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Yoga Breathing Techniques to Calm Your Mind and Spirit

Yoga instructor Melody Lima shares a few breathing practices or Pranayama that you can do at home.

This column was written by Melody Lima, a yoga instructor at the Montclair YMCA.

Yoga is the perfect tool for destressing yourself.

It all starts with the breath: Slow, long, easy breathing helps to calm the mind, lower the heart rate and allowing the yoga student to observe oneself.

Next time you are looking to relax or need a moment to calm your mind and spirit, try one of these Yogic breathing practices or Pranayama.

Deep Breathing

Lie on your back, palms up, legs slightly separated and relaxed. Begin to consciously release all the muscles in your body and then pay attention to the sound of your breath as you slowly inhale and exhale.  

Notice your abdomen rising and falling with each breath. 

If you do not feel comfortable lying down or you are not in a place where that’s an option, you can sit cross-legged in a chair or at a table to put your forehead down in front of you.

Begin with a five-minute practice and progressively increase the duration.

Three-Part Breathing

A three-part breath is designed to use the lungs more efficiently.

Sit in a chair or on the floor with a straight spine. Begin inhaling by expanding the abdomen, moving the breath up to the rib cage, then finally all the way into the upper chest.  

Exhale by doing the reverse. Begin at the collar bones and empty the breath down to the stomach and then finally expel everything in the lower belly, pushing the air out by contracting you abdominal muscles.

As your breath rises and falls, place your fingertips on the torso to direct the breath into the three parts.

This technique ensures full exhalation and inhalation and helps eliminate shallow chest breathing. In the beginning, continue the practice for one minute and gradually lengthen the time for up to five minutes.

Nadi Sodhana – Alternate Nostril Breathing

Alternate Nostril Breathing is a great way to take the focus away from stress and to redirect it to the breath.

Sit in a cross-legged position. Close the right nostril with thumb of your right hand. Through the left nostril, inhale slowly, steadily and deeply for as long as possible. 

Feel the course of the breath. Close the left nostril with right ring and pinkie fingers as you release the right nostril and exhale through the right nostril using the same slow, controlled movement you used for the inhalation.

Then inhale through the right nostril and then close the right nostril and exhale through the left. Through the left nostril, inhale slowly, steadily and deeply for as long as possible.

Repeat this sequence until you have completed nine rounds, gradually working up to about 25 to 30 rounds. The inhalation and exhalation for each side should be of the same duration, although in the beginning it may be unequal.

By practicing Pranayama or breath awareness, you can physically reduce stress.

Start simple, go slowly, and take the time you need.

These mindful breathing practices will help you to destress, relax and rejuvenate.

Lima also shares observations on and off the yoga mat here at Montclair Patch blogs and at http://yogamatunrolled.blogspot.com

YMCA Workout Schedule

Click here for the group exercise schedule at the YMCA of Montclair, located at 25 Park St. The YMCA is open Mondays through Friday between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. 

The pool schedules can be found by clicking here. 

The Geyer Family YMCA, located at 159 Glenridge Ave., is open Mondays through Thursdays between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Fridays between 8 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., Saturdays between 8 a.m. and 8:30 p.m., and Sundays between 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.

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