Energetic Pranyama

I’m sitting on the train and lacking all energy. Why is it always the night before a big day that you can’t sleep? I just can’t seem to slow my mind down and shut off while in bed when I know that I have 8 million things to do and places to go in the morning. So what should I do now that it is already morning and I am terribly tired?

Well chocolate is helping me gain back some energy levels but that may not be the best solution (although the most delicious!). So in between nibbles of chocolate I’m practicing a combination of two very energizing Pranyama breathing exercises. Ujjayi and Surya Bhedana.

Ujjayi is also known as breath of fire, ocean breath or Darth Vader breath because it sounds like all of those things! By constricting the back of our throats and directing the breath there while inhaling and exhaling through the nose, we can warm up our breath before it even enters the body, so that it enters the lungs already full of energy. We use a full yogic breath while practicing ujjayi and most other pranyama breathing exercises (see previous post for full yogic breath). This warm, hissing breath is used before energetic and fast paced yoga classes. The actual sound of the breath allows us to stay focused on our breathing, helping our minds not to wander. By simply using this technique as I sit here I can feel an immediate awakening and warming effect. Pretty incredible I thought.

Surya Bhedana is also very powerful as it awakens our Yang side. Everyone’s heard of Yin and Yang but do we know what it means? Well Yin and Yang are the 2 sides of everything that have polar opposite energy. Let’s make a chart…

Yin                           Yang

Left                          Right

Inner                       Outer

Feminine               Masculine

Moon                       Sun

Passive                    Aggressive

So you see the difference. By practicing right nostril breathing we awaken the more active side of all of us, the Yang. We simply take out right hand in Mrigi mudra (placing our index and middle fingers at the base of our thumb) closing our left nostril with our ring finger and we inhale through the right nostril. After a full yogic inhale we close our right nostril with our thumb and exhale through the left. Repeat by inhaling again through the right nostril and continue on this way for 5 to 10 full rounds. It is the inhale through the right nostril that activates the Yang and starts to give our bodies this active energy.

Give these two breathing methods a try the next time you’re feeling low on energy and let me know what subtle energy differences you feel!

My day is looking up and I hope yours is too,

Namaste, Katy.

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Conscious Breath: Full Yogic Breathing

Have you ever forgotten how to breathe? Have you ever found yourself suddenly gasping for air or feeling light-headed? I know I have.

As a child (especially while playing) I found myself randomly panting and gulping down air as fast as possible. I think this occurred because I would get excited about something, hold my breath and then suddenly Ahhhhh need air!

Breathing comes to us naturally but if you can believe it, most of us breathe incorrectly. In this day and age most people are running around from one task to the next. We can barely find time to sit down and eat a proper meal never mind find time to slow down and take some deep breaths, which is not so surprisingly, very important to our health.

Longer breaths = Longer life! It’s a simple concept that we can easily see in nature but somehow still overlook. Take the Tortoise for example. They move very slowly and this movement coincides with their long, slow breaths. A tortoise is said to live anywhere from 175-225 years. Incredible! A Hummingbird on the other hand has a total lifespan of around only 5 years. Just think about how fast they move, how much energy they use, and how hard that would be on their little bodies.

The exact same principle applies to humans as well! Those who run and rush through life often are shallow breathers, meaning they breath using only the upper lungs. Unfortunately these are the ones who are more often becoming sick with any number of diseases at an early age. Those people who can find just a few minutes everyday to slow down and breath properly tend to live long, health, disease free lives. When I say “breath properly” I mean they breath with their abdomen and entire lung capacity.

Try it now. First a shallow breath using only the upper part of your lungs and slight rise of the collarbones…not so relaxing right. The inhales and exhales are equally as short because there is just no space for a long smooth breath. Breathing this way tends to make us feel anxious, often sending us into Fight or Flight mode.

Now try a deep breath beginning by expanding the stomach, moving up through the lower lungs to reach the upper lungs and collar bones. Now exhale by lowering the collar bones as the air leaves your lungs and push all of the air out by contracting your stomach muscles.

