Posts

Deep Breaths… and Obnoxious Sighs

“Take a big inhale, filling up the belly, expanding the side ribs… and release it with a long obnoxious sigh.”

Familiar words to you?  If you said yes, then you’ve likely taken one of my yoga classes.  If you’ve heard it in my yoga class, there is a chance you’ve also heard the logic behind it. This is one of my most often repeated phrases, and it’s backed by both science and reality.

Pranayama is the yogic practice and science of controlling the breath, which is the source of our prana, or vital life force.  Guru Jagat alternatively describes it as breathing technology in her writing, talks, and classes, which I’ve really started to appreciate (and use the term a good bit).  All lineages of yoga focus on the breath, yet I really appreciate the Kundalini Yoga list of benefits of the breath:  “Physical well-being.  Lightness of heart. Clarity of mind. Inner and outer health and fulfillment. Weight loss. Purpose, intention, and direction.”

Within our body’s center lies the thoracic duct. Specifically, this powerful vessel starts at the top of the sternum, reaching all the way to the small intestines.  Proper diaphragmatic breathing, a simple pranayama or breathing technology, will massage the duct and move lymph fluid from the arms, legs, and head toward the thoracic duct.  Thelymph fluid is cycled through the body’s laundry system and ‘garbage’, ortoxins,are excreted, sweated out or otherwise expelled in the proper, well-designed process. Simple movements coordinated with diaphragmatic breathing does this.

We often associate sighing with emotion; my typical example when teaching is to sigh like a teenager who’s asked to do chores rather than text with a friend.  We sigh more frequently when we’re feeling frustrated, tired, or bleh; but we can also sigh with relief, or sometimes for no apparent reasonor without noticing. A sigh is different from a regular breath because it’s deeper and fills your lungs with more oxygen — and usually feels fulfilling to have your lungs fill up to the brim with air.

During a sigh, the lungs’ alveoli, or air sacs, expand, providing us with a sense of relief. While sighs may seem like an expression of emotion, it turns out that they serve a specific function — to inflate these air sacs when some of them have collapsed. This process helps keep the lungs functioning long-term.

How to practice –

· Find a comfortable position, seated or laying down, in a quiet spot

· Close the eyes

· Place the hands on the thighs with palms down, or one hand on the heart and other on the belly*

· Take a couple of normal breaths and try to clear the head of anything else on your mind

· Take a big inhale through the nose, filling the belly, expanding the sigh ribs – until you are all the way filled

· Open the mouth and release the breath with a great big sigh (the more obnoxious the better!)

· Repeat 5-10 times

· Return to a normal cadence of breath for you

· Slowly open the eyes

· Sit and notice – what comes up, what feelings do you have?

· Thank yourself for your practice

*This is a suggestion of simple hand placements, and know there are plenty of powerful mudras (hand positions or gestures) that can help channel or focus specific intentions of the practice – stay tuned for this to be featured in another blog post.

“Those sighs are music to my ears!” – Melissa Rusk

References:

Y4C – Tari Prinster

Invincible Living – Guru Jagat

The Science Behind Sighing: Breathing Deeply Is A Life-Saving Reflex, Sustains Lung Function- Lecia Bushak
Sighing reduces physiological tension in anxiety-sensitive individuals- Steven Pace

Restorative Yoga – The Science Behind the Stillness

You lie there not doing anything, just being—something most of us feel too guilty or strung out to do on our own. “- Unknown

We live in a ‘do’ and ‘go’ world, where we’re always connected, moving, and competing.  Many of us judge ourselves by a list of accomplishments and/or returns.  It’s hard to disconnect or stop, both by our own expectations and that of those around us.

I’m no less guilty of this than you.  I’ve to do lists on my fridge, reminders on my phone, feelings of guilt that I went to bed without completing X, and always trying to squeeze in Y in those downtime moments between my day job and teaching. And of course, the guilt – the errands not run, the laundry not started, and the dust on my bookshelves.

But enough on what we all know exists in our lives… let’s talk restorative yoga.

What is it:

·  Restorative yoga is a passive, gentle, yet powerful slow-paced practice consisting of seated and supine (laying down) poses typically held for several minutes.

·  This practice is about slowing down and opening your body through passive stretching. During the long holds of restorative yoga your muscles are allowed to relax deeply. Props such as bolsters, blankets and blocks, rather than your muscles, are used to support your body.

·  Moving slowly into and holding these opening postures alongside intentional breath work allows you to calm and center the mind and nervous system while accessing deep opening and release within the body.

Benefits:

·  Restorative yoga is documented to boost the immune system and accelerate the body’s natural healing process.  It’s considered an ideal balance to hectic and stressful modern lifestyles.

·  The intention is to relax as far as possible into the postures, using as little physical effort as possible. The mind focuses on the breath to cultivate mindfulness and release tension from the body.

