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Archive for the ‘pranayama for breath awareness’ Category

breathe-fully

The guided meditation CD, Breathe Fully Live Free: Meditations to Release Anxiety and Fear, is ready at last and available on www.cdbaby.com/cd/meenamodi2.  It is a recorded adaptation, in response to all the feedback, of the BVMI fundraiser “Yoga for Fear and Anxiety” we did last July. Amazon, Google Play, iTunes will have it in a week or two–will post links. New Jersey Whole Foods stores will carry it but this is a longer process and will take more time.

The 80-minute audio guided meditation CD combines wisdom from the East and West, science and contemplative traditions, clinical research and psychotherapy, talk and practice. For 2014, the profits will be given to charities that fight human trafficking and care for the victims.

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  Irises by Vincent van Gogh

 Source: Google Images

It is that time of the year! Time to renew and refresh the body and mind and reset both. Clearing them both out creates space for the birth of positive, virtuous cycles as we discard negative ones.

There are many ways to do this and readers are referred to the detailed past posts.

Yoga Spring Cleaning: Digestive System

This post gives specific ways for gentle and moderate cleansing of the digestive system. Accompanied by a moderate reduction (15 to 20 percent) of calories for a week, if medically suitable, may help the body feel lighter, more energetic, and put a bounce in your step.

Yoga Spring Cleaning: Respiratory System

An efficient and healthy respiratory system helps create vitality in the body and mind. Lethargy is removed and the body also feels light and free. Gentle pranayamas described here will help flush out the respiratory system.

Yoga Spring Cleaning: The Mind

Having a clean digestive system and an efficiently flushed respiratory system helps clean out the mind. In this post readers are lead to specific, detailed practices to reset the mind.

Happy Spring!

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Happy New Year to Everyone!

Current Issue

Each year we find there is more yoga and meditation content freely available. We begin this year with the first digital issue, Winter 2012,  of Yoga International.  This is an excellent publication from the Himalayan Institute based in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Now anyone with Internet access can read its content.

This issue features a healthy heart guide, breathing techniques to curb emotions, yoga in the Middle East, upward dog and the back, and the story of four women changing the destiny of yoga.

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Adaptation to seasons, external circumstances, as well as situations is integral to yoga philosophy. As the season changes, this post is a reminder to begin the adaptation phase. Holidays become markers to remind us to clean our house–homes, bodies, minds. Here are some suggestions to start the process.

Shatkarma: These are cleansing kriyas or practices. See the blog post Yoga Spring Cleaning: Digestive System (March 20, 2011). Cleaning the digestive system can be gentle or moderate through varied detoxification methods.  From partial fasts, to high-fiber diets, to shankhprakshalan, there are many ways.

Asana: A gradual switch to more active routines from the relatively passive summer asanas is now appropriate. Active routines counter the slowing winter metabolism and help keep the body warmer.  As the digestive system becomes more sluggish, a practice of surya namaskar/sun salutations can invigorate and improve the digestive process by toning and stimulating peristalsis.

Pranayama: The cooling summer breaths of sitali and sitakari give way to kapalbhati and bhastrika. The active breaths gently pump the belly and stimulate the heat-generating manipura chakra. The abdominal organs get a work-out. The respiratory system is flushed and strengthened.

Meditation: These practices remain steady. A greater inner focus begins.

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Once the foundation is laid and the body prepared with the practices listed in the previous two posts, the next step is balanced breathing where the breath is comfortably paced. This breath is also called equal inhalation and exhalation and samavritti pranayama. It calms the mind, making it quiet. The breath will gradually become deeper and longer.

The exercise begins by relaxing the body and making it still. Then the attention is drawn to the belly. The breath is observed as an inhalation and exhalation. The inhalation and exhalation are measured by counting 1, 2, 3, etc. from the start to end of inhalation and then the exhalation. Or if it is easier, count how long it takes for the belly to softly rise with the inhaled breath and fall with the exhaled breath. The two are then made even or equal–for instance it could be three seconds to inhale and three seconds to exhale. So there is a gentle and active control. (Kapalbhati and bhastrika are intentionally not given here as I do think that people need direct guidance from an experienced teacher to determine if it is suitable for them, and if so at what pace and rate. A teacher must also observe these two breaths to make sure the breathing is done correctly, that there is no hyperventilation and elevated blood pressure.)

All these steps help make the mind still and focused to prepare it for meditation.

