For a long time, I was skeptical that mindful breathing would have any special effect. I mean, we all breathe all the time; it’s the most ordinary thing. What could possibly be special about it?
The Technique #
To calm yourself, exhale for a longer duration than your inhalation.1
When a dog is lying down and wants to relax then she will often start her rest with two quick breaths followed by a long, slow exhale.
This technique should not be done like static apnea holds in preparation for freediving. As soon as you feel any hint of anxiety, do not hesitate to start another breath. If you do not feel continuously calm then you are not breathing enough. If you get behind on breathing then feel free to take 1-2 quick deep breaths and then return to the protocol.
Don’t try to time the duration of inhales or exhales in seconds. Watching the clock or counting seconds can distract from encouraging a feeling of calm. A quick inhale is of shorter duration than a long exhale; rough approximation of the relative durations is adequate precision.
As far as I am aware, this is the only meditation technique that works mostly independently of the external environment. You can practice this during Monday morning rush hour on the New York City subway (not the most calm and soothing environment).
When not combined with other meditation techniques, the effect of this technique is not long-lasting. Whatever calm you enjoy is typically sustained only while focused on your breathing.
Adhana, R., Gupta, R., Dvivedi, J. Y. O. T. I., Ahmad, S., Dvivedii, J., & Ahmad, S. (2013). The influence of the 2: 1 yogic breathing technique on essential hypertension. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol, 57(1), 38-44. ↩︎