The Yoga Minibook for Stress Relief: A Specialized Program for a Calmer, Relaxed You

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Take a deep breath and say good-bye to stress

There is no getting around it — at work, at home, or while commuting from one to the other, stress is always there. Whether you are anxious about your health, your safety, or your relationships, daily stressors can feel overwhelming.

Why let stress control your life when you can send it packing? In as little as 10 minutes a day, this targeted yoga program relieves tension effectively and restores ...

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Overview

Take a deep breath and say good-bye to stress

There is no getting around it — at work, at home, or while commuting from one to the other, stress is always there. Whether you are anxious about your health, your safety, or your relationships, daily stressors can feel overwhelming.

Why let stress control your life when you can send it packing? In as little as 10 minutes a day, this targeted yoga program relieves tension effectively and restores the sense of balance that stress so often disrupts. Step-by-step illustrated instructions guide you through calming asanas, breathing exercises, and meditations specifically selected to:

  • combat anxiety, depression, and stress-related illness
  • soothe muscles and lower blood pressure
  • provide rest, relaxation, and tranquil sleep
  • improve your flexibility and cardiovascular fitness

Ideal as the start, midday break, or calming cap to your day, this unique yoga program will renew your body, mind, and spirit and bring you the inner peace and poise you crave.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743227018
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 1/7/2002
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 0.41 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 8.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Elaine Gavalas, M.A., M.S., is an exercise physiologist, weight management specialist, and nutritionist. She has practiced, taught, and written about yoga, fitness, and weight management for more than fifteen years. She lives in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 3: Yoga Relaxation and Breathing

Would you like to remain calm, alert, and focused, even as a storm of stress rages around you? You may be one of the millions of people around the globe who have been deeply troubled by shocking global or personal events, and you may be searching for ways to restore a sense of calm and balance to your life. With the relaxation and breathing techniques that follow, you'll tap into yourself and find inner balance as you gain strength and stability. At one time or another we all face chaotic events beyond our control, but we can learn to counter their effects. Yoga practice is a great way to do just that.

Daily life is full of challenging and sometimes stressful moments. Many of us deal with the pressures of two-career households, long work hours, and a shifting economic landscape. It's no wonder we're in the midst of a stress epidemic. The American Institute of Stress has determined that stress lurks behind nearly 90 percent of visits to the doctor. Stress has been linked to all of the leading causes of death, including heart and lung diseases, cirrhosis of the liver, cancer, accidents, and suicide. Research has also confirmed the role of stress in many serious health problems, from depression to insomnia. But don't let the numbers get you down. You can learn to manage and beat stress with regular practice of these relaxation and breathing techniques.

Stress is an inevitable part of life. We usually think of stress as negative — something that knots the stomach, brings shortness of breath, and challenges our immune system. However, certain types of stress are actually good for you. There's the positive stress that helps usto win a race, or that creates sexual tension or inspires us. The magic of yoga is its power to release the negative stress that can cause us harm.

The Stress Response

Stress results from the way we react to a situation, not from the situation itself. It's our reaction to the event that determines its effect on our physical and mental health. For example, if we perceive a situation as dangerous or threatening, we'll experience anxiety and fear. This fearful response generates a fight-or-flight physiological reaction.

Our body's autonomic nervous system is divided into two parts, the sympathetic system — identified with the fight-or-flight response — and the parasympathetic — which counteracts the physiological effects of the sympathetic. Our sympathetic nervous system energizes and prepares us to either flee or engage in battle by releasing stress hormones such as adrenaline. These hormones sharpen perception and reaction, dilating our pupils to allow more light in (to help us see better); increasing our breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure (to maximize blood flow to our limbs); and stopping digestion.

Although the threatening situations have changed, our physiologic reaction to danger is much the same as early man's. Obviously modern negative stressors generally aren't life-or-death situations, but our bodies respond just as cavemen's bodies did when faced with a saber-toothed tiger. When our fight-or-flight response is evoked daily by life's annoying hassles, such as being stuck in traffic or waiting in line at the supermarket, or by more serious life events, such as a death in the family or a contentious divorce, it takes a toll on our health. Our sympathetic nervous system becomes overloaded, often producing chronic muscle tension (especially in the shoulders, neck, and jaw), elevated heart rate and blood pressure, and digestive problems. Left unattended, this can result in chronic illness, pain, and disease.

We can release chronic muscle tension and the other symptoms of negative stress by practicing yoga relaxation and breathing techniques. Performing yoga's relaxation poses and deep breathing turns off the fight-or-flight response and turns on the parasympathetic nervous system, known as the relaxation response. This slows our heartbeat, decreases our blood pressure and respiration, lowers our stress hormone levels, and brings our body back into a healthier balance.

Three Yoga Steps to Relaxation

You can elicit the relaxation response in three easy steps, with yoga practices that help you recognize the stress, release the tension, and breathe deeply. The complete Yoga Relaxation and Breathing Practice Plan follows this section, but first, here's how and why it works.

1. Recognizing the Stress

The first step in reversing negative stress is to recognize it. Be aware of what your body is feeling. This is the perfect opportunity to practice the understanding of self, or svadhyaya. Be the observer and look for places where stress accumulates within your body (see Yoga Observation, page 29). It makes sense to identify where stress resides in your body, because once you know, you can do something about it.

2. Releasing the Tension

The second step in reversing negative stress is to release the tension. As soon as you become aware of negative stress, stop what you're doing and release it from your body. You can do a few seated yoga tension-relieving poses at your desk or wherever you might be sitting (see the 7-Step Yoga Relaxation Sequence, page 44).

Yoga poses and self-massage are powerful tools to relieve stress and tension. You can easily do any number of poses at your desk, including Seated Head Tap, Seated Shoulder-and-Arm Tap, and Face Massage. As discussed in Chapter 1, do-in and self-acupressure can help to relieve and prevent tension and tightness, promote relaxation, and increase the circulation of prana.

Regular yoga asana practice, including vinyasa yoga (see Chapter 5, "Yoga Movement Meditation"), restorative yoga (see Chapter 6, "Restorative Yoga"), and wellness yoga (see Chapter 7, "Yoga for Emotional Wellness"), will also relieve and prevent tension and negative stress.

