In this week’s Overheard in Yoga Class, Claire Missingham explains that in Ayurveda, routine, ritual and process are important for creating health and balance. Similarly, sometimes we need to allow ourselves to undo habits as well, perhaps we may get stuck or not challenge ourselves enough. By acknowledging how we need to create change, the yoga practice can be the catalyst for renewal.
Spring is officially here (according to the calendar, at least) and transitioning gracefully from one season to the next can be a bit of a challenge — especially from winter to spring when most of us are still feeling sluggish or “stuck” from being cooped up indoors. As the seasons change our bodies change, so it’s important that we don’t become stagnant — we need to create balance and healthy circulation in order to move with the seasons. Think of the changing of seasons as time for renewal, a time to wipe the slate, undo some habits and start anew. This constant shedding as the seasons change help us to let go so we continue to grow and transform.
Ready for an internal renewal? This week’s featured classes will restore and balance your body, mind and spirit so you can renew your commitment to your wellness, to your heart and to yourself.
Catalyst for Renewal with Claire Missingham: In Ayurveda, routine, ritual and process are important for creating health and balance. For instance, creating an evening routine to establish good sleep patterns or waking early for pranayama and meditation practice at dawn. Similarly, sometimes we need to allow ourselves to undo habits as well, perhaps we may get stuck or not challenge ourselves enough, especially when it’s cold outside. By acknowledging how we need to create change, the yoga practice can be the catalyst for renewal. Inspired by the urge to change things up, so we don’t become stuck in our practice or in our lives. This freeing and enlivening class of detailed alignment, specific hand positions in poses (mudra), breathing techniques (pranayama) and kriyas for an inspired multi-dimensional Vinyasa Flow. This yoga practice uses intelligent, creative and disciplined sequences, that unravel repetitive patterns and leave you feeling free and refreshed. We do variations of arm positions and transitions between poses and become more aware of using alternative clasps of the hands and fingers. This will free up the 14 main joints in the body, and open the spine in all 3 planes of movement (saggital, coronal and transverse).
Revitalize & Restore with Tiffany Cruikshank: A yummy restorative class, a refresher for the legs, chest & spine and a nice way to transition into sleep. This class is great at the end of the day if you stand on your feet or sit at a desk to revitalize the tissues and can be done when you get home or just before bed. If you’re using it for sleep try crawling into bed right after this class. Props: Thick mat or towel, wall space.
Yoga Nidra for Healing & Inspiration with Rod Stryker: Deep rest is key to healing and rejuvenation as well as improved focus. Enjoy this twenty minute Yoga Nidra session, the ancient yogic science of relaxation, and experience how twenty minutes of guided, systematic, relaxation practice can replenish and renew you. Use it to start your day, rest in the middle of it, or just before falling asleep and unlock your innate capacity for healing, inspiration, and peace. Props Suggested: Blanket to lay on or cover up with. Blanket or pillow for head, Bolster under the knees.
Revive, Refresh, Renew with Elena Brower: This class will highlight your power center, your solar plexus. Poses will be sequenced in order to focus you fully in your 3rd chakra, open it up, and bring it back to life so you can renew your commitment to your wellness, to your heart, to yourself.
Retreat with Marc Holzman: A very special class that honors the holistic nature of Yoga and is perfect to refresh, revive and go deep into the body/mind/heart. 30 minutes of slo-flo asana to move energy and open hips. Five minutes of japa (mantra repetition) to manifest our desires, three minutes pranayama to move to deeper into the subtle, seven minutes meditation to steep in the delicious heart space and five minutes savasana to restore. Props Recommended: A blanket, two blocks, a chair, or whatever you need to sit comfortably for 20 minutes.
In this week’s Overheard in Yoga Class, Rod Stryker explains that the navel center is the center that’s key to perception, our ability to see clearly. It is the center for processing — it’s how we break down what we experience mentally and emotionally. It is directly related to confidence, vitality and our relationship with the world and life. So yoga has great potential to expand us, but if we cultivate the navel it allows us to really be a force for the good, a force for what we experience in that expanded state and to be able to effortlessly express it into the world.
