When you are a beginner learning meditation it can be hard to know which of the 31 top meditation techniques you should do.
As a meditation teacher I have learned that is it best to start with some simple breathing meditations. Beginners can do them at home. And there is very little risk involved.
Plus, there are a lot of benefits to learning breath-based meditations.
When you learn to do some simple breathing meditations, you can calm your mind, focus, and stop things like stress and anxiety.
Breathing meditations re-center your mind so you are calmer and more in control emotionally. That’s why we experienced meditators do these techniques virtually every day of our lives.
Not only are breathing meditation excellent for focus, they are one of the top 10 relaxation techniques.
The Best Place To Start Is With Basic Buddhist Breathing Meditations
Most of the meditations in use today come from Buddhism. (I’ve written a free Buddhist meditation plan that you will find useful).
It is surprising how easy these Buddhist techniques are.
Many people think that Buddhist meditations must be difficult, because after all, they are the traditional techniques that Buddha taught and that monks use. But actually, the beauty of these techniques lies in their simplicity—anyone can do them.
In fact, even children can meditate with these techniques (and should—read that link to see why).
Buddhist breathing meditations, at their simplest, are about mindfully observing the breath as it moves around the body. (I’ll teach you how to do this in just a moment).
All we do is focus the mind on the breath as we take 108 breaths.
It’s oh so simple. And yet it is also powerful.
The Benefits of Breathing Meditations
There are over 100 benefits of meditation (it is quite stunning how meditation helps so many areas of your life).
Breathing meditations are good for health, happiness, and well-being. And they are also very good for people interested in learning meditation.
Breathing meditations are good for beginners because:
- They are an easy way to start to learn meditation
- They are safe
- They are suitable to do at home
- They are very relaxing
- They do not require any advanced teachings
As well as being good for beginners, breathing meditations are good for our health.
Specifically, the benefits of breathing meditations are:
- Help to regulate heart rate and blood pressure
- They calm the mind
- Improve breathing
- Reduce stress, anxiety and depression
- Focus the mind
- Improve productivity (a focused mind is a more productive mind)
- Help you to relax at home
- We can use them in breaks to relax at work too
- Increase happiness
Traditionally, we would say that breathing meditations are about calmness and equanimity (composure). The health benefits of breathing meditations all stem from the fact that they relax the mind (given that stress is the leading cause of death, that’s kind of a big deal).
How To Do Breathing Meditations: The Basics
If you have never meditated before, take a second to pause.
You are about to do something new. Something that is going to make a major difference in your life. Something you will continue for years.
Before you start:
- Read about the basics of meditation so you know where to meditate, when, and the basics of how.
- Read about the health risks of meditation: Yes, there are some health risks involved with meditating. And it is best that you know about them now, at the beginning.
Why we begin with basic breathing meditations
There is a very good reason why beginners should start with breathing meditations.
The breath is the most ever-present function of both the body and the mind. We always breathe.
Therefore, when you learn to make your breath relaxing, you will improve your baseline relaxation.
You will always have your breath. So if you can use your breath to relax, you will always be able to relax.
There is a very famous Zen master called Thich Nhat Hanh (one of my favorite spiritual gurus).
Thich Nhat Hanh said:“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” Click To Tweet
What the Zen master means is this: even at the worst of times, when we are highly emotional, we can focus on the breath and this will relax us.
Depressed or anxious? Breathe.
By practicing breathing meditation we give our minds an anchor, a way to remain earthed, a way to stay in the now instead of getting carried off in our thoughts and feelings.
The aim of breathing meditations
When we do breathing meditations for beginners, we are aiming to:
- Focus the mind
- Ground-ourselves in the present moment (instead of being lost in thoughts)
1. Breath Awareness Meditation.
Breath awareness is a simple but powerful breathing meditation technique that puts the mind back into contact with the breath. It will make you more aware of your body and your physical being, and it will focus and relax your mind..
How To Do Breath Awareness—Instructions
1. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed.
Focus your attention on the present moment—on sights, sounds and sensations.
You’ll notice that your mind slips between thoughts, “What’s for dinner? Did I send that email?” etc. Ask these thoughts to slow down so you can begin to see clearly.
2. Focus your attention on your breath.
Observe your breath moving smoothly in and out of your body. Do not try to force your breath. The key is not to control but simply to observe. Be the person sitting on the shore of the ocean watching the waves coming and going. There is peace and tranquility in simply observing.
3. Bring your mind back to the breath
At times your mind will wander. You may momentarily forget to focus on your breath. You may start to process thoughts, thinking about what you have to do next. Simply bring your mind back to the moment, back to the breath. Be like the buoy that bobs up and down on the waves but remains fixed by its anchor.
4. Let go of thoughts and feelings.
Allow yourself to observe your thoughts and feelings but do not attach to them. Attaching to a thought is essentially seeing it as you. For instance, when thinking I have to make dinner we tend to associate with the I and we tend to believe that we really do have to get up and put the stove on. Non-attachment is observing from a distance. We see the fact that there is a thought, but we don’t allow it to affect us. We simply say “That is a thought, and nothing more”.
