Posts Tagged ‘Breath’
How It Can Inform and Deepen Your Yoga Practice
Ayurveda and yoga are sister sciences. Yoga addresses all facets of our health and offers us a way of life that is in harmony with our truth. Ayur means life, while veda means knowledge or the study of; this “science of life” can support your yogic practices and all aspects of your well-being.
Ayurveda is a holistic approach to health which has passed the test of time for thousands of years – it can be considered the birth of healing practices. Many ancient healing philosophies borrowed from ayurveda, including those of Tibet, Greece, and China. Many modern practices also have their roots in ayurveda, such as reiki, homeopathy, and herbology. Ayurveda’s tenets can be followed during any point in history and in any circumstance despite what remedies are available or not - they appeal to our common sense and emphasize the need for balance as a state of health; this largely explains how the healing science has survived so long and continues to inform us today.
Ayurveda has given us the ability to describe virtually any matter by means of 20 qualities, or gunas. They are organized into 10 pairs of opposites:
These qualities can describe and categorize the elements, foods, seasons, medicines, times of the day, phases of life, and processes in the body. We all physically consist of the elements. We breathe air (air), there is fire in the body that keeps its temperature level and acids that break apart food (fiery water), our bones and tissues are made of minerals and absorbed matter (earth), and most of our cells are empty space (ether).
Here are the five elements described by the gunas:
Ether/Space: light, cold, subtle, clear, soft, smooth
Air: mobile, dry, cold, subtle, hard, clear
Fire: Hot, sharp, spreading, dry, light
Water: Liquid, heavy, dull (it has a dulling effect), cold, static, smooth
Earth: Heavy, static, gross, rough, dull, hard
We are all made of these elements, yet we are different from one another. We do not all use energy the same, which is where ayurvedic “types” appear. There are three main “types” of energy use in the body, which are called doshas. There is vata (ether and air), pitta (fire and water) and kapha (water and earth. Pronounced, kappa) doshas. Some people have a lighter body frame, tend to be cold, and/or like to do many things at a time (vata dominant), others have more fire in the body – warmer skin tone, penetrating eyes, strong digestion and perhaps a propensity towards anger or irritation (pitta dominant), and others still tend to be of denser build, even temper, and soft, kind features (kapha dominant). All three energetic types are present in the body, but one or two usually dominate your physicality and overall character. There are various questionnaires available to help identify your dosha/constitution, although the best idea would be to have a professional help you.
How does any of that help at all? If you know how you are – physically, mentally, and emotionally, you can help yourself stay in balance. If you know what qualities (what gunas) you tend to accumulate or deplete, you’ll have a better understanding of what activities and responses are most helpful to you. A basic principle of Ayurveda is that opposites heal – like qualities aggravate like qualities. Here are a few obvious examples to help illustrate this: if you have a headache, feel irate, or have a sour/acidic feeling inside the body – what use is a rigorous yoga practice to you? The body is trying to tell you there is excess pitta accumulating and that you should apply the opposite qualities to come back into balance. Take it easy on the exercise, stay away from people who throw you off – in other words, cool down! On the other hand, if you feel stuck to your bed, heavy, down, or cloudy, a faster paced and challenging yoga practice may do you better.
These are all simple ways that elementary Ayurveda can help you immensely! Use the list of gunas to inform your yoga practice and to decide what activities to conquer each day. There is so much more that Ayurveda offers if you’re interested in continuing your research. Every food, for example, has a particular effect on the body (heating, cooling, sweet, etc.). If you have excess pitta, you may think that any cold food will do to help balance you internally – nope! Many meats, yogurt, tomatoes, and oranges actually have a heating effect on the body – aggravating your already pitta aggravated state. Better choices would be melons, minty water, or oatmeal, which are all cooling.
A few well organized and reputable resources are:
The Ayurvedic Institute’s website – based largely on Dr. Vasant Lad’s expertise in the field.
Good overview and very clear recipe/ingredient lists for each dosha or guna.
This shows the different paces and qualities of practicing yoga for vata, pitta, and kapha types.
“According to Ayurvedic principles, by understanding oneself, by identifying one’s own constitution, and by recognizing sources of doshic aggravation, one can not only follow the proper guidelines to cleanse, purify, and prevent disease, but also uplift oneself into a realm of awareness previously unknown.” – Dr. Vasant Lad M.A.Sc.
- Jessi Hughes
I’ve been sidelined from yoga for awhile due to a knee injury. I had my knee scoped a little over a week ago and am still recovering. Before the surgery, I had signed up for a teacher training week with Andrey Lappa, who founded the Universal Yoga system. I was told that I could sit and watch and take notes, but didn’t have to do the asana practices because of my injury. After talking to Mr. Lappa, I tried the first asana practice and found that I could do it with some slight modifications. So I ended up practicing every day.
Teacher training in Universal Yoga is different than other types. You can receive a 100 certification to teach Level 1 after taking two weeks of intensive training. The schedule is tough. Six days of study in a row for each week. You go through two hours of lecture, followed by lunch, then another two hours of lecture. Then, you do about 30 minutes practicing the Dance of Shiva, and then do a three-hour, double-mat asana practice. The day starts at 8:00 and ends around 5:30. The last day of the first week has an asana practice of only an hour and a half, but it is a tantric practice and very challenging.
When I started, as I said, I wasn’t expecting to do the asana practices. However, I ended up doing them and adjusted for my injury. Those practices were, by far, the most challenging I’ve ever had in yoga. The fourth day in particular was extremely difficult, as that was a strength class and
we were pushed to our very limits. Mr. Lappa called us to do poses that I’ve never done before, like dwi-pada koundinyasana, or a strange combination of half-galavasana, half-bakasana, and another strange pose of half-bujapidasana, half-bakasana. There were other handstands that I couldn’t do, some that I’d never seen before, and all of it was challenging.
The other thing that challenged me all week was that we had to do wheel pose every day, often holding it for a long period or doing other things while in wheel. Wheel pose has always been a challenge to me, but I was able to do it fine that week.
Sometimes when we practice we get it into our minds that we’re not able to do something. Maybe it’s a pose, or a sequence of moves, and our minds get so wrapped up in it that we prime ourselves to fail in doing it. I’ve done that many times, thinking so much about a pose that when I try it I can’t do it, and that sets my mind to thinking that I won’t ever do it. But that’s not true. When I was being pushed, and was told “do it!” without time to think, I did it. The lesson to me was to get out of my own way. I had become so caught up in thinking that certain poses weren’t possible, or were too difficult, that I’d set myself up to fail. Truth was, I was better than that. I just did the poses instead of over-thinking, and surprised myself in the process.
Teacher training is about more than just learning yoga. It’s also about learning about yourself. It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it. The trick is to carry that through to your regular practice. If you think that you can’t do a pose, don’t over-think it. Just do it. You might just surprise yourself at how well you do.
Photographs: Gayle T. Tiller & Eddie Ankers
Jeremy Lee Farm, Loudoun County Virginia
Yoga is Samadi
Power yoga is the experience of boundlessness. People that practice yoga develop an awareness, and a circle of compassion that expands, outside our inner circles, growing wider and wider, to encompass all beings. All we have to do in yoga is pay attention. By paying attention to the breath, transformation happens.
Letting life energy flow through us, coordinating the breath with a series of postures, one flowing into another.
As we flow into the fall season, in our practice we create heat with the body, providing purifying sweat to cleanse the muscles, organs and mind, resulting in improved circulation, strength and a light body and mind… bliss.
A time for redirection of energy, activating the healing energy within the body/mind. Quietly turning inward, hearing the breath, noticing how engaging the bandhas keeps your mind present, and how this practice becomes a meditation as we build the heat, slowly breathing in and slowly breathing out. Lifting the energy upwards, breathing through the shorter, darker days, enjoying the warmth, the fire that peacefully burns inside of you. This slow, steady burn will guide you, both mind and body, keep you present, aware, open and quiet. Beginning your day with a yoga practice that builds the heat, sheds the darkness, awakens the mind, body and spirit.
Is the root lock, the first of the three interior body “locks” used in asana and pranayama practice to control the flow of energy. Prevents the outward flow of energy to lock and interconnect inner systems. It increases flexibility and stimulates heat. It is an objectless meditative state and inner supportive energy flows necessary to create synchrony with and enter into Samadhi. When mula bandha occurs there is less effort and more energy so it is not a contraction. It provides a pathway for spiritual reconnect.
