A Note from Tracy: Research has proven that yoga is an effective tool to help overcome depression, according to this article recently published in Harvard Health Publishing. Effective yoga practices to combat depression are about more than movement, however. Breath and meditation are equally, if not more, important. In this series of articles, I will share six practices (some movement, some breath, and some meditation) from my series Overcoming Depression with Yoga. Enjoy!
The simple breath practice below can be done seated or lying. Doing it seated will provide a subtly more energizing effect. The practice is balanced enough that it can be done any time of day. If you practice it regularly, you will create greater balance in your life. (And who doesn’t want more of that?)
Full Torso Breathing
- Come to a comfortable seated or lying position. Place one hand on your belly below your navel and the other on your chest near your collar bones.
- Notice the natural pattern of your breath. How long or short is your breath? How full or shallow? How smooth or rough? Notice which hand moves first. The top or the bottom? Do you feel more expansion in the chest or the belly?
- Now, modify your natural breath pattern. Imagine that you inhale into your top hand first, then then expand your belly as if you could breathe into your bottom hand. With each exhale, pull in your belly and feel your bottom hand move toward your spine.
- Gradually, over several breaths, lengthen both your inhale and exhale. Continue to imagine that you can breathe into your entire torso, including the collar bones, ribs and belly. If your inhale is longer than your exhale, shorten it until both are equal. The inhale should not be longer than the exhale and at no time should you strain your breath.
- Once you reach a lengthened breath, breathe at this rate for approximately 5 minutes. With each inhale, imagine that you breathe into the top hand first, then the bottom. With each exhale, pull in your abdominal muscles.
- After about 5 minutes, gradually return your breath to a natural rhythm.
- Notice the new natural pattern of your breath. What differences do you feel from the beginning of practice? How long or short is your breath now? How full or shallow? How smooth or rough? Do you feel more expansion in the chest or the belly than you did at the beginning of the practice? Relish this new breath rhythm and carry this awareness of breathing to the rest of your day.
I hope you find this practice useful. Next week I’ll share one of my favorite meditations for conquering depression. If you’d like to learn more about private yoga therapy and yoga teacher training, visit my website at http://svanayogaseattle.com/
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