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Charlize Lawrence

8 Breathing Meditations Bring Inner Peace in 10 Minutes

8 Breathing Meditations Bring Inner Peace in 10 Minutes 900 600 Charlize Lawrence

Remember to breathe. It is after all, the secret of life. – Gregory Maguire, A Lion Among Men

Breathing is something we do almost every second of every day and we give it very little thought. You probably think you are an expert at breathing, having done it for so many years now. I know I did. But look down as you breathe. Do you breathe into your chest, abdomen or both? Are you breathing deeply or are most of your breaths just deep enough to get oxygen without too much trouble? Does walking, climbing stairs, or other mild activities cause you to be out of breath? Does any of it matter since you haven’t keeled over yet?

Experts say that deep breathing that increases oxygen to the cells is a factor in a properly functioning immune system and living a disease-free and energetic life with 90 percent of your body’s energy and approximately 96 percent of your body’s nutritional needs being met by oxygen.

Breathing is the first thing we learn to do when we are born. As a baby we naturally inhale deeply, allowing our whole abdomen and chest to rise and fall. Through the stress and tension of life, most of us forget how to properly breathe, only drawing in shallow breaths that allow us to live but not to thrive. This leaves us in a perpetual state of oxygen deprivation

Here are 8 Breathing Exercises to deepen your breathing and promote healthier cells in just 10 minutes:

#1 – The 6:3:6 Breath

  • Slowly and steadily breathe in through your nose as you slowly count to 6. Hold your breath for a 3-count. Steadily exhale through your mouth as you slowly count to 6. Repeat. If you cannot make it to a 6-count, start at a smaller number and work your way up.

#2 – Breathing Meditation

  • Focus on your breathing during meditation. This will help you to better gauge how deep your breathing is and will assist in quieting the mind. Feel where the breath is coming into your body, is it your nose or your mouth? Is the air coming to one nostril more than the other?

#3 – Mantra Meditation

  • Choose a chant or mantra to say slowly, out loud or silently in your mind, as you deeply inhale through your nose. Repeat the chant as you exhale through your mouth. “Om Mani Padmi Hum” is one of my favorite breathing chants as well as a Tibetan Buddhist blessing of compassion. Here are some maxims that may also work as positive chants –

#4 – Sighing Breath

  • Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your abdomen. Breathe in through the nose ensuring that the abdomen inflates with enough air to stretch the lungs. Exhale through your mouth with an audible sigh. You will feel an emotional release as your stress evaporates into thin air.

#5 – Morning Breath

  • Take a long and slow inhale through the nose and then exhale quickly and powerfully through the mouth. This is an excellent breathing technique for when you first awaken in the morning. Remember: If you have a bedmate, for heaven’s sake, please brush your teeth first.

#6 – Breath of Fire

  • Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose. Keep your mouth closed and relaxed. Focus on the exhale and let the inhale take care of itself. Take a break every 15 seconds so (or if the room starts spinning!), longer if you’ve been practicing. You will find that this exercise is noisy and you may want to blow your nose first! Bonus points if you do it while standing in line at the grocery store or bank.

#7 – 4-7-8 Breath

  • 4-7-8 breathing consists of placing the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth right behind your front teeth. All exhaling will be through your mouth around your tongue.
    • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
    • Close your mouth (but leave your tongue in place) and inhale quietly through your nose for a count of 4.
    • Hold your breath for a count of 7.
    • Exhale completely through your mouth making a whoosh sound for a count of 8.

#8 – Candle Breath

  • Breathe in through your nose for 2 seconds. Pucker your lips like you might blow out a candle and breathe out very slowly through your mouth. Your exhale should be 2 or 3 times longer than your inhale. For a challenge, see how far away you can make a candle flicker. Pro challenge, try to make a lightbulb flicker.

Once you feel more comfortable with deep breathing, some of these techniques can be done while you walk or do exercises, such as yoga. What an excellent, and free, way to boost your immune system!

Please post a comment about your experience. Got a grumpy friend who needs some stress relief? Why not share this post!

Woman’s Head Explodes! Doctors Say Stress a Major Factor.

Woman’s Head Explodes! Doctors Say Stress a Major Factor. 1430 575 Charlize Lawrence

