Sunday, December 15, 2013

Try Breathing!

I've been lucky enough to have more time to meditate lately.  It sure is nice to be on vacation ;)  Yes, I know it may sometimes feels like there is not possibly enough time to sit and breathe, but you can start with 5-10 minutes a day and you may start seeing results.  To help you get started, I wanted to share Five Breathing Techniques that will give a point of focus and quell the "monkey mind", if only for a brief time:

1. Mindfulness Breathing:
This is a classic Buddhist meditation technique. Mindful breathing focuses on mere awareness of your breathing - not trying to change it in any way. You are not forcing breath to be any particular way, just simply observing it. What usually ends up happening, however, is that the longer you simply observe your breath, the more relaxed and slow it eventually becomes. Take a moment to become aware of the air coming in through your nostrils and traveling down, filling the lungs, abdomen and expanding your diaphragm muscles. Then notice the air returning up and being released.  Play a game with yourself and see how long you can observe your breath, before you become distracted. Each time your attention wanders, bring it back to a place in the body, where you can feel your breath most clearly.

2. 4-7-8 Breathing:
This technique can help reset the nervous system when it is overwhelmed by stress. Inhale through your nose while counting to 4, then hold your breath counting to 7 and breathe out through your mouth, counting to 8. Repeat this technique 5 or more times and observe its effects on the body. You are likely to experience an immediate release of tension and perhaps greater calm and balance.

3. Square Breathing:
Visual people usually enjoy the "square breathing" technique. Close your eyes and visualize a square. With each breath, imagine you are drawing one of the sides of a square. Inhale, count to four and imagine drawing a horizontal line, then hold your breath, count to four and imagine drawing a vertical line, next exhale, count to four and draw a horizontal line, and pause, count to four, complete your square with another vertical line.

4. Mantra Breathing:
If you like the mindful breathing technique (#1 above), but find it hard to center you mind enough to follow your breath, try using a mantra as a focus point. A mantra can be any word or a phrase that you will repeat quietly to yourself, in rhythm of your breathing. For example, you could say: "IN" every time you breathe in, and "OUT" every time you breathe out. Repeat this over and over then watch your mind becoming more calm and focused.  Counting the breaths is also a good way to focus the attention as you breathe in and out.

5. Alternate Nostril Breathing:
Alternate Nostril Breathing (also called "nadi shodhana") is a classic yoga (pranayama) breathing technique that can help you to calm the mind. Use your right thumb to close off your right nostril, inhale slowly through your left nostril, then hold your breath, while you close off your left nostril, and breath out through your right nostril. Pause for a moment, then breathe in through your right nostril and repeat the process.

I hope these techniques help get you started on the path to enlightenment.  Try to make a bit of time each day to sit and enjoy your breathing!