Originally appeared in Planet Jackson Hole

With the approach of the Great American Eclipse, people tell me daily they are worrying about everything from what dire things the eclipse might portend, to stressing that our cellphones and internet signals might not work. Other worries folks have relayed to me include how the massive influx of visitors to a small town could sharply diminish supplies of food and gas, and how it might strain our overall infrastructure and contribute to pollution.

It is indeed hard to resist being caught up in all the hype. And it seems the intensity of this angst increases by the day, and no wonder because stress is contagious. If you are finding yourself worried, edgy, anxious and/or fearful, keep reading and learn a simple technique to ensure you stay calm. I will clarify the bigger picture impact of eclipses in a future article.

But first... the word “worry” comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning “to choke” or “to strangle.” That’s a pretty accurate description of what worry does to us. The more stressed we become, the shallower and more rapid our breathing is. It’s not news that worrying never improves anything, and it undermines our wellbeing. The short list includes: exhaustion, digestive upsets, skin break outs, hair loss, sleepless nights, backaches, headaches, weight gain, moodiness, high blood pressure, and it also messes with memory and mental clarity.

A built-in antidote

We all have a powerful and effective mechanism for rapidly short circuiting stress. This totally free and ever present stress buster, over which we have total control, is our breath. By learning to slow down the breath and control it, we can quickly return to inner calm, clarity and consciousness. Then we are capable of making excellent choices and proactive decisions. As always, there is so much intelligence designed into our incredible bodies.

Yogic breathing techniques

Most of us have experienced that the way we breathe can impact both our body and mind. A key part of yoga is the practice of conscious breathing called pranayama. This is literally the “control of life force,” aimed at increasing vital energy in the body and mind for maximum wellbeing. Yogic breath work is simple and scientifically proven to ensure being more calm, more centered, revitalized, clear headed and resilient to stress, both in the moment and long term.

One exercise to try

This simple yogic breathing practice asks you to count to yourself silently as you inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. Then you will double the count as you exhale fully through the nose. For example, if you inhale slowly to the count of three, you will exhale slowly for the count of six; if you inhale to the count of four, you will measure the exhale to the count of eight, etc. Most people find silently counting to four on the inhale and to eight on the exhale is a perfect rhythm.

Find a quiet place to sit where you won’t be interrupted for about five minutes. Maintain a straight spine and gently close your eyes. Count silently to yourself as you take a slow, full inhale through your nose. As you exhale fully through your nose, you will double the count. Repeat this for four rounds breathing comfortably so you never find yourself gasping for breath. Gently open your eyes and notice how much better you feel. Do this as often as you like.

Enjoy learning to use your breath to intercept worry and stress so you can be calm and alert before, during and after this eclipse, or at any time.

Preview for next week

Stay tuned, as I will share some information about how solar eclipses are meant to give us a cosmic push to upgrade our lives.