Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Breathing For Healing...

We are always seeking what will help us live longer and healthier.  Have you ever taken the time to think about why you breathe?  Take a deep breath In and release it.  Did that feel good? Have you ever tried to see how long you could hold your breath? Take a deep breath in and hold it for a moment then release. How did that feel? Did you feel pressure build up?

Logically we breathe in order to absorb Oxygen and breathe out to release what is toxic to us, Carbon Dioxide.  We do not have to think about it most of the time because it is automatic.    Food and water is a form of energy we need to live, but our breath is our "vital life force energy".

 Usually we take about 15 to 20 breaths per minute.  When we feel threatened, which does not take much these days,  our breath increases and becomes shallow.  The heart rate and blood pressure rises quickly.  Long term exposure to stress leads to high blood pressure (and subsequently heart disease), immune disorders, damage to mental health to say the least.

The benefits of the breathing was the first thing I noticed early in my yoga practices.  I am one of those people that has to see or experience in order to believe.  Breathing exercises  in Yoga instantly showed me I was on the right path to healing myself.  That is what gave me the motivation to keep practicing.  Through my practice, I lost over 55 lbs of baby weight twice, healed postpartum depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and ended my need for medications of any kind since 2004.

There are several breathing techniques used in Yoga, Ujjayi Breathing (Ocean Breath) being the primary exercise practiced along with the postures (Asanas).  To practice this breath, sit up in a relaxed simple cross leg position (you may also sit in a chair).  Take a slow deep breath into your nose, let it resonate down the back of your throat into your lungs to your diaphragm (located below your belly button).  As you exhale with a half closed glottis (just behind the larynx), make a “HA” sound  as if you are fogging up a mirror.  When you are comfortable with this, close the mouth and breath in through the nose and out through the nose.  Some teachers will use Darth Vader or ocean waves as a reference to the sound your breath makes.  As you inhale, pull the air into the lower belly, rise to the lower rib cage, then the upper chest and throat.  The length and speed of the breath is controlled by the diaphragm.  Try to balance the length of your inhale with the length of your exhale, gently pushing it out.   A beginner may breathe in to the count of 4 or 6 and out to the same count.  This will increase over time. The length of each breathing session will depend on your discipline.  You may start with just 2 or 3 minutes.  That will advance to 30+ as you grow.

Ujjayi Pranayama is used primarily during yoga asana (postures) practice. Using the style of breath enables the body to build internal body heat.  This strengthens the lungs and allows for a healthy flow of "life force energy" or Prana.  This breathing technique also calms the mind and allows the body to focus throughout the practice, while releasing toxins.  Mary Irby E-RYT and founder of White Crow Yoga states "hearing the sound of our breath helps prevent our minds from straying from outside distractions and thoughts (our worries, what were doing after class, what is going on at work, etc.). Without the mind-body connection, Yoga is just another form of exercise".

Yogic breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, slowing down your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure, and calming the mind-body.

You gain clarity of the mind, weight loss, stress reduction, lower blood pressure, physical well-being, ease anxiety and depression, increase energy, flexibility, balanced immune function, and much more.  The sweetness of it all is that the breath is FREE!  Yes. There is no charge to breathe.  Knowing this, maybe it will motivate you to try it once a day.

If you have chronic conditions, such as low/high blood pressure or asthma, ask your doctor before trying any breathing techniques.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

What Is Yoga?

There are many misconceptions when it comes to defining Yoga because it is a way of life you need to experience to understand.
 The word Yoga means to join. The practice of Yoga is joining your mind, body, and breath. With this practice, you learn how to live fully aware in the present moment.
 Yoga began its journey west in the late 1800's. Swami Rama amazed researchers at the prestigious Menninger foundation in 1970 when test showed he could control his autonomic nervous system functions including heartbeat, pulse, and skin temperature. Www.yogaJournal.com/article/history of yoga/yogas-trip–America/
 Yoga on the Mat is… Breathing (Pranayama is the sanskrit word for breathing in Yoga) and Postures (Asanas). Breathing is the very foundation of the Yoga practice. Have you ever thought about your breathing? How do you normally breathe? Most of us only breathe shallowly into our chest. “You can go without food and water for days, but you can only go without your breath for a few minutes” is an anonymous comment I read years ago. It makes a lot of sense if you think about it.
 The postures begin with baby steps. You do not have to bend like a pretzel. You begin learning simple postures like Mountain Pose, which is just standing on your own two feet. Standing tall with good posture in connection with your breath is not an easy task. It will become very easy, in fact natural over time.
 There are many styles to yoga. If you are not sure where to begin, please call your local studio. They are usually eager to get you off to the appropriate class. Remember, we are all in this together. Yoga is new to the west.
 Yoga off the mat is checking in with yourself regularly. Asking yourself how you feel. Are you breathing? Are you spinning on your thoughts? Are you listening or thinking?
 Yoga is not a religion. We confuse a way of life as a religion because in Yoga, there is a “code of conduct” (8 limbs) that you have to commit to in order to live life in peace and harmony.
 I was baptized at 16 in a small church in Kingston Springs. I attended church, but did not gain true knowledge of Christ until I began my Yoga practice. It took Yoga to slow me down and discipline my mind to listen. Because of my practice, my religious practices are stronger. Religion and Spirituality work hand in hand. You can have one without the other.
 What does Yoga do for you? Yoga slowly transforms your self to the way you are supposed to “be”. Yoga shows you how to appreciate life and how to experience every moment without the desire to be somewhere else. Yoga teaches you to love yourself, to put yourself first.
I asked yogis of local Dickson County why they practice Yoga. They responded as follows:
“Yoga gets my attention unlike going to the gym.” JL
 “My Yoga Practice makes me a nicer person.” LC
 “I love the stretching.” V
 “It is a wonderful exercise for me. It helps me focus.” CA
 “Yoga saved my life”. RH
 “Yoga got me from not being able to move, to attending a regular Hatha Yoga Class”. RE
 “It brings me back into balance. It makes me feel relaxed and at peace”. TW
 “Yoga has taught me how to not react. To breathe before I take action under some of the most chaotic of situations.” AT
For more information:).