Alleviate Sleep Apnea: Catch Your Breath with These Pranayama Exercises
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Sleep apnea affects somewhere between 3% to 7% of people worldwide. This condition leads to an increased risk of hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. The problem is that many people suffering from apnea aren’t even aware of that.
However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t have any symptoms. On the contrary, snoring, daytime fatigue, and drowsiness are common signals of sleep pattern disturbances. Frequent pauses in breathing, caused by apnea, that can last from a couple of seconds to a couple of minutes, result in poor sleep quality. It’s essential that this disorder is properly diagnosed and treated, and yoga can be a highly beneficial addition to the treatment.
Benefits of yoga for sleep apnea
This ancient practice is well-known for eliminating stress and anxiety, as well as for achieving peace of mind. There are various disciplines and techniques that can improve your overall health and well-being, and you should find the one that suits you.
Breathing plays a significant part in yoga, and that’s what makes this discipline extremely helpful for all kinds of sleep disorders. Experts recommend at least seven to nine hours of sleep every night for adults, but if a person suffers from apnea, they can’t get a good night’s sleep, which can affect his mental, physical, and emotional health.
This unpleasant disorder can be caused by several different reasons such as obesity, sleeping position, the anatomy of the neck, or poorly developed throat and diaphragm muscles, all of which lead to improper, shallow breathing, and ultimately apnea. That’s where yoga comes in with its advanced breathing techniques, such as diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing.
Try these techniques that can help you improve your breathing and sleep.
This technique can do wonders for your breathing as it helps you control your breath and increase your lung capacity. If you’re feeling sluggish, bhastrika is great for clearing out brain fog and invigorating your mind. As many people don’t have enough time or motivation to do yoga, this is an exercise that can be done anywhere, including your office, and it doesn’t require any previous experience. All you have to do is:
- Sit up and relax your shoulders
- Deeply inhale and exhale through your nose, while expanding your stomach as much as you can
- Forcefully inhale for one second and then exhale for one second, and repeat this 10 times; then take a break for a couple of seconds. After that, repeat this technique 20 times and take a break again. Finally, repeat the technique 30 times.
You’ll probably experience lightheadedness while you’re breathing in and out, which is perfectly normal. In that case, just make a pause and wait until it disappears, and carry on with your exercise. As you progress, try to extend your inhalations and exhalations to 5 seconds each. The best time to practice Bhastrika is in the morning or when you’re sleepy during the midday slump.
Also known as the cat/cow pose, this technique is beneficial for spinal problems, too. Get down on your knees and hands, to form a tabletop position. Your hips should be directly above your knees, while your wrists, elbows, and shoulders should be aligned.
Combine this with your breath. Start by inhaling deeply, and slowly drop your belly towards the mat. Your chin and gaze should be directed towards the ceiling. Hold that position for a second. On the exhale, round your spine towards the ceiling and lower your head, while pulling your chin towards your chest; stay in that position for one second.
This exercise is excellent for synchronizing your breathing and movement, and it’s often used for stretching and warming up before other physical activity.
This technique uses forceful breathing in order to improve the functioning of the paranasal sinuses and lungs.
Start by sitting up on the floor in a cross-legged position, and put your hands on your knees with palms facing the ceiling. Take a long, deep breath, and when you start exhaling try to draw your belly button inwards, towards your spine. You can put your right hand on your belly in order to feel your abs contracting because this will help you focus. Make sure to exhale forcefully as if you want to push all the air out of your lungs. Then relax your abs and belly button, letting the air fill your lungs. Repeat this sequence 20 times, and when you finish, remain in a seated position with your eyes closed and try to focus on your breath. After a break, repeat the whole cycle two times.
Practice these three exercises and you’ll see that with time they’ll become quite simple. They don’t require any particular skills and yet they can help you dramatically improve your breathing, as well as alleviate sleep apnea. Another good thing is that you don’t have to attend yoga classes in order to do these exercises, meaning that even super busy people can squeeze them into their tight schedules.