Category Archives: Pranayama
On the 9th day of Ayurveda my spirit gave to me,
On the 8th day of Ayurveda my spirit gave to me…
TIME AND SPACE FOR BREATHING
In the midst of holiday busy-ness, party-ness, giving-ness, cooking-ness, mailing-ness, spending-ness, decorating-ness, traffic-ness, etc., many of us feel overwhelmed and exhausted before the holiday celebrations even get here!
One of the fastest ways to calm, ground, and nourish ourselves is by (wait for it…) breathing. Yep, that’s it. Our two lovely little nostrils are the fastest passageways to the mind, so breathing slowly tells our mind, “It’s all good. We got this.” And the mind relays that message to the rest of the body so we can fully relax. Let’s make some time to breathe today.
Today, please find 5-10 minutes (use a timer if you want) to sit down in a chair, feet flat on the floor, back straight, eyes closed, palms facing upward on your lap. Just breathe slowly through the nose (mouth closed) until the timer goes off.
Let me know how you feel afterwards :) xo!
And let’s take it back down…
Ayurveda encompasses mind, body and spirit, right? Yep! We probably spend the most of our time trying to nurture, improve, or heal our body as we focus on, “What should I eat?” and “What is the best exercise for me?” Our mind usually comes in second place like, “How can I relieve stress?” or, “I should probably meditate sometimes…” But how often do we focus on truly living through the spirit? Not as often. And spirit is important. Spirit is our pure essence, our infinite being, our light. It is the answer to, “Who am I?” I am spirit (so hum).
So in thinking about the holiday season (since we are totally in the throes now), I noticed a thread of commonality weaving through us. During this time of year more-so than any other, we actually talk about spirit! The word “spirit” is used all the time as we feel “spirited” and “get in the spirit.” We have a “spirit of believing” and the “spirit of giving.” We are even prone to drinking too many “spirits“! With the flip of a switch during the holiday season, our spirit begins to soar through kindness, love, celebration, compassion and generosity as all of these awesome positive emotions become the focus. Whether we are religious or not religious, spirit transcends as we want to join in the spirit with everyone else — because it feels awesome. Our spirit tells us so.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the holidays can bring physical and emotional challenges that affect our spirit too. The holidays can add a laundry list of extra things to do, might include stressful travel schedules, and bring out a rollercoaster of emotions. Gah! And then you shake your fist and say, “Arg, the Holidays!” So, it’s not all roses and we know that. But if we asked our spirits, I think they would love to believe in magic that brings us all closer.
In light (yes, pun!) of Hanukkah starting and Christmas around the corner, I would love to honor our spirits during the holidays this year with a little somethin’ special.
Tomorrow will start The 12 days of Ayurveda. And it goes a little somethin like this, “On the first day of Ayurveda my spirit gave to me…” Whee! So for 12 days there will be a little something special for you to use in your life and, especially during the holidays.
Now, if you want, you can sing to the tune of “The 12 days of Christmas.” It works (and yes, I sang them all out loud. If you are good maybe I’ll do a video). Or, you don’t have to. This is spirit, people! No rules and anything goes as long as it’s full purity of heart. LOVE YOU! I hope you have fun with this! *blowing kisses*
10% off my book, In Your Elements, thru 12/13 (Sunday)! Use the code: MC8RC2WV
HAPPY Kapha Season! Kapha season goes from late winter through spring, and the time is now! If you have already read the seasonal bloom in the past, maybe take another look! And then pass it along to a friend :)
NEW inside this one, I created a kapha playlist! That’s right, music to shake your booty to while spring cleaning. Nothing better to get a kapha moving than some great tunes! *shake it!*
I also ask that in return for reading, absorbing and hopefully loving the information, that you share this with at least three of your friends or family. We ALL need more Ayurveda in our lives. It’s my passion, it’s my life’s work and I am grateful I can share this with you. Please share with more people so my reach gets larger!
Show of hands, who is stressed? Yep, many of us are. Women especially, tend to tackle a lot at once and then wonder how they are going to get it all done. Instead of invigoration, this can result in negative emotions like stress, anxiety, panic, and a sense of ungroundedness. Sort of defeats the purpose of living the good life and loving the work, right?!
We learn tools to manage our time and finances, but what about our psyche? The mind is what rules our entire being, so shouldn’t we have a tool to help us bring peace and clarity when stressed?
My friends, there is a simple tool to use that we often overlook. It is, breath. Good old fashioned lips-closed, nose-open, breath. Ayurveda says there are two channels in the nose (one in each nostril) which are the quickest pathways to the mind. Just ten deep, slow breaths through the nose will instantly calm you. The negative emotions will vanish and you are able focus on the task at hand.
