In order to attain the beneficial effects of meditation – such as calming the mind and achieving a deep sense of peace and relaxation – it is essential to learn to breathe properly during meditation. Without the right technique to deepen the breath while focusing the mind, it is difficult to achieve the concentration and elimination of external distractions that successful meditation depends on.
But how do you know if you are breathing correctly during meditation? Take this quiz to find out:
1) Do you set aside a specific time to meditate?
Trying to squeeze meditation in the middle of a busy, non-stop schedule will only cause you to rush things and definitely will not enable you to breathe properly in that deep, rhythmic way necessary. Even if you want to, the fact that you know you have to get on with other things means that you will be subconsciously trying to “hurry yourself up” and rushing your breathing. Trying to do deep, rhythmic breathing too quickly can even cause you to hyperventilate!
2) Do you settle into a comfortable posture before beginning?
It is impossible to breath properly and deeply if your body is contorted into awkward, uncomfortable or difficult positions. Meditation is usually performed in either a sitting or lying position but the important thing is that your spine remains straight and in line with your head. Small cushions can be used to help you achieve the right posture and comfort. Don’t be afraid to take time to adjust yourself until you find a comfortable posture – before attempting to start the breathing exercises.
3) Do you wear loose, comfortable clothing when you are meditating?
While you may not think this applies directly to breathing, wearing tight, restrictive clothing can make it difficult for your body to relax and move freely, and thus affect your ability to take the deep, rhythmic breaths necessary for successful meditation.
4) Do you choose and maintain a consistent breathing pattern?
There are different ways of breathing – some people recommend inhaling and exhaling through your nose, others inhaling and exhaling through your mouth – or perhaps, most commonly, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. It doesn’t actually matter which pattern you choose, as long as you choose one and stick to it with every breath, in order to achieve a consistent rhythm.
5) Are you breathing in a steady rhythm?
This is something that beginners sometimes find difficult – there is often a tendency to rush the breathing but it is important that you breathe in a steady, slow rhythm. Make an effort to regulate your breathing – count in your head if you have to – and breathe at consistent intervals so that you establish a rhythm. Try to keep the breaths smooth and flowing, not short and jerky. Focus on the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils or your mouth. Don’t despair if you struggle at first – persevere. You will find that with practice, your breathing rhythm will come naturally and become second nature.
6) Do you have a special “breathing” word?
For many people who find it difficult to establish a rhythm, gently chanting a word under their breath can help to regulate their breathing. For example, many meditation practitioners recommend using the words “so hum” – where you say “so” as you inhale and “hum” as you exhale.
7) Is your breathing originating in your abdomen?
Although you are inhaling through your nose, your breathing should really begin in the diaphragm, so you should really be conscious of expanding your rib cage with each breath and feel how it rises and falls through out your breath. Focusing on the movement of your rib cage can also help to stop any wandering thoughts.
8) Are you practising every day?
Especially if you are a beginner, it is important that you take time out every day to practise your meditation breathing. This does not have to be long – just 5 – 10 minutes is more than sufficient. Many people think that breathing should be easy because it is such a part of our normal body functions but in fact, learning the sort of steady, slow, rhythmic breathing required for meditation can take a while and is only achieved with regular practice.