Praying with the breath is a great way of integrating stress relief and interior stillness into our on-going relationship with Jesus Christ. I have written many times on this blog about studies that have shown that intentional breathing can help reduce stress and relieve tension. In addition, I have shown how praying with the breath has been an on-going component of the Catholic and Orthodox prayer traditions for some time. Assuming that you are convinced that praying with the breath is something you would like to consider, I offer these 3 guidelines.
1) Play with the Breath
Learn to discover how different kinds of breath can change and alter your mood and perception. For example, a gentle breath can calm your interior life, while a more vigorous breath can energize and exhilarate. You can also play with using different muscles as you breath. However, in this exploration, moderation and patience is essential. Don’t expect to have dramatic and immediate results. In addition, learn to be okay with suffering. Suffering can come for a variety of reasons, and our goal with praying with breath is not to maximize pleasure. Rather, our goal is to help deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ.
2) Pay Attention to the Heart
Learn to connect with and identify with the rhythms of the heart. In time, you learn to sense where you are at based on what your heart beat is telling you. Also, use can use the breath to gently alter your heart rhythms. For example, a gentle breath can soothe and calm your heart when it is excited and erratic. I wish I could explain more, but I have found this is a trial and error kind of process. By connecting with and paying attention to your heart beat, you can sense what you are experiencing and you are able to come to a calm, recollected state of mind.
3) Use a Word or a Phrase to Connect Your Experience with Jesus
Praying with the breath is a powerful way of connecting with Jesus. Use a relational phrase or formal prayers to take your breathing beyond simply an exercise in self-care. You can also use the breath as a symbol of your prayer. On the inhale, you can imagine yourself receiving the love and grace of God, and on the exhale you can imagine yourself giving everything to Christ. Whatever makes sense to you.
Overall, I recommend using this form of prayer to begin your period of meditation. Especially when you are coming to adoration or private prayer after a long day, this kind of praying can be a great transition that helps you let go of your stress and embrace Christ.
I am looking for testimonials and feedback. If anyone finds these guidelines to be helpful and would like to share their story, please write your experience in a response or comment. Thanks.