Category Archives: Pranayama (Breathwork)

Staying Balanced This Season.

pranayama-copyDon’t get swept away this fall with your busy work-life schedule, stay rooted with this breathing technique.

Breath Of Fire

17422-EX_196_01For this week’s pranayama and in light of the 3rd chakra, Manipura, we’re introducing you to Kapalbhati, also know as Breath of Fire.

This is a rapid diaphragmatic breathing, designed to clean toxins from the body, raise internal fire, and stimulate the ascending current (that which our prana runs along). Having a healthy and spirited 3rd chakra supports us in overcoming inertia, when we choose to consciously activate our core muscles with asana or pranayama we can help build our internal fire, or agni, found in the body. Having a kapalbhati practice can help stimulate not only positive states of being associated with this chakra such as joy and happiness but it can also increase our energy, giving us that extra oomph to get us through the day.

To begin sit in an upright, comfortable seat with your back straight and legs relaxed.

Using the muscles of your kapalbhati-12abdomen, snap (a sharp quick breath) in your diaphragm/belly, causing a quick exhale to escape the body through your nose. Keep your mouth closed.

When you relax your belly, an inhale will naturally occur with air moving in your nose and chest. You need not to force this inhalation.

Then snap the belly once again, followed by a relaxing inhale, causing another exhale and inhale, so with each breath there is more emphasis on your exhales.

When this process feels comfortable for you, repeat quickly, causing several quick exhales. Do in sets of 2o to begin and then you can increase to 50 once you become more accustomed to this practice. Repeat 3 sets. After a while you can place yourself according to what feels right. Increase the number and speed as your stomach muscles become acclimated.

*Note: If at any point you being to feel lightheaded stop your pranayama practice and come back to a neutral breath.

Source: Ayurveda For Everyday and Yoga Journal.

Stay Cool!

Cooling-Breath-Sheetali-PranayamaThe summer heat can be so thick, steamy and stifling sometimes that just a few minutes outdoors can make breathing feel like too much of a tiring activity. The good news – the traditional yoga practice of pranayama has gifted us with a breathing technique that essentially makes you your very own walking A/C unit. The word “sheetali” means cooling in Sanskrit, it is taken from the original word “Sheetal” which is soothing or cold. The pranayama practice of sheetali breathing calms the mind, reduces stress and helps cool the body and mind.

The purpose of Sheetali breathing not only helps calm stress and relax the body but is mainly used to cool down our body temperature. The ancient text of Hatha Yoga, Pradipika, states that this pranayama removes excess heat accumulated in the body and all our our organs. It can reduce excess bile and helps to reduce fevers. Sheetali breathing can keep our organs from ‘overworking’ in the heat thus keeping you internally and externally cool. It also has a calming effect on the nervous system, especially as it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which induces muscular relaxation and is very effective in stress management.

In this pranayama the tongue is rolled in a specific manner as shown in figure. But many people can not roll their tongue in this fashion. If rolling your tongue is not accessible try pressing your teeth together leaving no gap between your jaw open your mouth and breath through your teeth while keeping your jaw sealed. You’ll feel a cool air stream through your teeth.

Sheetali (Cooling Breath)

cooling-breathBegin in a comfortable seated position and give yourself a minute to relax your whole body. Release any tension in your neck, spine, legs, etc. Really allow your body to release feeling completely relaxed.

Start by rolling your tongue and inhale through your mouth feeling the cool air enter your mouth within your tongue. Inhale for 4 seconds. Exhale through your nose for 6 seconds, make sure your exhales are a little bit longer than your inhales. Repeat and practice for about 5 minutes.

Source: Yoga Point 

Ins and Outs of Prana

6-Breathing-Exercises-to-Relax-in-10-Minutes-or-Less_0Humans have been known to survive for months without water and weeks without food yet die within minutes when deprived of oxygen. Respiration represents the power of prana, the ultimate expression of energy and life. When prana flows abundantly through our beings we become aware of a special glow to our skin and eyes, a spring to our step and the pulse of energy in every cell, vibrating vitality through every thought, word and deed. Conversely, an impeded or deficient flow of prana is marked by constant fatigue, dull skin and eyes and loss of enthusiasm. Breathing exercises are the easiest way to increase the flow of prana in our body and to unleash dormant prana.

