Practical Yoga

Abdominal Breathing

Abdominal breathing is endlessly wonderful for your health. The stimulation of the vagus nerve during the movement of the diaphragm in this breathe pattern stimulates the parasympathetic (rest and digest) division of the nervous system, countering the effects of prolonged stress on the body, supporting healthy immune function, improving mood, and enabling cell restoration. Best of all, it is simple!!

To start, in a seated, standing, or supine position:

  • Lengthen the spine.
  • Roll the shoulders up and back allowing them to fall away from the neck.
  • Next , est the left hand on the belly
  • Turn focus to your breathe, and take an inhale – the belly should ‘inflate’ and you will feel your hand rise.
  • Next, exhale. Release the air from your belly. Feel your hand fall.
  • Repeat.
  • Keep your rib cage soft. Ribs should expand on the inhalation and fall back on the exhalation.
  • With practice (sometimes in the same session) you may feel the back ribs moving as as your breathe expands the body in 360 degrees.

Try practicing abdominal breathing in line at the grocery store, waiting for the bus, or while sitting at your desk.  Eventually this healthy breathing pattern will become your norm. During times of stres, pay special attention to engage abdominal breathing. You will feel great!

Quick Tips for a Body Friendly Desk Space

Body Alignment:

The skeleton has an optimal natural alignment.  When the skeleton  is properly aligned,  muscles remain pain free.  The weight of the body should rest on the skeleton, therefore allowing the weight of the body to travel downward in cooperation with the force of gravity. Holding the body out of skeletal alignment asks  muscles to engage to hold the body up against the downward pull of gravity. When resisting gravity and simultaneously holding improper alignment, muscles are stretched, tightened, and weakened in a disbalanced way.

  • Feet firmly on the ground and knees at 90 degrees. Keeping the legs uncrossed  is much healthier for the SI joint and the low back. When you hips are level you avoid twisting the SI joint and compressing the low back from the perpective of  uneven (twisted) compression.
  • Back is straight. If this position is difficult or painful to maintain, roll up a towel or use a pillow under your sitting bones to create a downward slope towards the front of your body.  Sitting with the hips elevated will help to maintain a healthy spinal alignment.
  • Lift from the base of the spine and roll the shoulders up, around, and then back. This opens the chest and  ribs, giving the lungs more space to expand.
  • There is a tendency in some people to allow the chin to move too far forward. First bring the chin parallel with the ground. Then pull the chin and head back, bringing the head into proper alignment to be properly held by the neck. You will feel pressure come off the neck and in some cases the shoulders when you  have brought the head back to the correct positioning. In addition to pulling the head back,  you  may also need  to pull the head up, remembering to keep the shoulders back/down, and the upper body relaxed.
  • Your alignment should now be in a healthy cooperation with gravity. You can  now relax the muscles that you are used to using in order to hold yourself up against gravity, and begin to strengthen the muscles that are used to hold the bones in natural alignment
  • Elbows are best rested on the desk at 90 degrees. The wrists should ideally remain unbent, the forearm and wrist in one line.

Adjust your desk space to make it easy to maintain these  alignments. Adjust chair height, arm rest height, monitor height. A limitation may be the height of your desk, which can be overcome but using a foot rest under the feet. Another thing to keep in mind is the placement of your mouse pad.  Arrange it in such a way that it allows the shoulder to align with your elbow, to align with your wrist.

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