Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed and stressed? If so, you're not alone. The good news is that there are many different techniques that can help you relax and de-stress. In this blog post, we will introduce you to Calm Crocodile: a restorative breathing technique that can help amplify the effects of diaphragmatic breathing. We'll also show you how to do a prone restorative yoga posture to further enhance the relaxation benefits of this breathwork technique.
BENEFITS: Calming, Stress Relief, Restoration, Improved Digestion
If you're looking for a way to relax and de-stress, we hope you'll give Calm Crocodile a try!
What is Calm Crocodile?
Calm Crocodile is a restorative breathing technique that amplifies the effects of diaphragmatic breathing in a prone position. If you lay belly down on the ground and bring your attention to your breath, most likely you’ll find that your awareness is drawn to the movement in the mid-torso and to the felt experience of breathing. When you bring your arms overhead, it restricts the movement of the chest, which guides the breath lower into the torso. And because your abdomen is resting on the floor with the weight of the torso pressing down on it, you can really sense the breath pressing the belly against the floor. This will gently expand the lower back and flare the lower ribs (especially the floating ribs) out to the side. This is the hallmark of diaphragmatic breathing and it is especially evident in the full version of the posture with the chest off the floor.
Why is diaphragmatic breathing so important?
The diaphragm is the main muscle responsible for respiration. It attaches to the lumbar vertebrae (lower back), the tip of the breastbone, and the ribs, and separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. The main reason why diaphragmatic breathing is so important is that it helps to oxygenate the blood. When you breathe deeply, your lungs fill up with air and this oxygen-rich air is then circulated to the rest of your body.
In addition to helping to oxygenate your blood, diaphragmatic breathing has also been shown to have a number of other benefits, including:
reducing stress and anxiety
improving sleep quality
boosting energy levels
aiding in digestion
Additionally, in the modern literature on yoga, diaphragmatic breathing has been discussed in length to support the harmonious functioning of the nervous system and the relaxation response.
The crocodile posture facilitates diaphragmatic breathing by immobilizing the chest (because the arms are overhead), and allows you to relax the abdomen and back (because you are lying on the floor). And because the abdomen is pressed into the floor, the breath does not drop into the lower belly. Constrained by the floor and by the tautness in the chest and upper back, the breath fills in the lower back and sides at the waist.
How can I do Calm Crocodile at home?
Here's a step-by-step guide on how to do the Calm Crocodile breathwork technique at home:
Set a timer for 10 minutes.
Roll out a yoga mat and lie facedown on the floor with your arms crossed underneath your forehead. Have your elbows just a few inches forward of your shoulders so your chest rises from the ground slightly. Have your feet as wide as your yoga mat and allow the inside arches to rest on the ground, with your hips externally rotated and opening to the floor.
Allow your eyes to close, and relax your body, feeling your abdomen resting against the earth. Soften any clenching, gripping, or holding in the muscles of your abdomen and pelvis.
Without straining, notice your natural breath for 2 minutes.
Begin to relax the movement of the breath down into your belly. Since the abdomen is resting against the earth, it may feel counterintuitive at first to breathe this way. It’s okay to put some slight effort into bringing the breath there. Limit the movement of the chest and rib cage. Keep relaxing and keep the breath in your belly for 5 minutes.
Take a deeper, fuller breath and make small movements in your legs and feet as you bring yourself back. Rolling over onto your back, hug your knees into your chest for a few breaths to counterpose.
When you’re ready, come to a seated position and notice the effects of the practice on your mind, energy, and body.
TIPS: If it feels like too much effort or is uncomfortable to keep your elbows back and your chest lifted, roll a blanket up and slide it underneath your chest for support. If your forehead is uncomfortable on the backs of your hands or wrists, you can rest a blanket there as well.
If you're interested in learning more about yoga and breathwork, check out our weekly virtual classes, or schedule a private yoga therapy session. Email us for more information.
With great respect and love!
Anderson, Sandra. Makarasana: The Crocodile Pose. Yoga International. https://yogainternational.com/article/view/makarasana-the-crocodile-pose
Givens, Jerry. Essential Pranayama: Breathing Techniques for Balance, Healing, and Peace . Rockridge Press.