Focusing on your breath is probably the most common form of meditation in the western world. It creates a deep alignment between your mind, body and spirit. It sounds simple, but there are many different ways to focus on the breath for meditation. These techniques, while relatively simple, can require an awareness of the self but are also extremely powerful in activating a peaceful state of mind. Their power comes in that mind, body, spirit alignment. We have a tendency to want to go straight for those third eye meditations to unlock some special power or ability. But the true power comes from grounding into our body first, using our breath. After all, how can we leave our bodies if we don’t know where our bodies are to begin with. Through these techniques, we bring focus with your breath that allows us to anchor our bodies. With our bodies and breath anchored, it becomes easier to discover separation; the separation between our breath and our thoughts, our focus and our thoughts, our selves and our thoughts. With that ever so slight distance between our Self and our thoughts and emotions, our thoughts and emotions start to lose their control over our actions or reactions. So you can see how the proper breathing technique can have a hugely positive impact on our lives if we practice it consistently. Choose a technique that resonates with you and commit to practicing it for at least a week and see if you notice any changes within yourself.
Counting - A simple place to start is to count your breaths. This can be done in a couple different ways. Literally counting each breath until you get to 10 or whatever the desired number. You’ll be surprised with how often you lose count. Another way to do this is to create a counted breathing pattern such as breathing in for 3 seconds and breathing out for 3 seconds. Again in this method you are utilizing counting and breathing which helps align the left brain (counting) and right brain (breathing).
Controlled - This one can seem counter intuitive for some because a lot of beginners are told to simply become aware of the breath without trying to control it. However, some of us are not aware of how poor our breathing can be, and depending on the goal of your meditation, it may be important to have a deeper breathing technique. Breathing in a pattern, like mentioned in the first technique is an example of this controlled breathing. The most effective form that I have found is a flow of breath from your stomach to your head (root chakra to crown chakra). First breath into your stomach, allowing it to fill with air. Then fill your diaphragm or abs before finally filling your lungs and chest with air. You can stop here and release air starting from your chest and moving back down to your stomach and simply repeat the process. Or you can continue to bring your focus up past your chest and into your throat and head. This is personally my favorite form of breathing during meditation.
Mindful - Bringing it back to basics. Often times people get overwhelmed with the thousands of different guided meditations and countless different types of meditation styles out there. And the same can be said about breath work and breathing techniques. A trick here is to drop all of the excess and get back to basics; simple awareness of the breath. You can do this by finding a physical point of your breath to focus on and keeping your focus there. For example, you can focus on the sensation of the air coming through your nose and leaving your nose, or focusing on the rising and falling of your diaphragm. I personally have always focused on my breath entering and exiting my throat. Pick a spot that resonates with you and maintain your focus on that spot. If your mind wanders, gently bring your focus back to the spot you initially focused on.
As I mentioned, my personal favorite method that I practice every day is the controlled breathing technique, however, any of these can have profound changes in your mindset. The trick here is to commit to a method for an extended period of time and truly practice it. Once you practice any of these techniques you can start to intertwine them. But always remember to come back to basics. If in the future, or even now you find yourself struggling with meditation, let go of all the excess and get back to one of these three methods.