Tag: pranayama

The Complete Guide to Advancing your Yoga Self-practice: how to make a routine, add spirituality and pranayama, how to find new inspiration, stay motivated, and tracking your progress #selfpractice #yogapractice

The Complete Guide to Advancing your Yoga Self-practice

Starting a yoga self-practice. Blog post with tips and inspiration
Click this photo if you’re just beginning

If you already started your yoga self practice, great work!!  This post will provide you with some ideas on continuing to challenge yourself and working different parts of your body.  If you’re just starting click the photo to the right.  With your self-practice, it can be easy to get into a rut, only practicing your favorite poses and the ones that are already familiar, and maybe even ones that are easy to you.  It’s important to push yourself beyond that point if you want to progress and improve.  Below are some ideas for how to go beyond where you are now and suggestions for advancing your yoga self-practice.

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links]

Categories of poses

As a yoga instructor, there are 6 main areas to address in a class.

  • warm-ups
  • standing poses
  • arm balances/abs/hips
  • inversions/ thigh stretches
  • backbend/twist/forward bends
  • savasana

Some classes aim to tick all of the boxes and some focus on a specific area, theme or goal.  It’s probably too much to try to tick all of the boxes every day in your home practice (though warm-ups and savasana are always a must).  My suggestion is to assign each of these areas to one or two days of the week.  Then brainstorm some poses in each category– think about poses you like and poses that are difficult for you.  It’s good to have a variety of asanas for each group so you won’t get bored doing the same poses too frequently.  In a few months, you can re-assess your lists and maybe add new poses to your repertoire as your level progresses.  Here’s an example chart of weekly poses.

The Complete Guide to Advancing your Yoga Self-practice: how to make a routine, add spirituality and pranayama, how to find new inspiration, stay motivated, and tracking your progress #selfpractice #yogapractice

Another idea: post soThe Complete Guide to Advancing your Yoga Self-practice: how to make a routine, add spirituality and pranayama, how to find new inspiration, stay motivated, and tracking your progress #selfpractice #yogapracticeme pictures or doodles of poses you want to try on your wall.  Sometimes once you’re flowing it’s hard to remember that great new asana you wanted to try or you can only remember the one you’re most excited about.  Some visual clues can help you get to lots of great shapes.

I read this quote in the The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga, “People love to do the things that they love to do.”  In the book, the author is talking about making sure you balance your yin energy activities (more quiet, restful and rejuvenating) and yang energy activities (powerful, energized, strong).  To me this quote is also a reminder to try to go beyond what you know and what is easy for you- challenge yourself to do the other things.

Disclaimer!  Always be careful and listen to your body, especially your sensitive joints.  You never want to feel real PAIN in yoga- try to shoot for 70% edge.  Go for the Goldilocks technique, adding and removing strain until you reach your just-right stretch.

Every every every day, yoga

7 Restorative Poses to relax and rejuvenate8 Limbs of Yoga: Pranayama, breath control: about and how toTry to make yoga a crucial part of your daily routine.  Maybe schedule it in before you get ready for work or directly after your afternoon snack.  Starting a habit is the hardest part- it takes a full month of dedicated work before any habit will become natural, including the habit of daily yoga.

Of course, some days are super busy and it feels like there is no time or no energy for yoga.  These are probably the days that you need yoga the most!  Do whatever you can to at least make time for a few sun salutations or a few soothing restorative stretches.  On these days, it’s ok if don’t have room for your complete practice, but send yourself the love of a little practice.

Also illness can make moving your body feel extra hard.  When you’re sick, look to some soothing restorative poses, yin asanas or supine stretches.  At least try for some cat-cow or a supine twist.  Supta baddha konasana is always a good idea!

Spirituality

The spiritual side of yoga isn’t for everyone, but it can be a great tool for staying steady emotionally and mentally.  I recommend incorporating some meditation and/or pranayama into your practice.  At the beginning or the end are usually the best time.

New Inspiration

Extra-long modern mala necklace with 108 hand-knotted Burmese beads (in green, black, and white) perfect for yoga and japa meditation
See Katia Yoga malas on Etsy

Goal: add a new poses to your repertoire once a week!