How did that feel? Much more satisfying right! This is known as A Full Yogic Breath. This simple deep breathing practice has so many positive side effects including calming our nervous systems and steading our minds. By focusing on our breath in such a way we are able to feel a connection between mind, body and spirit. Seriously just close your eyes for 5 minute everyday and breath deeply. I bet you’ll notice an immediate sensation of calm and best of all when we practice this for just a few minutes everyday it will start to become a part of your everyday routine without even noticing!

Hope this read and 5 minute a day breathing practice has helped bring a little bit of calm into your busy life.

Namaste, Katy.

New to it All: the Yamas of Yoga pt. 5

Good Morning Monday. Hope you all had a great weekend 🙂

Today we will talk about the very last of the 5 Yamas, which is Aparigraha: Non-Possessiveness. But what were the first 4 Yamas again?

Review:

The Yamas are 5 basic ethical principles to live by. Things we can do everyday to improve our happiness and the happiness of the people around us.

– The first principle, Ahimsa, is Non-Violence. It means more than just not being cruel to those around us. It means we should always be considerate of those around us. Those around us and actually every little thing on this earth including ourselves!

– The second principle, Satya, is Truthfulness. Speak your truth with good intentions. Be honest with yourself about how you feel, you are allowed to feel however it is that you do. When we are first honest with ourselves it becomes easier to speak our truth to the world.

– The third principle, Asteya, is Non-Stealing. This means of course to never take something that doesn’t belong to you. But that “something” does not just mean a physical possession. That “something” also means time, moments, energy etc.

– The fourth principle, Brahmacharya, is Moderation and Use of Energy. Meaning that we should moderate the enjoyable things in our lives, because too much of anything isn’t good. This way we can save our energy and use it on our path to enlightenment.

Aparigraha: Non-Possessiveness. Take only what you need. Take only what you’ve earned. Share what you have! Similar to Brahmacharya we need to learn how to rid this need for possessions by keeping our senses in check. Our society is constantly telling us that we need more and more to remain happy. That is just some rich person in a tall tower trying to get richer by brainwashing us into buying their crap.

The truth is we need less to be happy. Minimalism is key! If something you have in your home doesn’t give you an obvious feeling of joy, its just clutter, so get rid of it.

This is a very hard thing to learn how to do because we are used to having so much. Believe me once you start to declutter your home, your office and your life in general you will begin to feel lighter. Your mind will automatically declutter as your surroundings become more peaceful and turn into a space that you can truly feel happy in. Living with only necessities can really help one find a sense of freedom in their lives.

Aparigraha also implies that it is important to be non-possessive not only of objects but also people and moments and thoughts and energies and traditions and pretty much everything in life because nothing ever stays the same.

So often when things change we become crippled by emotions of sadness or fear of this change. If we begin by practicing detachment from outside stimuli we never have to go through the difficult process of dealing with the changes. We can simply feel grateful that we had the opportunity to experience that thing even though it is now gone.

As I mentioned above practicing detachment by living a minimalistic lifestyle is not easy at first, but it is so worth it!

Well as a first time blogger I had great time writing about the Yamas of Yoga. I sure hoped you enjoyed the read! Any comments or helpful tips would be very much appreciated!

I hope you all have a great start to your week 🙂

Namaste, Katy.

New to it All: the Yamas of Yoga pt. 2

Good day everyone, I hope the sun is shining on you wherever you are and that your heart is full of love!

Yesterday I started talking about the Yamas, or step 1 of Patanjalis 8 Limbed Path to Yoga, which are ethical guidelines of how to live everyday purely! By applying these 5 disciplines to our every day lives we can begin to cultivate compassion for others, we become honest and we feel gratitude. And when we are compassionate, honest and grateful we are simply happier! And why not be happier?

Review: Characteristic 1 of the Yamas is Ahimsa (Non-Violence). Ahimsa tells us not to harm or be cruel to any living thing, including ourselves. Not even that annoying mosquito that is about to bite you, or that scary spider in the corner of your bedroom. We show compassion to everything no matter if we particularly like it or not. We must always be considerate of the feelings of others.

Moving on to characteristic 2. Satya: Truthfulness! How exciting 🙂

Satya simply means to speak the truth. But we all know that the truth can hurt sometimes therefore balancing Ahimsa and Satya can be tricky.

We need to first think about what we will say aloud. Consider what, how and when we say things and if we decide that it will unnecessary harm someone we keep it to ourselves. “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all” wise words from Disney’s beloved Thumper.

