhale, change sides) for three more cycles.

These breathing and meditation techniques can have subtle but powerful effects. If you keep practicing them, the benefits will build up into real results. This might happen so gradually that you don’t notice it. But you’ll know that a positive change is at work when you don’t lose your cool during a fight with your parents or go into a stress meltdown before a big exam!

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD

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