Zone in to your breath to zone out. Relaxation and breath awareness prepare you for meditation, the practice of silencing the mind to instill a sense of calm and contentment. Relaxation and breathing techniques can bring body and mind to stillness. In this post a beginning yoga student asks long-time yoga teacher, Lynn Burgess, about breathing techniques.
Q: I love the meditation and quiet contemplation aspect of yoga. I am increasingly learning to listen to a “small still voice” during practice which seems to prompt me to actions, big and small, trite and important….but not to think much during practice. I find that I am now carving out time each day to just sit.
A: It can be such a relief to spend five minutes of your day not doing. To simply lie or sit back, take in your breath and observe one of the most fundamental aspects of your aliveness.
Q: I have learned a couple of deliberate breathing practices and they are really helpful…..one is a deep breath, hold a few second and slowly let it flow out, pausing briefly halfway through. Can you share other techniques?
A: How about observing your breath as meditation? The time you spend observing your breath will not only restore you physically, but also will add depth and dimension to your life because by its very nature your breath brings you into the present moment. Try this:
Lie on your back with your knees bent to approximate right angles and the soles of your feet on the floor, thighs parallel to each other. Next, slip a widely looped strap over your legs and up to your mid thighs and tighten it, securing the thighs parallel to each other. Make sure that the heels are resting evenly on the floor.
Direct your attention inside the body. Feel it from within. Notice if it feels alive in your hands, arms, legs, and feet – in your abdomen, your chest.
Now, begin to observe the breath. Notice your breath by feeling your belly rise or expand on the inhalation and fall or contract on the exhalation.
Notice the sensation of the breath. Just feel the air moving in and out. One conscious breath is enough to make some space where before there was the uninterrupted stream of one thought after another. You are entering the gateway to inner silence. You are connecting to the deep stillness within.
Keep the focus on your breathing, just “being with” each inhalation for its full duration and with each exhalation for its full duration, just as if you were riding the waves of your own breath. . . No strain; no effort needed.
Notice the brief pause between the breaths, particularly the still point at the end of the outbreath, before you start breathing in again.
Every time you notice that your mind has wandered off the breath, gently guide the attention back to it. If your mind wanders away from the breath one hundred times, then your “job” is simply to bring it back to the breath, no matter what it becomes distracted by.
Keep returning over and over again, watching the breath and feeling the subtle energy that permeates the inner body. Be here for two to ten minutes.