Mindful breathing is a simple yet transformative awareness practice that has been proven to improve mental and physical health.
The concept is straightforward - by focusing on your breath, you can calm your mind, reduce stress, and find inner peace. Whether you're looking to manage anxiety, improve your sleep, or prepare for a stressful event, mindful breathing is a tool that you can use anywhere, at any time.
In this article, we'll cover the importance of being mindful of one's breathing rhythm, and provide 6 simple breathing techniques to try.
A Storm Before The Calm
Tina had a hard time focusing on her homework. She felt stressed, overwhelmed and completely disconnected from her body. She tried to sit down and study, but her mind kept wandering to all sorts of distractions. She started her day with scrolling through social media on her phone while lying in bed. Then, she got dressed in a hurry, skipped breakfast, and rushed to her classes.
During her classes, she found herself daydreaming and not paying attention to the lectures. After class, she went to the library to study, but she couldn't concentrate. She kept looking at her phone and checking her notifications. Every time she tried to focus, she became anxious and started to worry about how much work she had left to do.
As the day progressed, she felt more and more stressed. She couldn't shake the feeling of being overwhelmed, and she started to doubt her ability to finish her assignments. By the time she got home, she was exhausted and ready to give up.
After talking with a friend, Tina realized that her usual routine was not serving her well, so she decided to give mindful breathing a try.
The Benefits of Mindful Breathing
The benefits of mindful breathing are wide and the practice is essential for achieving mindful mastery. Here are just some of the advantages incorporating mindful breath into your routine:
Stress Reduction: By bringing your focus to the present moment, mindful breathing can help you reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
Better Sleep: By calming the mind and reducing stress levels, mindful breathing is an effective way to improve sleep and fall asleep faster.
Enhanced Focus and Concentration: Improving the connection between your mind and body, mindful breathing helps you stay focused and increase productivity.
Physical Health Benefits: Numerous studies have shown that mindful breathing can help improve heart health, lower blood pressure, and increase lung capacity.
A recent study of 36 participants undergoing a 6 day training program showed that those who performed mindfulness training incorporating mindful breathing showed higher self-assessment scores of happiness and contentment over the other samples.
Try this Mindful Breathing Exercise:
- Turn off Notifications: Put your phone or device on do not disturb, and set a timer for you length of time you would like to focus on mindful breathing. For this exercise, choose between 3-5 per round.
- Get Comfortable: Settle into your comfortable position, making sure that your spine is up straight with a slight chin lock. You can also give your sex organs a gentle squeeze up to add more security to your base and foundation. Making sure you can feel your sit bones.
This can be sitting in a chair, or cross legged on the floor. If you are sitting be sure to have your spine straight and apply a slight chin lock to have energy move freely through out your body.
- Rest Your Hands in an Open Position: Have your hands placed anywhere that feels comfortable. A general rule of thumb is placing your palms facing up is receiving and your palms facing down is giving.
- Lightly close your eyelids: If it does not feel comfortable to close your eyes, you can focus your gaze on a fixed point in front of you until you feel more comfortable to close your eyes fully. When your eyes are closed, focus up and in to the center of your forehead, your third eye center holding your gaze there.
- Prepare a Timer: Set your timer for desired length of time.
- Breath Check: Check to see if you are breathing backwards. Put your hand on your belly and take a deep inhale and a complete exhale out through your nose. Did your body rise on the inhale and fall on the exhale? Or did you belly fall on the inhale and rise on the exhale? If your belly did not rise on the inhale and fall on the exhale you are breathing backwards. When breathing, you want to expand and fill in your belly as you inhale filling your entire body with air; on the exhale you want to lengthen and completely empty.
- Begin Your Mindful Breathing Session: After your breath check, close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Take a few slow deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth completely allowing yourself to empty your lungs, ribcage and belly using your diaphragm to push your breath up and out.
Breathe in by slowly inhaling through your nose and on your exhale whistle out through your mouth. If you cannot whistle that is okay, just at least make the O-Mouth motion as if you are were whistling.
- Perform Repetitions: Repeat this process for 3-5 minutes.
- Switch it Up: After you finish up your last minute of inhaling through your nose and exhaling whistling out your mouth, reverse this breath by whistling in, suck in, on your inhale and exhaling out your nose. Do this at your own pace for 3-5 minutes.
