The breath is closely tied to the emotional state. When at peace, it is slow and regular. When exercising it is fast. When dealing with stress or other emotional turmoil, it’s common to hold the breath, or take shallow quick breaths without even realizing it.
Paying attention to and allowing the breath to flow naturally and smoothly is an ancient practice that is also used in modern therapeutic disciplines.
Circular breathing is a meditative technique used to achieve a sense of balance, release stress and experience a deeper connection with the self. It is partially based on the concept of chi, which is life force energy that flows throughout the body.
The core principle of circular breathing is that there is no set starting or stopping point between the in-breath and the out-breath. Instead, like a circle, the breath flows seamlessly with no breaking points, just like chi flows continuously throughout the body.
One of the first steps to practicing circular breathing is letting go. This is hard at first, because as soon as focus is placed on the breath there can be an impulse to control the breath. However, by just staying in a place of observation the breath starts to flow on its own. One can feel the natural breath pattern emerge.
Allow the lungs to fill and release air naturally; there is no focused effort to over-inflate or completely empty the lungs. As the breath is observed, its depth, pattern and frequency may change several times as the body responds. This is normal, and the body should be allowed to take over and regulate.
With circular breathing the key is to connect the transitions between the in-breath and outbreath. At the end of inhalation (breathing in), picture the breath flowing over like a waterfall and naturally being pulled into the outbreath. There is no pause. Then, at the end of the exhale feel the breath being pulled directly back into inhalation.
It can be helpful to picture an oval or circle. At the transition points between in-breath and outbreath, the line of the circle is continuous and the flow is not broken.
Circular breathing can be practiced anywhere and any time it is safe to be in a relaxed state. The research reports it is helpful before bed to assist with falling asleep. It can be performed while being stuck in traffic, during a meeting, or anytime there is a feeling of stress. It is also a wonderful meditative practice on its own.
The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed medical professional. It is essential that you discuss with your primary care provider any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.
Young, J. S., Cashwell, C. S., & Giordano, A. L. (2010). Breathwork as a Therapeutic Modality: An Overview for Counselors. Counseling & Values, 55(1), 113-125.