Finding new asanas that meet your skill level and categorical needs can be a challenge.  I recommend this book, 2,100 Asanas: The Complete Yoga Poses.  It’s filled with literally thousands of photos of asanas.  This is a great place to find new ideas.  Flipping through the pages is basically guaranteed to make you want to start to move.  The book is already massive so it doesn’t give a great deal of detail on getting into the poses.  When a pose is appealing but unclear, I turn to the internet.  These days even google has an archive of yoga poses.  There are lots of great sites with detailed how to’s regarding getting into the pose and alignment but it’s hard to find them if you don’t know the pose you’re looking for.  Knowing the name of a pose you want to try is a big help.  2100 can help you begin with that spark of inspiration.

The tree of life is a classic spiritual image in many different cultures. This poster is a print of an acrylic painting on canvas.
Click the tree of life print to check out our shop

If you are interested in a specific style of yoga, try to find a book that is directly related.  There is a lot of yoga theory and philosophy behind most styles and a bit of background can help you find the right intention to infuse into your practice.

Instagram is full of amazing yogis showing off their stuff.  This can also be a good place to find new flows and inspiration.  Also, participating in instagram challenges (whether you post your poses or not) is a good way to get into some different poses and learn from hosts who write about the alignment too.  Photographing your asanas is a helpful tool for checking your alignment if you don’t have a mirror in your yoga space. Pinterest also has lots of great infographics for how-to’s and sequences to try.

Personal Yoga JournalThe Complete Guide to Advancing your Yoga Self-practice: how to make a routine, add spirituality and pranayama, how to find new inspiration, stay motivated, and tracking your progress #selfpractice #yogapractice

A yoga journal or even yoga sketchbook could also be a nice way to keep track of your poses and weekly ideas.  You could possibly also make a calendar or tick boxes to track how often you practice.

Things to think about in a yoga class to find your favorite class or style or learn to be a better instructorIn this journal, you can also take some notes after yoga classes you attend.  Try to take note of new poses you like, fun flows your body enjoys and great quotes, themes or intentions you may want to include in your home practice.

 

This may sound like a lot.  That’s ok.  Take whatever pieces may work for you and your practice.  Your practice is only for you so do whatever makes you feel good and makes you want to roll out your mat again and again.  Be proud of whatever you do!

 

 

Complete Guide to Pranayama, meaning breath control (one of the 8 limbs of yoga): 8 different types of pranayama: how to do each one and benefits #pranayama #breath

Guide to the 8 Limbs of Yoga: Pranayama: breathing

Complete Guide to Pranayama, meaning breath control (one of the 8 limbs of yoga): 8 different types of pranayama: how to do each one and benefits #pranayama #breathPranayama means breath control or breath expansion.  It is the 4th of the 8 Limbs of Yoga.  Prana means life force or vital energy.  Yama means control or code of conduct.  Actually, pranayama is a combination of prana and ayama.  Ayama means expansion so pranayama is a way to expand your vital energy and vibrate on a higher frequency.

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links]

Vital energy flows through your body’s 108 nadis or energy channels and through the 7 energy centers or chakras.  Through pranayama breathing techniques, you can direct life force into your body and choose how to use it.  Some pranayama techniques are meant to soothe the body, while others are aimed at energizing.  Pranayama can also help clear blockages in your energy channels.

Breath is composed for 4 parts:

  • pooraka (inhalation)
  • rechaka (exhalation)
  • antar kumbhaka (internal breath retention)
  • bahir kumbhaka (external breath retention)

Different pranayama practices involve different aspects of the breath.  All pranayama techniques require you to focus on the breath.  In this way, pranayama acts as a meditation, becoming the only necessary thought for that moment.  Below are a few pranayama techniques to try.

Position for Pranayama

Most of these breathing techniques are typically practiced in a comfortable, tall (upright) seated position, eg. on a chair, in easy pose (sukhasana- below), or in lotus position (padmasana).  Allow your preoccupations and worries to take a break so you can focus on your breath.  If you can’t do this from the start, don’t worry it will probably come later as you concentrate on inhaling and exhaling.

