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The Rescue Breath

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

In this complex world we live in, we often find ourselves challenged by external forces beyond our control. Anxiety, depression and substance abuse have all skyrocketed over the last 20 months and are not showing any signs of decreasing. Using mindfulness training practices, we can guide our minds and biology back to a more grounded place, and from a more present and grounded mindset we can more skillfully navigate what life throws at us.

When experiencing feelings of uncertainty and challenge it is easy to get hijacked by the more primal parts of our brain & nervous system. Many of us know this as the Fight, Flight or Freeze Response to acute stress. When in this heightened emotional state, research has shown that our “thinking mind” & our “Emotional mind” get separated and we become less critical, more reactive, and make poorer choices. By using the Rescue Breath when we notice the onset of stress, or realize that we are in a state of heightened stress, we can literally calm our nervous system and keep our best mental capacity online.

The following is how to perform the Rescue Breath, also known as the S.O.S. Breath.

If feeling challenged, distressed or can’t fall asleep, try using the recue breath to help you reset your nervous system.

· Begin by relaxing your shoulders and facial muscles while guiding your attention to the sensory experience of breathing; notice the tickle in your nose or the rise and fall of your chest and belly. Always breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

· After 5-10 mindful breaths, start breathing to the following count and action:

o First repeat these words: I experience stress, I experience fear or whatever strong emotions are coming up for you. This allows you to feel these normal emotions.

o Now count 4 as you take your in-breath.

o Then hold your in-breath for a count of 7.

o Then release your breath to a count of 8.

o The pattern count is: in-4, hold-7, out-8.

o Repeat this pattern 4 times.

· As you complete the 4th cycle of the 4-7-8 breath count, just begin breathing normally, paying attention to the sensory experience of breathing.

· Once you complete a few breaths, shift your attention to sensations in your body. How does your body feel? Notice where you hold the most tension in your body. It could feel like pressure in your chest, tightness in your throat. Try to notice without comparing or judging, just notice the sensations; are they hot or cold? Are they shifting?

· Now as you breathe-in, imagine you are breathing in through these areas of your body where your tension is, as you breath-out imagine breathing out through the soles of your feet. Repeat this pattern several times.

The Rescue Breath can be a powerful tool to help you face the challenges life throws at you and give you the capacity to more skillfully engage life. Give it a try and see for yourself how mindfulness training can bring great value to your life.

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