Different Types of Breathing Meditation

A man standing in front of a cloudy blue sky

From deep and controlled breathing to a shallow and present style, learn different techniques to help you achieve soundness of mind.

Here are five meditative breathing techniques and how they can help you achieve peace of mind.

1. Shamatha (Breathing as is)

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Origin: Buddhism

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. A study published in March 2018 in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement found that long-term meditation using shamatha techniques was associated with improvements in sustained attention and could alter the trajectory of age-related cognitive decline. Shamatha meditation “is the primary thing I teach to new meditators — simply becoming familiar with the breath as a way to become familiar with all of who you are, including your innate peaceful nature,” says Rinzler.

2. Kundalini (Diaphragm breathing)

A woman standing in front of a forest

Origin: Hinduism

What It Is: In the practice of kundalini meditation, breathing centers around moving energy within the body through controlled breathing techniques, like diaphragmatic breathing. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the diaphragm is the most efficient muscle of breathing. It 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. The practice of diaphragmatic breathing is especially useful for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to ease shortness of breath and to help air exit the lungs..

3. Nadi Shodhana and Pranayama (Alternate nostril breathing)

Origin: Hinduism

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. According to a study published in December 2017 in Medical Science Monitor Basic 

4. Zhuanqi (Breathing until the breath is soft)

Origin: Taoism

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.

5. Kumbhaka Pranayamas (Anatara and Bahya) (Intermittent breath retention)

Origin: Hinduism

What It Is: Kumbhaka pranayamas are a type of breathing exercise that uses intermittent breath holding following inhaling or exhaling. The pause of breath holding should be shorter than the inhaling or exhaling period. Holding air in the lungs after inhaling is called antara (inner) kumbhaka, and momentarily holding the breath following exhaling is called bahya (outer) kumbhaka. A study in the Indian Journal of Medical Research found that short breath holding was associated with a 56 percent increase in oxygen consumed. Additionally, a study published in January 2018 in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology determined that intermittent breathing could be useful in preventing metabolism issues due to changes in the rate your body uses and burns oxygen.

These are the five types of breathing meditation.

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