Okay, so my head didn’t literally explode but only because the steam coming out of my ears alleviated the pressure. I am an expert at reacting badly to stress so I set out on a quest to understand stress and find my inner Zen.
The first thing I learned was that I am not alone. The World Health Organization has called stress the “health epidemic of the 21st century.” Stress is a sobering health risk and one that we are only recently beginning to understand. Like all health risks, the more I know about it, the better I can cope with it.
The second thing I learned is that a stress response is controlled by dual parts of the nervous system – the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic set of nerves creates the stress “fight/flight/freeze” response. The parasympathetic set of nerves causes the relaxation “rest/digest” response. The important thing to know is that only one set of nerves can be active at one time. It is not possible to be in both states at once.
I made a list of all things that stress me out in my life: work, co-workers, boss, HR, what to eat for lunch (okay I might be a little neurotic), my family, and my son. When I listed my son that was when I realized that I was putting the blame on everything around me but realistically am I ever going to be able to live a life completely free of stress? No, it’s impossible.
That led me to the question, is it really the situation causing me stress or is it my resistance to the situation? Consider the scenario of two co-workers, Tina and Zach. Tina lives for deadlines and thrives under the pressure of monthly quotas. Zach likes to take his time and go over every detail. Monthly deadlines make him feel overwhelmed and he often gets sick at the end of the month. Both Tina and Zach work under the same conditions but their resistance to the situation differs greatly. While there are countless stressors, there is basically only one stress response articulated by REI’s clever motto: “There is no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.” There is no bad stress, just inappropriate coping.
The third thing I learned is that not all stress is negative. Benefits include things such as motivation to get things done and excitement. However, striking balance between stress and relaxation in our lives is paramount. The ideal balance is called “relaxed focus” and is attainable with practice and awareness.
Here are some ways to cope with stressed, gain relaxed focus, and find that inner Zen that I love!
• Exercise that involves mind-body training, such as Yoga. At the beginning of every yoga class, I close my eyes and I concentrate on my breathing. Once I feel that calm, I allow my mind to probe my body to determine where I’m tense or in pain. I consciously relax where I am tense and send love to anywhere in pain. During the yoga practice (, I attempt to keep my focus inward and to listen to what my body is telling me. The results are an amazing release of any stress I was feeling.
• Meditation that involves movement. Many of us envision sitting lotus style with eyes closed and palms up. However, when we are stressed it sometimes seems impossible to not follow every thought in our head. Meditation can also be done while in motion. The movement during meditation is usually a free flowing and fluid motion without thought. Let the calmness you feel flow out to your limbs and just move.
• Surround yourself with the positive. Sometimes we spend time in an environment, such as work or school, where everything takes on a negativity. Remove yourself from the negative and surround yourself with people and ideas that contribute positively to your world. I consider facebook a very positive space for me because I am careful to only friend those that have a positive message to share. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have issues that they share with their friends but their outlook and the way they treat others and the planet is with a very positive mindset. When I am at work and stressed, I will take a brief break and check out the posts on my facebook (I do this on my phone as I’m not sure it is appropriate to use work resources for this activity). Usually the positive messages I see from my friends helps me to quickly shake off the stress and put events into perspective. Another quick way to gain positivity is through laughter!
And finally, I learned that life isn’t that serious unless we make it that way so now I’m off to find my sense of humor!

Bo Yoga Healthy Meal

The Reason Your Diet Isn’t Working and 5 Steps to Healthy Nourishment

The Reason Your Diet Isn’t Working and 5 Steps to Healthy Nourishment 1920 1280 Charlize Lawrence

There is an unending amount of advice to be found on the topic of diet. Every time I find a food on the “good” list that I can actually stand to eat it seems like there’s a new study declaring it a health risk.

In the end, you either become neurotic about your food or, if you’re like me, you just end up consuming what is convenient, cost effective, or available.

So when I recently went from a size 12 to a size 4, many of my co-workers asked what miracle diet allowed me to drop so much weight and look so healthy. The answer? Relax!

Okay, I also throw in some common sense for good measure.
Here are 5 easy steps to healthy nourishment:
Step 1: Have a healthy serving of common sense with each meal.

You can eat like a caveman or you can plan out your meals a little more effectively. What is missing from most of our diets is really just some common sense. Here are some guidelines to follow when planning a meal.
• Eat real, whole foods, not “food-like substances,” such as artificial and highly processed foods. The old adage that you are what you eat has a basis in fact.
• Don’t overeat. Keeping yourself slightly hungry after a meal is as important as what you eat.
• A mostly plant based diet is not only better for you but better for the planet since meat production incurs incredible expense and inefficient use of energy.
• Mix in a lot of color. Colorful meals are not only pleasant photo ops for foodies. Different colors represent different nutrients packed into that fruit or vegetable. A balanced diet includes all the nutrients your body craves to be strong and healthy.
Step 2: Relax like the French.

Michael Pollan, bestselling author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, explained to the Center for Disease Control in an address to researchers and leaders, “The French paradox is that they have better heart health than we do, despite being a cheese-eating, wine-swilling, fois-gras-gobbling people. The American paradox is we are a people who worry unreasonably about dietary health, yet have the worst diet in the world.” If eating is causing you to stress out then you are being counter-productive.

Step 3: Make a list of foods that are “good” for you and “bad” for you (free worksheet).

This is a highly personalized list and you have to consider only what fits for you, not anyone else. For example, I might put alcohol (a glass or two a week) on my “good” list while an alcoholic may list it high on his “bad” list. There is no real right or wrong, just what works for you. What foods make you feel sluggish? Put those on the “bad” list. What foods fill you with energy? Putting more thought into what we eat will help start us on our way to a healthier diet.
Step 4: “I can’t promise I’ll try, but I’ll try to try.” – Bart Simpson.