3. Breathing Deeply

The third step in reversing negative stress is to breathe deeply. Now that you've done some tension-relieving poses, you're ready to slow your breathing down. Yoga deep breathing is a natural tranquilizer for the mind and body. When we're under stress, we hold our bellies rigid and our breathing is shallow. This may deprive the brain, muscles, and vital organs of oxygen. You can change your breathing pattern from tension-producing to relaxation-enhancing by practicing yoga deep abdominal breathing.

By shifting your awareness to your breath and away from upsetting thoughts, you shift your body into relaxation mode. Research indicates that breathing slowly and deeply sends a message to the body and mind that all is well, thereby interrupting the stress cycle.

Take a 1-minute vacation from work with the routine outlined in the Yoga Relaxation and Breathing Practice Plan. You can practice the art and science of pranayama (yoga breathing) lying down in Modified Relaxation Pose (see page 24) or sitting up in Easy Pose with Chin Lock (page 58), with techniques including Complete Breath, Alternate-Nostril Breathing, and Cooling Breath, all described in the section "Yoga Breathing (Pranayama)," later in this chapter.

Once you become familiar with yoga breathing, follow your pranayama practice with yoga meditation (see Chapter 4, "Yoga Meditation and Mantra"), which has been shown to elicit the relaxation response.

Yoga Breathing Basics

Breathing is something that many of us take for granted, yet it's one of the few autonomic functions we can control consciously. Breathing is an essential part of our survival; it supports all of our basic physiological processes and strongly influences mind, body, and spirit. We can live for a few weeks without food and a few days without water, but for only a few minutes without breath.

Pranayama is one of the eight essential limbs of the Tree of Yoga described in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. In Sanskrit, yama means restraint or control. Pranayama seeks to harness and control the breath to direct, circulate, and store prana (life-force energy) in the body, to facilitate spiritual enlightenment and reach a higher consciousness.

Yoga masters believe that by slowing down the breath, and thereby slowing down the heartbeat, we may enjoy longevity and perfect health. Regular pranayama practice is a wise investment. With yoga breathing, you may build a supply of life-force energy from which you can draw during times of stress.

Shallow breathing (or even holding the breath) is a typical response to negative stress. In shallow breathing, you are taking air into the chest only, rather than the abdomen, and utilizing only the upper lobes of the lungs. In contrast, with yoga deep breathing you first breathe into the lower abdomen, then the rib cage, and then the upper chest. Utilizing all three areas of the lungs during yoga deep breathing will increase your lung capacity over time and will supply more oxygen for the trillions of cells in your body. You'll also enjoy increased energy, vitality, and life force, and a calm mind.

Deep breathing may be difficult to master at first. My students often find it helpful to visualize the mechanics of deep breathing. The organs and muscles of respiration include the diaphragm — a large, dome-shaped muscle that separates the lungs and heart from the stomach and other abdominal organs — the twelve pairs of ribs, the intercostal muscles between the ribs, the abdominal muscles, a pair of lungs, and the heart. With deep inhalation, your diaphragm presses downward to make more space for the air coming in, your abdomen expands, then your ribs and chest widen to make room for your expanding lungs. On exhalation, your diaphragm rises, pushing the air back out, as your chest, lungs, ribs, and then your abdomen contract.

If you're just beginning pranayama practice, you may find yoga deep breathing easier when you're lying down. That way you don't have to contend with the challenge of maintaining a stable, seated posture while learning pranayama. Begin practicing Complete Breath lying down in Modified Relaxation Pose or Supported Relaxation Pose. Once you're comfortable practicing pranayama lying down — without strain, dizziness, or shortness of breath — you're ready to try a seated pose. Begin your seated pranayama practice with Complete Breath, Easy Pose with Chin Lock, Alternate-Nostril Breathing, and Cooling Breath. Gate Pose will help you prepare for deep breathing by stretching the intercostal muscles and sides of the body.

Before You Start

• If you have any physical limitations, such as asthma or heart disease, consult your physician before beginning yoga breathing exercises.

• If you're just beginning a yoga breathing practice, comfortably and gradually work up to the recommended frequency and duration of these pranayama exercises. Respect your own abilities.

• You should never experience strain, dizziness, or shortness of breath while practicing pranayama. If any of these symptoms occur, stop immediately. Try a less challenging yoga breathing exercise. If symptoms persist, see your physician.

Yoga Relaxation and Breathing Practice Plan

After practicing the Yoga Basics from Chapter 2 for 1 week, begin this Yoga Relaxation and Breathing practice. Be aware that it may take you more than 4 weeks to do this routine comfortably, depending on your physical condition. If you feel comfortable and confident doing the poses in Weeks 1 and 2, proceed to Week 3, then Week 4. Otherwise, stay with Weeks 1 and 2 until you feel strong enough to continue.

Week 1

Practice Schedule: Practice for 20 to 30 minutes, 3 days a week.

Yoga Observation: Practice seated Yoga Observation (see page 29).

7-Step Yoga Relaxation Sequence: Choose 3 of the following for each practice session:

  • Seated Head Tap
  • Face Massage
  • Seated Head-and-Neck Tilt
  • Seated Shoulder-and-Arm Tap
  • Seated Stretch and Yawn
  • Tighten-and-Release Pose
  • Progressive Relaxation
Yoga Breathing:
  • Gate Pose
  • Complete Breath, lying down in Modified Relaxation Pose or Supported Relaxation Pose

Week 2

Practice Schedule: Practice for 20 to 30 minutes, 3 or 4 days a week.

Yoga Observation: Practice seated Yoga Observation.

7-Step Yoga Relaxation Sequence: Choose 4 of the following for each practice session:

  • Seated Head Tap
  • Face Massage
  • Seated Head-and-Neck Tilt
  • Seated Shoulder-and-Arm Tap
  • Seated Stretch and Yawn
  • Tighten-and-Release Pose
  • Progressive Relaxation
Yoga Breathing:
  • Gate Pose
  • Complete Breath, sitting up

Week 3

Practice Schedule: Practice for 30 minutes, 4 days a week

7-Step Yoga Relaxation Sequence: Perform the entire sequence in each practice session:

  • Seated Head Tap
  • Face Massage
  • Seated Head-and-Neck Tilt
  • Seated Shoulder-and-Arm Tap
  • Seated Stretch and Yawn
  • Tighten-and-Release Pose
  • Progressive Relaxation
Yoga Breathing:
  • Gate Pose
  • Alternate-Nostril Breathing
  • Cooling Breath

Week 4

Practice Schedule: Practice for 30 to 40 minutes, 4 days a week.

