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Anchor Your Meditation with Breath

Written by on January 7, 2020 in Conscious Living, Meditation with 0 Comments

Research suggests that mindfulness benefits our bodies, not just our minds.

Avery simple but effective way to practice mediation is to focus on your breath. In fact, breath is a very common anchor to meditation throughout many different styles and disciplines of meditation. In part this is because your breath is such a fundamental part of your energy, vitality, and life. It's also because your breath is always happening (unless you're a pearl diver or you're dead). When you begin focusing on your breath you begin to notice that just like calming waves of the ocean, your breath is in continual movement. You'd think that continual movement would busy the mind, but because of its simplicity and consistency, it calms and focuses the mind.

 

When our minds wander in meditation, try coming back to your breath over and over again. As banal as it sounds, it really helps to lock your focus on your breath by saying in your mind the words, “Inhale” as you inhale and, “exhale” as you exhale.

 

A very serious and well-known style of meditation, Vipassana, uses focus on breath and the sensation around the upper lip and nostrils as the anchor for meditation retreats that often last 10 days or longer.


Our brains are meant to process information. They do this task very well, sometimes too well. If you feel like you're not very good at meditation (or sleep) because your mind is always processing something, know that your brain is functioning properly and that this is very common in meditation. You can focus your mind for deeper meditation (and for getting to sleep) by allowing your mind to focus on your breath. And because your breath is simple and consistent, you'll find that this will focus and calm your mind wonderfully.

 

When my mind is very active I do the Countdown Meditation. You do the Countdown Meditation by setting your timer, closing your eyes, and as you exhale, in your mind, say the number, “100.” As you inhale, “99.” Exhale, “98,” inhale, 97, etc. Now, if at any point your mind wanders, there's not judgement good or bad, you simply start over. There's no achievement in it. Just keep going. And guess what? If you get to zero, the same rules apply. Eventually your timer will finish and you will feel much more focused and clear-headed when you finish. It's hard not to want to get to zero, but truly we must divorce ourselves from the apparent achievement of it. For that reason, sometimes, I'll start with a very hight number, knowing I'll never get to zero. If you are familiar with Ujjayi Breath, you could also practice this breathing style while meditating for an added benefit of clarity and vitality. 

 

A note about sleep

 

Many times we have difficult sleeping because our minds are busy processing and rehearsing what might or did happen. You can bring your mind to rest (ironically) by giving it something simple to focus on. I use this technique of focusing the mind by counting down in one of the tracks of my Guided Meditations for Sleep Vol. 1. In it, I have a recorded track that invites you simply to listen to my voice as I count down from 200. It's so focusing (and boring) that it puts you right out! It uses the counting and not the breath as the anchor but the principle is the same. 


 

When I am laying in bed and can't sleep, I do start to notice my breath and count down from 200 following my breaths. I rarely make it to 100 before I'm snoozing away. I make sure not to do Ujjayi breaths while attempting to sleep.

 

Let me know how using your breath helps you during meditation.

 

Photo by Alex Adams

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in the US (New York, Salt Lake City, LA) and abroad and the author of Practical Yoga Nidra: The 10-Step Method to Reduce Stress, Improve Sleep, and Restore Your Spirit. When he's not teaching or conducting retreats, or traveling to teach, he also writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, Medium, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats and trainings in places like Tuscany, France, and Hong Kong , his online Yoga Nidra Course and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program. Scott currently lives in Southern France with his wife and son.

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