August 3, 2010
Lion’s Breath for Tension Release
Ever feel so stressed that you wanted to scream? Letting it out can literally help you blow off steam, releasing pent-up frustrations and leaving you spent, relaxed, and calm. We are often taught, in our society, to hold all our emotions in and to betray no trace of frustration or exhaustion. But it can be much healthier just to let it out!
In yoga we sometimes mimic the roar of a lion in particular, but any roar or deep breath release will help you reduce stress throughout the day. You could practice this lion’s roar virtually anyplace, including the shower, or even in traffic. If others are around, it’s helpful to let them know first—because it can sound alarming! And if you’re driving, of course, make sure to watch the road as you practice, as stretching your entire face is involved.
Take a deep inhalation through the nose. Then simultaneously open your mouth wide and stretch your tongue out, curling its tip down toward the chin, open your eyes wide, contract the muscles on the front of your throat, and exhale the breath slowly out through your mouth with a distinct “ha” sound. The breath should come from deep in the belly and pass over the back of the throat, making a “raspy” roar.
Some texts instruct us to set our gaze (drishti) at the spot between the eyebrows. This is called “mid-brow gazing” (bhru-madhya-drishti; bhru = the brow; madhya = middle).Other texts direct the eyes to the tip of the nose (nasa-agra-drishti; nasa = nose; agra = foremost point or part, i.e., tip).
Once you’ve learned to create a deep-releasing sound with your breath, experiment with different places for your gaze (drishti) to see what feels best for you. Remember, if you are driving, be sure to remain aware of the road ahead, and save the gazing for another time.