I am not the type of person one would ever refer to as "zen."
I get worked up over things that are probably irrational, I linger too hard on the internet and hurt my own feelings, and will often do this thing where I stress myself out with just a passing thought. I'm really good at doing this to the point that I've convinced myself that I'm a superhero with really crappy superpowers that entail all of the above, plus the ability to crush an entire season of Vanderpump Rules in one sitting. The news cycle this week, or any week for that matter, hasn't helped, and New York City isn't exactly known for being the most tranquil environment to live in.
Sure, meditation can help, but whenever I do it, I'm convinced that I handled the entire thing wrong—when I hit up a class at MNDFL recently, I made the mistake of listening to Taking Back Sunday on the walk over, and subsequently had "MakeDamnSure" stuck in my head the entire time instead of setting my intention.
Eddie Stern's Breathing App, however, seemed promising. Aside from being an author and lecturer, Stern is a New York-based yoga teacher, so he certainly knows a thing or two about breathing. He worked with Dr. Deepak Chopra, coder Sergey Varichev, and Moby—yes, that Moby—to bring the concept to life.
Once you open the Breathing App, you can choose how long you'd like to practice the exercise, and your preferred breath rate. Five to seven breaths per minute, which is what Buddhist monks and Yogis usually do while meditating, is recommended if you want to take a beat.
There are three settings within the app you can choose to follow. The first is a ball that expands and contracts, indicating your lungs to follow along, a clock that counts down the amount of seconds you should take for each inhale and exhale, and a galaxy setting, which was my absolute favorite. Like an upgraded version of the Windows 95 screensaver that mimics flying through space, your screen slowly glides between galaxies as a Moby-produced instrumental plays in the background. You inhale during the higher-pitched section, then exhale as it switches over to the lower pitch.
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The first time I tried out the app, I opened it just before bed, and felt less worked up within minutes. That was all I needed to get hooked. Now, I'll do it during my morning commute with my headphones in, letting Moby's sweet sounds drown out the subway car around me. On a stressful day, I'll take a second at my desk during lunch and do a quick breathing exercise—I swear to god I'm doing my job, though—and take on the tasks that follow as they come. In the evening, I'll use the app for a few minutes after I've washed my face and am headed to bed.
In a world where smartphones are credited as one of the primary sources of stress, who knew I could actually use mine to do the opposite. Cue the Alanis Morrissette.