Comments from practitioners

“I struck gold in ‘Counting breaths.'”

“Wonderful portable relaxation technique that detaches one from the daily stresses.”

“Moronically simple but works like a charm.”

“This meditation technique helped me survive the crisis I was going through and saved my life.”

‘Focusing on breathing’ is the foundation practice, easily understood and practiced even by children. It calms the mind and relaxes the body. It helps a determined person practice meditation regularly.

Six basic modes of ‘Focusing on breathing’ are described on this page. Try each mode with the eyes closed for one to two minutes, except for the ‘staring mode’. After some practice, try with your eyes open.

Counting mode

During every in-breath feel the coolness inside the nostrils. During the out-breath, say the number one silently and slowly, as ‘Ooone…’, like a chant, keeping its sound going throughout the out-breath. During the next in-breath, feel the coolness in the nostrils. During the out-breath say ‘Twooo…’ like a chant. During the next in-breath feel the coolness inside the nostrils. During the out-breath say ‘Threeee…’, like a chant.

During the next out-breath don’t count the next higher number. Instead, restart counting from ‘Ooone…’. Continue counting the breaths in cycles of three, as long as you like.

It is normal for the mind to sometimes wander during this practice. If you lose the count, quietly resume counting the breaths, starting from ‘Ooone… ‘. Let the breathing happen effortlessly. There are no other guidelines or restrictions. Follow this pattern of counting breaths when suggested in the following modes.

Start with any one hand, say the left hand. Touch the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger. Count three breaths as explained above. Repeat this practice at the ring finger, middle finger, and index fingers. When you get to the thumb, place the tip of the index finger at the base of the thumb and count three breaths. Then switch to the right hand and repeat all the steps. Practice as long as you like, switching the hands.

Tip mode

Start with any one hand, say the left hand. Touch the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger. Count three breaths as explained above. Repeat the practice at each of the next three fingertips. When you get to the thumb, place the tip of the index finger at the base of the thumb and count three breaths. Then switch to the right hand and repeat all the steps. Practice as long as you like, switching the hands.

Segment mode

Start with any one hand, say the left hand. Note that every finger has two cross lines, dividing it into three parts, called segments. Place the tip of the thumb at the top segment of the little finger. Count three breaths as explained above. Move the thumb down the finger, to the middle segment and count three breaths. Move down to the bottom segment and count three breaths. Release the little finger. Repeat the same steps at the ring, finger, middle finger, and index fingers. When you get to the thumb, place the tip of the index finger on its segments and repeat the steps. In this mode, you will count 3+3+3 breaths at each finger. Then, switch to the other hand and repeat the steps. Practice as long as you like, switching the hands.

Feeling mode

Don’t use fingers or count the breaths. During the in-breath, feel the coolness inside the nostrils. During the out-breath, feel the warm or neutral sensation. Alternatively, place a hand on your abdomen and focus on the slight out and in movements, as you breathe in and out. Every time your mind wanders resume focusing on the coolness or the movement. Practice as long as you like.

Staring mode

Keep staring at a small but prominently visible spot, mark, object, or part of an object at your eye level or lower. Simultaneously, practice any of the above modes. Focusing the eyes focuses the mind and reduces stress.

911 Mode

You can do practice these eyes open or closed. Breathe in quickly through the nose or mouth. Blow air through the slightly open lips, as if blowing through an imaginary straw. till you run out of air. Repeat 5 to 10 times, till you some relief from acute mental or physical stress. When you feel better, switch to the other modes and practice as long as needed.

Coherent breathing

Our rate of breathing varies from 12 to 20 breaths per minute (BPM) most of the time. To practice ‘Coherent breathing’ we gradually train ourselves to slow it down to 5 BPM. This breathing enhances Heart Rate Variability (HRV) with multiple mind/body benefits. I am sharing how I trained myself: Set the timer to one minute, close your eyes and count the breaths on your fingers. Repeat the trials till you are able to do close to 5 BPM repeatedly. Then, increase the timer setting in steps of one minute, practicing at each step. 10 breaths in 2 minutes counting the breaths one breath at each finger. Then you can use the finger segments of one hand to count 15 breaths in 3 minutes, 20 breaths in 4 minutes. 25 breaths in 5 minutes and 30 breaths in six minutes. I have been practicing with the 6-minute timer for the last 6 months and it has really made a big difference to my meditation practice. I set the timer for 6 minutes and count 30 breaths on the 30 finger segments (15 segments in each hand). After about three rounds of this practice, I go into a mild trance-like state.