But maybe you do… And if you do, here are some of my top tips and practices to help you understand how breathing well can have a positive impact on all aspects of your life.
You may or may not know this, but I am a big fan of meditation. Big fan.
I love a scheduled meditation session (essential oil diffuser on, track playing, comfy cushion, crystals – all the things!), but more than that, I’m all for gifting myself a series of mindful moments throughout the day.
Sure, it can be challenging at times – to calm the mind chatter; to find the time; or even just to muster the motivation. But, I believe taking this time can be one of the most powerful and transformative activities we can undertake for the health of our mind, body, and spirit.
So, what can we do to supercharge our meditation or mindfulness practice?
If I had to choose one thing, it would be to…. Breathe… PROPERLY!!!! Sorry, for shouting, but this is important!!!
How we breathe
When I completed my Meditation Teacher Diploma a few years ago I was intrigued to learn the average person breathes predominantly from their chest – quick and shallow – taking approximately 16-20 breaths per minute. Per minute!
Ideally, I like to aim for about five breaths per minute during meditation and I’m working on slowing down my everyday normal breathing to around eight. (This is not medical advice! If you have respiratory problems or health issues – please see a doctor).
Stress, anxiety, and general modern living have all affected the way we breathe, and we seem to have forgotten how to breathe from our diaphragm (diaphragmatic breathing) – how to use that muscle to ‘whoosh’ (technical term) the air into our lungs.
Instead, we tend to use our chest muscles (thoracic breathing) to ‘drag’ the air in – much less efficient for our muscles and for getting oxygen into our bodies. It’s a vicious circle – shallow breathing sends stress messages to our brain, which in turn causes us to take more shallow breaths!
Lots of meditation techniques and styles use the breath as a foundation of the practice.
Our ‘current’ understanding of ‘mindfulness’ is loosely based around Buddhist meditation, where the key is to observe and witness without judgement or reaction.
All the areas of mindfulness described in Buddhist meditation are underpinned by the practice of ‘Anapanasati – The Mindfulness of Breathing’. Which basically means – you start with observing and adjusting your breath before anything else. If you calm the body, the mind will follow.
In Zen (Chinese Buddhism) meditation, we can use counting to keep and focus our attention on the breath and provide an anchor when our attention wanders (it always does!!!). Lengthening the inhale and exhale is also a feature of some of these types of meditation.
There are many other wonderful meditation techniques and ways of breathing to enhance them and I look forward to discussing them with you, but for now, I thought I would share how I focus on my breath during my silent meditations and some tips to make it all a bit easier!
Top ‘breathing’ tips
I love this app! It’s free and it plays in the background even if you’re listening to something else (like a meditation track or music)! I like to meditate in silence, but sometimes I listen to music or partially guided meditations, and if I set the app to 60 beats per minute to play quietly in the background, I can count my breaths on the beat of each second – no more thinking about how long a second is, saying ‘elephant’ between each count – all of that is distracting!
Slow your breath
Lots of authorities on these things recommend you breathe in for six seconds and out for six seconds as the optimal breathing arc – five breaths per minute. I struggle with this sometimes and end up holding my breath on the exhale to wait for the time to catch up – not very Zen! So, you can start with fewer seconds on each inhale and build up to six if that’s a problem for you too.
Increase your exhale
This is a great one, especially if you experience stress or anxiety. As humans, we are unique in that we can choose to override our automatic breathing response – hold our breath, slow it down, speed it up – animals don’t ever do this! This means we can actually alter our brains by choosing to alter our breathing!
Our inhale engages the action centres of our brains (we take in lots of oxygen when we need to ‘go, go, go’!), while our exhale engages the relaxing centres (aaahhhhhhhnd relax).
So… increasing the amount of time we are exhaling, keeps us in the relaxed part of our brain for longer! During meditation, or even if I’m just grabbing a few quiet moments while I wash my hands, or stand in the shower, I breathe in for four and out for eight in a smooth arc (don’t hold it!!) – a total of 12 seconds and voila – the optimal five breaths per minute! If four is too difficult at first, try three and six, and build up from there.
Remember, washing your hands, showering, or bathing with your Shine Body & Bath Chakra Soaps presents the perfect opportunity to ground yourself, tune into your surroundings, and focus on your breath.
Breathe in the supportive scents of the specially selected essential oils in your soap and let go of your thoughts for a few moments – your body, mind, and spirit will thank you.
Particularly helpful for the breath is our Heart Chakra Soap for Love & Compassion, and our Throat Chakra Soap for Communication & Truth; and for enhancing mindfulness you could try our Third Eye Chakra Soap for Vision & Insight.
As you practice this for a few weeks, you might find your breathing slowing and improving naturally without you even having to think about it.
So, there you have it…
My ideas for using your breath to supercharge your meditation practice, power up those mindful moments, and improve your everyday breathing!
Remember – if you slow your body, your mind will follow.
I’d love to hear if you try any of these techniques or if you have any tips on improving breathing – during meditation or every day!
I love taking every opportunity to support my Chakra energy and that’s why I created Shine Body & Bath – to support everyone looking for a powerful, but accessible, way to strengthen their energy, raise their vibration, and live a more harmonious life – and enjoy using luxurious body and bath products while they do it! It’s a win-win!
So, if you fancy going a little deeper, download our Shine Soap Selector and find out which of our Chakra Soaps is perfect for you – indulge in this unique and mindful way to support your energy from Root to Crown.
But if that’s not your thing? No problem – they’re also great for washing!