Breathing in the Moment

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky.

Conscious breathing is my anchor.”

Thich Nhat Hanh: Stepping into Freedom

Last time I promised I would share the breathing technique that helps me stay in the moment. It is not a secret – anyone can learn how to do this and feel the benefits! It is simple to learn and can be practised anytime, anywhere.

To begin it is helpful to find a quiet space (once you know the technique this is not necessary) free from distractions. You can sit comfortably upright, or lie on your back as you prefer – as long as you are not hunched over, constricting the chest and abdomen. Breath through the nose for this technique; if you are very bunged up purse the lips to control the breath, rather than breathing with an open mouth. The eyes can be closed or open, although it is easier to focus the awareness on the breath with them closed.

Place one or both hands gently onto the abdomen, below the ribs and just feel into the natural breath. You may already notice the movement of the abdomen – expanding with the inhalation, contracting with the exhalation. (If you don’t feel any movement don’t worry – you are going to work on this movement as part of the breathing technique!)

Seated Abdominal Breathing
Lying Abdominal Breathing

Consciously direct the breath into the abdominal region.  The belly will push against the hands on inhalation, as the lungs fill and expand and draw away from the hands on exhalation, as the lungs empty and contract. Take a few breaths like this until you feel the movement and your breathing rhythm becomes even and relaxed.

It can help if you imagine you are filling and emptying a balloon in your abdomen. (Of course you are not actually breathing into your abdomen, because that is impossible! You are breathing into your lungs, but allowing the abdomen to move outwards as the diaphragm moves downwards.)

Inhale – Abdomen Rising; Exhale – Abdomen Falling

Once you have found your rhythm, begin to slow and deepen the breath; filling and emptying the lungs completely with each breath. Aim for each exhalation to be slightly longer than the inhalation, by slowing and controlling the rate of breathing. If it helps you can count the length of each inhale and exhale; for example if your inhale is a count of four, your exhale should be a count of five or six.

Slow And Deepen Each Breath

Take ten breaths using this technique, keeping the awareness with the breath. Follow the breath in through the nostrils, through the throat, into the lungs and out from the lungs, through the throat and through the nostrils. If you lose count, begin again from one – this will help you control your awareness and keep it from becoming lost in thoughts. If you become frustrated stop, take a few natural breaths and then try again. It will get easier with practise.

Make The Exhale Longer Than The Inhale

When you have mastered this breathing technique you will be able to practise whenever you feel the need to come back to the moment. This breathing technique is also great for calming an anxious mind, because it brings the body out of fight-or-flight mode and into rest-and-digest mode. By training yourself to focus on the breath you are also learning to calm and control your monkey mind. I find I am now able to use this technique even if I am out and about, as I no longer need to keep a hand on my abdomen to feel it moving.

Let me know how you get on or ask me any questions in the comments!

Until next time, Namaste.

Staying in the Moment

Monkey Mind
The Monkey Mind

Happy New Year!

In my previous post I set my intention to stay in the moment over the Xmas holidays.

This can be an anxious time of year for many people; loss of regular routine, contact with family members you may find difficult or rarely see, the stress of planning and preparing special food, gifts to find and purchase…the list goes on. Mindfulness – the practice of being in the moment – can help ease this anxiety.

So…how did I get on?

Honestly – I am not a naturally mindful person!

My monkey-mind likes to flit between thoughts constantly, particularly if they are about things that make me anxious. Because I had set the intention to remain in the moment I found that I was more aware when these periods of over-thinking happened, which meant I was able to break the cycle by focusing on my breath and coming back to myself in that moment.

This may have helped me feel less overwhelmed by all the choices and more tolerant of changes to my routine. Because of this I felt less anxious and I was able to express my needs more clearly, without resorting to snapping instructions at those around me!

I think this may have been the first Xmas I can remember without at least one argument – even wrapping gifts seemed less stressful than it normally does! Of course it wasn’t perfect; there were all the usual annoyances as well as dealing with a cold and withdrawal symptoms from my anxiety medication (which I am slowly weaning myself off). But it felt as though I was more able to mentally take a step back before reacting; giving me the space to choose my best reaction to each annoyance in turn.

Being mindful takes practice. There will be many times when you realise you are over-thinking again, or worrying about things outside of your control. The monkey-mind loves to dwell in the past (“Look at all the mistakes I’ve made!”) or the future (“Which path is the right path? What if…?”) instead of living in the present.

By bringing the awareness back into the moment – as many times as necessary – the inner critic is calmed and the mountainous problems tend to shrink back to something approaching molehill-size. One gains the space to consider how best to deal with each situation as it arises, avoiding a knee-jerk reaction that could exacerbate things.

In my next post I will share the breathing technique I have been using to bring myself back into the moment.

Meeting Myself In The Moment

Meeting My Self in the Moment

“sit in the Self

inhale in the Self

exhale in the Self

let the attention

rest in the Self”

(Billy Doyle; “The Mirage of Separation”)

I nearly pulled a muscle the other day. It was the end of a long day, full of busy anticipation for the coming festivities, and I was looking forward to unwinding at a yoga class I wasn’t teaching. The class began as usual – us students exchanged greetings and pleasantries before we settled onto our mats for the warm-up. As we went through the familiar stretches I allowed my mind to wander to thoughts of the holidays; presents to be wrapped, decorations to be put up, food to be purchased, prepared and enjoyed, family and friends to catch up with …


Back to reality with a sudden twinge in the back of my thigh. Sometimes the body is our best teacher! I found my Self back in the moment and realised I had become lost in thought; assuming my body was the same as it had been last week. Before the frost had set in hard, before I spent the weekend walking around town. Before this moment.

I came back to my Self.

Relax. Breathe. Find the pose; MY version of the pose, in THIS moment. Ahhh! It did not matter that my leg was less flexible than last week: last week is a memory. All that truly matters is this moment now. I set my intention to stay in the moment for the rest of the class, relaxed into each pose and enjoyed my practice.

I intend to try and stay in the moment as much as possible over the holidays, savouring every moment as it arrives. Relax. Breathe. Come back to my Self.

I’d love to hear how you come back to your Self in the comments. I’ll let you know how my intention goes in the New Year!

Edit: If the comments are unavailable please click on the title of the article to get to the correct page.