Here is a free audio track for balanced, paced breathing (requires no iTunes or MP3) from www.mahasriyoga.com that anyone with Internet service can easily access:

Samavritti Pranayama

Samavritti means equal or uniform movement. In this breathing the flows of inhaled and exhaled breaths are of equal duration and intensity. The breathing is paced, but it is paced to your own comfort and not to a given count–usually four to six seconds. As the breath is observed with uninterrupted awareness over an extended period of time, the inhalation and exhalation spontaneously become equal. The breathing pattern becomes more rhythmic and this has a calming effect on the body and mind. This is an important step in pranayamaSamavritti pranayama is soothing and creates a feeling of equanimity. As you get more comfortable with it, you can add one more second to each inhalation and exhalation to slowly make the breath longer and deeper, gently increasing the lung capacity. Never go beyond your comfort level–there should be no shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, any discomfort. Notice the changes in your body and the mind as they change with the rhythmic, balanced breathing. Breath retention should be done under expert guidance after the initial stages are completed and is not included here.

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To safely learn to control the breath, stretch it and make it deeper, here are the basic foundations to pranayama. The audio links are to tracks on www.mahasriyoga.com.

Whole Body Breathing

Conscious breathing requires some effort initially but after some practice it becomes a natural part of you. Another deeply relaxing practice, whole body breath is simple and effective. There is a gentle expansion and contraction of the body.

Belly Breath

A deeply relaxing practice, the belly breath is one of the first breaths taught in yoga. Also known as abdominal breath, it is a simple and effective way to slow down the breath and mental activity. Awareness is shifted from the mind to the belly. The belly is a space of stillness, a vast ocean of peace. Anxiety brought down to the belly dissolves in this ocean of tranquility. The belly breath is the most relaxed and efficient breath (once you get used to it, particularly if you are a chest breather). It is much more difficult and strenuous to deepen a chest breath than it is to deepen the belly breath. The body gets the most oxygen with the least exertion. It is an effective way to increase lung capacity.

Full Yogic Breath

An energizing and soothing practice, full yogic breath is a basic core breath. It flushes out the entire respiratory system. The breath becomes deeper, more relaxed, and more efficient. The muscles of the belly, midriff, and chest are gently engaged. The breath is experienced in different parts of the torso. A gentle expansion of the body helps stretch and elongate the breath. The stretch and expansion are predominantly vertical as opposed to horizontal. A vertical stretch engages the diaphgram so it actively moves the lower parts of the lungs. This movement helps flush out the lower lobes, areas that normally get little movement.

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This post, following up on the previous post, offers specific suggestions and a process for safe breathing for pranayama and increasing lung capacity.

Asana: Some gentle movements can definitely help loosen muscles and help tone the diaphragm and lungs for better breathing. Refer to the movements of the Upper Body on www.mahasriyoga.com.

A few other movements are palm tree pose (tadasana), swaying palm tree pose (tiryaka tadasana), waist rotating pose (kati chakrasana) cat/cow (marjariasana), cobra (bhujangasana), fish (matsyasana), bow (dhanurasana), shoulder pose (kandharasana), bridge (setu). This blog uses asana names from the Satyananda Yoga style.

Body Relaxation: After doing 15-20 minutes of simple physical movements or asanas of your choice, we suggest the following audio tracks that are free downloads (like podcasts) from Mahasri Yoga–you can hear everything directly from your computer speakers. Try one track for a week or two (practicing five days a week). This will take four to eight weeks. It is our belief that it is important for those new to this to go slowly and establish a firm foundation for most gain.

  • Base Position:
    A proper physical posture can be important for practicing pranayama and meditation. Three different positions are described here to accommodate varying needs: sitting on a chair, sitting on the floor, and lying down. They can be tried out to determine which one is the most comfortable for your body.
  • Body Stillness:
    The first step to having an effective pranayama practice or meditation practice is learning to use the breath to still and calm the body. As long as the body is restless or tense, the mind is drawn to the body and distracted by it. Making any progress in pranayama is difficult in the agitated or distracted state.
  • Deepening Body Awareness:
    After establishing a base position and learning to still the body, we deepen body awareness. The process of witnessing the body as a spectator deepens the process of relaxation, and that in turn facilitates more efficient rhythmic breathing.
Observing the breath: Before any attempt is made to control the breath, there must a strong awareness of the breath–how it moves in the body, how it feels. The following audio track may be of help.
  • Breath Awareness:
    With this practice we continue the process of deepening awareness of the breath by becoming more sensitive and observant. This can help curb the constant vortex of thoughts that spin around and around. We observe more deeply when the mind is becoming inert and sleepy or going off in tangents. Then through the will power of the witnessing awareness, the mind is trained to stay anchored and focused on the breath. It learns to rest on the breath.

The next post will provide links to audio tracks that begin controlling the breath gently at an individual pace, not a given count.

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