5. Take 108 breaths in this fashion.
Over time you will observe many things about yourself and about your mind, including the three states of impermanence (anicca), dissatisfaction (dukkha), and non-self (anattā). When you discover something about your mind, simply observe it. Don’t dwell on thoughts, don’t argue with them, don’t reject them, simply observe them.
- To make it easier to count breaths, purchase a mala. These are meditative beads. They are the first item a meditator should own.
Breath Awareness meditation is easy. Simply relax, breathe, focus, and let go.
2. Stillness breathing meditation
The previous meditation was breath awareness. We focus on the in and out breaths.
The next technique is all about focusing on the stillness of breathing.
When the mind is completely still and calm you will be relaxed and have inner Zen. (read: Zen Meditation)
Much like the common swift (bird) that floats on the air without beating its wings, the mind can float on the moment with zero effort.
To achieve this state of stillness in motion that allows the mind to float, we practice the art of Stillness Breathing Meditation.
This ancient technique produces mental stillness by focusing the mind on the moments between breaths. There is not up or down. There is just stillness.
How To DO Stillness Breathing Meditation
Follow these simple steps.
- Begin in the same fashion as you did with the Breath Awareness Meditation—sitting comfortably, permitting yourself a few moments to relax, and then beginning to focus your attention on your breath.
- Begin to observe the moment between inhalation and exhalation, and vice versa. Observe what you find between breaths–a stillness; a settling point. When the mind rests on this stillness it becomes like the wings of the swift: stillness in motion.
- Continue to meditate on the stillness between breaths. Remember to release thoughts, feelings and sensations as you did with the Breath Awareness meditation.
- Aim to achieve complete mental stillness, the mind drifting effortlessly, as the swift floats on the wind.
- Continue for 108 breaths
- Traditionally, it is best to now move on to the more advanced breathing meditation, Buddhist Anapanasati method.
Breath Awareness Meditation is easy to do. To practice breath awareness meditation just relax, breathe, focus between breaths, and find stillness.
3: Nodi Shadana: Yoga Breathing Meditation
Nodi Shadana (alternative nostril breathing) is one of the most popular yoga breathing meditations.
Yoga teaches us to use Nodi Shadana to produce calm, relaxation and balance. This breathing technique does wonders for your health and even makes you live longer.
How to do Nodi Shadana (alternate nostril breathing)
- Sit comfortably with good posture in one of the meditation poses
- Cover your right nostril with your right thumb
- Breathe deeply through your left nostril
- On the completion of the in-breath, uncover your right nostril and cover your left nostril (hence, “alternate nostril breathing”)
- Exhale through the right nostril
- Continue in the same pattern inhaling and exhaling.
- Take 108 breaths in this fashion
Use this breathing meditation before bed or for quick relaxation.
4: Kapabalhti Pranayama
Kapabalthi pranayama is a more advanced breathing meditation used in yoga and Ayurveda.
Despite being more advanced, this technique is definitely worth learning. It will clear out 80 percent of the toxins in the body, massively increasing health. So it offers some serious health benefits.
The name Kapalbhati means “shining forehead”. Your head (and mind) glows.
How to do Kapalbhati pranayama
- Sit comfortably with good posture
- Place you hands on your knees with the palms facing upwards
- Breathe in
- While exhaling pull your navel in towards your spine. This should be done with force. Push your breath right out. Focus on the exhalation.
- As you relax, let your breath flow inwards naturally, unforced. Focus on the inhalation. If you have breathed out fully your inhalation will be quite powerful.
- Take 20 breaths to do one round of kapalbhati pranayama
- Spend a few moments observing your body, as you would do in a body scan meditation.
- Repeat the above process for two more rounds, (to make 60 breaths in total)
Benefits of Kapalbhati meditation:
- Increases metabolic rate
- Helps to activate and balance the chakras
- Stimulates vital organs
- Improves blood pressure
- Makes the skin glow
- Reduces stress
- Tones the stomach
- Teaches us to breath properly
Do you find it hard to focus when meditating?
Many people struggle to focus when sitting meditating. If this happens to you, try doing movement meditations.
When most people first practice breathing meditation techniques they are amazed by how difficult it can be just to focus the mind.
The average person spends most of their days in a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings.
It can feel quite unnatural, at first, to halt that whirlwind and to sit in silence. But you’ll find that as soon as you do sit in silence your mind relaxes, your body lets go of tension, your spine elongates, and your posture improves. These are physiological signs that meditation is working. You may also notice that you yawn and that your brain suddenly feels very “open”. These are all good signs.
If you really cannot focus, it might be that such stationary techniques are not correct for you. Try movement meditations instead (see the link above). They are an excellent alternative. Master Osho stated that it is easier for beginners to focus on movement meditation. See if you get along better with them.
You’ve now begun meditating
You have now learned two of the absolute best meditations for beginners.
If you are new to meditation, you will find that practicing these techniques once a day for twenty minutes will give you a great sense of inner peace and relaxation. They will help you to live in the moment. And they will help you to stop thinking too much.
Why not try Tibetan Nine Round Breathing.
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