The Institute of Neuroscience at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland took a look at what causes the benefit from a meditation practice. Much like wondering if it is the chicken or egg which came first, researchers examined whether it is the meditation, that is the focusing of the mind, or the breath work which comes with meditation, which truly causes the benefit. Much to the upset of those who claim miracles performed by mantras and focused meditations, researchers found that it is the deep breathing which has the profound effect on mind and body.
How The Breath Affects Mood
“How you breathe has a direct effect on your heart rate, which in turn can influence every major system in your body in a sort-of sad chain reaction,” Big Think writes. You can tell how someone is reacting to something by how they breathe. Anxious reactions involve short breaths or holding the breath, where as a heavy, profound, or sad reaction involves a long inhale and exhale. We hold our breath on what we don’t want to let in and we let go of our breath on what we don’t want to hold onto. Each affects our heart rate, which signals our brain. If we are breathing rapidly, we are telling the brain to be on edge. If we are breathing in a slow and controlled manner, we are telling the brain to slow down.
The Right Way To Breathe In Meditation
According to the article, a 1:2 ratio of breath inhale to breath exhale can change your heart rate and as a result, change your mood. Some people use counting as a form of mantra and a way to regulate the breath. For every second you inhale, try to exhale twice as long. Almost instantaneously after your first long exhale, you’ll notice a difference in your heart rate.
Why Focus On Breath Matters
Meditating can be extremely challenging for people with ADHD, anxiety, or who live with symptoms of trauma. Making “quieting the mind” or “focusing the mind” a goal can lead to frustrating challenges which deter someone from further practice in meditation. However, focusing on the breath is an entirely different challenge. Rather than focus on a mantra or the mind, a practitioner need only focus on counting the seconds to breathe in and out, which is inherently meditation.
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