Great-looking • convenient design • Super easy to use • Promises organic stress relief without medication • The tool is wearable to help provide immediate relief during stressful times • Helps guide deep breathing
The device is a bit pricey • which makes it less accessible to people who may be in need • Cleaning the device can be a hassle
The Shift costs money that teaching yourself deep breathing doesn’t. But if you’re able to look beyond the Shift’s price and feel you need a companion to help guide you through stressful times, it’s a solid investment. The anxiety-relieving tool can be a game-changer for people who struggle with mindfulness as it teaches you beneficial exhales and helps shift your thoughts.
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
That quote by scientist, meditation teacher, and writer, Jon Kabat-Zinn appears on the back of the instruction manual for Komusō Design‘s mindfulness tool, the Shift, and perfectly sets the tone for your relaxation journey.
The Shift, a two-inch stainless steel tool that resembles a dog whistle, aims to teach breath control to help relieve anxiety. And though it can’t completely relieve you of life’s stresses, Komusō Design claims the Shift can help lessen anxiety, soothe the mind, and reduce tension in overwhelming moments.
Todd and Vanessa Steinberg set out to create the wearable mindfulness facilitator (which hangs from a chain and can be worn around one’s neck) after learning that Komuso monks in 17th century Japan would “blow zen” into bamboo shakuhachi flutes to achieve inner tranquility. They incorporated the design and history from the monk’s flutes into a smaller, more practical — albeit pricey — tool.
The Shift retails for $85.00 to $115.00, depending on which color and type of chain you select. And while the price may be steep, for some, the benefits may outweigh the cost.
The tool trains you to breathe deeply and prolong your exhalations to 10 seconds each, a practice that’s been found to help slow heart rate, lower or stabilize blood pressure, reduce cortisol levels, clear the mind, and relax muscles.
The concept of organic, convenient stress relief sans medication sounds ideal, but is the tool right for you?
Unwrapping and getting acquainted with your small support system
The experience of ordering, unpacking, and learning about your Shift, is as simple as using the tool for the first time.
The product — which is available for women and men in slate, silver, gold, and rose gold (with an original or luxe box chain) — arrives at your door in a small black box labeled “Komusō”. The box contains a foldable instructional pamphlet that details how to use the tool, along with a light grey suede pouch that includes the flute and chain (each wrapped in protective plastic).
The pendant and chain are made of 316 stainless steel for durability purposes and to prevent tarnishing, and the Shift’s mouthpiece is engraved with the Japanese symbols for “Be still.”
How does the Shift work exactly?
To properly use your Shift you only have to follow four simple steps.
Deeply inhale through your nose to fill your stomach with air. Then, place your lips around the Shift’s mouthpiece and carefully exhale — don’t blow — into the tool.
The natural release of air from the body (an exhale) is key, so it’s important to monitor yourself and ensure you’re not forcibly blowing into the tool. As co-founder Todd Steinberg explains in this video, if you’re exhaling properly you should hear “a low tone” and if you’re blowing too hard you’ll hear a “high-pitched whistle,” which means you’re using the tool incorrectly.
As you’re exhaling, count eight to ten seconds in your head, then repeat the process at least five times. Throughout your deep breathing, the Komusō Designs team encourages you to use self-awareness and relax your jaw, shoulders, and body. Within two minutes, the 10-second exhales can reportedly signal your parasympathetic nervous system to calm down and cause you to feel more grounded and at ease.
Do you feel a difference?
After a week of using the Shift, I can confidently say that I’m hopeful and intrigued by the product, though still not entirely convinced it lives up to the hype.
When I first unboxed and tested the flute I’ll admit I wasn’t feeling particularly anxious, so I didn’t notice a drastic change in the way my body felt. I did, however, immediately notice that I was breathing deeper than normal when using the tool.
Over the course of one week, I used the Shift at various points throughout the days. In an attempt to help quell work-related anxieties, I exhaled into the flute before I logged online or called into virtual meetings. I used the Shift before leaving the house to go to doctor appointments, and I reached for it after filing an article on the Capitol riots.
After each use, the process of repeatedly inhaling and exhaling into the Shift always left my mind feeling more at ease. I’d say I emerged somewhat calmer and more clearheaded each time, but the most noticeable result came when I used the Shift one morning at 3:00 a.m.
I suffer from insomnia, so I’ll occasionally wake up in the wee hours of the morning and struggle to fall back to sleep as my mind races with anxious thoughts. After waking up early one Sunday morning, my mind kicked into overdrive and began cycling through thoughts about unfinished to-do lists, upcoming deadlines, and pandemic fears.
