Over the past few years, we’ve seen countless studies showing how beneficial mindfulness meditation can be. It has been shown to change our brain, make us feel better and improve our lives.
But what do you do if it doesn’t work for you? What if practising meditation makes you feel stressed or anxious? It doesn’t exactly feel Zen.
The good news you don’t have to specifically practice mindfulness meditation to achieve inner peace. There are other ways too.
The alternative method to mindfulness meditation that you’ve never heard of
If you’re unable to do meditation, Dr. Emma M Seppala suggests you do breathing exercises instead.
She has worked with veterans returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan with heavy trauma and suggests that yoga based breathing exercises can help those who can’t be inactive for too long.
It is a more active meditation because it requires you to do something. What’s more, it leads to quick results, as breathing can literally slow your heart rate.
In her study, she suggests that veterans’ PTSD scores normalized within a week of practising yogic breathing.
Why does breathing help?
Breath helps you tap into your parasympathetic nervous system, which is the rest and digest part of your nervous system, the opposite of the flight or fight.
Research shows that when you breathe in, your heart rate speeds up and when you breathe out it slows down. If you want to relax quickly, you can lengthen your exhales. You can do this anywhere, anytime.
How do you practice breathing exercises?
If you want to practice a more formal breathing meditation every day, Helpful Guide have laid out a step by step guide. Here it is:
1. Sit comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
2. Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.
3. Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
4. Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale.
You can also try this course on Udemy which we highly recommend as a great way to get started: Comprehensive Summary of Yoga Meditation Practices.
Here is a TedX video of Emma Seppala explaining the science behind why breathing exercises work: