A couple of years ago I read a quote that has since been etched into the back of my mind and that I consider often: “Slay your dragons before breakfast”. I discovered the quote in an online article that covered morning habits and rhythms to set your day up for success. Running your day as opposed to letting your day run you, as they say. I’m a real believer in this stuff, and we know that the high caliber folks who are efficiently and creatively running dynamic organizations all have particular routines, and most have a morning routine. Things like exercise, prayer, meditation, consuming a high protein and nutrient dense breakfast, and so on. The routine may vary per individual, but the common denominator is this: Discipline for the win.
I have recently adopted a discipline that would cause me to revisit and rework the quote into this rendition: “Slay your dragons before breakfast, and put down your sword at night”. Just as much as we need healthy habits to kickstart our day and take control of our day, we also need healthy habits to debrief and relax from a hard day’s work. Life is full with work, family, friendships, and any other hobbies we add into the mix, so a routine of destressing at the end of each day before bed is vital to getting good rest and waking up refreshed ready to jump back into our morning disciplines. That destresser for me has come in the form of breath work.
The local gym I attend, Irontribe Fitness, recently announced a “breath work” session being put on by a guy named Taylor Somerville of XPT. I was intrigued by some of the buzzwords in the email about the session, where Irontribe mentioned how Taylor’s class and breathing techniques would assist with stress management, concentration, sleep, and workout performance. As someone with a full plate at work, a light sleeper, and an avid runner/basketball player/Irontribe attendee, I was really looking forward to seeing what this was all about. After a single one hour session (30 minutes of actual breath work), I was hooked. There was a noticeable difference in my stress level, and especially my quality of sleep. 20 minutes of “box breathing” in the morning and 10-15 minutes of “double exhale” breathing at night, all in and out through the nose, has a host of health benefits that I am beginning to discover. If you know me, you know I get passionate about things. Whether it’s Agape North, Memphis Tiger basketball, LeBron James, or a new discipline like breath work, once I jump in I’m all in. If something has been so beneficial for my personal health, why wouldn’t I want to hold a megaphone up to these simple practices?
Taylor Somerville and I met for coffee to discuss all things health and breath work, and I floated the idea of running a session as a “give back” to one of the staffs at a school Agape North partners with and serves at, Believe Memphis Academy. Danny Song, Head of School at Believe Memphis Academy, has become not only a colleague but a close friend over the past year or so. Just a few days after I had participated in the breath work session led by Taylor at Irontribe, Danny and I were meeting and he mentioned a book he had been reading titled The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Affects of Childhood Adversity. The book takes a deep dive into how ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experiences) can have lasting affects on human health. Adverse environments and circumstances such as abuse, neglect, chronic poverty, divorce, etc. can actually change our biology and rewire our fight or flight stress reponse system. When Danny Song and his team open a school attempting to close the education achievement gap in our city, what they also have to consider are the ACE’s kids face and how that can affect their behavior and classroom performance day to day. Reading scores plus helping scholars navigate the daily stresses of life equals a healthy and successful individual.
This is precisely why the breath work session gifted by Taylor is crucial, it pulls an untapped resource into the lives of scholars by way of the knowledge the BMA staff now possesses. As Taylor seeks to change people’s relationship with stress, the best place to start is with kids. We learn poor breathing techniques and poor physical movement young, and along the way we lose these two powerful tools in handling stress. Our hope is that the 30 minutes of relaxing and informative breath work we participated in together will stick with the BMA teachers, and they will be able to pass on simplified versions to their scholars. This is why we are truly better together.