Sometimes when I'm meditating, I'll have really "good" breaths - the breath will be deep, very satisfying and relaxing. My diaphragm and chest really expand and it feels like my whole lung fills with air. The trouble is I can't consistently maintain those breaths.

When I do focus on my breath in meditation it becomes more and more shallow. Not a lot of expansion, not relaxing, and not much inhale. I'm not sure why that's happening.

I think I get my best breaths when refocus on my breathing after I have been preoccupied with other thoughts.

Why does focusing on my breath cause it to become shallow and how can I avoid it?

P.S. I'm not against the practice of meditation. It has helped me with attention and focusing. I've tried other techniques such as being aware of the present moment with better user experience.

  • keep relaxed, is all i can say
    – user2512
    Commented Dec 30, 2019 at 0:47

6 Answers 6


Doesn’t matter if your breath is deep or shallow. Just let it do what it wants to do. If you force it, you are introducing volition. All that’s going to do is lead to tension and doubt. Just let go of your expectations of what meditation ought to be. Meditation is what happens, not what we make happen.


This is quite normal. So the breath become so subtle the breathing will stop altogether in deep Jhana. Just be mindful of your experience. Do not do analysis. It is better if you consult your teacher.


I agree with what others have said here but just wanted to add my two cents to the conversation. I found a passage on page 73 in the book The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation as taught by S. N. Goenka by William Hart illuminating:

As concentration strengthens, we begin to feel relaxed, happy, full of energy. Little by little the breathe changes, becoming soft, regular, light, shallow. At times it might seem respiration has stopped altogether. Actually, as the mind becomes tranquil, the body also becomes calm and metabolism slows down, so that less oxygen is required.

This book is not associated with the Art of Living movement by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Pariyatti Press: The Art of Living

(The link contains the free PDF version of the book along with paid paperback and Kindle versions. I am not associated with Pariyatti Press but just wanted to give the link so that others may find the book which has been interesting reading for me.)

After the heart, the brain gets the most oxygen-rich blood and it consumes something like 20% of all oxygen for the whole body so it would make sense that breathing slows down after brain activity has decreased. I'm not sure about the exact number but it is very high.


anything you practice, not just breath meditation, any new skill you're learning will be unnecessarily tense until you become acclimated and put in the time to work on your craft.

Once you put enough time into breath meditation, it'll be easier to relax more deeply.


All breaths are good, even the shallow ones. Here are 2 techniques that may help awareness to have a "lighter touch" upon the breath:

  1. When becoming aware of the breath, approach it from your back instead of your chest. Noticing the breath from the back may help you not impact it so much.
  2. Try not noticing the breath right away when you sit down to meditate. Start first with other body sensations, or even sounds from the room or surrounding area. Eventually you will notice your breathing, and coming at it this way may help you be aware of your breathing without impacting how shallow or deep it is.

I learned both of these from Gil Fronsdal of Audio Dharma.

  • 1
    Thanks, I used to listen to Gils’ podcasts. They can be helpful.
    – pmagunia
    Commented Mar 6, 2021 at 16:35

It's only a suggestion for how to start. The point is to find the mind that isn't busy. Lots of people are only made tense by putting their focus on breathing. So, instead, just mentally bat away any and every thought that arises as though it were a bug trying to land on your face. It will go away, and another will quickly pop up. Keep at it. The thoughts will begin to get sneakier. Still, every time you realize there is a thought, no matter how nice or how true, swat it. One day you will realize you have little or no swatting to do, maybe even see that you can halt thinking at will, anytime, anywhere.

Oddly, this vastly improves thinking for when it's useful to think.

  • Thanks, I used to get tense too following by breathe. I found observing it rather than trying to control it helpful.
    – pmagunia
    Commented Mar 6, 2021 at 16:39

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