ashley neese book author portrait

Ashley Neese is the kind of wellness leader that has her own gravity — she’s an inspiring presence impossible to pull away from. And that’s because she’s the real deal.

We’ve learned so much about breath work from Ashley over the years and her brand new book, How To Breathe, is helping to put her expertise about self-healing right into our hands. This compact and beautifully written guide leads readers through twenty-five breath techniques to better manage stress, anger, trauma, grief and elevate intuition through a simple and completely free tool — our breath.

To celebrate the tiny treasure that is How To Breathe, we asked Ashley to problem-solve these three stressful real-life scenarios using the potent healing of breath work. See if you can identify and find a new way to breathe…

Photo Credit: Paula Bartosiewicz

IRL Scenario One: I feel tense and harried as I start my day, but I’ve got places to be — namely, the office! I know I’m frazzled and should ‘find my center’ and all that, but I don’t have time to meditate right now. Here I am in my car or arriving at my desk, so what can I do to change the way I’m feeling?

The quickest way to change your state is to change the way you are breathing. When the body is tense and stressed the breathing pattern correlates to shallow and rapid inhales often with very short exhales. The remedy to find your center is to slow down your breathing and take longer inhales and exhales. In the beginning it might be challenging to lengthen your inhales and exhales, especially if the body is tense. I suggest starting with a few shoulder rolls to help relieve tension in the body, which will allow more space for the breath to flow freely. Breathe slowly for 1 to 2 minutes and notice the shift.

Unwind Breath (not advised while driving!) from How To Breathe

IRL Scenario Two: My kids are all turned on at full volume. How can such tiny beings create so much sound? My priority this afternoon is them, but I’m exhausted from the constant flow of little needs. I feel depleted and frustrated, but there’s no way I can take my eyes off of them for a second! What can I do?

First, place your feet firmly on the ground hip width apart. Next inhale deeply and reach your arms overhead toward the sky. As you exhale, bring your arms down with your hands together in front of your heart. Take a pause. Repeat this two more times, lengthening your arms up with your inhale for a good stretch and bringing your arms down slowly on the exhale. This is a wonderful practice to ground your system and reboot your energy — on the spot — without having to take your eyes off the littles.

Focus Breath from How To Breathe

IRL Scenario Three: I’m on vacation. No, not really — I’m on a weekend hike — but I feel a million miles away from the world. I feel so great out in nature, so how can I expand these little moments outside or on vacation into something greater? I’d love to meditate out here or at home in the morning, but I also don’t want to make a scene. How can I do some sort of mindfulness exercise during these amazing life moments to make them next level?

Taking the time to expand these little life moments is essential to our overall health and wellness. Our brains are wired to connect the dots of our experiences. The awareness we bring — even just a few minutes here and there — to moments that bring us peace and joy help connect our minds and bodies to similar times we experienced these feelings. The quickest way to easily increase the potency of these life moments is to tap into our rest and digest mode, the parasympathetic nervous system. In this state of openness and relaxation we can actually be present to receive the beauty of these moments, which increases our capacity to enjoy them. Simply begin by softening your shoulders and belly, then take a long inhale through the nose. Pause for a beat at the top of the inhale. Exhale slowly out of the nose. Pause for a beat at the bottom of the exhale. Repeat this pattern for ten cycles and notice how you feel afterwards.

Gratitude Breath from How To Breathe

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