Stress reduction starts with a breath

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Hello everyone. My name is Diana Lang. I have been a writer and teacher of yoga and meditation since 1980 and have worked with thousands of people over the years to help them learn techniques and perspectives that help relax, rejuvenate, and enlighten. This column will offer tips and tools for stress reduction and deep relaxation in real life. I will present ideas and things you can apply immediately, on the job, in traffic, and at home-even if you don't have 15 minutes to meditate. These are things you can do right now, right while you are reading this. Or, you can do it in between patients. Whenever you find the time, know that it will center you, relax you, and help you in many ways.
I like to start at the beginning of things, and the breath is that. It's the first thing we do when we are born and it's the last thing we do as we die. It is the metronome of our lives. It is a physical manifestation of our energy and our life force. The breath indicates how much life force we will let ourselves take in--just enough or deep, liberating, life-giving breaths.

Much of the time we are holding our breaths. You might be right now. Notice if the breath is shallow or deep as you are reading this. It wouldn't be surprising if it is shallow. Reading is a common time to hold your breath. When we concentrate, when we focus, the breath becomes more and more still. When we are excited or passionate--like when we are laughing or crying--the breath gets deeper and fuller.

Our breath reflects our ability to take in life. The inhalation is our ability to let it in; our exhalation is our ability to let go. All of us have a propensity to do one segment of the breath better than the other. I have noticed that many healthcare professionals tend to be better at exhaling than inhaling. We give it all away. We need to inhale more. But breathing in deeply can seem to mean taking on more responsibility, feeling more, and we may already be overwhelmed. But the breath that we are not taking is also the breath we are not getting. Remember, the more you give, the more life force you need, the more breath you need.

Some of us hold our breaths all the time. We take minimal breaths in and out, just enough to keep the body running. Others of us are good inhalers. We take the breath in well, but may have a harder time letting go.

Of course the optimal breath is to breathe evenly in and out. And, as we do, more oxygen is moved through the body, our hormones and chemistry change, and our organs can function better, from our lungs to our brain.

A deep breath says "I am here," "I am awake," and "I am with myself fully." With a deep breath you can embrace the day and your patients, and not lose yourself.

So take a deep breath now and see how you feel. Begin your morning with a big breath and feel yourself seize the day. Add your beautiful and loving note to this world even more!

Editor's note: Diana Lang's column appears on Mondays. For more information on Lang, the relaxation expert at, please visit her Web site at