When to use it:
This shortcut is designed to relieve tension. It can be used during normal activities such as when driving and when watching television or during times of high stress such as before making a presentation or before discussing grades or other ‘fun’ subjects with your teenager, etc.
Breathe a deep breath — start by breathing low in your body, extending your belly (as if you were trying to look pregnant), move air higher in the body, expanding all around, then move higher, letting air between your collar bones. Hold briefly. Release. Exhale from the top down, out your collar bones, out of your ‘trunk’, out of your belly. Pull your belly button back to your spine to expel all of the air out of your abdomen. Go VERY SLOWLY.
One of my lifelong hobbies is singing and performing. I have performed in children’s choirs, adult choirs, community choruses, on musical theater stages, and in opera houses. I love to sing! When I lived in New York City for 11 years, I also took the opportunity to ‘train’ (i.e. take some voice lessons.) I don’t think I ever seriously considered a career in singing – sopranos in New York are a dime a dozen – but still I wanted to understand the technique of singing.
One of my teachers – let’s call her Alice — was a tall, dramatic woman whose home was a small, dark labyrinth of a place. Beside the piano was an enormous vase filled with peacock feathers. Turkish looking fabrics were swathed around the windows. Candles and crystals lay on low wooden tables. I might have come for a séance as easily as a voice lesson.
I’m indebted to Alice because she taught me how to breathe – really breathe. One rainy afternoon she had me lie down on my back on her plush Oriental carpet with the instruction, “Watch your belly as you breathe”. As it turns out, your belly expands out as you breathe in. Here I always thought that when you take a big breath, your stomach sucks in and your chest puffs out. That day, I experienced a full 3 part breath with my belly out first . . . and then my back expanding into the floor . . . and then my chest rising last.
I’ve since used this 3 part breath to calm panic attacks, to hit a high C, and to ride out birthing contractions (ok, yes, the epidural was actually more effective, but still . . . ) Try this breath and see for yourself.
This deep breath has an immediate calming effect on the body. Your mind takes its cues from the body – tight body, tense mind . . . . relaxed body, peaceful mind. This kind of breath expands the lungs which keeps them supple and flexible. And finally, this kind of breathing brings extra oxygen to the brain which just simply makes you feel better.