Three minute breathing space

The ‘three minute breathing space’ is the kind of exercise you can do quickly in between the many other things in your busy day. We show you how to do it in three steps. 

As a metaphor for this exercise we are using the hourglass: Wide at the top, narrow in the middle and wide again at the bottom.

  1. The wide part at the top is your life at the beginning of this exercise: Busy with lots of things and your attention focused outward. The first minute is used to make a so-called weather report, reporting how things are inside you right now: Your thoughts, your body, your feelings and your mood. Only observe; do not change anything.
  2. In the second minute, as you are going toward the narrow part of the hourglass, you start by paying close attention to your body: Is there any tension anywhere? Where can you feel your breathing most clearly? (Nose, chest, stomach?) Next, focus your attention on that spot for a minute: You are now in the narrowest part of the hourglass.
  3. Slowly expand your attention by allowing your breathing to go through your whole body. At the end of the three minutes, you notice the place where you are sitting and the space around you, take it in with all your senses. When you open your eyes and continue with your life, you often feel different: more relaxed and alert, for example.

Something to note

  • Your mood affects your breathing. When you are startled, you stop breathing for a moment. When you are relaxed, you breathe from your belly.
  • Your breathing also influences your perception. When your breathing is shallow and fast,  your vision narrows and you feel less. When you’re breathing is calm and deep, there is more space to observe what’s going on in the rest of your body. You feel more.
  • Have you ever noticed that the air that comes into your nose our mouth is at room temperature and when it comes out, it’s at body temperature, so warmer?
  • Your belly rises when you are belly breathing because your diaphragm is pushing down.
  • On average, you breathe 20.000 times per day. That’s between seven and eight million times per year, just like that.

*This exercise can be found in our Flow Mindfulness workbook.

Text Jocelyn de Kwant, with thanks to mindfulness trainer Caroline van Eelen Illustration Kate Pugsley