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6 Best Breathing Methods to Step Up Your Meditation Game

Six different breathing methods to change the way you experience meditation

Meditation has been proven to have all kinds of benefits such as relieving stress, lengthening memory and attention span, improving sleep quality, decreasing blood pressure, and it can even help you be a kinder person. In addition to its benefits, it’s easy and can be done almost anywhere. The steps are simple: lie down and find a comfortable position, close your eyes, control your breathing, then focus on the sensations your body goes through as it takes in each breath and releases it. Do this to clear your mind from stress or just to relax and enjoy the health benefits that come along with it.

If you want to take it to the next level, you can try changing the way you breathe. Different methods evoke a variety of mental and physical effects. Improve how you meditate by trying out several methods to see which one works best for you. Here’s 5 different types of breathing methods with unique benefits.

Wim Hof on top of a mountain
Wim Hof’s recommended breathing technique © BOOGERT FOTOGRAFIE

Wim Hof Method

Breathing for Increased Oxygen Intake

This is the breathing method used by the famous Wim Hof, a man who’s notable for the ability to control his core temperature and withstand icy temperatures for hours on end. His crowning achievement is climbing Mount Everest wearing only shorts. While you probably won’t be needing to regulate your body temperature, there are other benefits that could help you out while meditating. The goal of this method is to deliver as much oxygen to vital organs as possible allowing for increased functioning. The method is to repeat the following 40 times: Inhale slowly as much as possible through the nose, then exhale very quickly through the mouth. After doing this you should feel energized as well as an uptick in mental functioning. This method is also good for exercise. Wim Hof claims that if you count how many push-ups you do before, then wait 30 minutes and do his breathing exercise, then do the push-ups again you will notice a sharp increase in the number you are able to do.

Two people meditating
Breathing through pursed lips

Pursed Lip Breathing:

Meditation for relaxation

This breathing method is meant for destressing and releasing energy. The purpose is actually to decrease the amount of oxygen intake you’re getting, similar to breathing into a paper bag. It involves breathing in through the nose for 2 counts, then pursing the lips as if to whistle and releasing the breath over 4 counts. By decreasing your breathe intake and increasing your breathe outtake, you can lower your heart-rate and calm down from a stressful situation. There is also evidence that this method can help COPD sufferers by strengthening the lungs.

Woman doing lion's breath meditation
One of the funnier looking techniques Photo by Ann Pizer

Lion’s Breathe

Breathing for releasing tension within the face and chest

This method is used in yoga for releasing energy kept in the face and chest. It focuses on tensing the facial muscles while at the same time releasing the breath. Sit in a comfortable position such as cross legged and press your hands on your knees. Inhale through your nose deep and open your mouth and eyes wide, then stick out your tongue toward your chin and exhale through your mouth with a “haa!” sound. Do this 2-3 times during yoga.

Woman doing Bhramari meditation
Humming and pressure on the ear cartilage Photo by YogaLily

Bhramari

Breath for Releasing Anger

Also called the “Humming Bee Breath” this method is for releasing anger and calming down. The vibration and sound of humming helps soothing nerves and releasing tension in the forehead. First, sit comfortably, close your eyes, and release tension in your face. Place your hand on the cartilage that covers your ear canal, then inhale. As you exhale, gradually press on the cartilage while making a loud humming sound.

Man meditating in a field
Breathing for Cardiovascular Health

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Meditation for Heart Health

This breathing method is for relaxation and has been shown to lower heart rate and improve cardiovascular function. First you take in a deep breath. Then, you cover your right nostril with your thumb and breathe out. Then inhale through this nostril, cover it, and then breathe out through your other nostril. Inhale again through this nostril, cover it, and exhale again through your right. Continue this cycle for 5 minutes and finish your last exhale on the left side.  

Woman meditating near a stream
The most natural way to breathe

Breath Focus Technique

Default Meditation Breathing

For this last technique, there’s nothing to do. Rather than controlling your breathing, let it naturally flow in and out. Focus on the sensation of your lungs expanding and compressing, and focus on your body’s natural movements in this process. As you allow yourself to focus on your breaths, your mind will naturally draw away from focusing on the sensation and thoughts will come freely. This is generally considered the default way to breathe during meditation, it’s always good to come back to the classics. This breathing is best if you’re not looking for any particular effect and instead would rather enjoy the numerous benefits meditation has to offer.

For more information on meditation, check out Kellee Maize’s guides for meditating to relieve anxiety or balancing chakras for beginners.


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Abby Marsh

Abby is a Student at Pitt majoring in Communications.
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