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I started with a new goal: meditate for a month daily and it reminds me of my experiences during group meditations in the past. After relaxing the body, it gets very hard to breathe, my chest feels very heavy or like something is on top with a lot of pressure. I feel like I should breath deeply all the time, yet still feel like I don't have enough air. A bit scary too. Has anybody experienced the same?

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    Are you merely wanting to ask if anyone else here had the same problem? Or do you want help in this? – Kumāra Bhikkhu Jun 30 at 1:41
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it's not enough air. A bit scary too.

It's quite difficult to give detailed advice over the internet. What you describe is actually somewhat concerning. The best advice would be to seek out someone who could watch your meditation and advise.

For example, a common reaction to fear can be to hold one's breath so that a predator cannot detect our breathing. Meditation should feel relaxed and secure and peaceful, especially if you are alone without support. Simple things like poor posture can magnify suppressed anxiety. For example, if my chin is sticking out a bit, then fear tends to arise. However, if I am sitting straight and relaxed, chin in and back of neck smooth and unkinked, then I feel secure and fear evaporates.

Please do seek at least a friend who can compare your sitting posture with a picture of a meditating teacher. Such a friend would be a good spiritual companion.

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In my experience leading meditation groups with folks who have anxiety, panic...focusing on the breath during meditation can trigger the physical feelings of panic if the meditator is overly sensitive to physical sensations in the body. This can happen in groups when the leader is pacing the breath too fast for you or you are breathing too deep, causing too much oxygen/too much CO2 which creates symptoms like lightheadness, pressure, panic etc. When you are new to meditation and are susceptible to this, it is important to start with 'noticing' your breath vs. trying to alter it. You could accompany 'noticing' the breath with 'greeting' any of these symptoms as they appear, "hello chest pressure, thanks for giving me information today," and then let the thought subside. You could also try some other forms of meditation (walking meditation, guided meditation, body scan etc) to kick off your practice and then over time add in more advanced breathing techniques.

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There are things one can try;

Try the satipatthana noting method, focusing on the states of mind and the arising, persistence & cessation of thoughts, feelings & perceptions, in particular as they occur when the "panic" starts.

Optionally try the preliminary counting method outlined in Visuddhimagga.

I think neither counting nor noting will prevent it from occuring but if this is something that occurs constantly then it's kind of more interesting to sort it out & breakthrough and for that satipatthana is king imo.

My guess is that to prevent it from happening without dealing with it or dealing with "head on" one needs to do controlled breathing exercises and that correctly. This might (as in i wouldn't be surprised if) eventually lead to it not occuring either way as one becomes advanced but i think it is a waste of time and personally would just try satipatthana and see if id pass out or pass on.

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I feel the same way. I am meditating for quite a while. But especially lately I feel almost like suffocating when trying to "be breathed". It seems like my mind says no! You keep on doing it! :D I also have this deep intuition that it is something about letting go control and to really sink in pure conciseness which the mind refuses to let me do.

What I tried so far is, just to be stubbern and not taking over the breath again. But it seems my subconscious is not willing to take over, so it is kind of a panik situation and ultimitly I take over again. However in the moments of letting go taking care for breathing, I am fully focused on source without any distraction. It seems exactly right. I always feel in case it would be taken over at that point from my subconscious, I could stay in this mode forever. But until now it didn't do it.

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  • Welcome, Sven. Like to inform you a few things: 1. To answer Rasa, just go ahead with the answer. No need to have “@Rasa - ”. As for commenting on someone's answer—such as user14928's—have it as a comment below the answer instead. Click on "add a comment" to reveal the text box. I suggest you copy what you have in your answer and paste it as a comment, then edit your post to delete that part. May you have a fruitful time here. – Kumāra Bhikkhu Jun 30 at 1:37
  • Dear Kumãra, thanks for your warm welcome and suggestions. I actally wanted to add the "user14928 part" as a comment, but I haven't earnt the required 50 reputation points. So I chose the way I did. :) Will change it after javing my 50 points :D – Sven K Jun 30 at 21:21
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    "user14928" is a deleted user and probably won't see a comment. But you could post your question as a new question. – ChrisW Jun 30 at 22:13
  • As followup to @ChrisW's comment, I suggest that you remove your message to user14928. – Kumāra Bhikkhu Jul 1 at 6:31
  • Done :) Sorry for the mess up. – Sven K Jul 1 at 20:59
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Rationally I know that when I'm bicycling (or otherwise exercising, walking, climbing stairs) then the breathing then (when there's a need for an increase flow of air) is sufficient to keep the body alive. So there's no need to be scared of that (insufficient flow of air) when you're just sitting still -- the body can take care of itself, breathing is autonomic (see also apnea).

Rationally too I know the body will die of something -- possibly (or even always) insufficient breathing -- so might as well get used to that (e.g. note the perception or feeling with equanimity) and not scared (maybe become conscious of and let go of whatever "attachments" -- some fear of "dying" for example -- might make you crave the situation to be otherwise and cause suffering).

Perhaps the feeling (of insufficient breathing, if this is what you're feeling) is a result of too much CO2 (i.e. carbon dioxide), rather than too little oxygen. I think people can get confused when that happens and try to breathe in more, to inhale more deeply -- whereas actually what the body needs is to breathe out more, to exhale. See also e.g. a "barrel chest" being a symptom of emphysema -- when the patient can breathe in but can't breathe out properly.

I find that breathing out (exhaling) properly/deeply/completely, using the ribcage and the diaphragm to empty the lungs, is a prelude to (i.e. a start to) a slow deep breathing cycle, and a component of it.

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Excellent! That's a very, very good sign. It's indicative that you are starting to loosen your conscious hold on the breath and, instead, are allowing yourself to be "breathed". Like anything else, there's always some fear associated when we relinquish control. How much more so when that happens with the very thing keeping us alive!

Buddhism, more than anything, is about trust. This is your first opportunity to really experience that. Trust that your body knows what it's doing. Forget about inhaling and exhaling. Don't concern yourself with deep breaths or shallow breaths. Just let breathing be what it wants to be. If you give yourself over to the process, I guarantee that you will finally begin to know what breathing is all about!

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