Yoga Observation: Practice seated Yoga Observation.

7-Step Yoga Relaxation Sequence: Perform the entire sequence in each practice session:

  • Seated Head Tap
  • Face Massage
  • Seated Head-and-Neck Tilt
  • Seated Shoulder-and-Arm Tap
  • Seated Stretch and Yawn
  • Tighten-and-Release Pose
  • Progressive Relaxation
Yoga Breathing:
  • Gate Pose
  • Alternate-Nostril Breathing
  • Easy Pose with Chin Lock

The 7-Step Yoga Relaxation Sequence

1. Seated Head Tap

What It Does: Practicing do-in in Seated Head Tap helps to release tension and tightness in the head and neck, promotes relaxation, and increases the circulation of prana. This exercise also helps relieve and prevent tension headaches and improves concentration.

How to Do It:

1. Sit straight in a chair with your legs together and feet flat on the floor.

2. Gently and lightly tap all around your head with loosely closed fists. As you tap, take slow, deep breaths.

3. Tap for approximately 10 seconds.

2. Face Massage

What It Does: Practicing do-in and self-acupressure in Face Massage is very helpful for relieving sinus pain as well as chronic tension in the face and jaw.

How to Do It:

1. Sit straight in a chair with your legs together and feet flat on the floor. Before you begin, observe how your face feels. Does your jaw feel tense? Is your face cold? Do you have sinus pain?

2. Moving your fingertips in slow, circular motions, massage your temples, around your hairline, up and down the sides of your nose, in front of your ears, behind your ears and the back of your neck. As you massage, take slow, deep, relaxing breaths.

3. With your fingertips, massage your jaw muscles with firm pressure. Open and close your mouth to find your jaw muscles. As you massage, be sure to continue your relaxed breathing.

4. With the pads of your fingers gently press underneath your cheekbones.

5. Now close your eyes and observe how your face feels after your massage. Does it feel warmer? More awake? Tingling? Has your jaw tension dissolved?

3. Seated Head-and-Neck Tilt

What It Does: Doing Seated Head-and-Neck Tilt releases tension, fatigue, and pain in the head and neck and relieves negative stress.

How to Do It:

1. Sit straight in a chair with your legs together and feet flat on the floor.

2. Inhale, then exhale as you tilt your head to the left toward your left shoulder. Lightly place your left hand on your head; allow the weight of the hand to gently increase the stretch in the right side of your neck.

3. Take several slow, deep breaths as you relax and stretch the muscles down the right side of your neck, for about 30 seconds.4. Remove your hand and slowly lift your head to center. Observe the difference in the way the right and left sides of the neck feel.

5. Repeat on the other side.

4. Seated Shoulder-and-Arm Tap

What It Does: Practicing do-in in Seated Shoulder-and-Arm Tap helps to relieve and prevent tension and tightness in the neck, shoulders, and arms.

How to Do It:

1. Sit straight in a chair with your legs together and feet flat on the floor.

2. With loosely closed fists, gently and lightly tap from the top of your shoulder, down your arm to your hand.

3. Repeat three times on each arm.

5. Seated Stretch and Yawn

What It Does: The most natural release of tension, fatigue, and stress is to stretch and yawn. Doing Seated Stretch and Yawn releases tension and fatigue in the upper body and relieves negative stress.

How to Do It:

1. With a slow, deep inhalation, raise your arms above your head. Exhale and relax your shoulders down from your ears.

2. Take a deep breath and stretch your left arm up toward the ceiling. Squeeze your mouth and eyes shut, and yawn. Keep stretching the left arm up, while your right arm remains relaxed and your right elbow slightly bent. Exhale and relax the left arm.

3. Take a deep breath as you stretch your right arm up toward the ceiling. Squeeze your mouth and eyes shut, and yawn. Keep stretching the right arm up, while your left arm remains relaxed and your left elbow slightly bent. Exhale and release the right arm down to your side.

4. Repeat on each side.

5. Now observe the sensation that follows. That's what it feels like to release tension from your face and shoulders!

6. Tighten-and-Release Pose

What It Does: Tighten-and-Release Pose gathers up all the negative stress and tension in the body, holds it, then releases it.

How to Do It:

1. Lie on your back on a mat on the floor. While inhaling, raise your arms above your head and clench your fists. Tighten your buttocks and lift your hips up, while pushing your heels down. Squeeze your mouth and eyes shut, and tense your face, your arms, your hands, your legs, and your feet. Hold the tension for 5 seconds.

2. Exhale as you release the tension and relax your feet, your legs, your hands, your arms, and your face. Feel all of the tension drain right out of your muscles, flowing out your hands and feet.

3. Observe the sensation that follows.

7. Progressive Relaxation

What It Does: With Progressive Relaxation we focus sequentially on relaxing each individual body part, beginning with the feet and working up to the head.

How to Do It:

1. Sit straight in a chair with your legs together and feet flat on the floor, or lie down in Supported Relaxation Pose (see page 128). Be sure that you're comfortable and relaxed in this position.

2. Now relax each part of your body, beginning with your feet and working up to your head. Begin by centering your attention on your feet and toes. Inhale and suggest to the feet and toes to relax. Exhale and observe your toes and feet relaxing. Feel the sensation of them melting into the floor.

3. Repeat the three Progressive Relaxation steps, Attention, Positive Suggestion, and Observation, with each individual body part, including your ankles, calves, knees, thighs, and pelvis, noticing and releasing areas of tension. Continue with your upper body, including your abdomen, back, chest, arms, head, and face, noticing and releasing areas of tension.

4. With each exhalation, allow the weight of your bones to sink toward the floor. Scan your body, noting any muscular tension or pain. Now, with each exhalation, surrender your muscles to the pull of gravity, sinking further into the floor.

5. Relax all efforts and rest in the healing stillness for as long as you wish.

Yoga Breathing (Pranayama)

Gate Pose (Parighasana)

What It Does: The Gate Pose side bend will help you prepare for deep breathing by stretching the intercostal muscles, the muscles that connect the ribs. Use a folded blanket under your supporting knee, if necessary.

How to Do It:

1. Kneel on the floor with your spine in an upright position. If kneeling is painful, place a folded blanket under your knees. If you still experience pain or discomfort, stop immediately.

