Pranayama is the fourth limb of the eight limbs of Yoga
Pranayama is a Sanskrit word meaning extension of the breath or more accurately, “extension of the life force”. The word is composed of two Sanskrit words, Prāna meaning life force and āyāma, meaning to extend, draw out, restrain, or control
More simply, Pranayama is a series of breathing techniques or breathing exercises.
Breathing is a normal part of our life, and we often forget to pay attention to it. It is the body’s natural inclination to hold the breath whenever we feel physically or emotionally challenged. Pranayama teaches us the proper way to breathe: slowly and deeply. Breathing this way increases the capacity of the lungs, brings more oxygen into the body and stimulates the Vagus nerve. The Vagus Nerve stretches from your brain stem down to your abdomen. When the Vagus Nerve is stimulated it activates the parasympathetic nervous systems to slow your heart rate, relieve stress, and heal your body.
“When the breath is still, so is the mind.” this basic yoga concept tells us that, with breathing, we can help to either calm or excite the entire nervous system. When the breath becomes irregular and unsteady, so is our mental state. When the breath is steady so is the mind.
You might not always have time for a yoga class but you can always find a few minutes a day to practice Pranayama.
To practice Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing): Sit comfortably with an easy straight back and close the eyes. Fold in the pointer and middle fingers of the right hand. Use the thumb to block the right nostril and the ring finger to block the left nostril. Gently close your right nostril with your thumb. Inhale through your left nostril, then close it with your ring finger. exhale slowly through the right nostril. Keep the right nostril open, inhale, then close it, and open and exhale slowly through the left. This is one cycle.
The ancient yogis measured a person’s lifespan not by years but by the number of his respirations. They believed that everyone is allocated a fixed number of respirations in his or her or her lifetime, which differs from person to person.
Breath is life and life is breath. Keep breathing………………..
It happened. My computer crashed. Just a blue screen. On it were countless photos, music, folders, esaays, and a few pie charts and spirographs. It is one of those things that is probably inevitable in the age of fast moving technology. I should have been prepared for it. I wasn’t. Although I did have a nagging feeling a few weeks ago when everything seemed to be running a little slower than usual. I thought I should back everything up, I even said it out loud, but I didn’t. How much info will be able to be retrieved and what is lost I am not sure yet, I will have to wait and see.
While waiting for the result my mind immediately turns to thoughts of one of the Yamas of Yoga: Aparigraha.
There are many interpretations and applications for Aparigraha, this being one of the more literal translations; Non grasping. I may lose all my “stuff” and if so I have to let go of it. This idea of “non-attachment” can be applied to tangible objects as well as to our thoughts and ideas. If we practice Aparigraha we must carefully consider which objects and ideas we choose to hold onto. We must prioritize how our time and energy is spent. Maybe I was spending too much time on the computer, maybe there were too many thoughts tucked into too many folders. When we practice Aparigraha by letting go of something, someone, or some idea we create space for the things that are truly important. We create a space for possibility and begin to understand all that is truly important to us. The important things are those that cannot be lost. A generous heart, a kind spirit, a quiet mind.
It is not fun when a computer crashes, but really, in the overall scheme of things what is lost? Maybe it is time to simply let go of the old to make room for the new.
Happy Summer! July marks 2 important occasions: The official start of summer and the one year anniversary of AHUM. After a brief hiatus, I am happy to to be sharing some thoughts on all things yoga. If you are new to the blog, Welcome! There is a great archive of past posting to read. If you are a current subscriber welcome back! Here we will PRACTICE. EAT. and LIVE.
Thank you for joining me.
(“The gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is a divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra. the gesture is an acknowledgement of the soul in one by the soul in another. ”Nama” means bow, “as” means I and ”te” means you. Therefore, Namaste literally means “bow me you” or I bow to you.” Aadil Palkhivala)
I am a HUGE fan of juicing. Especially during these hot and humid days, it is a great way to hydrate the body. I was recently asked about the sugar content in fruits and the effect that the sugar may have on the body. Great Question. ( although I do find it kind of funny that someone could eat a lunch of a coke, a burger and fries and no one would blink an eye, but have a fruit juice and something must be awry :)
First and foremost when it comes to juice and food it has always been my firm belief that you have to listen to your body.
