Your breath is our life force or Prana. Without it, we wouldn’t be alive. So it is essential to our lives but it’s also something you can use to make your life better. There are a variety of different breaths which were created along with the inception of yoga so many centuries ago. Some techniques will help you reduce anxiety, some will help you stretch your muscles out further. There are ways you can breathe that aid in helping you run faster and further. You can even utilize it to help you pump heavier weights. The benefits of your breath may surprise you.
Breathing Can Improve Your Workout
If you use yoga to support your workout, you will probably notice some major benefits. For one, you have greater strength through better posture. What you will probably notice too is that you don’t get exhausted so quickly. You can run further and faster, cross train like a rock star, and lift weights more fluently and with less effort. When doing yoga, you learn that the body follows the rhythm of the breath. You can take this into your workout, using the breath effectively so you don’t run out of steam.
When you learn to breathe properly, you improve your fitness regime because you optimize the oxygen in your body. You will have more energy after your workout and breathing helps you to metabolize fat. When you learn to use your focus of breath, you will find that your workouts become much more enhanced and enjoyable.
Yogic Breathing and Stress
Thoughts or feelings can conjure up stressful moments for you. When this happens, the sympathetic nervous system is triggered to use your body’s fight/flight response. This gives you a burst of energy of course. Breathing is shallowed and adrenaline is searing through your body. When you don’t run or need to protect yourself, this causes cortisol levels to stay in the body. This is where stress becomes damaging. Blood pressure rises as well as the pulse rate. Some people live in this kind of state of panic a lot and don’t breathe optimally for their health on top of it all.
When you breathe deeply, you can reverse all the symptoms that occur at the moment of major stress. Just by taking a deep breath into the belly, maybe even holding it there briefly and slowly releasing the breath, you combat an anxious feeling. You activate the parasympathetic nervous system, reversing all the stress that could have wreaked havoc on your body. The heart rate will slow down to a normal rate which will reduce blood pressure. You’ll notice the calm right away if you practice this through an anxious moment.
Reducing Strain on the Muscles of Your Neck and Upper Chest
When you breathe deeply into the belly, you engage your stomach muscles and diaphragm. Otherwise, it’s your upper chest and neck muscles that become engaged. When you condition yourself to breathe deeply, you improve how efficiently oxygen is exchanged. More air exchange occurs in the lower lungs. You essentially get more oxygen being fed into your tissues and cells.
Here are some breaths that are useful for the above:
Ujjayi Breath (Ocean’s Breath)
As a cooling breath, it helps if you feel angry, stressed out or frustrated. It soothes your state of mind and quickly relaxes you.
This is a great breath before your workout. It will give you a noticeable surge of energy and your mind will be clearer.
Take a few full breaths into your belly to start.
There are a variety of breaths you can use to enhance your workouts, relax the body, and change how the mind perceives any given situation. A yoga instructor will guide you through how to work with the body and the breath. Yoga in this way is a great teacher for learning how to breathe through the many day to day stresses and physical obstacles we have to manage.
Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes and others. She’s also the founder and owner of SiddhiYoga.com, a yoga teacher training school based in Singapore. Siddhi Yoga runs intensive, residential trainings in India (Rishikesh, Goa and Dharamshala), Indonesia (Bali)
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According to a study published in 2013 by the Mayo Clinic, back pain is the third most common cause of doctor visits in the United States. And according to American Family Physician, only 25 to 30% of people seek treatment for their back pain. So if you’re experiencing back pain, you’re not alone.
Many back pain sufferers struggle with what’s causing their back pain, not realizing the 8 or more hours they spend sitting could be the main culprit.
The most common cause of lower back pain is postural stress. For this reason, lower back pain is frequently brought on by sitting too long, prolonged bending, heavy lifting, or even standing or laying down, all for a long time in a poor, rounded back position. According to Cornell University Department of Ergonomics, up to 90% more pressure is put on your back when you sit vs. when you stand. There are several reasons why, the first being that if you’re like most Americans, you habitually sit in ways that cause tension and imbalance in your back and neck. This applies to sitting at work, in the car, and at home.
