Focusing On Breathing

Focusing on breathing is the foundation practice useful for simple relaxation to meditation. 

General
Notice your in-breaths and out-breaths ‘passively’. They may be short, long, deep or shallow and may change. Watch them as you would watch the rising and falling waves in the sea, sitting on the beach .

Don’t try to breathe deeply or slowly. This is NOT Yoga based breathing. But it is OK for the breathing pattern to change by itself, over time. Exception is the ‘911 mode’, in which we impose a pattern.

Basic modes
Six basic modes of ‘Focusing on breathing’ are described below. Try each mode for about a minute, eyes closed, except for the ‘staring mode’. After some practice, you can also try, eyes open.

Variations
Describes variations of  the above basic modes.  Skip them in the beginning. Try them after you get used to the basic modes.

Basic modes

How to Count breaths? 
During the first in-breath, feel the coolness inside the nose. During the out-breath, silently repeat the number ‘one – one – one’. During the next in-breath, feel the coolness inside the nose. During the out-breath, silently repeat ‘two – two – two’. During the next in-breath, feel the coolness inside the nose. During the out-breath, silently repeat ‘three –  three – three’. Why we repeat the number being counted, is explained at (1)

Folding mode
Start with any one hand, say the left hand. Gently bend the little finger.  Count three breaths as explained under ‘How to count breaths?’ above. Release the little finger.

Repeat the above step using the other fingers, one at a time – ring finger, middle finger, index finger and thumb.

Then, switch to the right hand and repeat all the above steps at its five fingers. Continue practicing, switching the hands. VIDEO link is at (5)

Tip mode
Start with any one hand, say the left hand. Keep the tip of the thumb touching the tip of the little finger. Count three breaths as explained under ‘How to count breaths?’. Repeat the same, at each of the next 3 finger tips – ring, middle and index fingers. When you are at the thumb, place the tip of the index finger at the base of the thumb and count three breaths.

Then switch to the right hand and repeat the same steps.

Continue practicing switching the hands. 

Segment mode
Every finger has two cross lines, dividing it into three parts, called segments. Start with any one hand, say the left hand.  Place the tip of the thumb at the top segment of the little finger. Count three breaths as explained under ‘How to count breaths?’. Move the thumb to the middle segment and count three breaths. Move to the bottom segment and count three breaths. Release the little finger.

Repeat the same steps at the next three fingers – ring, middle and index fingers. At the thumb, place the tip of the index finger on its segments and repeat the same steps.

Then, switch to the other hand and repeat all the above steps.

Continue practicing switching the hands.

Counting mode
Don’t use fingers. Count three breaths, as explained under ‘How to count breaths?’

When you breathe out next time, restart counting from ‘one – one – one’. Every time, count only up to three breaths. Continue practicing as long as you like.

Every time your mind wanders and you lose track of the breaths, quietly resume counting the breaths, starting from ‘one – one – one’.

Feeling mode
Don’t use fingers. Don’t count. During the in-breath, feel the coolness inside the nose. During the out-breath, feel the warm or neutral sensation.

You can also place a hand on your abdomen and focus on its slight outward movement as you breathe in and inward movement as you breathe out.

Every time your mind wanders and you lose track of the breaths, quietly resume the practice by focusing on the coolness during the in-breath.

Staring mode
Keep your eyes open. Stare at a small but prominently visible spot, mark, object or part of an object at your eye level or below. Without diverting your eyes, practice any of the above four breathing modes.  More at (2)

911  Mode
This is not passive but active breathing. Keep your eyes closed for better impact. Breathe in through the nose or mouth quickly. Keep your lips almost closed with just a small  opening, as if you are holding a straw between the lips. Blow air through the lips. Focus on the sensation at the lips. The outgoing breath will be slow and long.

Repeat this practice, till yo feel some relief from acute stress of any kind, mental or physical. More at (3)

Variations

We can develop our own variations of the above basic modes. These are some variations I use  – ‘Engaging the idle hand’, ‘Visualizing mode’ and ‘Dynamic modes’ . More at (4).

(1) Why repeat the number being counted?
(2) Staring mode
(3) 911 mode
(4) Variations of the modes
(5) VIDEO of Folding mode

Related pages: Benefits: De-addiction to Will power 

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