What is Prana?

”As the spokes are attached to the hub, so on this life breath, all is connected”   – Ancient Indian treatise

In the ultimate sense prana is the subtlest form of all energies that permeate and sustain life in the cosmos. It is the underlying power supplying all universal forces allowing the ocean to surge, the sun to rise, flowers to bloom and the earth to revolve. The localized aspect of prana is the force uniting mind, body and spirit together known as the bio-energy field in humans. This flows from the spirit and is also absorbed from the atmosphere instantly through breathing oxygen and slowly through the colon with the transformation of food into energy.

Prana travels through our bodies via channels known as nadis, a concept similar to Chinese medicine’s chi, which travels along meridians. Absorbed through the medium of breath, prana has specifications on the respiratory, digestive, circulatory, cardiovascular, lymphatic and nervous system functions. Most importantly prana governs all the mental processes including thoughts, feelings, the will and reason. Longevity, health and vitality are all determined by the quality of prana flowing in our bodies. Taking in all this new information can be a bit overwhelming so now would be a good time to take a deep breath!

About Pranayama 

“As wind drives away smoke and impurities from the atmosphere, pranayama is a divine fire which cleanses the organs, senses, mind, intellect and ego.”      – BKS Iyengar

Pranayama is the art of breath control whereby the mental and physical state is brought to a harmonious state of health and serenity. It is a technique that increases, controls and frees the flow of prana throughout the entire body. The practice of pranayama brings awareness to the breath, which then connects us rapidly with our inner physical and emotional state.2786-22

Our relationship with life is mirrored in our breathing. When we’re nervous or excited our breathing becomes shallow, jerky and rapid. A relaxed, quiet state will create slow and deep breathing. Humans breath about 16-18 times a minute, inhaling about 13,000 litres of air every 24 hours. Due to exercise, anger, passion and anxiety the respiration rate increases, straining the heart and decreasing the life span. The slow, deep breathing and retention of breath in pranayama helps to compensate for the damage incurred by rapid, shallow breathing.

Pranayama also ensures a rhythmic harmony between the left bodily channel (ida) and the right bodily channel (pingala). This is important as these nadis govern opposite polarities in the body. Pingala which is stimulated by right nostril breathing promotes heat, masculinity, extroversion and digestion. Left nostril breathing stimulates ida which encourages cold, femininity, introspection and fertility. Roughly every hour our breathing shifts from one nostril to the other whereas pranayama encourages us to breath through both nostrils in order to maintain our bio-energetic balance.

Let’s Get Breathing!

For a beginner unfamiliar with pranayama please read the few guidelines below to help you set up for a healthy and sustainable pranayama practice.

 The full Yogic Breath

  1. Lie down on your back, placing your right palm flat over your lower abdomen and your left palm at the top of your chest. The palms help to monitor the wave-like motion of the full yogic breath.
  2. Exhale, emptying the air from your abdomen and chest.
  3. Inhale deeply feeling your abdomen fill with air and rise then your chest up to the clavicle should fill with air and rise. Pause when you feel you have inhaled to your full capacity then inhale further.
  4. Exhaling the chest will first lower as the air is expelled then the abdomen will empty and contract.
  5. Continue this for 5 cycles. Once you have achieved a smooth rhythm proceed to pranayama exercises. The full yogic breath is to be observed whilst doing all pranayamas unless stated otherwise.

Ujjayi Pranayama (Baby’s Snore)
Best time for practice: Before meditation, before bed, and during yoga

Method:
1. Sit in a comfortable position with a straight back and neck.
2. Place your hands on the knees and close your eyes.
3. Exhale through the nostrils emptying your lungs and abdomen of air.
4. Slightly contract the throat and breath in deeply through the nostrils, keeping your mouth closed, for the count of 4. This will make a ‘sa’ sound similar to the gentle snore of a baby. The abdomen and chest should fill and rise.
5. Hold your breath at the top for the count of 2 then straighten head and exhale through the mouth to the count of 4. A ‘ha’ sound will be made on exhalation.
6. Repeat this cycle five times.
Benefits:
1. Calms and focuses the mind.
2. Useful in respiratory tract disorders, hypertension, insomnia and fatigue.
3. Relieves nervous tension and anxiety

