Here is a short video that speaks briefly regarding the use of the lungs. I learned at a young age that the number one thing that will extend your life and keep your stress down is if you use your entire lungs to breathe. This Swami mentions something similar to what I learned.
The beautiful part about his understanding is that it seems to be rooted in his experience rather than standard ‘book’ learning. In other words, you can actually feel what he’s saying.
I would like to add to what he says in order to fill it out just a little. The lungs are like a pair of big balloons. Actually, each lung is like an inverted tree where the branches allow for air flows and the leaves are where the chemical reactions of respiration occur. When the air flows down into the lungs, if you only draw it half way, only half the tree works for you. Drawing it all the way allows every little ‘leaf’ to interact with the breath and perform respiration. You want to use the entire tree!
Notice what happens when you sit at a desk all day long. The spine stiffens up and the ribs tend to stop moving. When this happens, the top of the shoulders knot up and eventually, the body registers pain. The breathing is shallow and the air barely enters the body.
In order to directly counter pain from sitting, the fastest and most direct way is to start using more of your lungs. Breathe deep. Consciously allow the air to flow all the way down to the point where the abdomen is forced to move out of the way. Loosen restrictive clothing around the waist and fill up.
It also helps to move a little.
Ever wonder why singing is so good for you? Not only does it require deep breathing in order to carry the tune, but it creates vibrations in the body that trigger cells to shake lose what they no longer need, and accept the things that they do. Put on some good music and breathe!
Consciously Breathe. You’ll always feel better when you do!
In my experience, when a student of yoga takes the extra effort to breathe – fully and consciously – they are more charged by the end of the practice than someone that doesn’t. The simple act of holding your arms out to the side can be a serious challenge, if there is not some active participation in breathing.
Breathing is also key to reducing the amount of stress in your life. When researching stress and yoga, I came across an article posted at the Yoga Journal website that seemed to ring true with me. Thus, I clipped this content from a much larger article in order to share it with you here.
How do we explain why participants in the aerobics group didn’t derive the same benefit as the participants who learned yoga? Better yet, how do we explain the results from the study that was based on a single session of Iyengar Yoga?
Kerstin Khattab, MD, an Iyengar Yoga teacher and one of the researchers in the Schleswig-Holstein study, believes that the key is yoga’s dual demands on body and mind. “Some of the poses in our study, such as Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) or Sirsasana (Headstand), are likely to cause a strong sympathetic nervous system reaction. But as you learn to hold these poses with a calm mind, focusing on the breath, the poses become a training in how to remain calm in stressful situations.”
In other words, the physical challenge of a pose becomes the equivalent of a stressor. If you do aerobics, which has no direct breathing or mindfulness component, the physical challenge can trigger a full-fledged stress response in the body. But when physical demands are met with mindfulness and steady breathing, as they are in yoga, the nervous system responds differently: It maintains activation while keeping an underlying sense of calm. It remains skillfully engaged but without going into full-fledged fight-or-flight mode.
The great sage and codifier of yoga, Patanjali, must have been aware of the power of asana when he wrote sutra 2:46, Sthira sukham asanam: Postures should embody steadiness and ease. If you can find both elements in the midst of a stressful arm balance, you’re not just training your mind. You’re enabling your autonomic nervous system to imprint that response and therefore allow you to return to it during everyday stress.
At first, you will need to very consciously tap into this response during your yoga practice by focusing on your breathing and thoughts. But with enough conscious practice, the rehearsed challenge response can become an ingrained automatic response—on and off the mat.
Yoga also trains the nervous system to return to balance quickly after a challenge response. By alternating strenuous poses with gentler ones, yoga conditions you to move easily between states of challenge and rest. Letting go of all effort in Savasana (Corpse Pose), for example, seals in this flexibility, because the pose teaches the nervous system to let go once the challenges of your practice have been met.
Next time you’re on or off your mat and find that life is a little stressing, breathe!
Saturday, I found a few hours to focus on Pranayama! It might seem strange; because we breathe all the time, but how often do you simply spend a few hours to really consciously breathe? If you’re normal, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about this at all.
Well, this is how I spent a beautiful sunny, start of summer, afternoon. It was a 3 hour workshop at Shakti Yoga in Bellevue with Ajayan from Ajayan.com.
I’m blogging about this so that I don’t forget the different exercises that we covered and the fact that I was totally energized after attending the class. He lectured about seven different types of breathing and I’ve tried to describe them below. He also talked about a couple hand Mudras that go along with the practice. I’ve outlined the exercises and described a bit about the Mudras below.
