6 Best Breathing Meditation Exercises, Techniques For Beginners

6 Best Breathing Meditation Exercises, Techniques For Beginners

There are many different kinds of breathing meditation exercises that beginners should learn when starting meditation. I recommend trying all these breathing meditation techniques to find the best ones for you.

 As a meditation teacher, I am constantly surprised by how many meditators do not know the proper breathing meditation techniques.

It’s a big problem.

When you are a beginner learning meditation it can be hard to know which of the 31 top meditation techniques you should do. There are just so many different choices. But the best place is to start with some easy breathing meditation exercises. Why? For a few reasons. You can do them at home. They’re one of the best techniques for relaxing. They’re easy. And there is little risk involved.

The benefits are significant, too.

These easy breathing meditation will calm your mind, hep you focus, and reduce the symptoms of problems like stress and anxiety.

When you sit still and just focus on the breath, you centre your mind and stabilise your emotions. This helps you to feel more balanced and more relaxed. These methods also offer an entry-point to more advanced techniques. That’s why even advanced meditators use breathing meditation techniques at the beginning of their practice, before moving on to more advanced methods.

I am going to assume you are relatively new to mindfulness. So I will share with you the best breathing meditation exercises for beginners. But before we get to that, you might like to read my   guide to meditating properly.

The Benefits of Breathing Meditation Exercises For Beginners

There are over 100 benefits of meditation.

Different methods have different benefits. And indeed, there are unique benefits of breathing meditations.

For beginners, the following are the most important benefits:

  • 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

Not only are these breathing techniques beginner-friendly, they also offer some sifniciafnt health benefits

Specifically, the benefits of breathing meditations are:

  • Help to regulate heart rate and blood pressure [1]
  • They calm the mind
  • Improve breathing
  • Reduce stress and anxiety [2]
  • Reduce depression [3]
  • Focus the mind
  • Improve productivity (a focused mind is a more productive mind)
  • Help you to relax at home
  • 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).

However, if you want to succeed with these methods you certainly do need to learn them correctly. I will show you how in just a moment.

Why we begin with basic breathing meditation exercises

There is a very good reason why you should start with breathing meditation techniques as a beginner.

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:  “Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”

 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.

Stressed? Breathe.

Emotional? Breathe.

Depressed or anxious? Breathe.

By practicing breathing meditation techniques 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.

And this is the primary function of breathing meditation exercises. We use them to:

  • Focus the mind
  • Calm
  • Ground-ourselves in the present moment (instead of being lost in thoughts)  

Here Are The Proper Breathing Techniques For Meditation

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, I hope.

Before you start:

  1. Read about the basics of meditation so you know where to meditate, when, and the basics of how.
  2. 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.

Begin With Buddhist Breathing Meditations

The best breath meditations for beginners are usually the Buddhist techniques [READ: Buddhist Meditation For Beginners].

These tend to be easy to pick-up and very relaxing.

It is surprising how easy these Buddhist breathing meditations are. Many people think that Buddhist methods must be difficult, because after all, they are the traditional techniques that Buddha taught and that monks use. But actually, the beauty of these methods 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).

So how do you do them?

Buddhist breathing meditations are all 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. This is usually done using a meditation mala [READ: Best Malas To Buy].

Here are the 6 proper breathing techniques for meditation

You might like to read my article about the proper meditation postures so you know how you should hold your body during these exercises.

1. Breath Awareness

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..

This is a really easy type of breath meditation for beginners.

How To Do Breath Awareness

1. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed.  

It is always important to sit properly with good posture.

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) [4]. 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 breath meditation exercise for Beginners

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 method 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 

Follow these simple steps.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Continue to meditate on the stillness between breaths. Remember to release thoughts, feelings and sensations as you did with the Breath Awareness meditation.
  4. Aim to achieve complete mental stillness, the mind drifting effortlessly, as the swift floats on the wind.
  5. Continue for 108 breaths
  6. Traditionally, it is best to now move on to the more advanced breathing meditation, Buddhist Anapanasati method.

3: Nodi Shadana: Yoga Breathing Meditation For Beginners

Nodi Shadana (alternative nostril breathing) is one of the most popular yoga breathing meditations.

This yoga breathing meditation is used to produce calm, relaxation and balance. It does wonders for your health and even makes you live longer.

How to do Nodi Shadana 

  1. Sit comfortably with good posture in one of the proper poses
  2. Cover your right nostril with your right thumb
  3. Breathe deeply through your left nostril
  4. On the completion of the in-breath, uncover your right nostril and cover your left nostril (hence, “alternate nostril breathing”)
  5. Exhale through the right nostril
  6. Continue in the same pattern inhaling and exhaling.
  7. Take 108 breaths in this fashion

Use this breathing meditation before bed or for quick relaxation.

