One Resolution You Can Keep…

Breathe Better!

Parties, gifts, food, friends, relatives…sounds like a blast, right? Sometimes, however, the holidays are a bit too much of a good thing. That’s why so many of us experience an early-January crash. The gifts have long been purchased, given, taken back. Goodies eaten and regretted. New Year resolutions made and broken. When the crash comes, though, we have something new for you to consider: How about making a very simple post-holiday de-stressing commitment to yourself?
We’re not talking about a costly trip to a spa or calling in a masseur (though, yes, that does sound nice).  We’re talking about implementing a simple breathing technique that will give you maximum de-stressing at almost no cost.
Guy Gabriel, a yoga instructor based in Burbank, CA, says one of the simplest de-stressing techniques can be done by carving out just a few seconds. Several times a day, simply close your eyes and concentrate for a few moments on breathing in and out of your nose.
“When you concentrate on your breath, you intentionally tell your body to change from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic nervous system,” says Gabriel. Think about it this way: the parasympathetic system is the body’s relaxed, I-got-this mode. The sympathetic system kicks in when you’re frazzled, overwhelmed and stressed. While it’s worthwhile to be in sympathetic mode for short periods of time such as life-threatening emergencies, in general humans function better and are happier if they stay in the parasympathetic zone. Sadly, too many of us operate in the frazzled, sympathetic system mode most of the time.
If you like the feeling of your parasympathetic system kicking in, though, you can even take the practice up a notch by doing what Gabriel calls three-part breathing. Here’s how you do it: Lie down flat on your back, close your eyes and breathe into your belly, mid-chest, upper chest, hold your breath for a count and exhale through your nose. Repeat. Simple, right?
“If you do this practice a couple of times a day for 5 minutes even, it'll pay off in spades. You’ll get hooked on de-stressing and want to operate in this zone more and more,” says Gabriel. “Gradually, over time, you’ll train yourself to be able to connect to the parasympathetic system most of the time.” Sounds like a resolution worth keeping!

Victoria Clayton is a Southern California-based writer who has contributed to, The Los Angeles Times, Redbook, Self and many other publications. She was a health and parenting columnist for  She’s a wife, mom, small business owner, intrepid cook and yoga lover.

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