Common Posture Mistakes That Lead to Back Problems
1. You’re looking down at your screen, phone, or desk, and your head tips forward. As your head weighs on average 10 lbs, any slight angle forward puts a strain on the muscles of your neck and upper back. The further forward that you lean your head forward, as well as how long you keep that straining posture, determines how much extra work your neck and upper back need to do.
2. Your shoulders are rolled forward. Some of the most common causes are a lack of lumbar support from a chair that’s too soft or one that doesn’t encourage good posture, a muscular imbalance where your pectoral muscles (chest) are stronger than your back muscles (common in men who like to work out their beach muscles more than their back), or habit. If you’re wondering if you’re guilty of this, stand with your feet shoulder width apart and let your arms hang down at your sides. If your thumb points forward, you’re probably balanced. If your palms are pointing behind you, you probably have an imbalance.
3. You’re leaning forward from your lower back. This posture puts even more pressure on the vertebrae of your lower spine (lumbar area), as it compresses your disks.
4. Your elbows are too far away from your body. The rule in lifting anything is that the more the object weighs, and the further your elbows are away from your torso, the more strain you put on your shoulders and upper back. Reaching your arms forward to type or write might not seem like much, but doing it 8 hours or more per day will take it’s toll.
5. You hold your phone to your ear. Many people multitask and talk on the phone while their hands are doing other things. Doing this for a few seconds isn’t going to cause an imbalance in your body, but anything more that that will cause tension on one side of your neck and upper back.
6. You sit for too long. Dr. Joan Vernikos, former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division and author of the Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, explains“We weren’t designed to sit. The body is a perpetual motion machine.” When you’re sedentary, your muscles get less oxygen and nutrients from your blood.
The rule of thumb is to frequent changing of postural positions and take movement micro-breaks for every 30 minutes of sitting throughout the work day. A helpful strategy is to drink lots of water: it keep you hydrated, which is healthy, and it forces you to get up and move in order to use the bathroom!
Reproduced with permission from Start Standing. Read more here..
Stress is the modern day silent killer! A regular meditation reverses the fight-or-flight (stress) reaction, helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and reduces the heart rate and the oxygen requirement of the body by 10-20% in the first 3 minutes!! (this is the effect produced by medication to lower high blood pressure without the side effects!!). Stress affects each of our body systems (Nervous, Digestive, Reproductive, etc.) and the connection between the mind and body, via the field of science known as Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI). The body eventually suffers serious illness after relentless exposure to stress.
"I went into teacher training looking to teach and give back to the community all that yoga had given me. But I found that the real gift was how much it taught me about myself and the person I wanted to be. I'll be forever grateful for the experience." Evelyn Mizell
My journey to find yoga was and is a lengthy one. I wish I could say that I found it, and loved it from the start, but that would be a lie. As a college student, I chose it as a physical education credit. But all we seemed to do in class was lie on the floor, roll around,and then journal about it. If the time I spent in a gym or studio setting wasn't cardio intensive, I didn't want any part of it. Marriage, children, and an aging body seemed to change all of that. When I hit my thirties, my body stopped recovering from runs as well. I queried my runner friends as to what to do. They all said, "Why don't you try yoga?" At the same time, our military moves became more and more frequent and my husband's job increasingly dangerous and stressful. I began to feel nervous and panicky in social situations, even with the people I loved most. It was such an effort to be this high strung version of myself. This time I called my mother to discuss it, "Why don't you try yoga," she asked. Ok. Ok. Message received. I signed up for classes and started going almost immediately. But this time, it was a different style of yoga. There were poses that were new to me, poses that integrated balance and flexibility and after we were all physically spent, we got to rest, and the anxiety that seemed to have a pretty fair hold on me began to let go its grip. I wanted this; I craved it. There were not enough classes at the leisure center I was attending, so I found small group lessons and signed up for those. And when we moved from that duty station, I found another studio to call home. The study of the spiritual side of yoga and the moral codes (yamas and niyamas) came later, but they came. I used to despair and feel a bit jealous that I did not find yoga earlier in life. But I now know that it would have been wasted on the teen and twenty-something athlete who used it solely for vanity and athletic prowess. No, yoga came at just the time I needed it.