Alleviate your respiratory challenges with this gentle yoga practice that helps you expand your lungs. 

A comical story in the Chandogya Upanishad, a sacred text dating back to 800 BC, depicts the senses as having a dispute about who among them is the most important. The ear left for a period of time, and upon its return, asked the others how they managed without him. Then the eye departed, and one by one, each of the senses left and came back asking this question. But when the breath gets ready to leave, all of them "come to their senses" immediately and concur that the breath is indeed most essential.

How true! Breathing easily is something we take for granted until, for whatever reason, our breath becomes laboured. As we move into our Zoomer years, many of us are challenged with breathing disoders such as COPD, asthma, allergies, etc.

How Yoga Helps

Yoga is a tremendous help for all respiritory challenges, because it helps us relax, and in so doing, we are releasing the main muscles of breathing, the diaphragm and the intercostals muscles in between the ribs.

The breath is a key component in a Gentle Yoga practice. In our asana practice, we engage our awareness of the breath while the poses help us expand the lungs, increasing our intake of oxygen. We are bringing breath down into the deepest parts of the lungs, where we find the highest density of air sacs which exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen. In many poses we are lengthening and extending the spine, opening the front of the body, and creating more room for the lungs to expand fully.

We use various breath practices (pranayama) to bring awareness and healing energy into any area of the body that requires prana, or life-force.

When we meditate, we often use the breath as the focus of our awareness. We may be counting the breaths to 10 and then beginning again, or we may be using the breath as a mindfulness tool, as an object of our concentration, watching where it goes and how it interacts with the body.

All of this extra awareness of the breath helps optimize the oxygen and carbon dioxide balance and helps clears the mind. It activates the relaxation response, which further assists the diaphragm in moving more optimally, thus increasing both the volume of breath, as well as the quality of prana.

Other considerations

• Be tested for food sensitivities. Consider engaging a naturopath or Ayurvedic practitioner to support you in creating positive health practices.
• Nasal irrigation and oiling the nasal passages can be a wonderful practice to help clear the upper respiratory system and helps optimize breathing.
• Many Eastern traditions of healing point to an excess of grief which lodges in the lungs, so engaging support for unresolved emotions can be very therapeutic.
• Try aromatherapy by infusing a tissue with a few drops of peppermint, rosemary, or eucalyptus oil.
• Unless you are experiencing allergies, carve out time to spend in nature, walking mindfully, breathing deeply and immersing yourself in the sights and sounds of the beach, a trail in the forest, or your local park or garden.
• Keep your surroundings sparkling – if you have pets, make every effort possible to reduce animal dander – us with low or zero VOC paints – eliminate off gassing by using natural fibres wherever possible.

Slow down the breaths! According to yogic thought, we are not assigned a certain number of years of life, but a certain number of breaths! Now that's a pretty compelling reason to slow things down, but slowing down our breaths also slows down our heart rate and the thought fluctuations of the mind.

The Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, "Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again."

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