Don’t try to stop eating those “bad” foods. When we try to stop eating something, especially if it’s something we like eating, we put a lot of thought and energy into that food. That makes it even harder to stop because now it is always on our mind. Instead, focus on eating things on your “good” list. I’m not much of a dessert eater but I often crave sugar in the morning (mmmm, donuts…). However, there are a lot of other options. For example, I replaced that donut with a fruit smoothie that I actually enjoy more. Blend ice, yogurt, mango, 4 dates, and a pinch of cardamom for an excellent source of energy in the morning.
Step 5: Allow yourself some slack.

Joshua Rosenthal, the founder and director of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), promotes and personally follows the 90/10 Diet. The 90/10 Diet simply means that you should eat what is good and healthy for you 90 percent of the time, and 10 percent of the time, eat whatever you feel like eating! We often set diet goals that seem to have no end and we beat ourselves up when we break those impossible commitments. The 90/10 Diet is realistic. I have a weakness for cheese. Cheese isn’t necessarily bad for you unless you’re eating it three times a day, every day like I was doing. But giving up cheese 100% of the time isn’t going to happen. Not only does the 90/10 diet allow me to have cheese, but it helps me to appreciate it more.
We Americans are excellent at stressing ourselves out about everything. But when it comes to food, just relax and bon apetit!

The 4 Reasons You Don’t Exercise and the 5 Simple Solutions

The 4 Reasons You Don’t Exercise and the 5 Simple Solutions 799 355 Charlize Lawrence

Look down. Are you happy with what you see? Let me guess, you’re sitting down. Maybe, like me, you sit down a majority of every day. You sit down so much that it has become a habit – a bad habit. We all know exercising has benefits – weight control, combats health issues, improves mood, boosts energy, promotes better sleep, and can even improve your sex life! If exercising is so healthy for you, why don’t you do it more often? I have lots of excuses. I’m too tired. I don’t have time. I don’t get a break from the kids. Exercise is boring. Do I need to list more? How about this one: I’m lazy and “it’s healthy” is just not enough to get me off my butt!
Our distant ancestors didn’t need to read a health blog to motivate them to move. They often walked or ran a dozen or more miles a day just to be able to eat and feed their families. (I complain just having to go to the grocery store! Wow, I really am lazy!) We were designed to move. In fact, our organs and brains thrive when we stay in motion most of the time. Being healthy is not a mystery. Exercise circulates and delivers oxygen and hydrogen throughout the body, enabling all the organs to perform their vital functions. Are you slouching while reading this? I’m slouching writing it. Exercise also helps build and maintain the muscular-skeletal structures and regulates the nervous system, both of which are critical for maintaining good health.
So the real question isn’t why we aren’t exercising. The real question is do we want to look and feel like a superhero? I think we can all say yes to that. Exercise can help (superpowers not included). The great thing is that exercise doesn’t feel like exercise when you’re having fun. You know what I mean. How many of us have gone to a concert and danced all night long? Exercise snuck up on you, didn’t it? Here are five simple solutions to getting more exercise:
Solution 1: Don’t have time to go down to the gym? There are numerous exercise videos on cable or on the internet. Select a style that works for you and get moving!
Solution 2: Too tired to exercise? That’s like saying you’re too hungry to eat. Nutritionist Samantha Heller, MS, RD, says, “Contrary to popular belief, exercising doesn’t make you tired – it literally creates energy in your body. Your body rises up to meet the challenge for more energy by becoming stronger.” Were you too tired to dance all night at that concert? Change your clothes, find a fun workout near you and boost that energy!
Solution 3: “Won’t somebody please think of the children?” – Helen Lovejoy – The Simpsons. Alone adult time away from the kids is refreshing. All parents dream of those wonderful Zen moments when you don’t hear the kids breaking your favorite set of dishes because they just finished watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding and thought it looked fun. But we live in the real world and it isn’t always possible to get away. So, how about exercising with your kids? Interactive video games get us up off the couch and moving. Are you a soccer parent? During their games or sports practices walk briskly around the field. Not only will you benefit but you will set a good example for your kids as you spend quality time with them.
Solution 4: I get bored exercising too. So stop doing those exercises at that place. I’ve learned that the feeling of boredom comes from disengagement of the mind from the body. Many exercise practices are designed to engage the mind as much as the body, and when you learn to bring the mind to the body while you exercise, you will no longer feel bored. Instead you will find a deep fascination with exercise. It may even provide that much needed Zen.
Solution 5: Did I mention exercise can improve your sex life? Unconventional exercise, like having a sex life or dancing all night at a concert, counts too! But if you really want to increase your flexibility, mix in some yoga (free Bo Yoga exercise guide: You won’t be the only one thankful.