Busy mind? Find it hard to meditate? KIRSTY HUTTON shares her top breathing techniques to naturally enter into a meditative state.
Meditation is great for reducing stress, and excess stress causes weak mitochondria and increased inflammation. The only problem is, for many Type A personalities, sitting down and trying to clear the mind only results in it filling up more, actually increasing stress. A good way to get around this is to give yourself something else to concentrate on – breathing and breath holding are the perfect choices.
Here are my favourite breathing exercises for meditation:
Box Breathing: When we’re stressed we tend to take shallow, fast breaths that signal to our body that we’re in danger and keep us in that stressed state. It’s a vicious loop that’s easy to break once you’re aware of it. Box breathing is a really simple way to bring yourself back to a centered state. Imagine drawing a square with your breath. Breathe in for a count of five, which is the first side of the square going from the bottom left corning to the top left. Hold your breath for a count of five as you imagine drawing the top line from the left top corner to the right top corner. Breathe out for a count of five as you draw the imaginary second side from top right to bottom right. Complete the square by holding your lungs empty after the exhalation for a count of five as you imagine drawing the bottom line from right to left back to the starting point. Repeat this sequence a few times and notice how you feel.
The Wim Hof Breathing Method: Wim Hof, also known as The Ice Man, is famous for using his breath to control what were previously thought to be automatic physiological responses, such as the release of adrenaline. Wim Hof himself is the best teacher of his method, so I would suggest searching YouTube for videos of him explaining it and teaching it to others. He also has an app available that describes what to do and records your progress. Basically the method involves sitting or lying comfortably and beginning with a few deep, relaxing breaths. Then comes 20 to 30 deep breaths in (filling your lungs completely and imagining the breath going throughout your body), and comfortable exhalations. You should feel tingling in your limbs and possibly dizzy doing this. When you feel fully oxygenated, exhale completely and hold your lungs empty for as long as you can. When you need to breathe again, take a deep breath in and hold it for 15 seconds. Repeat this cycle three or four times in total. NB: NEVER PRACTICE BREATHING TECHNIQUES IN WATER OR BEFORE TRAINING IN WATER TO AVOID SHALLOW-WATER BLACKOUTS.