Diaphragmic Breathing

Our busy, modern life doesn’t allow much time to be still. Texts and emails bombard us. The news around the world worries and angers us. Personal relationships can cause tension and upset. Stress presses in on us and we forget to breathe. This lack of breath then exacerbates our anxiety in a downward spiral that leads to deeper and deeper levels of anxiety and even depression.

There is a way to cope and even conquer these feelings of anxiety. Regaining our breath is the foundation. The ancients of India knew this and practiced it in yoga and meditation. Diaphragmic breathing can reverse the effects of stress and equip you with a valuable tool to quiet your mind and body so that you can face the world and its demands with greater peace and confidence.

In the yoga practice, the breath is the foundation for all practices. By controlling the breath, the yogi is able to achieve a level of deep relaxation and control over impulses and the mind. By retraining yourself to breath from your diaphragm, you can develop a greater ability to deal with stressful situations.

During diaphragmic breathing, the upper chest and lower abdomen do not move. The diaphragm is engaged and flexed, allowing more air to be pulled deep into the lungs. This causes the lower ribs to flair out. By doing this the autonomic nervous system is soothed and relaxed. It is the most important preparation for meditation.

This type of breathing must be learned. Set aside a few minutes every day, throughout the day, to sit quietly to focus on your breathing. You must be someplace where you will not be distracted or disturbed during your practice. Sit either on the floor in the Easy pose or in a straight-backed chair or lying flat on your back on a yoga mat. Either way, be sure your spine is straight, and you are sitting on your behind, so your pelvis is not tilted. If you are lying down, make sure your pelvis is not tilted and your spine is straight and not overly curved as this will cause tension.

Now place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your abdomen. As you flex your diaphragm feel the air come into your lungs, through your nose, evenly and deeply but do not exaggerate the inhalation. Let the breath be continuous with no pauses, so don’t hold your breath. Be sure only the lower ribs are flaring outwards as you inhale, and the abdomen and upper chest remain still. Breathe slowly, being sure you are comfortable and not straining. Let the inhalation be the same length as the exhalation. Once you are breathing comfortably, begin a count so that your exhalation is twice the length of your inhalation. So, you might count slowly to 4 on the inhale and then to 8 as you exhale completely.

As you breathe with your diaphragm, become aware of your breath at your nostrils. Do this for several minutes, focusing on your breath and the sensation of the air moving through your nostrils. As you do this, becoming more focused, you may choose to continue into meditation. This practice of diaphragmic breathing is essential to mediation practice.

By practicing diaphragmic breathing, you gain the benefit of stress reduction and control over your breath which is often restricted during stressful situations. This practice can help those who suffer from panic attacks and from asthma to increase lung capacity and sooth the brain and nervous system. When stress responses are then activated, by taking the time to engage the diaphragm and practice this breathing exercise, you can gain better control over your emotions and body, gaining confidence and calmness. Happy breathing!

The Significance of Your Inhalation and Exhalation

 

Because our breath is such a normal and automatic thing, we tend to push it off like it doesn’t mean anything. In yoga there are multiple uses and meanings to our breath in general but today we’re going to focus on what our “Inhale” and “Exhale” are actually used for in yoga.

Have you ever wondered why your yoga instructor tells you to do specific movements on inhales and others on exhales? It’s because there is a sort of dance you do with your breath in yoga. Each section of your breath is tied directly to a number of purposes and uses. Let’s start off with your inhale.

What Your Inhale Means in Yoga

The purpose of your inhale in yoga is to consume. Your inhale is a time where you can take up space that you just can’t take up during an exhale. You can ingest anything like energy, emotions, space, etc. It is an invigorating part of the breath and that’s what makes it a great time to set intentions and find confidence in your yoga practice.
When you are inhaling you should generally be moving either upwards or forwards. If you are familiar with sun salutations you can even try thinking about it for a second and pay attention to all of the upward and forwards movements. The sun salutation and any yoga flow should abide by these rules. Anytime a flow has an exception to the rule you can probably notice it because it feels awkward or wrong in some way.

