Sleep apnea? Before that, let’s discuss something related to it.
What is it that you want from your life?
Good health, sufficient means, a happy family, and rewarding work life.
Of course if we micro analyze it, it would vary from one to another. But this would be the gist of it.
What is it you want after a long tiring day, every day?
A deep sleep. Isn’t it?
Can anyone say, I don’t want a peaceful sleep?
What happens at that moment when you slowly start to drift into sleep, and your partner starts snoring?
We all can imagine that scenario, can’t we?
At one point in our life, we all must have experienced such moments.
But is it the person’s fault? Not entirely. Wouldn’t you wish to stop that snoring?
It’s just snoring. What’s the big deal? If snoring is associated with breathing pauses while sleeping, it is something you should worry about.
Wait, I snore. But I sleep peacefully. Then why should I read this one?
If you have the above question, sleep apnea leads to many health illnesses including heart issues. Would you want to take that risk? It’s not only about snoring but also about you and your partner’s health.
Prevention is better than cure. Wouldn’t you agree?
What is Sleep Apnea?
Let me clarify something before we dive deep into the concept. Sleep apnea doesn’t mean snoring. It is one of the symptoms of sleep apnea. There are a handful of others. Then what is sleep apnea?
When we inhale air, our passage should pave way for it to go to our lungs. This is the basic blueprint behind breathing.
Obstructive sleep apnea
But when the pathway gets temporarily narrowed, the air cannot go in and our breathing pauses. The blocking is usually caused by the relaxation of the muscles along the pathway.
It is called obstructive sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is the other form of sleep apnea. It happens due to the non-coordination between our brain and breathing. If our brain doesn’t instruct our nose to breathe, central sleep apnea happens. Since it is a very rare kind, we concentrate on obstructive sleep apnea here.
There is one other form as well- Complex sleep apnea. If a person experiences both obstructive and central it falls into the complex category.
Sleep apnea symptoms:
These are some of the symptoms of sleep apnea.
- Snoring loudly.
- Pause during breathing. (You may not observe this in your sleep. Ask your partner if they’ve observed you like that during sleeping)
- Gasping for breathing due to the pauses.
- Day-time sleepiness.
Sleep apnea causes:
These are the risk factors that lead to sleep apnea.
3) Your lifestyle
4) Narrow air passage
Sleep apnea is not something that you can take lightly. Some studies prove that if left untreated, sleep apnea can cause heart problems. Insomnia is usually associated with a morning headache. Day-time sleepiness leads to fatigue.
Sleep apnea increases the risk of diabetes and greatly affects our metabolism.
Mouth guards are available for milder sleep apnea. It prevents muscle relaxation. But for the long-term benefits, our versatile yoga comes to the rescue.
Yoga Poses for Sleep Apnea
1) Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Spinal Twist Pose)
- Sit straight and stretch your legs.
- Raise your left leg and place it outside the right leg’s thigh.
- Twist the upper body towards your right side. Hold onto your left leg for support and further twisting.
- You can keep your right leg straight or you can fold it towards your left hip.
- Come back to the initial position and change the legs.
2) Bitilasana (Cow Pose)
- Bitilasana starts with Table pose (Bharmanasana).
- Place your knees directly below your hip.
- Your elbows, shoulders should be perpendicular to the floor.
- Keep your head down. It should be parallel to the floor.
- Inhale and lift your chest and sitting bones. Drop your stomach.
- Lift your head and look forward.
- Exhale and come back to the initial table pose.
- Repeat the exercise, 15-20 times.
3) Marjaryasana (Cat pose) for sleep apnea
- Marjaryasana starts with Bharmanasana (Table Top Pose).
- Your shoulders should be in-line with your elbows, and perpendicular to the floor.
- Your hips should be straight above your knees.
- Keep your head downwards facing the floor.
- Exhale and arc your spine upwards. Your knees and shoulders should remain in the same position.
- Don’t sink your head towards the chest. Keep it straight and down.
- Inhale and come back to the Tabletop position.
- Marjaryasana (Cat Pose) is usually combined with cow pose (Bitilasana).
4) Dhanurasana or Bow Pose
- Lie on your stomach facing the floor. Relax your body
- Inhale and lift your legs with bent knees.
- Move your arms backward and Catch the ankle.
- Open up your upper chest by pulling your upper torso backward. Catching your ankle will support this movement.
- Push the head and pull the legs until your thighs are lifted off the ground.
- In this posture, breathing would be difficult since you’re balancing on the pelvis. Breathe slowly.
- Remain in the asana for 30 seconds and come back to the initial posture.
5) Ustrasana (Camel Pose)
- Kneel on the ground. Use a mat to avoid any injuries.
- Place your hands on your hips.
- Your upper body should be a straight line. Keep your shoulders in line with your knees.
- Inhale and bend backward. Move your arms and hold onto your legs.
