Breath Yoga for Sports Active People
Updated: Jul 5, 2021
Yoga is beginning to reveal itself to many people across the globe in many different ways as possible and showing various possibilities in every walk of life. Whether it be, raising one's immunity against Corona / Covid-19 in 2020 and 2021 or coping up with the stress of multiple month long lockdowns or the desire to get ahead in sports and life through our work and passions. Even the best Yoga schools and best yoga teacher trainings can not comprehend the possibilities a vast and deep subject like this, opens up for the common man, dealing with day to day stress, pressures relationship and wanting to come out of it, all victorious, peaceful, free from suffering. In this article we will specifically focus on two breath yoga ( pranayama techniques ) for you to be able to get ahead in sports.
Kapal Bhati exercise ( sanskrit meaning shining face )
A cleaning or purification breath exercise / yoga - its benefits surpass much beyond just cleansing. The human body is supposed to be breathing from the complete diaphragm (which includes the Chest area + Stomach area). This full breathing also referred to as Yogic Breathing ensures that our body receives optimum oxygen. In our daily lives however, due to stress and various other emotions – we end up altering our breathing and this usually results in breathing only from the Chest area instead of using the entire diaphragm. So what really happens in the stomach area now?
In the stomach area – instead of oxygen – our body starts storing CO2 ( or stale air being released by our body cells ). In Ayurveda & Yoga we believe this very air, is the root cause of imbalance between the natural elements present inside of the human body.
Air & Ether – Vata
Fire - Pitta
Earth & Water - Kapha
and this imbalance is the root cause of all diseases.
In kapal bhati pranayama & almost every breathing yoga ( Pranayama ) – the exercises focus a lot on exhalation much more than inhalation. Here we use our force to breathe out completely (the stored Carbon Dioxide) making sound with our nose so that everyone can hear us. This movement has to be accompanied with forcing the stomach inside. While this happens, the practitioner ensures that no conscious breathing occurs, and instead we keep focusing on exhaling from the stomach while making exhaling sound from our nose.
Doing kapal bhati ( which literally means shining face ) purifies our nadis – nerves of the Pranic Channel ( also referred to as Electromagnetic Channel ) of our body. It increases blood flow in the face and eyes , removes the stale air from our body and as we take a break between two Kapal Bhati sessions, it re-distributes fresh oxygen throughout our body. It brings balance between the Vata, Pitta and Kapha and thus removes the root cause of all diseases. For the athlete, it calms the mind down, gives fresh energy, expands the capacity of lungs to hold more fresh air and oxygen and thus enabling the sportsperson to endure and expand his/her stamina in the game.
Focus, stamina and a stronger lung capacity to push beyond our limits using the fresh oxygen is the key advantage for athletes and non athletes.
Anulom Vilom ( Alternate Nostril Breathing )
It is well known in modern circles of science that the brain has two hemispheres , the right and the left. In traditional cultures this was also looked upon as masculine and the feminine, the ying and the yang, in yoga the sun and the moon. In Yoga however the sun ( is loosely referred to as Ha / right side of the brain ) moon as Tha ( left side of the brain ) making the physical practice of yoga to be hatha yoga - resulting in the balance of the two.
In this advanced version of breath yoga , where we put the Left hand in Gyan Mudra and the Right Hand in Vishnu Mudra is one of the most important Breath Yoga whose benefits may sometimes exceed a whole session of physical Yoga Asanas.
In this advanced version , we place our right thumb over our right Nostril, and we breathe in air from left nostril starting with a count of 4 ( inhale ) , Close both Nostrils ( hold breath for count of 16 – retain/hold ) , exhale out of the right for count of 8 ( exhale ) . This continues and we again inhale only from the right nostril this time, while keeping left closed for count of 4 ( inhale ) , close both nostrils ( for count of 16 ) and exhale from left for 8 ( exhale ) .
The right hand is in Vishnu mudra where we use the thumb, fold the first two fingers down and use the third finger to coordinate closing and opening of nostril along with the thumb.
So basically in this version of Anulom Vilom we are breathing in for 4 counts, holding breath for 16 and exhaling for twice the inhale ( 8 counts )
x : 4x :2x is the ratio of Vata ( air Element ) , Pitta ( Fire Element ) and Kapha ( Earth and water element ) of our body.
As we keep doing this exercise , over a period of weeks and months it purifies our nadis( pranic channel) or electromagnetic field of human body , gets rid of CO2, increases the blood flow in eyes and face area, removes all forms of diseases and disorders and most importantly brings balance between the HA ( sun energy in our body ) with THA ( moon energy inside our body ) which also corresponds to Left side of the Brain and Right side of the brain. The emotional side vs the Rational side.
Doing this Anulom Vilom immediately regulates the breathing of a person, calms them down, and balances their emotions with rational thinking. It also increases the oxygen content of our body by replacing the CO2, with fresh Oxygen and thus giving us more energy and inner strength to endure. As we keep progressing in the same ration of x/4x/2x we can take the count upwards of 4 to 5 or 6. This helps us increase the capacity of lungs to hold more oxygen while purifying our body of CO2 which causes stress and diseases. For people suffering from Vata Dosh, it is said that just doing Anulom Vilom and meditation is sufficient for eradicating all diseases related to Vata Dosh.
The Yogis understood the power of Breath over the mind. As physical Yoga leads us to controlling our breath or regularising it , the Breath helps us gain control over the ever expanding, jumping wild monkey mind. The breath is the medium for Life Force Prana ( to enter and exit our body ). As we go deeper in Pranayma – we end up purifying our Nadis ( electromagnetic channels and pipes where energy flows ) and this leads to provoking the Kundalini to awaken. From being fresh and calm to having a better breathing all the time, Pranayama helps the mind calm down and makes it easy for us to go deeper in the practice of Yoga represented by the practice of Dharana ( Concentration ) and Dhyana ( Meditation ).
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