2. Now straighten your right leg out to the side, with the right foot as flat on the floor as possible and the right knee facing the ceiling. The left knee remains directly below the left hip.

3. Inhale and stretch both arms out to the sides, with palms facing the floor. Exhale and reach up with your left arm, then bend at the waist to the right, placing your right hand on your lower right leg. Look up under your left arm toward the ceiling.

4. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths. Stretch and expand the left side of your rib cage with each inhalation and exhalation.

5. Inhale and lift your left arm overhead while bringing your spine back to center. Exhale and stretch both arms out to the sides. Bring your right leg back to kneeling position.

6. Repeat on the other side.

7. Observe the sensation that follows. Does your breathing feel fuller, deeper?

Complete Breath (Pranayama)

What It Does: Complete Breath is a classic pranayama technique used during relaxation, but it can be done anywhere, at any time. Practice Complete Breath during times of stress to focus, center, and calm yourself. It is called Complete Breath because it integrates the lower, middle, and upper parts of your lungs. This will increase your lung capacity as well as strengthen your diaphragm, chest, and intercostal muscles.

How to Do It:

1. If you're just beginning pranayama practice, it may be easier to learn Complete Breath lying down in Modified Relaxation Pose (see page 24) or in Supported Relaxation Pose (see page 128). When you're comfortable practicing this exercise lying down, try it sitting in a chair with your legs together and feet flat on the floor, or in a seated pose, such as Easy Pose (see page 74).

2. Gently place both of your hands, fingertips touching, on your abdomen, below the belly button. You want to feel the action of your abdomen as you inhale and exhale.

3. Exhale the air from your lungs completely through your nose. To a total count of 4, smoothly inhale through your nose and feel your fingertips rise as you breathe into your belly (count 1), expand your ribs, filling the middle part of the lungs with air (count 2), and finally draw air into your upper chest, lifting the breastbone (counts 3 and 4). Hold the breath for a moment, feeling the base, middle, and upper parts of the lungs completely expanded.

4. To a total count of 8, slowly exhale through your nose. In a smooth stream of breath, exhale from the upper chest (counts 1 and 2), then from the ribs and middle part of the lungs (counts 3, 4, and 5), and finally from the base of the lungs, feeling your fingertips fall as your belly draws in with the exhalation (counts 6, 7, and 8). This completes 1 round of Complete Breath.

5. Repeat a few rounds of Complete Breath in joyous serenity.

Alternate-Nostril Breathing

(Nadhi Shodhana)

What It Does: Alternate-Nostril Breathing, one of the best-known pranayama techniques, helps balance mind, body, and spirit. Practicing Alternate-Nostril Breathing is a natural tranquilizer, as it calms the nervous system, relieves tension and negative stress, and quiets the mind. It teaches us control of our breathing through the right and left nostrils, and it is also an excellent preparation for meditation. You're ready for this exercise when you feel comfortable and strong doing breathing exercises lying on the floor.

How to Do It:

1. Sit straight in a chair with your legs together and feet flat on the floor, or sit on the floor in a seated yoga position, such as Easy Pose (see page 74) or Half Lotus Pose (see page 77).

2. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Quietly observe the breath for a few moments.

3. Draw the second and third fingers of your right hand to the center of your palm, then cover your right nostril with your right thumb.

4. Exhale all air from your lungs through your left nostril. Using a Complete Breath inhalation, smoothly inhale through your left nostril, to a total count of 4: breathe into your belly (count 1), expand your ribs, filling the middle part of the lungs with air (count 2), and finally bring air into your upper chest, lifting the breastbone (counts 3 and 4). Feel the lower, middle, and upper parts of the lungs completely expanded.

5. Use your right ring finger and thumb to gently pinch both nostrils closed. Hold the breath for a count of 4.

6. Lift the right thumb and, in a smooth stream of breath, exhale slowly through the right nostril to the count of 8: exhale from the upper chest (counts 1 and 2), then the ribs and middle part of the lungs (counts 3, 4, and 5), and finally the base of the lungs, as your belly pulls in (counts 6, 7, and 8).

7. Using a Complete Breath inhalation, smoothly inhale through your right nostril, to a total count of 4. Gently press and hold both nostrils closed with your right ring finger and thumb. Hold the breath for a count of 4. Lift the ring finger and, in a smooth stream of breath, exhale slowly through the left nostril to a count of 8. This finishes 1 round of Alternate-Nostril Breathing.

8. Repeat a complete round up to 5 times.

9. When you finish Alternate-Nostril Breathing, sit quietly and observe the sensations that follow. Do you feel calmer, more centered, more in touch with your body, breath, and mind?

Cooling Breath (Shitali)

What It Does: This exercise cools the body on a hot day and cools down overheated emotions.

How to Do It:

1. Sit straight in a chair with your legs together and feet flat on the floor, or sit on the floor in a seated yoga position, such as Easy Pose (see page 74) or Half Lotus Pose (see page 77).

2. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Quietly observe the breath for a few moments. Once you feel centered and focused, begin Cooling Breath.

3. Open your mouth and roll your tongue into a tube shape. If you can't roll your tongue, raise the sides of your tongue with your fingers.

4. Inhale smoothly though the tunnel, as if you're sipping through a straw. As you inhale, imagine breathing in prana and light.

5. Then unroll your tongue and close your mouth, while exhaling smoothly through your nose. As you exhale, imagine you're breathing out all impurities and darkness of the body, mind, and spirit.

6. Repeat 10 times.

Easy Pose with Chin Lock (Sukhasana Jalandhara Bandha)

What It Does: Bandhas, or muscular locks, are used during yoga postures to lock in and regulate prana, thereby preventing its escape from the body. Incorporating jalandhara bandha, or "chin lock," into your breathing and meditation poses will increase the storage and circulation of healing prana in your body. It will also stretch and open your upper chest and lungs, helping to increase your lung capacity. It is an excellent preparation for meditation. Practice this more advanced posture when you feel comfortable and strong doing breathing exercises lying on the floor.

How to Do It:

1. Sit on the floor, on the edge of a folded blanket. Cross your legs. For this posture, the spine is straight and the knees are lower than the top of the pelvis. If your back is rounded, or your knees are higher than your pelvis, add a second blanket.

2. Place your hands on your knees, palms turned up. Lift your chest upward just slightly, raising the top of your sternum toward your chin. Lower your chin gently toward your chest.

3. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Quietly observe your breath for a few moments. Once you feel centered and focused, practice several rounds of Complete Breath, described earlier in this chapter. Then return to quietly observing your normal breathing for a few moments. Continue this breathing cycle for 1 to 3 minutes.

4. As you hold the posture, be sure not to strain your neck. If your neck muscles begin to feel tired, bring your head up into simple Easy Pose.

5. Sit quietly and observe the effect the chin lock had on your breathing. Do you feel calmer, more centered, more in touch with your body, breath, and mind?

Copyright © 2003 by Elaine Gavalas

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Chapter 1 Understanding Yoga 1
Chapter 2 Before You Begin 17
Chapter 3 Yoga Relaxation and Breathing 31
Chapter 4 Yoga Meditation and Mantra 60
Chapter 5 Yoga Movement Meditation 87
Chapter 6 Restorative Yoga 107
Chapter 7 Yoga for Emotional Wellness 130
Index 159
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First Chapter

Chapter 3: Yoga Relaxation and Breathing

Would you like to remain calm, alert, and focused, even as a storm of stress rages around you? You may be one of the millions of people around the globe who have been deeply troubled by shocking global or personal events, and you may be searching for ways to restore a sense of calm and balance to your life. With the relaxation and breathing techniques that follow, you'll tap into yourself and find inner balance as you gain strength and stability. At one time or another we all face chaotic events beyond our control, but we can learn to counter their effects. Yoga practice is a great way to do just that.

Daily life is full of challenging and sometimes stressful moments. Many of us deal with the pressures of two-career households, long work hours, and a shifting economic landscape. It's no wonder we're in the midst of a stress epidemic. The American Institute of Stress has determined that stress lurks behind nearly 90 percent of visits to the doctor. Stress has been linked to all of the leading causes of death, including heart and lung diseases, cirrhosis of the liver, cancer, accidents, and suicide. Research has also confirmed the role of stress in many serious health problems, from depression to insomnia. But don't let the numbers get you down. You can learn to manage and beat stress with regular practice of these relaxation and breathing techniques.

Stress is an inevitable part of life. We usually think of stress as negative -- something that knots the stomach, brings shortness of breath, and challenges our immune system. However, certain types of stress are actually good for you. There's the positive stress that helps us to win a race, or that creates sexual tension or inspires us. The magic of yoga is its power to release the negative stress that can cause us harm.

The Stress Response

Stress results from the way we react to a situation, not from the situation itself. It's our reaction to the event that determines its effect on our physical and mental health. For example, if we perceive a situation as dangerous or threatening, we'll experience anxiety and fear. This fearful response generates a fight-or-flight physiological reaction.

Our body's autonomic nervous system is divided into two parts, the sympathetic system -- identified with the fight-or-flight response -- and the parasympathetic -- which counteracts the physiological effects of the sympathetic. Our sympathetic nervous system energizes and prepares us to either flee or engage in battle by releasing stress hormones such as adrenaline. These hormones sharpen perception and reaction, dilating our pupils to allow more light in (to help us see better); increasing our breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure (to maximize blood flow to our limbs); and stopping digestion.

Although the threatening situations have changed, our physiologic reaction to danger is much the same as early man's. Obviously modern negative stressors generally aren't life-or-death situations, but our bodies respond just as cavemen's bodies did when faced with a saber-toothed tiger. When our fight-or-flight response is evoked daily by life's annoying hassles, such as being stuck in traffic or waiting in line at the supermarket, or by more serious life events, such as a death in the family or a contentious divorce, it takes a toll on our health. Our sympathetic nervous system becomes overloaded, often producing chronic muscle tension (especially in the shoulders, neck, and jaw), elevated heart rate and blood pressure, and digestive problems. Left unattended, this can result in chronic illness, pain, and disease.

We can release chronic muscle tension and the other symptoms of negative stress by practicing yoga relaxation and breathing techniques. Performing yoga's relaxation poses and deep breathing turns off the fight-or-flight response and turns on the parasympathetic nervous system, known as the relaxation response. This slows our heartbeat, decreases our blood pressure and respiration, lowers our stress hormone levels, and brings our body back into a healthier balance.

Three Yoga Steps to Relaxation

You can elicit the relaxation response in three easy steps, with yoga practices that help you recognize the stress, release the tension, and breathe deeply. The complete Yoga Relaxation and Breathing Practice Plan follows this section, but first, here's how and why it works.

1. Recognizing the Stress

The first step in reversing negative stress is to recognize it. Be aware of what your body is feeling. This is the perfect opportunity to practice the understanding of self, or svadhyaya. Be the observer and look for places where stress accumulates within your body (see Yoga Observation, page 29). It makes sense to identify where stress resides in your body, because once you know, you can do something about it.

2. Releasing the Tension

The second step in reversing negative stress is to release the tension. As soon as you become aware of negative stress, stop what you're doing and release it from your body. You can do a few seated yoga tension-relieving poses at your desk or wherever you might be sitting (see the 7-Step Yoga Relaxation Sequence, page 44).

Yoga poses and self-massage are powerful tools to relieve stress and tension. You can easily do any number of poses at your desk, including Seated Head Tap, Seated Shoulder-and-Arm Tap, and Face Massage. As discussed in Chapter 1, do-in and self-acupressure can help to relieve and prevent tension and tightness, promote relaxation, and increase the circulation of prana.

Regular yoga asana practice, including vinyasa yoga (see Chapter 5, "Yoga Movement Meditation"), restorative yoga (see Chapter 6, "Restorative Yoga"), and wellness yoga (see Chapter 7, "Yoga for Emotional Wellness"), will also relieve and prevent tension and negative stress.

3. Breathing Deeply

The third step in reversing negative stress is to breathe deeply. Now that you've done some tension-relieving poses, you're ready to slow your breathing down. Yoga deep breathing is a natural tranquilizer for the mind and body. When we're under stress, we hold our bellies rigid and our breathing is shallow. This may deprive the brain, muscles, and vital organs of oxygen. You can change your breathing pattern from tension-producing to relaxation-enhancing by practicing yoga deep abdominal breathing.

By shifting your awareness to your breath and away from upsetting thoughts, you shift your body into relaxation mode. Research indicates that breathing slowly and deeply sends a message to the body and mind that all is well, thereby interrupting the stress cycle.

