10 Yoga & Meditation Breathing Techniques For Beginners

In this guide, we will look at all the best meditation breathing techniques for beginners, with exercises from Buddhism, yoga, other systems. These exercises can do wonders for both the mind and body. And science proves they work.

You might be surprised by the sheer number of breathing meditation techniques there are in Buddhism, yoga, and other systems offer. There are hundreds. Some are ideal for beginners, some less so.  They range from modern techniques like Box Breathing to Buddhist methods like Nine Round Breathing and, my personal favourite, the Anapanasati method.

As a meditation teacher, I am continually alarmed by the number of new meditators who do not know proper breathing meditation technique.

Not only is proper breathing in meditation essential to the practice, it is also vital for your health and happiness. Proper breathing will help you to relax and focus.

Let me show you the different meditation breathing techniques that I personally teach. They are al incredibly beneficial.

10 Meditation Breathing Techniques Beginners Need To Know


Below I will share with you the many breath exercises of yoga, but first let’s look at traditional breathing meditations from Buddhism, like Tibetan Nine Round Breathing, mindfulness of breath, the Nine Round method, and more. These are the best breathing meditations for beginners because they calm and centre the mind.

Let’s take a look.

 1. Buddhist Breath Awareness Meditation (Anapanasati)

anapanasati meditation breathing technique

The best breathing meditations for beginners are usually the Buddhist ones. These tend to be easy to pick-up and very relaxing, where many of the yoga methods are often more complicated.

Buddhist breathing exercises are generally quite simple. Even kids can do them. Plus, they offer significant mental health benefits, like reducing stress and anxiety, according to Yoga University [1]

Buddhist breathing meditations involve 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.

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 straightforward type of breath meditation for beginners.

How To Do Breath Awareness (script)

1: Sit comfortably with your eyes closed.  

It is always important to sit correctly 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: Be mindful of breath.

Observe your breath moving smoothly in and out of your body. Do not try to force it. The key is not to control but simply to observe. This is perhaps the main point of Buddhist breathing meditation for beginners to learn, to just observe rather than to control. Be the person sitting on the shore of the ocean, watching the waves coming and going. There is peace and tranquillity in merely observing.

3: Refocus

At times your mind will wander. You may momentarily forget to focus. 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 thought is mostly seeing it as you. For instance, when thinking I have to make dinner, we tend to associate with the I and believe that we 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: Continue to breathe mindfully for 108 breaths.

Over time you will observe many things about yourself and 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 meditation breathing exercise

The previous meditation was about awareness, in which we focus on inhalations and exhalations.

The next method is all about focusing on the stillness of breathing, which helps to cultivate inner-stillness.

When the mind is completely still and calm, you will be relaxed and have inner Zen.

Much like the common swift (bird) that floats on the air without beating its wings, the mind can drift 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 technique.

Instructions

Follow these simple steps.

  1. Begin in the same fashion as you did with the Breath Awareness Meditation—Sit comfortably. Permit yourself to relax. Begin to focus 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 focus on the stillness between inhalations and exhalations. Remember to release thoughts, feelings and sensations as you did with the Breath Awareness Meditation technique.
  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 meditation Anapanasati.

alternative nostril breathing meditation

3: Nadi Shodhana (Alternative Nostril Breathing)

Nadi Sadhana (alternative nostril breathing) is one of the best yoga breathing meditations techniques. It is used to produce calm, relaxation and balance, and reduces stress, according to the International Journal Of Yoga [2]. It does wonders for your health and some studies suggest it can even improve longevity.

How to do Nadi Shodhana (script)

  1. Sit comfortably with good posture
  2. Cover your right nostril with your right thumb
  3. Inhale 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 meditation breathing exercise before bed or for quick relaxation.

4: Kapabalhti Pranayama

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

Despite being more advanced, this technique is worth learning. It is said to have considerable  benefits for both mind and body, according to the Art of Living Foundation [3]

Instructions

  1. Sit comfortably with good posture
  2. Place your hands on your knees with the palms facing upwards
  3. Inhale
  4. Exhale
  5. While exhaling, pull your navel in towards your spine 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 breathe out fully, your inhalation will be quite forceful.
  7. Take 20 breaths. This is one round of kapalabhati pranayama.
  8. Spend a few moments observing your body.
  9. Repeat the above process for two more rounds.

Benefits of Kapalbhati:

  • 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 meditation breathing technique

Buddhist Nine Round Breathing Meditation Technique

The “Nine Round” method is a Buddhist breathing meditation technique beginners can use for calm and focus. Traditionally, it’s used by Buddhists to remove the states of ignorance, confusion, anger, hate, desire and attachment. It originates from the most esoteric collection of meditations in tantra. It is a pre-tantric purification process that calms and centres the mind.

The Nine Round method is a potent 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.

When you try the method below, you will probably notice how Nine Round Breathing is similar to Anapanasati meditation, which creates calmness and equanimity.

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.

Because of these benefits, it is best to use Nine Round Breathing at specific times:

  • When you’re feeling angry or hateful
  • When you experience recurring negative thoughts
  • When you’re suffering from some sort of mental delusion, for instance, you are unable to accept your present reality.
  • When you are feeling foggy or confused.
  • When you are unable to let go.

Tip: Use Nine Round Breathing meditation for 5-10 minutes at the beginning of your seated practice to calm your mind before you proceed to a different method.

The Basic Nine Round  Exercise

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

There are two different versions of this method. The first is the most basic one. To show you this method, I’ve shared tuition from the Dalai Lama.

 

Breathing meditation training by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Complete Nine Round Method

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 centre the mind, ready for the next exercise.

Tantric Nine Round  Technique

  1. Start by imagining your body as 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 as 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 airflow 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 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. Doubtlessly, one of the most powerful breathing meditation techniques in the world. 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.

Principles 

There are several rules and guidelines of proper yoga breathing exercises that beginners need to know before starting. Let’s take a look. These are for doing pranayama during physical exercise.

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 slows the heart rate. 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 inhalation. At the same time, when we inhale the heart rate increases, which produces a feeling of alert awareness. That’s why it’s best to exhale on invigorating yoga poses.

  yoga breathing exercises for beginners

Best yoga breathing exercises for beginners

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 energising yoga breathing exercise 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 Breath

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 beginners can use. It’s relaxing and fun, which is why it is commonly used in kids’ classes. 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 stimulates the flow of breath through the body.

3: Skull Cleanser (Kapalbhati)

This is one of the best yoga breathing exercises for beginners because it promotes lymph circulation, which is beneficial to overall health and wellbeing. It is actually one of the Ayurveda breathing meditation techniques.

To do this exercise, first, choose a mudra.

Now follow the instructions below:

1: Sit comfortably

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 breathe in again automatically

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 you can do it 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 beginners 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 it, 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 vocalising a “Ha” sound. This sound should feel like it’s arising from the very bottom of your lungs. Make it loud and proud!

 The Benefits of Yoga Breathing Meditation Techniques For Beginners

There are over 100 benefits of meditation.

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

The following are the most important benefits of meditation breathing techniques for beginners:

  • 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.
  •  Help to regulate heart rate and blood pressure [4]
  • Calm the mind
  • Improve breathing
  • Reduce stress and anxiety [5]
  • 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).

Why we begin with observing the breath

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, which is the main benefits of breathing meditation techniques.

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” Even at the worst of times, when we are highly emotional, we can focus on the breath to relax.

Remember to be mindful of your breathing and try to practise one of the beginners breathing meditation techniques above per day. This will provide the anchor your mind needs to stay calm and focused throughout the day.

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Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation. You can read his books on Amazon