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Breathe your way to health

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Frenzied commercial activity around yoga might have led to the growth of various styles, the majority of them factoring in the constraints of modern life, but the essence of this ancient science remains undiluted.

Historical texts like the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and references in the sacred Hindu Upanishads and Vedas define yoga as a way to quieten the mind. Traditional yogic practices follow an eight-limbed path ( astanga ) which does not stop with laying down rules about physical movements such as posture ( asana ) and breath control ( pranayama ), but also emphasises the cultivation of attitudes such as non-violence ( ahimsa ), commitment to truth ( satya ) and contentment ( santosha ).

A regular and committed practice of Yoga strengthens multiple systems of the body, circulatory, digestive, respiratory and others . Yoga uses its understanding of the connection between the body and the mind to harness and discipline the mind.

As any athlete, musician or hard-working student would tell you, discipline sharpens focus and allows you to be present more in the moment. From a yogic perspective, this helps in the achievement of the ultimate goal, which is self-realisation. For psychologists’ point of view, this will pave the way for self-actualisation.

Though yogic practices can vary, any journey of yoga can begin with only one step: connecting with your breath.

Here is a simple yet powerful way to practice abdominal breathing:

•Lie down on a mat with your eyes closed and body relaxed.

•Just observe how the body moves as it breathes.

•Place your left hand on your chest and your right hand on your navel.

•Now gently expand the abdomen as you inhale and contract it by drawing the navel in as you exhale. *Pretend that it is a balloon that you are filling and emptying of your breath.

•Try not to expand the chest, shoulder or rib cage.

•Do this for a few minutes at a time and repeat it during the day.

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