Regular readers know that I started doing yoga more than 30 years ago while in my 30’s. I did it religiously for the first couple of years, then slacked off some. But, I never stopped doing yoga. I use yoga techniques when I do stretches on bike riding breaks. The yoga breathing sends oxygen-rich blood to my leg muscles and refreshes them to extend the ride.
I wrote previously about being in Las Vegas on a trip with my girlfriend and dealing with the huge portions of food being served. Another difficulty of being here is that your mind gets going gambling and then when you finally get to bed, your brain is still in high gear.
What to do?
Going back to my practice of yoga, the one technique that I have carried forward and used probably every day of my life is breath control. I think it may have saved my life on more than one occasion.
If you aren’t familiar with breath control in yoga, I will share my experience. I learned from a yoga teacher that I was dating, there may well be other further techniques that I don’t know about.
What I do is called diaphragmatic breathing in which you lower your diaphragm by extending your stomach outward (making a potbelly). This is done to a count of five and the result is that the inhaled air reaches deep into the lungs which doesn’t occur in regular breathing. You can hold the breath for a beat or two and then exhale to a similar five count.
Besides sending oxygen-rich blood around to your muscles and brain, this also has a wonderful stilling effect on your mind as well as your body. Remember, when you are stressed, you breathe shallowly – your breath comes in short pants. The yoga breathing is the opposite of that and has the opposite effect. It calms you down.
Whenever I find myself stressed in any way, the first thing I do is to relax and breathe diaphragmatically. This slows my racing mind down and allows me to make clear decisions as opposed to panicked ones.
Now you know the first part . I recently took a yoga class from The Great Courses. In this class, the teacher extended the yoga breath which I have described. In her version, you inhale diaphragmatically to a five count, then, instead of exhaling, you expand your chest and inhale for a further five count. This results in considerably more oxygen getting into your system and also has a stronger impact on slowing your breathing and heart rate.
While practicing yoga breathing concentrate only on the breath you are taking and nothing else. Feel the oxygen entering your lungs and circulating through your body as you inhale. Release the waste air on the exhale thinking only of that. Clear your mind as you fill and empty your lungs.
I have found that using this new technique at night can result in putting me to sleep in no time. It really relaxes me and takes me right down.
If you are having trouble getting to sleep or would just like to fall asleep faster, I suggest you try it.
Finally, because so many readers are concerned about their weight and waistlines, a good night’s sleep is very helpful in controlling your weight. When you sleep badly, or too little, you are more likely to be snacking on sugary, calorie-filled, confections in the afternoon to get an energy boost. So, a good night’s sleep can help you cut down on bad snacks, too.