What happens in the body when we breathe? It may seem that when we inhale, we do so from the nose but actually it is the contraction of the diaphragm, the wall of muscle that divides the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity that causes the inhale. As the diaphragm contracts, it pulls downward toward the navel, decreasing the air pressure inside the thoracic cavity causing air to be drawn in to the lungs. The pressure on the abdominal cavity increases and the belly often expands forward as a result. Then as the diaphragm relaxes and domes upwards toward the heart, air is pushed out of the lungs and we exhale.
This week's practice focuses on separating the breath in three key sections of the torso, the lower abdomen, middle ribs and upper chest in order to fully inflate all lobes of the lungs for optimal efficient breathing.
Lower Belly Breath
Place hands on the lower belly and direct breath gently into this area. Notice the movement expands forward on inhalation and releases towards spine on exhalation.
Middle Ribs Breath
Place hands on the middle ribs and direct breath gently into this area. Notice the movement expands from the center on inhalation and releases toward the center on exhalation.
Upper Chest Breath
Place hands on the upper chest and direct breath gently into this area. Notice the movement expands upward and outward on inhalation and releases downward and back to center on exhalation.
Cow: Begin on the hands and knees, toes pointed. Inhale lift the sternum forward and drop the pubic bone back between the legs to arch the spine.
Cat: Exhale round the back and drop the head and tail bone towards the floor.
Repeat with your breath 10 times.
Wagging the Tail
Begin on all fours. Inhale: lift left foot by bending the knee. Exhale move left shoulder and hip together as you swing left foot to the left. Inhale to center. Exhale move right shoulder and hip together as you cross left foot over the right shin. Inhale to center. Repeat 5-10 times each side.
Balasana to Bhujangasana (Child's Pose to Cobra Pose)
Begin in Balasana with the arms overhead on the floor. Inhale keep hands where they are and move torso through arms to come into a backbend with pelvis pressing towards floor. Exhale return to Balasana. Repeat 5-10 times with the breath.
Supported Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose)
Sit in front of a bolster with a long folded blanket on the other side. Lay back over bolster and place shoulders on blanket, head on floor as you lift hips away from the floor. Place block under hips and turn toes slightly in. Rest arms in cactus with palms facing upwards. Rest up to 5 minutes.
Supported Heart Opener
Set up two bolsters perpendicular to mat with folded blanket on the one toward the back of the mat. Sit on folded blanket or on floor facing away from bolsters. Lie back so that shoulder blades and upper back are supported by shorted bolster and the head and neck are supported by the taller bolster. The upper line of the shoulders and arms should fall in between the bolsters. If the elbows to not readily reach the floor, support with more folded blankets. Either straighten legs out to floor or rest knees over bolster
Purna Svasa (Three Part Breath)
Begin in Savasana with support under the head and knees if needed. Begin by witnessing the natural breath in and out through the nostrils. Then begin by taking 1/3 of the breath in to the lower belly, the second 1/3 into the middle ribs and the third 1/3 into the upper chest. Exhale and relax the breath out of the body.
Home Practice Blog
I attend Cheryl's class regularly and feel that my practice has improved immensely over the past few years due to her expert coaching. Her teaching style is clear and compassionate and her previous experience in teaching adults is evident in her organized approach and easy to understand instructions. I also appreciate that Cheryl not only teaches us about how to correctly position ourselves, but also touches on many aspects of yoga philosophy, which in turn has deepened my personal practice and heightened my awareness of the connection between mind and body, breath and relaxation.