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Yoga: Meditation and Breathing

Yoga: Meditation and Breathing

Most people think of yoga as poses and exercises that make the body more flexible and strong. But what many don't know is that meditation and breathing are important parts of yoga.

Want to manage your anger so you don't feel you're always on the verge of blowing up? Want to feel less stressed and juggle all the things going on in your life? Need to focus better in class or while you do your homework? Yoga poses can help. But meditation and breathing really round out those benefits.

Meditation and Visualization

Meditation is a way to get quiet, calm, and focused. It trains your mind to slow down, relax, and stay positive. Meditating for just a few minutes a day can help you feel centered, balanced, and more in control — even during the times when you're not actually meditating.

Making meditation one of your daily routines (like brushing your teeth) can help you feel more grounded when it seems like you're being pulled in a million directions.

Here are some meditation exercises to try:

Focus on the Breath

Try this as soon as you get home from school:

Visualize Success

This is a great thing to do when you feel stressed about something that's coming up like a big test, sports game, or performance:

Visualization doesn't take the place of actual preparation. But it can help you feel confident and manage the negative thinking that sometimes goes with stress.

Breathing

Breathing is one of the most important parts of yoga. Breathing steadily while you're in a yoga pose can help you get the most from the pose. But practicing breathing exercises when you're not doing yoga poses can be good for you, too.

It may seem strange to practice breathing, since we do it naturally every moment of our lives. But when people get stressed, their breathing often becomes shallower and more rapid.

Paying attention to how you are breathing can help you notice how you're feeling — it can give you a clue that you're stressed even when you don't realize it. So start by noticing how you're breathing, then focus on slowing down and breathing more deeply.

Try practicing these breathing exercises:

Belly Breathing

Belly breathing allows you to focus on filling your lungs fully. It's a great way to counteract shallow, stressed-out breathing:

This kind of breathing can help settle your nerves before a big test, sports game, or even before bed.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

This breath technique can help you feel more balanced and calm:

These breathing and meditation techniques can have subtle but powerful effects. If you keep practicing them, the benefits will build up into real results. This might happen so gradually that you don't notice it. But you'll know that a positive change is at work when you don't lose your cool during a fight with your parents or go into a stress meltdown before a big exam!

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: January 2011

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