Restorative Yoga with Cooling Long Exhales
Episode #4 of the course Breathing techniques by Hannah Faulkner
Welcome to the fourth lesson of the breathing course.
Today, we’ll talk about extending our exhales to increase deeper sleep and state of relaxation.
Restorative Yoga Posture
Do you ever have a hard time falling asleep at night or even sitting still?
Being stressed for days and weeks at a time without any rest can lead to anxiety, emotional fragility, and getting sick through a weakened immune system. Sometimes, we remain in this restless state of stress when we have constant stimulation from our colorful, upbeat, and fast-paced society. Social media, addictive television shows, sugary caffeinated beverages, and overwhelming pressures from work can leave us in a heightened state of anxiety, in which we cannot sit still to meditate, study art, or even stay engaged in a conversation.
Restorative postures allow us to calm the mind and focus on slow, extended exhales. This physical position decreases the negative cycle of stress by turning on our body’s relaxation response, a state of deep rest through the parasympathetic nervous system. The more we are able to relax our body, the more our mind can concentrate on extending the cooling exhales.
My favorite pose to recover and heal from a long day is “legs-up-the-wall” and it can be practiced almost anywhere that you have access to a wall and enough space to lay your back down against a corner. You can add blocks, blankets, and bolsters to feel more supported and increase your energy through a back-bend, but the basic posture itself does miracles inside of our bodies.
Legs-up-the-wall, also known as Viparita Karani in Sanskrit, is an inversion that increases circulation flow (lowering blood pressure, if practiced regularly), grounds the head, and quiets the brain for deep relaxation. This pose can also be useful to relieve headaches, stress, and insomnia.
The simplest most minimal way to practice this posture if you are in an open space without any props or a nearby wall is to lie on your back and lift your legs straight up in the air, making a right angle with your body.
Cooling Exhale Extension
You can practice this cooling extension of your breath in legs-up-the-wall position. You may also use a comfortable seated position with a tall spine.
Begin with diaphragmatic breathing.
Stick your tongue out just past the lips, and curl or fold it lengthwise to form a tube. Inhale slowly and deeply through this tube, with a hissing sound, until your lungs are filled completely.
Start with a comfortable number to inhale and exhale. For some, it is three; for others, it can be six or eight.
Through this cooling breathing, we gradually increase our exhale until it is twice the length of our inhalation. With each inhale, add an extra count to the exhale. For example, if you inhale for three counts, exhale for four. Then inhale for three and exhale for five. Finally, inhale for three exhale for six.
Take at least five full breaths in this progression, then breath naturally for a few more breaths. Repeat this set until you feel calm or fall asleep.
This breathing method is a cooling system and induces relaxation to the body and tranquility to the mind, while purifying the blood and improving digestion.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about Breath of Fire, which can cleanse your lungs.
To your continued success,
Legs Up: Restorative Yoga as Peaceful Living
The Yoga Book: A Practical and Spiritual Guide to Self-Realization by Stephen Sturgess
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