Take a 1-minute vacation from work with the routine outlined in the Yoga Relaxation and Breathing Practice Plan. You can practice the art and science of pranayama (yoga breathing) lying down in Modified Relaxation Pose (see page 24) or sitting up in Easy Pose with Chin Lock (page 58), with techniques including Complete Breath, Alternate-Nostril Breathing, and Cooling Breath, all described in the section "Yoga Breathing (Pranayama)," later in this chapter.

Once you become familiar with yoga breathing, follow your pranayama practice with yoga meditation (see Chapter 4, "Yoga Meditation and Mantra"), which has been shown to elicit the relaxation response.

Yoga Breathing Basics

Breathing is something that many of us take for granted, yet it's one of the few autonomic functions we can control consciously. Breathing is an essential part of our survival; it supports all of our basic physiological processes and strongly influences mind, body, and spirit. We can live for a few weeks without food and a few days without water, but for only a few minutes without breath.

Pranayama is one of the eight essential limbs of the Tree of Yoga described in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. In Sanskrit, yama means restraint or control. Pranayama seeks to harness and control the breath to direct, circulate, and store prana (life-force energy) in the body, to facilitate spiritual enlightenment and reach a higher consciousness.

Yoga masters believe that by slowing down the breath, and thereby slowing down the heartbeat, we may enjoy longevity and perfect health. Regular pranayama practice is a wise investment. With yoga breathing, you may build a supply of life-force energy from which you can draw during times of stress.

Shallow breathing (or even holding the breath) is a typical response to negative stress. In shallow breathing, you are taking air into the chest only, rather than the abdomen, and utilizing only the upper lobes of the lungs. In contrast, with yoga deep breathing you first breathe into the lower abdomen, then the rib cage, and then the upper chest. Utilizing all three areas of the lungs during yoga deep breathing will increase your lung capacity over time and will supply more oxygen for the trillions of cells in your body. You'll also enjoy increased energy, vitality, and life force, and a calm mind.

Deep breathing may be difficult to master at first. My students often find it helpful to visualize the mechanics of deep breathing. The organs and muscles of respiration include the diaphragm -- a large, dome-shaped muscle that separates the lungs and heart from the stomach and other abdominal organs -- the twelve pairs of ribs, the intercostal muscles between the ribs, the abdominal muscles, a pair of lungs, and the heart. With deep inhalation, your diaphragm presses downward to make more space for the air coming in, your abdomen expands, then your ribs and chest widen to make room for your expanding lungs. On exhalation, your diaphragm rises, pushing the air back out, as your chest, lungs, ribs, and then your abdomen contract.

If you're just beginning pranayama practice, you may find yoga deep breathing easier when you're lying down. That way you don't have to contend with the challenge of maintaining a stable, seated posture while learning pranayama. Begin practicing Complete Breath lying down in Modified Relaxation Pose or Supported Relaxation Pose. Once you're comfortable practicing pranayama lying down -- without strain, dizziness, or shortness of breath -- you're ready to try a seated pose. Begin your seated pranayama practice with Complete Breath, Easy Pose with Chin Lock, Alternate-Nostril Breathing, and Cooling Breath. Gate Pose will help you prepare for deep breathing by stretching the intercostal muscles and sides of the body.

Before You Start

• If you have any physical limitations, such as asthma or heart disease, consult your physician before beginning yoga breathing exercises.
• If you're just beginning a yoga breathing practice, comfortably and gradually work up to the recommended frequency and duration of these pranayama exercises. Respect your own abilities.
• You should never experience strain, dizziness, or shortness of breath while practicing pranayama. If any of these symptoms occur, stop immediately. Try a less challenging yoga breathing exercise. If symptoms persist, see your physician.

Yoga Relaxation and Breathing Practice Plan

After practicing the Yoga Basics from Chapter 2 for 1 week, begin this Yoga Relaxation and Breathing practice. Be aware that it may take you more than 4 weeks to do this routine comfortably, depending on your physical condition. If you feel comfortable and confident doing the poses in Weeks 1 and 2, proceed to Week 3, then Week 4. Otherwise, stay with Weeks 1 and 2 until you feel strong enough to continue.

Week 1

Practice Schedule: Practice for 20 to 30 minutes, 3 days a week.
Yoga Observation: Practice seated Yoga Observation (see page 29).
7-Step Yoga Relaxation Sequence: Choose 3 of the following for each practice session:

  • Seated Head Tap
  • Face Massage
  • Seated Head-and-Neck Tilt
  • Seated Shoulder-and-Arm Tap
  • Seated Stretch and Yawn
  • Tighten-and-Release Pose
  • Progressive Relaxation
Yoga Breathing:
  • Gate Pose
  • Complete Breath, lying down in Modified Relaxation Pose or Supported Relaxation Pose

Week 2

Practice Schedule: Practice for 20 to 30 minutes, 3 or 4 days a week.
Yoga Observation: Practice seated Yoga Observation.
7-Step Yoga Relaxation Sequence: Choose 4 of the following for each practice session:

  • Seated Head Tap
  • Face Massage
  • Seated Head-and-Neck Tilt
  • Seated Shoulder-and-Arm Tap
  • Seated Stretch and Yawn
  • Tighten-and-Release Pose
  • Progressive Relaxation
Yoga Breathing:
  • Gate Pose
  • Complete Breath, sitting up

Week 3

Practice Schedule: Practice for 30 minutes, 4 days a week
7-Step Yoga Relaxation Sequence: Perform the entire sequence in each practice session:

  • Seated Head Tap
  • Face Massage
  • Seated Head-and-Neck Tilt
  • Seated Shoulder-and-Arm Tap
  • Seated Stretch and Yawn
  • Tighten-and-Release Pose
  • Progressive Relaxation
Yoga Breathing:
  • Gate Pose
  • Alternate-Nostril Breathing
  • Cooling Breath

Week 4

Practice Schedule: Practice for 30 to 40 minutes, 4 days a week.
Yoga Observation: Practice seated Yoga Observation.
7-Step Yoga Relaxation Sequence: Perform the entire sequence in each practice session:

  • Seated Head Tap
  • Face Massage
  • Seated Head-and-Neck Tilt
  • Seated Shoulder-and-Arm Tap
  • Seated Stretch and Yawn
  • Tighten-and-Release Pose
  • Progressive Relaxation
Yoga Breathing:
  • Gate Pose
  • Alternate-Nostril Breathing
  • Easy Pose with Chin Lock
The 7-Step Yoga Relaxation Sequence

1. Seated Head Tap

What It Does: Practicing do-in in Seated Head Tap helps to release tension and tightness in the head and neck, promotes relaxation, and increases the circulation of prana. This exercise also helps relieve and prevent tension headaches and improves concentration.

