Mindful Breathing Techniques
Mindful breathing is essentially just paying attention to our breath as it happens - of all the ways we can bring ourselves into the present moment, breathing is the simplest and most readily available. It requires no yoga mats or meditation poses (unless you want it to, of course - I personally prefer sitting cross-legged or lying down, but you're likely to get the most out of your mindful breathing time when you're sat in a position that's comfortable for you), no 'ohms', and no effort on our part since we're already breathing all the time anyway!
Below are some techniques you can try if you're looking to dive a little deeper into your breath practice and below that are some answers around timing and routine.
1) Diaphragm Breathing - Kundalini
Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your stomach
Breathe in slowly through your nose
Concentrate on deep breaths that fill the lungs rather than shallow ones that only fill the chest.
2) Intermittent Breath Retention
Breathe in for 4
Pause for a count of 2 at the top of this breath
Breathe out for a count of 4 or 5 (the aim here is to try to make your exhale longer than your inhale)
Pause for a count of 2 before inhaling again
Alternate Nostril Breathing - Nadi Shodhana
Use your left thumb to gently close your left nostril
Inhale slowly through the right nostril, then close it with your ring finger.
Pause for a moment and then exhale through the left nostril
Q) How long should each mindful breathing technique last?
The recommended time to practise these is 5-20 minutes but notice what works for you, and don't be frustrated if your thoughts start running wild or you get bored after a minute. It's bound to happen!
Q) How often should I practice mindful breathing?
As with anything, I think the key is to start off small. If there are loads of new habits you want to get into, start off with just one. Another key is to practice long enough to see the all-around benefits of it, in the same way as you would with exercise and in particular, skill-based sports. So if that means meditating just once a week so that you can stick with it, that's fine! You can always build up as you go along.