Mula bandha consists of the contraction of the perineum (zone between the genitals and the anus) accompanied by a breath control technique. It can take years of practice to cultivate and is essential for good concentration and more advanced yoga postures. By bringing awareness to the core of the body, mula bandha helps prevent injury. It guides you to move from your center, you will become lighter and flow more with your yoga practice.
Using the asana practice to go deeper inside the mind… entertaining the possibility… that is how we grow.
Moving from the outer to the more subtle, energetic, inner, where the course of breath leads us to the energy (prana) awareness and then to communion with the implicate integrating intelligence at the source of this energy,
Power Ashtanga at Yoga 4 Life with Carolyn:
Tuesday Nights – 6:30pm
Thursday Mornings – 9:30am
Thursday Nights Power to Bliss – 7:30 – 8:30pm (following Pilates)
(Links to Restorative, Hatha, and Yin Yoga classes in Purcellville, Western Loudoun County: see below)
The month of August has been tough for me, because somehow I’ve injured my left knee. I’m not sure how I did it, but there’s a bit of pain and some swelling. The doctor suggested rest, and then when the symptoms didn’t go away I had an MRI taken. I’ll know the results tomorrow.
What this also means is that I haven’t been able to go to any full practices of my beloved yoga. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to take time off to recover from an injury (I had to take a month or so off due to a foot problem) but this is more frustrating. I can walk around fine, seem to have almost full range of motion, but there are certain poses that I simply can’t do or cause discomfort if I do. It’s surprising, when you think about it, how many yoga poses require you to bend your knee. All of those poses might cause problems and I have to be careful.
The challenge was to find a way to stay connected to the yoga practice while letting my body heal. What could I do? How could I continue doing “yoga” while giving my knee a rest?
One of the first things that came to mind was to continue my pranayama breathing routine. I do a set of three pranayama breathing exercises most mornings, and I continued doing these. In those first weeks I had to adjust how I was sitting so as not to strain my knee, but I continued with the breathing just as I had before. I would end with some meditation or even laying down in savasana. This was only 10-15 minutes of time, but it was a great way to keep connected.
As the pain and swelling went down, I tested my knee by doing some simple sun salutations. These went well so long as I was careful stepping back into plank, and then stepping forward into the forward fold position. I began adding three sun salutations after the pranayama breathing after three weeks.
Over the last week, as the swelling and pain decreased further, I re-started my normal morning yoga workout routine. This consists of the three sun salutations, and then warrior 2, parsva konasana, prasarita padottanasana, tree pose, and then a forward fold, both sides, before savasana. I modified the poses to reduce stress on the knee. My first two poses weren’t deep knee bends, tree pose was me just putting my foot on my ankle on the one side, and again I otherwise just took things slowly and carefully. So far it is working well.
Had this not worked I was going to check into doing chair yoga. This wouldn’t have been ideal but it would have kept me engaged in a yoga practice. That’s the most important thing. While I’ve continued doing some workouts, such as water-walking and free weights for the upper body, finding a way to continue with my yoga practice has helped me to keep my mind sane as my body heals.
I’m hoping that I can get back to full practices soon if the MRI is negative. In the meantime, I can still practice in some way. Don’t let life get in your way of practicing. Even a little bit makes a positive difference.
Yin and Restorative Yoga Classes in Purcellville:
Yoga 4 Life is becoming two studios effective September 15th. You can find these Yin and Restorative practices helpful in recovering from injury and maintaining your practice. Please contact or e mail with questions regarding your condition or stop by Yoga 4 Life & This Body Yoga. Right on Main Street in Purcellville, Virginia at 850-B E. Main Street, Purcellville, Virginia 20132 (across from the new Rite Aid).
