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Natural Awakenings South Central Pennsylvania

Mindfulness Benefits of a Daily Breathing Practice

Oct 31, 2022 09:31AM ● By Cynthia Johannes-Beecher
While the idea and practice of mindfulness dates back around 2,500 years in ancient Eastern and Buddhist philosophy, it has recently moved into mainstream focus. Thich Nhat Hanh, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967, was a Vietnamese monk, global spiritual leader, poet and pioneer in the teachings of mindfulness, ethics and peace. In his recently revised and expanded book, The Blooming of a Lotus, he described the energy of mindfulness and using it to restore our wholeness, refresh and stabilize and focus ourselves. He wrote that mindfulness is the state of being aware of what is happening at any moment in us and around us. Hanh taught the benefits of mindfulness well before University of Massachusetts Medical Center, University of California and Harvard Health began scientific studies that show the positive physical and mental outcomes associated with mindfulness.


This data may provide motivation for someone to begin their mindfulness journey. Stress reduction is surely one of the outcomes that would benefit each of us. Improved self-esteem is also seen with practicing mindfulness. The ability to judge ourselves less and improve the image we hold of ourselves leads to contentment with who we are and allows us to be ourselves. As for the physical benefits, it improves digestion, lowers blood pressure, strengthens immunity and improves overall sleep. Regardless of what time of day someone practices their mindfulness, it can support them in falling asleep and staying asleep.


Like yoga, learning to be mindful is a journey. Paying attention to the present moment with a nonjudgmental attitude toward a thought or a feeling amid our daily life is not easy. Purposefully directing intention inward, surrendering our heart to our mind and being open to being in the here and now is not easy.


It is possible for the everyday person to become more mindful and experience the benefits of this practice. There isn’t anything special needed to begin. Deciding to get started is the toughest part, along with committing time to practice every day. As we become committed to our practice and notice positive changes, we will look forward to this journey that improves physical and mental well-being.


When beginning to focus on learning how to be more mindful, find a space to practice that allows uninterrupted focus in the home, office, car or outdoors. Experiment with different locations to determine what feels best. We may want complete quiet or decide background noise, music or the sounds of nature helps to focus. Decide whether to sit in a comfortable position, walk or lie down. The eyes can be closed or we may choose to soften our gaze downward. Whatever the position, be sure to be able to sit still for the time committed to practice. Stillness and focus are key, so be comfortable.


The next important step is to determine when to practice; it can be any time of day. Begin with five minutes and perhaps expand the practice time to 45 minutes or somewhere in-between. Practicing daily will create a foundation to train the mind to be still, focus on feelings without judging and find calmness and clarity. The brain will still send many thoughts forward, and practicing mindfulness will allow us to recognize those thoughts and let them settle or just float by as if on a moving stream, without the need to explore or judge them.


Our breathing will support bringing awareness back when thoughts begin to sneak in. Learning to find your breathing rhythm in and out through the nose will help find that sense of calmness, stillness and focus. The inhale is intentional, filling up the lungs. The exhale is slow and a bit longer than the inhale, to allow the body to relax and lungs to completely empty.


Beginning a mindfulness journey with learning to breathe can be a good starting point. Use the breath as an anchor; observe it, feel it and hear it. When something causes a distraction, come back to the breath. Learning to take time to settle the mind is solid training in focusing. Feel free to study the research, read books by mindfulness experts, listen to a variety of mindfulness practice recordings or take a mindfulness class.


Cynthia Johannes-Beecher, MHA, RPh., RYT, is the owner and teacher of Your Yoga, located at 1900 Orange St., in West York. She is certified in daily mindfulness and a certified aromatherapist. For more information, visit 717-586-6494 or visit