Take a moment right now to pay attention to your breath.
Did you breathe a little deeper?
Did you notice yourself becoming slightly more relaxed?
Did your mind stop racing?
When we become conscious of our breath, it naturally brings us back to the present moment and automatically calms our ever-moving minds.
This article will explore how to use mindful breathing techniques to become more present and reduce stress.
What Is Mindful Breathing?
Mindful breathing is a simple but powerful practice that anyone can do anywhere. All you need is your breath and a bit of time.
The goal is not to control the breath but to become aware of it.
In mindfulness, mindful breathing is the anchor of a practice. It is the foundation upon which we build the rest of our practice. In yoga, mindful breathing is often called Pranayama, which means “control of the breath.”
In Buddhism, mindful breathing is used to bring about a state of Nirvana, or “blowing out,” which is extinguishing the three fires of ignorance, attachment, and aversion. In this way, breath guides the practice of meditation.
When we practice mindful breathing, we simply observe the breath as it is. This practice of observing opens up space for us to see our thoughts and emotions as they are, without judgment.
Some mindful breathing practices include meditation, yoga, qi gong, the Buteyko Method, kundalini, and the Wim Hof Method.
Each of these techniques has unique approaches, but they all share the common goal of using the breath to bring about a state of focus and presence.
Here are some common ways that the breath is used in mindful breathing:
- Focusing on the breath as it enters and leaves alternate nostrils – a practice known as Nadi Shodhana and Pranayama in Hindu traditions.
- Holding the breath and extending the exhale, known as Kumbhaka in Hinduism.
- Counting inhales and exhales which is a common practice in Transcendental Meditation.
- Quieting the breath – known as Zhuanqi in Taoism.
These mindfulness breathing exercises all have the same goal: to connect you to yourself, your surroundings, and the present moment.
The Benefits of Mindful Breathing
Mindful breathing is simple but powerful. It has many benefits, including:
1. Reducing Stress
When we’re stressed, our bodies go into fight-or-flight mode. This means that our sympathetic nervous system is activated, and we release stress hormones like cortisol.
Mindful breathing can help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and digestion. This allows us to calm the body and mind.
2. Removing Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is a common issue that many people struggle with. Mindfulness has been shown to be an effective treatment for chronic pain, as it can help break the cycle of pain and suffering.
One reason is that mindfulness can help change our relationship with pain. When we’re in pain, we often resist it and try to get rid of it as quickly as possible. This resistance can actually make the pain worse.
With mindfulness, we learn to observe our pain without judgment. This allows us to see it for what it is and to soften its hold on us.
3. Improving Sleep
Many of us have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. This can be due to stress, anxiety, chronic pain, or other issues.
Mindful breathing techniques can help to improve sleep by calming the mind and body. It can also help to break the cycle of negative thinking that often keeps us up at night.
It cues our bodies to produce melatonin, a hormone that makes us feel sleepy. And it helps to lower our heart rate and muscular tension, which can lead to better sleep.
4. Increasing Focus
In our fast-paced world, getting caught up in our thoughts and losing focus is easy.
When we’re focused on our breath, we’re less likely to be distracted by our thoughts. When a thought pops up during a breathing exercise, we are encouraged to let it go and to return to our breath.
This helps us to let go of our emotional attachment to our thoughts, which in turn helps us be more productive in our day-to-day lives.
5. Increasing Gratitude
When we’re grateful, we’re more likely to see the good in our lives and be kinder to others.
Mindful breathing can help us to cultivate gratitude by helping us let go of the worries and judgments we often have about ourselves and our lives.
When we can see the beauty in the present moment, we can appreciate all that we have.
More Related Articles
6. Releasing Trauma
Trauma is stored in the body as well as the mind.
When we’re able to release the physical tension that’s held in our bodies, we can also begin to release the emotional trauma that’s been holding us back.
Mindful breathing exercises create a bridge between the mind and body, allowing for holistic healing.
Preparing for a Mindfulness Breathing Meditation
To get the most out of your mindful breathing meditation, it’s essential to prepare beforehand. Here are a few tips that can help:
- Choose a time when you won’t be interrupted. Turn off your phone and any other devices that might distract you.
- Find a comfortable position. You can sit in a chair with your feet on the ground or lie down. If you’re lying down, make sure to keep your spine straight.
- Create an environment that feels supportive of your practice. Light a candle or incense, and play calming music if you like.
- Stretch gently in your body. You can also do some gentle yoga poses to release any physical tension you may be holding.
- Set any intentions you have for your practice. For example, you may want to focus on releasing stress or increasing your gratitude.
These preparations help to create a feeling of sacredness and ease that will allow you to get the most out of your practice. They cue your body to relax and your mind to be open.
A Mindfulness Breathing Script for Meditation
Now that you have prepared yourself and your environment for meditation, it’s time to begin the practice. Here is a script that you can use as a guide:
- Start by taking a few deep cleansing breaths. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Allow your breath to become natural and easy. There’s no need to force it. simply observe the rise and fall of your chest or stomach with each breath. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath.
- Close your eyes or fix your gaze on a point in front of you. Straighten your spine in whatever position in and let your lips ever so slightly part. Drop your shoulders if you’re carrying any tension in this area.
- Begin to count each inhale and exhale. Count slowly up to four on the inhale, and then count slowly back down to one on the exhale.
- Imagine with each inhale that you’re taking in energy. On each exhale, imagine that you’re releasing any tension or stress. Continue for five to ten minutes, or longer if you’d like. Feel free to set a timer.
- When the timer goes off, or it feels right to end, place your hands over your heart. Thank yourself for showing up to your practice and send love and gratitude to anyone else that pops into your mind.
- Slowly open your eyes. Take a few moments to just sit or lie there before getting up. Drink some water if you’d like, and then go about your day.
After this mindful breathing exercise, you may feel more relaxed, more present, and more connected to yourself and those around you.
Remember that this is your natural state of being. You don’t have to strive for it; you simply have to remember it. We hope this routine has served as a helpful reminder and brought peace into your day.