"I use breath to connect me to the present moment and to create space in my body."

By Faith Brar
June 12, 2020
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Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET

It's understandable if the world feels like a stressful place right now. The continued spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), on top of the civil unrest caused by the unjust killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Aubery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others, can be a lot to process all at once. (On the bright side, there have been many powerful moments of peace, unity, and hope from the Black Lives Matter protests.)

As these stressful times continue, many people are highlighting the importance of mental health and self-care—including Tracee Ellis Ross. The actress recently took to Instagram to share a video of a three-part breathing technique she uses to relieve stress and stay grounded.

"As these necessary tectonic shifts are happening in our world and as we are leaning into difficult, complex, and sharp yet necessary conversations, we must also be active about our self-care," Ross wrote alongside the video. "We are at the beginning of transformation. And we have a movement to hold and guide us. But, it's a lot to feel and hold for the body and spirit." (Related: How Racism Affects Your Mental Health)

Ross made the video after her back had "seized up" with stress-ridden tension, she continued. "I use breath to connect me to the present moment and to create space in my body," she explained. "I use sound as a way to release vibrationally and energetically." (Related: The Most Common Causes of Back Pain—Plus, How to Ease Your Aches ASAP)

She then went on to guide viewers through her breathing technique: First, find your way into a seated position (in a chair, on your bed—whatever's comfortable, she said), close your eyes, and allow your body to "soften" and "let go"—including your stomach, jaw, shoulders, even the space behind your eyes, she explained. "I know that might honestly be scary, and it might feel anxiety-provoking," she said. "[So] do it at a pace and with a gentleness that feels comfortable for you."

Ross noted that, for some people, this increased awareness of the body might be enough on its own. But if you want to do more, she shared two additional steps.

Once you've gotten to a place where your body feels loose and softened, allow the weight of your body to really sink in and feel supported by whatever is beneath you, said Ross. "Can you actually allow the substance of who you are to be supported by the floor under you, the ground, dirt, or Earth, to actually take your weight?" she said. "For just a moment, you can feel the support." (Related: Kerry Washington and Activist Kendrick Sampson Spoke About Mental Health In the Fight for Racial Justice)

Ross's final step in her breathing technique: Breathe in through your nose and fill your body with air. "Get it all in there," she said. When you physically can't inhale anymore, "sigh it out with a sound," Ross suggested, demonstrating with a loud exhale of her own. "Let all of the air out."

As Ross noted in her post, what's beautiful about breathwork is that it's simple and can be done anywhere—not to mention it can deliver some seriously powerful results. Slow-and-steady breathing techniques such as Ross's can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system which, as a result, can slow your heart rate, restore your energy, reduce inflammation, and signal to your brain that it can relax, Patricia Gerbarg, M.D., co-author of The Healing Power of the Breath and founder of Breath-Body-Mind.com, previously told Shape.

Looking for more breathing techniques? These yoga breathing exercises for relaxation will help you unwind in no time.

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