How to Do It:
1. Sit straight in a chair with your legs together and feet flat on the floor.
2. Gently and lightly tap all around your head with loosely closed fists. As you tap, take slow, deep breaths.
3. Tap for approximately 10 seconds.

2. Face Massage

What It Does: Practicing do-in and self-acupressure in Face Massage is very helpful for relieving sinus pain as well as chronic tension in the face and jaw.
How to Do It:
1. Sit straight in a chair with your legs together and feet flat on the floor. Before you begin, observe how your face feels. Does your jaw feel tense? Is your face cold? Do you have sinus pain?
2. Moving your fingertips in slow, circular motions, massage your temples, around your hairline, up and down the sides of your nose, in front of your ears, behind your ears and the back of your neck. As you massage, take slow, deep, relaxing breaths.
3. With your fingertips, massage your jaw muscles with firm pressure. Open and close your mouth to find your jaw muscles. As you massage, be sure to continue your relaxed breathing.
4. With the pads of your fingers gently press underneath your cheekbones.
5. Now close your eyes and observe how your face feels after your massage. Does it feel warmer? More awake? Tingling? Has your jaw tension dissolved?
3. Seated Head-and-Neck Tilt

What It Does: Doing Seated Head-and-Neck Tilt releases tension, fatigue, and pain in the head and neck and relieves negative stress.
How to Do It:
1. Sit straight in a chair with your legs together and feet flat on the floor.
2. Inhale, then exhale as you tilt your head to the left toward your left shoulder. Lightly place your left hand on your head; allow the weight of the hand to gently increase the stretch in the right side of your neck.
3. Take several slow, deep breaths as you relax and stretch the muscles down the right side of your neck, for about 30 seconds. 4. Remove your hand and slowly lift your head to center. Observe the difference in the way the right and left sides of the neck feel.
5. Repeat on the other side.
4. Seated Shoulder-and-Arm Tap

What It Does: Practicing do-in in Seated Shoulder-and-Arm Tap helps to relieve and prevent tension and tightness in the neck, shoulders, and arms.
How to Do It:
1. Sit straight in a chair with your legs together and feet flat on the floor.
2. With loosely closed fists, gently and lightly tap from the top of your shoulder, down your arm to your hand.
3. Repeat three times on each arm.
5. Seated Stretch and Yawn

What It Does: The most natural release of tension, fatigue, and stress is to stretch and yawn. Doing Seated Stretch and Yawn releases tension and fatigue in the upper body and relieves negative stress.
How to Do It:
1. With a slow, deep inhalation, raise your arms above your head. Exhale and relax your shoulders down from your ears.
2. Take a deep breath and stretch your left arm up toward the ceiling. Squeeze your mouth and eyes shut, and yawn. Keep stretching the left arm up, while your right arm remains relaxed and your right elbow slightly bent. Exhale and relax the left arm.
3. Take a deep breath as you stretch your right arm up toward the ceiling. Squeeze your mouth and eyes shut, and yawn. Keep stretching the right arm up, while your left arm remains relaxed and your left elbow slightly bent. Exhale and release the right arm down to your side.
4. Repeat on each side.
5. Now observe the sensation that follows. That's what it feels like to release tension from your face and shoulders!
6. Tighten-and-Release Pose

What It Does: Tighten-and-Release Pose gathers up all the negative stress and tension in the body, holds it, then releases it.
How to Do It:
1. Lie on your back on a mat on the floor. While inhaling, raise your arms above your head and clench your fists. Tighten your buttocks and lift your hips up, while pushing your heels down. Squeeze your mouth and eyes shut, and tense your face, your arms, your hands, your legs, and your feet. Hold the tension for 5 seconds.
2. Exhale as you release the tension and relax your feet, your legs, your hands, your arms, and your face. Feel all of the tension drain right out of your muscles, flowing out your hands and feet.
3. Observe the sensation that follows.
7. Progressive Relaxation

What It Does: With Progressive Relaxation we focus sequentially on relaxing each individual body part, beginning with the feet and working up to the head.
How to Do It:
1. Sit straight in a chair with your legs together and feet flat on the floor, or lie down in Supported Relaxation Pose (see page 128). Be sure that you're comfortable and relaxed in this position.
2. Now relax each part of your body, beginning with your feet and working up to your head. Begin by centering your attention on your feet and toes. Inhale and suggest to the feet and toes to relax. Exhale and observe your toes and feet relaxing. Feel the sensation of them melting into the floor.
3. Repeat the three Progressive Relaxation steps, Attention, Positive Suggestion, and Observation, with each individual body part, including your ankles, calves, knees, thighs, and pelvis, noticing and releasing areas of tension. Continue with your upper body, including your abdomen, back, chest, arms, head, and face, noticing and releasing areas of tension.
4. With each exhalation, allow the weight of your bones to sink toward the floor. Scan your body, noting any muscular tension or pain. Now, with each exhalation, surrender your muscles to the pull of gravity, sinking further into the floor.
5. Relax all efforts and rest in the healing stillness for as long as you wish.
Yoga Breathing (Pranayama)
Gate Pose (Parighasana)

What It Does: The Gate Pose side bend will help you prepare for deep breathing by stretching the intercostal muscles, the muscles that connect the ribs. Use a folded blanket under your supporting knee, if necessary.
How to Do It:
1. Kneel on the floor with your spine in an upright position. If kneeling is painful, place a folded blanket under your knees. If you still experience pain or discomfort, stop immediately.
2. Now straighten your right leg out to the side, with the right foot as flat on the floor as possible and the right knee facing the ceiling. The left knee remains directly below the left hip.
3. Inhale and stretch both arms out to the sides, with palms facing the floor. Exhale and reach up with your left arm, then bend at the waist to the right, placing your right hand on your lower right leg. Look up under your left arm toward the ceiling.
4. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths. Stretch and expand the left side of your rib cage with each inhalation and exhalation.
5. Inhale and lift your left arm overhead while bringing your spine back to center. Exhale and stretch both arms out to the sides. Bring your right leg back to kneeling position.
6. Repeat on the other side.
7. Observe the sensation that follows. Does your breathing feel fuller, deeper?
Complete Breath (Pranayama)

