REFER TO THE EXPLANATION CONCERNING HOW TO USE THIS INFORMATION IN
HS01 THE BASIS OF SELF THERAPY
HS16 HOW TO USE THESE SUGGESTIONS
HS17 DESCRIPTION OF YOGA EXERCISES
A simple practical guide for those who are bothered with difficulty in breathing, to clear the way for further progress in pranayama.
Breathing difficulties can seriously handicap a person in life. Air is our most vital resource, our basic source of energy and vitality. When a person suffers from asthma, bronchitis, allergies, frequent colds or simply insufficient oxygen intake, he is most likely also feeling a lack of energy, a lack of vitality and lack of mental clarity.
Oxygen is absolutely necessary for the metabolism which takes place in each cell. Thus every cell within our body depends on an abundant supply of oxygen which in turn requires free, unlimited breathing. In this article, we shall examine some of the causes of breathing problems and some ways in which we can overcome them.
BASIC CAUSES OF BREATHING PROBLEMS
Following are some of the main factors which lead to breathing problems.
1. HEREDITARY WEAKNESS may make the individual’s lungs or other organs of respiratory apparatus weak points in his system. Thus when he is tired, overworked, anxious or stressed, these parts of the body will start to malfunction. This does not mean, however, that he must suffer. It is in his hands to live and react in a certain way so as not to over-tire his body or over-stress his mind. Among such weaknesses we should include the inability of the immune system to effectively protect the body from microbes and viruses. In still other individuals, the immune system may start to work overtime trying to protect the body from dangers which in reality do not exist. Often allergies and asthma are the result of such over-reactions from the body’s system.
2. ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS may also aggravate the condition.
a. Cold and humid weather tend to accentuate breathing problems.
b. Pollen and other particles in the air may cause allergic reactions.
c. Occupational conditions such as working in a dusty area or in a smoke filled room may also aggravate the problem.
d. The overall city pollution affects all of us in a negative way, irritating our nasal passage and lungs.
e. It is obvious that someone who smokes cigarettes is obviously damaging his lings and cutting off his supply of oxygen, as he clogs up his lung membranes through which the oxygen must pass.
3. Our DIET also affects the condition of our lungs and nasal passages. The food we take in is one of the main factors which determine the amount of mucus the body will produce. An over production of mucus clogs up the breathing passages, making breathing more difficult. Foods which tend to cause excess mucus are dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese, white sugar, white flour, white rice ad all sweets. A lack of sufficient liquid intake causes the mucus to thicken and cling to the lungs and other breathing passages. This creates a favorable environment for microbes to generate.
4. BLOCKAGES IN THE SPINAL VERTEBRAE OF THE UPPER BACK may also obstruct the flow of nerve impulses and bioenergy to the lungs. This may inhibit the proper functioning of the lungs. Tension in the muscles of the upper back and neck may also create the same obstruction.
5. EMOTIONAL BLOCKAGES are directly connected with the nerves of breathing. People who experience anxiety, depression, fear, nervous tension or a poor self image tend to subconsciously hold their muscles of breathing. Thus their breathing is tense, shallow, and sometimes non-rhythmical, or in some cases even spasmodic. Long term emotional blockages may also affect the adrenal glands disturbing the excretion for the proper relaxation of the muscles and tissues of the lungs. Thus hormonal disorders may also play their part in the problem. Negative emotions also depress or disturb the functioning of the immune system.
6. A LACK OF PROPER EDUCATION IN BREATHING is another reason why people suffer from so many breathing problems. It is entirely possible for one to learn to use his lungs more effectively for greater energy, vitality, peace and clarity of mind.
1. ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS
a. Surround yourself with large green leafed plants which produce oxygen and absorb pollution.
b. It plants are not possible or practical, you may want to try out an «ionizer» which produces negative ions which facilitate breathing and relax the nervous system.
c. Get out of the city frequently. Go the sea or to the mountain and breath fresh clean air. Use deep breathing to clean out and rejuvenate your lungs. Deep breathing while walking can clean out a considerable amount of pollution from the lungs.
d. If you smoke, then start loving yourself and stop.
2. DIETARY GUIDELINES
a. Avoid all diary products, especially cheese. Also avoid white sugar, sweets, white flour and white rice. When the problem has subsided, then one can start taking small quantities of dairy products while watching the body’s reaction.
b. Eat plenty of foods which leave alkaline ash in the body such as fruits and vegetables.
c. Drink plenty (6 or 8 cups per day) of warm liquid. This may be water, herb teas, or water with lemon. Do not drink refrigerated or iced drinks.
d. When one has a cold, an onion soup spiced with pepper, cinnamon ginger and cloves, opens up the nasal passages and allows the congestion to flow out. Garlic can also be added.
e. In some cases the use of natural vitamin C tablets can be helpful. The usual dosage is 1000 mg/day.