It works flawlessly because the two channels have alternate energies. The left side is male energy, which is hot and it relates to the sun. The right side is female energy, which is cool and it relates to the moon. Focused breathing equalizes the opposite qualities and when practiced, the entire body balances out physically, emotionally, and mentally. Slow breaths tell the mind we are okay and at peace. When we breathe like a bunny (fast and irregular), our mind thinks there is a crisis, which sends panic signals to the rest of the body. This is how physical imbalances can happen over time and why stress has become the number one killer. No bueno.
So let’s keep the peace and remember to breathe You will stay focused, happy, and most importantly, healthy!!
Taking a Breather
Here are some different pranayama you can try:
• My favorite is So Hum!! You can practice in the morning or at bedtime for 5-10 minutes. You can also keep this in your toolbox of health tips and use as needed i.e., long commute, standing in the coffee line, when you get a stressful email.
• Nadi Shodhanam
Cooling Pranayama (for pitta types or anger, when you feel like you could breathe fire…do these)
• Sheetkali: Clench teeth and inhale through the teeth. Feel the cool! Exhale through the nose.
• Sheetali (this one is fun!): Roll your tongue and inhale through the tongue. Also very cooling! Exhale through the nose.
Kapawhat?! Kapal-bah tee. It’s a breathing exercise (pranayam) that is literally translated to “glowing” or “shining” skull. Dude, it’s the BEST because it purifies the mind by forcefully ridding all toxins. The breathing itself is a series of forceful exhalations one after the other while never intentionally inhaling. The body will automatically inhale for us – we don’t need to worry about it.
We have all heard of laughter being the best medicine. Kapalbhati works the same way. Think about laughing, “ha-ha-ha.” The whole time it’s exhale-exhale-exhale. During laughter and kapalbhati we are exhaling and ridding the body of toxins, while bringing in a lot of fresh oxygen. Ok lemme tell ya more, it gets better!
Benefits of kapalbhati:
Good for weight loss. It’s a cardio work out. 10 minutes of kapalbhati is equal to 1 hour of cardio workout, like running. No kidding! But you have to work up to it just like regular cardio.
Strengthens Respiratory System. Strengthening lungs, lung capacity, purifies nasal passage, and removes blockages in the chest.
Strengthens & stimulates Digestive System. Remember, “We are what we digest” so we need to digest food properly. This will help!
Stimulates Circulatory System.Gets the blood to all parts of the body by opening channels and promoting circulation.
Purges us of all negativity. Mind, body, spirit
Helps to overcome stress, depression and negative emotions.
Gives mental clarity.
Helps bring higher awareness as it removes blockages and focuses our mind on pure and right intention
Ready to try it?! Ok, I have included a video so that you can see how it’s done.
You can also follow instructions below:
1. Do this daily in the morning if you can, before breakfast (2 hours if after meal. You will get a cramp otherwise. Trust me.)
2. Start with a count of 20-30, then rest. See how you feel. This is very individual depending on your cardiovascular condition, so take it easy if you haven’t done exercise in a while. Or if that was a piece of cake, then try for 45 seconds or one minute.
3. Sit with legs crossed in a lotus-like position or if in a chair, both feet on the ground
4. Spine straight, chest open, like a string is going from your butt up through the top of your head and holding you straight
5. Using on the the diaphragm, inhale while ballooning the belly
6. Start! Forcefully exhale, using the diaphragm and count, 1-2-3-4-5 (you will automatically inhale, but focus on the exhale)
7. Take a rest when you are tired and repeat 3x. Even with just 2 minutes of this a day, you will notice the benefits.
If you try this and notice a difference, please share! I know I benefit greatly from it – just mental clarity, less crabbiness, I get a LOT more done during the day, and I take things more in stride. I hope this helps you discover more clarity and brings a nice sheen to your brilliant skull :)
(photo courtesy of Eric Lon)
Alternate nostril breathing or Nadi Shodhanam is what I like to call “instant calm.” Our nose is the quickest passage to our mind, so the prana reaches our brain immediately and gives a calming effect.
There are two channels that go through our nose. One is female and it’s cooling. The other is male and it’s heating. So by practicing the pranayama of nadi shodhanam, we are balancing male and female, warm and cool energies, to bring the body back to center.
I was told by one of our great teachers that if you practice this 10 minutes a day, disease cannot set in! Give it a try.
Clearing of channels to enhance energy flow
Clarity of mind
How to do it: Sit upright, chest open, back straight, feet on ground or cross legged if sitting on the ground. Mouths closed. Press right thumb on right nostril and give a deep exhale out left nostril. Now, inhale left. Before the exhale, switch and press ring finger to left nostril. Exhale through right side. Inhale and then switch before the exhale. Do this 10x on each side.
