When I first took yoga classes in my 20s, I learned that you could help areas of the body relax and be free from stress by directing the breath with the mind. You could actually will the breath to move anywhere you wanted with a simple exhalation.
If you have a pain or discomfort in your lower back, for example, you inhale and exhale and direct the breath to the back, and almost immediately there is a difference. This proved to be true time and time again. I continue to teach this technique using the power of the breath.
We talk about breath and breathing, and we talk about prana within the breath. Are they the same? No, prana is different.
Prana is the energy of the breath.
It is the force of the breath. It is the spark and soul of the breath.
If we do alternate nostril breathing for high blood pressure, and our blood pressure drops, is it because we are regulating our breathing and slowing the blood circulation down, or is it that spark within the breath (the prana) that controls the flow?
I believe and have witnessed that it is both. Scientifically, we are changing the rate of the breath, and the life force mediates between the physical body and the vital body of the heart. This enables a better flow and in the case of blood pressure, drops it by redistribution.
“Prana is the motion and the coding of energy through the realms of the mind and body…Prana divides itself into different frequencies or different types of motion within the areas of the body. These are called the vayus.”
–Level 1 Aquarian Teacher Training manual
This means that the breath and prana move and flow through the body and into all the areas of the body to balance not only the body itself but also the mind and emotions.
Breathing is both a process that happens unconsciously or automatically, and a process that can be controlled consciously through the will of our minds.
We learn how prana works and how to free this energy by practicing pranayama (the formal practice of controlling the breath). We also study the science of pranayama to have an understanding of the prana and to bring ourselves to a neutral state and away from disease.
Managing our energies through pranayam allows us to maintain and improve our well-being, to provide the energy needed to meditate deeper into our existence, and to calm the inner winds that blow our minds from one thought to another. The key to controlling your mind is in controlling the breath, which frees the mind.
Alternate Nostril Breathing is the first and foremost to learn. The benefits are enormous. The left and right hemispheres of the brain are balanced. It purifies the nadis or energy channels within us and brings calmness to the spirit—a deep sense of well-being.
Using the rhythm and depth of the breath we can affect and manage different energy states of health, consciousness and emotion. The mind follows the breath.
Many yoga teachers, including myself, mention in class that your yoga practice is a warm up for what you do and how you act after you walk away from your mat and return to work or play. I encourage students and fellow yogis to breathe in moments of stress, to love more, and to see through the other person’s eyes and ears. I spout the wisdom of great teachers and encourage them to not gossip and to see God in all.
But, can we make an even deeper impression on our community – and the world?
“Tithe” is a word that many people do not know or use. It means to give up 10% of your personal income. I grew up in the Catholic religion and remember my parents putting money in the basket at church. Those funds were to help in whatever way the church deemed necessary and appropriate. My earnings today go to various community organizations in my neighborhood because I have been given a space to teach freely.
So, I return the favor. I have found that in giving, I receive.
Seva, or helping others, is another way to deliver the practices and integrate changes you experience in Sadhana into your life. Look around and see who needs help. Is it your neighbor next door, a local food co-op, a volunteer food pantry, a local library, hospice? There are many in need. You can also use the local library to offer a free class for children or adults. Libraries love free programs!
Last but not least, consider visiting a nearby women’s shelter or correctional facility. Supporting the change of a person’s thoughts and actions comes from within the individuals themselves, not through punishment. Whether you’re a child or an adult, reducing anxiety through breathing and awareness of the heartbeat often leads to peace and harmony.
First, commit to 40 days. Then, challenge yourself to take your practice off the mat every day for another 40 days, with attention to your every action. That’s a good place to start, and then broaden those steps to include any one or more of the above ideas.
Traveling the Spiritual Path
Change - but what I wanted?
No but what I needed
Landscape of the mind in peace
Clear the arcline – set me free
I chant, I speak, I move
Strong, clear and connected
Powerful breath sometimes brings pain
Found the issue loud and clear
3, 11, 31 minutes
Time brings focus and expertise
Keeping me centered as inner and outer worlds adjust
Set the intention and let it go
Ride the wave of transformation
Subtle and remarkable are possibilities
Yoga and Vacation
Your teacher has left town, it’s hot and you’re on vacation.
Good reasons to skip your practice?
Think again - do you want to remain youthful and if so , then your back has to stay flexible.