Learning how to breathe isn’t just a neat little thing you can do when you do yoga – it’s a central, and, some would say, nonnegotiable part of the practice. Pranayama, the art and science of controlling the breath, is an integral part of the Eight Limbs: Getting your body into the right state through breathing is the threshold to the next goals – focusing attention and calming the mind. Regulating your breathing has a measurable effect on the nervous system, so whether you’re a yogi or not, learning how to breathe differently can be life-changing. And a specific kind of breathing, known as ujjayi breath, is a very effective way to home into that calming, regulating part of the nervous system.
“Ujjayi is also called Ocean Sounding Breath,” says DevarshiSteven Hartman, Dean of the Pranotthan School of Yoga and the former head of Kripalu’s School of Yoga. “But the difficulty is with the simplicity. True enlightenment lies in the continual practice of this breath alone.”
The key, he says, is to layer ujjayi on top of dirgha breath, which itself breaks down into three separate phases. “Dirgha breath is learning to articulate the full range of expression of your inhale and exhale with consciousness,” says Hartman. “With dirgha breath, one breathes first into the lower abdomen, belly, then fills the middle (the ribs), then up to the top (the chest and clavicles). When exhaling, one empties from the top down – chest, ribs, then belly. Inhale belly, ribs, and chest. Exhale chest, ribs, and belly. Learning how to fully articulate the lung’s capacity helps to break open habitual patterning in the breath, restoring consciousness to resisted emotion and experience.”
Once you have dirgha breath down, you can bring in ujjayi. “By slightly constricting the glottis (the back of the throat) one creates a smaller passageway for the breath which results in a sound like the ocean, or the beginning of a snore. Some call this the Darth Vader Breath.” As Jason Crandell says, what you want to do in ujjayi breath is reduce the aperture of the throat to get slow, smooth, regulated breath. Imagine that you’re trying to fog an imaginary mirror in front of you – it will be audible and intentional, but not labored.
Hartman says that part of the value in this type of breath is that it may stimulate the vagus nerve, which among many basic bodily functions, is also linked to mood. “Recent studies have been focusing on the importance of vagal tone and happiness. The parasympathetic nervous system is soothed, natural endorphins (antidepressants) are released, the fright/flight response reduces, mental activity calms, the heart rate slows, digestion is aided, and much more – all from dirgha-ujjayi breath.”
Deliberate breathing not only calms the nervous system in a physical way, but since it gives us something to focus our attention on, it also calms the mind in another way.The “monkey mind” phenomenon that many of us experience every day happens when the mind is unfocused and allowed to spin in multiple directions. But focusing attention on the breath (or on anything, for that matter) can reign in the wandering mind. “Practicing dirgha ujjayi breath results in becoming more present in your life,” says Hartman. “It establishes the ability to be in charge of directing your attention on what you choose, deliberately calming the common chatter of the mind at will. This ability begins to break existing thought patterns that are indoctrinated, unhelpful and unconscious. Witness consciousness (Vijnana Maya Kosha) is re-established and you become free to choose where and what you wish to place your attention on… Clearly being able to deliberately direct your attention is a foundational skill for obtaining a sense of well-being, happiness and self-improvement.”
Again, ujjayi breath can be integrated into your practice whether you’re doing asana or a stiller form of meditation. And the great thing about it is that you can take it with you outside the home, at work, sitting in the park, or even in a coffee shop. (If you’re self-conscious, you can do it a little more quietly, but for the most part, ujjayi is quieter than you think, and passersby aren’t likely to take notice.)
“Throughout the scriptures,” says Hartman, “the authors explain clearly that yoga asana without deliberate breath is not yoga at all; merely gymnastics. Deliberate and conscious breath, dirgha ujjayi, ignites the whole being into presence, integration, and ultimately the true knowing of the experience of bliss…beyond words.”
