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This is the eighth of a series of articles on how to practise yoga, in consultation with  Ayurvedic and Yoga Consultant Dr Pushpika Attanayake. This week the discussion continues from last week on benefits of yoga practice for asthma patients.

According to Dr Attanayake, the episodes of severe airway obstruction associated with asthma are caused by bronchial spasms. Panic at the time of the attack aggravates this situation. This situation could be averted if the patient is trained to remain calm and relaxed. As a consequence, the bronchial spasm would be reduced or released.

“These yoga techniques use suggestive relaxation and helps relax the thoracic muscles, face and muscles of cervical region. It brings results through slow movements, yoga asana and Pranayama.” Yoga breathing is known to be stamina-building. It also contributes to deep relaxation of different groups of muscles, lowering breath rate, calming the mind, bringing emotional well- being and a lifestyle of internal awareness and bliss.

Dr Attanayake recommends Balasana (discussed in the previous article) if you need to rest in between yoga poses. At the end of the session, rest in Svasana for 15 minutes, as usual. A beginner should consult an expert before carrying out these postures for the first time.

vakrasanaVakrasana
“This posture promotes elasticity of the spine and tones up spinal nerves, which in turn helps the breathing process easier.”

Steps
1. Sit on the floor with your legs stretched forward. Let your hands relax at your sides.
2. Bend the right leg at the knee and place your right foot by the left knee, as the left leg remains extended.
3. Straighten and twist the waist toward the right side. Take the left hand, round the right knee and take hold of the big toe on the right foot. Take the right hand behind and keep the palm on the ground in such a way that the trunk is kept erect, with a twist.
4.maintain the position for a minute and then return to 1.
5. Repeat to other side of the body by bending left knee.
6. Repeat two rounds.


matsyasanaMatsyasana
“This pose opens up lungs and relaxes muscles in the thoracic region,” says Dr Attanayake.

Steps
1. Sit on the blanket with the legs stretched out.
2. Bend the right leg and place it on the left thigh.
3. Place the left leg on the right thigh. Now you are sitting in Padmasana.
4. Bend backwards by first supporting the body by right elbow and then the left elbow and resting the head on the ground. The palms should be above the shoulders, shoulders should be on either side of the head and fingers should point to the shoulders.
5. Taking the weight on the palms, lift the head and chest off the ground. Bring the center of the crown of the head to the ground by bending the dorsal and cervical spine backwards. Remove the hands after the weight is balanced on the head. Hold the big toes by hooking the index fingers around them. Hold the position for two minutes.
6. Return to 1 through 4 to 2.


salabhasanaSalabhasana
Steps
1. Lie on the ground, with your face downwards. Relax your hands at the sides.
2. Form a fist with both your hands, with the thumb inside and place them under the abdomen.
3. Inhale and hold your breath. Raise the legs up together from the waist, without bending the knees.
4. Hold the position for as long as you can. Then, slowly bring down the legs with exhalation.
5. Repeat for three times.

The following set of breathing exercises has to be carried out together.

Adhama
Steps
1. Sit erect in Vajrasana.
2. Inhale completely, slowly and continuously. This is referred to as Puraka. Here the abdomen continuously bulges with air entering the lower sections of the lungs.
3. Before exhaling, stop the breath for a second and then exhale, drawing the abdomen inwards, slowly and continuously.
4. Before the breath is reversed, stop the breath for a second and inhale.
5. Repeat the breathing cycle with no jerks in the process for five minutes.
This breathing exercise increases air flow into the lower sections of the lungs.
Madhyama
This is to open up the middle lobes of the lungs.
Steps
1. Sit erect in Vajrasana.
2. Inhale and exhale by expanding and contracting the chest only. Air should flow through both nostrils, slowly and continuously. Control the abdomen to avoid bulging. Continue breathing for five minutes.

Adya
“This breathing exercise aerates the sparingly used upper lobes of the lungs,” says Dr Attanayake.
Steps
1. Sit erect in Vajrasana.
2. Raise the collar bones while inhaling and keep the abdominal muscles contracted.Then exhale. Continue the cycle for five minutes.
At the end of these breathing exercises, rest in Svasana, for 15 minutes.