Meditation and breathing

We are going through what can only be described as a very stressful and difficult time at the moment.  Our anxiety levels can be a lot higher than usual and so self care is more important than ever.  Whilst I would under normal circumstances, recommend some healing or maybe a massage, this is not currently an option.  However, that doesn't mean that there aren't alternatives that can be extremely beneficial for us at the moment and for going forward.    

Last summer I qualified to teach meditation without really knowing what I was going to do with it.  I really just wanted to work on my own practice and develop some techniques.  However, in the current situation, this seems like the perfect time to share some of the skills and techniques that I have learnt in order to help you.  

The way that we breathe is so important.  We just do it naturally without thinking about it so learning to slow it down and focus our breath can be extremely calming and in order to start a successful meditation practice it is essential that we feel calm.  

So lets begin

Are you sitting comfortably?

Sit on a chair or meditation cushion so that you are comfortable.  You can lay down if you wish, if that is more comfortable or sit on the floor, back against the wall.  Whichever you choose, make sure you are comfortable but not so much so that you are likely to fall asleep.  If you choose to sit then make sure you pay attention to your posture, no slouching.  

As in the picture above, I want you, at least whilst you are starting out with your practice, to place your hands the same as the woman in the picture. One hand on your abdomen, around the sacral chakra and one over the heart chakra.  This will just help you to really feel how your breath is entering and leaving your body.  

And breathe . . . . 

This technique is called 'Belly breath'.  We are used to inhaling and pulling our tummy's in.  I would like you, as you inhale, to fill your tummy, feel it expand with your breath.  It will take a little getting used to but you will soon pick it up and it will become natural.  

Read this paragraph through before you start the breathing exercise.  Make sure you are comfortable. You can close your eyes if you would like to and you can have some gentle music playing in the background if you wish.  This is your practice so you need to feel comfortable and relaxed.  Make sure that you will not be disturbed or interrupted.   When we relax our body temperature can drop so make sure you will not feel cold as this can be a distraction.  

When you are ready, I want you to slowly breathe in, through your nose, to the count of three. Breathe in nice and deep, slowly and calmly. Once there, hold your breath for the count of three and then slowly breathe out, through your mouth, to the count of six. Bring your awareness to your breath. If/when thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them and then let them go. (Just so you know, it is impossible to 'empty or clear your mind' as you may have heard some people say so do not be surprised if thoughts do come in and out. The trick is to distract your mind and that I will explain and help you with over time.) For now, I just want you to focus on your breathing. Ideally you need to do this every day.

For the first 7 days I want you to try and just do 5 minutes. The next 7 days try 10 minutes a day. What time you choose is entirely up to you. Some people like to start the day off with a meditation practice to get them into a better head space, whilst others choose the end of the day, as part of a ritual before going to bed to help them sleep. There is no right or wrong. 

Experiment with different times and see what suits you best. It may be a good idea to keep a diary to track how you are getting on, if you notice any changes in your mood and which times of the day suit you best. Over the next few weeks I will create some guided meditations that you can have a go at.