Monday, December 7, 2009
Yoga for the Lower Limb Amputee: Breathing Exercises
The increasingly popular practice of yoga offers something for everyone; if you’re an amputee, it can be especially helpful for reducing stress, becoming comfortable in your body, decreasing back pain (often associated with wearing a prosthetic), improving strength and flexibility, and enhancing mood and energy levels. This 5,000-year-old body of knowledge that originated in India includes physical poses, breathing techniques, and meditation. Ultimately, yoga—which means union—harmonizes our body, mind, and spirit.
The first of this two-part series offers two breathing exercises designed to help focus the mind, oxygenate the body, and release toxins. Proper breathing also cultivates energy and reduces stress and fatigue. The second article will introduce a series of yoga poses designed to address the common concerns of lower limb amputees: improving balance, reducing stress, bringing awareness into the body, helping to alleviate back pain, and stretching and strengthening muscles.
When practicing yoga, treat your body with compassion, and never hold a pose if it becomes painful or even uncomfortable. If you meet and accept your body where it is at, you will gradually reap the full benefits of yoga—a calm and focused mind and strong and flexible body.
Certified yoga instructor and below-the-knee amputee Marsha Therese Metzger recommends practicing with your prosthetic on—her prosthesis, she says, becomes part of her when she puts it on each morning. Although you may choose to practice without your prosthetic, wearing it may help to hold and contain your limb.
Yogic Breathing Exercises
Yogic breathing exercises promote proper breathing to ensure an adequate oxygen supply to the entire body, including the organs, and especially to the brain. Proper breathing also helps the body rid itself of waste products and toxins.
Basic Yogic Breathing Exercises
All yoga is based on staying connected to your breath, and this basic exercise will help you “connect” with your most elemental physical being.
Three-Part Breath (above)
(Strengthens breathing muscles, calms the mind, and focuses attention on the present moment.)
Alternate Nostril Breathing (above)
This more-advanced breathing exercise integrates the right and left hemispheres of the brain, improves efficiency of breathing, reduces stress.
• Come to a comfortable seated position, Easy Pose or in a chair with your feet resting solidly on the floor, hip width apart.
• Tuck the index and third fingers of your right hand into the palm.
• Place your right thumb lightly on your right nostril; place your right index finger lightly on your left nostril.
• Block off the right nostril with your thumb and inhale through the left nostril.
• Block off the left nostril with your index finger and exhale through the right nostril.
• Inhale through the right nostril, block it off with the thumb, and exhale through the right nostril.
• Repeat sequence, inhaling through left, exhaling right, inhaling right, and exhaling left.
• Continue for five rounds, increasing as you feel comfortable up to 10 minutes.