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How to Meditate for Beginners – The Art of Breath

meditation tips

About 20 years ago I was introduced to meditation through the book – “Zen Mind, Beginner Mind.” It opened me to the idea of using my breath to control my state-of-mind. It was a tumultuous time in my life and each day of my practice took me further away from mental preoccupation and helped me to live in the present. I spent 30-45 minutes, 6 days a week sitting on a zabuton (meditation cushion) and zafu (meditation pillow) for about 4 years. This was the beginning of the awareness that breath control was the key to relieving my mind of its perpetual overthinking state. 

How do you get started?

Click the image to learn about meditation postures.

How do you find the breath?

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Click the image to learn about meditative breathing.

How do you harness breath?

Click the image to learn about simple beginner meditation techniques.

How can YOU benefit from meditation?

meditation tips

Click the image to learn about meditation benefits.

How Do You Get Started?

First you need to achieve a good posture so that you provide your breath an open pathway. There are many postural positions to try depending on your flexibility. Sitting in a chair with grounded feet and a straight spine can be just as successful a position as the more extreme lotus.  All six pictures below show a straight spine with relaxed shoulders.

Awareness Exercise:  Let’s take the easiest posture – sit in a chair with feet flat on the floor.  It is important to completely connect the sole of the foot to the floor feeling heel, big toe pad and pinky toe pad.  When your feet are grounded on those points you should feel your body sit more upright and be able to relax your lower back against the back of the chair. When the lower back is stabilized then the shoulders can drop down.

How Do You Find the Breath?

When discussing breath with clients I find that most of them lean towards being chest breathers and not belly breathers.

  • Chest breathing is when the chest expands by drawing air into the chest area using the intercostal muscles rather than throughout the lungs via the diaphragm.  This is an inefficient and detrimental breathing pattern to overall health.  It reduces blood oxygenation and causes lymphatic stagnation.  See article on chest breathing and how to change the pattern at .
  • Belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing is done by contracting the diaphragm, a muscle located horizontally between the thoracic cavity and abdominal cavity. Air enters the lungs and the chest rises and the belly expands during this type of breathing.
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Awareness Exercise:  Let’s focus on belly breathing. Return to a stable, grounded chair posture.  Place your hands on top of one another right below your belly button. This gives you a reference point of where to direct the breath.  As you take your breath in gently allow your abdomen to expand and fill up your hands.  Gently push back with the hand to have the exhale come from the lower abdomen and not the chest.  This exercise can be done anywhere you are sitting.  I use it when I need to be in the car for a long time.

meditation tips

How Do You Harness the Breath?

The mind cannot think about more than one thing at a time.  There are techniques you can use to keep the thinking mind occupied while gaining the great benefits of the breath.  Once you have developed breath awareness it is time to harness it in your meditation.  In my early practice I found counting to 10 in sequence with each breath or chanting through the chakras the most effective at silencing thought.

Counting technique:  In the meditation posture start your belly breathing.  Count 1 on inhale and 1 on exhale, then 2 on inhale and 2 on exhale …. to 10, then repeat the sequence.  By counting on both the inhale and exhale you combat stray thoughts from interrupting your practice.  If thought intrudes while counting stop and begin at 1.  Over time you can tame the brain from intruding by using the breath.  For an in-depth discussion on this topic see "Breath Counting Meditation: How to Build Mental Power."

Chakra technique:  In the meditation posture start your belly breathing.  Inhale and on the exhale you will chant the sound associated with the first chakra then the second and so on.  On the seventh chakra there is a moment of silence and then the cycle repeats.  This is an effective method if counting is difficult because the chanting of the chakras can become song like giving further distraction to the brain.

meditation tips

How Can You Benefit from Meditation?

Daily practice can give you both neurological and psychological benefits.  The breath can lead  you to an oasis of sanity when faced with any stressor.

  • A study from UCLA found that long-term meditators have better preserved brains showing that meditation can be an anti-aging tool for the brain.
  • A pubmed study discusses the positive effects on psychological well-being that extends beyond the meditation session.  The research shows that meditation can be helpful in reducing symptoms of a number of disorders including:  anxiety, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders and chronic pain.
  • Since strong focus of attention (on an object, idea, or activity) is the goal of meditation practice.  The immediate benefits of meditation are increased focus and concentration for every aspect of our lives.  The breath can be used like a light switch to turn on awareness/psyche and tune out negativity.  See blog post "How to Focus the Mind."