The body needs to move forward and backwards, sideways and around as in a twist as much as possible. Practice begets a routine and the routine becomes a habit – just like brushing your teeth. This routine of yoga keeps you connected to your breath which connects the dots in your mind and body in order to have calm in your life, less stress day to day.
“I would argue that a 20-something person who is in their prime of life and reasonably good shape needs less yoga to sustain their practice than someone in their 50s or 60s,” One study analyzing the effects of yoga on women over 50 found that practicing asanas (yoga postures) even once a week led to an increase in the mobility of spinal joints and flexibility of the hamstring muscles.”
How to find time while on vacation:
“Loren Fishman, M.D., a back pain specialist who studied yoga and uses it in his rehabilitative practice, believes that even one minute spent in practice can be enough to reset someone's outlook….”
The beginning of a new season is always a good time to detox the body.
Combining a cleanse using the tools of food and yoga poses - all the better!
This article will include both. Begin in bed in the morning by bringing your knees into your chest. Hold for a minute while breathing naturally. Next, extend the right leg and bring the left over your body to the right. This puts your body into a gentle twist wringing the organs for elimination. Breathe and and stay 30 seconds. Come back to your center and extend the left leg while drawing the right in and then over the body to the left. Hold here the same time. Back to the center.
Time to get up.
Hang gently beside the bed resting the head on the bed or next to it. Stay and breathe for about 30 seconds and then slowly come up vertebra by vertebra. Twists remove toxins and massage the organs so let's do another one. Step the feet apart about 3 feet and raise the arms from the sides to shoulder height. Inhale and twist to the left, exhale back to the center. Inhale and twist right, exhale back to center. Do 3 more times.
You can continue your routine with more poses - here is a good one to continue for a little bit longer or head into the kitchen where you can prepare some lemon juice to drink. Take the juice of a 1/2 lemon and pour into a 1/2 to 3/4 full glass of water and drink slowly or prepare a juice of 1/2 stalk celery, 1/2 an apple, 3-4 carrots and a small piece of ginger. This last part assumes that you have the juicer to do so.
You are set to go for the day and the detox routine took about 10-15 minutes of your time. Continue for as many days as you want - maybe 1X a week or 7 days or a month.
It's your body - your way!
Yoga is itself a practice of starting over. Every time you come to the mat something begins, continues and is let go. Prove it by inhaling through the nose and exhaling out through the mouth three times in a row; it’s impossible not to feel refreshed.
I just read that in a blog while searching out a certain pose to teach this week.
It resonated with me. Everyday we start over, new thoughts , different perspective, and these days an ever changing world -view. Here is my attitude as some of you well know - Yoga when you can go no where. Yoga when you are in doubt. Yoga when you have fear.
It is unbelievably freeing especially if you add even 10 minutes of meditation.
Try this simple sequence to "restart".
First, do the above breath - inhale nose, exhale mouth 3X.
Lift both shoulders up and let them fall gently as you inhale up and exhale down thru the nose now, 3X. Bring both arms up from your sides and stretch overhead, palms touching - you guessed it 3X.
Now come forward and hang gently over - use a block or bend knees slightly.
Next, sit quietly either listening to a favorite chant or mantra or some quiet music.
You can include this as well if you like: place 3 fingers of one hand on the wrist of the other and find your pulse. Continue for 3 minutes. All Done!
Now go for it!
I exhale worry…and inhale Peace
I release tension…and accept tranquility
I breathe out fear…and breath in courage
I let go of all anger and welcome Love
I release sadness and receive joy
In your day, give one minute to peace. Sit down and just relax, feel peaceful inside and give a prayer to honor those who work for peace and for the tranquility of all mankind. Let us honor ourselves. Let us recognize our inner peace. Pray deeply for your inner peace and for the entire mankind.
Yogi Bhajan - 6/10/89
The world is crazed due to anxiety and fear of future possibilities.
People do and say things that are unkind and hurtful to one another.
How can an individual help in these times?
Imagine giving more than a minute for a prayer for peace.
Find the quiet within-
The light from one moment beams out into the Universe.
That energy of peace and harmony escapes through the cracks of disharmony.
Sit down as Yogi Bhajan suggests in the early morning or anytime
and align with the Breath.
