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. Chances are good your stomach might tighten along with other muscles and organs that need to work with a smooth flow of oxygen, blood and vital life energy which, unfortunately, are in a temporary stranglehold. This can be the beginning of chronic pain, asthma, gastrointestinal distress, anxiety and a host of other symptoms.
Alas, there is something you can do right now that will help. It costs nothing, you can do it anywhere and you do not need to go to a professional. All of my patients know this simple exercise because we usually do it at some point during the treatment to increase the benefits of acupuncture:
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 sigh. Let the next inhalation happen naturally keeping the shoulders relaxed. Continue breathing like this for a few breaths.
Sometime during the week try doing abdominal breathing on a patch of fresh earth while standing. As you breathe in imagine the energy of the earth moving up your legs and into the lower abdomen. As you exhale let go of all stale and toxic energy.
Remember to consciously breathe when you are feeling stressed. The more you do it, the more it has the chance of becoming a healthy habit—one that can ward off disease, too much stress, and help you staying calm in whatever chaos is happening around you. Your body, your mind, your emotions and spirit will thank you.