trouble breathing in sphinx/seal

Check this forum for suggestions on Yin Yoga flows, sequences and postures, as well as HOW to practice Yin Yoga.
Post Reply
mary-pat
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Jun 04, 2016 3:50 am
Location: Boston

trouble breathing in sphinx/seal

Post by mary-pat »

Hi, I am new to yin yoga, but I have been practicing yoga regularly for decades and frequently (i.e at least 4 days/week) for 3 years. I am having a problem breathing in both Sphinx and Seal poses. Have you heard of that before? If I lower myself very, very close to the ground, the problem is lessened but not completely solved. Is this a sign that I am "pushing too hard" or do you think that I am doing something bio-mechanically "wrong"? Please let me know your thoughts

Thanks.

PS I love this site & Bernie's Yin Yoga book.
Bernie
Posts: 1161
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 2:25 am
Location: Vancouver

Post by Bernie »

Hi Mary-pat

I am glad you are enjoying the site and book. Your question about feeling restricted in your breathing while doing a backbend is not unusual. Some people do find that bending backs affects their ability to take a deep breath. We would have to undertake an investigation to figure out what is causing this for you. Is it physical constriction in the chest, too much stress on the diaphragm, stress/stretching of the vagus nerve, compression of the arteries in the neck, etc.? I wonder if you have experienced this problem in your other yang practices? Does Cobra, Camel or Wheel cause you the same problem? Can you give us more input into what you are experiencing?

Do you feel this right away, or after you are in the postures for a few breaths? Where is your head/neck when in these poses: dropped down, neutral or lifted up? As you lower down the problem is less, but it is still there. Do you feel the problem even when you lie on your belly (that would indicated to me that perhaps your diaphragm isn’t strong enough to resist the weight of your body constricting your belly.) Have you tried a long bolster under your armpits as you rest in Sphinx and support your forehead on a block?

These are just some ideas, but please let us know more about how you are doing these postures.

Cheers
Bernie
mary-pat
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Jun 04, 2016 3:50 am
Location: Boston

Post by mary-pat »

Dear Bernie,

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. In the interests of completeness, here is some more information, prompted by your questions:

I guess I should point out, first, that I have had a lot of trouble with back bends generally over the years, including Camel and Wheel (less so with Cobra): It used to be that I would come close to passing out, but now I just feel like I am being strangled and make the best of it. If it s a back bend where I am lifting my legs - like full locust or half locust or floor bow - it does not bother much or at all. In fact, I do very well with those poses.

It feels like my chest/lungs and throat are constricted. But if I had to localize it one area, I would say it feels worst in my throat The sensation starts as soon as I have elevated myself to the top of the pose. I keep my head neutral, though when I have lifted my head up and back, there is no appreciable improvement. I don't really feel the problem at all when I lie on my belly.

Thanks for the bolster & block suggestion - I will try that this week.

I appreciate your thoughtful and considered response.

Mary-Pat
MPC
Bernie
Posts: 1161
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 2:25 am
Location: Vancouver

Post by Bernie »

Let us know how it goes!

It is a curious phenomenon for sure. If your symptoms are not as bad when you lift your legs, it may be because you can't create as much of a backbend in those poses as in Cobra. Regardless, no matter what the ultimate cause turns out to be, if these postures are constricting your ability to breathe, they are not great postures for you. Don't do them. Or find another way to do them where these symptoms don't arise (with bolsters as suggested). If that doesn't work, find other ways to stress the target areas that don't require deep backbends: supported bridge, twists, etc.

Cheers
Bernie
mary-pat
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Jun 04, 2016 3:50 am
Location: Boston

Post by mary-pat »

Dear Bernie,

Thanks for checking in. I have been used the bolster in sphinx, and it has made a noticeable difference with my breathing issue. My ability to breathe also improved if I looked down or kept my chin angled just slightly below neutral in both sphinx and seal. I will keep experimenting with the bolster and various head angles. Things seem to be improving doing that, which is good. And I'll continue to use bolsters and listen to my body.

Many thanks for your advice, and, again, for this wonderful website.

Mary-Pat
MPC
Post Reply