Your breathing habit determines your health and your well-being. In fact, even the length of your life is conditioned by your breathing habit. I arrivedat this idea while observing the different breathing habits of other animals and my breathing habit. The restless monkey, for example, lives shorter than humans because it has a breathing rate of 32 times per minute. Humans have 12 to 16 breaths per minute. The tortoise, on the other hand, can survivefor more than 150 years of age because its breathing rate is barely 5 times per minute.
Breathing is the most vital thing in your life, and if you can regulate your breathing and live each day with almost imperceptible breathing, you can surely maintain your health and prolong your life.
How Does the Practice of Yoga Regulate Breathing?
Breath regulation employed in yoga is not similar to the breathing exercises that are taught by misguided zealots in some gyms. Sometimes, these zealots will persuade their adherents to unnaturally hold their breath. Yet, this attempt to forcibly hold their breath is counterproductive and injurious to their health.
The yogic technique, however, enables practitioners to convert their breath into real mind-stuff. (Autobiography of a Yogi, p. 280), and the effects of yogic breathing exercises are positive, bringing in feelings of inner peace and a novel regenerative effect on the spine of the practitioners.
People, who are not accustomed to seeing yogic postures, may laugh a bit at the unusual poses of yoga practitioners. Yet, these poses—if rightly done—could regulate the breathing rate of a practitioner, allowing the practitioner to experience the soothing effects of yogic exercises. Here are five of the popular yogic poses that you can practice early in the morning to regulate your breathing.
Bidalasana or the Cat Pose
You should get into your knees and hands position on the mat. Align your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees straight beneath your hips. Then spread your fingers with your middle finger pointed forward. Inhale deeply; and once you are about to exhale, you should slowly pull your abdominal muscles up and backwards moving towards your spine. Then slowly contract your buttocks or glutes. Afterwards, slowly draw your back upwards to create a curved and rounded spine. Then, slowly move your head inwards as you gaze at the floor right between your knees. Repeat these steps as you regulate your breathing. Then release yourself from this position by sitting backwards.
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Balasana or Child’s Pose
Start with a kneeling position. Then, slowly bring your chest and thighs closer, allowing your forehead to touch the floor. Stretch your arms along your side with your hands near your feet. Keep this position for five to ten breaths. This pose relaxes your spine, neck, and shoulders, and readily increases blood circulation to your brain, relieving you of any mental stress and tension.
AdhoMukhaSvanasana or downward dog pose
Start with the table pose, and move your palms a bit wider than that of your shoulder width. Afterwards, tuck your toes; then slowly raise your hips upwards. Move your chest back towards your thighs while you relax your head. Then, press your hands firmly into the ground. Hold this pose while you regulate your breathing. Fix your eyes on your navel. Afterwards, you can bend your knees, and go back to the table pose, and relax. This pose stretches the spine well, and expands your lungs, allowing oxygenated blood to flow naturally to the different parts of your body.
Trikonasana or Triangle Pose
Start withthestanding position. Then, move one of your leg sideward to about three to four feet apart. Slowly turn your foot (right) towards the side, aligning your heel with the central arch of your left foot. Then, with both hands parallel to the ground, bend your hip to the right side and reach downwards towards your right foot, while maintaining both hands and arms in straight line, and legs and thighs straight. Your left hands should be pointing towards the ceiling with your face looking at the ceiling likewise. You should keep this pose for about 30 seconds to a minute, while you regulate your breathing. This position stretches the nerves of your thighs, knees, ankles, hamstrings, calves, chest, and spine, allowing the free flow of energy around your body. This pose relieves you of stress, backpains, neck pain, osteoporosis, and anxiety. Likewise, it readily improves you digestion.
Uttanasana or Standing Forward Fold Pose
You should stand straight with your feet together. Then, slowly bend your knees, and gradually fold your torso towards your legs. Your movement should emanate from your hips and not from your lower back. Lengthen your spine while you gaze forward and inhale. Afterwards, slowly move your head toward your feet. Then, press your legs straight, and slowly exhale without arching your back. Stay in that stretch pose. You may look a bit silly in this position, but this pose is definitely good in allowing life force to flow naturally around your body. This pose reduces stress, depression, and anxiety, and opens up some blockages in the channels of energy within your body. It soothes your back, neck, and spine, and exercises your abdominal muscles. Likewise, it stimulates your spleen, liver, and kidneys. It also improves your digestion, and regulates your blood pressure.