Mindful breathing exercises focus on the breath. Find what works for you because you can get so much out of breathing – perhaps more than any other mindfulness exercise!
Here, I will break down some of my favorite breathing exercises that you can do (almost) any time.
Remember, when you are breathing, you are communicating with your body that you are safe right here in this moment. When we are in danger (fight or flight), we often fail to breathe altogether.
Another thing to keep in mind is that technology often disrupts our breathing. Notice next time you are scrolling on your phone if you are taking deep, lung filling breaths, or if you are breathing slow and shallow. By pausing to remember to breathe, even though it naturally is always occurring, we can give our brain some well needed oxygen!
Read on to find five of my go to breathing exercises… but, before you go…
Here is a smile for you!
1. Count every breath.
Each inhale and exhale count separately. This keeps the mind occupied on the numbers. When you get distracted, gently drag your awareness back to the breath and pick back up with whatever number you were on. These are not counts of seconds – just counts of numbers of inhales and exhales, so these can be as long or shot as you want. Inhales are odd numbers; exhales are even numbers.
Walk-through: As you breath in, say “one” in your mind. As you exhale, say “two” in your mind. The next inhale you think “three.” The next exhale, you think “four.” You can do this in cycles of 10 (so on the exhale you call 10, start over at inhale 1); you can set a number to count to and keep going; or, if you’re trying to fall asleep, you can start with a really high number and count backward.
2. Time your breaths.
Set a time for each inhale and each exhale where the exhale is about two seconds longer than the inhale. Then a brief pause(not to be confused with the previous strategy where you are breathing in and out and counting a single digit regardless of the length in time of the inhale or exhale). This keeps your attention focused on deep breathing.
Walk-through: Breath in for a count of five seconds, exhale for seven seconds, and then pause for three seconds before starting the next breath. Modify as needed.
3. Cloud Breath.
Part visualization; part breathing. This is one of my favorites because of the nice feeling it can bring!
Walk-through: Sense you tension/negative thoughts. Then, imagine a fluffy white cloud, like one you’d see on a perfect sunny day, floating just in front of you. Visualize breathing in that cloud of pure white energy. Imagine it filling your lungs and belly. As you exhale, allow the cloud to flow back out, darker, like a rain cloud or smog. Imagine that the fluffy cloud has soaked up as much of that inner gunk as possible! Then, as you pause between breaths, imagine that cloud transforming back again to the ideal sunny day cloud (or a new cloud appearing) and repeat until you sense some relief!
4. Shape breathing!
Another one of my favorites for its ability to distract!
Walk-through: Follow along with the shape, inhaling while the shape is growing, exhaling when it collapses, and pause when there is no shape.
5. Simply notice the breath.
This is something you can tune into anytime, anywhere. Driving. Working. Cleaning.
Walk-through:Notice the way your chest and belly rise and fall with each breath. Notice where in the body you feel your breathing as it moves through you. Notice with curiosity how the inhale differs from the exhale and how each and every breath is different.