Proper Meditation Breathing Techniques

A man sitting on a rock

Deep breathing is a form of meditation, a practice that researchers say dates back several thousand years. Research shows that meditation can reduce anxiety, sharpen memory, treat symptoms of depression, promote more restful sleep, and even improve heart health. There are thousands of forms of meditation and with them come different breathing techniques. The proper meditation breathing techniques are mentioned below.

Shamatha (Breathing as is)

A tree with a sunset in the background

Origin: Buddhism

Translation: “Peacefully abiding”

What It Is: Shamatha breathing is a technique centered around awareness of your breathing as it is. It’s a common practice in mindful meditation and is often referred to as the reset breath or the breath that brings you back to the present. 

How to Do It: Sitting or standing, feel the weight of your body through your seat or feet on the floor. Straighten your upper body. Soften your gaze and try to gently fixate on a point on the ground in front of you. Connect to the natural cycle of your breath, feeling the rise and fall of your belly.

Kundalini (Diaphragm breathing)

A large waterfall over a body of water

Origin: Hinduism

Translation: “The life force that resides at the base of the spine”

What It Is: In the practice of kundalini meditation, breathing centers around moving energy within the body through controlled breathing techniques, like diaphragmatic breathing. The Diaphragm is located at the bottom of your lungs. Breathing with your diaphragm teaches you how to use it correctly and helps strengthen it. With this technique you will be able to take in more air and decrease the oxygen demand

How to do it: While sitting down or lying on your back, place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your stomach below your rib cage. Breathe in slowly through your nose and feel your stomach move out from under your hand. Practice keeping the hand on your chest as still as possible. Concentrate on deep breaths that fill the lungs rather than shallow ones that only fill the chest. 

Nadi Shodhana and Pranayama (Alternate nostril breathing)

Origin: Hinduism

Translation: “Channel purifying”

What It Is: Similar to kundalini, pranayama is a type of meditative practice that involves controlled breathing, turning your focus to your body and finding balance internally. Nadi shodhana, or alternate nostril yoga breathing (ANYB), is the technique of breathing through one nostril at a time while closing the other nostril manually, to alternate breathing and airflow. 

How to Do It: Sit comfortably and rest your right hand on your knee while using your left thumb to gently close your left nostril. Inhale slowly through the right nostril, then close it with your ring finger. Take a moment and then exhale through the left nostril. Repeat this on each nostril 5 to 10 times. 

Zhuanqi (Breathing until the breath is soft)

Origin: Taoism

Translation: “Unite mind and air”

What It Is: Taoist meditation emphasizes quieting the body and mind to find harmony with nature. Zhuanqi, similar to Buddhist meditation, is a meditative breathing technique in Taoism that aims to unite breath and mind by focusing on your breath until it is soft. This can be done by observing the breath until it is quiet. It utilizes the abdominal muscles to elevate the diaphragm and push out air.

How to Do It: Sit comfortably with strong posture and your eyes half closed and fixed on the point of your nose. Breathe with your abdominal muscles until the breath is soft or quiet. To effectively use your abdominal muscles, place your right hand on your stomach and your left on your chest. Breathe deeply and watch which hand moves more and in which direction. 

These are the four most efficient and proper meditation breathing techniques.

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