Guidelines for Pranayama

  1. The best time to practice pranayama is in the morning when the air is cool and the mind and body are fresh or at dusk.
  2. The bowels and bladder should be emptied.
  3. It is best to practice pranayama after exercises and before meditation.
  4. Find a secluded, quiet, clean, well-ventilated space, preferably free of insects.
  5. Sit in a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair with the back erect and the head straight. Vajrasana or sukhasana are good positions.
  6. A folded blanket, flat cushion or mat may be placed on the floor for comfort.
  7. Keep all your facial and bodily muscles relaxed.
  8. Close the eyes and rest the tops hands on knees.
  9. Breathe only through the nose unless stated otherwise.

This article was beautifully written from the folks at: Ayurveda Elements

Photos: Yoga Journal

Recommended Reading – Moola Bandha The Master Key

Moola BandhaOccasionally we suggest a book to inspire and or enhance a theme we are focusing on.  We do not get paid to promote these books and we only highlight those that we hold in the highest regard.  The Month of May at Y3 is all about the first Chakra (wheel of energy), the Muladhara Chakra.  While there are many good books that cover this subject, this book is 132 pages dedicated to the subject of the Moola,  the root, and focuses on its’ theory and practice from a physical, pranic (energetic) and psychotherapeutic view.  It covers both beginners and advanced techniques.  No study of the Muladhara Chakra can be complete without the study of the Moola Bandha (root lock).  If the practitioner truly wants to bring their practice to a deeper level and unleash the untapped energy that is present in each and everyone, we highly recommend Moola Bandha, The Master Key, by:  Swami Buddhananda

Mula Whata?

17422-EX_196_01Have you ever been in yoga class and hear the instructor say “apply mula bandha” or “apply the locks” and thought to yourself, huh? Or perhaps you have an idea of what this means but still a little foggy about how to lock your root? Or if you’re doing it correctly? Read on to clear up some lingering thoughts and questions about mula bandha and how this relates to our Root chakra, Muladhara.

In Sanskrit, “mula” means root; “bandha” means a lock or binding. Not only physically but also in more subtle ways, mula bandha is a technique for containing and channeling the energy (Prana) associated with the mula-dhara (root place) chakra. Located at the tip of the spine and inhabits your entire pelvic floor area, muladhara chakra represents the stage of consciousness where basic survival needs dominate.

root-chakra-1Mula also refers to the root of all action, and the root of any action is a thought. As we begin to refine our thoughts—restricting and binding the intentions behind our actions—the actions themselves become refined. In yoga practice we bind our body and mind, restricting our impulses into the orderly channels of ethics, individual responsibility, and right action.

Mula bandha is said to cut through brahma granthi, the energetic knot of our resistance to change, which lies in muladhara chakra. On the physical level, practicing mula bandha creates attentiveness in the supportive musculature of the pelvis. This increases the stability of the pelvis, and, since the pelvis is the seat of the spine, its stability creates a safe environment for spinal movement. Thus, mula bandha strengthens—and teaches the importance of—the solid wheel-heels-up2foundation that should underlie any movement. Especially important when practicing backbends and twists. Equally important to engage mula bandha during pranayama as a means to keep prana flowing through your internal energy channels.

Mula bandha also lifts and compresses the bowel and lower abdominal region. This creates a solid foundation, a platform under the breath that makes it possible to increase or decrease the pressure inside the torso and facilitate movement. The bandha creates lightness and fluidity; when it is properly applied, the body is less earth-bound and more mobile.

2786-22To practice the engagement of mula bandha start out in Virasana, Hero Pose. Contact the “tripod” at the base of your pelvis which consists of three bones: the tail bone (coccyx) and the two heads of the thigh (femur) bones. Your coccyx should imaginatively lengthen down and through the floor. Your femur heads should similarly sink down and through the floor, imagine yourself rooting into the earth below you.