4: Kapabalhti Pranayama

This is a slightly more advanced type of yoga breathing meditation exercise.

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

  1. Sit comfortably with good posture
  2. Place you hands on your knees with the palms facing upwards
  3. Breathe in
  4. Exhale
  5. While exhaling pull your navel in towards your spine. This should be done with force. Push your breath right out. Focus on the exhalation.
  6. 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.
  7. Take 20 breaths to do one round of kapalbhati pranayama
  8. Spend a few moments observing your body.
  9. 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 breathe properly

Nine Round Breathing Meditation Technique [Buddhist]

The “Nine Round method is a Buddhist breathing meditation technique beginners can use to calm and focus the mind.  Traditionally,  it’s used by Buddhists to remove the states of ignorance, confusion, anger, hate, desire and attachment.   

Nine Round Breathing originates from the most esoteric collection of meditations in tantra.

It is a truly powerful technique that you can use to clear up the energy centres in your body and to clear your mind of anger, hate, confusion, doubt, attachment, ignorance and desire, and the other negative states that Buddhism teaches us about.

When you try the method below you will probably notice how Nine Round Breathing is similar to Anapanasati meditation, the Buddhist breathing meditation technique used to create calmness and equanimity. “Nine Round” is a pre-tantric purification process that calms and centres the mind.

The tantra text teaches that there are “winds” in the body. Those winds are energies that serve the mind. But if the winds get blocked the energy will not flow and the mind will not function properly.   

Use Nine Round Breathing:

  • When you’re feeling angry or hateful towards anyone or anything (including yourself).
  • When you have the same negative thought repeating over and over in your mind.
  • When you’re suffering from some sort of mental delusion. For instance, you are unable to accept your present reality.
  • When you are feeling mentally foggy or confused.
  • When you are unable to let go.

Tip: Use Nine Round Breathing for 5-10 minutes before your proper meditation session. This will calm and centre your mind ready for the next meditation.

The Basic Nine Round Breathing Exercise

This is the basic exercise and is one of the best breathing methods for beginners.

There are two different types of this technique. The first is the most basic one.

Because this is such an important exercise, the Dalai Lama has provided a video tutorial of how to do it.

Watch the video below. But remember that this is the basic exercise. It is not the full version (see below for the advanced technique)

 

Breathing meditation training by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

The Complete Exercise

In the tantric Nine Round Breathing exercise you visualise the three energy channels in the body. This is very helpful for purifying the mind. It’s often used at the start of a meditation session in order to calm and center the mind, ready for the meditation ahead.

If you’d like to try the tantric Nine Round Breathing exercise, here is how:

  1. Start by imagining your body as being completely empty.
  2. Now focus on the central channel, which starts in the same spot as the Eyebrow Chakra.
  3. The Central Channel flows down the skull straight down to a spot that is precisely four fingers width under your naval. It is coloured a transparent blue about a thick as a thick piece of string. On either side of this Central Channel are two more channels. Both of these are transparent and are as thick as a piece of string. The left channel is white. The right one red.
  4. To start, breathe in through your left nostril with the right nostril closed.
  5. Feel the air passing into your nose and right to the start of the Central Channel.
  6. Feel the air flow down the Central Channel to the left and right channel.
  7. Close your left nostril. This will make you breathe out the right channel.
  8. Breathe in again and image that your breath is like pure white light.
  9. Let all attachments and desire leave you. It will leave you like a black smoke exiting your side channels.
  10. Repeat the above three times.
  11. Time for the second round.
  12. Inhale white light through your right nostril.
  13. Imagine all anger and hate exiting your left channel like smoke.
  14. Repeat three times.
  15. Now for the third round.
  16. Imagine inhaling white light through your side channels.
  17. Imagine those channels connecting to your central channel, which can get blocked by confusion and ignorance.
  18. Breathe out all that confusion and ignorance as smoke until it comes pouring out from between your eyebrows.

This is the tantric nine round breathing exercise. It will purify your body and mind. Try it and let me know how you get on.

Breath Of Fire Yoga Breathing Meditation

Another excellent breathing techniques is the yogic Breath Of Fire method.

Breath of Fire is a breathing technique in which you progressively breathe more quickly.

This method is excellent for quickly calming the mind. It has also been shown to help with mental heath problems including stress and anxiety.

Now you know the proper breathing techniques for meditation, here’s what to do next

If you are new to meditation, you will find that practicing these breathing meditation exercises 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.

You might also like to try my list of yoga breathing exercises too.  Or these Ayurveda practices.

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Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a meditation teacher and writer. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.
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