Coming Back to the Breath

Breathing by the Sea, Barbados

You know the feeling. Your shoulders start to climb closer to your ears. Your breath becomes shallow or, worse, you inhale and hold it for way too long before exhaling. As a result, your stomach might tighten, along with other muscles and organs. Every cell, tissue and organ forms an integral whole that demands a smooth flow of oxygen to stay healthy. Deprivation can be the beginning of chronic pain, asthma, gastrointestinal distress, anxiety and a host of other problems.

Learning to ‘come back to the breath’ costs nothing, you can do it anywhere, and you do not need to go to a professional. Here is how to do it:

When you inhale, imagine a balloon inflating in the lower abdomen (below the navel). On the exhale, let it deflate, and consciously squeeze out the stale breath as the shoulders lower. On the next inhalation, do not lift the shoulders. Bring fresh air into the lower abdomen until it is as full as it can get. Let it go with a quiet, or not so quiet sigh, depending on your surroundings.. Let the next inhalation happen naturally, keeping the shoulders relaxed. Continue breathing like this for a few breaths or even a few minutes if you can manage. Do not worry if your mind wanders. Simply notice when it does, and then bring your awareness back to your breath.

The more you ‘come back to the breath’, the more it has the chance of becoming a healthy habit—one that can ward off disease, reduce stress, and help you stay calm in whatever chaos is happening around you.


  1. Linda says

    This is perfect timing. I have a meeting with my 80 students tomorrow to give them techniques in how to de-stress before the upcoming state mandated tests. We will practice breathing. Just the thing they need. Thanks again. Linda

  2. Maureen Goss says

    Abdominal breathing is a great way to bring the stress level down before a test. Your students will appreciate this new tool to manage whatever anxiety they might have. Glad this helped.

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