Thursday, March 5, 2009

Yoga Breath

Practice this sequence daily. Move gently and mindfully while breathing slowly. At first, try these techniques at times when you are not anxious; it’s easier to learn them then. Aim to have them mastered to use when you feel especially nervous. Caution: Avoid these poses if you are pregnant; have heart disease, very high or low blood pressure, epilepsy, an eye or ear disorder, or a neck, shoulder, or abdominal injury; or have had a stroke.

Standing Prayer Breath

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Bring your palms together in front of your chest in prayer position, as pictured. Inhale as you raise your pressed palms and arms overhead. Relax your shoulders and press them down into your back.
  • Exhale as you separate your hands and sweep them out and down to your sides, and then draw them back up to the starting prayer position. Repeat 3 to 10 times, allowing your breath to follow your movements. Make your exhalations slightly longer each time, gradually slowing your pace.
  • Repeat this breath in reverse. Starting with your hands in prayer position, inhale as you separate your hands, lower your arms to your sides, and then sweep them out and up until your palms touch overhead.
  • Exhale as you draw your pressed palms down the centerline of your body, stopping in front of your heart. Repeat 3 to 10 times. Make your exhalations slightly longer each time, gradually slowing your pace.

Seated Yoga Mudra
  • Kneel on the floor, keeping your spine tall, and then sit on your heels. (This may feel better if you place a pillow on your calves.) Move your arms behind your back and clasp your fingers or hold a scarf. Squeeze your shoulders together and lower them into your back.
  • Exhale, bending forward from your hips with a flat back until your forehead touches the floor in front of you. (If this is difficult, place a pillow under your head.) Your clasped hands should rise toward the ceiling. Hold for 3 to 10 steady breaths. Stop here if you are a beginner.
  • If you would like to continue, draw in your abdominal muscles and roll your body forward onto the crown of your head, raising your hips up away from your heels, as pictured. Your arms should still point toward the ceiling. Remember to keep your shoulders pressed away from your ears. Hold for 3 to 10 breaths.
  • To release, slowly lower your hips down to your heels, rolling back onto your forehead. Use your abdominal muscles to gradually lift your torso to an upright position, keeping your back flat. Separate your fingers, close your eyes, and allow your hands to float to your knees.

Breathing Meditation
  • Sit tall in a chair or cross-legged on the floor on the edge of a pillow. Press your sitting bones (the two knobby bones in your buttocks) into the chair or floor, lift your chest slightly, and relax your shoulders. Rest your palms on your knees and close your eyes, as pictured.
  • Breathe in and out through your nose, inhaling for 4 counts and exhaling for 4. Continue for 2 to 3 minutes, gradually lengthening your exhalation so that you inhale for 4 counts and exhale for 6. Do not force your breath.
  • After practicing steps 1 and 2 for several weeks, move on to a more advanced pattern: Inhale for 4 counts, hold gently for 2 counts, and exhale for 6. Continue for a full minute. If you feel any strain, eliminate the 2-count hold.
  • Return to inhaling for 4 counts and exhaling for 6 for 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually let go of counting and return to your natural breathing. Lie down on your back for 5 minutes and rest.

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