I learned a version of Breathing Mindfully almost two decades ago when I started yoga. And though it was helpful for me, I was missing the real power of it. I was focusing so much on counting as I breathed that I missed the true essence: feeling my breath in my body.
In the past 18 months, as we have honed the We Are Resilient™ approach, I also learned about the biological and neurological science behind Breathing Mindfully. Understanding the science–the“how” and “why” behind a skill–makes me even more enthusiastic about it. There is a vagus nerve that connects our lungs, our brain, and other organs. Breathing Mindfully increases the activity of the vagus nerve, so the heart rate slows and becomes regular, blood pressure decreases, and muscles relax. Through the vagus nerve, Breathing Mindfully prevents the amygdala from overreacting to potential threats and increases the coordination between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex so our brain feels more peaceful. How cool is that? Through deepening my breathing practice, I now feel like I have a calming superpower that I can bring out whenever I need it.
One of my joys is working with our first Teen Internship co-hort. They are a special group of twelve diverse teens from around Northern California who will be spending the summer creating our first set of “For Teens, By Teens” material based on the We Are Resilient™ approach. I am impressed by their vulnerability, generosity, and kindness to one another as they share their joys and challenges during orientation.
I am also heartened by how much they bring to the table. As I was coaching the Breathing Mindfully skill last Sunday, I learned that almost all of them had been exposed to a breathing practice already and ⅓ of them use it regularly in their life. The next generation is ready and ripe for these skills and I am thrilled to be part of the movement that’s helping all of us become more resilient! If you join any of our Resilience Circles, you will find we start them all with this calming superpower: Breathing Mindfully.