Breathing techniques

Breathing techniques? You may wonder what this is all about, given that most of us are able to breath already. I participated in a mindfulness retreat recently and the facilitator made some very helpful comments with regards to the breath. First of all he said, "any breath is a good breath"! Then he suggested that during meditation as well as during your day to day activities you might simply focus on enjoying the breath. I found this really helpful, because it is so simple, so true and it makes me feel happy to know that I can find enjoyment in my own breath.

When I start contemplating breathing, I am overwhelmed by its power. Just writing this, I feel tears of relief and joy actually welling up inside me (this sounds more dramatic than intended, it's quite a subtle sensation). It is as if nature itself is holding me and comforting me, saying: "Everything will be alright".

I am in awe of breathing when I realise that my life depends on it and yet most of the time I am totally oblivious to its movements, to how it goes about its constant rhythm. As with all my bodily functions, it just happens. Do I need breathing techniques at all?

Breathing is unique because it will continue its rhythm whether I pay attention to it or not and at the same time I can very easily change its rhythm consciously. This is quite different from the heart, which of course also keeps beating irrespective of our conscious awareness. But I cannot easily control the heart. I can hold my breath, or breath very quickly as soon as I decide to do so. I cannot do this so easily with the heart beat (although I can conciously affect the beat's frequency indirectly, through evoking feelings of calm or excitement, rather than directly through the will).

Because breathing straddles the conscious and unconscious, some approaches to meditation use conscious breath control. Control of the breath can provide access to altered states of consciousness. So if an altered state of consciousness is your goal, then perhaps this approach would be an option to consider, provided you know what you are doing. However, I do not recommend setting out to meditate in order to experience altered states of awareness. Instead, I recommend just meditating, particularly if your are new to all this, and become aware of the breath, rather than focus on changing it.

This is why the meditations on this site do not use techniques for breathing. Yes, they facilitate an awareness of breathing, a consciousness of its rhythm, but there is no intention to change it. The activity is to just observe it and note it and let it be. I think that a conscious interference with breathing is not needed for meditation. So I would recommend you do not concern yourself with breathing techniques.

There is one possible exception, although I am not convinced it is an exception. And that is the idea that when meditating you should allow your breath to go more to the lower part of your trunk, rather than just your upper trunk (for example see Full Catastrophe Living). Let the belly expand on the in breath, as well as the rib cage. I personally tend to breath fairly low anyway, because I learned this kind of breathing for playing the flute. But my epxerience is that when you simply meditate with a focus on the breathing, without attempting to change anything, then you may find your breathing changes by itself. You're not making this change, but allowing it to happen. This may mean that during a meditation you find that your breathing becomes lower quite naturally and gradually anyway. So I still wouldn't worry about breathing techniques at all!

return from breathing techniques to meditation techniques

return from breathing techniques to meditation for beginners

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