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Using the Breath To Clear and Calm Our Mind


When the mind is quiet, breathing naturally slows. As thoughts become stimulated or agitated, our breathing rate increases.

Fortunately, the reverse is just as true. We can influence our state of mind by using controlled breathing techniques—some of which are simple and take little time.

Breathing As Symptom Management

We can use our breath to energize the body, clear our mind, diminish stress, calm anxiety, and delay impulsive or compulsive actions such as emotional eating—giving the impulse an opportunity to pass.

Although breathing techniques will not cure disordered eating issues, they can disrupt our habitual responses to life’s events, creating a space or pause where we might, at some point, choose to react differently.

Circle Breathing: Calms Body and Mind

Circle Breathing is a valuable tool developed by the ancient yogis. This short version takes no more than one minute and can be used almost anywhere and most anytime—sitting in traffic, before taking an exam, or while scanning your cupboards for a snack.

The short version of Circle Breathing:

  1. Inhale and exhale seven times without pausing between between the in and out breaths.
  2. You can choose to breathe deeply and slowly, or continue with your regular breath rate—minus any pausing.
  3. To be grounded in the moment, focus your awareness on the breaths.
  4. Afterward, you may feel more centered and notice a clearing or calmness of mind.

The longer or standard version of Circle Breathing requires 20 minutes:

  1. Get comfortable, close your eyes and relax the body.
  2. Breathing through your nose, inhale into the belly for seven seconds, then exhale for seven seconds. Do not pause between inhalations and exhalations so that the breaths form a continuous circle. Do this for ten minutes.
  3. Now, quicken your rate of breathing for the next eight minutes. Take two seconds for each inhale, and two seconds per exhale. Again, do not rest between the in and out breaths.
  4. Finally, for two minutes, return to the slower—but still continuous—seven second breathing pattern.

You may want to gradually work up to 20 minutes by starting with three or four minutes of seven-second breaths, followed by one to two minutes of faster breathing, and then end with a minute of slower breathing. When that feels comfortable, add some more time.

Source: Dale, Cindi, The Subtle Body Practice Manual, Sounds True, 2013.
Photo credit: Dennis Wong - flickr