To apply mula bandha contract the muscles of your pelvic floor. Women will recognize this as a kegel exercise, or another way to familiarize yourself with this engagement is to contract the muscles you use to stop urinating mid-stream. Yes, those muscles are your pelvic floor muscles, the seat of your root chakra and mula bandha. Begin ujjayi breathing once settled into virasana and as you inhale lock your pelvic floor muscles, at the top of your inhale hold your breath and root lock here for a few seconds and when you need to release – take an exhale – release mula bandha as well. Practice for a few rounds keep your focus steady and soft and bring your awareness to any changes, thoughts, and actions that may come for you during your mula bandha practice.

Source: Langkawi
Hero Pose Cue: Yoga Journal

Muladhara Chakra Pranayama

Meditation This week we are celebrating Earth Day and are deeply affected whether we like it or not by the times and tides of the Full Moon Lunar Eclipse.  This can be a very emotional time, a time for letting go and a time for welcoming in the new.  This transition can and more than likely will last for several months. It may reignite on the next two Lunar Eclipses in 2013, May 25th & October 18th.  In order to ride the emotional waves that may come our way, we need to ground ourselves and seek the base of support that only Mother Earth can give us.  Seek refuge in this practice when emotions may run high for the rest of the year knowing that we can come back down to earth with this simple and powerful meditation and pranayama practice.

mulachakra

Muladhara is Sanskrit and translates to “base of support.”  Anatomically it is located at the root of the body, the perineum, located between the anus and the genitals.  Chakra is Sanskrit and translates to “wheel”, in this case being a wheel or vortex of energy.  Thus the Muladhara Chakra is a wheel of energy located in the root of the body, the pelvic floor.  Refining this practice can cause the untapped prana (energy) to release.   We all have a dormant source of energy inside waiting to be unleashed, the Kundalini Shakti.

This is a very powerful practice when coupled with mudra, or hand gesture.  I suggest you read through the practice first, as you can’t read the practice with your eyes closed.  It is extremely simple and easy to commit to memory.

Come into a comfortable seated cross-legged position.  Place your hands in Chinmaya Mudra, the hand gesture meaning “Gesture of Embodied Knowledge.”  Obtain Chinmaya Mudra by curling your fingers into a fist with the thumbs outside. Then bring open the index fingers and touch the tips of the thumbs to the index fingers, forming a circle.  Rest the hands palms down onto your thighs or knees.

images

Relax the shoulders back and down away from the ears while rooting your sit bones into the earth. Growing tall through the spine, draw the navel in and up.  Close the eyes if you haven’t done so already and connect to the breath.  This should not be anything controlled or forced; just become an observer to your natural breathing.  Breathe in and out through the nostrils for several rounds of breath. Slowly start to deepen the breath on the inhale and the exhale. Quietly, softly, finding your own rhythm, your own pace begin at the bottom filling up the low abdomen, solar plexus, ribs and chest, then exhale releasing the energy down, chest, ribs, solar plexus, low abdomen.  When you reach the bottom of the exhale, draw the navel to the spine ridding yourself of that last bit of stale air, expelling tension and stored emotion.

Bring your internal gaze to the third eye point.  With your minds eye imagine a deep crimson ball of light.  When you have this image then visualize the ball opening up into a beautiful red lotus flower.  Draw this lotus flower down to the base of your body.  With each inhalation, visualize the petals of the lotus unfolding, and with each exhalation, visualize the petals folding closed.  With each inhale and exhale engage the Mula, opening and closing your lotus flower, connected deeply to the breath with the Mula engaged.  Take several rounds of breath here and begin to add the mantra LAM to the exhalation, chant silently or aloud LAM from nine to 108 times, but always in denominations of nine.

Conclude by saying silently or aloud 3 times, I am always safe at the center of my being.

Keep your eyes closed and slowly release the hand gesture, take several natural breaths to integrate fully all the qualities you have evoked in the Muladhara Chakra.

When you are ready, slowly open your eyes, take your time to return to the world outside with a greater sense of security.

This is a beautiful grounding practice you can always turn to in times of emotional turmoil.  It will make you present, abundant, and fearless.  You may add aromatherapy to enhance the effects of this practice.  Scents that create security, stability, and grounding are cedar, sandalwood, and cinnamon.  In addition, it is powerful to set an intention to a diety, Mother Earth (Gaia), Ganesha, Brahma, Shakti, whichever you are most drawn to.  You may spend 5 minutes or 5 hours in this practice.  Give it a go and let us know your experience.

Om Shanti