Fall can be a tricky time on Maui. With the kids returning to school earlier and earlier in August, a full roster of after-school schedules and weekend birthday parties, and the hot sticky month of September rolling in, it can be a tough time of transition.
The return to busy times can be a great invitation to focus on this incredibly simple, yet profound practice of breathing. You don’t need special equipment or tons of time to practice, you just need your awareness and willingness to be present with your breath.
Set aside a few minutes by yourself, which is recommended when you first start, or get advanced by practicing while you are in the car or waiting in line for shave ice. Invite your keiki to practice with you if they seem interested.
- Back to the belly. When you are stressed, your breath will tend to be shallow and you’ll use the neck and shoulders to assist into a breath pattern that mostly stays in your chest. By noticing how you are breathing, and allowing your breath to expand more fully into your lungs, which you will notice causes you belly to expand, you help yourself calm down and will be better able to handle stress. It can useful to also imagine your ribcage expanding out the sides.
- Focus on the exhale. When you inhale, you are energizing your body, giving it the capacity to actively respond to situations. Your exhale is where you can focus on relaxation and healing. When you consiously increase the length of your exhale, you help the part of your nervous system that is responsible for resting, digesting, and healing to come on board. Try inhaling for a count of four and exhaling for a count of eight. The specific counts don’t really matter, just find something that works for you, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through your mouth as if you are pushing the air through a straw.
- Box Breathing. You can imagine that Navy Seals encounter a fair amount of stress on the job. Luckily, they are taught the technique of box breathing, which is incredibly helpful for remaining calm and focused under pressure. It’s also quite simple to practice. Start by exhaling for a count of four. Hold your breath for four. Inhale for a count of four, and then hold again for a count of four. Adjust your four count to support a level of comfort with the practice. Try it for 5 minutes and see how you feel.
The breath is one of our most accessible and useful tools for managing stress. It allows us to communicate directly with our nervous system, and can be used to send our body signals that we are indeed safe.