What Your Exhale Means in Yoga

The purpose of your exhale is to release. This can be expressed in multiple ways. It can be expressed by releasing energy, emotions, and space or it can be expressed by transferring your energy into something new while you rest. Your exhale should not be a collapse but just a release of what no longer serves you. There is still strength and incredible purpose to your exhale but it is more passive or transformational than your inhale.
The movements associated with your exhale are naturally the opposite of the inhale. Anytime you move down or backwards your exhale should be right there with you. Again, I encourage you to consider the sun salutation and run through it in your mind as you fall and move back every time you exhale. Another way that this section of your breath is used is by moving deeper into poses.

 

How Your Inhale and Exhale Work Together

Now you know how both your inhaling and exhaling work on their own but they do some amazing things together as well. They build on one another in a very practical and beautiful way. When you become aware of the uses of your breath in yoga, it becomes a sort of dance. Yoga is like a dance and your breath becomes the music that you dance to. It suddenly feels as if the sequences were made up for you by your own natural and internal rhythm. Your body rises with your inhale and lowers with the exhale. The next time around you move forward with your inhale and then go back with the exhale. After some practice with being mindful of your breath in relation to your movement, you can almost begin to anticipate the next movement before the instructor even calls it out.

Your breath can really take your yoga practice to a whole new level. It can help you with your alignment, energy, and as you read today, a whole lot more!

Mindful Eating: The Anti-Diet That Can Help You Lose Weight for Good

If it’s a fresh, hot off the press weight loss plan, we’re trying it. Diet after diet, many of us crack and end up back where we started, diving head first into a cheesecake. What if there was a way you could reach your weight loss goals without having to follow another crazy strict diet? If you think this sounds too good to be true, you’re wrong.

The truth is fad diets work until they don’t work. Think about the last time you started a new diet plan. You were excited and ready to tackle it full force and it seemed like something you could stick to for a long time. Fast forward three weeks into the diet, when your willpower starts to dwindle and food cravings begin rearing their ugly heads. You can only exercise your willpower muscle so much until it cracks, leading you into an all-out cheat fest on those foods you banned from your diet.

This is where a useful tactic called mindfulness can come in handy. You might have experienced the word ‘mindfulness’ being mentioned in the yoga community. Being mindful while eating is similar to utilizing mindfulness during your yoga or meditation practice. It is a simple and practical method that can help you stay in the moment when you sit down to have a meal, which will have a substantial impact on your weight loss efforts. We live in a fast-paced environment, where it’s not uncommon to multitask throughout the day in order to check things off our to-do lists. By practicing mindfulness during each of your meals, you will be able to listen to your body and react accordingly to the signals it’s sending you. Follow these tips before you sit down for your next meal and you will be on your way to a healthier relationship with food and your body.

Try not to label any food “off limits.” This only makes you want said food more, increasing the likelihood that you will binge. If you’re craving a particular food, allow yourself to have it. Before you take the first bite, ask yourself if you’re truly hungry or if you’re bored, stressed, sad or angry. If you are experiencing true hunger, allow yourself to have that food and enjoy every bite.

Before you take the first bite, sit in a quiet place, free from any distractions such as television, computers or phones. That means no social media! If you can, leave all electronics off the table and focus on what’s going on around you. Chew each bite of food slowly and actually taste your food. How does it taste? Is it too hot or cold? Spicy or bland? Don’t be so quick to douse your meal with salt before even trying it!

Take a few sips of water between bites to help you digest. Every so often, check in with your body. When you’re about a 6 on the fullness scale, put down the fork or spoon and stop eating. You want to be satisfied, not overly stuffed.

Practicing mindfulness around eating will not only help you lose weight, but it will help you appreciate food. Food is not a scary monster under the bed. Just like we learned how turn off our bodies natural hunger cues, we can re-learn how to react to them again.