3. FACING EMOTIONAL FACTORS is essential for healing the cause of the breathing problems. There are various ways in which we can find relief from these emotional factors and then eventually analyze them and transcend them.
a. To start with we can simply practice deep breathing exercises. These exercises will give us relief from the tension which we feel and may even bring the cause for our emotional tension to the surface so that we may see it more clearly and objectively.
b. Exercises for the upper back and chest can also bring considerable relief from emotional tensions.
c. Deep relaxation techniques are also very effective in relaxing the whole system so that the muscles of breathing may function more naturally. In guided deep relaxation sessions the source of the emotional blockages can be researched through regression.
d. Self-analysis or objective-self observation can lead one out of the confusion created by various emotional attachments and fears. Anyone interested in freeing himself of the prison of these emotional mechanisms will benefit by engaging in one of the many systems now available for overcoming negative mental states; positive thinking, affirmations, and positive thought projection are also ways in which we can neutralize negative emotions and tendencies.
EXERCISES AND TECHNIQUES
Our goal is the following series of exercises and techniques is to:
1. Remove the blockages and tensions from the upper back and chest area.
2. Develop greater freedom and control over the muscles of breathing.
3. To bring blood and healing energies to the chest area.
4. To open up the nasal passages if they are blocked.
5. To stimulate the harmonious functioning of the adrenal glands and immune system.
1. BREATHING TO THE SUN is a series of exercises in which we use the movements of the arms to open up the chest cavity. We stand with the body as straight and relaxed as possible. Our palms are placed together in front of our chest. Then as we inhale, we interlock the fingers and turn the palms away from the body as if to push something away. The inhalation takes place slowly until the full extension of the arms, which remained joined at the fingers. Then we exhale bending the arms at the elbows and bringing the hands back in front of the chest again. That is one inhalation and one exhalation. One may hold his breath for a few seconds with the lungs full and the arms extended. This is done three times each at four levels angles.
a. Straight out from the body on a horizontal plane.
b. At a 45 degree angle towards the sky.
c. Straight up in a vertical direction.
d. Straight up and then back as far as possible without bending in the head or upper back backwards. When these movements have been mastered, one can begin to introduce the breathing rhythm 4:2:4:2 which means that one counts mentally to 4 on the inhalation, 2 during the retention of air in the lungs, 4 during the exhalation and 2 during the holding of the air out of the lungs.
Benefits: This exercise opens up the chest cavity and the muscles of breathing, forces the individual to breath deeply, and breaks down the various muscular blockages. The lungs are purified and greater oxygenation takes place.
2. SALUTATION BREATHING is very similar to the previous exercise. Standing in the same position with the hands together in front of the chest, inhale bringing the arms up and over the back of the head keeping the hands as much in contact as possible, as if you are an Indian dancer. The tendency will be for the palms to come apart. Do not worry, just keep them as close together as possible. Hold the breath with the hands behind the head, concentrate on the effect on the vertebrae of the upper back, and the exhale bringing the hands down in front of the chest again. This may be done 3 times to the same breathing ratio as the previous exercise.
Benefits: This exercise not only opens up the chest cavity but tends to put a correcting pressure on the vertebrae of the upper back which helps to release the nerve impulses to the lungs.
3. BACKWARD AND FORWARD STRETCH. Standing in a straight position with your fingers united behind your back and the palms facing the sky. Now take a deep inhalation while squeezing the arms together and bringing the shoulders and shoulder blades toward each other in the upper back. Let the head also fall backward slightly. (Be careful not to overdo this position and become dizzy or lose your balance – especially if you have high or low blood pressure). Now exhale bringing the shoulders forward and the head down toward the chest. Keep the hands together in a relaxed way behind the back. If you do not have any problem with your lower back you can also bend your body forward from the waist bringing the chest towards the thighs. Do not force this movement. Go only as far as you comfortably can and then return to the standing relaxed position. This may be done three times.
4. SWING: Stand with your legs underneath your shoulders. Inhale deeply with your arms out to the sides like a cross. As you exhale, swing your body, arms, neck, head and torso tot he right. Inhale coming back, exhale swinging to the left, inhale to the center and then exhale again swinging to the right. Keep doing this back and forth gradually increasing the speed. The breaths are not deep but rather shallow and quick. Swing to the right and left as many times as you feel comfortable. i.e. 20 times and gradually increase the number of swings as your endurance increases.
Benefits: Opens up the energy flow in the lungs, and upper back vertebrae which control the messages going to the lungs. Stimulates the kidneys, liver and adrenals. Facilitates bowel movements. Liberates the energy flow in the spine and neck. Removes emotional blockages in the chest.
