Tag Archives: breathing

Our 3 Favorite Breathing Techniques

If you’re a regular reader, you probably know we are fans of meditation. We may not be perfect at it, but we try every day to deepen, or at least continue, our practice. It helps us find focus, grounding, and perspective. When the world threatens to put everything on your shoulders, it helps to sit down and take a breather. It puts everything in perspective and reveals that all is not lost, that there’s still hope. It gives you some space from all the stresses and anguish that may be coming down on you. It also helps you realize that this is just a current mental state and that it is and always will be fluid.

To get into a meditation practice, it’s always a good idea to start with breathing. This helps calm the mind down and pushes it to focus on one thing: your breath. Below are our three favorite breathing techniques to clear the mind:

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Stress-Relieving Meditation

If after this election, you have bouts of panic or freak-out moments, this meditation is for you. If you feel stressed, on the verge of mental break, this meditation is for you. Even if your anxiety has nothing to do with the election, this meditation is for you. This will just take a few minutes and, trust me, it’s worth it. Deep breath.

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Monday Meditation

I teach a Meditation every Monday and I believe it’s a good way to set up and shape the week ahead. I can’t think of a better thing to do on a Mondaybefore the madness and stress of the week totally grabs you. You can either let the week rule you, or you take control of the week. It’s the difference between stress and happiness. And it can only take 5 minutes. When I wake up to face the day, I either go for a morning walk or I do three sun salutations and meditate for a few minutes. It leaves me refreshed, calm, and ready to take on the week with a smile. Here’s the meditation I did today, very simple:

Beautiful nature always helps for meditation!

Beautiful nature always helps for meditation!

  • Start by sitting upright in a comfortable position
  • Then begin your active breathing…using the counting method, inhale for four counts, hold at the top for four counts, and exhale for four counts. Do this for a few minutes until your mind and body calms down
  • To move to the focus of this meditation, I want you to think of kindness and inhale the kindness, and exhale entitlement. Inhale kindness, exhale entitlement. Do this for a few minutes until you have a smile on your face.
  • Finish with three big stress relief breaths. Use your body and raise your shoulders as you inhale, and exhale with a loud breath (as if sighing), slumping forward. Do this three times.

And that’s it. Only takes a few minutes and really sets a beautiful tone for the day. I focused on breathing in kindness (because we all need more of that) and exhaling entitlement because I believe entitlement always leads to other problems like greed, anger, frustration, and so forth. I hope you do this meditation sometime this week! I promise it will be worth it. And as always…stay hungry and fit!

How to Use Meditation to Heal

These past few days have been very stressful and painful for a lot of people in Colorado (due to the floods and storms). People are dealing with death, injury, loss of homes, and devastation. Even for those of us who didn’t get homes damaged, it’s been rough. It takes a toll on you when your city is suffering and people cannot continue with normal life. I definitely find this to be so. It’s easy to get distracted by all the devastation and certainly to get emotionally involved. I teach a Monday Meditation class every week and it was the Monday right after the big flood and I knew we all needed some healing and good energy after everything that has happened and everything that we’ve seen.

End of the day...that used to be a back yard

Colorado flooding

Meditation is one of the best ways to find closure, peace, and to spread good energy throughout yourself and others. Please take 3-10 minutes today and do this for yourself. I promise you will not regret it. Just start slowly. You can be seated or laying down. Get comfortable. Here are some simple steps to healing yourself and others through meditation.

1. Start breathing slowly, feel your chest and stomach–the diaphragm. It has a jellyfish like shape. Now, think about all the muscles that are in that area. If your muscles are contracted or stressed, your diaphragm will be too, and thus, your breathing. It is very important to focus and relax all the muscles of your chest, stomach, pelvis, and even throat. Do this now. Ease off a little more stress from those muscles.


2. Now it’s time to ease the mind. Push all other stress or worries outside of this room and out of your mind. Let go of what should or needs to be done. This time is for you and the time is the present. Silence the mind by turning off your internal dialogue. Just stop talking to yourself about particular thoughts, and instead let the stream of consciousness flow naturally in the background of your mind Take a few moments to visualize anything that is nagging you and imagine it fading away.

3.Let’s start with some sinus breathing. Hold one nostril with your thumb and inhale. Switch and hold the other nostril and let the air out. This is a great way to get focused in your meditation as you are actively participating with your breath. Do this for a minute or so. Now release your nose and let’s start counting the breaths. This is another active form of breathing and is excellent for getting into your practice. Inhale for four counts, hold it at the top for four counts, and exhale for four counts. Repeat this for a minute or so.


4.Great, so now you’re relaxed. Let’s proceed on to the healing part! Gather up all your good energy–your gratitude, your joy, your love, your kindness. Feel all those emotions inside of you and feel that positive energy start to grow. Gather it up like a ball of sunshine and let it spread to the rest of your body. Feel that radiating good energy. Now focus it and send it where you want it to go. Whether that be towards healing yourself, your friends, your family, or even strangers who have lost everything. Send that good energy towards them or yourself, give strength. Focus on that.

