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Shaping the Silence Oct 29th - yogic breathing

meerajay's picture

For my shaping the silence activity, I decided to introduce the class to some yogic breathing. To give some background, I first learned yogic breathing when I was about nine or ten years old, from my grandfather. I was a rather anxious kid and my grandpa was convinced that learning controlled breathing would be really beneficial to me. He was right; it's a tactic that I use even now to help control my stress, focus, and center me. 

I began by telling the class to sit up straight to allow full breaths and place both feet on the floor. Hands could go on laps, or on the table; whichever was most comfortable. We did two different versions of yogic breathing:

Sitali Pranayama

These are cooling breaths to help combat anxiety and "cool the mind". You can curl your tongue into a pipe shape, or just make you mouth into an "o" shape to get the same effect. Then you take a slow, deep breathe in through the mouth, while slowly moving the chin upward until you are looking in the direction of the ceiling. Then you breathe out through the nose while slowly moving your chin back down to face forward again. Go as fast or slow as you feel comfortable.

Single Nostril Breath

Do not do this if you have severe heart or lung issues, or definitely go at your own pace.

According to yogic ideology, each of your nostrils controls heat intake into the body. This single nostril breath is meant also to cool your body. This is a great thing to do before going to sleep or even to clear your nasal passages. Begin by taking several deep, controlled breaths like normal. Then, use your forefinger to close your left nostril, and take a deep, slow breath in with your right nostril only. Pause, and then switch so that you are closing your right nostril, and then slowly breathe out through your left. Keep repeating this until you are breathing comfortably, and then go back to deep, slow, regular breaths.

When we were reflecting afterward, I mentioned that I often felt like breathing and yoga are such solitary exercises that I can't usually do them in a group. Some members of the group agreed, while others said that they enjoyed it more this way. A few talked about their own health issues surrounding breath and lungs, and felt that it was freeing to be able to breathe this way, even empowering in a way.