Everyone’s body is different and it is important to ask yourself the question “How do I feel” after you eat or drink something.
Juicing is and always has been an excellent way to get a concentrated source of nutrients, both vitamins and minerals, into the body in an absorbable form.
Since your body absorbs and digests the nutrients faster, it has more down time for repair. When your body is not busy digesting food it is on the lookout for ways to heal itself.
When you juice, you are feeding your body and repairing it at the same time. Fruit juices in particular are known as “cleansers”.
Yes, when we juice sweet fruits, we are eliminating the key component in slowing down the absorption of the simple sugar fructose. This key component is the pulp, Pulp is an insoluble fiber that slows down the absorption of fructose in the gut by the body. The rule of thumb for what is an allowable amount of sugar to take in on a daily basis varies tremendously. The best answer I believe is the following:
“In petitioning for labeling changes regarding sugar, CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest), joined by dozens of leading health experts, also wants the FDA to set a maximum recommended daily intake (Daily Value) for added sugars of 10 teaspoons (40 grams) and require labels to disclose the percentage of the Daily Value a food provides.”There are many naturally occurring sugars such as sucrose which is a combination of glucose and fructose (or fruit sugar), lactose (from milk), maltose and galactose. You don’t want too many of the simple sugar glucose, but you can have a few more of the complex ones. If you digest too many simple sugars, your body gets swamped and the excess that is not used by your body gets stored as fat. Also useful to know is that sugars enters your cells using the same pathway as Vitamin C – so, too much sugar and your body does not absorb Vitamin C as well. However, you can eat or drink natural sugars in moderation – say up to 100 grams a day (like orange juice which contains quite a lot of fructose). ”
As a frame of reference, on average, a glass of fresh orange juice has about 30 grams of natural sugar, keeping you well below the amounts discussed above.
In a nutshell, processed sugar is to be avoided, natural sugar is fine in moderation.
In yoga, with food, and in our lives it is always about finding the balance.
Spring has officially sprung. The bulbs are peaking up through the cold ground, buds are visible on the apple trees, and the birds have started chirping. From the moment we spring forward into daylight savings time, my mind turns to thoughts of planting our vegetable garden. There is nothing quite like walking out into the garden and eating something freshly picked. I could not LIVE without it. At this time of year cold hardy seeds can start to be planted. Cold hardy seeds would be any kind of pea or lettuce, leafy greens like kale or spinach. It is a great way to get out of winter hibernation and start thinking warm weather. Bartlett’s Farm has a wonderful selection of all kinds of organic seeds to choose from. With the garden center now officially open, browsing though the seed packets and chatting with some of the super knowledgeable garden staff is sure to inspire. If you haven’t done so already think about designating a small corner of your garden to edible plants. It is easy to build a raised bed from scrap wood or a pre made kit, then start planting your favorites. Maybe you don’t have room for a raised bed and can’t bear to give up your flower bed? A dear friend of mine plants his flower garden by intermingling his favorite herbs and vegetables throughout the patch. It is a truly beautiful and unique way to plant. It is easy to be overwhelmed at first when thinking of planting a vegetable garden, start small and branch out from there. If seeds aren’t your thing, think about edible landscaping. Why not plant a fruit tree, or a blueberry bush? The time and effort spent digging will be well worth it when you can pick a fresh apple and taste the difference. I was asked once to name my favorite vegetable. I started by saying asparagus. Of course anyone who knows me knows that it is impossible for me to choose just one. My favorite is ususally the one that I have just finished planting or eating. I probably picked that initially because when I think of asparagus I remember digging the trenches with my husband ( it took hours), I remember being covered in mud (it was cold and wet), I remember seeing the first stalk emerge in the spring and I remember waiting 3 years to eat any (I forgot about that part). The first stalk I ate was the most delicious stalk of asparagus I had ever tasted. We planted it together, we waited, we were patient. There is a real joy in growing your own food. Great stories emerge, laughter ensues, and a delicious meal is sure to be had by all. Happy Spring. Happy planting! A great resource for pre-made raised beds: http://www.gardeners.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-Gardeners-Site/default/Link-Product?sku=34-381RS