By Guest Blogger: Caitlyn Frizziola
Spring is in the air!! Which also calls for upper respiratory imbalances such as allergies, asthma, and sinus congestion, interfering with our free-flowing breath. I have asthma and bad allergies so Springtime is always a little rough for me. Yoga offers an amazing tool to combat those pesky allergies: pranayama!
Breathing exercises are one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to relax. Breathing exercises are a good way to relax, reduce tension, and relieve stress.
Here are a few breathing exercises you can practice anywhere:
1. Kapalabhati cleanses the respiratory passageways. It’s so cleansing that you’ll want to keep a tissue nearby! It expels old, stale air from the lungs and making room for fresh, life-giving prana.
Kapalabhati benefits: Cleanses the respiratory passageways, expels stale air, strengthens the nervous system, tones the digestive organs, increases oxygen to the brain, energizes the mind, & strengthens the lungs and abdominal muscles.
- Sit comfortably with the spine straight. This opens the chest for full use of the lungs.
- Rest the palms on the knees in jnana mudra with the thumb and index fingers touching, other fingers extended.
- Close the eyes. Take three natural breaths.
- Inhale naturally, then forcefully and quickly exhale through the nose by contracting the abdominal muscles. This movement draws the belly toward the spine.
- Relax the abdominal muscles, allowing for a natural inhalation. No force is needed here. As the abdominal muscles relax and the diaphragm descends, the lungs automatically inflate with air.
- Practice 20 of these pumping movements—forceful exhalations followed by passive inhalations.
- End on an exhalation. Take three natural breaths. Practice up to three cycles.
2. Bhastrika, "breath of fire" is a bit like dramatized breathing: big inhalations, big inhalations. This pumps the belly like a bellows (the contraption used to blow air into a fire), stimulating digestion and encouraging the elimination of toxins.
Bhastrika benefits: Stimulates metabolism, massages the abdominal organs, tones the digestive system, generates internal heat, reduces phlegm in the throat, increases the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, & awakens mind and body
- Sit on the Padmasana with your eyes closed.
- Take full deep inhales and exhales. You should feel your breath expanding and contracting your belly rather than your chest, just as in diaphragmatic breathing.
- Start slowly—at the rate of one breath per second—and limit yourself to 3 rounds of 7 to 10 breaths, taking a series of relaxed breaths between rounds. When you can increase the speed without losing the force or evenness of your breath, gradually work up to two breaths per second and 120 breaths per round.
3. Lion's Breath or Simhasana Pranayama dispels negative energy and pranic blockages, leaving you feeling free, courageous and energized.
Lion's Breath Benefits: Stretches the muscles in your face, relieves tension and tightness and improves circulation. It’s an energetic and awakening breath that will also help to ease the mind. Lion’s Breath opens the throat chakra and helps to boost confidence.
- Sit on your heels, knees apart. Bring the palms to the floor in front of the knees, arch the spine.
- Close the eyes. Take three natural breaths.
- Take a deep breath in and gaze upward, but keep the chin parallel to the earth.
- Stick out the tongue. Exhale audibly through the mouth. Drawing the belly it will force the air outward.
- Practice 5-10 rounds.
4. Dirga Pranayama or the 3 Part Breath
It is one of the most calming, grounding breathing exercises you can do.
Dirga Pranayama benefits: Calms the mind and body, reducing stress and anxiety, promotes full and complete breathing, increases oxygen supply to the blood, helps keep the lungs healthy, releases muscular tension, prepares for deeper meditation.
- Start by sitting up nice and tall. Put one hand on your belly and the other hand on your chest.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out, feeling it expand like a balloon. Then breathe in a little more air allowing your ribcage to expand, then your upper chest to expand.
- Exhale, breathing out through your nose, releasing the air from your upper chest, then from your ribcage, and last your belly, bringing your navel towards or spine, using it to push all the air out.
- You should be feeling each hand move one at a time as you inhale & exhale through the 3 parts.
- Continue this breath work for 5 cycles.
About the Author
Caitlyn Frizziola is a Registered Nurse, working in Home Health Care. She graduated with her RN degree from Ocean County College in 2014 and went on to obtain her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing in 2015 from Chamberlain University. She has been growing her yoga practice since February 2013, originally as a self-taught yogi. She received her 200 hr Registered Yoga Teacher in February 2017.
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