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There's a type of yoga to suit everyone. The umbrella term “hatha yoga” may be used to refer to the physical practice of yoga (compared to the mental and spiritual elements that are part of the larger yoga philosophy). Whether your favorite class is “true yoga” is less important than whether it makes you feel better both physically and mentally.
But some types of yoga are more physical than others. If you want a yoga asana for stress relief and a less strenuous workout, consider kundalini yoga. Unlike a vigorous ashtanga class, kundalini yoga is as much about stillness as it is about motion. Kundalini is based in part on tantric yoga. The goal of kundalini yoga is to release energy in the body, and a kundalini yoga session involves intense breathing exercises and stretching poses.
The breath of fire (also called kapalabhati) is an important part of kundalini yoga and it involves a rapid breathing from the diaphragm. When you first try the breath of fire, open your mouth and pant like a dog. The breathing should be rapid, and your belly should swell outward on each inhale and press back towards the spine on each exhale. Once you get the hang of it, close your mouth and continue the rapid, diaphragmatic breathing at the same rate, with the same belly movements.
Some kundalini classes also include a technique called alternate nostril breathing to promote awareness of the breath and aid in stress relief. If you are new to alternate nostril breathing, here's how to do it:
Place your index finger over one nostril to hold it closed. Inhale through the open nostril, but before you exhale, move your finger to close the nostril through which you inhaled, and exhale through the opposite one.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|