Feeling Anxiety During a Breathing Meditation


Hi, I've just started a breathing meditation, where I focus my breathing, and count on my exhale, counting to 5, then start back at one.

I felt like I was swaying, rocking, as if I was getting a massage. I opened my eyes and I was swaying, in a relaxed mannor. This feeling made me feel quite anxious, and unable to concentrate on my breathing.

Is this something that I would expect to happen?

—Karla, New Zealand


Hello Karla,

Yes, swaying can happen, and it may or may not be an okay thing, but anxiety certainly is not an okay thing. You don’t want to encourage such swaying, but whether it’s a significant issue depends on the cause of the anxiety.

First, there’s a chance that the swaying could be due to a muscle imbalance. Sorting that out would require watching you breathe, and I cannot do that, so I will have to leave that to you to sort out.

If your anxiety results from the swaying itself (as opposed to simply being how you feel about the swaying), your breathing meditation may have become too physically focused, i.e., you’re identifying with the physical movement of the breath rather than just watching it as an impartial observer. Such physicality can distract you from going deeper within, and subconscious anxiety could arise due to trying to go inside, but being pulled outwardly. It may help if you try to distance yourself farther from the breath, mentally, while still observing it. Don’t get into the movement of the breath; just watch it with detached interest. You might also wish, for a time, to anchor yourself during meditation (e.g., sitting with your back against a wall) until the swaying tendency goes away.

There is another possibility in this respect: perhaps you are breathing in such a way as to cause the kundalini energy to rise in an uncomfortable way. Usually it’s good for kundalini to rise, but if it causes anxiety or any other kind of upset (and it can), then I suggest a gentler, more relaxing breathing practice. And be sure that you are breathing diaphragmatically: the belly expands as you inhale, and relaxes back in as you exhale.

On the other hand, if your anxiety comes simply because you’re concerned that swaying might be a bad thing, try to let that emotion go. There’s nothing to say that swaying is a bad thing if it’s not intentional and does not, in itself, cause agitation. In fact, the swaying might be due to the kundalini energy rising in your spine, which is a good thing if it’s not uncomfortable. That swaying will likely diminish, or even disappear, in time, and that’s to be expected as you move to the next stage in your meditative life. So if it’s just you worrying about swaying, well, don’t.

Blessings on your practice,