Pranayama with Nubia Teixeira plus a Practice Recording

As we each develop and go deeper into our yoga practice we also begin to deepen our understanding of the connection between the breath and the body as well. This connection is absolutely fundamental to our ability to fully practice the yoga poses or Asana to their full potential and experience the most profound benefits. Pranayama may feel like a very advanced concept but fortunately Nubia Teixeira, one of our core teachers and the head of our Teacher Training at Namaste, is able to dissect and break down the meaning and uses for pranayama in our lives in a clear and useful way. Read on for Nubia’s insights on Pranayama and a practice exercise to begin your exploration:

nataraja

*Excerpts adapted from the Namaste Yoga Teacher Training Manual

UNDERSTANDING PRANAYAMA 

The word Pranayama is derived from two Sanskrit terms: prana which means vital energy, the very seed of life within and without; and Ayama, which means to control, to expand, to lead beyond death. The intention of the practice of pranayama is to breathe in a conscious way, to honor the life force in our physical bodies, the grace that breathes us into existence.

Prana is mostly present in the air we breathe (Air – Vayu), the wind and the electrical currents, the light of the Sun (Fire- Agni), the water we drink (Water- Apas), the bodily fluids, the food we eat (Earth-prithvi) and the forces of gravity and magnetism. It is also in the sounds we vocalize (Ether-akasha) and in the sounds we hear.

Developing a relationship with the breath facilitates the withdrawing of the senses (pratyahara) and our communication with the inner world. A pranayama practice supports the awakening of the dormant sensations and memories within ourselves and also teaches us how to heal ourselves by allowing the vital energy to move to the places of joy and sorrow within us. The practice of Pranayama is one of the most effective ways of balancing the energy in the body, mind and emotions.


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FINDING OUR TRUE PURPOSE with PRANAYAMA PRACTICE

Humans often are blinded by the ego and uncertain of their true purpose, which can lead to the separation of the self from others, from life and from Source. As a result, confusion rises, despair creeps in and inner wisdom, intuition and sense of Self is forgotten. In this place of loss and confusion, it becomes only natural to grasp on to the material world.

Human evolution is intrinsically connected to spiritual growth, and it is only through our bodies and actions in this world of things that we evolve. Our approach to living our lives, moment-by-moment, fully present, rests on our ability to surrender to the Divine.

This, in turn, ignites our innate Wisdom. Developing the capacity to follow the in and out breath without interfering in the flow, awakening faith and confidence.

This “Thread of Life” that we call breath, is a thread that connects us, each individual soul to the universal soul’s trajectory, beyond time and space, beyond body, beyond the beyond. It is a continuum, without beginning, middle or ending. Life after life. One Love through infinity.

Join Nubia for her upcoming Pranayama Series, a 4-week exploration focused on learning and implementing simple pranayama practices into your life. Learn More About Nubia Here.

Listen below to an introduction to Bhakti based meditation with an intro “Twameva” – sung by Jai Uttal

 

 

 

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Sadhana: What 21, 30, and 40 Days of Yoga Will Reveal to You

photo 4By Judy Rukat

[Originally posted on www.DoYouYoga.com]
January marks the season for fresh starts and you may see Yoga Challenges sprouting up all around you: at gyms and yoga studios, in your workplace with additions of yoga (office yoga, chair yoga, meditation breaks), and a sea of yoga selfies flooding your social media.‘Tis the season to get back to the mat! Let’s face it, some days (or weeks, or eeek…MONTHS) yoga ranks low on the to-do list. Have you deemed 2015 the year to go for it and deepen your practice by making it to your mat more consistently over the course of the next few weeks?If so, read on to learn more about what you can expect (as well as making room for the unexpected) during this transformative process.

The Meaning of SADHANA

Put simply, sadhana means dedicated practice. Typically, a modern day sadhana lasts 21, 30, or 40 days and will inevitably shake you free from your usual routine by creating new healthier habits.

The radical shift in your schedule will pull you up and out of your yoga slump as you observe your practice climb to the top of your mountain heap of priorities.

Without a doubt, for the willing practitioner, participating in sadhana will, at a minimum, encourage accountability and ensure that by SIGNING UP, you will actually SHOW UP and have a greater likelihood of sticking with it in the days (and hopefully years) to follow.

21 Days Later: From Resistance to Receptivity

Resistance or the “negative” fear of change differs from the “positive” fear that protects and warns of pending danger. Like all creatures of habit, we get used to moving in one direction and eventually become complacent.

When a desire arises and inspires us to change course, resistance slams on the breaks and stops us in our tracks. Critical self-talk, doubt, and rationalizations attempt to persuade us into continuing on our usual travels even when the path no longer supports our spiritual growth.

Receptivity, on the other hand, allows us to navigate life’s windy roads full of scary twists and uncertain turns. You will certainly confront the stubborn roadblocks of resistance that tend to get in your way during the first 21 days of your sadhana. You may even consider quitting.

If you can stick through it, you will discover that you have developed a calminner “knowing” that allows you to receive life as it comes your way and handle those difficult transitions with grace.

30 Days Later: From Grief to Gratitude

There is necessary grief which is part of the healing process when recovering from a loss, and then, there is the lingering grief wrought with shame and regret for the things we cannot go back in time to change.

This second type of grief can paralyze and blind us from seeing anything beyond our identities, stories, and personal histories. Gratitude, however, grants you permission to bow to the past, honor the lessons learned, and release it once and for all.

