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Breathing Meditation

Another way to recenter yourself is to do the following breathing exercise. It supports your body’s natural capacity to settle down into a more relaxed state.

Variations on this particular breathing exercise can be found, in various forms, in most yoga and meditation traditions. As with all exercises for recentering, experiment with what follows and see if it gives you another useful tool.

This breathing exercise is good as part of an overall stress reduction program, as well. If you live a hectic life and find that you need to de-stress, spending a few minutes doing this exercise will offer your body and mind a brief “time out” that can be surprisingly rejuvenating and refreshing.

To do this breathing exercise, it’s important to know how to breathe from your belly. To practice, place a heavy book or your hand on your belly, in the area of your belly button. As you inhale, the book or your hand will rise when you breathe in. If it doesn’t, you’re probably having a shallow breath that is focused up in your chest. Then, when you exhale, your belly will deflate and settle, naturally and easily. As you practice, the most important thing is to engage this exercise with an attitude of “no struggle.” Allow yourself time to learn how to do a “belly breath.” Let it be easy. We start out, as infants, automatically breathing from the belly, so your body already knows how to do this, and the following exercise offers you an opportunity to re-access this part of your natural body wisdom.

Breathing Exercise

  • Begin by sitting down comfortably where you won’t be disturbed for about 10 minutes.
  • Become aware of the surface supporting you and allow yourself to settle into it. Notice what it feels like to be supported right now.
  • Without any struggle or effort, use the following count for each in-breath and out-breath: Breathing from your belly – Breathe in to a count of 4; Hold your breath for a count of 4; Breathe out to a count of 8. Then, repeat the sequence for a couple of breaths and see how it feels. If it feels good to you, continue for 5 breaths; then, add 5 more if you find that you continue to settle comfortably.
  • Over time, allow yourself to decide how many sequences work well for you – how many allow you to relax and recenter yourself when you need to. Keep in mind that you can do at least one sequence whenever you find yourself tense or anxious and allow that to become a way to start to shift gears toward recentering.

© Nancy J. Napier, 1999

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