I helplessly stewed in my usual heart-racing spiral for a few minutes before deciding to get out of bed and grab the Shift. I hopped back under the covers, did my five breathing cycles, and felt immediately at ease. My mind was clear, my body felt noticeably less antsy, and for a few minutes I existed in a newfound state of calm. The worries eventually started filtering back, but they were less severe, and I was able to drift back to sleep comforted by Shift’s reminder that anxiety is temporary.
As someone who struggles with mindfulness, deep breathing, and checking in with my body in moments of stress, I personally felt the tool was a helpful companion. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I can say with absolute certainty that had I not had the Shift nearby during those anxiety-heavy experiences I wouldn’t have taken the time to breathe and unwind.
Your lingering questions, answered
Now that you know what to expect from regularly using the device, let’s clear up some inquiries that are addressed on Komusō Design’s FAQ page.
Upon receiving the tool in the middle of a deadly pandemic, my main question was how I’d clean this flute that would repeatedly come in direct contact with my mouth. According to the company, you can use “a non-toxic cleaning agent like mild soap to clear away any residue or impurities.” You can also insert a cotton swab to clean the inner tube, which collects your saliva during the exhale process.
Since the Shift is associated with breathing and is a cylindrical object that’s placed between your lips, it’s not farfetched to wonder if the device can aid in one’s quest to quit smoking. Per Komusō Design’s website, the team says:
“We don’t have clinical data to support the Shift’s efficiency in smoking cessation. However, we have numerous verified reviews from customers who have told us that they’ve been able to quit with the help of Shift.
Since the Shift is shaped like a cigarette and performs a similar function to extend the exhale, a person is able to simulate the smoking experience with something physical and free of toxins. The extension of the exhale is then working to physiologically calm you which should regulate the craving for the cigarette.”
For those of you still wondering why you should spend money on a tool like the Shift when you could train yourself to breathe deeply or reach for a similar-looking implement such as a straw for free, the company urges you to keep the flute’s design, accessibility, and physical presence in mind.
The Shift was stealthily created to resemble a piece of jewelry so that you could keep it close at all times. It can be easy to forget to engage in deep breathing in moments of stress, so the Komusō Design team hopes that literally wearing the tool on your chest will help remind you to regularly practice elongated exhales.
Though the Shift is easy to use and encouraged for people of all ages, including adolescents who suffer from anxiety, Komusō Design is working on developing a Youth Shift with younger users in mind. The tool is set to be released in 2021.
So is the Shift worth it?
As mentioned earlier, it’s easy to simultaneously harbor two contrasting opinions about the Shift. You can be skeptical about the product, especially if you focus on the price and struggle to shake the idea that the same results could be achieved without a tool’s help. However, if you genuinely commit to the stress-relief tool, focus on your breathing, and allow your mind to — for lack of a more apt word — shift, the small flute does have the potential to help center and calm you.
The product’s design and placement are two undeniable benefits. When it comes to looks, the Shift’s small, minimalist design leaves nothing to be desired. The fact that it’s masked as a piece of jewelry, worn on your person at all times, and used without drawing attention is convenient. And when things get stressful it really is comforting to know that this device specifically designed to soothe and remind you that things will be OK — much like a weighted blanket — is within reach.
If you struggle with mindfulness and forget to take a beat in stressful situations, the Shift’s presence on your chest could be a game-changer.
If you think you can successfully learn deep breathing on your own and remember to implement it when you’re feeling anxious, by all means, save your money. But if you struggle with mindfulness and forget to take a beat in stressful situations, the Shift’s presence on your chest could be a game-changer — a reminder to breathe, count, and sharpen your self-care practices.
As far as complaints go, due to the coronavirus and by no real fault of Komusō Design, cleaning the tool remains a major concern of mine. The necklace has been around since 2017, but because of its usual placement (resting on the outside of one’s shirt) and frequent contact with the mouth, it doesn’t seem to be very pandemic-friendly.
I’ve only used my Shift indoors, so I haven’t had to worry about outside germs coming in contact with the mouthpiece, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hesitant to wear the product out in the world at this current moment in time. I’d normally have no problem wearing the flute as a regular necklace, but while the pandemic remains a danger and people are still encouraged to wear masks, I’d be constantly worried that the mouthpiece could come in contact with harmful germs or respiratory droplets that would then make their way into my mouth.
My foremost complaint is that Shift feels too expensive. I desperately wish the tool was more financially accessible to those who have anxiety but might not have $100 to invest in relief. So to those who see the product as another attempt to profit off of the wellness industry, I get it. If you think the tool may help alleviate your anxiety, though, and the cost isn’t an issue I’d say it’s worth making the long-term in yourself.
The company also offers “a risk free 30 day trial of the Shift,” so that’s always something to consider. And if you’re not ready to take the plunge, learning deep breathing techniques on your own is still a great option.