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Breathe Calm

The breath is the most powerful tool to help control how you feel .There is no right way to breathe. But in modern society we have developed poor breathing patterns in response to the stresses and strains of life, high levels of inactivity, too much sitting and a general lack of awareness at the importance of breath as a tool of health. Changes in our posture, alignment and breathing patterns happen slowly, subtly over time, without us even realizing and eventually we become stuck in these unhelpful, even harmful, breathing patterns.breathmindfully

The breath has an immediate impact on the nervous system and plays a vital role in maintaining a balanced body. A dysfunctional breathing pattern, for example a short and forced one, results in a tense body and much higher levels of stress.

However, by just being aware of our breath, by being mindful, we can change our breathing habits and improve our response to life’s challenges. In this way the breath becomes full, adaptive and healing.

Here are some techniques to Create Calm:

Equal Breathing

Known as Sama-vrittiequal breathing is thought to be very beneficial because it engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps transition into a more relaxed, restorative state promoting balance and evenness in the natural flow of consciousness. This enhanced level of equilibrium can help reduce agitation and anxiety.

  • Close your eyes and begin to notice your natural breath, not changing anything at first. Give yourself a good five breaths or so.
  • Begin to slowly count to four as you inhale. Take a moment at the top of your inhale with the lungs full of air. Then also count to four as you exhale. Again take a moment to feel empty. Then inhale again to another count of four. Continue this pattern. The exercise is to match the lengths of your inhales and exhales.
  • You may experiment with changing the number you count to, just make sure your inhale and exhale stay the same length.
  • Continue breathing this way for at least 5 minutes

Deep Belly Breathing (Abdominal Breathing)

The key to deep breathing is to breathe deeply from the abdomen, getting as much fresh air as possible in your lungs. When you take deep breaths from the abdomen, rather than shallow breaths from your upper chest, you inhale more oxygen. The more oxygen you get, the less tense, short of breath, and anxious you feel.

  • Sit comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
  • Breathe in through your nose. Expand the belly with air like a balloon. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.
  • Exhale through your nose or your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while drawing your navel to your spine. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
  • Continue like this for 10 breaths or however long is comfortable. Note: This can make you feel light headed as there is a rush of oxygen to the brain…which might not be used to that yet!

Extend the Exhale

  • As above but lengthen your exhalation
  • Count for 7 as you breathe in
  • Count for 11 as you breathe out
  • You can use your own numbers (I like 4 and 8)
  • You can steady the out breath by breathing through Pursed lips (like blowing out of a straw)

Three Part Breathing

  • Practice deep belly breathing for about five breaths to first ground and centre yourself. See above
  • On the next inhale, fill the belly up with air. Then when the belly is full, draw in a little more breath and let that air expand into the rib cage causing the ribs to widen apart.
  • On the exhale, let the air go first from the rib cage, letting the ribs slide closer together, and then from the belly, drawing the navel back towards the spine.
  • Repeat this deep breathing into the belly and rib cage for about five breaths. This is part two.
  • On the next inhale, fill the belly and rib cage up with air as described above. Then sip in just a little more air and let it fill the upper chest, all the way up to the collarbone, causing the area around the heart (which is called the heart centre in yoga), expand and rise.
  • On the exhale, let the breath go first from the upper chest, allowing the heart centre sink back down, then from the rib cage, letting the ribs slide closer together.
  • Finally, let the air go from the belly, drawing the navel back towards the spine.
  • You are practicing three-part breath! Continue at your own pace, eventually coming to let the three parts of the breath happen smoothly without pausing.
  • Continue for about 10 breaths.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

This method is traditionally thought to balance the two sides of your brain and to clear the energy channels that run along the base of the spine to the crown of the head. If you are a little congested, expect this pranayama to move the mucus out so have some tissues handy. However, if you are too stuffed up to breathe out of either nostril you won’t be able to get the intended benefits, so wait until the air passageways are clear to do this exercise.

  • nadishodaYou can practice this breath in any seated position.
  • Position your right hand by folding your pointer and middle fingers into your palm, leaving your thumb, ring finger, and pinky sticking up.
  • Bring your thumb to the right side of your nose and your ring finger to the left side.
  • Close your eyes or take a soft gaze downward. Inhale and exhale once to prepare.
  • Close off your right nostril with your thumb.
  • Inhale through your left nostril.
  • Close off your left nostril with your ring finger.
  • Open and exhale through your right nostril.
  • Inhale through your right nostril.
  • Close off your right nostril with your thumb.
  • Open and exhale through your left nostril.
  • Inhale through your left nostril.

At first, you might only make it through a few rounds of this breath. Try to work up to doing at least 10 rounds. You can also take a break and then resume the exercise. If you mind begins to wander, focus on counting the length of your inhales and exhales or on the sensation of your breath on the skin under your nose. It may feel cool as you inhale and warm as you exhale.

If you ever begin to feel light headed, release both nostrils and breath normally.

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