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than society did even a mere fifty years ago. The effects of this relentless drive forward are being felt everywhere, not the least of which is the health of each and every one of us. Of all the dangers our modern lifestyle exposes us to, I believe, as do many others, that the greatest risk lies in the stress that is placed on our minds and bodies. One report I have read, put out by the World Health Organization, stated that over 80% of all illness was caused by stress of some kind! Many forms of cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, insomnia, depression, gastrointestinal disorders, asthma, low energy, obesity..... the list goes on and on. The effects can range from slightly annoying, like not having enough energy to get through a workout, all the way to life threatening conditions. For a person who is trying to live a healthy lifestyle, this is one of the greatest obstacles to overcome. In the twenty years that I have been a teacher and a trainer, I have unfortunately seen stress ruin the lives and health of more than a few people. One of the first things I do when assessing a new client, is to try to get some background information that will help me get a picture of the amount of stress they are currently under. If a client is looking for an intense workout, and their insides are shaking from stress, adding in the stress of a workout is not necessarily a healthy choice. Many times, I'll recommend stress relieving exercises and techniques first, to clear out accumulated tension, before moving on with a more taxing program. They'll learn these techniques with me, with the goal of implementing them throughout the day, to combat the stress before it has a chance to really take hold in their minds and bodies. Many of these techniques can be done anywhere and anytime there is a free moment, especially during work hours where most of our stress tends to arise. The workplace, for most of us, is the place we need to implement these kinds of techniques the most. The dual benefit being that stress is eliminated as it arises, and clearing out the stress will actually make us function better at work. This creates a positive feed-back loop that can really go a long way toward creating less-stress environments. When a person is free of excess stress, they tend to not only be healthier, but happier. If we can manage to be
and arguably the most important. The breathing process is interesting because it is one of the few processes in the body that is both an unconscious. automatic process. This breathing technique forms the basis of any good breathing program. We can start to regain that lost control any time we start to feel it slip away. Our state of mind and stress levels greatly alter our breathing rate and depth. tension. By working with simple. yet highly effective yogic breathing practices. The original aim of hatha yoga practice. Some of the most potent tools for stress relief in the Hatha Yoga arsenal. The more stress. known as pranayama.belly breathing. robs us of the amount of control we have over our lives. The first breathing technique. Because it is a two-way street though. most of us don't breathe this way. we can start to control how we're feeling.emotional states. it's the way we are supposed to be breathing all of the time! Unfortunately. we can alter our internal. Science has proven that the process of respiration is a two-way street. accessing that state at other times tends to be a whole lot easier. are the yogic breathing practices. Stress is an enemy that slowly. the practices would progress to strengthening the body and mind. and fear that we feel. and we pay the price with increased tension and a lower tolerance for stressful situations. was to remove problems and blockages in a practitioner's mind and body. Hatha Yoga is a phenomenal tool that can be utilized for many different purposes. by consciously controlling our breathing. by simply changing how we breathe. and can also be consciously controlled and altered. so a balanced healthy state could be achieved. I normally draw from my background in Hatha Yoga and Qigong to create the stress-relieving programs for my clients. Let's look at the first three breathing techniques that I normally teach. the more shallow and rapid our breathing becomes. as is easily seen by the different approaches that are available today.healthy and happy at work. and finally lead the aspirant to a state far beyond their starting point. and ironically. From there. is basic abdominal. or diaphragmatic breathing. aka. When we don't breathe deeply . and sometimes not so slowly.
