Category Archives: Pranayama

‘medium’ and ‘breathable’

Partly it’s going to be based on your mood, or your feeling at the time. It’s going to be based on what the posture is demanding. The point is, the breath is breathable. It’s varying. Guruji, he said that the breath is a medium breath. Which meant that it’s not too long and it’s not too short. It’s not like your best pranayama each vinyasa position — if that was the case, it would take too long; it would become forced, unnatural.

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breathing in yoga

inhale_exhale

The elegant shapes and impressive contortions of the asanas may be the most eye-catching element of hatha yoga, but yoga masters will tell you they’re hardly the point of practice.

Pranayama, the formal practice of controlling the breath, lies at the heart of yoga. The ancient sages taught that prana, the vital force circulating through us, can be cultivated and channeled through a panoply of breathing exercises. Pranayama serves as an important bridge between the outward, active practices of yoga—like asana—and the internal, surrendering practices that lead us into deeper states of meditation.

Many accomplished yogis will tell you that minding the breath is central to the practice of yoga. But take a tour of a dozen yoga classes in the West and you’re likely to discover just as many approaches to pranayama. You may be taught complex techniques with daunting names like Kapalabhati (Skull Shining) and Deergha Swasam (Three-Part Deep Breathing) before you even strike your first pose. You may find breathing practices intermingled with the practice of the postures. Or you may be told that pranayama is so advanced and subtle that you shouldn’t bother with it until you’re well versed in the intricacies of inversions and forward bends.

So what’s a yogi to do? Breathe deep into the belly or high up into the chest? Make a sound so loud the walls shake or keep the breath as quiet as a whisper? Practice breathing techniques on your own or weave them throughout your existing asana practice? Dive into pranayama from the get-go or wait until you can touch your toes? To help answer these questions and sample the range of yogic breathing, we asked experts from six yoga traditions to share their approaches to pranayama.

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Excerpts of Yoga Journal article, Six Views on Breathing in Yoga, by Claudia Cummins


faith connections – documentary

A spectacular exploration of varied paths of devotion that converge at one of the world’s most extraordinary religious events — the Kumbh Mela — Pan Nalin’s thoughtful documentary is a genuinely spiritual journey.


kelly mcgonigal: how to make stress your friend

Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.


yoga for chronic pain

yoga for chronic pain

Worldwide, 1 in every 5 adults suffers from chronic pain (Breivik, Hattori & Moulin 2005). In the United States, the number is even higher. A recent survey found that more than half of Americans live with chronic or recurring pain that interferes with their mood, sleep, ability to work and enjoyment of life (ABC News 2005). The National Institutes of Health (NIH), citing pain as the number-one reason Americans seek medical care, estimates that the annual total cost of pain in the U.S. is more than $100 billion in health care and lost productivity (NIH 2003). To address this growing problem, Congress officially declared 2000–2010 the “Decade of Pain Control and Research.” Halfway through this 10-year period, yoga has emerged as a powerful tool to help relieve the suffering associated with chronic pain.

Understanding Chronic Pain

Chronic pain triggers vary broadly and include traumatic injury, autoimmune disorders and musculoskeletal problems. Whatever the initial cause, all chronic pain shares a common effect: the frustration it causes to both sufferers and healthcare providers. By its very definition, chronic pain—pain that lasts 3 months or longer—has not been successfully managed through medical treatment or self-care. Individuals with chronic pain have typically tried—and found little relief from—an exhausting number of remedies, including over-the-counter and prescription medications, massage, chiropractic care and physical therapy.

Yoga Research Reiew

Because chronic pain is a mind-body phenomenon, many researchers and chronic-pain sufferers are turning to yoga for pain relief. Yoga integrates physical movement, which can play an important role in pain recovery, with mindful practices that address the cognitive and emotional components of pain. Studies show that yoga can reduce not only the experience of pain itself but also the emotional distress and physical disability associated with it, as well as the use of pain medication (Kolasinski et al. 2005; Garfinkel et al. 1998; Gaur et al. 2001). Two recent clinical trials demonstrated the benefits of yoga for back pain, the most commonly experienced form of pain among adults in the U.S. (ABC News 2005).

Building Self-Efficacy

Research suggests that self-efficacy, the belief that you can cope with the stress and challenges of a specific situation, is an important part of recovering from, or adjusting to, chronic pain (Turner, Ersek & Kemp 2005). Greater self-efficacy is associated with less pain-related disability and depression, even when controlling for pain intensity. Self-efficacy also predicts individuals’ willingness to use physical exercise and stretching as a way to manage pain.

