An often lost art is the art of breathing. Simply breathing in and breathing out. Whole meditation practices are built around the breath. There is overwhelming science behind just taking the time to breath and how that can calm our minds, relax our bodies, and simply lower our blood pressure (at least momentarily).
There’s meditation apps that can “teach” you how to breathe or rather they simply help you become more mindful of breathing. I’ve tried several of them and while I like the guided meditation, I’ve take to just a very simple form of box breathing. Box breathing simply means that you breathe in, hold, breathe out, and hold for an equal specified time. For example:
Breath in: 4 seconds
Hold breath: 4 seconds
Breathe out: 4 seconds
Hold breath: 4 seconds
Ideally you would breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. This doesn’t have to be case but it is ideal. I always state that there is no such thing as an ideal world so we do what we can. Try to breathe in through you nose and out through your mouth.
It’s a “box” since all four segments are of equal lengths. Of course there’s apps for this, or you can use a simple repeating timer or just a seconds hand on a watch. I paid $1.99USD for the app Box Breathe and love it. Easily worth the 2 bucks. Doing it for 4 second intervals for 5 rotations is one minute and twenty seconds.
So instead of some fancy meditation app or trying to sit and concentrate on your breathing, spend just over a minute while watching your phone. It’s not to say that deep mindful meditation doesn’t have its place, I absolutely think it does. I think though that this can be a gateway or at least a good introduction to a very easy breathing practice.
I like to do it at different times throughout the day. My favorite is post exercise. Just to sit for 2-3 minutes and focus on my breathing. It can help bring the body from a sympathetic mode to a parasympathetic mode. Kind of counterintuitive to my last sentence, I’ll use it in the morning to “wake” up. By giving myself something simple to concentrate on, it’s an easy mind/body exercise. I’ll generally take 1 to 2 minutes to do it either after I’ve showered or started the coffee pot.
This can be done seated, standing, or laying down. Seated or laying down is the most effective for calming or reducing stress although standing can be used in a pinch if necessary. I’ve found myself doing it while standing in line at the grocery store or some other checkout.
Simply taking the time to breathe can help us cope with the day, relax at night, or just become more mindful of a our bodies. We can take breathing for granted but by spending a few minutes actually concentrating on our breath it can bring us out of the clouds and ground us in the here and now for at least a few beneficial moments.