Day 21: Taking a Breath v. Observing a Breath

Photo by  Valeriia Bugaiova  on  Unsplash

I have spent quite a bit of time reflecting on my learning from my training in mindfulness and my training in yoga. Though there is certainly overlap and application of each in the other, they are not one in the same. Mindfulness teachers, myself included, often conflate strategies to soothe the nervous system with methods of self observation and learning. Specifically, observing a breath and taking a breath are both useful tools, but they are not one in the same. We may use them intentionally, sometimes within the same practice, but former asks us simply to step back and notice the breath doing its thing, while the latter is an active and dynamic practice, often with an intention to calm and relax.

Here are a few observation v. active practices that you can choose to engage, depending on your intention:

Watching/noting the breath: without trying to control it

  • build concentration, stamina, stability of mind, hone sensitivity, observe quality of breath/observe state of mind

Diamond Breath: notice the complete inhale, the pause at the top, complete exhale, and the pause at the bottom

Count breaths: count up to 8 breaths; each breath is a complete inhale and exhale. if you get lost in thought before 8, simply start again

Note in the mind: “breathing in” as you breathe in, “breathing out” as you breathe out

Using the breath: to shift state of mind/being

Belly/Diaphragmatic breathing: place your hands on your belly and inflate it with an inhale, then slowly release all the air from the belly on the exhale. Inhale a complete breath in and exhale a complete breath out.

4-7-8 breathing: inhale for 4, hold for 7, exhale for 8

Vacuum breath: As you inhale, image all the stress and tension in your body concentrating in your belly. Hold the breath, then exhale out the mouth and imagine it leaving.