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Love Is In the Air – Reduce Stress, Get More Air Time with Your Own Oxygen Mask

in YD News, YogaDork Ed

There is one way of breathing that is shameful and constricted.

Then, there’s another way:

A breath of love that takes you all the way to infinity.


by Jillian Pransky

Mohonk Mountain House is a three-mile drive up a beautiful, winding, narrow and sometimes heart rate inducing, mountain road. I visit several times a year and while it’s one of my favorite places, I often wondered how an emergency is handled when you’re three miles up a mountain. I found out in April.

After a long day hiking among spring blooms, my 8-year-old William’s allergies kicked up, and at 1am he had an allergy-induced asthma attack.

We wound up in the House doctor’s office where William was put on a nebulizer, oxygen and the ambulance was called. This was a highly tense situation… and the more William felt that he couldn’t get a breath, the MORE he couldn’t breathe.

That’s the thing about asthma (and actually, breathing in general – for most of us), the harder it is to breath, the tighter and more rigid you become, then the more anxious you get, and thus it gets even harder to breathe.

Personally, I had to modulate my own anxiety as I watched William’s tightness escalate. I had to be fully calm and present to help ‘bring him down’. I wiggled my way in between him and the doctor, put my forehead on William’s, and started my own slow, rhythmic breathing. Gently, softly, I encouraged him to breath with me. It was a start.

Thankfully the ambulance finally arrived to take us off the mountain to the hospital where he was given medication to open his airways and by 5am he was fine to go home. Phew.


Now of course this is an extreme situation of how being short on breath begets less breath, how tension and anxiety further progress tension and anxiety. But as I watched William I realized how most of us do this to ourselves all day long. In fact, we can get so used to feeling restricted, we don’t even realize how tight we are until it’s too late. At first, we begin by bracing ourselves just a little, waiting for something to throw us off balance, eady to defend or protect ourselves. And like a snowball effect, we respond progressively by getting tighter and tighter, minimizing our breath moment after moment.

This cycle diminishes our vitality and initiates our stress response (fight or flight reflex), which makes us tense, anxious, and irritable. As well as causing fatigue, compromised immunity, lowered digestive capabilities, diminished vital organ function, weakening our overall well-being.

Physiology of Stress

And while emergency intervention may be essential at times, we also need to learn to interrupt this pattern before we ‘can’t breath’. With practice, we can reverse this pattern, to pause, deepen our breath and initiate our Relaxation Response (the part of our nervous system responsible for restoring our bodies vital organ function). As we consciously slow our breathing, we bring down our heart rate, relax the body and calm our mind. In this state, our world opens up and we not only feel more health, we feel more connected to ourselves and others.

And we can do this! We can create new daily patterns through practices like yoga, conscious breathing and relaxation.


Repeat this conscious breathing practice daily for 3-5 minutes.

– Sit comfortably in a chair, feet resting on the ground or lie down (bend your knees, feet flat on floor or place a pillow under your knees).

– Relax and simply observe the quality of your natural breath without judgment. You may notice your breath is uneven and inconsistent. Just watch it, graciously.

– After a few minutes of observation, shift your awareness to how the ribs are moving with the breath. Feel the movement the breath creates in your body.

– As you relax imagine your breath as a wave, rising and falling evenly. Without inducing effort, mentally count the length of each breathe as it rises and falls organically. Slowly begin to encourage an even count – for example inhale 1,2,3,4, natural pause, exhale 1,2,3,4, natural pause – without trying to consume more air or push air out.

– Stay relaxed and enjoy the rhythm of your breath for a moment.


Your Best Breath by Roger Cole
Breathing Lessons by Tony Briggs



7 comments… add one
  • Breath is amazing stuff. A few years ago I landed in an ER with abdominal pain. The ER people were bustling around and the doctor appeared worried. Anyway they were having a hard time with the diagnosis. They gave me drugs for the pain and the pain was severe enough that the drugs weren’t having an effect. I discovered that if I practiced ujayi breath, the pain went down to almost nothing. It was hard to maintain because people kept coming into my cubby and poking me and I’d get distracted. But as long as I could release into it and breathe, I could manage fine. [My own doctor showed up and saw right away that my gall bladder was attacking me. Said gall bladder was soon removed from the premises.]

  • Hilary

    This is for the writer and mother of the boy who had asthma. 10 years ago my 7 year old son had similar attacks and we had a few emergency room visits. It is horribly frustrating and frightening to say the least. We visited many pedaitric specialists. Finally, we consulted a traditional Chinese Medicine physician. Within 5 days we had relief from the allergies and asthma. In NYC Dr Zhang clinic is highly recommended. I was in Florida and went to Ni Acupumcture.

  • That breathe image is so gorgeous. I learned during my teacher training (which I just completed!) that I’m a reverse breather! I have been bringing more consciousness to my breath throughout the day, but I still sometimes slip into reverse breathing if I’m not being mindful.

  • I’m glad William turned out OK. I really appreciated the advice on the breathing exercise. I just finished trying it and I feel more at peace. Thanks!

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