Today, I’m coming to you from my yoga mat because we are going to laser in on the power of the breath to help improve well-being, decrease stress, enhance mindfulness, and give you more clarity and focus in any given moment. BUT, you don’t have to be on a yoga mat to practice this strategy. It can be done anywhere, at any time, and within milliseconds it will impact your feelings of well-being, your ability to focus, and your ability to reduce your stress response and intentionally decide what you want to do next.

So, we all know that when we find ourselves in a stressful situation, our “Fight or Flight” response is activated. The scientific term is the ‘Sympathetic Nervous System,” and it helps us protect life and limb, get out of difficult situations, and save ourselves from whatever stressor is in front of us. Our lives are filled with a lot of challenges that are not life or death circumstances, yet our body still responds as if we’re running from an animal in the forest somewhere. So, what we can do is help trigger the “Parasympathetic Nervous System,” which is commonly referred to as the “Rest and Digest” system, which kicks into gear after threats are mitigated. The good thing is, we can do that really simply by the use of the breath. If we change the cadence of our breath by inhaling to the count of four and exhaling to the count of eight, it actually triggers that Parasympathetic/Rest and Digest system to come into play. This brings the brain down from that heightened level of stress, and the body relaxes so that you can decide mindfully what you want to do next.

Try it – inhale to the count of four, and exhale to the count of eight. Did it seem painfully long to you? That’s because we don’t typically stop long enough in our day to take a few deep breaths! It’s like building a muscle—if  you spend some time changing that cadence of your breath—in to the count of four, out to the count of eight, you will find that it feels really delicious, especially during stressful times. But it’s great any time that you want more focus or more mindfulness, or simply to get that life-giving oxygen that helps us be present in the moment and to be our best selves in the moment…and our healthiest, happiest selves.

One more time: breathe in to the count of four, out to the count of eight. Do it at any time…it takes way less than two minutes to do a couple circles of those, and it will have amazing impact on your life. In fact, if you played along, you’re probably already feeling better than when you started reading.

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