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Healing Breath

If the holiday season finds you stressed, take a breath—mindfully.

By Rachel Brahinsky

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If the holiday season finds you stressed, take a breath—mindfully. Frank Jude Boccio, author of Mindfulness Yoga: The Awakened Union of Breath, Body, and Mind, says the yogic breathing practices known as pPranayama are deeply relaxing to the body and help clear the mind. They also help increase prana, or life force, which can be drawn upon when there are extra demands on your energy.

Boccio recommends starting out by lying in Savasana (Corpse Pose). Get comfortable, using bolsters under your knees and supporting your head so that your forehead is even with or slightly higher than your chin. Then simply observe your breath, without trying to change it. "Really explore it," says Boccio, "like a detective." Notice whether your chest or belly rises, and whether you can feel the breath traveling through your nose and throat.

Once comfortable observing your breath, try alternate-nostril breathing, which will help balance your energy. Sit comfortably and close your right nostril with your right thumb. Gently inhale through the left nostril. Then lift your thumb, close the left nostril with your ring finger, and exhale through the right. Reverse the pattern, inhaling through the right nostril and exhaling through the left. Repeat.

During high-stress times, spend 5 to 10 minutes focusing on your breathing. You should immediately feel more relaxed, clear, and invigorated.

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