But what if you have something honest to say that could hurt someone’s feelings now but in the long run will help them out? For example telling a girlfriend she is being too needy with her new boyfriend and that she should back off and live her own life. No one likes to be told they’re needy, aka annoying, but if she were to take this advice, take her life back and stop catering to him, she would end up a lot happier! Some say this is going against Ahimsa and therefore you should keep your mouth shut. I think do it, hurt a friend to help them. Just be sure that your intentions are good! It sucks at first but they will thank you later. Remember to always always be considerate of HOW you bring up these problematic issues. Sometimes just how one says something is hurtful, when the message itself is actually not so bad.

Satya is also about finding your own truth. What is important and meaningful to you? What do you believe in? Do you believe what others tell you or do you formulate your own beliefs? What are your morals and priorities? Try your best to find your truth by doing the things that make you happy, for example, spend time with those you truly care about or take time to enjoy your hobbies. Most importantly be honest with yourself without judgment of your thoughts, wants and needs!

What could the third Yama be? Come back tomorrow to find out 😉

Now go out and enjoy this beautiful day and find your truth!

Namaste, Katy

New to it all: the Yamas of Yoga pt. 1

There is so much about yoga that I never knew! Even after attending classes in studios all over the world for the last 3 years I was unaware of mostly everything that yoga is. Of course I knew yoga was spiritual and that’s one the reason why I fell in love with it. To connect your mind, body and spirit through the moving meditation that is the posture practice really feels incredible. To be separate from your thoughts for even a moment can give you so much clarity. You learn that you are not what you think; you are the observer of your thoughts. With this knowledge you can see your thoughts more clearly, objectively and without judgment.

Anyways that is something I already knew about yoga. Something that I didn’t know is that the posture practice that we in North America think is yoga is actually only 1 of 8 steps to achieving the balance and good health that yoga offers. In fact the postures or “asana” in Sanskrit are only step 3 out of 8, not even high up on the list! But that doesn’t matter because in the end all of the steps work together to create the harmony in us that I believe we all long for. These 8 steps are known as The 8 Limbs of Yoga and were written by a person (not sure if they were a man, woman or possibly a whole group of people) known as Patanjali in a sacred text called The Yoga Sutras in around 200 A.D.

The 8 Limbs are really a lifestyle choice. A lifestyle choice that makes the connection between man and God, or man and a higher power, or man and the universe, or whatever you want to call it, possible!

In my teacher training course at Marina Yoga and Reiki in Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand we dove especially deep into the first 2 Limbs of the 8 Limbed Path known as Yamas and Niyamas which can be explained as basic ethical principles to live by. They are fairly simple concepts that should come to us naturally but that we all struggle with everyday.

In the course we spent a great deal of time taking only about the Yamas, which can be outlines as Virtues of Universal Mortality. I see them as the things we should all strive to do everyday to make the world a better place! There are 5 characteristics of the Yamas, which are Ahimsa (Non-Violence), Satya (Truthfulness), Asteya (Non-Stealing), Brahmacharya (Moderation) and Aparigraha (Non-Possessiveness).

Today we’ll talk a bit about Ahimsa, Non-Violence. Should be obvious right? Don’t be violent, don’t be mean. Easy peasy. No no no my friend it’s a little bit deeper. Ahimsa means more than simply not hurting or being cruel to those around you. It implies that we should consciously be kind and thoughtful of others. In every situation we must adopt a considerate attitude toward every living being.

“Any thought, word, or action that prevents us – or any other living being – from growing or living freely is harmful”. Notice how this quote states “us” before “any other living being”. I think this is the trickiest part of practicing Ahimsa. Non-violence towards ourselves! It is so easy to thing badly about ourselves, unfortunately it is natural and we all do it.

Imagine if instead of putting ourselves down and thinking “you’re so stupid” or “you could have done that better, try harder next time” we replaced these negative thoughts with kind, loving thoughts like “no matter what I AM ENOUGH” or “good try, you’ll get it next time”. If we can stop the violence as it starts in the mind we can move through life as peaceful beings and the world would truly be a better place.

Come back tomorrow as I will dig a little deeper into the rest of the Yamas 🙂

I wish you the best day possible filled with love, compassion and pure joy!

Namaste, Katy