Introduction to Basic Meditation Using Circular Breathing

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“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

 

What COVID19 has taught me is that it cannot take away my breathing or meditation practice away from me. To this day, I am still a forever student and am learning so many ways to still my mind and focus (Dharana) on reaching new physical levels.  

 

To me, the act of meditation (Dhyana) can be as simple as the act of willing one to fall asleep. 

 

Many people have insomnia because they cannot settle their mind down right before they go to bed. In order to clear out and settle the mind, you need to empty out all the busy thoughts from the day. Are you already doing this? How wonderful to know that you might already be practicing this concept without even knowing it!

 

Today, we will focus on:

  • Basics of breathing 
  • What circular breath is 
  • Meditation basics using your circular breathing as a focal point

 

Breathing is Our Lifeline

 

We cannot being to learn a meditation practice without learning about the breath. The flow of your breath goes from inhalation, exhalation and retention. Oxygen passes through your body by way of an inhale. As you exhale, your lungs expel carbon dioxide. For a Yogi, this is so important because as we are meditating, we are eliminating the impurities in our mind. If we have shortness of breath, we cannot completely rid the body of toxins which in turn affect our mind. 

 

If you are really focusing on the breathing process, you will begin to notice and third aspect called retention. It is the transition between an inhale and exhalation. The pause made by the out-breath as it stops for a moment to becoming your in-breath is also retention. (1)

 

“Carefully controlling your breath helps you to lead a fuller life by ridding your body of waste products and maximizing oxygen intake. It also relives symptoms of anxiety – a furrowed brow, tight shoulders, stomach cramps – and helps to calm your mind and improve your mood.” (1)

 

 

Why We Link Breathe to Meditation and Yoga

 

Many times in yoga we begin our practice by taking notice to our breath. This coupled with a short moment of stilling the mind relaxes tension and prepares the yogi for the work ahead.

As stated by Yoga Sutra 2.52, “The mind becomes ready for deep meditation” once the mind and breath are linked. 

Iyengar also really sums up the mind body connection here: “Pranayama is thus the science of breath. It is the hub round which the wheel of life revolves. The yogis life is not measured by the number of his days but by the number of his breaths. Therefore, he follows the proper rhythmic patterns of slow deep breathing. These rhythmic patterns strengthen the respiratory system, soothe the nervous system and reduce cravings. As desires and cravings diminish, the mind is set free and becomes a fit vehicle for concentration.” (4)

 

 

Circular breathing

 

When you search “circular breathing” you’ll come to find many posts from musicians teaching a circular breathing technique used to play wind instruments. As you dig deeper, you’ll find that it also relates to meditation.

Circular breathing is a slow continuous inhale and exhale through the nostrils by way of the abdomen. According to meditation practitioners, circular breathing for meditation can assist in releasing negative energy or tension that’s stored in your body. (5)

“It’s suggested that the technique also helps improve long-term health by bringing a fresh supply of oxygen to the blood and making it more difficult for bacteria and viruses to enter the body.” (5)

 

 

Why Meditate?

 

A study done in 2016 showed that meditative breathing practices can have a positive impact on:

(5)

Meditation really helps the practitioner find inner peace. You’ll tap into a remote part called the prana (energetic body, life force) and learn more about mind-body connection. This is the number one reason why I’ve fallen in love with the practice so much. It has helped me control my emotions and find clarity in the most difficult times. Every meditation teacher will tell you that the number one thing is to practice consistency. Like with anything in life, you won’t reach greater heights without practice.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras tells us that yoga is the stilling of the mind. In essence, meditation is the same. When you are rid of everything from the outside world, you’re meditating. It’s concentrating on one focal point without allowing the mind to wander. It is only natural for your mind to begin to wander, so once you notice this, bring yourself back to whatever focal point you use to regain control of the mind.

 

 

Getting Started : Meditation Basics

 

It is all about concentration. 

A classic meditation practice consists of a focal point. We sit in stillness and visualize an image or look at a focal point -our breath, a lighted candle or a picture-

I for one cannot sit still. I am the type of person that uses every free moment to get a task done, so imagine how difficult learning how to meditate was for me! If I can retrain my brain— you can too. Here are MY easy tips:

  • Try guided meditations. If you cannot sit still in pure silence, maybe a guide will help you focus. Find someone that gives you good vibes and do not give up on searching for the right person! Many meditation teachers out there provide free recordings and free trials, so research research research. Suggestions :
  • Focus on the breath. Begin with an inhale through the nose and loud audible sigh through the mouth. Practice that at least 2 times. Next, transition to breathing- in through the nose and out through the nose. Fill the belly with air and expel everything out. This should be slow, steady, breathing with no pause between the inhale and exhale. Now you’re using the Circular breathing technique!                                
  • Use music to help you focus. Calming, instrumental music works best, but I know it’s not for everybody. Try searching for relaxing or calming music. Sometimes there will be songs with words that I enjoy listening to. Just know this- the words in a song can distract you from stilling the mind, so be careful and choose wisely!
  • Silence is truly golden. If you’re ready to progress, I highly suggest you try meditating for 3-5 minutes at a time in silence. I do this in the bathroom or living room once everyone is asleep. It helps me let go of miscellaneous thoughts so that I can fall asleep easily.

 

Enjoy the process

What I have come to understand is that a solid meditation and breathing practice comes with time. Just like yoga and most things in general, you need to practice patience. Be gentle with yourself! Keep notes in your journal on accomplishments and setbacks so that you can go back and see how far you have progressed. This life is all about the journey, not the destination.

 

 

References:  

  • The Power of Breath by Swami Saradananda 
  • Hello – With Love & Other Mediations Prajna Buddhist Mission
  • Seeing the Wider Picture by Charlotte Parnell
  • Light on Yoga by B.K.S Iyengar
  • Healthline https://www.healthline.com/health/circular-breathing#for-meditation

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