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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Beats Counting Sheep

We’ve talked about how  managing the breath cycle ratio (inhale – pause – exhale – pause) will impact energy levels. Knowing this is important because the last thing you would want to do is select a calming ratio the first thing in the morning when you’re trying to get going. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to select an energizing ratio when it’s time to go to sleep for the night.

Energy levels are also impacted by the postures selected and a couple of weeks ago I blogged about postures that are more energizing. For a more relaxing and calming effect use forward bend, twisting and supine (lying on your back) postures.

To experience these calming effects, come to a lying position on your back and bring your knees toward your chest. Place a palm on each knee with fingers pointing toward your toes. Be sure to keep your lower legs relaxed and your palms on your knees throughout the movement. As you exhale, bend your arms and gently move your knees toward your chest, keeping your back and sacrum on the mat. As you inhale, straighten your arms and move your knees away from your chest.  Be sure that your exhale is at least equal to, and preferably longer than, inhale.

To make the exercise even more relaxing, pause after exhale for a count of 2 to 4 before you inhale again.

It’s easy to practice this posture in your bed as well as on your mat. Give it a try the next time you’d like to relax.

Sleep Tight!

In  the last couple of blogs, I’ve talked about the energetics of the breath and how energy can be affected by the way the four parts of the breath are combined. The four parts are inhale, retention (pause after inhale), exhale and suspension ( pause after exhale).

The exhale and suspension are the more relaxing and calming parts of the breath and would be beneficial to use in the evening as your day winds down. See Get Going in the Morning to understand the impact of the inhale and retention and how to apply them.

For example, the four parts could be combined into a ratio of inhalation 4 to 6 seconds; retention of 0 seconds; exhalation of 8 to 10 seconds; and suspension of 1 to 2 seconds. The exhale and suspension counts total 9 to 12 seconds which is greater than the inhale and retention counts totaling 4 to 6 seconds, making it more calming and pacifying. This ratio would be a good combination to use as part of your bedtime routine.

Adding belly breathing to the ratio would make the ratio even more relaxing and grounding. Sleep tight!

 

Backbends to Recharge Your Batteries

Last week we talked about combining inhalation and retention (pause after inhale) in ways that are energizing and useful for getting going, especially in the morning.

 

Energetics are also impacted by the postures chosen during asana practice. Backbends, lateral (side) bends and balance postures are expansive and invigorating and are useful for recharging your batteries.

Backbend

To experience these effects, come to a seated or standing position with arms by your sides. Begin to inhale and exhale through your nose. As you inhale, expand and lift your chest up and away from your navel while raising and opening  your arms out from your sides. Feel your chest move forward slightly as you bring shoulder blades together. (Remember, keep those shoulders relaxed.) While exhaling, lower your arms back down to your sides. Repeat 6 times and notice any energetic effects.

To make the exercise even more invigorating, retain or pause, after inhale for a count of 3 or 4 before you exhale.

This exercise can be useful any time you need a little energy boost. For example, after being hunched over your desk for an extended period, give this exercise a try. It only takes a couple of minutes.

 

 

 

Get Going in the Morning

I blog a lot about the benefits of the breath in asana practice and pranayama. As any of my students can attest, I’m fascinated with how the breath is used in yoga. It has life altering benefits when practiced appropriately and consistently.

The breath is divided into four parts: inhalation; retention (pause after inhale); exhalation; and suspension (pause after exhale) The way these parts are combined affects energy levels.

The inhalation and retention are the more energetic, expansive and invigorating parts of the breath. But, the effect is not stimulating like a jolt of caffeine. It’s a focused energy that doesn’t cause you to crash later.

Using the breath to manage energy is one of the benefits of seated pranayama. For example, the four parts could be combined into a ratio of inhalation for 6 seconds; retention for 4 seconds; exhalation for 6 seconds; and suspension for 0 seconds. The inhalation and retention counts total 10 seconds which is greater than the exhalation and suspension counts totaling 6 seconds, making it more energizing. This ratio would be a good combination to help get going in the morning.

A few caveats:

  1. The length of exhale always needs to be equal to or greater than the inhale and equal to or greater than retention. It’s very stressful for the heart pump to do otherwise.
  2.  Pranayama is best practiced after asana practice or some sort of movement like a walk.
  3.  It is okay for retention to be longer than inhale just not longer than exhale.
  4.  Don’t do an energizing breath ratio before bed. You may not be able to sleep.

The choice of asana also impacts energy levels and we’ll explore that topic next week.

 

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