Breathing is one of your most basic survival functions. Your breath is your life force; it draws oxygen into your lungs so it can be carried to every cell in your body. Usually you are unaware of your breathing and take it for granted, but by paying particular attention to it can help relieve stress, induce calm and break the cycle of anxiety.
Breath is your most useful tool in mediation and the manner in which you inhale and exhale can affect your state of mind.
Deep breathing -fully inhaling and exhaling – enables your body to relax, slow down and release tension. As you go deeply into a meditative state, your breathing becomes softer, lighter and more shallow. When you sit down to meditate, it is advisable to take some deep breaths, exhaling fully afterwards. This prepares your body and mind for a profound meditation experience.
Observing how you breathe can be very revealing. When you are tense, worried or afraid, your breathing quickens and oxygen flow decreases. This creates more tension and anxiety and the cycle continues to repeat itself until you consciously change it by slowing down your breathing.
When you are relaxed, you breathe more deeply; and can calm yourself with this technique if you are in a stressful situation. When you are meditating, your breath can be seen as a circle, a cycle of in and out breaths that flow effortlessly. It can be useful to be aware of how you are breathing, and to notice how this simple process affects you mentally and emotionally.
Following is a simple breath meditation for you to practise so you can use its principles to easily relax in anxious moments when it really matters.
Before you begin, sit quietly for a few moments and allow yourself to relax and unwind. Make sure you are comfortable and there are no distractions. Listen to the sound of your breath and feel your chest rise and fall with each in and out breath.
Focus on your breathing:
Take three deep breaths, exhaling fully each time, then breathe naturally. Do not try to slow your breathing down; allow it to find its own gentle, easy rhythm. Let yourself relax as you feel yourself breathe in and out. Be conscious of the life energy entering your body with each breath.
As you inhale, imagine yourself being filled with light and love. As you breathe out, visualize all the worries and anxieties and any tension resulting from stress leaving your body. Feel yourself becoming light and the sensation of deep inner peace.
Enter the calm, still space:
See your breath as a continual circle. Each inhalation leads naturally to exhalation, flowing into each other. Allow yourself to relax with this process and to journey deeper into your essential self; that calm, still space within you where your breath takes you to. You will now be feeling relaxed and at peace. When thoughts arise, don’t try to push them away. Merely bring your attention back to your breathing and those thoughts will go.
As you journey further into this relaxed state, allow yourself to drift with it. Your breath is now the vehicle that carries you effortlessly and even an awareness of your breathing rhythm may slip away at this point. Allow yourself to just be.
When you are ready, take three deep breaths, then breathe normally. Wriggle your fingers and toes, and slowly open your eyes. You will return to a normal state feeling more relaxed and happy.
Learning to control and use your breath will not only help you in your daily life relieving you of stress, but will make meditation more effective.