Andy's Headspace - Just breathe
We do it without thinking approximately 25,000 times a day, and yet for many people, when they first sit to meditate, breathing can become a surprisingly challenging thing. Whilst some people get dizzy, light-headed and even feel nauseous, others can find it difficult to locate the sensation of the breath, or alternatively become so involved in the breathing process, that the autonomous nature and natural rhythm of the breath is lost altogether.
In many ways, this shouldn’t come as a big surprise, as the mind and the breath are intimately linked. When we’re shocked or surprised by something, then one of the first things to change will be the breath - as the heart rate quickens, so the breath becomes increasingly shallow and fast. Conversely, when we’re relaxing in the bath tub, the breath will often reflect a lower heart rate, and so will be both slower and stronger.
Very few people breathe at their optimum level in daily life, and so when it comes to watching the breath during meditation, it can sometimes be a surprise when it’s not necessarily how we imagined it to be. This difference between expectation and reality can drive some people to try and breathe in a different way. Whilst that’s quite understandable, it’s not at all necessary, and in most cases is actually quite unhelpful.
The body knows how to breath...it’s got you this far in life, right? So allow the body to regulate the breath as you simply watch and become increasingly aware of that sensation. In time the breathing will settle down and feel much easier. Don’t try to force it, and don’t try to rush it. The body knows how to unwind when we step back far enough and let go of the reigns...we just need to get comfortable and familiar with this feeling, building up trust in the capacity of the body to regulate the breath.
As for any feelings of dizziness (obligatory medical disclaimer here...check with your GP if you’re worried), these are usually caused by a change in the volume of oxygen. If you’re focusing so intently on the breath that you are actually controlling the flow, then it’s quite common for the body to be unable to take it’s usual full breath of oxygen. On the flip side, if you don’t usually breath very well, then when you sit to meditate and allow your breath to regulate itself, it can suddenly start to take in a lot more oxygen. Whether it’s more oxygen than usual or less oxygen than usual, both can cause a feeling of dizziness. The good news - as you’ve probably already noticed - is that any unpleasant sensations like this usually pass very quickly. That said, always take plenty of time to stand up after your meditation, and many people find drinking some water immediately afterwards can help too.