Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Stress Management — Relaxation with Yoga Breathing

As I’ve said before, yoga has many benefits that relate to life — stress management and relaxation are a couple of those benefits. I have learned to find a deep relaxation with yoga breathing, even when I am not doing yoga. Of course deep breathing relaxation exercises are common for managing stress, so this should come as no surprise.

The Inhalation

You should breathe in through your nose. Rather than belly breathing, you want to expand your chest to fill your lungs. In yoga you are trying to keep your core engaged, so this does not play well with belly breathing. Yoga breathing is coordinated with the movements (in vinyasa yoga). Often when a pose is particularly challenging, the instinct is to hold your breath. It is important to keep breathing well at all times, and you will find this true in life.

The Exhalation

In yoga you learn to breathe out audibly through the nose (not through the mouth). A newcomer to yoga must think it is very strange that everyone is breathing so heavy. This forceful exhalation is called ouija breathing, and it helps to warm the body and increase oxygen consumption.

This breath helps push more air out of the lungs. This really allows a dramatic release of tension. It feels a bit like ‘blowing off steam’, and it is an amazing breathing relaxation technique.

Often in class we will do cleansing breaths. They are exhaled through the mouth, often accompanied by a sighing sound. These sighs are timed right after more intense exertions in the practice. Translation: when feeling stressed or after finishing a major task, try using a deep sigh to let go and relax.

It is natural for me to use deep breathing relaxation methods throughout my day without even realizing it. Yoga has helped to train my automatic behavior. I find myself taking deeper breaths as needed without consciously initiating them. I also catch myself when I am holding my breath, and redirect myself to some deep breathing.

Instructors often say a single, conscious breath constitutes a yoga practice. It is nice to experience stress management from yoga not only in class, but crossing over into the real world. Relaxation with yoga breathing will become automatic for you after practicing a while. Yoga: the only breathing relaxation technique you’ll ever need.


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