Category Archives: Yoga

Yoga

6 Seconds to Calming Down using Yoga

Photo by: José Antonio Morcillo Valenciano from Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by: José Antonio Morcillo Valenciano from Flickr Creative Commons

Pranayama* or the control of breath is one of the most important aspects of yoga. We all require air to help us metabolize. A human can go without food for 7 days, but not one can go without it for minutes. Yet many of us take breathing for granted. It is natural to us and does not require any active control.

The control of our breath helps us to regulate things like parasympathetic nervous system, which acts to reduce our “fight or flight” mechanisms such as our heart rate, blood pressure and even anxiety levels. We can also use our breath to balance ourselves physically at the asanas (postures), calm ourselves down mentally and emotionally regulate.

Hence at the commencement of your yoga journey, your teacher will start with slow abdominal breathing. When you use your abdominals to breath, you are pulling your diaphragm down. The diaphragm is a thin muscle layer that separates the lungs from the digestive organs. By pulling your diaphragm down, your lungs have more space to expand. And by having a larger lung capacity, more air goes into your lungs.

The average person takes 12 breaths per minute. However, respiratory research has shown that slow breathing (approximately 5 to 6 breathes) has tremendous benefits.

Why?

When breathing slowly, there is a larger volume of air that is taken in by the body. It stretches receptors in the vagus nerve that leads to the brain, which in turn lowers the blood pressure.

How slowly should you inhale and exhale to enjoy the maximum benefit from slow breathing?

There are many schools of thought in this. I belong to the Sivananda training, where the inhalation to retention to exhalation ratio is 1: 4 : 2 (measured in seconds).

However, scientists led by Heather Mason from Roehampon University (UK) recommend equal rates of inhalation to exhalation to improve oxygenation of blood for yoga newbies; with a minimum of 5 seconds to enjoy maximum stimulation of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve controls the parasympathetic nervous system to help in reducing the heart rate and blood pressure – great for calming.

In my next article, I will explore how yoga alleviates insomnia, which many people suffer from. Meanwhile, enjoy a newer calmer you.

Reference:

Cardiovascular and Respiratory Effect of Yogic Slow Breathing in the Yoga Beginner: What is the Best Approach by Heather Mason, Matteo Vandoni, Giacomo deBarbieri, Erwan Condrons, Veena Ugargol and Luciano Bernardi. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Volume 2013, Article ID 743504. http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/743504

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Connected to the Universe with Yoga

Yoga for the World

Yoga has become an internationally recognized word. Perhaps it is known just as a word, YOGA, or perhaps it is known as physical stretching, or contortion, or spirituality, or meditation, or maybe even a cult, but none the less, it is known. Over the past 20 years, there has been a huge emergence of yoga and everything related to it. From studios, to pants, to retreats, to DVD’s and everything in between, if it is synonymous with yoga, it has been packaged and sold. Medically yoga has been studied and tested, and in most cases, it turns out that it does have many health benefits. It is important to us, especially in the western world, that medically and scientifically we can back things up. So, we’ve all bought into it, or know someone who has, but where is it all going? 

I am writing this from my hotel in Vietnam. Being from Canada, Vietnam has always seemed very far away, culturally rich and just plain different. I have been travelling for the past five months through India and South East Asia, this journey has opened my awareness in so many facets. Mainly, how similar the world is becoming. How people are dressing, how buildings and bridges are being designed, food, diet, education and thinking, it all is becoming shockingly familiar. Could the entire world be merging into one uniculture? Witnessing the way it is all going, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say this is a possibility.  Because a significant part of my travels has been yoga related, I think about the subject a lot. I attempt to inspire and share what I know but most of all, I put it into practise in my own life. Understanding and feeling the stillness within is the key to universal oneness. If this means nothing to you, then let’s just say that doing yoga has helped me become a better person. It has made me become more understanding and compassionate towards other people (even those who I have perceived as hurtful to me), more aware of nature and my impact on it, and viewing all living species as a gift that needs to be respected. I know that I am not the only person thinking this way. I know there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of individuals who think and feel the same as me.  So why then is there so much destruction, greed, class disparity, hatred, world segregation, discrimination (to name a few) in the world? With the globe becoming smaller and smaller and thoughts, aspirations, and actions all pointing in similar directions internationally, where is all this yoga? Do you see it? We have studied the brain and the physical body down to the smallest molecule. Medically we have made astonishing leaps in curing and preventing, but yet, we know so little about the mind. How can such an intellectually advanced species who each individually breathes every 2-3 seconds consciously poison the very air we need to survive? How can we all aspire to the same dream for our children yet kill those who cross an invisible line. Universally we are not conscious, we do not see everyone as one, we do not act as though the entire world is connected, we do not see the ripple affect of our little irresponsibilities. Or do we?  Is there something shifting today? Is all this talk of yoga helping, is it making a small but life-changing impact for us all? Is it possible that by you sitting still, focusing on your breath, feeling your heart beat and plugging-in to YOU can impact the universal consciousness? The world as we know it?

I am going to take a leap and say YES, absolutely. It all starts within, within you, no one else. It is true that more and more of us cannot live with being stressed and unhappy and we are tired of waiting for the miracle cure. We have tried it all, medically proven or hope driven, and it hasn’t worked. But what does work is yoga. The western medical system has not tapped into the subtle workings of the mind. It has not proven scientifically that by being individually conscious, we can change the world. But do we really need scientific backing? If you experience a dynamic and positive shift in your life and see other peoples lives around you become better because of this shift, does it matter? And are we even capable of examining such a subtle form of mind? Is it possible for someone who has no internal connection to study this on some who does?  I hope that the medical system can some day back up my words, but in the meantime it doesn’t matter. I know that the actions that I take in my life impact you ultimately. They impact the greater consciousness, in Canada and India and Vietnam, all around the world. I know that by me becoming a more conscious consumer, eating less meat or no meat, using less plastic, living off-the-grid, and so on, I am helping you. I know this because of yoga, so we can thank yoga for changing the world, one person at a time.  Andrea Clark, RYT 500 www.nectaryoga.ca