- Reflect on Your Session: When you are finished with your practice, journal about your experience and how you are feeling.
3 Bonus Tips for Your Mindful Practice
- Pay Attention to Sensations: Focus on the sensations of your breath, noticing the rise and fall of your chest and the flow of air in and out of your nose. Notice if you feel any tension anywhere. Notice the shape of your body, and how the weight is distributed.
- Be kind to your mind: No matter how skilled you are, it is natural for your mind to wander. If your mind starts to wander, recognize that your mind has begun to wander, and imagine a trash bin appearing and any thoughts or unwanted feelings are going into the trash bin on each exhale. Alternatively, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
- Continue Practicing: Start with just a few minutes of mindful breathing each day and gradually increase the amount of time you spend practicing as you become more comfortable with a technique that resonates with you.
The Power Of Mindful Breathing
After reading about mindful breathing and the benefits Tina decided it would be a good time to change her routine because something was not working.
After some practice, Tina would start her day by not looking at her phone and taking a few minutes of deep breathing, focusing on her breath and the sensation of air moving in and out of her body. She also paid attention to the feeling of her feet on the ground as she walked to her classes.
During her lectures, she made a conscious effort to be present and engaged, checking in with herself regularly to make sure she was not getting lost in her thoughts. She also made sure she was sitting with a straight spine and not breathing backwards, which helped her feel more alert and focused.
When she went to the library to study, she took short breaks every hour to stretch and move her body. She also practiced being kind to her mind, acknowledging her thoughts without judgment and letting them go. She checked in with herself regularly to make sure she was not getting lost in thoughts about the past or the future.
By the time she got home, Tina felt more grounded and centered than she had in a long time. She still had work to do, but she approached it with a calmer and more focused mindset. She felt confident in her ability to tackle her assignments, and she knew that she had the tools to manage any stress or overwhelm that came her way.
Mindful Breathing For Kids
As parents, we all want our kids to be happy and healthy. One of the best things we can do to support our children's well-being is to help them develop mindfulness skills.
Mindful breathing is a simple but powerful practice that can help kids bring about focus, reduce stress, and feel more calm and centered.
Let's explore two techniques that can reap big benefits for your household.
2-Step Bubble Breathing for All Ages:
- Have you child breathe in slowly through their nose.
- With each exhale, have your child pretend they are blowing bubbles with each exhale at a slower pace.
This activity can be a fun way to engage your child's imagination while practicing mindful breathing.
Breath Counts: For Ages 10 and up
- Have them find a comfortable seat or lie down on their back. If they are sitting up, making sure their spine is upright, but not too tight.
- Have your child place both hands on their belly and close their eyes.
- Take a deep breath in through them nose, and feel the belly expand like a balloon for 3 seconds
- Hold the breath for a 6 seconds while still expanded like a balloon.
- Slowly exhale through out the nose for 9 seconds, feeling your belly deflate like a balloon.
- Repeat this for 3-5 minutes, focusing on the sensation of the breath moving in and out.
What is the Purpose of Mindful Breathing?
The purpose of mindful breathing is to help you calm your mind, reduce stress, and improve your mental and physical health.
How Long Should I Practice Mindful Breathing Each Day?
You can start with just a few minutes each day and gradually increase the amount of time you spend practicing as you become more comfortable with the technique. Some people find that 10-15 minutes of mindful breathing each day is a good starting point.
Can I Practice Mindful Breathing Anywhere?
Yes, you can practice mindful breathing anywhere, at any time. You can do it in a quiet, comfortable place at home or at work, or even while sitting on a park bench or waiting in line at the grocery store.
Do I need Tool to perform Mindful Breathing?
This is up to you. Everybody is different is what is most helpful to them. There are tools out there to help you breathe and stay calm like a mindful breathing necklace to products that track of your breaths synched with an app to analyze how you breath to enhance your practice.
Mindful breathing is a simple yet powerful tool that can transform your life. We've gone over the many benefits breathing mindfully can bring into your life and provided several techniques and activities you can try whether you're looking to reduce stress, improve your sleep, or enhance your overall well-being.
Mindfulness practice can help you achieve your goals. Start incorporating mindful breathing into your daily routine today, and experience the benefits for yourself.