Breath-work has been revered for centuries as a tool for wellbeing. Modern science now proves its powerful effects on our minds and bodies. This series highlights special breathing techniques that invigorate, relax and restore.
What is focused breathing?
Focused breathing is a mindfulness technique that combines deep diaphragmatic breathing with a focus on a word or phrase, repeated silently inside your mind on the inhale and exhale. This can be anything that is calming or resonant for you, such as words like ‘peace’ and ‘calm’, or phrases such as ‘breathing in relaxation, breathing out tension’.
This is a soothing practice with numerous benefits for mental and physical wellbeing. Diaphragmatic or deep breathing is scientifically proven to be an effective relaxation technique. It helps to ease stress, while also reducing blood pressure, increasing heart-rate variability and oxygenation, enhancing lung function and improving cardio-respiratory fitness.
Using a word or phrase as a meditative focus helps to channel the attention and disengage the mind from distractions. By combining the benefits of deep breathing with a meditative focus, this practice helps to calm racing thoughts, ease anxiety and support optimal mind-body wellbeing.
How to practice
- Find a comfortable seated position. Decide on the focus words or phrases you would like to use. You might choose to use just one focus word, or two different words or phrases (one for the inhale and one for the exhale).
- Close your eyes and observe the natural rhythm of your breathing.
- Begin to deepen the breath, feeling your abdomen expand on each inhale, and gently contract on each exhale.
- After a few breaths, introduce your focus words, mentally repeating them with each inhale and exhale.
- Aim to maintain awareness of your breath and the focus word or phrases simultaneously. As you mentally say words such as ‘peace’ or ‘relaxation’, you can also visualise waves of calm entering your body, and tension releasing on each exhale.
- Practice for as long as feels comfortable.
- When you are ready to finish, release the focus words and let your breath return to its natural rhythm. Observe any internal effects of the practice. Then gently open your eyes.