If you have ever thought about learning how to meditate, the best place to start is “breathing meditation.”
For beginners, the most basic breathing techniques are relatively simple to learn and they will give you an immediate positive impact on all aspects of your health, both physical and mental!
The following guide will include all the information you need to fully understand the benefits of breathing meditation and how to get started.
In fact, you’ll learn enough that you will be able to teach your family and friends so they can get started on breathing meditation too.
At the end of this guide, we will answer the questions most commonly asked about breathing meditation. In this section, we’ll also address a few of the common mistakes that beginners often make so you can avoid these right from the start.
What you learn in this breathing meditation guide will serve as a stepping stone to learning more advanced meditation techniques.
Building this foundation through basic meditation breathing exercises is very important because all too often other meditation guides start off with so much information on so many meditation techniques, a beginner can easily become too overwhelmed to proceed.
Meditation should not be a daunting learning process! It should be a peaceful tranquil experience right from the beginning!
Okay, let’s get started!
Before we focus on the actual basic breathing technique, here are some real world examples on how learning breathing meditation can help you physically and mentally:
The Health Benefits of Breathing Meditation
-Research has proven that breathing meditation is one of the best ways to lower cortisol levels!
Cortisol is the powerful “stress hormone” that can cause you not only stress and anxiety but also a whole host of negative health issues including weight gain, inability to lose unwanted weight, infertility, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal issues, Candida infections, insomnia, immunosuppression, and shorter lifespan.
Thus, lowering cortisol through breathing meditation can help you in almost every aspect of your health.
-If you practice breathing meditation two or more times a day, you can substantially lower your blood pressure!
In many cases, this eliminates the need to take prescription medications that so often produce negative side effects.
-Practicing deep breathing before bedtime will help you fall asleep faster, get more deep sleep needed for tissue and DNA repair, and sleep longer without waking up.
-If you practice these techniques before exams, you’ll likely perform better as you’ll reduce, or even eliminate, your test anxiety plus you’ll stimulate your brain by clearing away any cluttering thoughts.
You’ll also provide a rich infusion of oxygen into your brain at the precise time it needs it most!
-These breathing techniques can also significantly improve your job performance.
If you have a meeting with your superior, this type of simple meditation can help you prepare mentally. It can do the same if you have to make a presentation to your subordinates or clients, or meet with a team of co-workers for a brainstorming session.
-Breathing meditation provides a significant coping strategy that puts you in a better frame of mind to deal with your significant other and or your children.
In other words, it can make you a better spouse and parent. Breathing meditation can also serve as a great coping tool to deal with family gatherings that can often be stressful and wrought with negative emotions.
– Kids can learn breathing meditation too, even at a young age, and it can help them in many ways.
It helps them cope with stressful situations such as dealing with parents who are going through a divorce, coping with the loss of a pet, or standing up to bullies at school.
Children with attention deficient disorder (ADD) can use breathing meditation to calm their mind and learn how to concentrate on a single task better. Breathing meditation also improves classroom learning and independent learning.
– If you’re struggling with a difficult and or complicated situation, try breathing meditation to clear your mind.
Many people find solutions they’ve been searching for suddenly after a good session of breathing meditation!
– Believe it or not, many people who start breathing meditation report a big improvement in their sex life too even when they weren’t expecting this!
It helps you relax and connect better with your partner, plus it puts you in the mood and helps with sexual dysfunction issues like premature ejaculation (PE) and erectile dysfunction (ED).
Isn’t that amazing!? And… we’re just scratching the surface when it comes to the many health benefits of breathing meditation!
There are so many health benefits that result from breathing meditation, it’s a shame it’s not part of the mandatory curriculum in grade school!
Now, let’s go through the step by step detailed instructions on how to practice breathing meditation.
Don’t worry, it’s going to be very relaxing and enjoyable right from the beginning!
7 Steps For Breathing Meditation
Step 1. Find a Peaceful Calm Place
This is a very important step and you may need to try several different places before you find the one(s) you like the most for practicing your meditation.
For some people, a private bedroom may work best while others may prefer a sunroom or a spot in the living near the fireplace. Still others may prefer to go sit in the backyard.
You can always pick meditation spots away from your home as well such as inside your vehicle parked in front of a beach, sitting on a bench with a mountain panoramic view, or another beautiful place in nature.
Or You may choose a church or a chapel that is located on your way to work. You could even reserve a study room at the library.
Basically, you want to pick a place that has a calming effect on you without being too distracting. So, for example, a busy park with lots of children playing may be too distracting for a meditation spot.
However, a spot under a tree a little off a nature trail in that same park may work out great.
