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Yogic Breathing: What Are the Benefits?

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If you swear by ending a long, stressful day with a little "om," the healing powers of yoga are probably nothing new to you. In fact, the calming, strengthening, and powerful effects of the practice are well-known—and touted by yogis all over the world. But now, a specific kind of yoga called Sudarshan Kriya is in the limelight. Focused on breathing, this form has been shown to provide relief from depression and has even shown promise in reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans, according to a recent study in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.

Sudarshan Kriya is a cyclical controlled breathing practice—breathing rates are varied according to specific sequences and broken up with periods of normal breathing. Breathing has the direct ability to change your point of view and disposition, says Rajsharee Patel of the Art of Living Foundation, a non-profit, educational and humanitarian organization that teaches Sudarshan Kriya. The issue with cognitively trying to adjust your outlook? When you interject a positive thought, the negative thought is still there, just buried underneath. Sudarshan Kriya not only aims to remove day-to-day stresses, but also target negative emotions you may not know are still affecting you.

How? When you breathe out (the right way, of course), you eliminate toxins in your body—Sudarshan Kriya teachers say that doing so can even rid your bod of almost 80 percent of said toxins. When you breathe in, you not only bring in oxygen, but advocates of Sudarshan Kriya suggest you also bring in something called "vital energy"—an energy that comes from being connective, productive, and open. (They say this is the kind of energy that children have.) And while this may sound a little out there, studies have shown that quieting your breath can quiet your mind. 

Here's the thing: We're not just talking about regular old breathing. In order to see these noted benefits, you need to be taught by a professional (you can learn how at one of these classes across the nation). However, you can incorporate some of the beginning breathing steps into your routine. The key? Breathe diaphramatically. Don't contract your abdomen, instead let it fill. Most people don’t use the full capacity of breathing, and limit their breathing to one part of their chest—especially people who are very stressed, says Patel. Try it out before you go to sleep one night. Don’t think about your day or tomorrow. instead, lie down and put your attention on your abdomen focusing on breathing slowly in and out with long breaths. First thing in the morning, instead of the snooze button, take eight or ten slow, deep breaths. And don't stress if you don't have hours of extra time on your hands to focus on breathing: Any amount of practicing this technique is beneficial, says Patel. 

Would you try Sudarshan Kriya? Tell us below in the comments or tweet us @Shape_Magazine.

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