In my Hot Yoga Practice this past week I've been focusing on breathing. In my classes, the instructors always say "stand still and breathe through" between poses but I was finding that by the time we got to triangle pose, I felt like I couldn't get full breath in through my nose, so I would end up kind of gasping through my mouth, which led to a panicky feeling. I was just out of breathe and wanted badly to sit down and rest.
One reason I like Bikram yoga practice is that it makes my lungs feel clearer. I really need that because when I was a child, I had asthma and as I grew to an adult, I've been suseptable to bronchitis. Over the years, I've really focused on boosting my immune system and I rarely get sick nowadays, but I've also been told I have "chronic bronchitis" which means my lungs have sustained some damage in earlier years so I need to take good care of them.
When I found that half way though my practice sessions I felt short of breath, I realized that, even though I thought I was breathing deeply all during class, I obviously wasn't. How to fix this? One thing I did was to visit the Hot Yoga Doctor website's forum. Somebody had posted a great audio by Gabrielle Scanlon all about breathing and I got some great tips on how to breath more effectively during Bikram practice.
One tip is to take advantage of the time between postures. Using good posture, breathe deeply into diaphragm not shallowly into the upper chest. A useful hint from the Hot Yoga Doctor: put your hands in your back pockets because this posture expands your chest and allows you to breathe in deeper.
The Pranayama breathing exercise sets up conscious breathing for the rest of class, it's true, but Gabrielle says to basically do a pranayama style breathing all through class. Slow and controlled, breathe in through your nose and make an audible sound in the back of the throat which sounds like the ocean or white noise. You don't really have to vibrate the voice box, which only irritates the throat. Inhale with a partial occlusion of the throat at the back and deeply into your diaphragm. Breathe out with the force of the diaphragm as well. Put some power behind it to empty the lungs.
The past few classes, I've practiced this way and focused on my breathe during poses and between poses and I feel like I'm in control of my practice so there is no panicky feeling anymore. Controlling my breathe makes me feel like I can do this.
These breathing techniques are valuable outside of class too. I've found if I practice slow, deep, conscious breathing during the day or whenever I get stressed, my stress level falls to nothing. I even used conscious breathing while waiting for my colonoscopy a couple of weeks ago and felt very calm throughout.
It seems that whatever kind of questions I have about my hot yoga practice, I can visit the Hot Yoga Doctor's forum and pick up all the tips I need. If you'd like a free hot yoga newsletter or to ask questions at a hot yoga forum, go to the Hot Yoga Doctor website and sign up.