Meditation and the 7-11 Breathing Exercise

Meditation and the 7-11 Breathing Exercise

by Headspace » Fri Jun 06, 2014 11:00 pm


I have also been advised to practice a breathing technique (7-11, where the out-breath is longer and controlled than the in-breath) to particularly help with the anxiety.

My question is - can you, or should you, combine the two? - i.e. should I be making, or would it be a good idea to make, my out-breath longer whilst meditating? Or, as in the meditation instruction, should I not be focusing on my breathing at all/applying no effort?

Andy's Answer

I think there are many different approaches to these things, most of them involving some type of 'strategy', such as the one you suggest.

Meditation, or mindfulness, is fundamentally different, in that rather than imposing structure to make something happen, you are simply creating the framework in which there is the potential for change.

These things may sound quite similar but they are fundamentally different. The strategy approach, even if it is as simple as trying to breath in a certain way, to then 'try' and feel less anxious, encourages the tendency to control the mind. It also encourages the tendency to resist anxiety. It may sound attractive, but as long as there is resistance there can never be acceptance, and without acceptance, there will always be an element of conflict in the mind.

So you should follow whichever approach you think is best for you. But I would choose just one and focus on that. If breathing in a particular way has a whole body of teaching around it and you feel as though it will offer you a long lasting sustainable approach to anxiety which is based on insight, understanding and compassion, then this is good. But if it feels more like a temporary quick fix for something you don't like, then I think it is not so helpful and the meditation may potentially offer you much more.

Just to re-emphasise though, you should do what feels right for you.

Warm wishes, Andy
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