Take a Break From Stress: Breathing Exercises

Meeting #23: June 16, 2020

Meeting Theme: Sometimes the most important person in the room is the one we least notice.  In the case of the functions of our body, perhaps the most important function is the one that is easiest to overlook: our breathing.

Today’s Quotes:

From Jane Brody’s column “Personal Health” in the June 16, 2020 NYTimes:

But first, we could all benefit from a better understanding of a bodily function (breath) most of us have long taken for granted and learn how to maximize its efficiency and life-sustaining benefits. Based on the research I’ve done for this column, it’s apparent that even without a mask as an impediment, many people breathe in ways that compromise their well-being.

“Doctors who study breathing say that the vast majority of Americans do it inadequately,” James Nestor, author of a new book, “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art,” wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal. “How we breathe matters,” he said, “and our attention to it is long overdue.”

For example, Mr. Nestor noted, “nose breathing is better than mouth breathing” because it’s protective; the nose filters, heats and treats raw air. “Inhaling through the nose stimulates the release of hormones and nitric oxide, which helps to regulate vital functions like blood pressure and increase oxygenation throughout the body,” Mr. Nestor said in an email.

Given that most of us take about 25,000 breaths a day and breathing properly is critical to how well our bodies function, we should try to get the most benefit we can from this life-sustaining activity, with or without a mask.


Gently Guided Meditation: Breath/Body/Mind awareness with “Long Breath” practice

Meeting Video:



Meeting #24: June 18, 2020

Meeting Theme: How we breathe is the gateway to how we live.  Breathing responds to emotional changes and can create emotional changes.  Baby’s breath is more than a pretty white flower!  A “baby’s breath” is a demonstration of breathing in good health, a way of breathing that perhaps we’ve unlearned.  Let’s learn how to breathe again!

Today’s Quotes:

From Jane Brody’s column “Personal Health” in the June 16, 2020 NYTimes (link to this article is above) in which she quotes Paul DiTuro, a former professional athlete and special forces medic in the United States military who is now a performance breathing specialist:

Breathing done properly keeps the body in acid-base balance, which enables tissues to get the amount of oxygen they need to function optimally…This balance is achieved by maintaining an ideal level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the blood. Too little CO2, which can happen when breathing is rapid and shallow, impedes the release of oxygen to body tissues and can result in feelings of anxiety, irritability, fatigue and lack of focus…

Rapid, shallow breathing keeps the body in a high state of alert and engages the sympathetic nervous system, an adaptation that is useful in times of danger but counterproductive to feeling calm and relaxed the rest of the time.  Even during normal times, many people breathe too fast and through their mouths, perhaps because of chronic stress or noses made stuffy by allergies or a deviated septum. I noticed that I tended to do the same when I was wearing a mask, and now consciously remind myself to breathe more slowly, inhale through my nose and exhale through my mouth, especially when I’m out exercising. Without very much effort, you can retrain how you breathe — with or without a mask — so that it is physiologically beneficial when you’re not being chased by a tiger.

A rapid, shortened breathing cycle uses muscles in the neck and chest instead of the diaphragm. Mr. DiTuro noted, “Lack of diaphragmatic breathing makes it harder to mentally relax.”

Gently Guided Meditation: Breath/Body/Mind awareness with “Long Breath” practice:

“While more research on the possible effects of masks on breathing patterns is needed, Mr. DiTuro suggests that in addition to respiratory training, some simple steps may help make wearing a mask easier. Just before putting on your mask, take five “quality” breaths. With each breath, inhale through the nose for four seconds, exhale through the mouth for six seconds, then rest for two seconds. Repeat these five breaths as soon as you put on the mask, and again after you remove it.”

Meeting Video: