Tutorial: Nah-dee-show-DAH-nah

Nadi (=”channel”) Shodhana (= “cleaning” “purifying”) Pranayama is an alternate-nostril breathing exercise.

mudra-pranayama

The right hand is placed in Mrigi Mudra (a Sanskrit word meaning “to seal, close, or lock up” or “gesture”) by pressing your hand into a fist with your index and middle fingers firmly into the base of your thumb. Stretch out the ring and pinky fingers. Keep your pinky relatively straight, but curl your ring finger slightly; the idea is to “blend” the two fingertips into one.

nadi-shodhana-pranayama-breath

  1. Gently close your right nostril with your thumb
  2. Inhale through your left nostril
  3. Close left nostril with your ring-little fingers
  4. Open right nostril and exhale slowly through the right nostril.
  5. Inhale right nostril
  6. Repeat step 1. This is one cycle.
  7. Repeat 3 to 5 times, then release the hand mudra and go back to normal breathing.

Benefits include lowered heart rate, reduction in stress and anxiety. This breath is also said to synchronize the two hemispheres of the brain (oh so beneficial for Parkinson’s disease!) and encourage prana (life force energy) flow.

This breathing exercise is great for quieting your mind before beginning a meditation session, and it is also a soothing practice for calming racing thoughts and anxiety if you are having trouble falling asleep.

 

Try it to feel more balanced and calm. much love.

PS. Want more yoga tips for a better sleep? Check out Yoga for Sleep I and Yoga for Sleep II

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Tutorial: 3-Part Breath

Dirga Pranayam, or three-part deep breathing, is the foundation of all the yogic breathing techniques. This breathing exercise mobilizing your life force energy (prana) to cleanse and balance.

The three-part breath is deep and full breathing and helps dispel anxiety and create a sense of calm (via vagal nerve). The purpose this three-part breath is unlearn patterns of taking in slow sips of breath (shallow breathing!) and mouth breathing, which can create tension in your body and anxiety in your mind. Three-part breath also brings smoothness to the breath & improves breath holding for singers, divers, etc.

dirga pranayama

dirga pranayama

A typical visual is to think of filling your lungs up like a glass of water from the bottom up. First you inhale expanding the belly, then let the air raise upwards expanding the ribs, and finally filling (puffing out) the chest. BUT, from an anatomical perspective, air never rises into the chest. Air only goes in and out from the lungs, moving from the bronchial tree. As you inhale, air enters from the top downward, branches left and right, then fans out from center to periphery. An exhale follows the exact opposite pattern.

the bronchial tree (academic.kellogg.edu)

So, anatomically, when we “inhale into our bellies“, the abdominal expansion is caused by the contracting/descending diaphragm which pushes forward on the abdomen and causes the forward displacement of the organs (really, the abdomen bulges forward).

The diaphragm is connected to the lower ribcage. When we “inhale into our ribs“, the contraction of the diaphragm creates the side-to-side expansion.

Finally, when we “inhale into the chest“, the contraction of the diaphragm creates a front-to-back expansion (and a slight upwards lift) in the sternum (where ribs meets chest).

…. So, thanks for letting me geek out a little with my anatomy…

Thing about lengthening out the inhales and exhales to counts of 6… and then try elongating the exhales to counts of 12 (with inhales still at 6).

As you practice dirgha pranayam, I encourage students to note sensations, emotions, and thoughts that come up … to help tap into the more subtle aspects of the practice.

So, what are you waiting for? Try deepening your breath first thing in the morning, or before bed and see how it feels! much love.

PS. Want more? Check out Breath through your Nose and A Pranayama a Day…

“A Pranayama a day…”

Prana is the breath of life of all beings in the universe.” B. K. S. Iyengar Light on Pranayama

Pranayama lies at the heart of yoga and is defined as the control of the breath, or life force.

According to the Bhagavad Gita,  prāṇāyām is made from 2 separate Sanskrit words,  prāṇ and āyām, and translated to “trance induced by stopping all breathing”. Pranayama is the fourth ‘limb’ of Ashtanga Yoga (8 total limbs, including yoga Asana) and mentioned in the Yoga Sutras.

the basic mechanics of breathings (cartage.org.lb)

The combination of movement and breath in your yoga posture increases your awareness and the potential for healing and growth (Shobhan Richard Faulds, Kripalu). According to Swami Karunananda, a senior Integral Yoga teacher, “Asana is meditation on the body, pranayama is meditation on the breath and subtle energy currents within us, and then we work with the mind directly, with the ultimate aim of transcending body and mind and experiencing the higher Self.

Research has demonstrated the physiological benefits of pranayama to include stress relief (Brown & Gerbarg. Altern Compl Med 2005), improved autonomic function (Pal, Velkumary, Madanmohan. Ind J Med Res 2004), asthma (Vedanthan et al. Allergy Asth 1998), lowered systolic blood pressure and respiratory rate (Upadhyay Dhungel et al. Nepal Med Coll 2008).

Yogis report practicing pranayama develops a steady mind, strong will-power, sound judgement, extended life and enhanced perception (Iyengar, Light on Pranayama).

pranayama-breath

As a teacher trained in the Kripalu tradition, I use yoga to develop sensitivity to the body to learn about what makes us tick (or our unconscious drives). Breathing is integral part of our unconscious because “we choose how much we’re going to feel by how much we breathe. When we breathe more deeply, we feel more”. So it’s a good opportunity to slow down and focus on what you are feeling. (Yoganand Michael Carrol)


“With encouraging scientific evidence and positive reports, the prescription for a “pranayama a day” might get just a little bit closer”
 (kripalu.org).

Hope you enjoyed this introduction… I want to present a few different pranayama techniques this week to help encourage curiosity into your breath! much love.

PS. Want more on the breath? Check out Breathe through your nose AND Breath of Joy! for depression in Parkinson’s

References:

http://kripalu.org/blog/thrive/2013/01/12/the-science-of-breath/

B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on Pranayama

feel JOY

Tomorrow I start my next Parkinson’s yoga series, and I can’t wait to get back to Moksha Yoga Kelowna with the returning students and new faces that have signed up. I’m feeling the love!

And what better way to celebrate than with breath of joy!

This deep breathing exercise (pranayama) brings energy (and joy!) to your practice, as well as works on coordination, allowing the breath and movement to work together in one fluid motion. Amy Weintraub author of Yoga for Depression says: “(this) breathing exercise can sweep away cobwebs of lethargy and bring more energy into your life.”

Benefits

  • first inhalation (arms forward) encourages diaphragmatic breathing
  • second inhalation (arms to the side) encourages thoracic breathing
  • third inhalation (arms up) encourages clavicular breathing
  • allows deep and complete exhalation at the end
  • energizes the entire body
  • strengthens arms and shoulders
  • will make you smile 🙂

Contraindications

  • Because the head is below the heart at some points, you may feel lightheaded. Take your time and relax in between
  • If you have low blood pressure, practice slowly and go less deeply into the bend on the final exhalation
  • Avoid if you suffer from untreated high blood pressure, migraines, or glaucoma
  • Flex the knees to protect the low back

How

I’m going to leave this up to Amy, who demonstrates it so “joyfully”!

enJOY, much love.