For centuries yoga has been a discipline that has been practiced in order to maintain a correct psycho-physical balance ; in Indian culture it represents a lifestyle, useful for achieving inner peace, and is practiced daily.
In Western cultures yoga has only recently spread, but its numerous benefits both on the mind and on the body are already being praised. In fact, the positions and breathing techniques typical of this discipline are famous for promoting relaxation and maintaining a certain flexibility and physical agility . Many of these positions, in fact, are even recommended by osteopaths and physiotherapists as exercises to help recovery after trauma or to counteract joint, lumbar and cervical pain.
Here is the ideal breathing technique to calm agitation and nervousness and four positions that promote relaxation, perfect to try before going to sleep to ensure optimal rest.
1) Abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing : it is one of the breathing techniques that most promotes relaxation. It can be practiced in any position, when you need to relax in a few minutes; for the first few times the supine position is recommended, with the hands gently resting on the belly at the sides of the navel. As you breathe in, you should feel your abdomen dilate more than your rib cage. As you exhale, let your breath flow out and you will feel your abdomen sag and relax. The hands in that area will facilitate perception. In the first attempts try to "force" the inhalation slightly by pushing the belly out and exhaling by contracting it (as if you would like to retract the navel inwards); then, after several breaths, the process will come naturally to you.
2) Lying position (Supta baddha konasana): Lie on your back , put the soles of your feet together and bring your heels near the groin. Open your knees outward; everyone is different, find the level that's right for you. You must not force them excessively or feel soreness, the knees must be left free to fall back to the ground. They will naturally sag. If you feel discomfort, you can put two pillows under your knees, or even under your back if it arches excessively. The arms can be spread apart or over the head, with the palms of the hands facing up. Breathe deeply with abdominal breath, to allow the abdomen and lower back to relax. The position can be held for several minutes.
3) Child position (Balasana) : it is one of the most effective positions to promote relaxation; it helps to release any tension in the back, neck and shoulders. Sitting on your heels, on a mat or a special rubber mat, lean forward and place your forehead (or cheek) on the ground and let your shoulders fall dead weight. The arms should be at the sides of the body.
4) Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) : standing and keeping your legs straight, lower your head and torso towards the floor, letting your arms fall softly over your head and practice a few breaths. If your legs ache, you can bend your knees a little. It only takes a few seconds. Be careful if you suffer from dizziness or low blood pressure. In this case in particular, pay close attention to when you get up: the head must be the last part to return to an upright position. Get up slowly, as if you were realigning every single vertebrae of the spine. Finally, lift your neck and head, paying attention, to lift the latter, to keep your chin against your chest so as not to strain your neck.
5) Inverted Position (Viparita Karani): the first step to relax the body is to restore good blood circulation. Position yourself in front of a wall, lie down on the ground or on a rug or mat and raise your legs so that the back of them is resting against the wall. If you find the position uncomfortable, you can put a pillow under your lower back. Keep the neck in a neutral position, with the nape resting well on the ground; the hands can be left to rest on the abdomen or extended to the sides of the body, with the palms facing up. The position can be maintained for 5 to 15 minutes, also practicing abdominal breathing.