A “mantra” for the in-breath: “Energize, inspire, enjoy”

Person's head against a dark background. The space around him seems to be filled with bubbles of light.

Recently I offered a mantra that can accompany the out-breathing: Release, Rest, Reveal. These words encourage us, respectively, to let go of unnecessary tensions in the body, to let go of unnecessary mental effort, and to be open and receptive to whatever is arising in our experience.

I’d like now to offer a corresponding mantra for the in-breathing: Energize, Inspire, Enjoy. As with the previous mantra, each of the words has a specific function.

“Energize” connects us with the natural energy of the in-breath. Inhalation is dominated by the sympathetic nervous system, which isn’t always about “fight or flight” but is involved in any physical or emotional arousal. It’s no coincidence that we take a sudden in-breath when we’re startled, and the sympathetic nervous system is activated.

In our normal (non-startled!) breathing pattern, the sympathetic nervous system is active. Each time we inhale there is a subtle but noticeable sense of energy. The body becomes oxygenated and the heart beats a little faster. The body becomes more open and upright, and is more ready to act.

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Saying the word “energize” as we inhale is a way of encouraging us to notice the gentle but arousing physical effects of the in-breath.

Saying “Inspire,” connects us with the same physiological processes, but it directs our attention more to the qualities of the mind and how they change as we breathe in. Just as the body becomes more alert and energetic on the in-breath, so does the mind. There’s a subtle but perceptible increase in our alertness, and the mind becomes brighter.

The word “Enjoy,” as you might expect, reminds us to appreciate any pleasure and happiness that are arising in our experience. This brings together everything: the out-breathing and the in-breathing; the body and the mind. Relaxing on the out-breath can be very enjoyable; so can feeling the energy of the in-breath. Resting the mind can be delightful; so can feeling the mind becoming brighter. Saying “Enjoy” as we breathe in encourages us to appreciate what’s positive in our experience. It encourages us to let happiness arise in response to the simple act of noticing the rhythm of our breathing.

Don’t try to do anything as you say these words. Don’t try to make anything happen. Just say the words, and let them have an effect.

Paying attention only to the out-breathing is calming, but in the long-term it tends to make us dull and sleepy. Paying attention only to the in-breathing is energizing, but we can easily become over-excited and distracted.

These are three things the in-breath shows us: Energy in the body. Inspiration in the mind. Joy in the heart.

So if you’re going to use these two sets of mantras, use them skillfully. You may want to start a meditation with the mantras of the out-breath—especially if you need to calm the mind—and then move on to the mantras of the in-breath. But since this latter practice can lead to excitability, there will come a point when we need to drop the mantras and focus just on the breathing, and when we need to focus on the continuity of the breathing process—sensing it as an unbroken stream of sensations—without particular emphasis on either the breathing-out or the breathing-in.

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Breathing and meditation exercises you can do anywhere (Arizona Republic)

Susan Felt, Arizona Republic: Here are simple techniques to help boost your energy:

Even if you don’t have 90 minutes to take a yoga class, you can pause for a minute or two, relieve stress and boost your energy level simply by breathing. Victoria Maizes, executive director of the Program for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona’s Health Services Center, says breathing is the best thing for quick stress reduction because it’s portable, free, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere.

Here is a breathing exercise that the center’s founder, Andrew Weil, calls 4-7-8. (It’s also on his Web site, Sit with your back straight as you learn the exercise. Later, you can do in any position. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there throughout the exercise. You will exhale through your mouth around your tongue. Try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward. Try this at least twice a day.

  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a “whoosh” sound.
  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight to complete one breath.
  • Inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths. It doesn’t matter how long each phase takes, the ratio of 4:7:8 is what’s important.

Over time, you will be able to inhale and exhale more slowly and deeply. This exercise naturally relaxes the nervous system.


Here’s a three-minute mini-meditation that psychiatrist Judith Orloff recommends in her book Positive Energy.

  • Find a quiet place, such as a comfortable living room chair, an outdoor patio or a warm bath that’s away from people, phones and buzzers. Relax your body. Slowly inhale. Then exhale. • Focus on your breathing.
  • Rest your palm over your heart and concentrate on a person, place, song or memory you cherish.
  • Visualize any thoughts as clouds drifting in the sky. Detach from your thoughts, letting them float by as they pass in and out of your awareness. Keep returning to your breathing to focus you.
  • Observe the sensations in the area of your heart. You may feel heat, cool, expansion, bliss or pressure releasing. Do this for only three minutes.

Keep practicing. This exercise can build energy when you’re feeling tired, out of sorts or need to increase your well being, Orloff says.

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