Friday, March 7, 2014

The Breath in Yoga

Breathing is an expansive part of a yoga program. By inhaling through the nose the breath can be guided more deeply and directed more skillfully. Nasal hairs filters and mucosa moisten the air that is taken into the body. When breath is coordinated with yoga postures, previously constricted portions of the body can receive increased blood flow and improved oxygenation. The maximal benefit is accomplished by coordinating the breathing pattern with the physiological flow of the body. As yoga postures are guided, the cycle of inhalation and exhalation is explained. A well oxygenated body relaxes and brainwaves may alter, contributing to an overall feeling of well being.

Many children diagnosed with special needs have experienced difficulties breathing because of structural impairment or physiological compromises. Frequently their chosen resting posture does not allow for maximum intake of oxygen.  These children often hold their breath when moved out of their habitual postures. Some children have learned to breathe with their head and neck in extension, while other children demonstrate a shallow breathing cycle with the mouth open. Training a deeper and sustained breathing cycle during yoga poses can break through previous patterns that have become a physiological habit.

Bubble blowing provided visual feedback for the child as she observes the bubbles moving further through space, and becoming larger as exhalations are sustained. As a child learns to guide a deeper breath through her nostrils, she also observes the advantages of graded exhalation with improved breath control for bubble blowing. As she engages in this respiration activity she benefits from increased oxygen as it moves through the vascular system.

Children begin to feel the natural flow of breath in relation to their body. A deep inhalation is easier with an open and extended body and it is natural to expend breath as their body folds into flexion. With reminders throughout the yoga session of when to breathe, the child may experience the natural rhythm of a smooth cycle of inhalation and exhalation.

(excerpt, Nancy Williams)

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