By Tina Russo Lancey, CYT, R-AYF, R-CYAMT
For as long as life is in me, And the breath of God is in my nostrils, Job 27:3
May is National Asthma & Allergy Awareness Month..
If you or a loved one have ever had an asthma attack, you know how scary it can be to struggle to breathe. Yoga for asthma might not be the thing you think can be helpful, but with focused breathwork (pranayama) it may help.
While yoga does not “cure” or “treat” asthma in any way, having the ability to use the controlled breath in a situation where panic can cause someone to struggle MORE, can be a useful tool.
You do not need to be a renowned world expert in pranayama (breathwork) to feel confident engaging in controlled breathing during an asthma attack. Some pranayama engages fast, rapid breathing, and those styles should be avoided. We are focusing on controlled, and gentle breathing techniques, along with understanding the science behind yoga for asthma. All of these poses are good for slowed, thoughtful breath.
Let’s look at some yoga poses which may help alleviate asthma issues when practiced regularly.
In whose hand is the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind? Job 12:10
Easy Pose: Sitting on a mat, meditation pillow, a blanket, or another comfortable place, cross your legs, and gently sit, drawing your attention to where your body meets the floor/mat/pillow, distributing your weight evenly. Allow the hands to rest on your knees with the palms facing down. As you stay mindful of your balance and gently align your head, neck, and spine. As you gently draw in a breath, lengthen the spine. Let your elbows be heavy as your shoulders relax, creating space between the shoulders and ears. Soften your gaze as you look forward. Hold this posture for about a minute and then release your legs, and cross them the other way.
Staff Pose: Seated on a mat or blanket, stretch your legs out in front of you. Place your hands by each hip, straightening the arms. Bring your big toes together (this will leave a bit of space between your heels. Gently flex the ankles and point your toes gently back toward your body. Bring your attention to your thighs and press them into the mat moderately. Gently lift the sternum on a gentle inhale and allow the collarbones to open. If it feels good, gently draw the shoulders back as you soften the ribs. Continue with your breath for a minute or as long as you feel good in the pose.
Seated Wide Angle Pose: While seated on your mat, gently stretch your legs out in front of you, and then draw the feet away from each other as far as possible and comfortably. Point your toes up. You can take a micro bend in the knees if it feels good for you. Holding the pose as you elongate the spine as you draw in breath. If it feels good, lift the torso, bend at the hips, and gently fold forward. You may hold your feet with your hands, or stretch your arms out in front of you. Take deep, slow breaths as you stay in the pose for about a minute. On an inhale, gently lift the torso to back out of the pose.
Forward Bend Pose (Seated): A strap can be used in this pose, even for advanced yoga students. Seated on the floor, mat, or blanket, extend your legs in front of you as you would in Staff Pose. Gently point your toes up, while pressing the heels away from the body. You can use a strap here, around the balls of the feet as you hold one end of the strap in each hand. If your hands are not already extended in front of you, holding a strap, inhale, lengthen the spine, and lift the torso. On an exhale, fold forward from the hips, drawing your torso to your thighs. Hold the pose by holding the strap, shins, or feet. Be sure not to round your back. As you breathe in, lengthen your torso. After about a minute or less if you find you are ready to come out of the pose sooner. To come out of the pose, gently draw the tailbone down to the floor as you inhale and lift your torso.
Butterfly Pose: Start in the seated position on the floor, bringing the bottoms of the feet together as you allow your knees to fall out to the side. As you inhale, lengthen the spine and grab each foot, while letting your elbows touch the inside of your thighs. On an exhale, gently fold forward bringing the heart center toward the open area of the floor/mat in front of you. Hold the pose for about a minute as you continue to breathe. On your exhale, gently allow the torso to come closer to the floor, if you feel you can and want to go deeper into the posture. On an inhale, gently lift the torso and release your hands from the feet.
Bridge Pose: Start this pose by lying on your back. Place your shoulder blades under your back. Bend the knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor under the knees. Your knees should be hip-width apart. You will gently press the feet into the floor throughout the pose. Your hands can be on each side of the body, or you can interlock the fingers once you lift your pelvis off the floor. Pressing through the feet and arms, lift the pelvis bone toward the ceiling. Do not flex your glutes here. Continue pressing your feet and arms into the mat, holding the pelvis up off the mat. If you wish to interlock fingers under your body you may, otherwise, reach for your heels. Lengthen the spine by drawing your tailbone toward the backs of your knees. To release, unclasp hands if they are interlocked under the body. Gently lower your pelvis down one vertebra at a time until you drop your pelvis down to the floor.
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