5. Lastly, focus on gratitude. Think of a person or thing that you’re absolutely grateful for. Perhaps, sometimes you take them/it for granted, but this is the time to focus on this person or thing. Hold the image of them in your mind and the gratitude in your heart. Feel that good energy flow from the gratitude and allow it to spread. Concentrate on it and be at peace with it.


6. To end, let’s do 3 big dramatic breaths. I want your shoulders to raise up as you take a big inhale and forcefully let out the air, slumping the shoulders. This should come out like a huge sigh. Do this 3 times. It is wonderful stress-relief.

Please take the time to do this, I promise it won’t take more than 10 minutes. Spare the time in order to give yourself a sense of peace and healing through tough times. Use meditation to stay hungry and fit!

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Sajah and Nymeria waiting patiently

Sajah and Nymeria waiting patiently

4 Ways to Breathe Properly and Reap the Benefits

Breathe in. And out. Breathing, oxygen is the foundation of our entire existence as air-breathing animals. Yet, we rarely pay attention to it throughout the day. I’m here to bring the importance of breathing back into your life! Breathing properly has an incredible amount of benefits, including:

  • A larger lung capacity
  • Lower blood pressure 
  • The ability to relax emotions and stress
  • The ability to relax muscle tension, cramps, and pain
  • The ability to push your exercise and strength farther 
  • Improves posture
  • Elevates mood and keeps you calm and refreshed
  • Fights off fatigue

Breathe (Photo credit: PhotoLab XL)

Now those are just some benefits of breathing deeply and properly, the list goes on and on. Breathing is also a large part of meditation, where you can learn more about here. Okay, Alana, these are great benefits!

So, how do we breathe properly?

There are several different techniques for different situations, but in most circumstances, it is important to breathe deeply. Breathe deep in through the nose and out through the mouth. Depending on the situation, it is good to have your exhale be audible (such as when you are meditating or working out).

1. Breathing 101. Like I said, in through the nose, out through the mouth. When you inhale, make sure that your belly expands. Once your belly expands, fill your chest. It is good to inhale and hold at the top for as long as you comfortably can, then exhale through the mouth. This is the proper technique of breathing to get those benefits we talked about above. It helps to massage those inner muscles as well.

English: Animation of a diaphragm exhaling and...

English: Animation of a diaphragm exhaling and inhaling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. Breathing for meditation. Again, if you want a more in-depth introduction or guide to meditation, go here. Otherwise, let’s go through a short version. We are going to do the same breathing (in through nose, out through mouth), but this time we are going to count. This helps focus the mind and concentrate only on breathing, which is a great practice for meditation. So, inhale for 4 counts, hold the breath at the top for 4 counts, and exhale for 4 counts. Do this for a few minutes. After a few minutes and you’ve gotten into a rhythm, expand your breath farther by using the count of 5. 

La méditation (Danse Odissi, musée Guimet)

La méditation (Danse Odissi, musée Guimet) (Photo credit: dalbera)

3. Breathing for working out. Believe it or not, breathing for exercise purposes is similar to the above techniques. But with working out, we want to exhale more forcefully. Often, when we exercise, we tend to gulp up short little breaths, and even hold our breath during a tough exercise. These are NO-NOs! If you want to get stronger, faster, and more capable, here’s how to do it: breathe in when you’re in the less stressful part of the exercise, and then exhale forcefully (so that others can hear it) out. This dramatic exhale focuses you and pushes you to complete the exercise. Make sure your inhales are deep–your muscles need oxygen, and if you deprive them of it, they will not work properly or as effectively!

photo (75)

Chris breathing through leg press

4. Breathing for stress relief. I know we allll need this one, so pay attention. We are going to do the same breathing techniques as above, but slightly changed to fit our needs. Let’s practice this breathing technique three times: inhale very deeply, fill up that chest and expand the tummy. Hold it…now exhale out forcefully making an “ahhh” sound. As you exhale out loudly, I want you to slump your shoulders with the force of it. So you’re bringing your inhale up, your posture nice and straight, then letting it all loose with a loud, stress-releasing exhale.

[Exhalation] Tomoe Shinohara as Sayuri

[Exhalation] Tomoe Shinohara as Sayuri (Photo credit: edmundyeo)


Keep in mind all the benefits this deep breathing can give you, and try to practice proper breathing at least ten minutes a day. If you are strength training, definitely put this to use if you want a better workout! If you keep practicing, you will notice your posture will become more upright, you will feel more relaxed, and in charge of your life!

Feel free to comment with any questions you might have. Cheers!

A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation

I am no master of meditation. But it is a goal of mine to meditate every day for at least a few minutes. When I was doing it “religiously,” during college, I found such peace and clarity at the end of each session–even if it was just for a few minutes and I had struggled to focus. It was so worth my time and effort. I am slowly getting back into it now and I hope to expand my time each day meditating. Meditation can sound intimidating and weird. Why would I want to sit down and fight with my mind for 20 minutes? Good question. You hone your body through physical exercise, but ignore the mind. Meditation is exercise for the mind, making it strong and honed. It allows you to take control over your mind and emotions when usually they take control over you. It is worthwhile for everyone to try. Let’s start with baby steps.

