meditating in nature, sunrise

Let’s face it. Life can be stressful and even overwhelming at times.

It is essential to develop restorative and rejuvenating practices to promote peace of mind and vitality.

Simple breathing and meditation techniques can promote physical and mental well-being, allowing us to live more fulfilling lives. This can also help reduce our reliance on medications, which can have harmful side effects on ourselves and the environment. These techniques can also help us develop greater awareness, allowing us to more deeply understand how our actions impact the planet and to make sustainable lifestyle adjustments.

Many Benefits of Breathing Meditations

Since antiquity, meditation has been used by people across the globe, and many major religions incorporate meditative practices. Meditation allows us to connect with the mind’s innate ability to cultivate awareness. It is a consciousness-raising tool that also has many benefits for the body and mind. Although approaches vary widely, it often involves focusing our attention on a particular sound, sensation, object, thought, or activity. While some people use meditation as part of a religious practice, many also meditate without association to a specific religion.

The breath is a common element in numerous types of meditation around the world and throughout time. Many meditation techniques involve using a specific breathing pattern, such as long deep breathing, alternate nostril breathing, or chanting. Although meditation is associated with greater mindfulness, the specific effects vary by technique. Some of the various benefits include greater vitality, peacefulness, creativity, and mental clarity.

To get started with a meditation practice, experiment with a variety of techniques to find one that is particularly effective for you to manifest your desired results. Find a consistent time each day that is convenient for you to practice meditation. Start with about five minutes a day and gradually increase your time.

1. Simple Breathing Meditation

This technique is great for beginners, although commonly practiced by experienced meditators as well. Pick a relatively quiet place and sit comfortably either on a mat or pillow on the floor or on a chair. Close your eyes. Bring your awareness to your body and mind. How does your body feel? Is your mind quiet or active?

Take long, deep breaths through your nose. As you inhale, let the belly expand outward. At first, the outward belly extension on the installation might feel forced but this is important for taking deep breaths that really fill the lungs. On the exhale, gently press the stomach in allowing the air to fully leave the lungs. Keep a gentle focus on the breath. As thoughts enter the mind, gently let them go. Continue for five to 10 minutes.

2. Progressive Relaxation

This approach involves scanning the body for tension and releasing it. Some techniques include tensing and releasing the muscles or visualizing a wave moving through the body that evaporates tension. Start at either the feet or the head, and work your way to the other end of your body. You can do this either sitting or lying down. Use your breath to help you relax, for example, by inhaling while tensing a muscle and exhaling while releasing the tension. This is a helpful practice just before you go to bed to promote restful sleep.

3. Alternate Nostril Breathing

This simple technique helps create a powerful sense of harmony and well-being. Sit comfortably on the floor with your legs crossed. With the left hand, touch the pads of your index finger and thumb. Extend the other three fingers without straining. Place the back of your wrist on your knee, with the arm almost straight.

Take the right hand and make a U shape with the index finger and the thumb. Your index finger will close your left nostril and the thumb will close the right nostril. To start, place the index finger closing your left nostril and deeply inhale. Release the index finger and use the thumb to close your right nostril and fully exhale. Leaving your right nostril closed, inhale. Release the thumb, close your left nostril, and exhale through the right nostril. This is one full set. Continue this technique, taking long deep breaths for five to 10 minutes. In the end, take long deep breaths through both nostrils and gently take note of how your body and mind feel.

4. Om Meditation

The sound “Om” is said to be a primordial sound that connects us to the source of creation. Sit comfortably with your legs crossed. Take a deep breath and chant “Om” (pronounced “aa-uu-mm”) out loud, exhaling all of your breath. The sound reverberates through the pelvic floor and up through the crown of your head, filling the body with pulsing energy. Inhale and repeat. Continue for five to 10 minutes.

Take it Slowly

For beginners, these breathing techniques work best with closed eyes in a location where you won’t be disturbed, such as a quiet bedroom. As you become more comfortable with them, you may be drawn to meditate in a natural setting with your gaze resting gently on a plant or flowing water. Eventually, you may find yourself able to practice in public, relaxed but fully aware in a busy airport, on the subway, or standing in line at the supermarket.

Feature image by Benjamin Balazs from Pixabay. This article was originally published on December 20, 2019.

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.