Thursday, September 1

Just Breathe

Earthquakes, hurricanes and a potential nuclear crisis. Who knew Richmond, Virginia was a magnet for natural disasters?

Last week we had a 5.8 magnitude earthquake shake the house and more disturbingly, shut down the Lake Anna nuclear power facility. Only 10 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter, (and only 40 miles from my house) the facility is still offline as officials check for damage. That was last Tuesday. On Saturday, hurricane Irene blew through town, blowing debris all over the city, knocking down trees and leaving thousands of Richmonders without power.

What’s a neurotic mother of three, located in the shadow of a potentially disabled nuclear power plant to do?

Now is a great time to call upon one of the tenets of the In8 lifestyle change program— stress relief.

The program emphasizes the benefits of meditation—and there are many—but for me, it’s impossible to sit quietly in a room. My thoughts are too numerous. They race around my head like the ever-changing news ticker at the bottom of the TV screen on CNN. My personal news ticker screams, “Dow plummets, Stiles family loses entire 401k.”  “School starts Tuesday. Get supplies.” “You really shouldn’t have eaten that muffin.” “Call your sister.” “Call your mother.” "Lose weight." "Workout more." 

And so on, and so on.

Always on the lookout for a stress relieving alternative, I found something I can actually do. Deep breathing. 

According to Nancy Zi, a Glendale, California-based breathing expert and author of the book and video set, The Art of Breathing, “Breathing incorrectly can produce tension, exhaustion and vocal strain, interfere with athletic activity and encourage aches and illnesses.” While breathing correctly can “melt away tension and stress, improve energy or simply relax and unwind.”

Dr. Andrew Weil, the famed alternative health care doctor, recommends the following deep breathing technique for
 stress relief and relaxation.
The 4-7-8 Exercise
Sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
·      Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
·      Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
·      Hold your breath for a count of seven.
·      Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
·      This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.
This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which are often effective when you first take them but then lose their power over time, this exercise is subtle when you first try it but gains in power with repetition and practice. Do it at least twice a day. You cannot do it too frequently. Do not do more than four breaths at one time for the first month of practice. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to eight breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do not be concerned; it will pass.

I think this might be the best stress relief activity EVER since it allows me to multitask. I can keep myself alive by breathing and calm my mind at the same time. Awesome.

Now if I could also check email simultaneously I think I’d really be on to something.

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