The head. but the visualization allows your diaphragm. tension. Slumped shoulders and a rounded back are more than just unattractive. and in turn. Raising the shoulders with tension. injuries. . Keep your chin slightly pulled back so that you are looking straight ahead. most of us have adopted less than ideal posture. not to allow the head to tilt upward. as long as it's a position that allows the arms and shoulders to feel tension-free. This is impossible of course. causing a host of physical. Before beginning though. expanding it like a balloon. should be dropped down and relaxed. causes the muscles around the lungs to contract. it is important to take a second to check your posture. like the rest of the spine. keeping you from accomplishing your main objective: taking a full breath. This position. and help you really take a deep breath. imagine that the breath goes down into the belly first. getting it as straight as we can manage without undue force. First and foremost is to align our spine. It's best to think about it as if we were stacking one vertebrae on top of the next. they're one of the biggest obstacles in the way of breathing correctly! Whether you are at the office. emotional. to drop down fully. should feel as if it is stacked on top of our now vertical spinal column. Belly breathing itself is simple: Inhaling through the nose.enough. and psychological problems. standing. or even lying down. proper posture will go a long way toward improving breathing. the gym. Your hands can be placed in any position. on the floor. Through years of stress. It helps greatly to imagine as if there is a balloon tied to the crown of our head. are perpetually tense and lifted. Our shoulders. it will increase. and gives the rest of organs the proper space they need to function. like building blocks. which for the majority of us. the trampoline-like muscle that sits under your lungs and is responsible for letting air in. or relaxing at home. which is adopted whether one is sitting in a chair. Proper breathing can only occur if our body is positioned the right way. as I will explain in a bit. our stress will not only linger. allows the lungs to fully expand. It's important though. and sometimes plain laziness. reducing stress. It is important to keep your shoulders down and relaxed throughout the whole breath. gently lifting up.
Also known as alternate nostril breathing. imagining as you do. The way it works is through its balancing effect on the nervous system. you can exhale out of the mouth. and our breathing to get even shallower. nadi shodhana is known to be a remedy for a whole list of conditions that includes everything from stress and tension relief. Hatha Yoga itself. A never ending spiral of self-destruction!!! (pic 1. When we don't perform deep abdominal breathing. You can see that this leads to even more tension. This brings in the use of the mind during breathing techniques. is a science of balancing all of the systems in our body. Research has confirmed what the ancient yoga practitioners discovered a long time ago: the right nostril connects to the left half of our brain. as far as stress is concerned. This taxes our body and starts a fear reaction. say before a big speech or meeting. This fear reaction dumps stress chemicals into out system. builds off of deep belly breathing. which we will delve a little more deeply into in the third technique. and the left nostril connects to the right half of our brain. known in Hatha Yoga as Nadi Shodhana. this is how they do it. If you are in a really stressful situation. to first alleviate any problems. cleansing of the channels. low energy. The left half is the logical. that all of the anxiety and fear is being expelled from your body. The practice of .The exhale is also simple. causing our lungs to get tighter. we set up a catastrophic chain of events. pic 2) The second technique. The left and right hemispheres of our brain see the world very differently. to alleviation of high blood pressure. and let the breath flow smoothly out of the nose. Allow the belly to relax. which causes our anxiety levels to rise. and then strengthen and improve our whole experience of life. and brings tension to our muscles. and when I watch them breathe. the right half is the creative side. We don't get adequate oxygen into our blood stream. and headaches. insomnia. The muscles most effected are the shoulder and neck muscles. They haven't yet accumulated the stress and tension that interferes with proper breathing. which tighten and pull up. analytical side. I have two small daughters. This is the way that we were designed to breathe.
and in a healthy person. the science of breath. One nostril will be more blocked than the other. where both nostrils flow equally. and to begin the process of healing and regeneration. The practice of Nadi Shodhana was used by the ancient yogis to artificially recreate and extend this feeling.alternate nostril breathing brings a balance to the brain. This simple fact can explain why our moods and ability to focus change throughout the course of a day. the nostrils switch dominance about every 90 minutes or so. It is in fact a deep and esoteric aspect of yoga. positively effects this aspect of the nervous system. What is happening is an obvious example of what happens all the time. and the enteric. This has ramifications which extend far beyond the scope of an introduction to breathing practices. and then suddenly. The right nostril connects to the sympathetic nervous system The parasympathetic nervous system's job is to allow are body to wind down at night. which transfers right over to our body. as if out of nowhere. there is a period of about two minutes. this means that brain activity also switches from one side to the other every 90 minutes. If one was aware during this time. yet fully aware. . a phenomenon occurs that most don't ever think about. The enteric system is located in our guts. Deep belly breathing. helping us to remain centered and improving digestion as an added bonus. it magically switches over to the other nostril. from one nostril to the other. is the way each nostril connects to our nervous system. is divided into three main branches: the sympathetic. We don't usually breathe evenly through both of our nostrils. The second effect of alternate nostril breathing. the parasympathetic. one would notice a feeling of being relaxed. In the change over. This activates what is known as the fight-or-flight mechanism. and getting us ready for physical acts or stressful situations. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for energizing our body. If one can remember the last time they were sick and had a stuffy nose. known as Swara Yoga. which we've already discussed. Our autonomic nervous system. The left nostril connects to the parasympathetic system. and the one that is more important to look at in terms of stress relief. One nostril is dominant. As our nostrils are intimately connected to the hemispheres of our brain. and is often referred to as our belly brain. that runs all of our bodily processes.
