February 5, 2019
As I was caught up in the challenges of the Polar Vortex that gripped much of the US last week, I kept repeating to myself: Just Breathe.
Watching my good friend and neighbor’s house and his darling cat, I found the water pipes had frozen – and he had only been gone for 4 hours! Just breathe. His plumber came immediately -- problem solved, and no damage. Hmm…if that could happen so quickly, I thought, “Better check a few bathrooms in my house.” The pipes under an upstairs guest bedroom had frozen. Just breathe. I trucked my space heater over to that room along with a fan and waited. Just breathe. My wonderful plumber was at the ready next morning, when, miracle of miracles, the water started to trickle. Lesson learned, I let all the faucets trickle for the next several days. Just breathe. Well cripes – I missed my deadline to write and post my bi-weekly Blog. Just Breathe.
Life happens – to all of us, every day. Just Breathe. In my practice I teach the 7 x 7 x 7 Formula. This is my way of giving people a mental trigger to remind us to:
Commit to taking 7 deep diaphragmatic breaths, 7 times a day, 7 days a week. This is my Keep It Super Simple, 7 x 7 x 7 Formula.
I was introduced to the benefits of deep diaphragmatic breathing in my very first meeting with David Prudhomme. See this short excerpt from a book we co-authored: “Be Happy NOW!, Chapter 5: The Power to Choose:”
“David explained that breathing with my diaphragm creates a relaxation response in both my body and my mind. The relaxation response is the opposite of the “flight or fight” response, which generates an increase in cortisol and causes the body to retain fat. This is part of the science behind the enormous benefits of diaphragmatic breathing. Indeed, my personal experience bears out these scientific findings. The more I learn how to relax my body and my mind when there is little stress, the better I am at being able to be calm and relax my body and mind when moments of stress, frustration, anger or fear arise.
Breathing was a simple step, and it was huge. It was huge because it started the learning process and the experience of taking back control of my body, my mind and my emotions.”
Personal experience is one thing. However, you may well ask: "What is the research and science behind this recommendation?" Great question -- and one I have researched. Here is one example. I invite you to take 2 minutes to listen to Dr. Andrew Weil talk about the extensive benefits of breathing exercises. Dr. Weil is the Founder and Director Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, University of Arizona College of Medicine, and the Jones/Lovell Professor of Integrative Rheumatology, University of Arizona.
Dr. Weil talks about the benefits of breathing, explains in plain English the science of what it does and provides an impressive list of examples of patients’ dramatic changes. I love his metaphor:
“It [breathing] is a practice. I often like to say it is like water cutting the Grand Canyon. It is the constancy of doing it that produces dramatic changes.”
I would love to know your key take-aways from this interview with Dr. Weil.
The challenges I faced last week may seem small. And, in the bigger scheme of things, they are. However, when you make something a habit that you use all the time – it does go deep. Then, it is there for you in the most challenging of times.
Teaching people about breathing infuses and informs my coaching practice for reducing stress and my high performance coaching, particularly around the habit of Energy. I have had a lot of fun learning about the benefits of breathing exercises over the past 8 years.
I know it can be challenging for some people to find the 7 times a day to incorporate the habit of doing 7 deep diaphragmatic breaths. Personally, I have chosen, first thing in the morning and the last thing at night; every time I go out for meetings or errands, usually 2-3 times each day; before dinner; and before the first conference call of the day. Some people start and then stop this practice. I know it is easy to forget and get distracted. That’s OK – just restart. I know it has happened to me.
So, I went in search of inspiration to everyone who follows this 7 x 7 x 7 Formula and/or who is willing to give it a try. This poem by Mary Oliver resonated with me. I wanted to share her poem, “I am Breathing,” as a tribute to a beautiful writer and soul, who recently passed. Mary Oliver beautifully captures the essence and impact of breathing “into the unexpected joy of being alive.”
Mary Oliver: I am Breathing
Breathing just a little
of each moment passing
draining into the next
every drop of anticipation
of life's rich bounty
in the unexpected joy
of being alive.
of all things
I find myself
revelling in every drop
dripping wet in the ripe, rich fruit
into the unexpected joy
of being alive.
Wishing you a joyous day! Just Breathe.
Till next time,
May you be happy now and always, Alison
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