From our ancient ancestors, who lacked access to scientific proof, poor things, we know that optimal wellness comes from mindful breathing. We know it from their art and their writings. Sanskrit translations abound on the topic. But for the business world to cough up money for employee training, there must be science driving the bus. The article slogs through the descriptions of the parasympathetic nervous systems response to slow breath just enough to convince you of its authenticity and veracity. You can now visualize your monthly in-service training here, the finger pointing to the sentence on the page proving this is good for you. And, you will do it.
So why is this article in the business section, not on the health pages? I’ll let Mr. Porges speak, “…different breathing patterns can serve as a quick and often easy way to manipulate your emotional and physiological state in ways that allow you to be calmer, less stressed and more productive.” Oh. More productive.Figures. Often easy? Oh hell no. Disciplinary action forms soon to follow. First Warning: employee fails to execute breathing strategy to activate parasympathetic stimulation, evidenced by diminished productivity since last week’s performance evaluation.
Rita Mae Browns’ comment at her recent presentation at W&M comes to mind. “We are born perfect, we spend the rest of our lives trying to get back there.” We are born belly breathers. We evolve into chest breathers. I mean here in America, who wants their belly sticking out. There will be pointing and asides about your mid-section. Men aspire to 6 pack abs and women hungrily embrace spanks. As adults we breathe in our upper chest and allow the lung bases to harbor toxic carbon dioxide. We slouch forward at our computers compressing the chest and abdomen, reducing blood flow and lung capacity. We sit in the car, at work and in front of the TV. We believe wholeheartedly the couture culture of rail thinness and throw away any photos of ourselves where roundness rears its ugly head.
I go back to our ancestors to look for balance. Wake up and breathe. Move around in nature and breathe. Learn to relax your belly and breathe. Sit up in your chair from time to time, lift your heart forward, close your eyes and belly breathe. Your brain and body are the most complex pieces of high tech equipment you operate. A deep breath sends a cascade of good news all around, toes to nose and up into the noggin. Now I teach this breathing business to men and women so stressed by work they are desperate to listen. Drugs and therapy work but adding breathing restores power to the plant. Last month I presented a one hour break out session to District Court Judges at their annual legislative conference. My sessions were at 7 am and 5 pm, times before and after a full day of mandatory sessions. Yet, 70 Judges participated.That tells me people feel bad, they have physical and emotional pain. So even when they are tired and fatigued by a long day, they still come to listen and find new ways to feel healthy.
From me to you I say, you don’t need an app or a device giving you real time feedback. Turn your natural competitive drive to do well on the man in the mirror. Wake up and breathe deep three times in your belly before your feet touch the floor. Search for times in your day to quiet your senses. Is the only time you are alone in the car? Shut the news radio off, choose music or silence, belly breathe. Get the pharmacy in your brain to a happy place by breathing out longer than breathing in. If you are nerdy and need proof, read about it online. You will be in, just like the Judges who work in a hostile environment where people argue in front of them all day long. Their doing is their undoing. Maybe yours is too.
Here is Mr. Porges conclusion: “The best part is that, unlike some breathing exercises, which are evident to anyone in the room, this technique is relatively discreet after a little bit of practice.” In other words, breathe, but keep it on the down low.