I discovered the amazing patterns of breathing and their correlation to mental states in a wholly unexpected way. After my initial spiritual awakening, I experienced ecstatic states of mind, which then turned to profound states of peace and silence. When I entered into these tremendous states of stillness, my breathing always slowed down dramatically. As I entered into the stillness, my breathing would become deeper and slower, the in-breath would be 30-40 seconds long. There would be a holding of breath for 30-40 seconds, then the exhalation for 30-40 seconds. I encountered these patterns numerous times, with no effort on my part to either extend my breath or to make it deeper.
It was later on that I learned from reading books on yoga that this was called pranayama breathing, an ancient technique practiced by seekers to attain inner calm, peace and bliss. The amazing thing was, if I practiced these patterns of breathing, it would bring in deep stillness and joy. I experimented with breathing patterns and being aware of the breath, which helped in attaining inner calm and joy.
In the last decade, there has been a lot of scientific research on breathing and the effect it has on the mind and body. Slowing down the breath activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn calms the body and the mind. Calming breath techniques can help in blood pressure reduction, anxiety relief and heal the mind.
Below you will find a 3 different meditation approach to finding peace and balance through calming breath meditation.
1.Calming Breath Exercise– This breathing exercise is based on the ancient system of breathing called Paranayam. The key here is the equal duration of the inhalation, retention and exhalation. This is the golden ration of 1:1:1.
So if you inhale for 5 seconds, you hold the breath for the same duration of 5 seconds and then exhale for a duration of 5 seconds. I noticed this spontaneous pattern of equal duration breathing whenever I was in states of deep stillness. This breathing exercise is one of the most powerful tool I discovered to calm and ground me.
Method- Sit in a relaxed position. Breath in slowly for a duration of 5 seconds. Now hold the breath for the same duration. Slowly exhale for 5 seconds. Once the exhalation is over, you can start inhalation again. There is no pause after exhalation. To keep track of time, you can keep a timer or count mentally.
Do this exercise for atleast 10 minutes.
The goal is to slowly increase the duration to 10 seconds and then to 20 seconds. So if you are doing a 10 seconds cycle, it will be 10:10:10. This will slow down your breathing to 2 breaths
2.Mindful Breathing Exercise
This mindful breathing meditation will help you to connect with your breath. It will teach you to be aware of the breath. Being aware of the breath calms the mind and helps restore balance.
Method- Start with a relaxed and comfortable position. You can either lie down or sit.
If you are sitting on a chair or on the floor, try and keep your back straight.
You can keep your hands where you feel comfortable.
Mentally relax your body.
Take a slow deep breath. Exhale
Pay attention to the natural rhythm of your breath, focus on how it flows in and out of your body.
Focus on the sensations of the breath, the flow of air, the rise and fall of the abdomen
Feel the sensations of breath. You can hear the gentle sound of your breath.
Be with your breath. Stay with it.
Feel it progressively growing deeper and calmer
If your mind starts wandering, gently bring it back to the breath.
Do this for at least 5 minutes to start with, increasing the duration as you progress.
Ideal duration is 10-15 minutes.
3.Deep Breathing Meditation- Conscious Presence
This breath meditation should be practiced once you have practiced the first 2 exercises for a few days.
In this deep breathing meditation, we will combine the first 2 meditations we learned above with our conscious presence. The basic steps are same as meditations above, but with deeper awareness on the sense of presence, the joy of being alive, the immensity of the present moment. This mediation is the doorway to infinite joy, energy and rejuvenation.
Method- With every breath, become aware that you are alive and conscious.
Every breath is a breath of joy, of being here and now.
With every breath, draw in a little deeper, a little fuller, expanding your abdomen as you breath.
With every breath remind yourself how amazing it is to be alive.
With every breath remind yourself how amazing it is to be conscious.
Your breath is here and now.
You are the breath. The breath is you.
Every breath is a breath of joy.
For this mediation to be effective, you need to feel deeply the above emotions. You need to fill yourself up with the sense of being alive, here and now.
Do this for at least 10 minutes to start with, increasing the duration as you progress.You can make this meditation a part of your everyday activity as well.