Step 2. Create a Conducive Atmosphere
Some people will prefer a darkened room while others will prefer to feel warm sunlight hit their face. Some people may prefer to light candles (or a groovy lava lamp) or to use essential oils for aromatherapy scent.
You may prefer complete silence or you may prefer to play sounds in the background.
Even if you prefer complete silence, you are not be able to achieve this in your favorite meditation place(s) due to the ambient sounds you cannot eliminate such as street noise or your family or neighbors if you live in an apartment with a common wall.
If this is the case, you may be able to cancel out these ambient sound distractions by adding background noise.
Some people may prefer to play mellow music such as Indian panpipes, African thumb piano, new age chimes, or Australian didgeridoo music.
Other people will prefer to play nature sounds such as rain, ocean waves, bird songs, crickets, or whale songs.
Still others may prefer a more constant noise like the white noise generated by a fan or the sound made by a bamboo rain stick.
Allow your heart to make the initial choices on what to try but then allow your mind to gravitate toward the right choice as you practice your breathing meditation.
Again, you may need to experiment to find what ambiance works best for you in your special meditation place(s).
In fact, experimenting with different places, different lighting, different sounds, different smells, and other differences in ambiance can make someone new to meditation look forward to the experience more and stay motivated in the beginning.
It’s comforting to know in the beginning that if you try something one day and it doesn’t work, you can always try something different the next day.
Once you become more experienced with breathing meditation, you can purposely vary things up to make this practice of breathing meditation more enjoyable.
In this way, changing the place and ambiance when you meditate is like having different foods on the menu. You may be in the mood for one setting one day and something totally different the next day.
Further, as you practice breathing meditation more, you will become more attuned to what your mind needs on a particular day just like your body lets you know you need a certain nutrient by giving you a specific food craving.
Step 3. Assume a Comfortable Position
If you are fully comfortable with it, you can assume the traditional cross-legged lotus position on the floor or on a mat.
However, many people who have back problems or joint pain find this an uncomfortable position to maintain for 15 minutes or more. If this applies to you, you can assume alternative meditation positions.
Many people prefer to sit in a comfortable chair while practicing breathing meditation.
The main thing to remember if you do this is to make sure your body is in a position that will not cause it to ache, and therefore be distracting, at any point during your 15 minute or more meditation session.
For example, if you slouch slightly to one side, your body may feel fine for the first five minutes.
However, the slightly abnormal curvature of your spine created by your slouching could cause back pain and or muscle spasms after the first five minutes that could distract you too much to enter a tranquil meditative state.
The same may be true if you sit in a location or position that causes your tailbone or buttocks to ache after a short time.
For those with severe back issues and or joint problems, there are more alternate meditation positions you can try. The simplest is to simply lay down on the bed or floor and rest your hands and arms in the most natural position.
The main problem that some people have with this position is they actually fall asleep when they practice breathing meditation in this position.
This could be a bonus if you are using meditation to help you sleep at night or take a nap during the day, but of course it’s not a positive if you need to continue on with your day after you meditate.
Another popular alternative meditation position is called the “astronaut position.” To assume this position, you lay down with your back flat against the floor and then bend your knees to put your legs and feet on a chair that is placed near your buttocks.
In this position, you look like you are “siting laying down” which is why it is also called the “inverted sitting position.” This position actually puts less pressure on your lower back than laying flat on your back.
For the elderly or others with limited mobility, you can also try practicing your breathing meditation by laying on one side with your hand under your cheek and one leg on top of the other so your spine doesn’t twist unnaturally.
It is also possible to meditate while standing. In fact, some people prefer it. Some people enjoy meditating while looking out a high window with an expansive view.
Step 4. Set a Timer For 15 Minutes or More
Those new to meditation often make the mistake of constantly watching the clock to see if their time is up. Unfortunately, this is very distracting and it is near impossible to get into the meditative state if you do this.
Setting a timer eliminates this problem entirely as you can set it and then you do not have to worry about it until the buzzer goes off.
Most cellphones and computers come with a timer you can set. However, some people prefer to go “low tech” with meditation and use sand timers.
You can buy these online at places like Amazon or Alibaba. Sand timers are not distracting in the same way as a clock is, and in fact, some people find watching the sand to have a very calming effect.
Step 5. Consciously Breathe Slower and Deeper
After you set your timer, begin to consciously breath slower and more deeply than your normal breathing.
Note that you moving from a state where breathing is an involuntary act, i.e. you do it without thinking about it, to a voluntary act, i.e. you actually focus on thinking about it with each and every breath you take.
However, having said this, do not force your breathing during this stage. Instead, let every breath you take flow as natural as the water in a gentle spring.
It is important to inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Visualize it as a circular cycle that never ends.