"Gathering the Light" from the Taois...

“Gathering the Light” from the Taoist book The Secret of the Golden Flower, translated by C. G. Jung and Richard Wilhelm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The best way to start a meditation practice is to devote and hold yourself to doing it just for 2-3 minutes per day. That’s not a whole lot of commitment time–you can definitely do that. I usually do it just before bed and it allows me to go to sleep in a peaceful state. You don’t have to do it at the same time every day, but make sure you get some time in.

So now we’ve got our homework time set of 2-3 minutes per day. It really is the best way to start. Okay, I’m sitting here, closing my eyes–now what! 

1. Understand the monkey mind. Our minds are not easy to control, they go this way and this, seemingly whenever they want to. We need to appreciate the mind for what it is–and not try to fight it by saying, “Empty my mind, fill it with nothing.” Because plainly speaking, that ain’t gonna happen. Especially when you’re just starting out. My Yoga teacher taught me that the mind is like a monkey–it’s jumping around, excited, trying to do and focus on a million things at once. That isn’t going to work for you. So, it’s simple–give it a task. Give it a task so that it focuses on one thing instead of seventeen. That will lead to clarity of the mind. What task should you give it? Read on.

This Statue of Shiva is Approximately 65 feet ...

This Statue of Shiva (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. Start with breathing. Bottom line. Once you’re comfortably seated or laying down (everyone is different)–it’s all about your breath. You may find that when you sit down and close your eyes, ready for meditation, your mind is screaming in a bunch of different directions and that everything that you know you need to do swarms your head. Calm that monkey mind down, and begin deliberate breathing. If you’re still struggling, ease your focus by counting with your breaths. I like to start with four counts inhale, four counts hold, then four counts exhale. That way, you’re concentrating on counting the breath, putting all your mind power into regulating it. As you breathe, put a hand on your chest and stomach, and feel how the breath pushes and pulls your body. Putting all your focus into your breath gives your mind a task. It is always that when we don’t try to “empty our minds” do we actually find clarity by devoting it to one thing. If you want, keep this counting breath practice your whole 2-3 minutes–it truly helps.

English: show the shallow breathing. Dansk: vi...

English: show the shallow breathing. Dansk: viser vejrtrækning i brystet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3. Focus on an image. There are many other ways, beyond breathing, to focus the mind. I will list a few. One is focusing on an image. For example, I usually go with a flame or a grain of sand. I picture in my mind, while keeping my breathing steady, and picture every single thing about it–how it feels, if it’s warm or cold, what it looks like, how heavy it is, etc. It helps your mind when you imagine just that image and try to delve into it. Your mind can devote it one way, and it is a meditation to lead to meditative state. Another version of focusing on an image is staring at a real flame, either candle or fire–it can be captivating.

A flame

A flame (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4. Focus on a word or mantra. This can be anything. A word that means most to you, a word or phrase you try to live by, something you want to see out of yourself–anything. It should focus on positive energy because it will determine your state of emotion and mind once you stop meditating. For me, I usually pick peace or be. I just project it in my mind, let it sound there, envelop all of your senses and focus. Another good way to concentrate.

5. Focus on a sound. Ever hear crickets from your room? Or maybe there’s a creek running out back. Maybe you have a buzzing air conditioner, heater, or humidifer. You could even put on ambient music to focus on as well. Find that sound, listen to it closely, let it be the only thing your mind focuses on. Try to detect where it is, and all the layers that make that sound. Make it so it is the only sound you hear.

6. Scan your body. Another great way of tuning in to your body and mind is doing an imaginative scan and feel of your body. Keeping your eyes closed and breathing deliberate, focus first on your feet. How do they feel? Are they sore? Are they hot or cold? Answer those questions and slowly move up the body, feeling out each part until you reach the top of your head. This may not seem like meditation, but it is–you are focusing your mind on something, excluding any other distractions and strengthening your mind power.

7. Return to your breath when frustrated. Sometimes, it’s just not working out. You’re focusing on the flame, but something in your mind is pulling it away from where you want it to be. Stop, re-center yourself. Count the breaths again and return to the start.

8. Congratulate yourself. Nice work! Meditation is not easy. We often underestimate the challenges for the mind. Once again, as you keep going, it will be easier. Soon that 2-3 minutes will turn into 5, and that 5 into 10 and so forth. Whenever I finish a meditation, I feel as if I could just float upwards on a cloud of warm peace and clarity. It sounds strange, but just 2-3 minutes can do that for you.


Meditation (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn_be_back_on_Jan_20th)

Remember that success in meditation is not “emptying the mind”–it is focusing it. Give it that task, whatever of the above you would like and you will venture into the meditative state. Good luck and let me know if you have any questions or comments!

How I feel after meditation

How I feel after meditation