Deep breathing in the time of coronavirus

I’m not a epidemiologist or a bacteriologist or a doctor so the last thing I’m going to do is talk about how to tackle the virus.  What I do have, after 40 years of interviewing experts and trying practices from around the world, is a battery of tools for shifting our emotional state, for working on our interior world, so I figured it might be helpful to share some of them.

There’s so much fear and anxiety around (and understandably so – we’re in new and strange territory here).  The one tool that really helps to dampen anxiety is the most simple of all – deep abdominal breathing.  Breathing?  Really?  100%.  The moment you start to breath deep, right down into the belly, it sends a signal that you’re safe, that it’s okay.  The HPA axis (stress axis) sends out the order to stand down, to relax.   Not only to relax, but – vitally – also to repair.  So, by deep breathing, you’re not only going to start feeling a lot less shaky and jittery (from all the stress hormones sloshing around) but you will also be helping your immune system fight off any invaders.  Win win.

Stop right now and notice how you’re breathing.  The vast majority of us breath shallowly so don’t beat yourself up if you’re one of us.  It’s so ingrained in me that I have to consciously stop and focus on my breathing many times a day.

If this is new to you, maybe lie down when you first start to practice.  Lie on your back with your hands gently resting on your belly.  As you breathe in, let your belly inflate like a balloon – your fingers should spread and rise as your belly rises.  Breathe deeply and smoothly – no need to force the breath or hold it.  As you breathe out, your belly will subside.  Just keep breathing like this until you really get the hang of it.  Once you get used to the feeling, you can practice it as often as you can.

Once you’ve got this under your belt (so to speak), there is a whole world of fancy Dan breathwork you can try.  I’ll put a few more up if anyone’s interested.

But for now, if you do nothing else…breathe deep.   Please also get your children doing this – make it a game.  Who can puff their belly up the biggest?  Teach them a habit that will stand them in good stead for all their lives, not just this horribleness.


Image by Maggie Cole from my book Ancient Wisdom for Modern Living