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Yoga and the power of breath

With the demands of our everyday life, we sometimes take on numerous tasks at once, which include a combination of home life, personal life and work life. This can be overwhelming, and if we are not aware of the signs of stress, we can cause ourselves to become ill. In society today, it is common

With the demands of our everyday life, we sometimes take on numerous tasks at once, which include a combination of home life, personal life and work life. This can be overwhelming, and if we are not aware of the signs of stress, we can cause ourselves to become ill. In society today, it is common for us to overextend ourselves and forget that we, too, need to give ourselves some of our own time for rest, relaxation and rejuvenation, in addition to healthy eating and regular exercise.

One of the biggest signs of stress is a shortness of breath which is usually accompanied by tension build-up in the chest, shoulder, back and neck areas. We sometimes don’t notice this is happening, or we simply adjust to it until we regard it as normal. We need to slow down by taking time to heal ourselves periodically throughout the day.
We can do this through the power of breath. The breath is our ‘life force’ known as ‘prana’ in the Sanskrit language. ‘Pranayama’ is the practice of deep breathing. The physical practice of yoga postures (‘asanas’ in Sanskrit) involves focus on the breath and a good complete yoga practice includes time spent on pranayama.

However, one can practice deep breathing at anytime and anywhere to gain mental clarity, relaxation and an uplifting energy boost. The simple practice of deep breathing shifts our focus inward and therefore has the power to change our life in a very positive and empowering way.

Before beginning pranayama, sit in a comfortable upright position, cross-legged on the floor with a rolled up mat or cushion under the buttocks to slightly elevate the hips. This allows energy/prana to travel more freely. Place the hands on the knees palms up or palms down, or cradle the hands inside one another, resting in front of you in the lap area. Allow the spine to sit tall yet relaxed.

Take a moment to feel the alignment from the base of the skull, down the small bones of the back of the neck, and down the spine all the way to the tailbone. You may also sit in a chair with your back tall (try not to rest against the back rest of the chair so that you can gently engage your back and core muscles). Place feet flat on the floor. Whichever position you choose to sit in, you are now ready to begin pranayama.

Even Ratio Breath:

Inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four. If four seems like too long and you feel forced to breathe for that length of time, try a three count. If a four count seems too short and you know you have room for more air, try five or six. Breathe in for the count of your choice, and exhale for the same count. For example, inhale for four counts, exhale for four counts. It would appear as 4:4. Through regular practice, you will increase your capacity to take in and utilize more oxygen/life force, which of course means great benefits for your health. I invite you to close your eyes while practicing so that you may detach from any visual senses and go within.

Long Exhale Breath:

This simply means that your exhale will be longer than the inhale. A longer exhale induces a deeper relaxation. Try an inhale of three counts and an exhale of six counts. It would appear or be written as 3:6. You can also try 4:8, and determine what feels most comfortable for you to start with for your practice.

Enjoy the benefits of deep breathing. It is a simple yet most powerful tool to learn about and practice. We are capable of empowering ourselves in countless wonderful ways. Namaste.

Crystal Bomberry was born and raised in Six Nations. She has been practicing and teaching yoga for almost two years, and recently obtainined her Registered Yoga Teacher-200hr (RYT200) certification and Prenatal Yoga Specialist certification. Crystal works as the SOADI Diabetes Prevention Coordinator.

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