5. THE SALUTATION TO THE EARTH
When this exercise is done as a static position with the body extended, the thigh perpendicular to the earth and the chest resting on the floor with the arms stretched out in front of the body, it offers an opportunity for extra blood to flow to the chest area. This brings relief to many breath fidivultues, especially asthma. One may remain in this position, sometimes with the head resting on the right side and sometimes on the left, for 1 to 5 minutes allowing the blood and energy to flow to the chest area. It is better to do the salutation to the earth as a dynamic exercise a few times before remaining in the static position.
Benefits: Opens up the flow of blood and bioenergy to the upper back, chest, and neck. It also frees the accupressure points in the arms and upper chest which control the flow of energy to the lungs.
6. HANGING FROM A BED, SOFA OR CHAIR can sometimes bring relief from a breathing crisis. I know a number of people with very serious cases of asthma who find considerable relief after 5 to 10 minutes of this position. Find a way toilet the upper part of your body hand down from a bed of sofa in such a way that you may comfortably relax with your head or chest in contact with the floor allowing the blood to come into your chest area and relax the muscles, tissues and membranes there. This position also allows the accumulated mucus to flow under the force of gravity towards the throat and mouth for eventual expulsion.
7. COBRA. Lie on your abdomen on the mat. Place your hands underneath your shoulders with your elbows bent underneath your body. The palms are facing down, Now as you inhale start lifting your head upward. Then your neck and finally your chest. Do not lift your hips from their contact with the mat. Hold your breath in the upper position. Then exhale lowering your body back down onto the mat. Do this three times. Then inhale coming up and with the exhalation turn your head and right shoulder to the right, looking behind you. Inhale as you come back to the center and then exhale as you turn your head and your left shoulder to the left looking behind you. Do this exhaling and inhaling to each side three times. Then exhale and relax back down onto the mat.
Benefits: Stimulates and harmonizes the kidneys, adrenals, liver and gall bladder. It frees up the flow of bioenergy and nerve impulses in the lower back to the organs of digestion and elimination. Removes the tension from the nerves along the spine. Stimulates the thyroid and parathyroid. Prevents hunching of the back. Those with serious back problems should consult a doctor before doing it.
8. HALF SHOULDER STAND. Place your mat or blanket close to a wall or any vertical surface. Lie down on your back, with your buttocks close to the wall and your legs resting upward on the wall. If you find it more comfortable, or want to bring more blood to the head and neck ahead, then place a pillow or two underneath the buttocks. Now there are various stages which one can perform according to one’s needs.
a. Inhale while simultaneously raising the arms up over the head and if possible placing them on the mat or floor behind you. Hold your breath in that position and then start exhaling as you bring your arms back down by your side. Do this ten times with a ratio 1:1:1 which means that the inhalation, retention and exhalation of the breath are equal in duration.
b. Now inhale, hold your breath and turn your head as far as your comfortably can to the left. Hold your breath in this position. Then exhale as you return your head to the center. Do this to the ratio of breathing mentioned previously, three times to each side alternately.
c. After completing the previous stage continue to inhale, hold your breath and exhale slowly and deeply, with concentration on your breath. Do this until your breathing apparatus becomes tired. Make the breath as slow as you can, now making the square breathing (1:1:1:1) in which the inhalation, retention, exhalation and suspension are all equal. Do this for ten to twenty breaths.
d. When you become tired of breathing, simply relax in this position. With your eyes closed, relax all the upper part of your body, with special attention to your shoulders, neck, head, face, cheeks, eyes and forehead. When the body is relaxed, you can imagine healing energy flowing into the organs which need help. Imagine light, love, peace and energy flowing into those organs and healing them.
Altogether, you should eventually be in this position for from 10 to 20 minutes.
Benefits: Blood descends from the legs, alleviating various circulatory problems of the legs, then flows through the lungs and takes more oxygen, and then begins to flow into the neck, brain, pituitary gland, thyroid and parathyroid glands, through the liver, gall bladder, kidneys and all organs of the upper part of the body. The muscles of the neck are relaxed, while all the organs are rejuvenated with a fresh supply of blood and oxygen.
9. DEEP RHYTHMIC BREATHING is essential for those who suffer from breathing problems. Start by practicing each of the following breaths 5 times. A good beginner’s ratio to strive for is to make the exhalation twice the length of the inhalation. That is if you count mentally to 3 on the inhalation, then let the exhalation continue for a count of 6 making sure that you empty the lungs completely. Make 3 to 10 such breaths in each of the following four ways.
a. Abdominal breathing
b. Rib cage breathing
c. Chest breathing
d. Complete breathing in which you use the abdomen, ribs and chest together.
Try out these various exercises so as to determine which of them are suitable for you. If you have some doubts as to whether they are safe for you, consult with your doctor. If you are not clear about how they must be done then contact a qualified instructor for help.
Remember, if you do not breathe freely and completely, then you are probably operating far below your physical, mental and spiritual potential. The time you spend in developing your breath, will give you much more time in terms of energy, clarity, creativity, productivity and peace of mind.