What is breath awareness?
It is bringing your mind to focus on your breathing, as you breathe in and as you breathe out. It is the simplest and most important technique you can learn to quiet your body and mind. Breath awareness is the cornerstone of mind-body techniques, such as yoga, tai chi, chi gong, relaxation and meditation. Eastern thought equates the flow of breath with the flow of life force through the body. Breath work, then, is an important component of health, wellness and spirit.
How can it help me?
In a moment of anxiety or sudden emotion, it can give you some space from the sudden grip of feeling. Focusing on your breath in meditation can bring mental calmness and peaceful expansiveness. Being aware of your breath helps you to be mindful, alert and joyful in the present moment.
“I notice more when I’m getting emotional. I sense: ‘ I’m going to lose it. I’m going to lose it.’ I feel emotion well up in me. I stop and step away from it. I breathe deeply. It helps.”
Close your eyes and notice your breathing. Bring your full attention to following your breath as you inhale and as you exhale. Try not to judge; simply observe what you find.
What do you notice?
Whatever you notice is fine. You are not trying to consciously control your breath in any way or achieve any particular result. The practice is about training your mind to notice and sustain attention of the breath. As you become more comfortable with the practice, you will find the quality of your breath naturally changes becoming slower, deeper, more rhythmic and peaceful.
Relaxing breath: deep breathing
Now try this. Sit comfortably making sure your back is straight so your lungs can breathe fully and easily. Close your eyes. Breathe in deeply through your nose. As you breathe in, your belly softly rises. Then breathe out through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you comfortably can. Your belly contracts softly inward. The key to deep breathing is breathing from the abdomen, not the upper chest. If you place your hands on your abdomen you will feel the gentle rising and falling of your belly as you breathe in and out. Most of us tend to take shallow breaths in and out from our chest area. Certainly when we are tense, our breathing is shallow. By learning to breathe from our abdomens again (babies do this automatically), we are bringing more oxygen into our bodies and learning to relax and refresh ourselves.
Breathe in comfort; breathe out tension
As you breathe in, imagine breathing in comfort and imagine this comfort flooding through your body like a healing energy. Imagine breathing in warmth, light, and healing. Imagine breathing in kindness, love and care. Then as you breathe out, bring a ‘letting go’ quality to the out breath. You might even say ‘Ahhhhh’ as you breathe out to encourage the release of tension in your body and worries from your mind. With each out breath, comes the opportunity to release a little bit more of the daily tensions we all tend to carry in our bodies most of the time. With each cycle of your breath, you are breathing in comfort and breathing out tension. Allow yourself to relax into the comforting rhythm of your breath. Allow yourself to relax more and more with each cycle of your breath.
“Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile.”
This is a manta suggest by Thich Nhat Hanh—a Vietnamese Buddhist monk , who has written many books on finding inner peace and meaning. [A mantra is a repetitive focus on peaceful words to calm the mind.] As you inhale, you repeat to yourself, “Breathing in, I calm my body” and as you exhale, “Breathing out, I smile”. When you smile, your body automatically relaxes a little. Imagine the feeling of a smile moving through your entire body from the top of your head to your feet. Repeating these words to yourself can be very soothing and relaxing.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
Tune into your breath many times throughout the day to calm and refresh yourself at work or at home. Practice mindful breathing to bring yourself back to the present moment in a fully engaged way. In a moment of tension, breathe deeply to give yourself a moment of space and to help calm your mind and body. Practice breathing in comfort and letting out tension so the process becomes familiar and comfortable for you. We will be building on these skills as we learn the next techniques in this chapter and chapter six.
“Breathe. Just breathe.”
Focusing on your breath is an effective technique to use in moments of stress. And it couldn’t be simpler: just follow your breath as you breathe in and as you breathe out.
Breath awareness is the cornerstone of mind-body techniques, such as yoga, tai chi, chi gong, relaxation and meditation. Eastern thought equates the flow of breath with the flow of life force through the body. Breath work, then, is an important component of health, wellness and spirit.
In a moment of anxiety or sudden emotion, focusing on your breath can give you some space from the tight grip of strong feeling. In meditation, following your breath can bring mental calmness and peaceful expansiveness. Being aware of your breath also helps you to be mindful, alert and joyful in the present moment.
Close your eyes and bring your full attention to following your breath as you inhale and as you exhale. What do you notice? Whatever you observe is fine. You are not trying to achieve any particular result. The practice is about training your mind to notice and sustain attention on the breath. As you become more comfortable with the practice, you will likely find your breathing becomes slower, deeper, more rhythmic and peaceful.