If you’re like me, you may have found that a having little healthy bite of something at regular intervals delivers bigger benefits than waiting for one main meal. It is for this reason that I like to keep a standby of snacks close by I know will be quick and easy to prepare and be delicious and nutritious.
In many ways, I find this the same for meditation. I am constantly developing and expanding my personal meditation repertoire as discover what nourishes and delights me, while at the same time I know there are some simple staples which will always deliver big rewards.
I’d like to share with you ten of my favourite short, sweet and simple breath-meditations that are easy to access and which deeply deliver. They all involve spending a short time of being immersed in a good feeling, using the intimacy of our breathing as a foundation. You might like to try them!
- Take Three Clearing Breaths.
This is great to do at intervals during the day, so you are regularly releasing tension instead of building a backlog. Each cycle of breath is a full inhalation through the nose and a full exhalation through the mouth. Make the outbreath long and make any sound you want. Sometimes it feels good to release a “haaaaa” breath. At other times, a sigh-of-relief sound can feel delightful.
- The Space-Creator.
We can literally breathe more space into our bodies and free up stuck energy which has become feelings of physical tension, heaviness and pressure. Sit tall in your chair or take a relaxed standing stance without locking your knees. Take your mind into your feet for a moment and simply breathe with the feeling of the wide, spacious curve of the earth under your feet for one cycle, saying to yourself “I feel my space”. As you inhale, visualise your feet feeding from the wide space of the earth and that spaciousness travelling with your breath around all of your being. As you exhale, feel your body completely letting go of excess tension and thus freeing up even more space. Continue to work from your feet up your body, sending your mind (your awareness) to each of the places which feel tight. In each place, as you send your spacious breath there, repeat silently to yourself, “I feel space in my xxx” (eg, shoulders, neck, throat and so on).
- Breathe with the Universe
Another way of freeing up internal space and healing cramped and tight feelings on the inside – is to “breathe with infinite the space of the universe”. If we have been answering to a lot of other peoples’ needs and to the demands of external life, it is especially important to step away at regular intervals and replenish our space. The wonderful thing about our inner life is that it has the potential to be limitless and we can tap into feelings of expansion into our breathing as a space-creator. Take your gaze to a wide-open space—look out of the window and scan the whole panorama towards the horizon or envisage the sky or the ocean or a huge meadow. As you breathe in and breathe out, make your breath as wide as that open space. Feel the expansion inside of you.
- “I fill My Cup”
When we get depleted or empty, it’s a call from our beings to recharge. Ideally, we’d perhaps like a vacation, a day at the beach or a nice long nap. However often in the moment, we may not have a lot of time to give to replenishing ourselves. At these times, we need to find a quick-refuel.
Pause for a minute. Take a moment to tune in fully to the flow of breath inside you. Notice if your breathing feels shallow or full. Now it is time to fill up. Feel the way your being draws the breath of life in through your nostrils and how your body fills up as it takes that big drink of breath. Your chest expands, your shoulders lift a little and there is more space in your armpits. Your rib cage floats open and your belly inflates. Now notice what your body feels as you release that breath, long and slow. The more leisurely and languidly you can take in and release breath, deeper you can fill.
As you do this practice, it can feel delightful to think of something you would really like to fill with, such as joy, peace or zest. Visualise someone, some place, some activity or a memory you associate with that quality and revisit it with your feelings and senses. Let that quality flow freely into your being and fill you up. As you release breath, know that you are letting go of old breath and tension and relaxing into the new feelings of delight.
- Rhythmic Breathing for Relaxation
I love this yummy breath for the deep relaxation and feelings of clarity it invites into my being. I think it feels most pleasurable lying down, but of course, sitting, standing or dancing are always fine and can be perfect! Let your body guide you. Get settled and then feel the movement of your breathing. As you inhale, feel your breath beginning in your pelvis and then travelling up the front of your body to the crown of your head. There, with your exhalation, feel your breathing travel all the way down the back of your spine back to the base of your pelvis where your natural inhalation picks it up and rides the breath back up the front of your of your body and over the top of the head again where your exhalation picks up and rides the breath down your spine. These waves of breath often lull me into a feeling of the ocean and deep pleasure.