Registration and packages can be found here: https://clients.mindbodyonline.com/ASP/home.asp?studioid=19257
Mondays – 10:45 am Gentle Christie Haran 1 hr & 15 min
Mondays – 7:00 pm Yin Yoga Jessi Hughes 1 hr & 15 min
Tuesdays – 9:15 am Hatha Christie Haran 1 hr & 15 min
Wednesdays – 10:30 am Gentle Christie Haran 1 hr & 15 min
Thursdays – 7:00 pm Yin Yoga Jessi Hughes 1 hr & 15 min
Fridays – 9:15 am Hatha Christie Haran 1 hr & 15 min
Fridays – 4:30 pm Hatha Christie Haran 1 hr & 15 min
Sundays – 6:00 pm Gentle Hatha Christie Haran
Purcellville & Loudoun County Yoga
Photographs by Jeremy Lee & L. Ward – Pennsylvania & Pataskala, Ohio
Commit to yourself…
August 1 this year is going to be busy. First, it’s a full moon on that night. (As an aside, we’ll have two full moons in August, with the second one
on the 31st, which means we have 13 full moons this year). Second, August 1 marks the halfway point for Summer. We’re halfway through the Summer season in 2012 already!
Something I’ve been doing for years now that also starts on August 1 is called the Gratitude Project. It was started by an on-line friend named Julie McCord. The feeling was that we take all of the blessings that we have for granted. Most of us would agree with that, but what do we do to change it? The Gratitude Project is an attempt to make that change. Between August 1 and the start of Fall, which is September 23, you have to think of one thing per day for which you are grateful.
The project entails you being mindful of whatever brings you Joy and you journal “the something” you are grateful for each day between those dates. No repeats – you can be grateful for your spouse/kids/job/friends, but the reason for the gratitude needs to be different for each entry. It can BIG or not, your journal/blog entry can be long or short. It can be on paper or in pixels and public or private.
Some days are easy, others are not. Inevitably, there are days where everything’s going wrong and the last thing you’re considering is gratitude. Those are the days when this project is most important. You have to think, consider, really look at your life and find the positives that dwell within your life despite the crappy nature of a day. It can be done. Every year that I’ve done this project has seen some bitter and sad days, and yet there is always something for which I can be grateful and state it as such.
Commit to gratitude this year. Commit to yourself. Adopt the project and be grateful. I think you’ll see just how much positive change it can affect for you.
Loudoun County, Virginia
Yoga and Wine at North Gate Vineyard 2012
“Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as People. Now our minds are one.”
There are times in your life you will never forget, ones that will wander in and out, and some that fade away. As we stepped barefoot into North Gate’s vineyard for our first mediation walk through the vines of 2012, it was time to meet all three at once. One at a time, we begin our journey on the Loudoun Wine Trail.
“We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our Mother, we send greetings and thanks. Now our minds are one.”
The vines in straight lines and manicured to their structures, they grow and fruit freely within and nestled neatly in front of the mountain backdrop between Hillsboro and Purcellville, Virginia. It is here, connecting directly with the wet ground, we let go, become present, and face the things that enter and leave our minds.
“We turn toward the vast fields of Plant life. As far as the eye can see, the Plants grow, working many wonders. They sustain many life forms. With our minds gathered together, we give thanks and look forward to seeing Plant life for many generations to come. Now our minds are one.”
Wandering in and out of the rows starting with a sequence of skipping rows in 3’s to completely loosing count or care in which way we go or when to turn, walk, speed up, or slow down. Starting together and then taking our own paths, the paths each of us need, chose, or are drawn toward. For a few, allowing some silent eye connection with nearby horses clearly drawn to our quietly moving bodies as we made our way through the vines. Others found the noises of nature becoming louder and hearing sounds that we often over look or the sight and texture of the flowing vines within their rows allows for the mind to escape structure by leaning on the one surrounding them.
“We gather our minds together to send greetings and thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us as people. We see them near our homes and in the deep forests. We are glad they are still here and we hope that it will always be so. Now our minds are one.
“We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our heads. The Creator gave them beautiful songs. Each day they remind us to enjoy and appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader. To all the Birds – from the smallest to the largest – we send our joyful greetings and thanks. Now our minds are one.”
The night’s storms left us with crisp, fresh air and moist ground. The sun’s rays rose over the mountain after the thunder rolled, tornadoes spun, and rain poured. Slowly making way to our mats we began our practice with Native American flutes and meditation.
