Taming Stress Through Proper Breathing

7 Sep 2009

SHOPWISE President Bienvenido “Donnie” Tantoco III has found a means to take control of stress. Learning breathing techniques and understanding his needs and capabilities have enabled him to keep this demon at bay. He discovered these skills at an Art of Living (AOL) foundation, a non-profit, non-denominational organization that aimed to strengthen society by empowering the individual.

This is achieved through AOL programs (tel. 2166139 and 0917-8484898; e-mail:- info@artofliving.org.ph) that combat stress, foster friendships, and revive values. “It’s a way of life started by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, whose main philosophy is non-violence and love. I heard about it through a friend. I noticed he was calm. Normally he was hyper.

I asked him, ‘What did you do?’ He said he joined AOL. Part 1 consists of physical breathing techniques that remove physical and mental toxins. I was amazed that something as simple as that took five days to teach. You have to learn to breathe correctly,” says Tantoco.

AOL instructor Luigi Manzi explains, “Part 1 offers some activities that lead you to have an experience of your inner self. We do simple yoga postures, then have talks about how our being works, the seven levels of experience and the main sources of energy – food, sleep, meditation and breathing. The main practice is rhythmical breathing that leads you to a state of relaxation. How long will you not survive without breathing?”

Barometer The manner in which we breathe is a barometer of our physical and emotional state, and one indicator of whether we are suffering from stress. Proper breathing not only sends oxygen to the blood but also sends healthy blood to the brain – the basis for calm and rational thinking. Moreover, long exhalations can help soothe minor physical tensions and anxieties. Well-being is closely attached to how well we breathe.

Although breathing is a basic instinct, many have forgotten how to do it correctly. AOL provides exercises on relearning the proper breathing that provides the benefits of health and well-being. Among them is abdominal breathing – a series of long exhalations to empty the lungs of stale air and toxins, followed by the intake of fresh air while paying attention to the rise of the abdomen.

Tantoco immediately felt the benefits of the breathing exercise. “In the course, we have 30 minutes of yoga exercises, 30 minutes of lecture and two hours of breathing. On the first night, I slept better than in 20 years. I’ve always been interested in meditation. In their technique, no matter how much I try to distract myself, my mind remains still. Even if I put problems in my head it remains still.

Your mind is the kite, and your breath is the string. You can’t control it directly. You regulate it through the string which is your breathing,” he says. The executive adds AOL has taught him to be in the present moment. “The mind has a tendency to time-travel. Either it goes to the past or remembers the bad things with regret, guilt or anger, or it goes to the future with impatience, worry or anxiety. Once you know the proper breathing, it is effortless to be in the present moment. I’m calmer, my mind is more lucid. Basically I don’t feel so stressed. Since the philosophy is about love, it gives you equanimity.” Bonding What he enjoyed about AOL was bonding with the other participants who also benefited from the course. Says Kristie Anna Pangan, preschool teacher, “There were life teachings that were gentle reminders of what we already know.”

Entrepreneur Madeline Pajarillo, for his part, says, “After the course, I became more ready to explore and open to changes.” Ruth Yu-Owen, who is into renewable energy business adds, “It has calmed me down a lot. I do the deep breathing and meditation which have made a difference in my life. You can do these anywhere, and these help a lot to keep your center.” Performer Beatrice Tantoco, says, “It has taught me to become fearless. We did this exercise on ego. I was able to have a breakthrough. Although it was emotional, it made me very free afterwards.”

Before AOL, Tantoco de-stresses by jogging five kilometers a day. “While I’m running, I’m reflecting or planning my day. A lot of my hardest problems are resolved. I pray when I run. it decompresses me. When I’m in a bad mood, my secretary asks, ‘You didn’t run today, did you?’”

He also enjoys the team spirit of basketball, a sport he has been playing since his youth. Ultimately, Tantoco realized that personal fulfillment is achieved when the physical and mental aspects are holistically combined. “Ever since I’ve done proper breathing, I’ve been able to get to the crux of the matter. It’s not fast and agitated. Breathing helps you balance your left and right brains.

You’re not just looking at things from logic [left brain] but also from feelings and intuition [right brain]. Because of that, I understand things a little bit better, even the hard stuff at work.” His sister Beatrice affirms, “Donnie has always been a gentle, sweet and loving person. AOL helped him with his work stress. You can feel there’s peace internally that you’re immediately drawn to him.”

Art of Living workshops will hold sessions on the following dates: Alabang – September 14-19, at 170 Sarangani St. Ayala Alabang Village. Makati – September 21-26 at 27/F, Executive Lounge, 139 Corporate Center, 139 Valero St., Salcedo Village Makati; September 21-25, 6:30-9:30 p.m.; and September 26, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.