Yoga and Prayanama for Sleep Apnea

Millions of people who have Sleep Apnea or other sleeping disorders are undiagnosed. Many of the people who have been diagnosed, however, do not complete regulated daily treatments for assuaging their symptoms because most conventional Sleep Apnea treatments are boring and uncomfortable. CPAP is loud and irritating on the face; mouthpieces cause you to droll all over yourself. More and more people who suffer from disorders like Sleep Apnea are looking for alternative, fun methods to treat their sleeping problems. Yoga is quickly becoming one of the most popular forms of alternative treatment.

Yoga for Sleep Apnea

Like all other treatments for Sleep Apnea, yoga will not cure the disorder. It can, however, greatly reduce the associated symptoms if practiced thoroughly and regularly. Yoga incorporates exercises that promote proper breathing habits and help tone loose muscles in the upper throat and airway. It involves posing the body in physical positions while breathing in a specified pattern, and focusing the mind on the physical happenings of the body.

People who suffer from daytime sleepiness and fatigue as a result of their Sleep Apnea often experience excessively high levels of stress. Yoga promotes relaxation and releases endorphins in the brain. Endorphins reduce heart rate and lower blood pressure; they also help the muscles of the body relax.

Understanding Yoga

The word “yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit word “yuj”, which means to join or unite. Yoga focuses on uniting all of the different parts of the individual: the body, the mind, and the soul. Only when the different aspects of the individual are united and balanced will the individual be healthy, happy, and in control. The origins of yoga are debated, but they are certainly ancient. The main goal of yoga is to reach ultimate freedom, or “Kaivalya”, according to the Sutras of Patanjali. Upon reaching this level of freedom and emancipation, the yoga practitioner will understand their innermost soul. Reaching this level means living a tranquil and content existence that will no longer end in reincarnation. There is a definite understanding and differentiation between the infinite spiritual being, and the fallible material being. Essentially, yoga is meant to be a spiritual quest, but it can also stimulate happiness, knowledge, and most importantly health.

How Breath Affects Sleep

Simply breathing effectively can help resolve numerous health and medical issues. Fatigue, dizziness, chest problems, respiratory congestion, and even visual problems can all be reduced by breathing efficiently. The breathing exercises that are incorporated in yoga can help combat the symptoms and causes of Sleep Apnea in patients with mild to moderate cases of the disorder. These breathing techniques help keep the tissues in the lungs elastic and reactive. They can also help strengthen the muscles in the chest, stomach, and abdomen; all three muscles are used in apnea patients when the respiratory system needs help functioning correctly during sleep.

Breathing fully and deeply increases the level of oxygen that the body is able to absorb. Increased oxygen levels help the body improve metabolism, release toxins, and even create and maintain high energy levels. Yoga breathing techniques should be done in a healthy environment, one with clean air and comfortable surroundings.


The most popular yoga breathing exercise is called Ujjayi Pranayama, or simply Pranayama. Ujjayi Pranayama is known to yoga practitioners and teachers as the “hissing breath” and is generally categorized as the rhythmic control of breath. The hissing breath focuses on increasing the capacity of the lungs and removing blockages in the throat. By increasing lung capacity, Pranayama also increases the level of oxygen that is taken into the body. The increase of oxygen levels in the body promotes healthy blood circulation and gets more oxygen to the brain. The flow of energy through the body becomes balanced with the nervous system; the body and the mind become balanced.

Pranayama is much more than a set of breathing exercises, the techniques are meant to give the practitioner a sense of increased awareness and control over their breath. Breathing can be voluntary or it can be controlled. Either way, when an individual is not aware of their breathing techniques and habits, the respiratory system remains controlled by primitive sections of the brain. When breathing is subconscious, it can easily be disrupted or affected by changes in mental pattern or emotional state throughout the day. Because these changes disrupt the rhythmic breath, the mind, body, and spirit can not remain in balance.

Basic Components of Pranayama

There are four main components of Pranayama: inhalation, pausing following inhalation, exhalation, and pausing after exhaling. The inhalation should be smooth and controlled then followed by the stoppage of airflow into the lungs. Airflow is replaced with retention and there is not movement in the lungs or any of the other muscles in the body. The exhalation after the first pause, like inhalation, should be smooth and controlled. When lungs go from the tensed position, during the first pause, to a totally relaxed position, the exhalation, all of the extra, leftover air in the lungs is pushed out. After the exhalation, a pause completes the breathing cycle and allows a new exhalation to begin.

Breathing through the Nose

A large portion of Pranayama focuses on breathing through the nose. Human sinuses produce small amounts of nitric oxide. Nitrice oxide can, in small doses, kill negative bacteria in the airway; it also assists the lungs take in oxygen. Many of the nerves that regulate breathing functions are found in the nasal passages that lead to the brain. When breathing through the nose, the air that is inhaled up the sinuses acts as a stimulant for reflex nerves that regulate balance in the nervous system and control breathing. This is great news for people suffering from Obstructive, Central, and Complex forms of Sleep Apnea.

Pranayama is safe when it is practiced under safe circumstances. If you other respiratory problems, in addition to Sleep Apnea, you should consult your doctor before attempting the exercises. People with asthma or emphysema may not respond well to the therapy. The techniques should only be practices by patients who already have a basic understanding of how to control and regulate their breathing habits; it is not for beginners. Some exercises may leave the exerciser dizzy, or cause them to lose focus. If this happens, avoid repeating those exercises.

Simple Pranayama Exercise

Sit in Lotus position; you are sitting up, your back is straight, your legs are crossed on the floor, the heels are facing up, the arms are relatively straight, and the hands are resting on the knees. Close your eyes, and breathe deeply through your nose. Deeply inhale and exhale until you feel calm and comfortable. Once you are calm, inhale deeply and forcefully through your nose. When you inhale, contract the muscles in your neck. Hold that inhalation inside your lungs for as long as you can comfortably. When you exhale, use your finger to close one of your nostrils. Slowly exhale through the open nostril. Repeat the process, this time covering the opposite nostril. This should be done three to five times every day.

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