Breath for Weight Control & Depression Management

KristenE

So basic, so common-place & so unconscious. Even our cliché about how easy something is to do, is referred to "as natural as breathing". And yet, conscious breath is an untapped well- spring of enormous benefit.
By regulating breath, one can stimulate the balance of powerful hormones in our bodies. For
example-Dopamine buildup can lead to depression and an increase in appetite. As a result, we seek to eat as a way to comfort ourselves. Or, we might eat simple carbohydrates as a way to make up for a drop ofSerotonin in our bodies. However, when Serotonin levels increase, replacing the Dopamine, we feel alert & happy. This in turn assists in the production of Melatonin, which allows us to sleep better, and proper sleeping patterns help curb our hunger cravings. Sufficient sleep too, plays a vital role in appetite regulation. Not enough sleep =more food consumption to keep the body awake and moving.
It is not to say that Breath Control will help you to curb all desire to eat, but this cycle assists in the proper balance of what is nutritious and helpful vs. a desire to "feed the lack" that we can all feel at times. Breath can balance these vital hormone levels, increase organ function and improve digestion & elimination.
In Kundalini yoga, we address the mental & the physical states of wellbeing simultaneously. One simple and effective way to do this is by following this breath pattern to relax the body & decrease your stress levels, yet energize your mental state.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

From sitting in a comfortable position, lengthen the spine upwards and downwards simultaneously. Feel your tailbone reaching into the earth as the top of your head lifts to the Infinite as if suspended by a string. (You may wish to sit on the edge of a pillow or blanket to assist this posture if you are unaccustomed to sitting straight for any length of time.)

Gently close your eyes and bring your right hand up to cup your nostrils. The right thumb will beresting near the right nostril, the left ring finger and pinky by the left nostril.
Close the left side & inhale through the right nostril to a slow count of 4 to start with. At the top of this breath, close the right nostril, retaining the breath for a slow count of 4. Open the left nostril, exhale out of this side on the same 4 count, and then inhale on a 4 count, closing the left nostril, and retaining the breath for a count of 4 before opening the right nostril and exhaling through this side. Inhale and repeat the cycle. When you can, gently increase the count to a 6 or 8 count- only going as high as you comfortably can.

Breathe in this manner for at least a minute initially, but work up to several minutes for maximum benefit. Your capacity will improve with practice.

As you become proficient in this form of breath, you can find your breath deepening to the point of much longer inhales, exhales and holds. But the important thing is the BALANCE of the breath. This is not an endurance race!
This balance is what assists in proper left/right hemisphere brain functioning, your body's hormonal regulation and ultimately will give you a deeper sense of alert relaxation and calm.

Be aware- do not practice this breath with extreme congestion as forcing the breath is a no-no. And, during pregnancy, breath holding is not to be practiced at all. Instead, follow the pattern without the holds. Simply count the breath in, switching sides to exhale to this count, inhaling in this side, and switching nostrils as you exhale. Simple, safe & oh so effective.