Nelson sits up in his chair, attentive and ready. You do the same before you speak.
“We’ll start with a really simple tool called ‘deep breathing.’”
“But,” Nelson says in surprise, “I already know how to breathe! See?” He gulps air loudly and sucks in his stomach.
“Of course you do!” you exclaim with a chuckle. “But when we are stressed, our breathing actually speeds up to a point where we’re not getting enough oxygen.”
“Oh,” Nelson mutters as he exhales and drops his shoulders.
“Slowing our breathing down helps us get more oxygen to manage our fight-or-flight responses. In particular, long, slow exhalations help relax our bodies.”
You draw out that last sentence deliberately and then notice Nelson already practicing big breaths on his own. The enthusiasm makes you smile.
“You’ll first need to be in a comfortable, seated position,” you say as you straighten up in your chair. “Relax your feet on the floor, and rest your hands by your sides or in your lap. Sit up tall and straight so there’s room to get air in your lungs.”
Nelson adjusts his position with you. He is very focused.
“That’s good!” you exclaim. “Now, put one hand on your stomach, and take one big breath in.”
You both inhale, sonorously and intentionally. Something catches your eye, and you quickly exhale.
“Actually, believe it or not, we want our stomachs to go out when we breathe in, to expand with the air. Let’s try again.”
You squint your eyes closed as Nelson blows out all his air in the direction of your face. You resume with a smile.
“Take a deep breath, and as you breathe in, let your stomach push out like a balloon.” You inhale swiftly, and deeply, to catch up with Nelson. “Then,” you continue with your breath held, “you want your stomach to press in as you exhale.”
Hot air is blown onto your face again, and Nelson’s belly sucks in.
“Good!” you cheer.
After another breath, Nelson whispers, “I think I got it!”
“That’s great! Let’s keep going, and this time let’s pretend we’re climbing a mountain.”
Nelson’s eyes snap open.
“When I point up,” you say with a raised index finger, “breathe in, and when I point down, breathe out. I’ll count to three as you breathe in, and then to four on the way out. This will keep us from speeding up.”
“Okay,” Nelson responds with gusto.
“Ready?” You point up. “Breathe in, one, two, three. And breathe out, one, two, three, four.”
After a couple breaths you stop counting and drop your hand in your lap. You make eye contact with each other and smiles flash on both of your faces.
“You’re doing great! Now, what corner of the square do you think this exercise helps with?”
“I don’t know,” Nelson ponders the question. “Maybe my feelings? Maybe I’ll feel less upset after I do this.”
“I absolutely agree,” you beam. “And it also helps us relax by calming the body.”
“It’s true,” Nelson replies with a grin. “I do feel calmer.”