“Now we turn to the west where our Grandfathers, the Thunder Beings, live. With lightning and thundering voices, they bring with them the water that renews life. We bring our minds together as one to send greetings and thanks to our Grandfathers, the Thunderers. Now our minds are one.”
An Earth Element Practice, our Journey Through Asanas, was complete with the smell of wine, stone, drying rain drops, and hints of rose oil. Starting with our Sun Salute, rising to shine and exhaling to ground to open our bodies fully for peak poses. Building within the sequence allows all levels to experience yoga to suit their body while enjoying the breath, change, and movement of their own practice. Taking Yoga out of the studio by incorporating natural elements brings awareness to heighten senses of touch, sight and sound via mind, body, and spirit connections with our surroundings. Bringing the outside in during our walk allowed that simplicity and beauty to carry into our yoga practice. Enlighten :: Empower :: Emerge.
“We are all thankful to the powers we know as the Four Winds. We hear their voices in the moving air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. They help to bring the change of seasons. From the four directions they come, bringing us messages and giving us strength. With one mind, we send our greetings and thanks to the Four Winds. Now our minds are one.”
We closed our practice with a centered reading, words from Lara as we REflect, REtain and REnew. Greetings from the North Gate tasting staff, Karol and Erin, those of us who choose to celebrate this farm and vineyards wine enjoyed a fun and education tasting. Being a Loudoun County and Hillsboro resident, she had lots to share.
North Gate Vineyard has a public tasting room was built to LEED Gold specifications. The roof is lined with solar panels to bring electricity to the building – pretty amazing! We all decided on bottles to share with our light fare lunch prepared by the wonderful people of Stoneybrook Organic Farm located at the end of Rt. 690 in Hillsboro. Fresh and carefully crafted, the lunch and dessert tray of fig, coconut, peanut butter was perfectly paired with our wine selections. Getting to connect with our people over food, wine, and through our practice was a journey we all shared on our own and together.
“With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them too. We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them a greeting and thanks. Now our minds are one.”
“We believe that quality wine comes from quality grapes. Pure and simple. So how do we ensure that we’ll end up with quality wine? Through our commitment to meticulous practices in our vineyard and cellar from bloom to bottle. To us, this is not a job, and not a hobby, but just something that we do together. We hope you enjoy the product of our hearts, minds and hands.”
- Mark and Vicki Fedor, Winegrowers and Winemakers
Their wine selection: 2010 Chardonnay, 2010 Viognier , NV Apple, 2010 Cabernet Franc, 2009 Merlot, 2009 Petit Verdot,
Finishing our journey at North Gate’s beautiful vineyard, we were lucky to catch Vicki coming back from the Wine Country Half Marathon and got to thank her for her hospitality. Talking about the upcoming release of the Rose’ and other wine is always fun to look forward to. Grateful for a full mind, body, spirit practice we begin June, Yoga on the Wine Trail 2012, in the sun shine of Loudoun County.
“We now send greetings and thanks to our eldest Brother, the Sun. Each day without fail he travels the sky from east to west, bringing the light of a new day. He is the source of all the fires of life. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Brother, the Sun. Now our minds are one.
Now we turn our thoughts to the Creator, or Great Spirit, and send greetings and thanks for the gifts of Creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on this Mother Earth. For all the love that is still around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks to the Creator. Now our minds are one. “
♥ Namaste – Lara, Russ, Kim, Erin & Francesca
Writings: A Haudenosaunee “Thanksgiving” Prayer
Our next Yoga on the wine trail will be hosted by Fabbioli Cellars!
Each vineyard has a unique setting and offering – Fabbioli Cellars tasting will be a Wine and Food Pairing. Their unique setting will allow us to spend time in the vines sharing, connecting, and nourishing the mind, body, spirit.
You can also find North Gate’s wine in the following locations…
- Purcellville Community Farmers Market – Saturdays 10am-1pm
- Falls Church Farmers Market – Saturdays 8am-12pm
- Leesburg Farmers Market – Sundays 9am-12pm
- Hill High Orchard, Round Hill
- Leesburg Pharmacy, Leesburg
- Leesburg Vintner, Leesburg
- Loudoun County Wine Trail – Photographs by Hannah Melinia Kasabian & Lara Ward
- Purcellville Yoga & Wine