“The Healing Power of the Breath: Simple Techniques to Reduce Stress and Anxiety, Enhance Concentration, and Balance Your Emotions”
By Richard P. Brown; Shambhala, 168 pages
Breathe in, breathe out. This is what I tell myself whenever the stresses of daily life start to overwhelm me. This year especially has been a journey of physical and mental challenges I never expected to have to face, but that's how life turns out sometimes, right?
I don't know about you, but I have a hard time maintaining a sustainable pace in such a fast-paced world. It's definitely "life in the fast lane," and somehow I keep missing the exit ramps for that place called Serenity. So, I've been looking for a road map, so to speak, on how to locate that intersection between life's demands and inner peace — without having to completely rotate and rebalance my physical and spiritual "wheels." And now that I've driven this metaphor about as far as I can, I want to share how this week's title has steered me in a positive direction toward an inner equilibrium.
If you're like me, you probably don't spend much time thinking about what our amazing lungs do each and every day. However, if it becomes hard to breathe, that is pretty much the only thing I think about. So, my question is this: between the unconscious respiration that takes place daily, and, in my case, irregular yet annoying — even upsetting — episodes of labored breathing, is it possible to have more control over inhales and exhales? According to "The Healing Power of the Breath," the answer is a resounding "yes."
Conscious breathing, such as holding your breath to get rid of hiccups, is something we all do. We hold our breath when going under water; we take deep breaths to calm jangled nerves. What isn't as automatic is consciously controlling our breathing to "enhance concentration, and balance (our) emotions," as listed in the subtitle of Richard P. Brown's book.
He mentions that followers of yoga and meditation often are more aware of what's happening within their bodies because both practices encourage, even rely on, breath control. What is so appealing to me about Brown's guide is that once I learn certain breathing techniques, I can do them at home or at work. Some of them are simple enough to do even while driving, certainly one of the most stressful activities humans experience.
Take some time, like I did, to check out and read this unique, self-guided approach to stress relief. I'm still learning how to incorporate better breathing techniques into my daily life, but I feel as though I am definitely on the right path this time. I'll try to keep in mind what Steve Martin once said: "I've got to keep breathing. It'll be my worst business mistake if I don't."
Jan Johnston is the collection development coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.