So Hum is a mantra and meditation which focuses on just being. It helps us find us a nice space within ourselves where we can ditch our worries for a bit. When we are anxious, depressed, lonely, or stressed, it consumes us and makes us unable to focus. Practicing So Hum brings about the realization that all you need is yourself. Yeah, did you forget that you are all you need? Fantastic.
So means, “I am” and Hum means “that” or “the divine.”
I am That. I am the Divine.
(How cool is that? Does it make you want to cry? It does me.)
First, sit in a comfy position, chakras aligned. So either cross-legged on the floor or in a chair, back straight, chest open, both feet on the ground. As you inhale through the nose (mouths closed) think “soooooo.” and as you exhale think “huuummmm. As usual we are using our belly breath. On the inhale our bellies balloon out, and on the exhale our belly buttons go in toward the spine.
You can practice So Hum for as long as you want. I recommend at least 5 minutes. You can set a timer if you choose so you can fully release yourself.
In the practice of So Hum, you can visualize the inhalation of life (does it have a color? or a shape?) filling up your body. Start with the base of your spine and visualize the life going upward to the top of your head. Maybe the color gets into all the crevices you don’t want anyone to see…or admit are there. I visualize the color like a gentle electric toothbrush, getting all in those “hard to reach” areas. It’s our spirit and it’s our job to keep it clean.
Speaking of clean, on the exhale visualize all the junk (old feelings, worries, memories) flowing outward. This way, we can make room for the prana, the beautiful color of life that we are inhaling. Remember visualize where the clogs, cobwebbs, even black tar (I had stuff that looked like coffee grounds) and clean it out with new life. You will feel like you just had a spiritual massage.
So Hum is great for
Stress reduction, relaxation, calm, inner peace
Realization that you are a Divine being
Moving you to a higher energetic level (it’s a funk buster)
Mental focus and concentration
Bonus: It relieves constipation!
Dude, are you feeling funky and depressed? You’re not alone, it gets to the best of us. You need some funk busters! There are a few things you can do. You can stay in it until it works itself out or you can move yourself through it. Sometimes some self reflection on, “What is the funk all about?” helps and we get answers. In other cases maybe something external is affecting us, like a crabby boss, or an off comment we were given, or sucky weather…in that case, use your insides to bring you to a higher level.
Try some of the tips below. Tips #1 and #6 are a must*. If they work, let me know your story! If they don’t work, shoot me an email and I’ll see if I can help.
1. Write down 10 things you are grateful for
2. Get out in nature. Even if you are at work, go for a walk. Look at the sky & clouds, touch the grass or snow.
3. Do the pranayama “So Hum”
4. Write down 10 more things you are grateful for
5. Give your temples, hands and feet a massage
6. Do something nice for someone else (sure-fire way to lift you up)
7. Aromatherapy. Inhale a lovely natural scent like, a flower, fresh cut grass, cinnamon tea, or lavender oil.
8. Read a cozy energy shifting book like, “If the Buddha Got Stuck” by Charlotte Kasl or “Creative Visualization” by Caroline Myss
9. Go to a yoga class
10. Listen to good music – not downer music – peaceful or uplifting music
*Gratitude is KEY to helping lift you up. When you realize that what you already have is pretty great, it will bring you back to center. It will keep all issues from the past or the “what ifs” of the future at bay. The past and future don’t matter anyway because one is gone and one hasn’t happened yet, so we don’t need to be anywhere but present. I know it’s not easy sometimes, just practice. Eventually it will get easier to find that centered place.
Nadi Shodhanam or alternate nostril breathing is a pranayam, I like to call “instant calm.” If you’re stressed, nervous, or need some clarity of mind, nadi shodhanam will bring you back to center and calm the entire nervous system. Give it a try.
Sit in a comfy position, chest open, shoulders down, chakras aligned (pretend there is a string pulling you up, from your butt, through your spine and coming out the top of your head).
Take your right hand and cover right nostril with left thumb.
Exhale air all the way out, concave the belly.
Inhale, puff out the belly.
Switch and put ring finger over left nostril.
Always switch before on the exhale.
Repeat 10x on each side.
What it’s good for:
Relieving stress, anxiety, tension, anger, fear
Clearing the channels
Calming a busy mind
Clarity of mind
All doshas, but specifically vata and pitta
Why does this work? Because there are two srotas (channels) that go through the nose and the nose is the quickest passage to the brain. One srota is feminine and cool (left) and the other is masculine and heating (right). Switching between the two of these is very nourishing for the mind and will bring you back to balance. Nadi Shodhanam is pure intake of prana (life!) – I promise you will feel like you just had a massage after you’ve practiced it.