by Nellie A Ford, CMT
As described in the recent eJournal issue on Biofeedback, “Stress, especially the chronic high levels of stress we experience in modern living, can waste vast amounts of our energy, weaken our natural immunity to disease, and sap our joy and vitality.” (James Ford, ThD, Mind-Body Health Center,Community College of Aurora).
Hatha Yoga and Breathing Exercises help to reduce stress, and can be practiced at your desk, or anywhere else, without specialized equipment or other facilities.
Hatha Yoga Exercises
Hatha Yoga is a form of Yoga that incorporates slow, gentle stretching and deep breathing. Dating back to at least 6000 years, it is the oldest form of exercise. Many other types of exercises, having recognized the benefits of this type of movement, have borrowed poses from yoga.
People of all ages and physical conditions can practice yoga. It can be started at any age and continued throughout life. For many people, yoga is the foundation of their health maintenance program. It will increase your energy, reduce your stress, and increase your flexibility, making your body feel younger instead of older.
Sitting up tall, with feet flat on the floor and hands and arms relaxed, take a deep breath in, filling the lungs completely. Exhale all of this breath away, pushing all of the air out of your lungs. Repeat, keeping your mind focused on the incoming breath and the outgoing breath. Repeat for several breaths.
This deep breathing will calm the mind and also supply the body with oxygen, bringing about a feeling of relaxation.
More breathing exercises are given in the next section.
Inhale, and as you do, bring your shoulders up close to your ears and gently squeeze. Exhale and press the shoulders down as far as you can towards the floor. Repeat several times.
Inhale, bringing the shoulders up towards the ears. Bring the shoulders forward as far as you can, then begin to exhale and press the shoulders down as far as you can. Bring the shoulders toward the back and then begin to inhale, bringing them up toward the ears again. Repeat 3 times in each direction. This gives some range of motion to the shoulder joint.
Inhale. Exhale and allow the chin to come down gently to the chest, feeling a good stretch up and down the back of the neck. As you begin to inhale, allow the head to roll up on one side until it is up straight. Bring it over the other side and then begin to exhale, rolling the head down on the other side, being very careful of the neck. Do three of these in each direction. If you experience any discomfort, lift out of the pose immediately.
This can be done in a seated or standing position. Place the arms behind the back and interlock the fingers. Inhale, straightening the arms and arching the chest out. Exhale and release. Repeat 3 times. This opens up the chest and improves the posture.
Deep breathing is an excellent tool for keeping our bodies in optimum health and reducing stress levels, thus warding off such things as heart disease and high blood pressure. Most modern scientific and medical research supports the belief that proper breathing is a cornerstone to our well-being.
- Sit up tall, in a comfortable position.
- Inhale, expanding the abdomen, opening the ribs and lifting the shoulders.
- Exhale, contracting the abdomen, relaxing the ribs, and lowering the shoulders.
This breath maximizes the use of the lungs, increases oxygen levels in the body and calms the mind.
Lengthening the Exhale
- Inhale gently and naturally while counting.
- Exhale slowly, taking twice as long to empty the lungs.
- Repeat. As the inhale lengthens, lengthen the exhale accordingly.
- This breath increases lung capacity and activates a relaxation response in the body.
Four Parted Breath
- Inhale to a count of 4.
- Retain breath for a count of 4.
- Exhale for a count of 4.
- Hold breath out for a count of 4.
Nellie A Ford is a Certified Massage Therapist with additional training in energy healing modalities utilized in her private practice. She is certified as a Hatha Yoga instructor, teaching in community centers and health clubs. She also teaches Biofeedback for Health, Meditation for Health, Acupressure, Mind, Body Healing & Health,and Yoga at http://www.CCA.CCCOES.edu/ Community College of Aurora. With her husband James, she facilitates college and community programs on stress manaagement and other holistic health choices.
Copyright © 1998-2012, CompWellness Network, Fairfield NJ USA Community College of Aurora, Mind-Body Health Center. Reprinted with permission.