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story.lead_photo.caption Smile: Dr. Laury Hamburg sits in the pose of contentment at HealthWorks Fitness Center. One piece of advice he gives regularly: Keep a smile on your face. (Provided)

Surrounded by a global pandemic and worldwide protests, staying at home for months on end, plus all the other daily stresses of life — for some, things may be starting to seem overwhelming.

Meditation is one way to reduce stress. It can help to clear the mind, calm the body and, practiced regularly, improve everything from one’s mood to their attention.

Dr. Laury Hamburg, El Dorado’s resident Tai Chi Master, reached out to the News-Times with a simple meditative practice for those who are feeling stressed. The Breath of Life meditation is a breathing exercise meant to help practitioners step away from their stresses for a period in order to return to the daily rigors of life with a new outlook.

Caitlan Butler

The Breath of Life

Meditation walk-through

As you may well imagine, there are thousands of breathing techniques — variations on a theme. Practitioners often accumulate several or many methods of these helpful endeavors, and it is interesting to have choices. But before you get too concerned about getting bogged down, I’m going to suggest that you focus on one technique, one that is easy enough to learn and use often during the day.

You can make use of this breathing technique lying down, standing up, walking, jogging or even driving (with your eyes open of course). For today’s plan, let’s sit down.

Find a quiet place and a comfortable chair, sit down, relax and focus in on your breathing.

It’s wonderful, isn’t it?

It is part of our bodies’ autonomic systems that work on their own, day and night, carrying out what we need without any thought or effort on our part.

Breathing works every minute of our lives without a word of directions; but it is unique in that we can get to it consciously and control its functioning.

Are we to think that we can do a better job than that which has kept us alive up to this very moment? Well, maybe not better, but with a specific purpose, and that purpose is relaxation and all that comes with it.

Ask yourself: what does relaxation do for us?

Close your eyes, but only if you want to. In your comfortable seated position, place both hands low on your thighs, palms down and fingers close to your knees. You are now in what is called the pose of contentment!

Take a deep and relaxing breath, in and out. Can you feel the relaxation response gently caressing you inside and out? Yes, it has already begun.

Now for the breathing.

I know three names for this type of deep breath: Abdominal Breathing, Diaphragmatic Breathing and Belly Breathing. Let’s get to work.

Sitting in the pose of contentment, lift one hand and cover your abdomen with that hand, palm facing inward. Now, take a deep inhalation — not working too hard — as you simultaneously expand your abdomen, lifting your hand. (Abdominal breathing — it feels like you are filling your abdomen with air, but it is only a muscle movement.)

Exhalations happen with no work at all; as you breathe out, you just allow your abdomen to fall back to its natural position.

Breathing in, expanding your abdomen; breathing out, relaxing and letting it fall.

Your hand rises and falls.

We can add verbal thoughts to this process: “Breathing in” as we breathe in; “breathing out” as we breathe out.

I’ll let you figure out when and where these opposite thoughts occur. Don’t forget to smile as you continue.

And that’s it. Do not underestimate the value of this simple exercise. From end to end, it can make you feel better right away, and as I’ve been told, it can change and even save your life.

But here’s the rub: you have to do it regularly. Once or twice a day.

Personally, I do my first just after getting up and the second around 4 p.m. Start with one minute or two, and work up to five or more minutes.

Questions? I am here for you for as long as my Breath of Life continues. Contact me at [email protected]

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