Simple Breath Awareness Meditation
Breath awareness meditation is a great place to begin if you’re thinking about trying meditation for the first time. It’s not tied to any particular religion, tradition or school of thought. It can be practiced anytime, anywhere.
Breath awareness has a simple goal: to follow the breath for an extended period of time. Simply observe your breath without trying to manipulate it to be a certain way. Notice as many details about it as you can: are the breaths long or short? Is there a pause in between? Over time, you’ll gradually improve the quality of your breathing to become deeper, smoother and more even. You’ll also achieve greater insight into your mind.
Breathing meditation has a range of benefits, both physical and mental. Improving the quality of your breath is great for your body. It relaxes your muscles, promotes blood circulation, and lowers blood pressure. It also improves concentration and patience, which are wonderful tools for reducing stress and improving sleep. Breath awareness also cultivates clarity, peace, and greater self-awareness.
Observing the breath may seem like a simple practice, but in fact it can be quite in-depth. The more you sit and focus, the more you will become aware of all the little details: the physical sensation of your body as it fills with breath, the feeling of each breath passing through your nostrils, the length of each exhale. Each time you practice you’ll notice something different, especially if you change your posture or setting. There is no limit to where the breath can take you.
Breath awareness meditation is often used in yoga. One way to easily begin this method is to practice a common yoga pose: “savasana" pose, also known as corpse pose. For this pose, lie on your back with your hands down by your sides, palms facing upward. Laying on your back causes your abdomen to relax, allowing you to breathe deeply more easily. Sitting down in a lotus or half-lotus position is another common way to practice breath awareness. However, this versatile technique can be used anywhere and in any position.
After you’ve found your position, rest your eyes and try to relax. Then slowly bring your awareness to your breath. Pay attention to each in-breath and out-breath and any accompanying sensations. When thoughts come into your mind, notice them and let them pass. Return your attention again to observing the breath.
Though the goal is to achieve longer, smoother breaths without pauses, it’s important not to try to control your breath to reach this state. The goal is to fully relax enough that you allow your breath to naturally become slower and deeper. Trust that it will happen, and be patient — it may take many meditation sessions to see any changes. As you develop greater awareness over all the specific aspects of your breathing, you’ll see where adjustments can be made.
Breath awareness can be used as a precursor or follow-up to yoga sequences. It can be practiced whenever you need to ground yourself, whether while walking, showering, working or during any other activity. Thus, this type of meditation is especially recommended for those who have never meditated before and want to experiment with something straightforward and adaptable.