Dealing with Fear of Activity

Chronic pain and fear of pain can become part of a vicious cycle: Fear leads to avoiding any activity that might trigger pain, and inactivity leads to greater physical disability and pain (Boersma & Linton 2005). Research shows that breaking this cycle, and being willing to engage in activity, is an important predictor of improvements in both physical function and emotional suffering (McCracken & Eccleston 2005).

Teaching Mindfuness

In yoga, mindfulness is the ability to notice sensation, to focus attention on the present moment and to move with conscious intention. This turns out to be incredibly important for individuals with chronic pain, as they learn to face their fear of activity and develop new ways of being present in their bodies. Along with avoidance, many individuals have learned to rely on distraction as a coping strategy. Distraction makes it possible to ignore pain and perform an activity in the short term. However, people who use distraction as a coping strategy during activity experience more pain afterward than those who stay mentally engaged (Goubert et al. 2004).

Core Lessons

Chronic pain is a complex and frustrating phenomenon. The good news is that effective yoga for chronic pain classes do not need to be either complicated or overwhelming. Research and experience suggest that the most beneficial interventions distill the practice of yoga to its core lessons: how to breathe; how to take care of yourself through conscious movement and a balance of rest and activity; and how to make peace with the present moment. These, of course, are useful lessons for all of us—not just those in chronic pain. But for those in pain, the lessons of yoga may mean the difference between the usual moment of suffering and the much-sought-after moment of ease in mind and body.

Excerpts from Yoga for Chronic Pain: Adapted practices and interventions from hatha yoga help pain sufferers learn how to cope and thrive. By Kelly McGonigal, PhD


yoga for parkinson’s disease

Yoga-and-Parkinsons-Disease-by-Peggy-van-Hulsteyn

Whatever the early symptoms, PD is a degenerative disease characterized by a loss of dopamine-producing nerve cells in the substantia nigra region of the brain. Dopamine is the chemical responsible for coordinating muscles and quick, smooth movements. For reasons that aren’t clearly understood, a person with Parkinson’s loses these cells and produces insufficient amounts of dopamine for normal motor control. An estimated 1.5 million Americans have PD, and about 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, according to the National Parkinson Foundation. Unfortunately, by the time a problem is noticed, most people are producing only about 20 percent of the dopamine they normally would.

Degeneration in Parkinson’s patients is usually tracked over five stages. Very often a spouse or a friend will notice that you’re taking smaller steps or you’re having a problem with balance; other clues are a softening of the voice and tremors on one side of the body. By the second stage, symptoms begin to affect both sides, and day-to-day tasks become more difficult. After stage three, people lose the ability to walk straight or to stand. Tremors and severe immobility take over motor control at the fourth stage, when assisted-living care usually becomes necessary. At the final stage, a person may not be able to walk or stand, and one-on-one nursing care is then required.

“We need more studies to determine the most effective type of yoga for people with Parkinson’s and at what dosage,” says Becky Farley, a physical therapist and research assistant professor at the University of Arizona. “However, I’ve seen what happens when people with PD embrace yoga…It [induces] relaxation, which helps control tremors, activates affected muscle groups, and can be a steady reminder of where your body should be and how it should move.”

In her own research, Farley found that certain exercises that target the torso and trunk can help prevent rigidity and maintain normal walking and a sense of balance. Stiffness in the body’s core is one of the most debilitating symptoms of PD because it hampers a person’s ability to walk across a room or simply stand upright. Restorative twists and poses that strengthen the trunk are thought to reduce stiffness and improve mobility.

The instructions a yoga teacher gives in class, of course, build awareness by getting you to concentrate on the details of the poses. But they also focus the mind and therefore bring you to the present. They ask you to tune in to subtle movements of your body. For someone with Parkinson’s, this is particularly helpful. As dopamine levels decrease, it’s also common to become less and less aware of the motor control that you’re losing. But the mind-body awareness that yoga encourages helps [one] self-correct and compensate for these new impairments.

In 2005, a pilot study conducted at Cornell University placed 15 people with Parkinson’s in 10 weeklong yoga programs, after which participants reported less trunk stiffness, better sleep, and a general feeling of well-being. “A surprising side effect was the social support the class provided,” says neurologist Claire Henchcliffe, director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Institute at Weill Cornell. “I think a lot hinges on sharing problems that doctors simply don’t have firsthand experience with. At a support group, people get great firsthand information and become proactive.”

Excerpts from Yoga Journal Article Moving On With Parkinson’s by Peggy van Hulsteyn


breath of the gods