Through the practice of Yoga we uncover the power of the breath. Breathing is the essence of Yoga; breathing is the essence of Life. Most people are not aware that they breathe poorly. And few of us, when faced with fatigue, illness or anxiety look to our breath as a possible source for regeneration. The following asanas will help you to discover what it feels like to breathe fully and openly.
Exploring your Breath.
Sit comfortably, either resting your hands on your knees palms up or place in Chin Mudra (join the tips of your thumb and forefinger resting the back of your hands on your knees)
Gentle seal your lips and inhale through the nose. Quietly observe your breath without judgment. Visualise the inhalation softly inflating the lungs like a large helium balloon, then a moments silence as the breath turns around, to transform itself into your exhalation.
With each breath visualize yourself joyously drawing in life energy and on each out breath consciously release any pent up emotions, letting go.
Remain the quiet observer, noticing that as your breath becomes calmer and slower, your mind, too, feels calmer and slower.
1. Pelvic Spinal Release
Detail of spine gently
arching away from floor
Lie in the supine position with your legs bent, feet and knees hip-distance apart.
Observe the places where your body makes contact with the earth. Gently seal your lips. As you inhale bring your awareness to your lower back region feeling the spine gently arching away from the floor on the inhalation, a moments silence, then as you exhale feel the spine gently release back into the support of the floor.
This is a gentle movement that cannot be forced; it arises from the freedom of the breath, of letting go any tension you may be holding. Visualise the deep undercurrent of the ocean moving through you, undulating your spine softly. Keep your awareness on exhaling fully as the navel draws into the spine, invigorating, cleansing and rejuvenating the spine.
Stretches the back and strengthens the abdominal muscles which relieves pressure on the lower back and thus helps swayback. Tones the lower tummy muscle and also the pelvic organs, especially the reproductive and urinary organs. Releases tightness in lower back. Helpful for menstrual problems, tailbone injury and weak bladder.
2. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Half Bridge Pose)
Rest quietly, inhale softly, a moments silence then as you begin to exhale press your feet firmly into the floor simultaneously contracting your pelvic floor muscles as the inhalation effortlessly arises and lifts your spine away from the floor.
Pause, breathing softly feeling your spine is like a hammock moving freely between the support of your shoulders and feet. Feel the in breath gently swell your abdomen, the out breath gently contracting pelvic floor drawing your navel inwards.
As you exhale see if you can lay your spine down slowly vertebrae by vertebrae as if it were a wide satin ribbon and you wish to lay it down without any creases or bumps.
Repeat slowly and in rhythm with your breath taking the time to rest between repetitions.
Interlace your hands beneath your spine and gently roll from side to side to rest on the outside of your shoulders. Breathe fully and openly, you should be able to move your head freely from one side to the other. Smile inwardly and feel the waves of energy and breathe flood through you.
Rest in Shavasasa (lying flat on you back) Take the time to lengthen the back of your neck by gently drawing your chin towards your chest and then releasing to the floor.
Strengthens the ankles, knees, thighs, hamstrings, buttocks, abdominals lower back and spine. Increases the blood circulation to the brain. Increases the mobility of the spine. Opens the lower back, hips and shoulders. Energizes the body and calms the mind. Combats depression. Opens the chest. Improves digestion and strengthens the internal organs. Relieves tension in the spine and strengthens the back and neck. Variation pose also stretches out your shoulders and the back of your neck. It has both a calming and energetic effect on the body and mind.
3. Ardha Pavana Muktasana (Half Wind Relieving Posture)
Activate your left leg along the floor by stretching your toes towards the ceiling pressing the underside of your knee to the floor. Inhale your right knee into your chest. Interlace your fingers below the knee cap.
Lengthen the back of your neck by drawing your chin slightly to your chest.
Gently draw the knee into the chest using your arms keep the shoulders relaxed.
As you inhale allow the knee to move away from the body, as you exhale actively press your knee into your belly.
Repeat breathing deeply. Inhalation the body opens –the knee moves away from the body, exhalation the body draws in – the knee draws in.
Repeat on the opposite side.
Inhale your left knee to your chest, interlace your fingers below the knee cap and release you right leg to the floor slowly.
Gently stretches the lower back lengthening and healing the spine. Improves digestion as well as elimination. Helps the body to breathe deeply removing toxins from the body rejuvenating and energising.
4. Supine Spinal Twist
Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, feet and knees hip-distance apart, arms out to the sides at shoulder level. Inhale, exhale, become aware of your physical imprint upon the floor. Breathe openly and deeply. Inhale, exhale and begin to release your knees over to the right as your head gently turns to the left. Pause, breath and bring your awareness to the lengthening of the entire spine.
Reverse to the other side. Be sure to keep both shoulders relaxed onto the floor.
Relaxes your lower back; relieves backaches, stiffness, headaches and fatigue. Helpful to do after a long day of sitting in a car or at desk. Also relieves strain from standing for long periods. Improves functioning of internal organs, circulation; strengthens and limbers the shoulder, back and hip joints; helps to trim the waistline.
5.Apanasana (Knee to Chest Pose)
Actively contract the pelvic floor and draw your knees to your chest one at a time.
Hug your knees into your chest, close your eyes and visualise this pose gently massaging your lower back and internal organs. Breath. Inhalation knees move gently away from your chest, exhalation knees gently press into your chest.
Releases tension in the lower back. May be helpful for sciatic pain. Stimulates peristalsis which helps with constipation. Holding this pose for longer lengths of time may relieve back spasms. Relieves symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopause.
Complete your sequence resting in Shavasana (Complete Relaxation)
You may wish to place a rolled up blanket or towel under your knees. Rest with your eyes softly closed observing your breath.