Practice is repetition, and showing up for 30 days requires enormous patience to overcome monotony and wake up to the universe of subtleties going on during a meditation, asana, and pranayama practice.

From the outside view the practice “appears” the same, but indeed, your internal gaze or “perspective” has shifted and in that way no two practices are ever the same. Wallowing in past failures creates expectations, and so does reveling in the nostalgia of past successes.

Gratitude reveals the new beginning in each moment and makes the tiny details as well as those lightbulb “AHA” moments of revelation visible. These moments keep a yogi coming back to the mat everyday!

40 Days Later: From Strength to Surrender

We all strive to increase strength and flexibility through yoga, and those noble goals certainly benefit the muscular, cardiovascular, and skeletal systems of the body, not to mention decrease stress hormones while increasing energy levels.

However, as you progress towards the 40-day mark of regular practice, you will learn understand what “muscling” through a pose or asana sequence means, and notice that even during a challenging moment, you will use less and less mental and physical exertion.

The term “samadhi” means meditating through movement, and it occurs when you can let go and trust the body to function and perform at optimal levels of efficiency with the least amount of energy expenditure.

Nevertheless, surrendering does not mean giving up,avoiding challenges, or taking the easy route. In order to truly surrender, you must move with and not against your nature.

Sharon Gannon says it best, “You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state.”

The Divine in Me Honors the Divine in EVERYTHING

Ultimately, after you commit to yoga for ANY period of time, you will feel a boost of energy, ease of movement where you used to feel pain, and a pristine mental clarity that will help you seek serenity amidst all life in its terrible gore and tremendous glory.

You will simply know peace in your mind and peace in your heart.

 Whether you start a 21, 30, or 40-day sadhana, the REAL challenge begins by simply getting up and making it to DAY 1, and soon you will discover that EVERYDAY is somehow, for better or for worse, another version of DAY 1. You eventually just do your practice and stop counting the days. Namaste.
Interested in studying with Judy? Her 40-Day Challenge with Whitney Walsh begins this weekend at Namaste. Learn more here.
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How Your Breath Affects Your Nervous System

by Baxter Bell

When I read the posts of my fellow YFHA bloggers, I often learn new perspectives that might differ from my own as well as new information that I was previously unaware of. Reading the posts also highlights occasions where I could have been clearer or given better information on a particular topic. As an example, I have written about breath techniques and their effect on the autonomic nervous system, as did Timothy in his awesome follow-up post on the buzzing bee breath, Bhramari Pranayama with Mudras. And we often mention that extending or lengthening the exhalation triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, the Rest and Digest part of our nervous system’s balancing program. This made me realize that I could add a bit more detail to explain how that actually happens.

It turns out the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) that connects brain to body is a two-way street. If I am anxious and nervous or stressed out by events in my life or simply the thoughts about those events, my brain, via the nerves of the ANS, will likely turn on the Sympathetic part of that system (the Fight or Flight response), which could result in faster heart and breathing rates, and increases in blood pressure, to mention just two of the most obvious physiological changes.

But the cool thing is that the lungs and heart can feed back to the brain and essentially convince the brain that things are calm and peaceful, even when there are still stressful circumstances. One neat way this happens involves the relationship of the heart and lungs and the nerves between them. In each round of breath, during your inhalation, your heart gets stimulated to beat a little faster. Then during the exhalation that follows, your heart gets told to slow down a tad. The overall effect is very little change in the heart rate from minute to minute. But when you make one part of the breath cycle, either the inhale or the exhale, longer than the other, and you do this for several minutes, the accumulated effect is that you will either slow the heart rate down or speed it up from where you started. When you make the inhales longer than the exhales, for example, by using a two-second inhale and a one-second exhale, and you keep this up for several minutes, the heart rate will go a bit faster. This will send a feedback message to the brain that things need to activate more in the brain and body for whatever work there is to be done, stimulating the Sympathetic portion of the ANS.

With the very useful Bhramari breath Timothy expanded on Bhramari Breath with Mudras, we do the opposite. As we hum during the exhalation, the exhales get longer relative to the inhales, as when we do a 1:2 ratio breath practice without the humming. This new respiratory cycle begins to slow down the heart rate, sending a message to the brain that everything is more peaceful and calm than five minutes ago, allowing the brain to support this shift further by activating the Parasympathetic portion of the ANS (the Rest and Digest or Relaxation response) that goes back from brain to body.

Research has shown that the vagus nerve as well as certain chemical neurotransmitters account for these effects of breath patterns on heart rate and subsequently on shifting the balance between the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic parts of the ANS. Keep in mind that the ANS is trying to keep all background systems in balance and responding appropriately to ever-changing circumstances of our day.

I’m providing this information for those of you who want to go a bit deeper in your understanding of how breath patterns affect the nervous system balance and either excite the system or quiet it. Our conscious choice of breathing differently can shift us to a more desirable part of the ANS, either by stimulating the active Sympathetic branch or the quieting Parasympathetic branch.  Most of us need more of the latter, but not always!

For a little more background on how the Respiratory system influences the Cardiac system, which in turn influences the Autonomic Nervous System, see The human respiratory gate as well as Effects of yoga on the autonomic nervous system, gamma-aminobutyric-acid, and allostasis in epilepsy, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Baxter Bell blogs at yogaforhealthyaging.blogspot.com

 

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