Similarities and differences of the two mindful exercises.
If we look at Meditation vs Breathwork, both practices can offer great benefits. Meditation has been around for a very long time in cultures all over the world, and there are many different forms of it. Silence, spending time in nature, and yoga are all considered meditative. If you think about breath work, it can also be meditative. Let’s think of it as an active form of meditation. However, there are differences, and each practice has unique benefits. Since both involve breathing, the question often arises as to which is better. Is meditation better than breathwork? Or is breathwork more beneficial than meditation? Before we choose one over the other, let’s take a closer look.
Meditation vs Breathwork
What is meditation?
Thích Nhất Hạnh describes it nicely: “To meditate does not mean to fight with a problem. To meditate means to observe.“ The breath is often a reference point for practitioners in meditation, but the breath is not manipulated, only observed. Other reference points inside and outside the body, such as the heartbeat or sounds in the environment, can also be chosen. To meditate is to be in the present moment, to silence the mind and be fully aware of oneself.
Meditation is highly cognitive and requires mental focus. As described by the International Meditation Federation: “Meditation is something that has no mind. The question of what it is comes from the mind, but meditation is beyond the mind.” Meditation requires practice, as it takes time to become familiar with the mind and silence. Modern medical diagnostics have shown that meditation can have a positive effect on the brain and mental health.
How to practice meditation?
1. Find a place where you feel comfortable and take a seat
2. Set a time frame for the practice
You can start with 5 to 10 Minutes
3. Close your eyes and begin to observe the body
You can do a little body can of all parts of your body without any judgment just observing
4. Feel the breath
Notice how you inhale and exhale.
5. Notice if your mind wanders
If your mind wanders and you get into memories or thinking, try to simply bring your awareness back to your breath and the present moment. No judgment if you find it difficult to not let your mind wander. It will get better with practice.
6. Express gratitude and close practice
Notice how your body and mind feels.
What is breathwork?
Breathwork is an umbrella term for a variety of breathing techniques. Any effort to direct the breath is breathwork, from calming breath to Wim Hof or Holotropic. It can cultivate self-awareness and enhance emotional, cognitive, physical and spiritual well-being. Unlike meditation, breathwork involves consciously directing the breath. Breathing patterns can be shallow, deep, or fast. Breathing exercises affect the autonomic nervous system by changing either the amount of oxygen inhaled or the amount of carbon dioxide exhaled.
Breath control influences certain processes in the body and mind. It can change the mood and the way of thinking. It can have strong immediate effects on emotional blocks and trauma. Breathwork is a physical practice and can be done by anyone. However, it is good to have guidance as emotions and trauma release (link) can be triggering and overwhelming, especially with breathing methods like Holotropic.
How to practice breathwork?
There are many different breathwork techniques and each has its own unique benefits. Here are two beginner breathing techniques to get started.
This breathing technique is also known as abdominal or chest breathing. It is one of the most popular techniques and widely known. It helps to bring natural breathing patterns back to a healthier version. Often it’s used in meditation as well and it strengthens the lungs.
1. Find a comfortable position with a straight spine.
Can be seated or lying down
2. Place on hand on your belly the other hand on your chest
3. Press your belly against your palm
You can also focus on lifting your belly button as high up and then drawing it back in towards the spine.
4. The palm on your chest shouldn’t move much
5. Repeat this pattern for a set time period and try to take it into daily life from practice.
This breathing pattern is the 4-4-4-4 breath, also known as Square breathing. It slows down the heart rate and helps to concentrate. It can be a stress relief and used at any moment you need it.
1. Find a seat or lay down
2. Take a long exhale
3. Hold the breath for 4 seconds
4. Inhale through the nose for 4 seconds
5. Hold the breath for 4 seconds
6. Exhale through the nose for 4 seconds
7. Repeat up to 5 minutes to feel the effects
Meditation vs Breathwork: is either one better?
Meditation and breathwork both offer great benefits. Both are different, but not interchangeable. More than that, they are compatible. Breathwork is a tool that teaches us to be aware of our bodies. If I breathe faster in everyday situations, I may be under stress. A calming breath can help us relax in that situation. Meditation, in turn, can be an exercise that opens the mind. We become more flexible and better able to deal with feelings and thoughts from an observational perspective.
Meditation can help relax and calm the mind. It has been shown to have a positive effect on mental and emotional health. It improves stress levels, concentration, sleep quality and positive thinking. Meditation also helps reduce anxiety, depression symptoms and grief. Breathwork can provide immediate stress relief by allowing us to relax our autonomic nervous system and come out of a fight or flight state. Benefits of regular practice include improved lung health, a stronger diaphragm, better cardiovascular health, and optimisation of breathing patterns.
As you can see it’s not possible to choose one over the other or consider Meditation vs Breathwork. It really depends on what benefits you are looking for when choosing between breathwork vs meditation. Both are wonderful exercises.