“From the soul’s perspective, we all have a direct connection and relationship with every soul on the planet. The deeper and clearer our inner awareness is, the deeper and clearer our connection to all of humanity. This is how, in our own small way, we can have a real effect on the world. We can maximize this connection through service (seva), spiritual practice (sadhana), and sharing experiences with like-minded people (satsang).” – Deepak Chopra
Now - examine the ways you find peace…
This is how I do it!
Sadhana first thing in the morning as I listen to songs of light and holiness.
I visualize the people around me that I hold dear and that love me.
I think calm thoughts as I go about the day.
I see beauty in the world.
I call and connect with a friend.
I work outside in the sunshine.
I feed my chickens and guineas and chuckle at their silliness.
I enjoy my grand child and laugh with her.
I exhale worry…and inhale Peace
Calm heart Meditation to soothe and bring one back to center.
Mandala ( man·da·la ) –
A wheel within a wheel…
A circle in a circle
The Universe, the cosmos,
Wholeness in a picture
Or is it a diagram
A cosmic depiction
Showing the Infinite state of Being
Within and Beyond all
Earth, sun, planets
Circles of circles of circles
Community, kin, friends…
Happy Fall Equinox!
This Thursday the sun transitions into Libra – sign of balance – Libra lady depicted as blindfolded and holding scales – Why? She is portrayed as weighing out justice – seeking equality, and balance. This time of year is when we bring in and have a Harvest celebration to give thanks for the blessings of abundance.
It can be a time to be thankful and a time to reflect on the past months of this year 2016. Which crops, projects, and dreams bore fruit and which did not?
Here is an exercise to “weigh in” on your personal scale.
Take a sheet of paper and draw a circle. Divide the circle into 4 sections. Label these areas (your choice of course) either – Emotional, Physical, Mental and Spiritual; or label them Fun, Work, Creative and Physical.
Think about this next step…add words that describe your life this year for each section. Example – in the physical area – you might write, yoga or swimming or walking. Emotional could be – listening to music, journaling.
Take 5-10 minutes. Find some colors (crayons, magic markers, or (really fun) pastels – and shade in with red the area with the most words, yellow next, then orange and ending with gold or brown (depending on what you have available). You might end up with only 2 colors as I did (1 red section and 3 gold ).
Observe your picture and do not judge yourself but recognize the areas with the most red and the least gold or brown.
Another creative exercise – if you do not want to do that one and find you would rather concentrate on your “Harvest” – would be to take a sheet of paper and make 2 columns.
One is labeled Crops and one titled Dreams
Under crops – what plans that you began in 2016 came forward and had a yield?
Dreams – what ideas or visions are still to happen?
Enjoy this day with friends or family and I know I am looking forward to cooler weather and tying up loose ends – finishing the year with more joy in my heart!
There are many English idioms or phrases that use the word "HOT".
Hot Under the Collar - which means to get angry about something not very important or to be in Hot Water - meaning you've done or said something to perhaps warrant a slap on the wrist or to be Hot - in the sense of in style or fashionable and popular.
Let me give you a Hot Tip - an important or useful suggestion...
The temperatures have been in the 90's with a heat index of 100+ and to think of going outside and driving to a yoga class is the last thought on your mind.
I would like to invite you rather into visualizing feelings of coolness and relaxation in a class where the heat dissipates from your mind and from your body as well.
Yoga during this time of intense heat can help one handle "sticky" situations with a family member or co-worker, or lower the degree or intensity of interactions while driving or in a horrible meeting. It can also help you to slow down and remember the importance of Life staying in the present moment.
How? Yoga is soothing to the mind. By watching the breath in class - it will help you to remember to control the breath outside of class to recognize and slow it down, exhaling peace and calm helping you to cool down the anger or anxiety.
Sitali Breath is a good one to cool the body down physically. In Sanskrit, the word sitali means "cooling," and this breath has an immediate cooling effect. Inhaling into the moisture of your tongue makes your mouth—and whole body—feel a nice inner breeze.
Stretching the spine in class renews your whole body and gets the serotonin hopping and increases the flow of this neurotransmitter through the body and brain. It's a chemical messenger that’s believed to act as a mood stabilizer.
Studies have also found that yoga reduces levels of cortisol (a stress hormone that’s secreted by the adrenals). Cortisol is the fight or flight hormone so maybe it's a good idea to take refuge in your practice!
Hoping this Hot Tip gets you into the car ,or if fortunate enough to walk, to your local yoga studio or teacher. Yoga may turn out to be a
Hot favorite to use this summer.