Yoga for Healthy Respiration
Yoga for Healthy Respiration
One of the best ways to keep your lungs healthy is through pranayama, a Sanskrit term which is generally defined as ‘breath control.’
You may wonder to yourself, ‘Why do we want to control our breath? Shouldn’t we just let ourselves breathe naturally?’
However, many of us breathe incorrectly without even knowing it. We often use just a small part of our lung capacity. Shallow breathing (when we use just the upper portion of the lungs) deprives our bodies of oxygen and puts unnecessary stress on our organ functioning and mental processing. Yoga helps us aim for breath control to re-establish natural relaxed rhythms of the body and mind.
Use this breathing exercise and short sequence of postures to loosen your back, chest, ribs, and vertebrae to improve circulation and increase lung capacity.
Abdominal / Diaphragmatic Breathing
Begin lying on your back and relax the whole body. Place your right hand on your abdomen just above the naval and your left hand over your chest. Observe the breath and bring awareness to your natural breath. To begin abdominal breathing, inhale through the nose and feel as though you are drawing energy and breath in and out of your naval. Your right hand should move up as your belly expands and the left hand should remain still. Inhale as much as comfortable into the abdomen without expanding the rib cage. Open your mouth to exhale and picture your breath flowing from your naval, through your lungs and out your mouth. Your chest and diaphragm will move upward and the abdomen moves downward. Continue for a few minutes.
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana - ‘intense stretch of the West posture’)
Sit with your legs together, extended straight in front of you. Feet are flat as if pushing against a wall. Extend your arms forward while tilting from your hips - keep your torso long. Take hold of your shins, ankles, or grab your big toes. To keep your spine straight you can bend your knees if you feel tightness in the back of the legs. Stay for five breaths (one breath = a full inhale + a full exhale).
Seated Twist (Modified Marichyasana C - ‘Posture Dedicated to the Great Sage Marichi’)
Twist Safety Tip: While doing any type of twist it is important to always lengthen your spine before you twist. Stabilize your lower spine (sacrum area) before you twist. In yoga, all twists should come from the mid-back or upper-back, never from the lower spine.
Sit with legs straight and palms on floor by your hips. Bend your right knee and place your right food on the floor close to your pelvis and aligned with your right sitting bone. Inhale and elongate your spine, and turn to place your right hand flat on the floor behind your hips and your left elbow to the outside of your right knee, or simply let it hug around your knee. On the exhale, move deeper into the twist while looking over your right shoulder. Hold for five breaths, then switch sides.
Baby Camel (Baby Ustrasana)
Come onto both knees (aka Hero Pose), placing them hip width apart. Place the palms of the hands on the floor outside your knees with fingertips facing behind you. Walk your hands behind you so that you begin to lean backwards. Bring your wrists underneath your shoulders to begin to feel a stretch through your chest. Push your hips forward slightly to feel a deeper stretch through the hip flexors.
If you would like to keep practicing, click here to see the schedule of upcoming classes at HEAL Yoga or contact us at (801) 436-7680 to learn more.
Heal Yoga Studio in Ogden, Utah specializes in yoga for the individual even in a group setting. We believe that to heal the world, we must first heal ourselves.
Morgan Byrne is an instructor at Heal Yoga Studio and a RYT 200 hr Yoga Alliance certified teacher. She received her training at Sampoorna Yoga in Goa, India.