Learning to Breathe: Louis Jackson at TEDxStanford (Full Transcript)

Everybody take their right hand up and make it into a fist. Make it into a fist, and imagine that you’ve got a cocktail straw right in the middle there. On the count of three, I want you to take the deepest breath in, right through that cocktail straw. One, two, three. (Breathes in)

All right. Now, purse your lips. Purse your lips and imagine you’re holding that cocktail straw right between your lips. On the count of three – take your hand to your belly – deepest exhale ever, right through that cocktail straw. One, two, three. (Breathes out) Feel your belly contract – keep exhaling – feel your belly contract, just like you’re doing a sit-up. Keep it contracting, follow it all the way out.

Now, keep the belly there, but take your hands onto your ribs. This is a constricted breath. It’s constricted. Now, breathe through the straw again. (Breaths in) Keep the constriction, keep the constriction. This is your breath on asthma. I grew up with it. It’s been my lifelong companion. And imagine trying to do track, or cross country, or band with that as your breath. Constant companion. But when I was practicing yoga about 10 years ago, I got a new companion. Turned out to be my best friend for life. And she is sexy and chill. And I met her on this Ferris wheel. And I want you all to meet her.

Do you want to meet her?

(Audience) Yeah.

All right. It’s going to be a little rough journey, but she’s kind of regal and she’s royal, so you got to have perfect posture. So, come up to the edge of your chair. Get the natural curve of your lower back. Sit up straight so you have your shoulders right over your hips. Imagine that cocktail straw again. Deep breath. Exhale through it. Contract again. Contract the belly in. Contract again. Exhale through the cocktail straw one more time again. Contract it in. Keep it contracted, but a little bit less. Take your hands back to your ribs.

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Now feel your breath shallow in your chest. It’s a mild version of stage fright. I’m doing it now. It’s called the constricted thoracic breath. Some of us go through life like this. Your breath is shallow, your heart rate goes up a little bit, your blood pressure is up. But hallelujah! Best friend for life to the rescue.

So, on the count of three – here she comes – on the count of three, I want you to inhale and release the belly with a strong inhale. So one, two, three – inhale! Puff the belly out. Now exhale. Pull it back in. Inhale; push it out. Exhale; pull it back in. This is a belly breath. I call her BB. And BB, she likes it slow. So start to make it slow. Inhale and exhale. Feel the belly move. Slow it down. Listen to the sound of my breath, and stay there and get to know BB. Why is this so important? A normal breath, you fill up as you inhale and exhale about that much air. When your breath is more developed, BB will help you exhale this much more and inhale this much more.

So, let’s try it. Close your eyes, take your hands to your thighs, stay with that breath. Imagine you’re on a Ferris wheel. And you and BB, as you inhale, you ride up to the top. As you exhale, you fall down to the bottom. As you inhale, you ride up to the top. As you exhale, you’re cruising down to the bottom. Now let it get longer.

As you inhale, cruise up to the top. As you exhale, you cruise down to the bottom. Now let it grow. Feel your ribs expand. Feel your heart beat slow. Feel your blood pressure go down. Focus on that beat. Find a rhythm. See if you can feel your pulse. Keep the focus. The ancient say that we are like a river. It’s our breath. We just want to step into it. You only have a certain number of breaths for life, they say, so let all of your breaths be numerous and long. Namaste.

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