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Breathing techniques essential while performing asanas edit button Edit

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A.D Pradeep Kumar | calendar 03 March 2024 | 84

The Financial Express February 13, 2000

Yoga postulates that a body that is not healthy is not conducive either to relaxation or control of the mind and is therefore unsuited to the practice of Yoga.

Accordingly, one of the methods by which Yoga seeks to ensure good health is through the regular practice of asanas, which are not mere physical exercises, but the product of the observations, experiences and intuitive perceptions of the ancient Rishis of India.

According to The Yoga Institute, Santacruz, each asana is linked to a bhava, or the feelings that one wishes to inculcate. The institute has classified the asanas under the four bhavas of Dharma, Jnana, Vairagya and Aishwarya.

The asanas themselves are recognised by Yoga as the primary requisite for the development of the physical, moral, mental and spiritual aspects of a man's personality. Hence, the selection of an asana is very important. The ideal course of daily asanas is one that exercises the joints and major muscle groups like the spinal and abdominal muscles, improves blood circulation, contributes to steadiness and enriches positive experiences.

The yogic system of physical education has certain special virtues. Because of its essentially-non-violent and non-fatiguing nature. It is well suited to both the young and the old. It provides the maximum vital index when compared with other forms of exercise. It also maintains an organic harmony between the development of the muscles and the development and functioning of the vital inner organs. Moreover, each exercise has specific positive health value, both as an immunity factor and as a preventive measure.

Yoga lays special emphasis on proper and rhythmic breathing. In 1918, Shri Yogendraji supplemented the postures with a highly scientific rhythm of breathing, now known as the Yogendra Rhythm of Breathing. Its secret lies in that peculiar organ harmony, which endows each exercise with its own contribution to the maximum vital index.

The fullest opportunity is given both to the lungs and the diaphragm for deep and vigorous accommodation and action by precisely determining the exact moment and lengths of periods of inhalation, retention, exhalation and suspension of breath most suited to any exercise.

The mouth should be closed during exercise. Exhale and inhale only through the nose. It is advisable to inhale in slow rhythmic breath and exhale in continuous and long rhythms. Avoid quick and jerky breathing, which might impair the elasticity of the lungs. Each breathing movement must be deep and full.

Exercise is best done in the open air, but if you have to do your exercises indoors, ensure that the room is quiet, well-ventilated, free from draughts with windows at suitable angles. The place must also be free from dust and insects, moisture, draughts and unpleasant smells, precluding any unfavourable physical or mental distractions. Once you have selected a place, it is best to use the same place every day.

Any exercise that you do when you are experiencing violent emotion or moods will detract from the good the exercise will do. The need to free yourself from emotional upheavals before and during exercise is therefore a must. So, remember to begin your exercises with an undisturbed mind.

In the beginning, in order to appreciate the muscular movements of the4 body, perform the exercises before the mirror. This will also help to concentrate the mind on particular parts of the body and to check faults. Later, this distraction may be avoided to keep the mind free from externals.

Yogic exercises must be performed on an empty stomach, an hour before or after food. Before commencing the exercises, remember that your bladder and bowels must be empty; also clean your nose and throat of all mucus.

The time best suited for exercise is to the morning before breakfast. If that is not possible, do them before dinner if you are not too tired. In case you are tired, give relaxation postures priority over the other exercises.

The exercises you do should be neither excessive or so meagre as to be ineffective, 25-30 minutes is best. Yoga strongly recommends moderation. If you happen to miss out on your exercises one day, try and do them at some other time of the day or definitely the next day. For it is essential to maintain the daily health rhythm. In the practice of Yoga, regularity in training or Abhyasa is one of the two fundamental sources of success.

Whenever fatigue is experienced during the practice of Yoga, relax for an interval. This will minimise the effects of excess or strain, particularly in the nervous system.

Wear loose fitting cloths, and remember, while exercising, the more skin that is exposed to the air, the better. The body must be left unimpeded for free movement. The feet should be bare to allow proper exercise to the lower limbs. In winter, keep the body suitably warm. White cotton or silk clothes preferable for hygiene.

Never exercise on a bare floor. Always use a mat (6x3 feet), a woollen carpet or a well-tanned hide. A clean sheet should be spread on this, which should be washed daily.

(Note: This article is based on the principles advocated by The Yoga Institute, Santacruz)