Here is a great little practice that really aligns to how we started the workshop. This is from ndtvgoodtimes on Youtube called Learn to breathe correctly.
Full inhale and exhale where you squeeze the perineum on inhale and relax on exhale. The concentration on the energy flow is vertical along the spine. The breathing starts in the belly and extends up to fill the ribs
Short, forceful exhales with effortless inhale. This is best described via a video, and it just so happens that there are many on the net. Here is one from Lindsay Fields.
Palms together behind back and the exercise is done with leaning forward with the forehead above or resting on the ground. Squeeze the perineum during the inhale and focus your energy on the forehead center during exhale.
Here is a video showing – almost – what we did. What’s missing is the act of engaging the perineum on the enhale and the focus on the forehead center on exhale.
This is the alternate nostril breathing exercise. Inhale fully to start. Close one side and exhale fully and then inhale through the same nostril before switching sides. There are two common ways demonstrated during the workshop; slow and fast. The slow way should be completely quite. The fast way is a combination of Kapala Bhati breathing and Nadi Sodhana. In either case, if you become light headed, you’re forcing too much into the practice.
This is the cooling curled tongue breathing. On the inhale, you should feel a cooling evaporation over the back of the tongue and sides of the throat. Yet, you’ll need to be conscious to not dry out to the point of coughing. The exhale is gentle through the nose.
This is the humming bee exhale where the mind melds with the sound. This is best described in a video too. Here is one from checkmyheal on youtube.
Did a quick search for hand mudras and found a nice description of what a mudra is Yoga For Beginners from .
Mudra is Sanskrit for seal, mark, or gesture. Typically, mudras are used during meditation or pranayama as a way to direct energy flow in the body. According to yoga, different areas of the hand stimulate specific areas of the brain. By applying light pressure to these areas of the hand, you will “activate” the corresponding region of the brain.
The Mudra that stood out the most for me was the heart Chakra one that is described on the website Love and Heal.
Bend your index finger & let it touch the base of thumb. Let index & middle finger touch the tip of thumb & extend little finger. Do it with both hands close to heart chakra
The picture really does a great job describing it.
One of the coolest things about this Mudra is that if you look at a reflexology chart, you’ll see that the index figure activates the heart region of the palm. The middle and ring figure also represent the sinus, head and brain area and the pad of the thumb is the pituitary gland. So, bringing this energetic connection in while practicing would be a natural combination.
The fun part now is applying these exercises to my normal routine(s). Panayama should be natural and integrated into a daily practice. J
I attended Snatam Kaur live at the Center for Spiritual Learning last night.
Many months ago, I bought the music CD – Grace, by Snatam Kaur Khalsa. I didn’t know that it was chanting music when I got it, I just loved the sound. Something about the sound drew me in. It’s hypnotic, beautiful and I resonate with it. It’s like it’s an Om that you can really believe in.
A few weeks ago, I found fliers at my local yoga studio advertising a local concert date for their current tour. Without really thinking, I bought tickets.
My excitement was tempered when I tried to find someone to go with me. Turns out, there are more than a few people that have very strong opinions based on sight, and sight alone. It took me days to find someone else with an open heart, open mind and willingness to try something different.
I got there early enough to get reasonably good general admission seats and watched as people arrived, but the place never filled up. The energy was good and the level of excitement in the room was pure and genuine.
My biggest surprise came at the instant Snatam Kaur started singing her first song. My eyes instantly filled with tears of joy. Wow, just thinking about it now brings them back again. It was a feeling that I didn’t want to fight or suppress. Later in the same song(chant), I looked around to see others clearing the tears from their faces.
It was a beautiful feeling of acceptance and connectedness. Clearly, there is Devine influence working though her as she gives into the music.
If you’re looking for a gentle way to experience a group of people that consciously gather to open their hearts, this would be a perfect place for you to visit.
I’m so hoping that Meghan Currie comes to town someday. I would love to hear, in her own words, how she started with her back-bends. She has the flexibility of anyone in cirque du soleil, but the grace of a yogi. She’s an artist giving life to her practice and everyone that witnesses it!
After watching this the first time, I couldn’t help but have sympathy for her – you see how fast that clouds where moving? Notice the sand blow by? No matter how warm it is, that sand is getting everywhere. It’s like sex on the beach – great idea until you do it once. Then, it’s just a drink to help you remember how bad an idea it really was!
Yet, even covered in sand, her grace shines through in this video. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!