Monday, August 1, 2011

Seeking Balance Though Yoga: The Breath

Everyone feels tension and stress. We see it in adults and we see it in children. As a matter of fact, more and more studies have shown the increase in stress-breathing in elementary aged children. The way that you breathe can exasperate a stressful situation and you need to become more aware of your breathing patterns for better management. Stress-breathers fill their chests with air and use their mouths to breath and they have a large amount of tightness especially in their upper backs.  People who exhibit stress breathing are not using their diaphragms properly and through awareness they can shift out of over-breathing. However, deep breathing is not the answer to stress relief; Quiet, diaphragmatic breathing is the key to both relaxation and good respiration. The goal is to have an even ratio of inhale to exhale. Yoga can help! Through awareness, meditation, movement and creativity, yoga can have a profound effect on your body and mind:
*reduced stress
*sound sleep
*reduced cortisol levels
*improvement of many medical conditions
*allergy and asthma symptom relief
*lower blood pressure
*smoking cessation help
lower heart rate
*spiritual growth
*sense of well being
*reduced anxiety and muscle tension
*increased strength and flexibility
*slowed aging process

Rescue breath:
A very important tool that I have been taught is called “Rescue Breathing”. If you need immediate rescue from your constricted breath try breathing in a 2:2:1 ratio….inhale: inhale: exhale (each inhale is equal in length and the exhale is only ½ of one inhale). In stress breath, you are mostly deprived of a good inhale, so doing this rescue breathing will help to even out your two cycles. Getting your breath out of your chest and into your diaphragm will help immensely. For good yoga breathing, it is not that the belly pushes, instead the diaphragm lifts and allows the belly to fill (think of a beach ball and if you press down in the center of it, the two sides would lift around your hand). The exercise is from the book Conscious Breathing: Breathwork for Health, Stress Release, and Personal Mastery by Gay Hendricks.

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