How to Meditate on the Breath

Most Americans discover yoga on the physical side which produces a number of benefits, but the point of yoga—according to the Patanjali who wrote the Yoga Sutra—is to still the motions of the mind.

While the poses (asana) can engage our mind and make us more focused, it is the breath that brings about the state change internally.

If you don't currently have a meditation practice, one of the simplest ones to begin is to focus on your breathing. Doing this for as little as two minutes a day can have a profound influence on your well being.



How to meditate on the breath

1. Sit quietly with your spine straight. (For more on finding a comfortable position, read this article by Anne Cushman.)
2. Set a timer for 2 minutes, then set it aside so that you don't have to keep track.
3. Close your eyes and inhale for a count of four.
4. Now, exhale for a count of four.
5. Quietly, place all of your attention on the breath and keep your inhalation and exhalation at even length.
6. If your mind wanders, simply bring your attention back to the breath without judgement.


What typically happens when you first start meditating on the breath


1. Sit quietly with your spine straight. 

Am I doing this right? How do I know if my spine is really straight? Should I go look in a mirror? 

It's okay.  Just sit tall.

2. Set a timer for 2 minutes, then set it aside so that you don't have to keep track.

Alexa, set a timer for two minutes. 

3. Close your eyes and inhale for a count of four. 

How fast should I be counting? Am I doing this right? 

If that feels too short, make it slightly longer. Just pick something that works for you where you feel fully inhaled without straining. 

4. Now, exhale for a count of four

Mmmmmm....

5. Quietly, place all of your attention on the breath and keep your inhalation and exhalation at even length.

Look at me breathing deeply and evenly...1,2,3,4...1,2,3,4... I wonder if I remembered that thing that I was supposed to do for work. Oh no, is it Gemma's birthday tomorrow? Are we out of oranges?

ARGH!!!!

I knew I couldn't do this meditation stuff. How can you suck at meditation???!!!

Just release your thoughts and go back to breathing and counting. Deeply and slowly. 

6. If your mind wanders, simply bring your attention back to the breath without judgement.

How did she know my mind was going to wander? 

All of our minds wander.  It is why this is a meditation p.r.a.c.t.i.c.e. 

Meditation is simple, but profound.  And the more you practice, the easier it becomes.  


© Yogi with a Day JobMaira Gall