Origin and Purpose
Mindful breathing or breathfulness as we call it is all about bringing your awareness to your breathing. Mindful breathing forms the core of meditation for relaxation and mindfulness. “Mindfulness” is the common western translation for the Buddhist term sati.
“Anapanasati”, “mindfulness of breathing”, is part of the Buddhist practice of “Vipassana” or insight meditation, and other Buddhist meditational practices, such as zazen.
In a few simple steps, you need to channel your thoughts into a relaxed space with no clutter of random thoughts or a flaring temper. This has been proved to be achievable via breathfulness. Science claims that it is all about finding a firm concentration point wherein you can dismiss all the other disturbing thoughts. Breathing mindfully has been proved to be just that point. The purpose is to anchor unswayed attention to the present.
How to breathe mindfully?
Make a conscious note of your breathing, the filling of lungs by the inhaled air, the coolness it leaves in the nostrils and the rhythmic inflation-deflation of your belly as you breathe in and out.
When you breathe in, be aware that you are breathing in, and how it feels. When you breathe out, be aware you are breathing out.
You will notice that quite often you lose yourself to some other thought. Recognize this point and consciously bring your attention back to the breathing. Repeat this for the length of your meditation practice, constantly redirecting the attention to the breath, in case you lose yourself to some other thought.
This is an excellent way of cultivating intense meditative concentration, thereby, increasing the tendency of the mind to focus on work in hand and dismissing stressful thoughts. Mindful breathing can be done anywhere and anytime in your daily life: while working in an office, walking or perhaps waiting in a queue.
Effects of Breathing rate: A Science Perspective
The breathing rate anywhere from 14 to 20 breaths per minute is the standard, which is about three times faster than the 5 or 6 breaths per minute proven to help you feel your best, says Patricia Gerbarg, MD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College and co-author of The Healing Power of the Breath.
With each breath, millions of sensory receptors in the respiratory system send signals via the vagus nerve to the brainstem. The pace of breathing affects the way brain triggers our nervous system.
Fast breathing pings the brain at a higher rate, triggering it to activate the sympathetic nervous system, turning up stress hormones, heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, sweat production, and anxiety. On the other hand, slowing your breathing induces the parasympathetic response, dialing down all of the above as it turns up relaxation, calm, and mental clarity.
Benefits of Breathfulness
1. Reduces Stress: The stress response invoked by the body in situations of danger and confrontation becomes harmful when provoked inappropriately by daily worries such as money problems, relationship issues, job worries, etc. This can lead to health problems like heart diseases and diminished immunity. Deep mindful breathing has been proved to reduce blood pressure by ensuring a good exchange of oxygen with blood. This has stress and anxiety-relieving effects.
2. Regulates Emotions: Breathfulness has been experimentally proven to induce a more positive response towards emotionally trying situations. Mindfulness through controlled and deep breathing increases the response time of the practitioner towards situations where someone with standard shallow breathing has been seen to get anxious.
3. Increases Focus: Using breathing as an anchor point for enhancing concentration has been proved to increase a person’s focus on work at hand in general. Consider this as training your mind to avoid disturbing and irrelevant thoughts, often termed as Mind Wandering.
4. Live Longer: Controlled breathing can change the response of the body’s autonomic nervous system, which controls unconscious processes such as heart rate and digestion as well as the body’s stress response, says Dr. Richard Brown, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and co-author of “The Healing Power of the Breath.” Apart from emotional stability, it provides better oxygen supply to your body. It increases your cardiovascular activity and burns fat, thereby helping in weight control.
“Mindfulness teaches you the skill of paying attention to the present by noticing when your mind wanders off. Come back to your breath. It’s a place where we can rest and settle our minds.”
With breathfulness, learn to live every moment of life with utmost awareness. It helps to think clearer and reduce undesirable stress.