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3 Alternatives to Focusing on Your Breath During Meditation

Woman sitting cross legged, meditating.

Are you interested in meditation, but struggle to focus on your breath? Here are a few alternative exercises to support your meditation practice.


Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned meditator, it can be challenging to retain focus on the breath for an extended period of time. If this sounds like you, please do not be discouraged! Many guided meditations (and meditators) default to drawing the awareness onto inhales and exhales, but for some, focus on one of the five main senses may result in a more impactful meditation experience.

So! Are you ready to investigate and discover where it’s easiest for you to retain your focus? Here’s a list of exercises based on some of our main senses. Try each exercise to see which alternative feels most natural (and beneficial) to your personal practice.

1. Roam the Room with your Eyes

For those who need a little action during meditation, allow your eyes to wander your surroundings. Rest your awareness on something you see before you, notice its fine details, and breathe steadily for a few moments. Then, slowly allow your eyes to wander again and find a new subject. Repeat this process of pausing, noticing, and moving onto the next subject with the intention of visually studying your surroundings. If your mind begins to ramble, let your sight guide you back into the space before you.

Woman's ear, with two earrings.

Photo by Sammie Burgett for OM Alignment

2. Intently Listen to your Surroundings

If noticing your breath is a challenge, spin the focus from the act of breathing into the act of hearing your breath. Listen to the air as it enters and leaves your nose. Once you get into the rhythm of hearing your breath, expand your awareness outward into the space around you. What sounds do you hear, both near and far? Pin your focus onto the subtle sounds of your environment for a stimulating meditation practice.

4. Feel your Surroundings against your Skin.

For this exercise, I recommend keeping your eyes closed and having a blanket, necklace, stone, or any similar item nearby. Begin by rubbing your fingertips together softly to pull your focus to your skin. Then, maintain steady breathing as you also allow the sensation of the air in the room against your skin into your awareness. With your mind focused upon your body’s physical sensations, feel the item you selected (blanket, necklace, etc.). Allow yourself to rhythmically touch this item, so as to create a physical anchor for any wandering thoughts.

Woman's hand resting upon a grey yoga bolster from Brentwood Home.

Photo by Sammie Burgett for OM Alignment

What do you think?

Do any of these exercises come more naturally than the others? Do you find it’s easier to quiet your thoughts when focusing on one of your physical senses, rather than simply becoming aware of your breath? Your meditation and mindfulness practice is unique to you—it’s only by exploring that you will discover the style that rejuvenates, balances, and centers you the most.

As for myself, I notice that listening to sounds in the space around me helps me achieve a steady and peaceful meditative state quicker than the alternative exercise.




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