Breath Work – Straw Breathing

In lung disorders such as emphysema and asthma the ability to exhale fully has greatly diminished. Fear and habitual behaviours which builds up as a result of the disorder often mean that a person shortens the exhalation of the breath and uses accessory respiratory muscles rather than using the diaphragm. Over a period of time this habit can lead to more serious lung and heart problems. This breath work helps to counteract this and induces a sense of peace and calm to the body.  This breath work is also very beneficial to people suffering from insomnia.

Technique

  1. Find a warm cosy area where you won’t be disturbed, light a candle, you may wish to play some soft gentle music (optional) and sit in a comfortable meditative asana (pose). Keep your spine erect with your shoulders releasing down your spine.
  2. Close your eyes and gently note the natural rhythm of your breath. Don’t alter or change your breath just simply observe the fact that you are breathing in and out.
  3. Breathing normally, gently count your breath cycle in a full minute. Inhaling and exhaling is one round.
  4. Once you have registered the number of breaths, gently place a straw in your mouth. Support the straw with your hand so that you are not unnecessarily contracting your facial muscles and jaw. Relax.
  5. Breathe in through your nose and exhale through the straw, do not force the breath simply let it flow.
  6. At the end of the exhalation gently place your tongue on the tip of the straw and breathe in again through your nose and once more exhale through the straw.
  7. Continue this process for 3 to 4 minutes. Allow the inhalation to happen naturally, do not force it to happen.
  8. At the end of each exhalation place your awareness on your diaphragm and feel the gentle bounce/spring back up motion of the diaphragmatic muscle in the centre of your body. This allows the incoming breath to be effortless.
  9. When the 3 to 4 minutes are up count your breathing cycle again. Has it changed? Are you feeling more relaxed and calm?

Benefits

  1. When you breathe through a straw it takes longer to exhale. This slows down the nervous system and soothes and calms your body.
  2. Increases lung capacity by increasing both the inhalation and exhalation.
  3. Practising this breath work helps to lower blood pressure and is useful prior to sleep especially if you suffer from insomnia and / or stress.
  4. Induces a very peaceful state of mind.
  5. This exercise is very beneficial for children / young adults who suffer from asthma. As maintaining concentration maybe difficult in smaller children I often encourage them to use a straw to blow a feather up and down the yoga mat this introduces a fun element, use of a hollow liquorice whip also makes for another fun alternative and treat!

Note
If at any time you feel uncomfortable or sense panic, just stop and take a few normal breaths before resuming again. Sometimes our fear of not taking in enough air can have an adverse effect, but with practise this can be over written.

Breath Work – Bhramari Pranayama – The Humming Bee

This is one of my favourite breath works as it always conquers up images of a lazy hazy warm sunny day, with bees buzzing in the meadows. This is a great introduction to meditation as it also helps to centre and focus the mind.

Technique

  1. Find a warm cosy area where you won’t be disturbed, light a candle, you may wish to play some soft gentle music (optional) and sit in a comfortable meditative asana (pose).
  2. Close your eyes and gently note the natural rhythm of your breath. Don’t alter or change your breath just simply observe the fact that you are breathing in and out.
  3. Then gently use your index fingers to plug both your ears. Continue to breathe normally.
  4. Inhale slowly through both nostrils. Exhale slowly, but as you do so produce a long continuous humming sound like a bee. Keep your exhalation slow, steady and smooth. Do not strain your lungs or force your breath in anyway.
  5. Feel the sound vibration in your brain, throat and chest area and be conscious only of the sound. This is one round of breath.
  6. Repeat 4 & 5 a number of times gradually increasing the number of breaths you take.

Benefits

  1. This is a very relaxing and soothing breath work as you breathing slows and deepens.
  2. This breath work helps to strengthen the diaphragm.
  3. The sound penetrates deep into your mind and body, drawing attention inwards which brings with it a sense of calm both mentally and physically.
  4. This breath work is useful prior to sleep especially if you suffer from insomnia and / or stress.
  5. It helps to relieve cerebral tension, anxiety, anger, frustration and helps lower blood pressure.

The Symbol OM in Yoga

OM Symbol“Om” symbolises All that was… All that is… and all that shall be… even into eternity.

“Om” is a sacred word, syllable, sound, mantra, it belongs to no know language and is used in many religions. It stands for Supreme Faith. It is infinite consciousness and bliss. To the yogi no symbol is more powerful than “Om”.

“Om” symbolises the waking, dreaming and sleeping state. It enables us to maintain mental and emotional calmness, overcome obstacles and facilitates understanding.

Repetition of the sound “Om” and meditation on “Om” is valued in Yoga as a potent means of awakening the spiritual centres in a person’s personality. I love the interpretation of OM, so much so that I got it tattooed on my foot and it holds great symbolic meaning to me personally.

Chanting OM

“Om” is made up of three sounds which are combined together: A, U and M. These sounds create a vibration which connects to different parts of your body. I recommend chanting each syllable individually before joining them altogether. Find a quiet warm place where you will not be disturbed. I like to light a candle as I find this adds to the ambience for me personally. Then sit in a comfortable position, Accomplished Pose, Hero’s Pose, Easy Pose or Half Lotus, which ever pose you chose just ensure that you can stay in this position comfortably for a couple of minutes. Keep your spine in an upright position, relax your shoulders and allow your shoulder blades to move down your spine. Allow you head to be in alignment with your spine by allowing your two ears to be positioned just above your shoulders. Allow your chin to be parallel with the floor, crown of your head elevating upwards towards the heavens, and then gently draw your chin a slight fraction towards your chest just to lengthen into the back of your neck, and relax. Just be aware of the fact that you are breathing. Breathe in and out through your nostrils and feel your breath, become aware of it and notice what moves in your body as you breathe in and what moves as you breathe out. Then take a long slow deep breath in relax as you breathe out… then

A. Take a long slow deep breath in and then simply make the sound “aaaaahhhh” as you breathe out completely. Feel this vibration in the area around your abdomen. Bring your focus / awareness to the vibration for the full breath out. Repeat twice more.

U. Take a long slow deep breath in and then make the sound “oooouuuu” as you breathe out completely. Bring your focus / awareness to your upper chest area where you should sense the vibration. Again focus on the vibration for the full breath out. Repeat twice more.

M. Finally, take another long slow deep breath in and then make the sound “mmmmmmm” as you breathe out completely. You should sense the vibration of this sound in your throat area. Some people also feel the vibration in the head area. Bring your focus / awareness to your throat / head area and feel the vibration for the full exhalation out. Repeat twice more.

To combine all three together for the full chant, gently take a couple of natural breaths in and out through your nose, then take a long slow deep breath in and opening your mouth allow the sound of “A” and “U” to blend together into the sound “O”, allow your lips to come together and without stopping sound the vibration of “M”. Allow “M” to vibrate until the end of your out breath. Keep your focus and awareness on the sound and the vibration of what you are chanting, also try to keep lengthening your out breath and try to keep it smooth and flowing. This is YOUR chant and YOUR awareness, so there is no right or wrong way to do this. Just relax! Breathe, feel your vibration, experience the sensation within your body and then simply observe, noting any subtle changes within yourself and enjoy!!