- Once you’ve got a grip, exhale and straighten your arms.
- Adjust your upper body accordingly.
- Arch your neck backward till it is comfortable. Do not bend it too much.
- Be in this posture for 30-40 seconds and come back to the original position.
Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
• Lie on the mat with your head facing the floor. Keep your hands on the side.
• Do not bend your knees. Keep your legs straight. They should be hip-width apart.
• Now move your hands forwards and place your palms closer to your chest.
• Inhale. Push your palms against the floor and raise your shoulder upwards.
• Open your head, neck, and your chest while raising your shoulder.
• Do not raise your lower body at all. They should be firmly touching the ground. Tighten your thighs for a more effective outcome.
• Maintain this posture for 20-30 seconds.
• Exhale and lower your shoulders. Go back to the initial position.
Salabhasana (Locust Pose) for sleep apnea
- Use a mat/ blanket for locust pose.
- Lie on your stomach on the mat. Keep your arms on the side of your body. Palms should be facing down.
- Bridge of your legs should be touching the mat comfortably, while heels facing upwards. keep your legs hip-width apart.
- Rest your forehead on the mat.
- Exhale and Lift your upper body off the floor. Raise your arms parallel to the floor.
- Keep your head facing front and neck flowing down from there.
- Remain in this posture for 30-45 seconds. Come back to the initial position.
- Marichyasana (Marichi’s Pose) starts at Dandasana(Staff Pose).
- Lift your right foot and bend its knee. Place it in front of your sit bones as if it is perpendicular to the floor.
- Keep the right foot grounded on the floor but keep your thigh soft and flexible.
- Arc your right knee using your right arm and take it towards your back.
- Follow it with your left hand and place it above your right hand. Hold your right palm using your left palm.
- Exhale and lean your upper body forward. Twist your right arm around your right knee for more push to lean forward.
- Anchor your hands behind your back to assist you in the process. Hold Gyan mudra on your left hand.
- Make sure you don’t turn your body away from your legs.
- Your spine would be curved in this position.
- Hold the posture for 25-30 seconds and go back to the initial dandasana (staff pose)
- Repeat the procedure on your left side.
Paschimottanasana (Sitting Forward Bend Pose)
- Sit straight with your legs stretched in front of you.
- Inhale and raise your arms towards the ceiling. Relax your arms.
- Exhale and lower your chest forward. Your face should be touching your legs.
- Hold your heel by your hands. If you’re comfortable with this posture, hold your toes instead of heels.
- Relax your hip and move it further against your thighs.
- Remain in the posture for a minute.
- Inhale and return to the original posture.
Pranayama for Sleep apnea
1) Bhastrika pranayama (Breath of fire)
Sit comfortably on the floor, and hold Gyan mudra on your fingers.
Your spine should be straight and your head facing forward parallel to the floor.
In normal breathing, we inhale and exhale in a slow smooth fashion. In Bhastrika, inhale and exhale through your nose forcefully. It should resemble panting.
2) Kapalabhati Pranayama (Skull Shining Breath)
- Sit straight and cross-legged.
- Your abdomen should be in a relaxed position.
- Exhale in a short and forceful manner. Try to do 60 such exhale shots in a minute.
- After a minute take a deep breath and exhale through your mouth.
- You can do Gyan mudra while doing pranayama also.
Bhramari Pranayama or Bee breath for sleep apnea
Want an instant de-stress? Try Bhramari.
The Bee Breath or Bhramari Pranayama is derived from an Indian black bee known as Bhramari.
It is an effective yogic technique to calm your mind. On the days you are stressed, do practice this breathing exercise to de-stress quickly.
Your mind will soon be free from agitation, frustration ,or anxiety.
Benefits of Bhramari Pranayama
- Bee Breath exercise treats hypertension and gives instant relief from tension, anger, and anxiety.
- Helps relieve migraine
- Gives comfort when you are feeling too hot during a headache
- Reduces blood pressure and calms nerves
- Improves throat problems and gives a clear voice
The simple technique can be practiced anywhere during the day.
Steps to do Bhramari Pranayama
- Sit straight with a position of your choice in a well-ventilated corner with your eyes closed
- Observe your body and keep a gentle smile on your face
- There is the cartilage between your cheeks and ears. Place your index finger on your cartilage
- Take a deep breath in and while exhaling press your cartilage gently
- Make a humming sound similar to a bee while breathing out
- A higher-pitch sound gives you a better result. Continue the same breathing pattern 3-10 times.
Prevention is better than cure
Of course, yoga alone cannot mend sleep apnea if you’re not amending other risk factors as well. You should cut down your alcohol and smoking habits. Make sure you eat healthily. Go out for a walk, do something that makes you sweat. Age and genetics are something that we cannot change or stop. But the rest of the factors can be mitigated if we take good care of our health.
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