My yoga practice continues to deepen my awe at the power we have to manipulate our central nervous system. And breath-work is one of the easiest ways to do this. Breath is so central to yoga that one of my homework assignments during yoga teacher training was to come up with a list of 25 words to describe the quality of breath!
Below are my current favorites when it comes to breathing techniques, for my daily life, and when teaching. I find that frankincense essential oil is a wonderful complement to any breath-work because it is grounding, calming and invites a meditative stance.
I learned this stress management technique from James Gordon, founder of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine. This exercise can be done either from a grounded sitting position with a straight spine, or lying comfortably on your back.
On an inhale say to yourself, ‘soft.’ On the exhale say to yourself, ‘belly.’
That’s it! I love the experience of actually feeling my belly soften with this breathing technique. It always reminds me of how much tension I can carry around in my abdomen. And this is a wonderfully easy way to release it.
This breathing technique uses your mind’s eye. In a comfortable seated position, gently close your eyes and imagine that you are inhaling and exhaling solely from your left nostril, taking slow, deep breaths. I have found that using the visualization increases my concentration and focus, but if you find this difficult or agitating in any way, simply use your right thumb to gently close off your right nostril.
Breathing through the left nostril stimulates the lunar energy, which quiets the mind and cools the body. It is a cooling, calming breath, inducing deep relaxation.
Lunar breathing helps improve sleep and may promote weight loss:
• If you have difficulty falling asleep, lay on your right side, gently close your right nostril with your right thumb and breath through your left nostril. This will induce all the calming physiological responses of the parasympathetic nervous system.
• In the Kundalini yogic tradition, is said that if a person breathes through the left nostril for 31 minutes a day for 90 days, they will naturally change their metabolism in favor of relaxation and weight loss.