Take your time with each breath. Purposefully try to exhale a little more air with each breathing cycle so you can take a deeper breath the next time, but again, don’t force it to the point it is unnatural. You want the flow of air to stay smooth and natural.
Slowly close your eyes or just let your eyelids droop a bit. Some people like to close their eyes entirely while others get better results with just starring blankly.
If you do keep your eyes partially open, don’t concentrate on what you’re seeing. Instead, keep your focus entirely on each breath you are taking.
Step 6. Concentrate On Your Breathing
Once you feel yourself relaxing and your breaths get slower and deeper, start to really concentrate on your breathing so you can enter the meditative state.
Be increasingly mindful of each time you inhale and each time you exhale. Pay attention to how much air you take in. Try to feel the natural rhythm of your breathing. Let the breathing, not your thoughts, be the focus.
As you continue to concentrate on your breathing, you may have random thoughts pop into your head or you may even dwell on a particular thought.
It’s okay! It’s perfectly natural for your mind to wander, especially when you are just learning how to meditate.
Don’t worry about it or spend any time berating yourself for not concentrating on your breathing. Just let it pass and try again to concentrate entirely on your breathing.
Remember too that even the most experienced people in breathing meditation will sometimes find their minds wander.
The important thing is to catch yourself doing it and try again to concentrate on your breathing without putting any negative thoughts toward it.
You are striving for an equilibrium point where mental and emotional disturbances are nullified. However, you don’t want to go beyond this equilibrium point where you fall into a state of lucid dreaming or actually fall asleep.
The meditative state is achieved when you feel totally relaxed, your thoughts are still and subdued, but you are still somewhat alert and aware of your surroundings, unlike what you would have in a dream state.
You can also think of the meditative state as one step before lucid dreaming where you subconsciously direct or impact your dream state.
It’s much harder to reach a state of lucid dreaming by the way than reaching the meditative state.
As you are likely figuring out by now, the meditative state is a delicate balance and it takes finesse which you’ll achieve with a little practice.
It’s a state of being that is easier to experience than to actually describe in words. Once you experience it, you’ll know you’re there.
Step 7. End Your Session Feeling Renewed
When your timer goes off, slowly open your eyes (if closed) and allow yourself a minute to acclimate again to your surroundings.
When you stand up, do so slowly and make sure you don’t lose your balance. This is a good time to do some stretching exercises.
Common Questions About Breathing Meditation
What is the best time of day to practice breathing meditation?
This is a highly personal decision but many people find breathing meditation to be most beneficial if they practice it first thing in the morning and again just before they fall asleep at night.
If you practice it first thing in the morning, it tends to set a good tone for the entire day. If you practice it at night, you’ll sleep better.
How often should I meditate?
Again, this is a highly personal decision but most people get the maximum benefit from breathing meditation if they practice it two to three times a day.
How long should I meditate each time?
You should start out with 15 minutes. This is because it will take you a good 7-10 minutes to clear your mind of random thoughts and enter a true meditative state.
Later, when you are more practiced, you can engage in mini meditation sessions when you need them, such as right before an exam or right before a big meeting at work.
You can also do longer sessions when you have time for an even greater health benefit.
Should I eat before or after I meditate?
Being hungry or being too full are both distractions you want to avoid when you practice breathing meditation. It’s also a very common mistake beginners make.
They’ll try to meditate first thing in the morning before breakfast and suddenly feel extra hungry 10 minutes into their session. They may also decide they’re too hungry to meditate and decide to do so after they eat a full meal. Both are mistakes.
If you are hungry and or if you haven’t eaten in a while, eat a small snack before you meditate so stave off those hunger pains which are really distracting.
However, do not eat a full meal as you may feel too full to concentrate on your breathing.
Why do I get so cold when I meditate?
A common mistake that beginners often make is they don’t realize that they need to make adjustments to stay at a comfortable temperature throughout their entire meditation session.
When you meditate, you and very still and your heart rate will slow as well. This means you may get cold if you don’t take measures before you begin to stay warm.
In fact, getting too cold is one of the most common distractions that meditation newbies experience.
To compensate, you may want to drape a thin blanket around yourself or put on your favorite sweater before you begin your meditation. You may also want to regulate the thermostat or close a window.
Learning how to meditate with breathing meditation exercises is a life transforming skill that will improve your physical health and mental state tremendously.
It is also a practice that can make you a much happier and more successful person. Once you learn how, it’s also a wonderful gift to pass on to your children and grandchildren.
Allen Wei is someone who believes in living his best life, focusing on balance, happiness, and relaxation. He fosters a positive lifestyle in terms of his body, mind, and environment, and he is a huge proponent of learning to be balanced via relaxation techniques integrated into our busy lives.