What is Meditation?
Meditation is more than just the inhale and exhale of air. It involves a number of techniques that are designed to clear the mind, build energy, and deal with the various emotions we encounter every day. One common technique is the use of breath when meditating.
Meditation Utilizing the Breath
Several meditations put emphasis on the breath. There are two versions of breathing methods being offered, which could be the easiest approach to start meditating. Start out with Breath Awareness Meditation and then proceed with Stillness in the Breath method when you have followed the breath for a while.
Breathing Awareness Meditation
Clear Your Mind:
The first phase of meditation is to clear your mind by stopping any distractions. This can be done by working on a simple breathing meditation. Choose a quiet area to meditate. Perform the meditation while sitting. In this position the mind is more alert, which makes it more conducive for meditating. Sit up with a straight back while remaining relaxed. Do not exert too much effort in trying to straighten your spine. It is important to be at ease to be completely relaxed. Sit in a cross-legged posture or any other position that is comfortable. Using a chair is also good. What is important is to keep a straight back so the mind will not become sleepy or sluggish.
Sit comfortably with eyes partially closed and focus on the breathing. Just do not attempt to control the breathing in any manner. Pay attention to the details of the experience – the feeling of the air coming in and out of the nose, how the body moves when you breathe, etc. This sensation is the object of the meditation. Focus on it and exclude everything else.
Your mind will become very busy at first. It might even seem that meditation is keeping your mind busier. However in reality you are only becoming aware how busy your mind actually is. Temptations will arise but you have to resist them and remain focused on the sensation of the breath. The moment you notice that you’re no longer focusing on the breath, bring your thoughts back to it again. Repeat this several times until the mind has settled on the breath.
Let Your Awareness Spread:
Settle your attention comfortably in any of the spots that have been covered. Then let your consciousness spread throughout your entire body, from your head to your toes, similar to a spider positioned at the center of the web. It sits in one spot however it’s sensitive to the whole web. Let your awareness expand like this. However you have to work on it as there is a tendency of shrinking to one spot. Think of your breath entering and exiting your body through your every pore. Let awareness stay there – there’s nowhere else you need to go and nothing else you need to think about. Then gently come out of your meditation. If you are doing meditation at home, you can perform this through your whole body – over your head, down your back, out the legs and arms to the tips of your toes and fingers.
Benefits of Breathing Meditation: As A Method to Counter Stress
When you’re having stressful thoughts, your body’s fight-or-flight response is triggered by the sympathetic nervous system and you experience sudden energy burst. When this happens, your breathing becomes rapid and shallow, with the breath coming from your chest instead of the lower lungs. You feel out of breath, a common symptom when feeling frustrated or anxious. Your body begins to produce hormones such as epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol, which increases your pulse rate and blood pressure, putting you in a high alert state.
Breathing meditation helps reverse these symptoms in an instant and puts your mind and body in a calm state. When you start breathing slowly and deeply, your parasympathetic nervous system is activated, reversing your body’s stress response. The breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system’s main nerve – the vagus nerve – lowering your blood pressure, decreasing your heart rate, and calming your mind and body.
When performing breathing meditation such as deep breathing, you engage your diaphragm and abdominal muscles instead of your neck and upper chest. This conditioning of your respiratory muscles helps improve your body’s oxygen exchange efficiency with each breath by allowing more exchange of air in the lower lungs. This also reduces the strain on the muscles of your upper chest and neck, allowing relaxation of the muscles. In short, this method is more efficient and relaxing, allowing high volumes of oxygen to reach the cells and tissues of the body.
Aside from reversing the body’s response to physical stress, breathing meditation can also help slow down the emotional turbulence in your mind. Breathing has an immediate effect in diffusing emotional energy, making you less reactive to your emotions.
Breathing is essential to life. The body, mind, and breath are connected and can greatly influence each other. Thoughts influence breathing and vice-versa. Learning how to use the breath in meditation is a valuable tool in restoring the balance in the body and mind. By training the body to do regular breathing meditation, you will also be able to start breathing more effectively.
Anyone can meditate. You can start with the breathing meditation techniques as they are the easiest. Once you begin to grasp how the techniques work, performing the other methods of meditations becomes easier. Now if you are serious in doing meditation, you must make time for it. Set a regular schedule for your meditation and follow it. Meditation is not something you do only when you have the time. You need to include it in your schedule if you are really serious in practicing it. Even if you are busy with work and other things, you need to make an effort to work on your meditation. Only then will you be able to achieve and experience the maximum benefits that meditation can offer.