Welcome to ‘A Simple Breathing Exercise’. This is the foundation of all other mindfulness exercises.
It is the simple breathing exercise that keeps me going; it is like a trusted friend I can rely on to help me out in difficult times. It reminds me to be present and enjoy whatever is happening in the moment; for example, if I am walking the dog, a quick mindful moment reminds me to enjoy the walk more. This simple breathing exercise has helped me to gain more emotional balance in my life. It helps me at work and home. I use it whilst teaching, cooking, revising, cycling, running, walking, reading. I use it when I’m sitting in the dentist’s chair. I have found it vital to embed a mindful breathing technique into my daily routine.
I often set small goals and will find the time to use this technique for 20 minutes twice a day for two weeks to see what happens. I find decision-making becomes effortless, I procrastinate less, and I get more done. I am less caught up in emotional turmoil and suddenly find time to enjoy activities that bring me joy, like reading, walking, and paddle boarding. I feel more successful at work and can cope much better with criticism. What I enjoy the most is the natural drive to strive that washes over me. But most of all, a simple breathing exercise can help us feel strength when needed. If unpleasant events occur, it can feel like we are in a storm, being blown around and in chaos. When we use a simple breathing exercise, we bring our minds into our bodies - where it is strong. Many of my mindfulness teachers use the tree in a storm as a metaphor. Imagine you are a tree in a storm, blown around but not easily uprooted. Our minds are the branches, being flung this way and that, snapping and flying around us. Our bodies, the tree's trunk, are strong, stable and difficult to move. Our feet are the roots, grounding us, connecting us to the earth, and keeping us stable and nourished. This simple breathing technique, practised regularly, will help us find inner strength, nourishment and calm.
If you are just starting, I advise you to practise in a quiet place where you’re unlikely to be disturbed. Find somewhere comfortable to sit down. Once comfortable, place both feet on the floor and notice how that feels. Rest your hands on your knees or legs. Notice how that feels. Then relax your shoulders, roll them a few times, and take a few deep breaths. When you feel ready, close your eyes. If you don’t feel comfortable closing your eyes, find a little spot in front of you and focus on that.
Each time you breathe in, notice where it starts and where it ends. Every time you exhale, notice where it starts and where it ends. Follow each breath from the beginning to the end. Notice how effortless breathing is. Your body is nourished on the in-breath, and on the out-breath, your body relaxes. Allow your breathing to settle into a natural rhythm, and start silently saying the words breathing in when you breathe in and breathing out when you breathe out.
If you are distracted by a thought, feeling, sensation, sound, or something else, notice it and then allow it to be, always bringing your attention back by saying the words breathing in when you are breathing in and breathing out when you are breathing out.
Repeat this for 5-10 minutes if you can; if not, start at 1 minute and then build up to 5- 10 over a few days/weeks. When you have mastered the technique, try it out for 20 minutes. Always remain curious and always be kind to yourself.