Chin mudra Complete Guide to Pranayama, meaning breath control (one of the 8 limbs of yoga): 8 different types of pranayama: how to do each one and benefits #pranayama #breath
Chin mudra
Jnana mudra Complete Guide to Pranayama, meaning breath control (one of the 8 limbs of yoga): 8 different types of pranayama: how to do each one and benefits #pranayama #breath
Jnana mudra

Mudras can also be used during pranayama to help direct the flow of energy.  Chin and jnana are classic mudras that are often used in conjunction with pranayama.

To begin,take a couple of deep breaths, emptying all of your breath out on each exhale, allowing your body to start with fresh new air and focus for your pranayama.

Natural breath

Natural breath can be the simplest pranayama, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  Concentrating on your breath without controlling it is sometimes tough.  Allow yourself to simply observe your breath, feeling it come in and out of your nose.  Notice how it’s cool going into your body and warm going out.  Let go of everything else and just watch prana come and go.  Allow it to pump through your body and mind.

3-part breath

With this technique, you will start to harness and control your breath.  Empty all of the air out of your body, then inhale directly into your diaphragm, filling the lowest part of your belly first.  As more breath enters your body, send it into your lungs, expanding through the sides of your rib cage.  Finally, let the last bits of the inhale fill your chest and raise through your clavicles (collar bone) and scapula (shoulder blades).  Your body is absolutely full of breath and prana.

On your exhale, you will empty the breath with equal care and concentration.  Start by allowing the shoulders and the chest to drop back down toward the ribs as the breath underneath them empties.  Then let the lungs and the rib cage contract as the breath leaves them.  Finally, empty the breath from deep down in your diaphragm, the pit of your belly.  You should be totally empty now, full of potential for your next breath pouring in.

This breathing technique is great for developing awareness of your body and breath.  It also focuses the mind.

Samavrtti

Complete Guide to Pranayama, meaning breath control (one of the 8 limbs of yoga): 8 different types of pranayama: how to do each one and benefits #pranayama #breathSamavrtti is a practice of creating the same length inhale and exhale.  Start by trying to breath in for 4 counts and out for 4 counts.  Try to stabilize and equalize the length of your inhales and exhales.  Once you are confident with this technique, try retaining the breath  for a count at the top of the inhale before continuing.  The third stage is retaining the breath at the bottom of the exhale instead.  As you become more comfortable with this technique, you can try lengthening your count.  When practicing sahita or retention, make the retention 1/3 as long as the count of the inhale and exhale (eg. inhale for 6, hold for 2, exhale for 6)

Samavrtti focuses the mind and calms the body.

Ujjayi

Ujjayi is often practiced during yoga.  It is infamous for its soft oceanic sound, like waves rolling in and out.  Others describe it as a hiss.  Start with natural breath, breathing normally from your nose.  Then slowly shift your awareness  to your throat.  Imagine you are breathing from the back of your throat.  Pull the breath in and push it out, as if you are breathing from a small hole in your throat. Breath is directed to the back of the throat.  Try to contract the glottis (vocal cords).  There will be a slight sound almost like snoring.  It doesn’t need to be loud enough for others to hear, contrary to what many instructors may say.

Ujjayi tranquilizes and heats the body, soothing the nervous system and mind.

Nadi Shodhana

Guide to Nadi Shodhana: How to and BenefitsNadi shodhana is my favorite pranayama technique.  In Nadi Shodhana, you breathes through one nostril and then the other.  Using the right hand, you can block the right nostril with the thumb and the left nostril with the ring finger (middle and pointer are folded down).  Inhale on the right with the left nostril closed, then change the hand positioning to open the left nostril and close the right nostril to exhale.  Inhale left and change over to exhale on the right.  Inhale right, then change your hand positioning and exhale left.

Nadi Shodhana is a great practice for reducing stress, removing toxins, and balancing energies.

To learn more and see pictures of the techniques, click the picture on the right.

