Active Meditation

Details the breathing method for exercising in THB.
Details the breathing method for exercising in THB.

Many people ask us about the breathing method we use in The Happy Body. Most of them aren’t familiar with this pattern of breathing and have been doing the opposite: exhaling on exertion. But this practice doesn’t allow for recovery.

The Happy Body exercise system is interval training. This means that you have a time for action and a time for rest, allowing the muscle to grow. Endurance programs, on the other hand, involve continuous movement, causing the consumption of muscle, because they don’t provide for rest between repetitions. The older we are, the more we must pay attention to this aspect of exercise, since muscles atrophy as we age.

Aniela Meditating

Let’s look at what happens when we inhale: First, you fill your lungs with air and lift your chest, expanding your ribcage and creating space between the ribs. This can’t be done deeply and fully by engaging your chest only; your breath must come from your solar plexus. Pay attention to your shoulders, keeping them down and back, and ensure that your head is in a neutral position so you’re not creating tension. The inhale stabilizes the spine and the pelvis, allowing controlled movement.

Now, for the exhale: You still cultivate the straight spine, avoiding collapsing at the sternum and bending forward, which elongates the lower back muscle and shortens the hamstrings. Teach yourself to focus on the joy of release, the pleasurable aspect of letting go before the next effort.

While performing The Happy Body exercises and breathing pattern, you create an inner observer. You develop a heightened awareness of where you are in space and time where your body is out of balance. Gradually this awareness guides you to improve your posture naturally, without forcing it.

The Happy Body Program is designed to bring balance and symmetry, using conscious training. Through mindfulness, you focus on the singularity of the action in the brain, so the cycle becomes a form of stress release. The 100% focus on the six steps—inhale, flex, move, extend, return, exhale—creates a mantra, taking you into a state of centered concentration that I call active meditation.

Rejuvenation is an essential element of recovery. But it can only make you as good as you were yesterday. You cannot improve without knowing when and how to rest. The micro-meditation helps keep you in the parasympathetic nervous system while exercising, keeping your cortisol level down, serotonin level and good hormones up.


Do you think there is a relationship between mindful breathing and willpower? By focusing on your breath in stressful situations, can you relax and see more choices in how you respond? Can you be mindful and also disconnected from yourself?

Leave your response below in the comments.

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  • Thanks you for these great insights and reminders. I learned breathing techniques in college from my wrestling coach. I used to use them before Public speaking and stressful situations. I’m not sure why I stopped some years back. Thank You!

    • Tim,
      Thank you for your insight. Oftentimes we associate certain practices with an activity or a person. So when we stop that practice or that person is not in our life anymore, we simply don’t continue it, even though we saw the benefits. I guess any breathing technique that calms us down and make us more relaxed is beneficial to our health.
      Cheers to deepening our practice!

  • Now practising the Happy Body for 3 months (er, most days!!) I have made a few observations. Firstly, when actively focused on breath – in particular the inhale – you become more actively focused on the movement and it removes any instinct to rush. Secondly, the exhale always feels indulgent and re-invigorating for the next movement. And thirdly, the meditative repetition certainly improves state of mind for the whole day.

    A question though, Aniela and Jerzy: in Rising Tower and Power Tower I find that after two or three reps I need to take an additional breath to stay composed and out of breathlessness. Is it better to put in an additional recovery breath after the rep, or to slow the movement or lower the weight until we can keep within a continuous breath cycle where following the exhale we move straight into the next rep, led by its inhale?

    So glad I stumbled on your work this year.

    • Welcome Kevin,
      I am so glad you are enjoying THB. My advice to you would be to lower the weights to match the movement and breath. The joy of movements will keep you going because its not going to be difficult. At a certain point you will synchronize both so well that it will be a natural thing to increase the weights. Without the push. Think flow, like water, as you move.
      Wish you joyful workouts.

  • I’ve been practising THB for 5 months. I really enjoyed the early workouts where it was slow and steady and meditative. But then when I got to week 7 the book says to increase the speed until you can complete it in 30 mins…. well, I found that impossible. We’re talking about doing 3 sets of 18 exercises in 30 mins? The best I could do it in was 36 mins and that was doing every single exercise at warp speed, covered in sweat and panting (with 4kg dumbells).

    I carried on, and because I need to gain muscle I’ve been increasing the weights regularly… now I’m lifting 7kg but 1 set of THB takes me almost 30 mins, so if I were to do all 3 sets it would take 90 mins. I don’t have time for that. I usually do 1 or 2 sets depending on how much time I have. Like Kevin above I also run out of breath on those 2 exercises.

    I’m guessing you’re probably going to tell me I should lower the weights.

    Is it physically possible to do the full THB workout in 30 mins while doing the breathing correctly? I don’t think I could do it in that time with empty hands, i.e. no weights.

    • After you learn all the movements, you will start blending inhale and flex as well as lift and stretch. The lifts will get a lot of faster and completing all the sequences in 30 minutes will not be a problem. Start with lowering the weights and speeding lift, stretch, and lowering the weights. Everyday try to beat the time. For example, 40.23 minutes, 39.12, 38.32, and so on until you drop below 30 minutes, then begin increasing weights.

      • Thanks for the reply Jerzy.

        PS. when we leave a comment, we have to enter an email address – it would be nice if there was an option to be notified of any replies to comments.

  • I just bought your video’s and did Sequence 1 and 2 at level 1 or 2 depended on the exercise. I didn’t get the book yet. I enjoyed your Happy Moment Stream. I wanted to try something different and I found this today. Spontaneous purchase, but I know it will be right for me. I teach Zumba, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and Yoga I thought this would be great for the winter months to keep my body happy. Thank you Cindy

    • Welcome to The Happy Body Cindy! We hope this will be your best purchase that you benefit from this year. We wish you good luck with pursing your happy body.

      • Aniela: I just read the book and now I have some questions. I purchased the Master Food Book, but didn’t clarify my questions. Aniela, Is there anyone I can talk with to clarify them. One Example: I’ve been doing the video’s but I did all three level one sequence all at once. After reading the book it said only to do sequence one and I was to do it that entire sequence six times (sets). I wasn’t sure how many times a week. I did my measurements and my happy weight of 113 was interesting and wasn’t sure if I did the fat and muscle right. Wasn’t sure if there was a certain amount of water to drink per day. Those are a few of my questions. I want to keep going and wanted to clarify my actions and how many days a week and sets to do per day. I appreciate the assistance. Thank You Cindy 781 953 5859.

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