Breathe Well: Mindful Breathing

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 mindful breathing?

Mindful breathing is the practice of focusing attention on your breath. This simple yet powerful technique is a form of mindfulness meditation that helps in cultivating internal awareness. Unlike most other breathing practices, mindful breathing doesn’t involve any conscious breath control. Instead, it’s simply about becoming aware of the natural rhythm of your breath and its accompanying sensations.

The benefits

Mindful breathing is a wonderful practice that is accessible to everyone. This technique is a great way to soothe the mind, helping to ease stress and anxiety and regulate the nervous system. Practicing mindful breathing is also associated with lower blood pressure, greater focus and reduced distress in challenging situations.

Mindful breathing is a great way to anchor into the present moment, and by offering a point of meditative focus it can help to stop rumination. This technique is especially supportive in stressful moments when we need to calm and ground ourselves. Regular practice of mindful breathing makes it easier to use the technique when we are in challenging situations.

How to practice

  1. Find a comfortable seated position. You can also practice mindful breathing while standing – especially if you are on the go, or in a stressful situation – though it’s best to learn the practice while seated first.
  2. If you’re feeling very stressed or anxious, start the practice by taking a full, deep inhale, holding the breath for a couple of seconds, and then releasing a long exhale through the mouth. Repeat two or three times.
  3. Once you are ready, bring your attention to your breath. Start to observe the rhythm of your inhales and exhales, without attempting to change anything.
  4. Notice the sensation of breath, tracking the flow of air from the inhale. Where do you feel the breath inside your body? What are the accompanying sensations? How do these sensations evolve as you release the air on the exhale?
  5. Keep tracking the breath in this way, noticing if there are any shifts in the rhythm, flow and internal sensations as you continue the practice.
  6. Practice for as long as feels comfortable. Ideally, begin with at least one to two minutes and build up to as long as you like.
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