Meditation & Mantras: Breathe

Ahead of our Meditation Event Series beginning this January, we wanted to explore the ins and outs of practising meditation with our new resident meditation and yoga guru, Simon. Promising to guide us in our meditation practice, Simon will be sharing his favourite techniques, tips and advice on how to live a more mindful life. From 3 minutes a day in the comfort of our homes, to Simon's meditation classes exclusively for our members, there are many ways to practice meditation. So let's use the new year to discover this new state of consciousness for ourselves, taking the time to shift our focus, harness a sense of mindfulness little and often, and see how it can benefit our day-to-day mindset. 

Our breath is our constant companion, our breath is always there, and it doesn’t matter where we are in the world, what we are doing, whether we are in our own home, on the tube, or the bus, our breath is always there... And the breath is a great thing to come back to... The breath can guide us into this silent place... It’s a great way for people to start meditation... focusing on the breath.
— Simon

Today, we wanted to share with you the importance that breathing has for practicing meditation. It might seem "simple", it may seem "easy", but with our hectic and chaotic lifestyles just taking the time to focus on our breathing can be more difficult than it sounds. However, as a "constant companion", focusing on our breath can be a helpful way in to the practice of meditation. It's something we can always tap into, wherever we may be, and is a sure-set way to calm ourselves and re-set both our bodily state physically and our mindset mentally.

If you want to stimulate the mind you focus on the inhale.
If you want to calm the mind you focus on the exhale.
— Simon

Paying close attention to the pattern of our breathing can be incredibly therapeutic and worthwhile. As Simon explains, if you want to stimulate the mind you may be encouraged to focus on your inhalations and what you are drawing into your body; whereas, if you want to calm your mind, focusing on your exhalations will help you to release any tensions and unwanted energies in your body. For meditation, therefore, lengthening your exhales can be really helpful. Taking pregnant women as an example, the benefits of longer exhalations are clear to see. Helping to calm your nervous state, longer breaths out will systematically relax both your mind-set and your body. There is also no denying that through focusing on your breaths in and out, most people will find that their breath naturally begins to lengthen and in turn guide your consciousness into a state that is more open for practising meditation. 

But what if you struggle to focus? What can you do to help concentrate on your breathing?

We asked Simon if there were any ways in particular that may help prepare us for focusing on our breathing. From experience and his extensive research, in Simon's opinion a really helpful way to practice your breathing is to lie down. Just by lying down on your front on your belly, will help guide you into taking a few more mindful breaths. In this position you will notice your abdomen and belly expanding into the floor on the inhale and gently releasing on the exhale. By doing this, you will be stimulating your vagus nerve that flows down the front of your body. Through this, you will then be stimulating the nervous system to send a signal to the brain which will instruct the brain to calm down and relax. If lying on your front doesn't please you, you can lie on your back and then lay a pillow on your front for the same calming effect.  

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Simon is a meditation and yoga teacher, practicing iRest Yoga Nidra Level 1 and Level 2

Want to find out more about the importance of this special Vagus nerve and the power that breathing can have over our lives? Watch these insightful videos to find out more:

Ellie Drake shares the importance of the Parasympathetic Nervous System and its essential role in supporting you to thrive regardless of your circumstances. Plus learn about the Vagus nerve, your highly intellectual partner in creating inner ease. Learn a simple breathing technique that stimulates the Vagus nerve and supports you to live a more vivacious life!
With anxiety, stress, and sleep dysfunction skyrocketing around the globe, it's time we look at the unspoken reasons why. These debilitating challenges can be meaningfully impacted with ten to twenty minutes of breathing exercises per day. Max Strom,who has taught breath-work for 20 years, reveals his insights into the healing power of the breath.