Room to Breathe

Stress has become an epidemic in our culture.  Our society rewards multi-tasking, often we are rushing to meet the challenges of the day while anticipating what may come next, this contributes to feeling stressed out, over burdened and disconnected.  Coping with caffeine and sugar, exasperates depression, anxiety and insomnia.  Yoga offers a healthier approach and opens the doors to deeper inner peace and calm.

The ancient yogi’s believed that your mind is reflected in your breath.  If the breath is agitated, the mind will be agitated. Various mindfulness and breathing techniques can be practiced to help calm the mind, regulate the emotions, release long held tension patterns in the body and support meeting the challenges of the day with greater equanimity.

Relieving stress via the 3 Fundamentals of Alignment Yoga

Grounding- cultivates a sense of resiliency and steadiness.
Relaxing the roof of the mouth-releases tension in the jaw, neck and shoulders.
Full commitment exhale- calms the mind and the body.

Practicing the three fundamentals promotes mindfulness and allows you to do yoga anywhere any time.

Lying on your back, bring your feet up near your hips flat on the floor, allow your arms to rest at your sides and close your eyes.  Feel your body and allow your body to melt towards the floor.  Feel the back of your head resting, your two arms effortlessly by your sides and feel your feet connecting to the ground.   If you are unable to lie down, while standing or sitting, simply feel how you are making contact with the ground or chair.  Feeling your body and the connection your body has to the surface beneath it is grounding.  

Relaxing the Roof of your Mouth (palate)
Draw your awareness to the roof of your mouth, your palate.  Relax the roof of your mouth. At first it may sound strange, although over time you may feel as you relax the roof of your mouth that your sinuses, jaw, neck and shoulders relax.  It is said that an ounce of tension in the palate creates ten pounds of tension in the shoulders. 

Full Commitment Exhale
Bring your awareness to your out going breath, your exhalation.  Feel your exhale in your body, encourage your rib cage to move down towards your hips and towards the floor as you exhale.  Do not force this movement; simply and kindly encourage this as a possibility.   As you exhale notice the still, silent pause at the end of the out breath, then allow the inhalation to be spontaneous.  Focusing on the exhalation while encouraging the ribcage to release downward, allows you to get a deeper exhale which will send a calming message to the mind.  The full commitment exhale also relaxes the muscles of the chest and shoulders.

We do not want to overly control or manipulate the breath.  Practice the three fundamentals periodically throughout your day.  Practice the full commitment exhale to bring greater calm and peace to the moment and to remind your body what is possible in the realm of healthy breathing, then trust the innate intelligence of our body and allow for natural involuntary breathing during the rest of the day.

* A section of this article was recently published in the May issue of BRAVA Magazine.

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