He says to try ujjayi breath wherever you are, and as often as you can. “Just begin,” he says. “That’s the assignment.” He suggests making it a key part of your practice now and in the future, whether you’re doing asana, a sitting meditation, or just taking in the view of your cityscape or landscape. “That’s yoga – union,” he says. “Yoga is not yoga without ujjayi breath. Begin.”
Alice G. Walton, PhD is a health and science writer, and began practicing (and falling in love with) yoga last year. She is the Associate Editor at TheDoctorWillSeeYouNow.com and a Contributor at Forbes.com. Alice will be exploring yoga’s different styles, history, and philosophy, and sharing what she learns here on the YogaGlo blog. You can follow Alice on Twitter @AliceWalton and Facebook at Facebook.com/alicegwalton.
If you Glo in LA or in the surrounding area, come join us this Saturday & Sunday, as David Harshada Wagner will be in town teaching FREE Meditation classes at the YogaGlo studio. You will not want to miss this!
Harshada’s Class Schedule:
Saturday, March 29th: 10-11:00am – Meditation, “Empower Yourself – Empower Others” Examining how we embrace and enhance our power with practice and how we diminish our power with negative thoughts and other unconscious lifestyle choices. Includes Discussion and Guided Meditation.
Sunday, March 30th: 1o-11:00am – Meditation, Taking Your Meditation Off Your Cushion” An exploration of what it means to “live” our meditation. We will learn a simple and powerful practice to make each session of sitting practice count and translate into action in our day. Open to all levels of meditation experience. Includes discussion and Guided Meditation.
Don’t miss this opportunity to take amazing classes with this amazing teacher. Please check out out our class schedule for more information and head on down to the Glo!
Sally Kempton explains that one of the deepest, mind, body, heart, transforming words is the word trust. Because so many of us don’t quite trust. We don’t trust in ourselves, in others, in the universe, or in a higher power. We of course have many good reasons for not trusting. Most of us have experienced some form of betrayal in our life that has affected our ability to trust. But in order to enter into the experience of union, of oneness, of interconnectedness, of fearlessness, one of the core recognitions that we have to open up to is our capacity to trust. It might take some time, but we all have the ability to do it.
This week’s featured classes will help shift you mentally, physically and emotionally into a place of trust and acceptance.
Opening to Trust with Sally Kempton: Meditation on a sutra uses the power of an idea to transform your awareness. In this sweet practice, Sally leads us into the inner body with the thought “Trust”, and allows us to taste the experience of opening in trust.
Mythic Flow – Nataraja with Sianna Sherman: All levels – backbends and trust. This is the story of Nataraja’s dance party in the Tilai forest. This dance is the expression of total bliss and the power of Grace. A wide variety of backbends are explored leading to the ultimate expression of Natarajasana. An energetic and up-tempo sequence to enliven the heart with expanding trust in the currents of our lives.
Trust the Yoga with Steven Espinosa: We begin with a brisk opening to warm up our bodies. Then transition into a Standing Poses Flow with Warriors 1 and 2 & Triangle. Followed by a sequence of Seated Poses and Spinal Twists. Also includes Hip Openers and Back Bends. In this class we practice trusting the process of yoga to deliver the results we wish to cultivate in our lives.
Trust in Yourself with Elena Brower: Being The Prayer: we are the prayer, the one who prays, and the one who answers. This sequence of prayerful, repetitive standing poses, hip openers and a meditation will bring you into yourself, to your wisdom, to your prayer, and to your trust in yourself.
A Shared Moment of Trust with Marc Holzman: The world is literally stitched together by our trust in others and our own trustworthiness. This is a quick-paced class with dynamic hip-openers leading us into into handstand splits, Eka Pada Koundiyanasana and Three-Limbed Backbends.
Be Courageous with Tiffany Cruikshank: A fine balance of core & backbends as an expression of our ability to be courageous in our strength and stay in the intensity of our practice & our lives and still trust that we will be supported in the process. This is an intense non-stop flow, that is accessible but challenging. This class will give you a nice shot of energy for your day and leave you feeling vibrantly alive! Optional prop: Block