Of all the Yoga exercises and poses, the breathing routines are done with least effort. They take very little time and may be done anywhere - while you go out for a walk or sit in an easy chair to rest. So even if you have no time for any other routine under no circumstances, particularly when you are beginning Yoga, omit your deep breathing, regardless of how crowded your schedule or how long your day.
The following deep - breathing exercises are most effective if done upon arising. They are best performed before an open window but may also be practiced before going to bed or even sometime during the day.
Stand erect and at ease. Place the hands on the hips, elbows well out and never forced backward. Draw the chest straight upward, then press the hip bones with the hands in a downward direction. By this means a vacuum will be formed and air will rush into the lungs of its own accord. Remember to keep the nostrils wide open so that the nose may serve as a passive channel for inhaling and exhaling.
The breathing should be noiseless. Remember to stretch the upper part of the trunk. The chest must never be cramped, the abdomen should be naturally relaxed, the spine and neck straight. Remember not to draw the abdomen inward; lift the shoulders up, never force them back.
To exhale, allow the ribs of the upper part of the trunk to sink down gradually. Then lift the lower ribs and abdomen slowly. Again, care must be taken not to bend the body or arch the chest. Exhale silently through the mouth. At first do not retain the breath after inhalation. Start with three or four rounds a day; increase by one each week.
When you are beginning Yoga, an excellent way to practice pranayama, is lying down. Lie flat on a hard surface -- preferably on the floor, using a mat or rug. Let your arms rest by your sides, parallel to the body. Keep the legs straight but not stiff. Relax muscles and mind, step by step, as in Savasana, the exercise for complete relaxation.
Breathe deeply and noiselessly from the diaphragm. Start with three or four rounds a day, increasing by one round each week. This exercise may be done in conjunction with complete relaxation, but do not substitute one for the other. Also, do not try to use a bed unless it is an exceptionally hard one, since relaxing on a hard surface is by far the most effective method.
Persons engaged in sedentary occupations will derive great benefit from practicing pranayama while sitting comfortably upright in an easy chair. For this exercise, inhale through both nostrils, then hold the breath for a short time before exhaling effortlessly. No strict ratio need be established between inhalation, retention and exhalation so long as the process is deep and natural. The important thing is that rhythm be established in the entire being, so that the nerves are toned and the mind calmed.
You will be astonished how much easier your next task of studying or working will become, how unrest and disturbing elements will vanish from your consciousness. Fatigue will disappear and you will feel deeply refreshed. However, in order to get the full benefit of this exercise you must remember to keep not only your body but your mind passive. Try to blank out all conscious thought, concentrating -- as you breathe -- on some bland, pleasing object directly before your eyes.
Controlling mental images during the practice of pranayama is a conscious discipline which must be learned.
Stare steadily and without blinking at some small object directly in your line of vision. Continue until tears begin to form in your eyes. You need not be alarmed at the slight stinging sensation you will have -- there is nothing harmful to the sight here; on the contrary, your eyes will be strengthened. At the same time you will be developing will power. (The Yogis claim this exercise is an early step to clairvoyance.)
Practicing these exercises when you are beginning Yoga will benefit you greatly.
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