Flowers and Bubbles
I arrived at my son’s preschool for my volunteering shift a few weeks ago to find 18 rosy-cheeked, sweaty, and INSANELY HYPER 4-yr-olds frantically trying to assemble themselves into a circle before lunchtime. When they were all finally seated, the teacher asked them to take a few minutes to “smell the flowers and blow the bubbles.” Immediately, each child clasped his/her hands together as if gripping a freshly picked bouquet and proceeded to take a deep breath in through their nose (smelling the flowers) and a deep breath out through their mouth (blowing the bubbles). Within a few minutes, the kids were calm and quiet and able to move on to lunch.
These kids proved it – breathing is a big deal. Their teacher moved them through a short, guided meditation and they all participated without any resistance (after all, who doesn’t like flowers and bubbles). Sounds great and super easy, right? Like something we should all be doing at our desks and waiting at red lights? But when is the last time you really focused on your breath? Despite reading regular research reports showing that breathing calms us and helps with stress-related problems (i.e., panic attacks and digestive issues), the only time I do focused breathing is when I’m sitting in a yoga class being forced to practice kapalbhati pranayama.
I’m now trying to change that, focusing on breathing during times when I’m used to reverting to habits that cause stress. Here are three simple ways I’m trying to integrate breath into my day:
- Stoplights: When I reach to check my cell phone at red lights, I’m trying to take deep focused breaths instead of picking it up
- Spilled Milk: When one of my kids tells me they’ve spilled a glass of milk (this happens every single night), I take a deep breath before responding (this usually tempers my frustration)
- Negative Thoughts: More often than I’d like, negative thoughts – about people, situations, and myself – drift into my head. This sounds cheesy, but when that happens, I’ve been trying to “breathe in bright, warm light” and “breath out dark, grey soot” (I learned this visualization from a yoga teacher years ago, and have enjoyed bringing it back)
If you’re curious about breathing, but don’t have any experience with it, there are tons of resources on the web to make it easy. To offer a few, Dr. Weil offers three straightforward exercises on his site, the Chopra Center offers a simple explanation of Ujjahi breathing (sounds like Darth Vader, but works), and mindfulness guru John Kabat-Zinn offers easy-to-understand instructions. And if all of that feels too complicated, you can always stick to flowers and bubbles.
If you have a breathing practice, how has it changed your life? And if you don’t, think about one moment or one situation during the day when breath give your body and mind the quiet it needs.