By Kelly Rulle
In June of 2012 I attended the Center’s Food As Medicine conference in Bethesda, MD. At the time, I was unfamiliar with the Center, so I was not sure what to expect. This conference started unlike so many other conferences I have attended. Instead of jumping right in because there would be lots of ground to cover in a short period of time, Dr. Jim Gordon began with a relaxation breathing exercise called “soft belly,” a slow, deep breathing meditation that allows the belly to rise when breathing in and fall when breathing out.The sole focus should be on the image of a soft, relaxed belly. He instructed us to say to ourselves “soft” as we inhaled and “belly” as we exhaled. We started every day of the conference in this fashion. I will admit that I was a bit skeptical at first, as I wondered what breathing had to do with food and when were we going to get to the good stuff. But by day three of the conference I found myself ready to start the day relaxed; I was looking forward to “soft belly!”
I have since continued the practice of this relaxation technique at home; having always been the type to go right into crisis mode upon waking. I now make a point of taking a few deep belly breaths before getting out of bed. I also rediscovered my meditation practice (I was a yo-yo meditator). Now most days start with a 15-20 minute meditation, focusing on the breath, quieting the mind, and setting my intention for the day. When my day starts with “soft belly”, I notice a tremendous difference in how I feel, mentally and physically. I have more patience for situations that I would usually find irritating. I give myself the power to react differently and it feels good!