How and Why Yoga and Dharma Made Me Ill and Healthy?

Dear yoga-dharma practitioners,

Today I want to share my story with you – how I developed serious health problems and overcame them – both as a result of doing my spiritual practices (a Tibetan lineage of yoga-dharma).

About 18 years ago, following the personal instructions of my spiritual teacher, a Tibetan Rinpoche, I started doing prostrations and reciting mantras intensely. Soon after, I began experiencing health problems but never connected them to the practices I was doing because, mentally, they were making me feel better.

A couple of years later, I attended a traditional Buddhist one-year retreat together with 3-year retreatants. I was surprised to find out that most long-term retreatants were experiencing serious health issues, such as digestive problems, allergies, congestion, and high-stress levels. Surprisingly to me, after this retreat, my health also declined, and I developed sleep apnea, allergy, kidney, heart, and joint issues.

Buteyko breathing and chanting, yoga, prostrations
Sasha Yakovleva has been practicing dharma for over 30 years 

I kept asking lamas and Rinpoches about what was wrong, but no one could explain this situation. The typical answer was: Trust our ancient lineage, and everything will be fine. Well, it wasn’t because my health continued getting worse.

Then, I came across the Buteyko Breathing Method, which I have been teaching for 15 years now. The work of K.P. Buteyko, MD-PhD, the brilliant Russian physiologist, explained what the problem was. Our Western lifestyle is very different compared to how it was in India or Tibet, and consequently, our breathing patterns are different compared to monks and nuns who were raised in Tibet. In short, modern people’s breathing is weak and, therefore, should be addressed differently and with caution. For example, doing yoga practices while breathing excessively through the mouth can damage health; doing yoga while inhaling gently through the nose improves health.

After I learned this, I continued doing prostrations, reciting mantras, and chanting pujas; however, I adjusted my breathing. This change turned the practices that had been damaging my health into a cure. Within a short time, my severe allergy, congestion, snoring and sleep apnea, joint, and other problems disappeared, and I became healthy. This situation stayed the same since.

And since then, I’ve been honored to offer dharma and yoga practitioners ways to turn their spiritual practices into their health improvement tools. The Buteyko method is the key.

Do you chant, sing liturgies, prostrate, bow or recite mantras? Have you noticed these techniques affect your breathing?

Traditional dharma practices are supposed to strengthen breathing, boost prana, and make us healthier, but do they? If they do, why dharma practitioners often have asthmaallergiessleep apneaCOPD, fatiguehypertension, and other health problems? How can we explain this contradiction?

K.P. Buteyko, MD-PhD, found the missing link. He discovered that breathing patterns are the result of a lifestyle. Our comfort-based way of living differs from the yogic lifestyle in India and Tibet. When modern man spends hours sitting in front of computers and eating whatever they want, yogis used to walk for miles hoping to fill a begging bowl. As a result of their lifestyle, their respiration was strong, while the Western lifestyle makes it weak.

When people ignore this divergence, they could put themselves in a situation analogous to when a person with a broken leg attempts to run a marathon. Even though running is supposed to be good for health, this action will negatively affect their well-being.

Breathing is as powerful as nuclear energy, Dr. Buteyko stated. By breathing incorrectly, one can seriously damage their health; however, switching to healthy breathing improves health swiftly. Chanting combined with gentle nasal breathing, for example,  can make it a remedy for many health problems when excessive mouth-breathing can become negative for health.

You don’t have to do Buteyko Breathing exercises to become healthier (especially if yu don’t like them!). You need to turn your existing spiritual practices into your health improvement and CO2-boosting tools.

Kindest Regards,

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