There are many different kinds of breathing meditation exercises and yoga breathing 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 type of meditation 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 most relaxing types of meditation. 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 
- They calm the mind
- Improve breathing
- Reduce stress and anxiety 
- Reduce depression
- 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.
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
- 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.
Begin With Buddhist Breathing Meditations
The best breath meditations for beginners are usually the Buddhist techniques. 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.
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). 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.
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.
- 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 yoga meditation Anapanasati.
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
- Sit comfortably with good posture in one of the proper 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
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
- 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.
- 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)
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:
- Start by imagining your body as being completely empty.
- Now focus on the central channel, which starts in the same spot as the Eyebrow Chakra.
- 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.
- To start, breathe in through your left nostril with the right nostril closed.
- Feel the air passing into your nose and right to the start of the Central Channel.
- Feel the air flow down the Central Channel to the left and right channel.
- Close your left nostril. This will make you breathe out the right channel.
- Breathe in again and image that your breath is like pure white light.
- Let all attachments and desire leave you. It will leave you like a black smoke exiting your side channels.
- Repeat the above three times.
- Time for the second round.
- Inhale white light through your right nostril.
- Imagine all anger and hate exiting your left channel like smoke.
- Repeat three times.
- Now for the third round.
- Imagine inhaling white light through your side channels.
- Imagine those channels connecting to your central channel, which can get blocked by confusion and ignorance.
- 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.
Yoga Breathing Exercises For Beginners
There are some excellent yoga breathing exercises for beginners to learn.
In yoga it is essential to make sure that you are breathing correctly. Just as there are proper breathing meditation techniques, there are proper yoga breathing techniques too.
It is important to breathe properly whether you are sitting to a meditation session or engaged in an active form of yoga.
In this article I will explain how to breathe in yoga, and I will share the best yoga breathing exercises for beginners.
Let’s start with breathing during asana practice
Rules For Proper Yoga Breathing Technique
The proper breathing techniques for yoga depend on the state your body is in. Follow these tips and you will be breathing properly during yoga practice.
1: Exhale when bending forward
When we exhale it is easier to extend the depth of a fold. This is because when we exhale our lungs empty and the torso becomes smaller. Essentially this means that there is less of a mass between the upper and lower body. This makes it easier to bend forward. Also, exhaling has a calming effect and slow the heartrate down. That’s why it is best to exhale during poses that are calmer.
2: Also exhale for twists
Following on from the rule above, when the body contracts there is less room for breathing. That’s why we should exhale when we do a twist. By exhaling when we twist we help the body to relax, which makes it easier to extend the pose.
3: Inhale during backbends
It is easier for the body to fill the lungs when there is space between the upper and lower body. When you do a backbend you open up the space in the torso and the lungs, which makes it easier to fill the body with the breath. At the same time, when we inhale the heart rate increases, which produces a feeling of alert awareness. That’ why it is best to exhale on invigorating yoga poses.
Now let’s look at some of the best yoga breathing exercises for beginners
You can combine many of these exercises with meditation. Read my guide to yoga meditation styles for more on this.
1: Breath of Fire
This is one of the Bikram yoga breathing exercises (for beginners there is a simple version and there is a more advanced version too).
Breath of Fire is a warming and energizing yoga breathing technique that is an excellent way to get some energy flowing into your abs. I’ve written a complete guide to Breath Of Fire Yoga Meditation.
2: Lion’s Breathing
You will definitely have heard your yoga instructor telling you to take a Lion’s Breath. What does it mean?
Lion’s Breath is a simple yoga breathing exercise that is really easy to do and is often used in kids yoga classes because it’s fun. To do this yoga breathing exercise, all you have to do is take a deep inhale through your nose, lean your head back and breathe out through the mouth with your tongue out.
This is a fun yoga breathing exercise for beginners and it stimulate the flow of the breath through the body.
3: Skull Cleanser (Kapalbhati Breathing Exercise)
This is one of the best yoga breathing exercises for beginners to promote lymph circulation. It is actually one of the Ayurveda techniques.
This is a fantastic yoga breathing technique to invigorate your energy levels. It’s actually very similar to Breath Of Fire with more emphasis given to the exhalation.
To do this exercise, first choose a mudra.
Now follow the instructions below:
1: Sit comfortable
2: Place your hands in the mudra of your choice (see link above)
3: Breathe into your belly and observe the sensation of your breath filling your body
4: Inhale through the nose
5: Contract your lower belly to force your breath out
6: Immediately release the contraction. Allow your body to automatically breathe in again
7: Continue the process above at a rate of approximately 70 contractions per minute, then gradually increasing. If you feel faint stop immediately.
8: After each minute of exercise take one deep breath to relax.
4: Ujjayi Breath
This is one of the most popular yoga breathing techniques and it’s a style of breathing that you can do while you’re actually doing your yoga session. It has a very relaxing effect.
To do this technique you breathe both in and out through your nostrils. Take a deep breath in and then imagine that you are sucking through a straw (you can actually hear your breath like an ocean wave when you do this). Gradually take deeper inhalations and slower inhalations. This will relax both body and mind.
5: Bellows Breath
This is a brilliant yoga breathing exercise for beginner who want to boost their energy levels, especially during Power yoga. You can also use it any time you’re feeling bored or sluggish, to heighten your awareness.
To do this technique, place your hands in fists and raise them to the sky. Take an in-breath through your mouth. When you exhale, drop your elbow to the side of your body while vocalizing a “Ha” sound. This sound should feel like it’s arising from the very bottom of your lungs. Make it loud and proud!
Those are the best yoga breathing exercises for beginners. Next let’s look at some of the best meditation breathing exercises.
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.u
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