One of the basic exercises in yoga is to learn to breathe correctly. Once you have mastered the technique of pranayama, a basic yoga breathing exercise, you may go on to other breathing exercises for further strengthening the body. 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. Once you have mastered the above technique of pranayama, you may go on to other breathing exercises for further strengthening the body.
Here are a few of these essential yoga breathing exercises:
Sitkari the first of these, is recommended for improving the general vigor of the body, for overcoming drowsiness and indolence and, in some cases, for conquering hunger and thirst. Here is how it is done:
Sit tailor fashion or stand relaxed, fold the tongue so that its tip touches the upper palate, and draw air through the mouth with a hissing sound. Retain the breath briefly without discomfort. Afterwards exhale through both nostrils. Another method for exhaling is again through the mouth, with teeth closed. Repeat three times, then rest. Neither this nor the exercise which follows should be done out-of-doors or in a chilly room, because of the mouth-breathing involved.
Shalt is an exercise for purification of the blood. It is done as follows: protrude the tongue slightly and fold it like a tube.
Again, draw the air in through the mouth with a hissing sound, retain briefly, then exhale through both nostrils. Three times daily is enough. The Yogis say this practice "cools the system," and helps the body get rid of dyspepsia, fever, bilious disorders and the effects of poison.
Bastrika relieves inflammation of the throat, clears the sinuses, cures diseases of the nose and chest and gets rid of asthma, as well as strengthening the lungs. It destroys the germs which give rise to upper respiratory disorders and gives warmth to the body in cold weather - surely a boon to those of us who live in vast, crowded urban centers with their air pollution and smog. Here is how it is practiced:
Sit tailor fashion on the floor. Start a brief rapid succession of expulsions of breath, one after another. Having done ten or twelve, draw in the breath with the deepest possible inhalation. Then suspend breathing for a few seconds, but not long enough to feel strain. Repeat three times. Like other Yoga breathing practices, this exercise must not be continued to excess.
You need to feel comfortable and relaxed when you start. This means that your clothes must be loose and never binding, that you shut out all unnecessary noise and that there be no disturbing influences in the room.
The more you increase your supply of prana, the greater will be your sense of well-being. In time, as you gain confidence in your ability to control self, you may even be able to achieve what the Yogis do - utilize prana for healing by consciously directing its currents to any unhealthy part of your body.
Yoga breathing exercises can in fact become an amazing healing technique.
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