Pranayama. What is it? Why do we do it?

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…

Developing a Consistent Yoga Practice.

consistent

prac·tice

(pr k t s).

1. To do or perform habitually or usually; make a habit of:.

2. To do or perform (something) repeatedly in order to acquire or polish a skill:

3. To give lessons or repeated instructions to; drill:

4. To work at, especially as a profession:.

5. To carry out in action; observe:

What is this thing that we call a Yoga PRACTICE?

The first sutra in the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali is ATHA YOGANUSASANAM which means now begins the instruction of Yoga.  This is where we all start.  The great thing about developing a practice, is that it doesn’t matter what you were doing before, there is always the opportunity to begin.  Yoga has that wonderful ability; it can meet us right where we are.  All we have to do is start the journey.  Once the decision has been made to begin, then we can develop our practice.  Like most things, it is not easy in the beginning.  Our bodies may seem tight and inflexible, it might seem challenging or uncomfortable.   We are carrying years of stress in these bodies of ours and it isn’t about to fall away easily.

Think about the moments in your life where you really didn’t want to do something because it seemed too overwhelming or because  it was challenging to just get started.  I remember looking out into the blank canvas of an unruly corner of our garden one day and dreaming of an asparagus patch.  The problem was that this little corner was riddled with poison ivy.  The other problem was in order to grow asparagus you have to dig deep 10 foot long trenches. Then you have to wait a few years before you can even eat one stalk.  Thinking about all the time and work involved quickly got me thinking that maybe an asparagus patch wasn’t such a great idea after all.

And then one day we just started digging.  It was hard work, just as I had anticipated, but soon after the first shovel hit the ground, I got lost in the task at hand.  I wasn’t worried about the poison ivy.  We were planting asparagus!  I was able to get lost in the joy of the moment. And so, every morning I would wake up and dig a little, rip out another root of that dreaded ivy.  Eventually all the hard work paid off.  Every spring is now filled with an abundant harvest.

Make a time commitment to your practice.  It might start out to be once a week, or twice a week, or every morning for 15 minutes.  Determine the time frame that will work for you and then, be consistent.  Being consistent in your practice is where real change can occur.

Once in class, we have to remind ourselves that we are not in a competition.  There is no race to be won here.  And if there were it would certainly be the tortoise winning it.  It is not about how fast we move or how fast we learn.  Let go of comparing yourself with other students.  You are exactly where you should be for you. As my husband would say: “Do your best and forget the rest.”  Find the joy in your own progress.  There will be days when you are sore and that is okay.  The best way to alleviate soreness is to keep practicing.  It is like waking up on a chilly morning and feeling a little creaky.  Once you start moving about, the creakiness dissipates.  It is important to keep moving.  However, soreness and pain are two very different things.  There should never be pain and you should never push through pain. That is where serious injury occurs.  By developing a practice you will develop a greater awareness of the body and be able to tell the difference.

Begin.  Make a commitment.  Be consistent. Find the joy in the moment.   This is your yoga practice.

Dharma Mittra and the Dharma Yoga Center.

headstand

There really aren’t words sufficient to describe Dharma Mittra.  He is more than a teacher, he is an example.  He is the real deal.  He is “yoga”.  In an era where yoga has become a business, Dharma quietly teaches and practices with the humility of the new kid on the block.  The only difference is that he has been teaching in New York since 1967.  One of the first classical yoga teachers in New York City, Dharma has been inspiring students for more than 40 years.  He can still be found Monday through Thursday at noon teaching his Master Class. There is nothing quite like being in the presence of Dharma, with the look of an eye or the touch of a finger he has the ability to bring you into a pose you never thought possible.  His kindness and love for all beings is what yoga is all about.   Expand your practice.  Expand your heart.  Expand your consciousness.  “Be receptive.”

To learn more about Dharma Mittra and The Dharma Yoga Center go to:  http://www.dharmayogacenter.com/welcome.php