17 May Are You Anxious About Breathing During Meditation?

A lot of people are not sure if they can handle anxious sensations like rapid breathing when they meditate. Some may begin to feel like they are on the brink of a panic attack or some may feel their pulse rise very strongly and could even feel it right from their head to their chest.

If you are feeling this too, know that it is not uncommon! There is nothing to worry about here.

When we begin the practice of meditation, we train the mind to become aware of physical sensations. Our heartbeat, our pulse or any pain or discomfort is brought out by this awareness. Awareness is different for you and for me. That’s because we all have different journeys and predispositions.

For example, when someone who has an underlying predisposition to frustration- they will react with irritation or impulsive anger. Or, it might be self-pity for some individual with an underlying predisposition of depression or hopelessness. The same thing goes with a happy individual. It might be so that they have an underlying predisposition to joy and gratitude for being alive.

So even with anxiety, one will be able to look beneath the layers and find a bed of anxiety on which they have been sleeping in for a while. This is why when anxious feelings or sounds or thoughts arise, a person who has an underlying disposition to be anxious, will not fail to do so.

However, this is all a part of becoming more aware. It’s about understanding the root causes of your anxiety and simply letting go of that. That’s why we always say to be non-judgmental and to always breathe.

Combining these two, helps us realize how our mind has been functioning so far on auto-pilot. By this is I mean the things that run in our heads continuously, undetected. But know that with meditation, although we become a lot more aware, our inner predispositions will not change with one course. With practice and patience, you may be anxious, but you will not have an anxious meditation, but a calm one instead.

For example, when you are anxious, your body gets all tenses up and may experience an increased heart rate or anxious breathing. So, the mind reacts to this feeling and intensifies it. Meditating with this mind and body will lead to an anxious meditation. You may even worry and panic about how the meditation will turn out. You may worry if you are breathing correctly. 

The solution is to step out of auto-pilot and give yourself completely to the physical sensation. Earlier, you would pay attention to the physical sensations like changes in breath or pulse. This time, simply give into the sensations your undivided attention. Go within and ask yourself:-

  1. Is it a physical sensation or a sound? 
  2. Describe the sensation- where is it coming from, what’s the intensity? 

The trick is to be curious enough so that you don’t shift to anxiety at all. It’s all about thinking ” Oh…alright, I had an incident earlier that resulted in these same sensations…interesting” or ” Oh, okay, this is just a sensation….”  or ” Oh okay, I think I should breathe how I breathe normally…”

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