Breath awareness versus intentional breathing (DW#688)

While we have been talking about breathing for a few days now, I realised that I neglected to differentiate between two very important terms. Ooops!

Whenever we are talking about breath work of any kind, it usually refers to either one of the following: Breath awareness or conscious breathing. I will attempt to differentiate the two in the most simple terms.

Breath awareness means exactly what it says—being aware of, or observing the qualities of your breath, whether it is shallow or deep, long or short, easy or laboured, smooth or uneven. Noticing and becoming aware of our breath and following it is one of the first practices of mindfulness meditation. This involves simply noticing how you are breathing and focusing your attention on your breath. Not trying to breathe in a particular way. Simply becoming aware of the breath and training your attention to remain on the breath. This practice has numerous benefits which we will talk about another time inshallah.

What we have been discussing these past few days is conscious breathing.

Conscious breathing may also be referred to as controlled breathing, intentional breathing, and mindful breathing (different from mindfulness of breathing!). This refers to breathing in a particular way, with purpose. Unlike mindfulness of the breath, which simply notices the breath, conscious breathing practices involve breathing in a particular way.

To add another layer of understanding, we cannot work on something we are not aware of. So even in conscious breathing, becoming aware of the breath is the first step to breathing in a particular way. In mindfulness however, there is no ultimate aim to noticing your breathing. The practice of noticing and focusing on your breath is a complete practice in itself.

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