Breathing exercises can be the beginning step of meditation. Breath control is called “pranayama” in Sanskrit. Here “prana” refers to the life force in the universe (in yoga philosophy). Breathing can infuse this life force into your body, while giving you the things to concentrate on. The breath is closely associated with the mind. The practice of breathing exercises or the pranayama exercises can help promote the flow of the life force or “prana”, to coordinate the breath and the mind, and to promote the nourishing and healing power of the life force.
Paying attention to the breath is the basic step in many meditation practices. Hearing and feeling your breath can help bring your attention to the breath, as well as focus and calm your mind. Deep breathing or abdominal breathing can be used at the beginning or in the process of meditation. To do a deep breathing exercise, you can put your hands on your abdomen, and expand your abdomen when you inhale. In the meantime, your hands feel being pushed outward. When you exhale, your hands feel being pushed inward with your abdomen relaxing down.
Paying attention to your breath and breathing exercises can help concentrate your mind. Meditation is not to “think of nothing.” Instead, many of the meditation techniques emphasize on focusing your mind on just one thing, or “using one thought to replace thousands of thoughts.” The cultivation of concentration or the focusing of the mind on one point is also called “dharana.”
In addition to the breath, other objects can also be used as the one point to focus on, such as a flower, a symbol, a candle flame, ocean sound, or even an idea or a word such as “peace.” However, your own breath is probably the easiest thing to access and the most commonly used object. When you have a harmonized breath, a concentrated mind, your mind will become free from illusions, distractions, and attachments. You may get closer to the highest stage in meditation, the pure consciousness or so called “Samadhi.”