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Crane's Corner

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Share the breath

By Ingrid Crane

Aloha!

The word means “to share the breath.”

We can get very stressed out at this time of year. Anxiety levels increase; blood pressure surges and our stress hormones go ballistic. We’re blessed that this body breathes automatically. We’re even more fortunate when we learn that we can take conscious control of our breathing. Imagine! Just by extending the exhalation, you can lower blood pressure. Of course, it takes practice, and with consistency, you will realize benefits that are palpable.

We know the importance of breathing and how it affects everything from our state of health to our state of mind, yet so many of us have forgotten how to breathe to have the air do its vital work on all the millions of cells in our bodies.

Reverse breathing is very common since, in an attempt to stand up straight, we actually freeze the abdomen and diaphragm, and never get any air into the lower recesses of our lungs. We become short of breath, and puff and gasp and wheeze and deprive our systems of much-needed oxygen.

The yogis say that the mouth is for eating and the nose is for breathing. The nostrils prepare the air to enter the lungs, warming and filtering the incoming air. Breathing through the nose also stimulates the brain and promotes optimal functioning of the nervous system.

A great way to practice deep full breathing is lying on the bed, perhaps three minutes before arising and before retiring. Imagine you are filling a balloon, first allowing the belly to fill up, then feel the breath moving through the rib cage and all the way up just beneath the collarbones. When you do this with regularity, you can take in up to seven times more oxygen than a normal shallow breath. Make yourself as comfortable as possible, bend the knees if there is any discomfort in the back. Support your head with a small pillow if the chin tends to point up toward the ceiling. Let your whole body relax and begin by exhaling and pulling the navel in toward the spine to release the stale air.

Then, without forcing in any way, simply allow the breath to flow in through the nose and deep down into the belly and fell yourself being filled from the bottom to the top. Exhale with even more control, slowly and smoothly. The breath should feel like a silken thread, being drawn in and out with ease.

Please don’t just read this. Practice and see the results for yourself.

Knowing that “aloha” means sharing the breath, let us be kind and compassionate to all!

Ingrid Crane is a practitioner of yoga, Reiki and Thai massage. She will share tips for breathing and gentle stretching at the Freedom Library on Saturdays at 10:15 a.m. during February 2011. For further information call 352-854-7950.