After years of working with meditative breath I have developed a pathway easily accessed in a 10 breath count.  My body and mind crave the peace that come from taking to time to JUST BREATHE.  I hope you find inspiration from this blog to start your brain train journey.   It can be a real life changer!

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  1. Fleur

    Thanks Stacy this is a great article. Although I’ve been meditating for years you never can ‘know it all’. Great images especially explaining the points of contact for the feet on the floor. We really underestimate the importance our feet have on our overall well being including how much is absorbed through our feet too. Thanks for sharing I am going over again.

    • Stacy Gallagher

      Thank you for the read. There is an amazing man named Vladimir Janda who created a diagnostic system of injury and disease based on how well the feet are connected. This link gives a pretty good overview –
      When our feet lose consistent connection degradation in our neurological system occurs. Over time the muscle slings that hold the core together malfunction leading to what Janda identifies as “cross syndromes.” –

    • Denise

      Thanks, Stacy. I have been meditating for about seven years. Meditation has been by far, the best thing that has happen to me. Yes, it “happened to me”, while I sleep-walked through life, as many of us do, before we somehow awaken. There have been many positive changes in my life after my meditative practice. I have a question, which perhaps you could help me find an answer for; during my awakening process, I have felt some occassional periods of either stagnation, persistent lack of concentration during meditation practice, feelings of intense pain and/or emotions during meditation, and later, an overwhelming anxiety. It makes me wonder if it’s something that I am missing, or should add to my meditation practice. Could you please, kindly, share some of your wisdom, knowledge, time, and energy to support me? Thank you very much. May you, and yours be blessed! Denise

      • Stacy Gallagher

        What a really great question! I have found over the years that this is a natural part of development on a meditation journey. I use several methods to combat stagnation and lack of concentration during practice. I have certain mantras that I repeat over and over to keep the monkey brain from intruding. Some of these are: The cessation of thought (inhalation) is the awakening of intelligence (exhalation), Healing (inhalation) balance(exhalation). I also use tools where I can focus my eyes like a candle flame or flashing meditation glasses. Lastly, a wonderful tool for diffusing the mind is intense physical exercise like cardio sprints or lifting weights especially if you add music to the equation.

        Meditation is not just about sitting quietly for me. It is about taking it into my wider world. When the mind is completely focussed on a task or activity without any external passing thoughts that is meditation. I find physical activity is the best way for me to diffuse emotional pain and anxiety. The endorphin rush is an amazing way to mitigate those kinds of emotions.

        To give you a good example. This afternoon I am having dental surgery. This will be my fourth procedure in the last 8 weeks and I know it is going to be painful. For my day today I am going to put my headphones on, find a rocking song and take a run. This is a moving meditation. Before I leave for the procedure I will put on my meditation headphones and glasses of my photosonix machine and use my meditative breathing while the light and sound waves help keep me calm. When a stray thought enters I will let it pass. The plan is to show up to my procedure quietly electric so that I can keep calm. I hope this response helps you. Please feel free to contact me at if you have any additional questions.

  2. Jake

    I use a lot of belly breathing techniques to help with my free diving practice. It is so amazing how the mind can relax then the smallest thought can derail it straight out of a relaxed state. Practice is definitely the key!

    How good are those chakra sounds! I must admit I can see myself giggling a little when I chant them 😀 Do they really work? I might give them a go next time I go for a dive! Wait, can I chant them in my head or are they most effective when spoken?

    • Stacy Gallagher

      Free diving! Wow! It is so great to be able to clear the mind and become blank using meditation. Chanting really does work once you get over giggling. If you have ever listened to chanting monks the sounds form like that. Maybe on your drive to the free dive chant and then go to silent breathing. I use both in that way. Good luck in your practice!

  3. jeffrey16201

    I enjoyed reading your article on mediation, you explained how to meditate very well and clearly in your article.

    I do simple meditation which has been a big part of me learning to cope with anxiety much better, I have found there are many types of meditation how would recommend someone finding the right type for them?

    • Stacy Gallagher

      Thanks for the read.  The whole goal of meditation is to use the breath to train the mind.  Over time the practitioner learns how to quiet or silence thought and follow the breath.  The two easiest methods to follow are counting and chanting that I mentioned in the blog.  Both give the mind something to do while trying to hone in on breath.  Other people find guided meditation more helpful because they can use the voice of the experienced meditator to guide them through the process.   I think it depends on the comfort level and confidence of the practitioner.  

  4. Chris


    Great information on how to mediate for beginners.

    This is quite a tough one as when we are trying to begin with this it is difficult to see any initial results.

