Monthly Archives: November 2012
“Practiced regularly, pranayama will change your life.” Gary Kraftsow
In a nutshell, pranayama is a yoga practice that makes us more aware of our breath and the effect the breath has on body, mind and spirit. Pranayama is usually done in a seated position and works with the four parts of the breath: inhalation; pause after inhalation; exhalation; pause after exhalation. Both art and science are involved when working with these four parts and combining them in ways that achieve a variety of effects based on your particular needs and goals.
Breathing during asana practice is different from pranayama practice – although they are certainly related. Emphasizing breath during asana movement strengthens the effect of the asana; makes the practice more energizing, relaxing or balancing; and develops breath capacity in preparation for pranayama. Of course, pranayama also emphasizes breath but it is practiced seated. The body is still so breathing patterns can be managed and intensified in ways not possible in asana practice.
Pranayama usually follows asana although it does not have to. Because asana practice prepares the body for sitting; expands the capacity of the breath and prepares the mind for focusing on the breath, I’ve found that my pranayama experience is much richer coming after my asana practice.
My yoga teacher says that practicing pranayama regularly for a year will change your life and I’ve found that to be true. Just be sure you have a qualified teacher to guide you.
Take a little time for yourself this season.
Join us on Tuesday’s, Thursday’s or both and experience the restorative yoga known as Viniyoga. We practice postures that focus on breath and linking breath to movement. Viniyoga means appropriate application and all postures are modified to fit your individual needs and abilities. No more pretzel poses.
Check out the class schedule and experience the deep benefits of the ancient, Viniyoga tradition.
One of the things Viniyoga teaches is how to use the breath to manage energy levels and that includes reducing stress. When we get stressed, most of us tend to hold our breath which just makes matters worse. The next time you feel tense … breathe!
In particular, try belly breathing. Sit comfortably, stand or lie down and with shoulders relaxed begin to breath. On inhale, feel your belly change shape (bulge) in all four directions (up, down and from side to side) and as you exhale, let your belly slowly and effortlessly relax back to its original shape.
As you continue belly breathing, allow your exhale to be longer than your inhale. Exhalation is more calming while inhalation is more invigorating. Combining a longer exhale with belly breathing will help you relax even more completely.
This time of year is very stressful for many of us. The next time you’re feeling uptight, try this process. You can do it while standing in a line, sitting in a traffic jam, or anywhere you chose. No one will ever know what you’re doing.
It can be easy to hold the breath during yoga practice without even realizing it – especially during challenging postures. In the Viniyoga tradition, breath is fundamental to an effective asana practice so holding it is counter to the purpose of practice.
In my blog – Direct Breath Flow & Improve Posture – I discuss the mechanics of chest to belly breathing and that it can be used during asana and pranayama practice. Let’s delve a little deeper into how to use the breath while moving in a posture.
A primary intention for doing a yoga practice is to understand what’s happening in our bodies. It helps us answer questions such as: Where am I holding tension? Is one area weaker than the other? What movements help reduce stress? What sensations am I feeling, where, why?
And, it is the breath that allows us to bring our attention “inside” our bodies so that we can answer these questions. Specifically, breath brings our attention to our spine and helps us move the spine.
During asana practice, according to Viniyoga, inhalation originates in the chest. The chest, sternum and rib cage lift and expand away from the navel which lengthens the spine and improves posture. On the other hand, exhalation originates in the belly by contracting and pulling the pubic bone toward the navel. Keeping the belly firm helps stabilize the pelvis and lumbar spine.
So, unless contraindicated, expand your chest on inhalation and contract your belly on exhalation to experience the full benefits of your practice.
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