By Jacqueline Rubinstein

I have two hours before I need to be to work. How much can I squeeze into that time? How many errands can I run? How many emails can I write? How many phone calls can I return?

Well if I plan my response emails while I brush my teeth, make my lunch, and pack my bag… and I call while I drive (with a headset of course)… and…

Okay, I have twenty minutes left. What last thing can I do?

Looking around, I stop for a moment.

Oh man, I have a headache, my blood is coursing through my veins, and I am a little bit dizzy. Like I just ran a marathon without drinking any water.

And I am panting. Short, quick breaths up in my chest.

How about I take those twenty minutes or even 3 of those precious minutes to breathe. Full, deep breaths into my belly.

There you have it – my inner dialogue. A constant race to get more done in less time. Does this sound familiar to you?

We are all living in 21st century America, the age of super sonic speed. The age of multi-tasking. The age of higher productivity with less rest.

Recently, I gave myself and my Reducing Chronic Pain class series students a breathing challenge. And it has been so juicy, I want to extend the challenge to you:

Over the next week, each time you are stressed, angry, or in pain, stop and check in with your breathing. Here are 3 specific things to look for:

1. Are you pulling in your belly when you inhale?

2. Are you breathing high up in your chest?

3. Are you bent over, collapsing your chest, rounding your back, and looking down towards the floor?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, put your hands on your lower abdomen (between your belly button and your pubic bone) and intentionally push your hands out with your abdomen as you breathe in. Feel how your chest moves inward a bit.

Then when you breath out, let your lower abdomen come in towards your spine and push you chest out a little bit. Raise your eyes to look at the horizon, then close your eyes to make this easier.

After 5 deep breaths, check in with your mood and sensations. Do you feel a bit more relaxed and comfortable? Do you feel more in control and ready to act in a thoughtful way?

Repeat this challenge every day for a whole week. And let me know how it goes!

Gayle was surprised by the results of this breathing challenge:

” …as a singer, I know about deep belly breaths, and I don’t consciously hold my belly in. But what I did not realize until after the class, in the week that followed, was that when I am in pain or stress, I do hold my belly in!

I had no idea I was doing this, since it’s not how I normally breathe, but after this class, I checked in with my breathing whenever I was in pain or stress, and there it was. So I consciously did some deep belly breaths each time. As the week progressed, I caught myself at it more easily and corrected it more quickly.”

Breathing is a powerful and quick way to return your body from a state of anxiety, pain, or stress to a place of comfort and ease. From that place, you can act with greater strength, clarity, and intelligence!

Everyday tasks become easier. And you will most likely experience better digestion, deeper sleep, and increased optimism as your deep, belly breathing becomes more habitual.

Go ahead and try out the challenge. And let me know what you think!


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