The belly breathing felt relaxing, but I had a really hard time staying awake.
Students often find that they fall asleep when they practice belly breathing and start feeling relaxed. Part of the problem is that you guys are all sleep-deprived, and as soon as you slow down for a minute, it’s natural that you fall asleep. You probably really need some sleep. That’s something to be aware of and consider: if finding ways to get more regular sleep would help you to feel better in general.
So, there’s really nothing wrong with falling asleep, and as a matter of fact, doing some belly breathing is a great way to clear your mind and relax your body at night to help you get to sleep.
But it’s true that sleeping isn’t meditating, so there are a few tricks for working with sleepiness. First, it’s important not to judge yourself for feeling sleepy. It’s just sleepiness! No big deal. Second, see if you can get a little bit curious about what it feels like to be sleepy. How do you know you’re sleepy? What are the sensations in your body and mind that tell you you’re sleepy? Sometimes just being curious about the sleepiness can make you feel more alert. You can also try opening your eyes while you continue to practice the breathing. Some people recommend standing up or gently pinching your earlobes when you begin to feel sleepy. One other trick is to try taking a deep breath and holding it as long as you can. Try this for several breaths in a row until you are feeling more alert.
If these tricks don’t help, it may be best to try a more energizing meditation, such as dynamic breathing or walking meditation.