Expelled Breath Meditation
In order for us to cherish each breath we take, we must acknowledge the fact that one day we will surely breathe our last breath – Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa
An important part of practicing yoga, which I believe is the most important, is your breath. Deep breathing in a seated position at the beginning of a yoga practice helps to calm the mind and prepare the body for yoga. A deep inhalation or exhalation while performing a pose helps to increase the fluidity and depth of the pose. Concentrating on your breath while in a balancing pose helps to steady your balance. Not related to yoga, a deep breath can help you remain relaxed in a tense or difficult situation. Taking several deep slow breaths before giving a presentation can help calm your mind to help you think clearly.
Just as deep breathing helps to connect your body and mind, the absence of breath helps you become aware of your body, mind and soul connection. There is a Kundalini meditation called the Expelled Breath meditation that is often practiced to confront the fear of dying, but it can be used to help you become aware of your body and thought pattern on a different level. When I first tried this meditation, I didn’t like it. I felt anxious and claustrophobic not taking an immediate inhale after emptying my lungs of air. On the first day, I was only able to repeat the mantra that is part of the meditation 2 times. I kept up with this meditation though, because I knew that it wasn’t going to hurt me, that I wasn’t going to die from it, and that working through a situation that made me feel uncomfortable was only going to benefit how I handle uncomfortable situations in the future. Along with the mind awareness benefit of this meditation, the physical act of expelling all the air from your lungs and refilling them helps to expand your lung capacity. Also, replacing the carbon dioxide in your lungs with oxygen increases the oxygen in your bloodstream which helps to reduce stress induced cortisol and helps your mind become more alert.
How to Practice the Expelled Breath Meditation
- Sit quietly with your hands held out in front of you with your palms up, one hand on top of the other like you are cupping water. Be comfortable, not tense.
- Loosely close your eyes. Do not squeeze them shut.
- Inhale slowly and deeply, filling your lungs completely.
- Slowly exhale, expelling all the air from your lungs, and with the air gone;
- Mentally recite "Sat Nam" four times in a normal voice speed.
- Inhale slowly and deeply to fill your lungs, then slowly exhale and recite "Sat Nam" five times. Gradually work your way up to chanting the mantra eight times.
The phrase “Sat Nam” is a Sanskrit phrase meaning “I am truth”.
If you can only repeat the mantra one or two times to begin with, that is OK. If you keep at it, you will eventually work your way up to chanting the mantra eight times.
You can also practice this meditation laying down. Lay flat on your back with your legs splayed comfortably apart and your arms away from your body, palms up.
I practice this meditation when I first wake up, laying down, before getting out of bed. Within just a few days of continued practice, I was able to recite the mantra on the expelled breath for eight times. I didn’t say it fast either! My body and mind remains relaxed and I feel energized afterwards. This meditation also helps me start each day with the knowledge that I can overcome any obstacle I may encounter throughout the day.
If you have any fear of loss, not necessarily fear of death, give this meditation a try. Give your breath away. Learn to live.