Restore Mind-Body Balance With Breathing Exercises

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The body can either speed up or slow down its functions when needed through two opposing nervous systems. The way you breathe determines what kind of nervous system is activated. When you encounter a wild animal like a bear, you are more likely to take a wide-mouthed breathing approach. When we come under stress we tend to scream, cry and there a flight response that kicks in. This rapid breathing through the mouth fills up the upper lobe of the lungs which has an abundance of flight or fight receptors. When these receptors are activated, the sympathetic nervous system kicks in. On the other hand, nose breathing drives a smooth flow of air that reaches the lower lobe of the lungs which has an abundance of calming and restorative parasympathetic receptors.

We can thus say that nose breathing has calming effects and mouth breathing stimulates our body. Nose breathing has tremendous benefits during exercise as it is known to boost the brain wave coherence, reduced blood pressure, slower breath and heart rate, better endurance and minimizes discomfort during exercise.

Ayurved and Yoga have understood the enormous benefits of breathing techniques (pranayama) for as long as they have existed. They implicate that these breathing techniques can maintain, restore and balance both physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. All these will be elaborated further during Yoga Teacher training in Ibiza.

Here are some exercises to restore the balance between the body and the mind

Nadi Shodana

Directions - Slowly inhale through your right nostril and exhale through your left nostril. Now inhale through the left nostril and exhale through the right nostril. Continue to do this for five minutes.

Benefits - Co-ordinates wave coherence and brain hemispheres along with heightening the mind's awareness.

Sheetali

Directions - Also known as the cooling breath, you must fold your tongue lengthwise and take a deep breath through your folded tongue and exhale through the nose. Perform this for a minimum of 10 breaths or a maximum of 10 minutes.

Benefits - This is known to significantly reduce pitta (heat) from the neck, head, and upper digestion.

Sheetkari

Directions - This is also known as the hissing breath. This is identical to Sheetali with the only changes being, you must clench and expose your teeth while performing this exercise. Inhale with a hissing sound through the teeth and exhale through the nose. Perform this for a minimum of 10 breaths or a maximum of 10 minutes.

Benefits - Cools the head by reducing pitta and refreshes the senses.

Ujjayi

Directions - Popularly known as the Darth Vader breath. To perform this breathing exercise, you must breathe in and out through the nose while making a snorting sound by constricting your upper throat and soft palate. Perform this for a minimum of 10 breaths or a maximum of 10 minutes.

Benefits - Helps activate the Nadi system and move prana.

Brahmari

Directions - Also popularly known as the humming breath. Perform this breathing exercise by breathing in with Ujjayi and hum like a bee while breathing out. This humming must create vibrations that keeps resonating in the brain and heart. Perform this for 10 breaths and then cover both your ears and perform it again for another 10 times. This will enhance the resonating effect considerably.

Benefits - Increases both emotional and mental awareness while balancing vata.