- Breathe with Emotions
It is very common for people to become disconnected from their emotions or to feel unable to tolerate the bigger emotions. There are all kinds of reasons for this and we should not feel ashamed or scold ourselves for wanting to avoid our emotional life. However, being able to spend time with all of our emotions is an important part of befriending ourselves and initiating healing. Again, our breath can be our best friend here. It is intimate, gentle, steady and supportive. When you know there is a strong emotion bubbling inside you, even if you can’t name it, make some special time to be with it and welcome all the feelings that come. Begin by noticing the sensations in your body that come with that emotion, then place a hand where that sensation is and stay with it. Breathe into your belly and reassure the feeling that it is okay to be felt. You might even say the words, “It’s okay to feel this”, or “I am here for you” to the feelings, to help them feel safe. This is an exercise in embodied reconnection. Over time, not only can we become more emotionally aware, but we can invoke healing for deep emotional wounds.
- Healing Breath with Healing Hands
Take a moment to breathe and be with what is stirring in your body, including feels of tension, fears or heightened emotion.
Ask yourself: “where in my body am I feeling these?”
It could be that your belly is feeling uneasy, your heart feels heavy or throat tight. Your jaw may be clenched or your forehead furrowed and tight, causing head-ache.
Take your hands to the places which are feeling the emotions and ask yourself:
“What do I need to hear?”
“What do I need to remember?”
As the answers come, take your hands and physically massage these truths into every cell of your being. Take all the time you need and feel the sensations arising in you as you deeply embody these reminders and start to feel better.
- Breath of Letting Go
Take a long, luxurious inhale through your nose and an even longer, slower exhale through your mouth. When you exhale, you might imagine you are exhaling through a long, narrow straw.
If it helps, you might also sigh out a long, slow “ahhh” sound as you exhale with a fully open mouth.
As you inhale, feel your body welcoming new space. And as you exhale, let go of any tension in your head, neck, and shoulders—let them go completely, slump over if this helps. Do this a few times until you begin to feel more relaxed.
- Breathe to Connect
We are a part of everything that lives.
This breath-meditation can help when you feel lonely, disconnected or that you don’t belong.
Take a rich inhalation. As you do so, think of how life is gifting you this brand- new breath—this breath that cools your nostrils, trickles down your throat, and widens your heart as your lungs fill. Feel how this breath that then moves through every part of you wants to nourish and pump-up every cell in you. This is life, loving you so much, massaging you with her tender and life-giving spirit.
As you breathe out, there is an alchemy inside of you: your breath becomes carbon dioxide which you are gifting back into life, allowing all the green things to grow. With every breath, you are regifting everything you are. You are not only in life, you are of life and an essential part of the whole.
- Enjoy the Music of Your Breath
Although there are times when we want everything to slow down and stop, life isn’t like that. Rather than resist the natural momentum of life and force everything to be still, it can feel better to integrate ourselves peacefully with the flow of all that is happening.
The essence of life is flow—nothing is fixed—and that hasn’t changed since life began. It can be helpful to learn to find our strength and flexibility in flow and we can use our breath to guide us there.
Breathing is an eternal cycle. It is said that the human body breathes about 22,000 times a day. It is the blessing of air and it has its own different rhythms. Rather than reducing our breathing to “one single note”, it can be really fun and enlivening to explore the range of our breathing and how it gives us access to so many different feelings.
When we are excited and thrilled, we can breathe very quickly. When we talk about something amazing we say, “It takes my breath away.” There are moments of no-breath—a pause—and then the rhythm begins again. Enjoy exploring all the music of your breath and the journeys it takes you on, deeper into the wonder of life.
From my Soundcloud – The guided meditations on this playlist might be helpful for you to try: