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How do you breathe?

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Breath awareness practice for menopause with Angie Klein  

Place one hand on the lower belly, one hand on the upper chest, take a few breaths and notice which part of the body rises more (for a guided practice, click here).

If we can start with spending a few moments, five to 10 minutes a day, consciously breathing and tuning in to how we are breathing, it will help to improve our breath patterns and can immeasurably improve the quality of our yoga practice and our life. 

Preparation 

  • Lie down on your back in savasana (relaxation pose). 
  • Have your legs straight, hip-width apart and let your feet flop open. 
  • Relax your arms by your side a few inches away from your body, palms facing the sky.
  • You can place a bolster or rolled towel under your knees to support the lower back. To support the head, or if you experience any respiratory discomfort, lift the head higher than the chest by using a folded towel. 
  • Close your eyes. 
  • Make any final adjustments so that you are completely comfortable. 

Or 

  • You can also sit in sukhasana (easy pose). 
  • Cross your shins, widen your knees, and slip each foot beneath the opposite knee as you bend them, and fold the legs in towards your torso. 
  • Relax the feet so their outer edges rest comfortably on the floor and the inner arches settle just below the opposite shin. 
  • You should sit with your pelvis in a relatively neutral position – if you find it difficult to sit up straight, try placing a folded blanket, bolster or block under your sitting bones. Raising your hips often helps your spine come into a more sustainable alignment. You can also use a wall for support. 

Or  

  • You can just sit comfortably in a chair. 

 

Noticing the breath 

Without changing anything or trying to alter your breath, inhale and exhale. Breathe in and out through your nose. Bring your awareness to your breath and observe where your breath is going in your body. Don’t alter it or make it any different. Just let your breath do what it will. Let your awareness travel with this experience. 

8-10 breaths 

 

Breath awareness 

  • Place your hands gently on your belly. 
  • Start by centring your awareness on the inhale and the exhale – and the points where they merge. 
  • As you inhale, breathe down into the belly and allow the belly to expand. 
  • As you exhale, allow the belly to drop down towards the ground. Allow the entire body to soften, releasing the breath slowly and gently. 
  • Notice how the whole body inflates when you breathe in and softens and relaxes when you breathe out. 
  • Become aware of the length of your inhale and exhale and the gentle pause between each breath. 
  • The pause – the space where the breath merges between the breath’s movements – is referred to as madhya: a moment of stillness, a point between two phases of movement. 
  • See if you can make the exhale a little longer than the inhale. 
  • As you breathe into the entire ribcage and down to the belly, notice how the diaphragm allows the abdomen to flatten and relax down on the inhale and how it domes and expands on the exhale. 
  • On the inhale, the muscles of the diaphragm engage, widen and move slightly downwards, becoming taut like the head of a drum. On the exhale, the diaphragm releases and comes back to its initial resting place. It is here on the exhale, when we lengthen the breath, that we create a parasympathetic response, a natural calming that supports an overall sense of softening and letting go. 
  • Breathe into the entire ribcage – the front, the sides and the back of the ribcage. 
  • Pause in the stillness, as the inhale and exhale gently merge together. 
  • Tune in and feel the body and breath – fostering your awareness of the present. 

5-10 minutes’ breath awareness 

Angie Klein is a yoga teacher. She trained at triyoga with Susannah Hoffman, Jeff Phenix and Carlos Pomeda, and is fully certified by the British Wheel of Yoga and Yoga Alliance; angieklein.yoga 

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Meg's Quote

If you are depressed,
you are living in the past.
If you are anxious,
you are living in the future.
If you are at peace,
you are living in the present.
– Lao Tzu –

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