Bhastrika

In Bhastrika, your diaphragm moves in and out like bellows stoking a fire. Take a deep breath in, drawing air into the diaphragm and expanding the belly.

The longyi yoga pants are inspired by the beautiful fabrics of Myanmar. Soft fabric with 4-way stretch made in the USA. High waist and inner pocket.
Click to check out the yoga shop

Then breathe out forcefully through the nose, pushing the air out.  With the same force, pull the air in again.  Repeat this process ten times then take a break with normal breath.  Then take another 4 rounds of bhastrika breath.  This practice can be done with increasing speed as you become more familiar with it.  Also, once you are comfortable, try bhastrika through one nostril at a time.

Bhastrika removes toxins and strengthens the nervous system.  It increases the metabolism and clears out the airways.

Kapala Bhati

Kapala Bhati is similar to bhastrika, except the inhale is casual rather than forced.  Inhale naturally then exhale by contracting the abdominal muscles, pushing the air out.  The inhale will be a natural reaction to the forceful expulsion of breath.  Repeat 10 times then take a break with normal breathing before continuing on to another round.

Kapala Bhati energizes the mind and clears the airways.

Kali

Kaliasana: meaning, methodology, and breath-workKali breathing is great for bringing heat and energy into the body.  There are a few variations on this breath.  Click the photo to learn more about the goddess Kali and building energy like she does.

 

Much of this information can be found in the Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha book if you’re interested in further reading.

Rooftop Yoga Scene in Mandalay Myanmar by Katia Yoga

Rooftop Yoga Class in Mandalay

Donation-based yoga starting November 20!

Tuesdays at 5 on the roof of Ayeyarwaddy School’s teachers’ building.

Yoga classes include

  • pranayama (breath-work)
  • meditation
  • asanas

Bring your own mat if possible; I only have two spares.  Also bring some form of ID to get onto the compound.

*I left Mandalay at the end of May so this class is no longer available*

 

 

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click through and purchase something I will receive a commission. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t love it!]

Kaliasana: how to do the poses, meaning, benefits, and info on the Goddess of Destruction #kali #kaliasana #goddessofdestruction

Kaliasana: how to do the poses, meaning, benefits, and info on the Goddess of Destruction

Kaliasana: how to do the poses, meaning, benefits, and info on the Goddess of Destruction #kali #kaliasana #goddessofdestructionKaliasana is one of my favorite poses.  It’s so strong and empowering, just like the Goddess of Destruction herself.  I hope you enjoy the pose and the great goddess as much as I do!

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links]

About Kali

Kali is the Hindu goddess of destruction, power, time, and transformation.  She is also sometimes called the Divine Mother.  She has blue or black skin and usually sticks out her tongue.  In 4 of her hands, she carries a trident, a sword, a human head, and a bowl catching the blood dripping from the head.  She is often portrayed dancing on her consort, the God Shiva.  She is a ferocious goddess with a necklace of human heads and a skirt of arms.  This is symbolism; Kali helps souls find liberation from attachment to their bodies at the end of their life.

Kaliasana: How-to

For Kaliasana, spread your feet wide and at a slight outward angle.  Sit into a deep, low squat, keeping your back straight.  Bring your arms up parallel with your shoulders then bend at the elbow to create a goal post shape.  Bend your wrists so your palms are facing up to the sky.  For the full expression, look at your third eye with your two open eyes and stick out your tongue as far as it can go.  This powerful pose helps create energy, and strengthens the body, especially the legs.

Pranayama: Breathe like Kali

To take it even further, you can add Kali pranayama or breath-work.  I have seen a few different variations.  Also for other types of pranayama, click the pranayama image below

Kali Breath Variation 1

  1. Begin in Kaliasana as described above8 Limbs of Yoga: Pranayama, breath control: about and how to
  2. On an inhale, rise up from your squat, keeping your legs wide and opening your palms with fingers pointed up to the sky. Bring your tongue into your mouth
  3. On an exhale, sit back down into the squat, squeezing your hands into tight fists.  As you exhale, stick out your tongue and breath out like a daring dark goddess would, or as if you want to fog up a mirror.  Remember to look up toward your third eye
  4. Continue for 10 rounds

