As you know, regulated breathing is a big part of meditation and relaxation. Here are two types of breathing exercises that you can use during meditation.
First an exercise in “deep breathing”.
Start by getting in your position, sitting or lying down or even standing. If sitting or standing straighten your back, trying not to bend or arch it.
Exhale completely through your mouth. Place your hands on your stomach, just above your waist. Breathe in slowly through your nose, pushing your hands out with your stomach. This ensures that you are breathing deeply.
Hold your breath if you can, to a count of two to five, whatever you can handle. You will usually find it is easier to hold your breath if you continue to hold out your stomach. Slowly and steadily breathe out through your mouth, feeling your hands move back in as you slowly contract your stomach, until most of the air is out. Exhalation is a little longer than inhalation.
After some practice you don’t need to use your hands to check your breathing and you can concentrate on clearing your mind and relaxing your muscles.
Another breathing exercise to help you relax and meditate is a measured breathing exercise. I was taught that it is called the “4-7-8 exercise”.
Sit with your back straight while learning this exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue. If this seems awkward try pursing your lips slightly, it may help.
Exhale completely through your mouth, actually making a whooshing sound.
Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
Hold your breath for a count of seven.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making that whooshing sound to a count of eight.
Thus the 4 – 7 – 8.
This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Understand that you should always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation should take twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important but the ratio of 4 – 7 – 8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4 – 7 – 8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.
This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. This exercise is subtle when you first try it but gains in power with repetition and practice. Do it at twice a day if you can. You cannot do it too frequently but do not do more than four breaths at one time for the first month or so of practice. Later, you can extend it to eight breaths if you want and practice enough. After the exercise, during meditation keep your breathing even, deep and slow.
Make time for yourself to take care of yourself. Take time to meditate. Use meditation to deal with stress, improve your health, get better sleep, handle your emotions, bring out your inner beauty. Take care of yourself and in turn take care of those you love and who love you!