Mood boost: Yoga special

Simple breathing exercises to reduce pain


Mood boost: Yoga special

In the third instalment of the Psychologies August yoga special, Jo Manuel, founder of the Special Yoga Centre, offers some yogic breathing exercises designed to reduce pain. Pain can be extremely debilitating. Whether it’s a headache, backache or toothache, when we feel pain, we tend to hold our breath, start shallow breathing and tense up. This tension only makes the pain worse. By allowing ourselves consciously to breathe more deeply, the body relaxes, and the tension around the pain is released.

Three-part breathing

1. Sit with your back straight, or lie down and put your hands on your stomach. Breathe deeply, feeling the breath expand the abdomen, and soften it on the exhale.

2. As you take a breath in, feel the abdomen rise, feel your ribcage expand, feel the top of your lungs fill, hold the breath for a moment and slowly exhale from the top, the side and then the abdomen drops back against the front of the spine. Take a pause and then start the inhalation again expanding the abdomen, expanding the sides of the lungs, up to the top of the lungs, holding again for a moment before slowly releasing the exhalation from the top, sides and then letting the belly drop back.

3. Repeat for 10 to 20 breaths, then take a few moments to breathe normally, noticing how your breath has changed.

Square breathing

1. Sit with your back straight, or lie down. Imagine a square shape in your mind. Focus your attention in the bottom left-hand corner. As you breathe in follow the left hand side of the square to the top, exhale across the top, inhale from top right to bottom right, exhale across the bottom.

2. Repeat this breathing square, allowing the breath to slow down. See if you can move around the square a little more slowly. This is a good exercise to balance the inhalation and exhalation and to slow the breath down. It might be easier for some people to use a rectangle rather than a square so that the exhale is longer than the inhale.

The Special Yoga Centre is a registered charity that supports children with special needs through one-to-one yoga therapy, outreach work in schools and group classes. The centre is one of the chosen charities for this year's OM YogaThon Challenge at The Yoga Show at London's Olympia on 29 October.