How to Master Meditation and Breathwork
Achieving Relaxation Through Mindfulness
Relaxation can often seem totally out of reach, but there are a few helpful solutions that require nothing but an open, willing mind and quiet, comfortable spot to sit. Practicing mindfulness through a combination of meditation and breathing exercises may require some concentration and focus, but these practices can transform the mind and body in countless beneficial ways.
Meditation is commonly known as one of the best ways to relax the mind and body, yet the majority of people don’t practice it on a regular basis. People may think they don’t have enough time, or don’t know how, or don’t think they can successfully, but these excuses can easily be overcome- it’s more straightforward and flexible than some realize. As meditation is rising in popularity and gaining more awareness, now is the time to transform your lifestyle with this simple practice.
How it’s Done
The path to relaxation is through intently practicing mindfulness to attain a sense of balance and peacefulness of the mind, and subsequently the body. Mindfulness is simply referring to self awareness and being present in the moment, recognizing your thoughts and feelings in a positive, kind, and accepting manner. Meditation should be practiced in a quiet environment and comfortable position, in which you can effectively take a step back from the normal chaos of usual thoughts, quieting the mind by narrowing focus to every aspect of your breathing. After doing this for however long you’d like, take time to experience a calm yet heightened perception of your body, emotions, thoughts and the area around you. While it sounds simple, it does require practice to take our bodies out of their normal practices and thought processes, but the key is to accept that the mind will wander and that you can always get back on track.
With this practice, becoming better at being mindful and clearing your head will result in reduced stress, as well as enhanced creativity and focus. The peace and clarity of mind meditation provides an innate sense of calm by eliminating draining distractions and allowing you to live in the moment, not preoccupied with stressors. Focusing on breath and gaining deeper awareness of yourself and surroundings will give you a level headed and accepting approach to any obstacle or troubling thought and can also help kick bad habits, both mental and physical. This understanding also results in deeper empathy and compassion, which also facilitates a calmer state. All these relaxing factors mean that people who meditate normally sleep better and are overall happier. When mentally fine tuned through meditation, general wellbeing and relaxation amidst stressors will follow.
Many people don’t realize how much of a profound affect their breathing has on how they feel, and how stress and even anxiety can be managed through controlled breathing. It can be hard to relax sometimes, but the first step we can all do easily and on our own is a variety of helpful breathing exercises. These are not only helpful for relaxation, but also can help provide a host of health benefits related to the lungs, heart and blood pressure. Here we’ll describe how they can be easily performed.
This exercise targets and strengthens the diaphragm, a very important muscle involved in breathing. People normally don’t think about engaging their abdominals, but it’s beneficial to make this a habit to improve your overall oxygen intake. To achieve results, sit or lay down comfortably and place one hand on your abdominal section and the other on your chest, so you can make sure you’re doing the exercise correctly. Take a deep breath through your nose and hold for about two seconds, ideally feeling your diaphragm expanding rather than your chest. Next, purse your lips to breathe out slowly and deliberately through your mouth while gently pressing down on your stomach area to eliminate all the air. You can repeat the process to help lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Frequent practice of this exercise could reduce the stress hormone cortisol in the body, promoting relaxation.
Pursed Lip Breathing
This exercise is very effective at relieving anxiety because it makes it easier to breathe by releasing trapped air in the lungs. It has also been shown to reduce dynamic hyperinflation and even improve endurance. Start by taking a deep breath through the nose and count to two. After this, purse your lips together like you are whistling and slowly exhale for four seconds, pushing it through slowly and repeating the process as needed.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Nostril breathing relies on a focus on the rhythm of breathing through the nose to relax the mind. It’s effective in improving overall lung function and lowering heart rate, thus controlling stress responses. To perform this exercise, sit upright, use your right thumb to close your entire right nostril and breathe in through your left nostril. Then, remove the thumb and exhale through the right nostril. Repeat this process alternating between breathing in one nostril and out the other for up to five minutes, or as long as is comfortable.
This practice also prevents air from getting trapped in the lungs, expelling stale air to relieve shortness of breath. It allows for more fresh air with each inhalation, which facilitates much less fatigue and a better overall well-being. To do this, stand up straight with good posture so your chest can fully expand. Inhale directly through your nose until you can’t anymore, and hold for five seconds. Then, exhale slowly and fully through your nose. This allows for deeper breaths than normally possible, helping with relaxation.
Meditation and breathing practices are the key to achieving a relaxed state of mind, through taking yourself out of your usual routine to look and feel within. These exercises, closely intertwining the mind and body, are more powerful than most realize. The best accompaniment and assistant in these practices are physical relaxation agents like essential oils and natural extracts. Lavender is the most well known natural relaxer, other relaxing, mood boosting essential oils that can be utilized in meditation and guided breathing include Bergamot, Peppermint, Rose Geranium, Roman Chamomile, Cedar, and Lemon.
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