·  The practice by nature encourages you to deactivate your sympathetic nervous system while activating your parasympathetic nervous system. This slows the heart rate, regulates the blood pressure and relaxes the body.  By activating the relaxation response, the nervous system is balanced which creates an optimal energy flow to the organs and brain.  The immune function is lifted and the digestion process is enhanced, setting the whole body up for deep healing, growth and repair.

· The passive quality of this practice and environment draws your attention inward and away from external stimuli/situations. This redirection allows you to open yourself to self-exploration and contemplation as the mind and spirit are in a quiet state.

Other random notes on restorative yoga:

· You do not need to be flexible.  All postures are supported to meet you where you are at that day and moment in your practice.

· You do not need to have an active yoga practice, background or knowledge.  Do you know how to breathe?  Good – you qualify!

· This is unlike any other yoga class.

· Falling asleep, snoring, farting, emotional breakthroughs, tears, relaxation, release of tension, stress relief, yoga euphoria, yoga bliss– may all happen – and space is held for whatever else surfaces during this practice.  No feelings are invalid.

Interested? Curious?  Want to give it a go?  Renkon Yoga offers both classes and special events featuring restorative yoga.

My weekly class offerings (regular class pricing)

· Wednesday, 5:15 – 6:30pm

· Thursday, 7:00-8:15pm

· Friday, 4:30 – 5:45pm

July – Chill out: A restorative yoga special practice (event pricing, refer to Renkon Yoga’s website for pricing and signup)

· Saturday, July 20 4:00-6:00pm

· Sunday, July 21 12:00-2:00pm

It took me many years to realize that the practice of yoga has to do with letting go of control much more than gaining it” – Judith Hanson Lasater

References:

Restore and Rebalance –Judith Hanson Lasater PdD, PT

Restorative Yoga for Life – Gail Boorstein Grossman, E-RYT500, CYKT

Restorative Yoga – Sue Flamm

The Healing Self – Deepak Chopra MD and Rudolph E Tanzi PhD

Restorative Yoga – What and Why

The antidote to stress is relaxation – Judith Lasater

You lie there not doing anything, just being—something most of us feel too guilty or strung out to do on our own. – Unknown

We live in a ‘do’ and ‘go’ world, where we are always connected, moving, and many times, competing.  Many of us judge ourselves and others, the day, week, year, etc. by a list of accomplishments and/or returns.  It’s hard to disconnect or stop, both by our own expectations and the expectations of those around us.

What is the cost of all this ‘go’ – to our bodies, minds, and inner self?  In addition to the physical wear, what does this do to our minds, our immune systems, and our breath?

I confess I’m no less guilty of this than you, or you… or you there in the back (yes, I see you!).  I’ve to do lists on my fridge and in my bag, reminders on my phone, feelings of guilt that I went to bed without completing X, and of course, always trying to squeeze in Y in those downtime moments between my day job and teaching.   And of course, the guilt… the errands not run, the laundry not even started, and don’t get me started on the dust on my bookshelves.

But enough on what we all know exists in our lives… let’s talk restorative yoga.

What is it:

  • Restorative Yoga is a passive and gentle, yet powerful practice consisting of seated and supine (laying down) poses typically held for several minutes.
  • The classes tend to be relaxing and slow paced, with a whole sequence using as few as five or six postures which are held for long periods of time. Props are also used often in order to allow the body to be in the most comfortable, supported position possible.
  • Moving slowly into and holding these opening postures alongside intentional breath work allows the one to calm and center the mind and nervous system while accessing deep opening and release within the body.
  • It was developed to access connective tissues allowing for deepening flexibility and aiding healing while increasing energy flow.

Why should I do it:

  • Restorative yoga is believed to boost the immune system and accelerate the body’s natural healing process.  It is considered an ideal balance to hectic and stressful modern lifestyles.
  • The intention is to relax as far as possible into the postures, using as little physical effort as possible. The mind focuses on the breath in order to cultivate mindfulness and release tension from the body. 
  • Restorative yoga stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the heart rate, regulates the blood pressure and relaxes the body.
  • An incredible method to heal the body, it helps to the kick in relaxation response, balancing the nervous system and optimizing energy flow to the organs. It lifts the immune function and enhance the process of digestion. Basically, they set the whole body up for deep healing, growth and repair.

Other random notes on restorative yoga:

  • You do not need to be flexible.  All postures are supported to meet you where you are at that day, moment, in your practice.  
  • You do not need to have an active yoga practice, background or knowledge.  Do you know how to breath? Good – you qualify!
  • This is unlike any other yoga class.
  • Falling asleep, snoring, farting, emotional breakthroughs, tears, relaxation, release of tension, stress relief, yoga stoned feeling – all happen – and space is held for whatever else surfaces during this practice.  No feelings are invalid.

Interested?  Curious? Have nothing else to do but want to give it a go?  Renkon Yoga offers both classes and special events featuring restorative yoga.