Whether you are practicing hatha yoga, lifting weights, running or engaging in any form of exercise, you can gain better control of your mind, life energy and performance by deeply expanding your breath.
First, a basic understanding: In Integrative Yoga Therapy, we say that there are five flows of breath. All five flows have to be working for a person to be completely healthy.
Prana Vayu is the upward flow. It nourishes the brain and the eyes. According to Ayuvedic medicine, disorders of the upward flow of breath may be a factor in asthma, anxiety, insomnia and ringing of the ears.
Apana Vayu is the downward flow. I find that many of my clients with high blood pressure are not exhaling fully and experience profound, measurable shifts in their heart when they learn to let go more fully. Apana vayu nourishes the organs of digestion and elimination. It is essential for feelings of tranquility and groundedness.
Vyana Vayu is crucial for everyone who exercises. It is the breath the radiates outward from the navel to the arms and legs—literally bringing life energy to the extremities. If you don’t feel like moving, it may be because your vital energy is literally stuck in the core of your body, often because of a subconscious unwillingness to experience deeply buried emotions. Vyana vayu rules movements in the body that proceed from inside to outside. Out of balance, it can lead to high blood pressure and heart rhythm irregularities.
Udana Vayu is very interesting, especially for women who want to maintain their thyroid function and metabolism. In Ayuvedic tradition, thyroid abnormalities are often accompanied by a disorders of this aspect of breath. Udana vayu is a circular flow of breath around the neck and head. Out of balance, it can also lead to sore throats, coughs and memory problems.
Finally, samana vayu is a circular flow of breath around the waist. It corresponds to a special acupuncture meridian in Chinese medicine called the belt meridian. Its principal movement is from outside to inside. Samana vayu helps to maintain the digestive fire. Disorders with this breath may lead to indigestion, diarrhea or constipation or malabsorption.
Whenever you exercise, attune to your breath as you warm up. Can you feel the upward flow as you inhale? The downward flow as you exhale? Can you feel the breath radiating life energy into your arms, legs and head? Can you feel a circular movement of breath around the head? Lastly, can you feel the breath around the waist, so that you are breathing in three dimensions?
Throughout your day, you can gauge your level of relaxation by noticing these aspects. If you are not breathing, chances are your performance is already compromised. Learn to focus inside to deliver your best performance.
Gary Null Condemns Prozac,
Recommends Medical Evaluation Instead
In a recent article for The Townsend Newsletter for Doctors, author Gary Null condemned Prozac and quoted medical doctor Peter Breggin as arguing that the drug should never have been approved by U.S. government regulators for general use. To view the full text, refer to www.tldp.com, click on the button on the main page for “Special Features” and refer to Null’s article on “The Hidden Side of Psychiatry.”
“Depression is an aftereffect of overstimulation. While researching FDA materials on Prozac, Breggin discovered that Lilly knew Prozac caused depression and that, in fact, the company initially reported it,” Null reported. “If you don’t have a biochemical imbalance before starting Prozac, you certainly will have one once you are on it! Prozac has been shown to have drastic effects on the brain’s serotonergic system. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, that normally connects to receptor sites and fires nerves. Prozac prevents serotonin from being removed from the active place where it’s working in the brain. It keeps the sparks alive longer, and as a result, a lot of excess firing takes place. The brain doesn’t like all the overstimulation and eliminates 30-40% or more of receptors.” Null advocates medical tests to see if other health factors are causing depression.
Get to the Bottom of Health Challenges, Null Urges
“I think anybody who is depressed should have a medical evaluation,” Null writes. “There are tests for whether your blood sugar is functioning normally, whether you have diabetes, whether you have hypothyroid disease, whether you have Cushing’s disease, whether your nutrition is poor, and whether you need to improve your nutrition.”
More information about medical challenges that frequently lead to depression can be found in my book, Healing Depression: A Holistic Guide (New York: Marlowe and Co., 1999), or referring to the Depression Wellness Network, www.depressionwellness.net, which offers education about effective alternatives.
Null joins anti-drug advocate Peter Breggin, author of Toxic Psychiatry, in urging a holistic approach to depression. For more information, consult www.garynull.com.
Portion Control, The Experts’ Way
How much to eat? Many experts say don’t count calories—tune in to your body.
Lucy Beale, expert on natural weight loss, says eat from “Ouch to full.” Debra Waterhouse, author of Outsmarting the Female Fat Cell, says eat only what you can fit in the palm of your hand at one time—but don’t go more than four hours without eating.
The message—to lose weight, eat, just don’t overeat. Don’t starve yourself, because constant dieting doesn’t work.
Both experts are advocates of little meals throughout the day. To order Lucy’s excellent audiotapes, please refer to www.lucybeale.com. “Eat like a thin person,” says says. “THINK like a thin person.”