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A few days ago, I talked with a mother of a 7-year-old boy who has experienced a great deal of anxiety in situations that are new: places, people, scenarios.

This mom told me that what has really helped him cope better is the simple — yet not always easy — act of deep breathing.  She was shocked to learn that indeed, her son didn’t know how to breathe deeply.  His breath was extremely shallow.

Here is how she has helped him to learn to breathe more deeply.

  • He lies down, and she places a book on his tummy — right on top of the bellybutton is a good marker.
  • He is encouraged to take a breath that’s deep enough (to fills the belly) and make the book go up.
  • This mom also used her hand, instead of a book. She placed her hand firmly on her son’s tummy so that he felt the resistance and could breath into her hand.  This is probably a great step to take when deep breathing is difficult to attain at first.

The new school year has started, and this deep breathing has helped a 7-year-old make that transition with greater comfort.

How could it help you or a child or adult you know?  You can do this yourself, either lying down, or sitting up or standing, with your hand on your belly.

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The news of the recent loss of a colleague’s Father reminds me that in Chinese Medicine, the emotion of grief is associated with the lung meridian.

So, while only time can heal the pain of loss, filling your lungs deeply with the gift of breath can help during such a difficult time. 

Breathe in.  Breathe out. 
Breathe in.  Breathe out.
Breathe in.  Breathe out.

And celebrate your Mom or Dad.

Your breath is your friend.

In Chinese Medicine, the lungs are associated with Autumn, so this is a great time to focus on breathing.

Acu Point: Letting Go

Is your breath shallow? Are you holding your breath? Discomfort in your upper chest? Hold this point on the lung meridian–it’s a few fingers under your collarbone near the top of your upper arm bone–and Let Go. Take long deep and slow breaths. Learn more about this.

Meditation

Meditation can be a powerful source of health and wellness, for both body and spirit. Even when we don’t have the time or inclination for a full meditation “practice,” a few moments of deep breath and holding acupressure points can be calming and relaxing. Try this mini-meditation.

Name: Letting Go (Lung 1)

This is a great point because its name tells you the benefits.

  • It’s the first point on the lung meridian, so it’s effective for relieving discomforts related to your lungs: breathing, asthma, coughing and chest tension, especially the upper chest.
  • Also, it’s “poetic” name “Letting Go” reminds us that this is a helpful point when we have ideas or emotions that we’re hanging onto too tightly, that we’re having a difficult time letting go. Grief, which is the emotion of letting go of something dear to us, holding this point gently and compassion can be helpful.
  • In addition, this point helps with fatigue, irritability and confusion.

lung1Location: On your front body, three fingers’ width below your collarbone, next to the top of your upper arm bone. On the top of the hand, on the web where the thumb and the index finger meet.

It can sometimes be difficult to find, but when you do, it often feels good. Sometimes it can be tender; hold gently. Often, you’ll take a nice deep breath.

To hold: You can push on this point with a light touch, or with a lot of pressure. As in the photo above, you can cross your arm across your chest and push in and up with your index and middle fingers, or all three middle fingers. Try this out to figure out what feels good. You can rub or massage the point with a circular motion.

You can hold the point with the hand of the sameside, as in the photo below (left).

lung1_2

lung1_3

Or try touching your thumb lightly on the spot. Even such a light touch can be effective.

Hold for 10 or 15 seconds initially, until you figure out what works for you. Take deep slow breathes while you hold the point. You can hold for a few minutes, but make sure that the holding hand does not get tense or tired out. Release gently if you feel any acute pain.

You are encouraged you to seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.

I’ve had braces on my teeth for four months now, and I’ve been acutely aware of different ways I hold tension in my jaw and mouth.

Clenching teeth and holding tension in the jaw can lead to discomforts like headaches, neck and shoulder tightness, and TMJ.

Here are some tips to help relax the jaw.

Tongue to Roof of Mouth

I learned this in yoga. Gently allow the tip of your tongue to float up to the roof of your mouth. Your jaw should naturally drop and relax. You can try this any time you notice that you are clenching your teeth or furrowing your brow.

Acu Point: HOKU

This is one of the best overall stress-relieving points. Holding this point on the top of the hand can help with relieving so many discomforts–insomnia, headaches, constipation, shoulder and neck tension–that could be causing or exacerbated by tension in the jaw. Read on.

Bedtime Jaw Squeeze

If you wake up with soreness in your jaw and teeth, try this simple sqeeze before going to sleep. Sit up straight, relax your shoulders and arms, and take a nice deep breath. Now gently press your palms on the sides of your face by your jaw. Clench your teeth and you can feel a muscle bulge; that’s where you want to place your palms. Relax your jaw–try the Tongue to Roof of Mouth explained above–and hold you palms firmly but comfortably on your jaws while you take five deep breaths, in and out. Release your hands, relax your shoulders, and take five more deep breaths. Repeat the squeeze and relaxing two more times.

(Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, or chronic pain, may contribute to sleep problems. Please seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.)

You may wonder why I’m talking about paints in this blog, but since it’s dedicated to Everyday Wellness, and healthy and sustainable living, I think you’ll find this post is on-topic. Read on!

“Your breath is your friend.”

My clients and students hear this from me…often. I encourage them to pay attention to their breath, and make the intention of taking deep breaths as they practice self-acupressure or spend a few minutes to do an acupressure mini-meditation.

However, if the air you’re breathing is unhealthy, your breath is not your friend. That’s what I found a few days ago while helping my parents repaint their small apartment. A few hours after painting the ceiling, the paint smell started to get to me and I was starting to feel bad; I was worried about not being able to sleep in the apartment. Because the apartment is high up and it was windy, it wasn’t an option to sleep with the window open. We worked out that I could sleep in the bedroom that hadn’t been painted; fortunately, I felt fine in the morning.

The good news is that the day before, I also had the first-hand experience of a healthier paint option: a low odor, low VOC paint. GreenHomeGuide.com explains why this is healthier:

Levels of many common organic pollutants are two to five times higher indoors than they are outside, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Most of these pollutants are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from paints, finishes, and other materials. VOCs can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches; nausea; and perhaps even cancer. Given all that, it makes sense to limit exposure by choosing low- or no-VOC paints—especially in the bedroom, where we spend about one-third of each day.

So, the day before we painted the ceiling with “regular” paint, we used Benjamin Moore’s Eco Spec low odor, low VOC paint for the walls. I’m a novice painter, so I can’t compare to other paints, but it was easy to apply two coats with a roller. The color was Simply White. (Unfortunately, the Eco Spec paint we wanted for the ceiling wasn’t available.)

That day and night, I barely noticed any odor and felt no discomfort, and slept in the room that had been painted. It really felt like a “healthy” option, especially for such a small space.

Here’s to beautiful living spaces that are also healthy, long-term.

Boy, was I thankful for having learned to be a better breather when I was under the dentist’s drill, the other day.  I felt some pain, but mostly fear and anxiety about this new experience of getting a filling.

Whenever I teach a class on acupressure,  I tell my students, “Your breath is your friend.”  So when you hold a point, take a few deep breaths.  Even if you’re not holding a point, take a few deep breaths.  Deep breaths help with relaxation.

And what I learned on the dentist’s chair is that I was able to access my calming breath, because I had done it before, in many ways.  Practicing acupressure points; giving wellness sessions; receiving bodywork; meditating; in my yoga practice.  So, hooray for all that attention to breath.