This is another in a series of book extracts by Uma Dinsmore-Tuli that we are publishing on the yogayoga website.
• If you are interested in further reading, we stock a small selection of Uma Dinsmore-Tuli’s books at the studio.
Breath of Life - the Full Yogic Breath
Breath of life 2: Abdominal & Chest
By Uma Dinsmore-Tuli
This is the next stage of full yogic breath, combining the previous practice with an expansion of the breath deeper and higher into the chest. Especially once the movement of the diaphragm has ceased in late pregnancy, the chest breath is a very valuable practice, boosting energy and vitality.
Once you have established either a comfortable rhythm of abdominal movement, or a sense of the energy travelling into the lower part of belly through the placement of the hands, then you are ready to move the breath higher up the body.
How to do it
Once you have a comfortable rhythm to the breath in the belly, then extend the breath easily up the body
Allow the chest to expand sideways, as the breath moves in and up. Feel each rib moving away from its neighbours, creating a sense of huge expansion in all directions, but most especially from side to side.
Allow for this sideways movement to free space right up under the armpits, as you continue to feel each rib moving apart from its neighbour to open up a big, welcoming space for the incoming breath.
Allow the upper back to expand, opening a space between the two shoulder blades as the breath moves up.
Sense that at the very end of the sideways movement of the ribs there comes an upwards lift of the front ribs that carries the breastbone higher and allows for the inhalation to lengthen even further.
On the exhalation allow the whole chest to deflate.
The movement of expansion in the chest is much bigger than that in the belly. The sensation should be that the whole chest is opening up sideways, and that the effect of this movement is to expand the capacity of the lungs. If you are lying on your back, you can feel the space between the shoulder blades opening up as the shoulder blades slide outwards and down against the floor. If you are sitting, it is instructive to rest the heels of your hands on the sides of your ribs, with your fingers pointing forwards, so that you can breathe into the hands and feel the expansion in the sides and around into the back as the ribcage opens up. This way to check the sideways expansion of the chest also works well if you lie on your side and have a friend or partner rest the palms of their hands on the shoulder blades or the ribs. You can also detect this movement of the ribs and shoulder blades if you sit back to back.
Breathing fully from belly up into the chest is energising and revitalising. It raises the spirits and can encourage the adoption of a more open-hearted, uplifted posture. This can be very useful to create a sense of space that is most welcome as the baby grows larger. It can help ease the feeling of panic that comes with breathlessness, and it is a powerful breath to build strength and energy in the early stages of labour. Post-natally, this breathing pattern can counteract the hunched back and shoulders that come from carrying and feeding infants, encouraging a more open feeling in the chest which relieves the shoulders and upper back. It can also boost energy to help cope with the effects of sleep deprivation, or to manage those low moments when exhaustion, depression and self-doubt conspire to make it hard to feel positive.
These book extracts appear on the yogayoga website by permission of Uma Dinsmore-Tuli and are all copyrighted materials. See Uma's new books at and www.sitaram.org and www.yonishakti.co
Pregnancy & Postnatal yoga book extracts by Uma Dinsmore-Tuli:
Mother'sBreath: Postures for Pranayama
More extracts from 'Mothers Breath' coming soon...
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