Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pranayama Breathing for Dancing?

Well, my ankle is feeling much better, and I have decided to take more care into warming it up before rehearsals and Yoga class so I don't injure it like that again.

Speaking of warming up, I have been thinking a lot about the Pranayama breathing that we do in Bikram Yoga class. The teacher always talks about how we use the breathing exercises at the beginning of the class to warm up the inside of our bodies, especially (and obviously) the lungs, and I wonder if I could hurt my lungs the way I hurt my ankle, because I don't warm up my lungs before dance rehearsal.

So I decided to read up a little more about Pranayama breathing and all the good things it can do for you. Other than relaxing your mind and keeping you focused during your practice, I learned that Pranayama breathing helps high blood pressure and relieves irritability. In Bikram class, the Pranayama breathing even quadruples lung capacity, helps control breathing problems like asthma, and even detoxifies the body. The elbow lifts done in Bikram during the first breathing exercise also help to lift and separate your rib cage, and dropping the head back to exhale opens the cervical vertebrae, relaxes the shoulders, stretches the nervous system, and even strengthens leg and abdominal muscles. That is doing a whole lot of good for your body - just by breathing in and out!

I also read about the different (wacky) types of Yogic breathing. Alternate Nostril Breathing is a special way of breathing in through one nostril, and breathing out through the other. It is supposed to be very calming, but requires you to alternately physically close off notrils with your finger. I tried this one, but didn't find it very soothing because I was congested in one nostril from allergies. Another way of breathing is a Cooling Breath, and involves breathing in through your nose, but then out of your mouth through a curled tongue. That's right, you curl your tongue and blow the air out that way. Since I am one of those people that can't curl her tongue, this breathing doesn't work for me either.

The Kapalbhati breathing that is done in Firm Pose at the end of Bikram class is a type of breathing that has always intrigued me. The fact that it is possible to only exhale, and allow the inhalations to occur unconsciously is a hard thing to comprehend. However, when it happens naturally, it is pretty amazing. I learned that Kapalbhati breathing not only helps strengthen your abdominal muscle wall, it also helps detoxify your body, normalises your bowels, and brings you mental clarity. I'll bet it helps with mental clarity because in order to do this breathing properly, you really have to not think about what you are doing at all, and just clear your mind. The second set, which is double the speed of the first set of breathing we do in class, is always the hardest for me because I think I go into panic mode too quickly from the short, quick spurts of breath.

In conclusion, after reading more about the different ways you can breathe, I suppose warming up my lungs before rehearsal would be a good idea, but probably isn't as necessary as warming up my ankles. However, I am going to try a few breathing exercises before I dive into my next few rehearsals and report back...just to see if I feel anything different.

I'll keep ya posted!

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