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What is Breathing Meditation?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Feb 18, 2024
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Breathing meditation may be one of the purest meditative forms, and it is accessible to virtually people, with very little practice or instruction. There are some types of breathing meditation that concentrate on certain forms of breath and complex breathing techniques, such as breathing in one nostril and out the other. When breathing meditation is thought of in a more generic way, it means concentrating on simple breaths while maintaining a meditative posture. Some call this meditation the first step toward any other form of meditation, and it’s frequently pointed out that it has no religious bias, so anyone can attempt it, no matter what their orientation or what other forms of meditation they might pursue in the future.

There are plenty of instructions on how to pursue breathing meditation. People are usually asked to take a comfortable position. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean sitting on the floor in any form of lotus or cross-legged pose. Instructions intended to lead to a more structured meditative form may suggest specific positions, but the recommendation to take a comfortable position that is not slouched is really the only one people need heed.

In basic breathing meditation, people may close their eyes to focus better, and they simply breathe in and out. Breaths should be relatively slow, but they don’t have to be extremely deep. Some teachers suggest breathing from the diaphragm, but in early attempts with this meditation, diaphragmatic breathing isn’t necessary.

People should be conscious of their breathing. Some people recommend breathing in the nose and out the mouth, or solely through the nose. Other teachers differ on this, and advise that especially with any nasal congestion, mouth breathing might be easier for new students.

This argument brings up an important issue: comfort is valuable. People aren’t meditating for technique necessarily — they’re meditating to concentrate on breathing most.

As people inhale and exhale in breathing meditation, the main goal is to follow the breath and to see how it feels. This will inevitably lead to moments where distraction occurs and the mind wanders. People are just directed to return to following their breath. The first few times people meditate they may find themselves redirecting many times, but with practice greater focus tends to result.

The total amount of time recommended for breathing meditation can vary. Some suggest that people pursue this for about 10-15 minutes when possible. Others believe that even a minute or two can help promote calm or a sense of vitality, and is especially useful in the middle of busy days.

This easy meditation is employed by people worldwide, from the religious leader to the student facing down a math test. It can be the beginning of more extensive meditative practices. Alternately, the business of following the breath might feel like the only meditation needed.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By Animandel — On Mar 07, 2014

I can remember thinking that meditation was for deeply religious or deeply spiritual people. I found the practice somewhat intimidating, to be honest.

Once I started participating in yoga classes at my health center I realized the benefits of breathing exercises. I think the gaining popularity of yoga and yoga meditation with the general public has opened up the benefits of meditation to more people.

By Sporkasia — On Mar 06, 2014

When I was teaching myself how to meditate, I took the advice I read in a book. The book read that one should think of nothing when meditating. Have you ever tried to think of nothing? For a novice that is virtually impossible.

Once I learned to focus on my breathing in meditation practice sessions I was better able to stay in the moment and relax.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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