Feature image from THEBERRY
Controlled breathing can cause physiological changes that include lowered blood pressure and heart rate, a reduced levels of stress hormones in the blood, reduced lactic acid build-up in muscle tissue, balanced levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood, improved immune system functioning, increased physical energy and an increase in feelings of calm and wellbeing.
Breathing as Meditation
Breathing is not a conscious process, it does not need thought and we do not decide to breathe. It moves in cycles, inhalation, exhalation, one action triggers the other.
It is so subtle that it is easily ignored. In fact, it is a blessing that we can ignore it, for it would take most of our thought to remember to keep breathing, without this in tune process. But when you tune into it, and breathe on purpose, with consciousness, it can be the perfect focus for meditation.
The classic image of meditation is a young healthy person seated cross-legged on a mat in a magical environment, arms on their knees, eyes closed and their mind is empty. This is a misconception. Meditation does not need to be about sitting for hours emptying your mind. It can be as simple as focusing on your breath.
It is simple. Breath in through your nose for 4 counts. Breathe out through your mouth for 6 counts. Simple. Now just focus on that. You can do it seated, laying down or walking. Your breath will immediately begin to slow down.
When you first begin this process of meditation, it should actually feel quite hard and difficult. That’s normal. Your mind will wander off and follow tangents in your thoughts. That’s ok. It is actually a great part of the process. Understanding how much ‘noise’ there is inside your mind, how much unnecessary chatter is the first step in controlling it. Lots of the time your head is full of a great deal of action. Mostly your don’t even realise how much you think.
Mediation is meant to bring our awareness to all the thoughts in our head. That is how we come to move past them and into stillness.
Don’t be put off at the start if it feels impossible to focus on your breath. Don’t be disappointed if you end up planning your dinner or writing a Christmas list, that is natural. You are practicing a new skill, of course you won’t be an expert after the first try. What you are eventually aiming for is a bright clear alertness and the ability to concentrate on a single item at one time. And meditation through breath is you practicing a new skill.
What you are eventually aiming for is a bright clear alertness and the ability to concentrate on a single item at one time.
Advanced: Breathe in for 6 counts, breathe out for 8.
Variation: As you breathe in, imagine you are inhaling a white clean smoke into your whole body. On your exhalation, imagine you are breathing out a thick black smoke from your whole body. Slowly your body gets rid of the blackness and your arms, legs and chest fill with a clean white light air.