Kali Breath Variation 2

  1. Begin standing in mountain pose, tadanasa
  2. On an exhale, step out wide into Kaliasana, using the goddess breath, like you want to fog up a mirror, and sticking out your tongue
  3. On an inhale, step your leg back in and return to mountain pose
  4. On the next exhale, step out with the other leg, alternating which foot you step out with on each round
  5. Continue for 10 rounds

Kali Breath Variation 3

  1. Sitting deeply into your squat, start with your arms extended down, straight in front of you, palms together
  2. On an inhale, raise your arms in front of your body until they are overhead, keeping your palms together
  3. On an exhale, open your arms out to the sides and bring your hands to meet in front of your body again (option: stick your tongue out and breath out like you want to fog up a mirror on each exhale and bring your tongue back in on each inhale)
  4. Continue for 10 rounds

Guide to Nadi Shodhana: How to and Benefits

Nadi Shodhana: Alternate Nostril Breathing: how to, benefits, mudras, and meaning

Use your ring finger to close the left nostril for Nadi Shodhana
Use your ring finger to close the left nostril for Nadi Shodhana

Nadi Shodhana is a kind or Pranayama (breathwork) that involves breathing through alternate nostrils.  Nadi means river, stream or channel.  In this case, it refers to the energy channels, called nadis.  Shodhana means refinement or purification.  Nadi Shodhana is a purifying breath that helps align the energy channels of the body.

Nadi Shodhana is one of my favorite kinds of pranayama.  I like to start my day and my classes with it.

Common mudra for Nadi Shodhana
Common mudra for Nadi Shodhana

Right hand positioning

To help close one nostril at a time, use your right hand.  Fold down your pointer and middle finger.  Then turn your hand so your palm and turned down fingers are facing your chest.  You will use your thumb to close your right nostril and your ring finger to close the left.  When you do this pranayama, you want to put your finger on the part of your nose where the bone meets the cartilage.  This way, you can ensure the nostril is sealed off.

Fingers crossed for additional stability for Nadi Shodhana
Fingers crossed for additional stability for Nadi Shodhana

Alternate mudras (hand gestures) for the right hand:

1.  With your pointer and middle finger pointing down, you can wrap your ring finger around behind your pinkie. This makes the fingers more stable. If you use this mudra, you will use your pinkie to close the left nostril.

You can use your middle and pointer fingers on the third eye in Nadi Shodhana
You can use your middle and pointer fingers on the third eye in Nadi Shodhana

 

 

2.  Instead of folding down your pointer and middle finger, it’s also possible to use them to gently press your third eye. This can be calming, and can help bring awareness to the pranayama.

 

Preparing the body

Find a comfortable seat and sit up nice and tall.  You can rest your left hand on your knee, open or in any mudra (gesture) that you like.  Sometimes the fingers naturally come towards each other to form a mudra.  If this is true for you, follow your body to the mudra.

Use your thumb to close the right nostril for Nadi Shodhana
Use your thumb to close the right nostril for Nadi Shodhana

Before you begin, empty out all of your breath so you can start fresh for Nadi Shodhana.

 

For Nadi Shodhana

Close your right nostril with your thumb and breathe in through the left.  Move your hand to close your left nostril (and open the right) to exhale.  Inhale through the right, then move your hand to close the right nostril with your thumb and open the left nostril to exhale.

So: inhale, change, exhale, inhale, change, exhale

Practice this pranayama for 10 rounds (one round means inhaling and exhaling on each side)

Option to use the pointer and middle finger on the third eye to add to the calming effects of Nadi Shodhana
Option to use the pointer and middle finger on the third eye to add to the calming effects of Nadi Shodhana

 

 

Benefits of Nadi Shodhana

Nadi Shodhana helps bring oxygen into the blood stream, which is good for the respiratory and nervous system.  This type of pranayama also calms and focuses the mind, relieving stress and reducing anxiety.

 

 

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click through and purchase something I will receive a commission. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t love it!]