    Do you think meditation is good for clearing a cluttered mind which starts from being fairly busy?

    Can you recommend any programs for beginners to help develop some meditation skills?


    • Stacy Gallagher

      Thanks for your comment.  Meditation is a great tool for clearing the mind and keeping your focus in the moment.  You may want to try the guided meditations at…They have a great progression of sitting time over 20 days that starts with a minute on day 1 adding a minute each day to the meditation.  Guided meditations let you sit still and have a professional talk you through breath and relaxation.  Please let me know how your meditation journey goes. 

  5. Taetske

    Good afternoon Stacy,

    Thank you for this informative post. In the beginning, you said you found this book some 20 years ago and you were in a difficult situation at that time. Is it not amazing that in life these things happen? When one is in need help will be provided in multiple ways, I have experienced that myself.

    There is a big fishpond a bit away from the house and a very big and old tree is standing there. Must be well over 100 years old. A small stone bench stands under the tree. I personally find it an ideal place for meditation as one is surrounded by nature, nature sounds and smells

    I would like your opinion on this. To have your feet standing on the ground, like direct contact with Mother Earth, I suppose is beneficial?

    Regards, Taetske.

    • Stacy Gallagher

      Your meditation spot sounds amazing!  Ideally we want to take our practice out into the world and be able to call upon it at will.  I use my breath to meditate while driving or standing in a bank line to name a few.  But the development of that skill comes from quiet practice in special places like you described.  I love the symbolism of rooting your feet to Mother Earth.  Thank you for sharing your experience.

  6. Dwight

    Hey Stacy,
    I’ve definitely learned a thing or two from this article. I’ve been meditating for a few years and have watched its wonderful benefits!
    I think the way you position your affiliate links and how they flow with your article is awesome.

  7. sarah

    Wow, a great and useful read. As a mum of two, I am always after such useful articles to help me out with a stressful day. I will definitely follow these tips and going to share it with all the busy mums i know.

  8. Rizza

    Amazing information for beginners. I have been practicing meditation for just over 3 months now. It completely changed my life and I promised myself to take it as my life long practice.

    It is amazing that within a short amount of time, it literally changed my perspective and mentality towards life. I came from self-deprecation to self-appreciation in an instant, since then I started charging towards my goals and never let others get too much inside my head. (Not fully yet though)

    Thank you for the great guide in meditation, I will make sure to use what I have learned here. Meditating is a powerful way to change your thinking, in my opinion, it shifted everything for the better.

    • Stacy Gallagher

      Thanks for the read! One of my favorite books is “Zen Mind, Beginner Mind.” I go to breath control all the time now in any situation. It is a profound tool to have in your relaxation arsenal. Good luck on your journey!


      • Rizza

        Sure thing, Stacy. I will get back to you once I read that book and apply. I expect it to be something that will add more value to my meditation practice.

  9. Kaju

    Wonderful and fascinating article, Stacy:) I love how you described the belly breathing “Over time you can tame the brain from intruding by using the breath.” What a fantastic and intuitive mechanism for beginners to tame your brain!

    Daily meditation has become a part of my life for the past 2 years, and I use it to stem the uncomfortable effects of my on-and-off again bradycardia. It has been quite successful. Breathing is very important and absence of any preoccupied thought. I currently work with a Master, and we try to get into a “void” state.

    This article is now bookmarked I will refer to the excellent techniques you have well-described:)
    Thank You!

    • Stacy Gallagher

      Thank you so much for your kind words. Over the years I have used several different tools to focus the mind like a candle or infrared light. Counting is also an excellent tool for disengaging the brain. If you are intent on your counting passing thoughts cannot break through. I use my meditative state for anything stressful either mental or physical. It helps to diffuse emotion and tap into a middle way of calm. I am a severe Crohns sufferer and completely understand the benefit of being able to talk to your body with the breath. So great to share ideas!

  10. Dario

    These are great specific instructions of how to meditate. They seem simple and I like, that there’s a lot of emphasis to keep a right posture. Many people skip on that, but the real health benefits actually come with making a right breathing and posture a habbit. I love this chakra technique, I’ve just tried and it’s a very entertaining meditation, very relaxing.

    Thank you for that post 🙂

    • Stacy Gallagher

      Thanks for the read! I have chanted through the chakras, used flashing red lights, candle flames and other focussed meditation. You are right that daily practice is key!

  11. Sukumar Mayirulan

    Please make a note… Of a small correction in this article. The beeja of Svathishtana is Vam….and the Manipura is Ram…

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