Learning to breathe

By Gail Z. Martin

I’ve heard a lot lately about being mindful so that one doesn’t spend more time working IN the business than ON the business.  Meaning that it’s possible to get so caught up in the daily grind that we stop doing the things that help our businesses grow.  One of these important, but often overlooked, items is, I believe, taking time to breathe.

Sure, you breathe, or you wouldn’t be alive to read this.  But did you know that most Americans take short, shallow breaths that contribute to the feeling of tenseness and panic?  We rarely stop to take deep breaths, breaths that begin in the belly and then expand through the chest.  We seldom take even a few moments to focus on the act of breathing, feeling the air fill us, and then letting go of the breath in a slow, calm way.

In Tai Chi, as with most martial arts and with disciplines like Yoga, breath is everything.  But you don’t have to be a martial arts master to get a sixty-second vacation by taking a moment out of your hectic, stress-filled day to savor a few calm breaths.

The next time you feel your neck growing tight, your temples beginning to throb and your back starting to clench, take a few moments and breathe.  Close your eyes and pay attention to the rhythm of your breath.  Is it fast and shallow?  If so, slow down your breathing by taking breaths that begin in your abdomen and then fill you all the way through your chest.  Hold it for a second and then try to let it go just as slowly, listening to it rush through the nose.  Even five or six deep, slow breaths make an amazing difference in the perceived stress.  After a few deep, slow breaths, it becomes easier to relax your shoulders, unclench your jaw, relax your lower back.  If your heart is pounding after a distressing phone call or office confrontation, deep, slow breaths can help you bring your mind and body back into a calm, rational state where you can make better decisions and think more clearly.

The next time stress gets to you, put the miracle of breath to work and notice how clear your thoughts become, how much faster you recover, and how much better you feel.

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