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Breathing for You and Your Team

By: Keara Mascareñaz on December 13th, 2018

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Breathing for You and Your Team

Teams & Culture

I was really fortunate in September to be able to attend and present at a number of really great conferences, one of which was the Responsive Conference. The Responsive Conference is in it’s third year and features presenters and attendees focused on the future of work. There were so many great sessions but the one led by Rajkumari Neogy, Founder of iRestart, on The Epigenetics of Teams still stands out weeks later. Rajkumari shared an incredible synthesis of research around the science of feelings and trust. She helped us to understand the chemicals in our body and the impact they have on trust, collaboration, and team dynamics. For example she shared, “When teams are more engaged they have greater levels of oxytocin. Oxytocin reduces the fear of trusting a stranger and helps signal trust. When we have higher levels of oxytocin we are able to build connections faster.” Similarly we organically, internally create serotonin when we feel seen and heard; opioids when we feel warmth and respect; and dopamine when we have autonomy and purpose.


Just breathe


As you can see above, Rajkumari’s session was jam packed with awesome research and insights. And yet weeks later it was a small practice from the start of her session that I’m using the most. Rajkumari started the session by having us breathe- once, then twice, then a third time. On the third breath she had us exhale longer than our inhale. As we completed this breathing she shared, “The way you breathe communicates the level of safety to your nervous system.” Jokingly she added “I get paid a lot to tell people to breathe.” Breathing is something we do every day to live, but often take for granted in our work life.

My mantra for 2018 has been “bring zen to work.” I often care so much about my colleagues and projects that I get excited, then anxious, and then stressed, which has a ripple effect on my team and clients. Following Rajkumari’s session I started focusing on my breath in meetings and on calls. When I was starting to feel that tightness or anxiety coming on (you know, the little voice in your head that says, “We need a better plan”; “I have an idea I need to share”; or “I can’t take on another thing”). This conscious breathing takes only a few seconds and has had a positive impact not only on me, but also on my team. As Rajkumari has shared “When we breathe we influence our team. If you breathe slowly it brings calm. If you breathe shallowly it communicates danger.”


Box breathing

This is one of my favorite breathing techniques called Box Breathing. Learn more below.


How to start breathing


If you want to think about how to bring  conscious breathing into your work, check out these resources.

  1. Explore and practice box breathing.
  2. Download Rajkumari’s free kindle book The WIT Factor: Shift Your Workplace Paradigm by Becoming the Optimal You.
  3. Join me in conversation anytime at @kearaduggan.

Invest in your development as a leader and join us at the Personalized Learning Summit 2019 to meet and collaborate with other innovative leaders from across the country, share perspectives and ideas, and learn from a range of workshops and tours of innovative companies. 

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This blog post was originally published on The KikiBrief.

About Keara Mascareñaz

Keara is a Managing Partner at Education Elements who focuses on how to build and scale a culture of innovation in large systems, how to create national communities of collaboration, and how to keep laughing when pursuing daunting, large-scale changes. She was lucky to collaborate with co-authors Alexis Gonzales-Black and Anthony Kim to design the website and toolkit for The NEW School Rules: 6 Practices for Responsive and Thriving Schools.