What It Does: Complete Breath is a classic pranayama technique used during relaxation, but it can be done anywhere, at any time. Practice Complete Breath during times of stress to focus, center, and calm yourself. It is called Complete Breath because it integrates the lower, middle, and upper parts of your lungs. This will increase your lung capacity as well as strengthen your diaphragm, chest, and intercostal muscles.
How to Do It:
1. If you're just beginning pranayama practice, it may be easier to learn Complete Breath lying down in Modified Relaxation Pose (see page 24) or in Supported Relaxation Pose (see page 128). When you're comfortable practicing this exercise lying down, try it sitting in a chair with your legs together and feet flat on the floor, or in a seated pose, such as Easy Pose (see page 74).
2. Gently place both of your hands, fingertips touching, on your abdomen, below the belly button. You want to feel the action of your abdomen as you inhale and exhale.
3. Exhale the air from your lungs completely through your nose. To a total count of 4, smoothly inhale through your nose and feel your fingertips rise as you breathe into your belly (count 1), expand your ribs, filling the middle part of the lungs with air (count 2), and finally draw air into your upper chest, lifting the breastbone (counts 3 and 4). Hold the breath for a moment, feeling the base, middle, and upper parts of the lungs completely expanded.
4. To a total count of 8, slowly exhale through your nose. In a smooth stream of breath, exhale from the upper chest (counts 1 and 2), then from the ribs and middle part of the lungs (counts 3, 4, and 5), and finally from the base of the lungs, feeling your fingertips fall as your belly draws in with the exhalation (counts 6, 7, and 8). This completes 1 round of Complete Breath.
5. Repeat a few rounds of Complete Breath in joyous serenity.
Alternate-Nostril Breathing

(Nadhi Shodhana)

What It Does: Alternate-Nostril Breathing, one of the best-known pranayama techniques, helps balance mind, body, and spirit. Practicing Alternate-Nostril Breathing is a natural tranquilizer, as it calms the nervous system, relieves tension and negative stress, and quiets the mind. It teaches us control of our breathing through the right and left nostrils, and it is also an excellent preparation for meditation. You're ready for this exercise when you feel comfortable and strong doing breathing exercises lying on the floor.
How to Do It:
1. Sit straight in a chair with your legs together and feet flat on the floor, or sit on the floor in a seated yoga position, such as Easy Pose (see page 74) or Half Lotus Pose (see page 77).
2. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Quietly observe the breath for a few moments.
3. Draw the second and third fingers of your right hand to the center of your palm, then cover your right nostril with your right thumb.
4. Exhale all air from your lungs through your left nostril. Using a Complete Breath inhalation, smoothly inhale through your left nostril, to a total count of 4: breathe into your belly (count 1), expand your ribs, filling the middle part of the lungs with air (count 2), and finally bring air into your upper chest, lifting the breastbone (counts 3 and 4). Feel the lower, middle, and upper parts of the lungs completely expanded.
5. Use your right ring finger and thumb to gently pinch both nostrils closed. Hold the breath for a count of 4.
6. Lift the right thumb and, in a smooth stream of breath, exhale slowly through the right nostril to the count of 8: exhale from the upper chest (counts 1 and 2), then the ribs and middle part of the lungs (counts 3, 4, and 5), and finally the base of the lungs, as your belly pulls in (counts 6, 7, and 8).
7. Using a Complete Breath inhalation, smoothly inhale through your right nostril, to a total count of 4. Gently press and hold both nostrils closed with your right ring finger and thumb. Hold the breath for a count of 4. Lift the ring finger and, in a smooth stream of breath, exhale slowly through the left nostril to a count of 8. This finishes 1 round of Alternate-Nostril Breathing.
8. Repeat a complete round up to 5 times.
9. When you finish Alternate-Nostril Breathing, sit quietly and observe the sensations that follow. Do you feel calmer, more centered, more in touch with your body, breath, and mind?
Cooling Breath (Shitali)

What It Does: This exercise cools the body on a hot day and cools down overheated emotions.
How to Do It:
1. Sit straight in a chair with your legs together and feet flat on the floor, or sit on the floor in a seated yoga position, such as Easy Pose (see page 74) or Half Lotus Pose (see page 77).
2. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Quietly observe the breath for a few moments. Once you feel centered and focused, begin Cooling Breath.
3. Open your mouth and roll your tongue into a tube shape. If you can't roll your tongue, raise the sides of your tongue with your fingers.
4. Inhale smoothly though the tunnel, as if you're sipping through a straw. As you inhale, imagine breathing in prana and light.
5. Then unroll your tongue and close your mouth, while exhaling smoothly through your nose. As you exhale, imagine you're breathing out all impurities and darkness of the body, mind, and spirit.
6. Repeat 10 times.
Easy Pose with Chin Lock (Sukhasana Jalandhara Bandha)

What It Does: Bandhas, or muscular locks, are used during yoga postures to lock in and regulate prana, thereby preventing its escape from the body. Incorporating jalandhara bandha, or "chin lock," into your breathing and meditation poses will increase the storage and circulation of healing prana in your body. It will also stretch and open your upper chest and lungs, helping to increase your lung capacity. It is an excellent preparation for meditation. Practice this more advanced posture when you feel comfortable and strong doing breathing exercises lying on the floor.
How to Do It:
1. Sit on the floor, on the edge of a folded blanket. Cross your legs. For this posture, the spine is straight and the knees are lower than the top of the pelvis. If your back is rounded, or your knees are higher than your pelvis, add a second blanket.
2. Place your hands on your knees, palms turned up. Lift your chest upward just slightly, raising the top of your sternum toward your chin. Lower your chin gently toward your chest.
3. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Quietly observe your breath for a few moments. Once you feel centered and focused, practice several rounds of Complete Breath, described earlier in this chapter. Then return to quietly observing your normal breathing for a few moments. Continue this breathing cycle for 1 to 3 minutes.
4. As you hold the posture, be sure not to strain your neck. If your neck muscles begin to feel tired, bring your head up into simple Easy Pose.
5. Sit quietly and observe the effect the chin lock had on your breathing. Do you feel calmer, more centered, more in touch with your body, breath, and mind?

Copyright © 2003 by Elaine Gavalas

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