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FELICE RHIANNON: One of the major components of yoga practice is breathing. There’s a great deal of focus on breathing and many thousands of years of experimentation have created specific breathing practices. Many of them are designed to bolster energy, others of them are designed to promote relaxation. And the relaxing practices are ones that can be done even as you’re receiving your chemotherapy treatment. When you’re seated in a chair for long periods of time, it’s really helpful to have a focus for your mind, for your mental activity, and to have the effect of relaxation. It’s my personal opinion that this helps the chemotherapy actually be more effective.

These practices can be used either at home, sitting in a comfortable chair or in the oncology office as you’re actually receiving your chemotherapy treatment. These practices are designed to increase your energy and to bring deeper relaxation.

Breath awareness.

We’ll begin with simple breath awareness. Allow your eyes to close and bring your attention to your breathing. Breathing just as you normally would without changing the breath, without altering it in any way, simply allowing your awareness to rest in the flow of breath. Breath flowing out and breath flowing in again. Notice, as you attend to your breath, that your mind begins to relax, thoughts begin to quiet, and your mind calms. Allow your attention to remain on your breath - slowly, steadily and smoothly breathing out and breathing in again. Maintain this gentle breath awareness for several moments as you deepen into the comfort of your chair, allowing the sounds around you to slowly fade from your awareness so that all that you’re conscious of is your breath flowing in and your breath flowing out naturally and evenly.

Wave of breath.

You might notice as your natural breath slows that different parts of your body move in response to your breath. So we’ll begin now to focus on the chest and the belly. So as you inhale, allow your chest to expand and your belly to expand and as you exhale let the belly relax and then let the chest relax. So, you’re inhaling from the top of the chest to the bottom of the belly and you’re exhaling from the lower part of your belly to the top of your chest. These breaths might be a bit deeper and a bit fuller than your natural breath but please, let it be effortless so there’s no strain. Simply move the breath and your awareness from top down as you inhale and from bottom up as you exhale. So, allow the breath to move in this way for 5-7 breaths and then return to your normal, natural breath for two or three breath cycles.

Counted breath.

I’d like to make clear the difference between pausing between an inhale and an exhale and holding your breath. When you hold your breath there’s a sense of tension developing. You’re actually clenching in the diaphragm and the abdominal muscles. Pause, you’re simply resting in the space between the inhalation and the exhalation. So once again, you’ll inhale, take a slight pause, exhale, take a slight pause. So, you continue to relax through the whole breathing cycle.

We’ll do another breath practice where you count the length of time it takes you to inhale and the length of time it takes you to exhale. This is variable from person to person and from day to day and from hour to hour.

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So before you begin the practice just take a few breaths and count how long it takes you to inhale. You can use whatever count is comfortable for you. For our purposes now we use the count of three. So, begin by inhaling to the count of three. Inhale two, three, pause; exhale, two, three, pause. Inhale two, three, pause; and exhale two, three, and pause. Continue in this way for eight or 10 breaths, remembering that the breath is effortless.

Breathing in, slight pause. Breathing out, slight pause. Breathing in to whatever count is comfortable, pause. Exhale to the same count and pause. After eight or 10 rounds once again, let your breath return to your natural breathing cycle without counting, without pausing, whatever your natural, normal breath.

Color breath.

Gently take a few breaths through both nostrils, visualizing your stream of breath as a color - any color that comes to mind is fine. Whatever color is nurturing and flowing and easy for you. Imagine that color flowing in and out of your nostrils with your breath. Now begin to focus the breath in your right nostril. See the stream of breath and color flowing up your right nostril and exhale it through your left nostril. Inhale now through your left nostril and exhale the flow of color breath through your right nostril. Inhale color and breath through the right and exhale it through the left nostril. Inhaling it through the left nostril, exhaling through the right nostril. And continue visualizing the stream of color and breath flowing alternately through one nostril and then the other.

This practice is designed to bring balance, balance to the right and left sides of your brain, balance to the right and left lung and balance to the right side of your body and balance to the left side of your body.

So once again, inhaling color breath through the right nostril and exhaling it through the left. Inhaling the color breath through the left nostril and exhaling it through the right. And repeat this alternate nostril breathing, breathing the color in and out for five to 10 breath cycles.

At the end of your practice please return your breath to its normal, natural flow, easy, smooth, steady breathing.

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