Tag Archives: Yoga Therapy

What is Pranayama?

Pranayama is a term that refers to yogic breathing exercises, but there’s much more to be gained from learning to practice pranayama than just taking deeper breaths. The word “prana” actually refers to the vital life force that is within all living things. In Light on Pranayama, perhaps the most quintessential text on pranayama, B.K.S. Iyengar says,

“It is as difficult to explain Prana as it is to explain God. Prana is the energy permeating the universe at all levels.  It is physical, mental, intellectual, sexual, spiritual and cosmic energy. All vibrating energies are prana. All physical energies such as heat, light, gravity, magnetism and electricity are also prana. It is the hidden or potential energy in all beings, released to the fullest extent in times of danger. It is the prime mover of all activity. It is energy which creates, protects and destroys. Vigour, power, vitality, life and spirit are all forms of prana.”

Prana also denotes pure consciousness — mental focus is just one other facet of energy. The practice of “prana” (breath, life, vitality, respiration) – “yama” (expansion, extension, breadth), is the practice of expanding the vital life energy throughout the body. Pranayama has VAST benefits including — mental clarity, increased energy, a calm mind, emotional/energetic balance. According to Iyengar, “through the abundant intake of oxygen by its disciplined techniques, subtle chemical changes take place in the …body…and the practice of pranayama regulates [the] flow of prana thorughout the body…it also regulates…thoughts, desires and actions, gives poise and the tremendous will-power needed to become a master of oneself.”

So much potential gain from some breathing exercises, right?? Whether you’re sold yet, or not, I can assure you that it’s a worthy practice! This is why I created two videos to introduce you to the basics of pranayama.  Regardless of whether yoga is your thing, or not, everyone can benefit from learning how to breathe better. Check out the two videos below and comment below this post to let me know how it goes! I’ll be sure to read all of your comments/questions/suggestions.

In Part 1, I talk about what “prana” is and the importance of sitting properly during breathing exercises. I also teach you how to practice Ujjayi (you-JI-ee) pranayama, along with reclining options for practicing breathing exercises.

In Part 2 I show you how to practice Nadi Shodhana pranayama. ***Note: I got distracted at the end by my kids arriving home. I was afraid someone would come in and interrupt the video, so I ended it without finishing the last round of nadi shodhana. When you practice, continue as long as you’d like making sure to finish with exhaling through the left nostril.

Interested in learning more about Pranayama and Yoga? I’ll keep offering freebies on this blog and my YouTube channel. Let me know below what you’d like to see more of! Or, if you’re ready to dive in deep, check out my 6-week online yoga course, Renew You!

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Meet Piriformis

I love all the variations of Pigeon Pose, but that’s not the reason I use some variance of it in almost EVERY yoga class that I teach. One of the major target areas in the pose is the lateral rotators of the hip. One of them is pretty famous. Have you met Piraformis yet? Even if you don’t know her by name, I’m almost positive you’ve felt her presence. Especially if you’ve ever attempted any form of #Ekapadarajakapotasana.
The reason this group of six muscles is so important is because they get a LOT of use, and not a lot of thanks. Any time that you walk, run, jump, turn a leg out, or do Urdhva Dhanurasana, you are using them. These muscles are balanced by the inner thighs, but unfortunately there aren’t as many instances where we use the inner thighs in our daily lives. (Tips for strengthening those coming soon in another post!)
Since we are so demanding of our lateral rotators, it becomes even more important to S-T-R-E-T-C-H them! All of the pigeon variations, and any other poses that include forward bending with a bent knee and externally rotate the thigh are really great for targeting the piriformis, and the other 5 lateral rotators. Baddha Konasana, Thread the Needle, and Happy Baby to name a few.
One thing to be keenly aware of as you’re attempting any of these types of hip-opening poses is the placement and actions of your feet. Keeping the front foot (or both feet in symmetrical poses) flexed and ankle(s) engaged will protect the knees from straining, so that the stretch is directed into hip.  In comparison to the hip joint, which involves large bones and several strong muscles to hold it in place, the knee is a very unstable joint which is built more for agility, and not so much stability; therefore, especially when the hips are tighter, it is imperative to pay attention to the articulation of the feet!
 Yoga can make such a significant, positive improvement in the quality of one’s life, but good alignment is of utmost importance.  The feet play a very important role in the safety and efficacy of hip-opening asanas (postures), but there are many other pieces of the puzzle, too — like making sure that your sacrum is in the appropriate place so that you don’t injure your lower back, knowing when to sit up vs. bending forward (and how much), as well as proper action of the legs, and placement of the groins. My recommendation is that you come to a yoga class (wink! wink!). But seriously, a great yoga teacher is worth way more than the national average cost of a yoga class ($10-20)!  How much do you value your well-being?
If you’d like to learn more about how Yoga can help you with hip and/or lower back pain, I would love to see you for my next Therapeutic Yoga for Hips workshop coming up…
Sunday, August 14th 3:00-5:00pm @ Sacred Space! Please call to sign up: 349-4986!
Please leave a question, or comment below, or contact me through the form provided under the ‘Yoga’ tab at the top of the page.