Many renowned adepts such as Eckhart Tolle, Osho and Thich Nhat Hanh have written copiously on the importance of breathing and of its significance in approaching and attaining a meditative state. And, as with meditation, there are probably more than 1001 ways to breathe.
Breathing? You might say. Why, I do that every day without thought or effort.
And there perhaps lies the rub.
Breathing can be construed not as something we do, but as something that happens to us despite everything we do. Breath is the life-force that keeps us going but rarely do we consider it beyond keeping us alive, for example as a means of nourishing and improving health. Many extol its virtuous simplicity in having an immediate effect in countering upset, worry and stress. Then again, perhaps we should not be too self-castigating – we know that even counting 1 – 10 slowly has a calming effect, and it’s not the counting but the breathing that calms us.
And there are many exercises where breathing can be used to still the mind and body, calm upset and distress, and/or help us reach a meditative state. Just a short, selective list can include:
- Conscious, or mindful breathing,
- Feeling your inhalations in your chest, diaphragm, hands and feet,
- Slowing the breathing, making it deeper and more regular,
- Timed or equal breathing.
When you breathe consciously, focussing purely on feeling the inhalation and exhalation, you still the mind from its invasive clutter and calm the body.
Try the following as an example:
Counting 1-10 at a slow but comfortable rate, after 1 breathe in, hold briefly, then after 2 breathe out, hold briefly, after 3 breathe in, hold briefly, then after 4 breathe out… and so on up to 10. At 10, sit back and see how you feel.
After a minute or two of your normal breathing, try the same again, 1 – 10, this time breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Again sit back and see how you feel.
Another example is to breathe in through the nose counting 1-4. Then hold, counting 1-4. Then breathe out through the mouth counting 1-5. And really blow that breath out in a whooshing sound. Try this through 4 cycles and then sit back and see how you feel.
Most exercises are no longer than a couple of minutes at the most. Exercises which make you relax are ideal for continuing to still the mind.