Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mindful Breathing

During stressful times we tend to breathe in a shallow, quick manner.  This only allows air to enter the chest rather than the belly.  This does not take advantage of our full lung capacity or the muscles we use for breathing.  This can quickly become a bad habit.  It leads to tension, fatigue, and lethargy.  Mindful breathing can lead to healing better balance within life.  Here are some tips for improved breathing:
  • Breathe in and out of your nose, not your mouth. Breathing through the mouth can make the heart feel heavy because it does not allow for total relaxation. Breathing through the nose filters the air and gives you a more refined energy.
  • As you breathe in, imagine the oxygen is spreading throughout your body and into each cell, nourishing your body with fresh energy.
  • Yoga philosophy says that we are only allotted a certain number of breaths in our lifetime.  So, the longer and more slowly you breath, the longer you will live.
  • When you awake, start your day with becoming aware of your breathing.  On your inhalation imagine the sound "SO". On your exhalation imagine the sound "HUM".  In Sanskrit, "soham" means "He am I".  This a way to link your breathing with the divine.  
  • Practice lengthening your exhalation during times of high stress.  Try to extend it to twice as long as your inhalation.  This will bring about a tranquil state of mind.
  • Poor posture and tight clothing can hinder the way your breathe.  Sit up straight as if a cord is attached to the crown of your head pulling you up and wear comfortable clothing.
Pranayama refers to the mastery of breathing.  It regulates and increases the energy flow within the body.  The following breathing exercises help increase your lung capacity and energy levels, as well as aid in relaxation.
  • Abdominal Breathing (Relaxes mind & body, strengthens lungs, massages internal organs)
    • Sit or lie completely still with your hand on your belly (just below your navel).
    • Relax and feel the gentle rise and fall of your belly.
    • Let the air move in and out of your body effortlessly.
    • Practice for 10 breaths (each breath consists of one inhalation and one exhalation)
  • Rib Cage Breathing (Relaxes mind & body, strengthens lungs)
    • Sit or lie completely still with your hands on the sides of hour ribs.
    • Gently inhale, contract your belly and fill up the top part of your lungs.
    • Inhale into your rib cage only.  Keep the breath focused between your ribs.
    • Feel the ribs expand and the chest open as you inhale.
    • As you exhale, feel the ribs contract.
    • Repeat 5 times.
  • Complete Breath (Increases lung capacity, helps the body efficiently cleanse the blood)
    • Sit or lie completely still.
    • Exhale to get rid of stale air.
    • Inhale to fill the bottom, middle, and top of the lungs
    • Slowly exhale, emptying the lungs from top to bottom
    • Repeat 5 times.
  • Tapping Chest Breath (stimulates lung cells, strengthens the respiratory system)
    • Sit on the floor in cross-legged position.
    • Inhale, filling the lungs and expanding the chest. Hold.
    • Use the fingers of your right hand to tap quickly and sharply all over your chest.
    • Stop tapping, and bend forward as you exhale through your mouth.
    • Relax. Repeat 5 times.
  • Bhramari Breath (Opens up the sinuses, clears the mind, calms the nerves)
    • Sit on the floor in cross-legged position
    • Inhale, filling the lungs and hold.
    • Exhale slowly through the nose while humming an "m" sound.
    • Direct the vibration to the tops of your teeth and eyes.
    • Contract the ribs a few inches above the navel to expel all the air.
    • Repeat 5 times.
YOUR ASSIGNMENT (Don't worry, it's easy & your mind/body/spirit will love you for it):

Choose one of the above exercises to practice this week (or try a different one each day!)  Do it upon waking, during a quiet & relaxed part of your day, or just before bed.  Throughout your day remember the breathing tips and be mindful of your breathing.  SOHAM...

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