and inhale through the right. block off the right and exhale out of the left. is used. This is a perfect recipe for success in any endeavor!! There are many variations of alternate nostril breathing. The index and middle fingers are folded out of the way. The breathing can be repeated for as long as you have time. The thumb is used to block off the right nostril. Two minutes of alternate nostril breathing can really work wonders for reducing stress! This method of alternate nostril breathing is designed to bring about a total balance. (pic 3) Step one. We'll use the fingers of our right hand to manually block off our nostrils. This would be appropriate for a time when you really need to energize your mind and body. it starts to bring both of these aspects of the nervous system into balance. Traditionally. and then exhale out of the other side. yet focused and prepared state is achieved. is an easy variation that I normally teach first. as well as to bring about other changes to the mind and body. is to block off the left nostril.When alternate nostril breathing is practiced. The one we will learn now. a specific mudra. Once learned. the other variations of the practice are more easily accessible. When working with both nostrils evenly. a calm and relaxed. (pic 4) Step two. Some practices emphasize breathing mostly through the right nostril. and we relax and rejuvenate by breathing through the left nostril. that one can learn to enhance the practice. Back and forth. (pic 5) Now the process is reversed. and then exhale through the right. and the ring and pinkie finger are used to block off the left nostril. We energize our bodies by breathing through the right nostril. or hand position. There are many other methods that build off of this basic practice. Other practices emphasize left . Inhale up one side of the upside-down V. It's easy to remember if you imagine an upside-down V shape with the point between the eyebrows. Inhale through the left.
That is as complicated as it goes as far as the breathing mechanics are concerned. Step three. In all actuality. and adds in a generous use of imagination. Simply inhale deeply with a deep belly breath. utilizes everything we've learned so far. to wind down before bed. This practice is extremely versatile. Often known as Skin Breathing. That's it!!! Not complicated at all. is to feel your body relaxing and “deflating” as you exhale out. This would relax the body to a greater degree. Done correctly. Although it is a part of advanced practice. Before the first inhale though. to increased energy. we have to take a moment to focus on the surface of our skin. The real “secret” to this breathing technique lies in our ability to engage our mind in the practice. Step two. We've already learned the basis of skin breathing: Deep Belly Breathing. the technique itself is relatively easy. that it can actually be considered a complete yoga practice unto itself!! The final breathing technique we will discuss. it can be an extremely effective tool for stress relief. and then exhale out. your body is expanding like a balloon. and is the basis of the self-healing . is to feel that as you are inhaling. is to take your deep inhale. Really try to feel your skin as the barrier between you and the rest of the Universe!! Step one.nostril breathing. and is a perfect practice to perform at night. and as long as we're willing to use our imagination and be playful. this breathing technique can be utilized for everything from stress relief. as well as Taiji and Qigong practice. and with the right intention. there are so many variations of this exercise. imagining that you are breathing right through the pores in your skin. this breathing technique is a vital part of advanced hatha yoga practice. this practice is relatively easy. to self-healing of illness and trauma! Again.
they can work what appear to be miracles. as you inhale. but don't be fooled by their simple nature. If practiced diligently and regularly. as you inhale. you can imagine that you are inhaling confidence and power. Or. As part of an overall approach to health and fitness in the ever-increasing pace of the world we live in. tension. or even lying down. and as you exhale. you are releasing any fears you may be feeling. as far as stress and anxiety are concerned. healthy energy. as in an office setting. I really feel that they are indispensable! . For instance. This practice can be done seated. and anxiety. you imagine that you are expelling all of your stress. This last position of lying down works great as a way to prepare yourself for sleep! It can be used to combat insomnia by getting rid of all the worries of the day. you can imagine that you're inhaling positive.techniques that I teach. and the anxiety of what's coming the next morning. These three breathing exercises are the easiest to learn of the breathing techniques that I teach. The only thing that changes is the intention of the practice. As you exhale. standing.
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