Breathing and the Art of Relaxation

Rana Waxman yoga

The Modern Yogini in Savasana

Breathing and the Art of Relaxation: The photo itself is full of life and energy. There is a vibrant stillness and you can almost hear the sound of the babbling brook. Your breathing is naturally going to reflect the slower pace that your eyes are taking in. If you live a stressful, city life, the concrete and hustle and bustle, sirens, cars and general noise probably affect your breath tempo and quality in quite the opposite way.

It doesn’t have to be this way if you learn how to consciously relax, how to consciously monitor and pace your breathing. That is what the art of pranayama is about. Using techniques that can effect changes to heart rate, digestion, cellular function. To disengage the mind through your breath can induce a more calm feeling throughout. You certainly will have a harder time clenching your jaw or stiffening your shoulders when you are using relaxed, and conscious breathing. This will signal the nervous system that you are safe, in ‘control’, calm and prepared.

In the restorative yoga class I often teach passive chest openers to soften the restrictions in this area, in the shoulders, and upper back. Tight muscles often reflect in a tight and short breath. There are certainly some easy and fulfilling set ups with props that can do the trick, so if you want to learn, book a private or come to class

breathing for relaxation

breathing for relaxation

 

 

Supported Pranayama Practice

Supported Pranayama Practice

Supported Pranayama Practice can be used as an alternative to classical Savasana, and has many benefits, especially when the right props are used

Using props to support the torso in Savasana has many benefits:

  1. Especially with beginner students who tend to fall asleep during relaxation, this variation keeps students more alert than in classical Savasana
  2. Due to the elevation of the torso, it reduces nasal congestion
  3. The props help to support the shoulders and neck as well as open the chest
  4. The strategic placement of yoga props will aid students in feeling the alignment of their back ribs and the different components of breathing
  5. The support will help to roll the tops of the shoulder blades back, whereas many people suffer from the postural imbalances of rounding shoulders and forward head
  6. Improves breath awareness and helps to teach proper breathing patterns
  7. Is a lovely alternative to seated mindfulness, as the student can relax the lower body.

 How to use props in supported pranayama practice

supported reclining pose for pranayama

supported reclining pose for pranayama

In the photo above, please note that we used what we had at hand. In lieu of an eye bag, we used the student’s soft sweatshirt. We also had one yoga mat, 4 of the 3 Minute Eggs and one standard bolster. For my favorite yoga props, click here. You can make substitutions or additions as needed. I will give you the directions for what is pictured.

  1. Position your bolster parallel to the mat with 2 eggs underneath the top end.
  2. Recline over the bolster, keeping the small of your back against the bottom end of your bolster.
  3. Allow your arms to rest, here we used the eggs to alleviate the pull and meet the students needs.
  4. Allow your legs to stretch out , and separate, and relax.
  5. Breathe

mindfulness training

mindfulness training…

Last night I babysat for a three and a half year old, lovely bubbly little girl, full of energy. SO much energy that she was running up and down the halls, climbing on furniture, playing with my neighbour’s dog, etc. She finally cuddled in front of the tv but kept on rolling around. I took my eye off her to look at the older child next to me for a sec, and the cutie patootie had rolled around and ended up bumping her head, ouch it hurts. Woooaah I thought. please no concussions on my watch! so I said hey come snuggle on my lap and watch for a bit. She couldn’t sit still.

There is a certain fascination that little children have with their experiences. They go up to the TV to touch it, thinking it is real. Imagination and exploration are key components of their day and waking life is fun, they go from activity to activity with novelty. And, every moment has the potential for huge joy.

mindfulness training

mindfulness training

Fast forward to the adult mind where the more wandering there is, the more stress, anxiety, drama, sadness. We tend to fall out of love with the present moment and lose a connection with gratitude and our authentic peaceful, wonderful self.  A moment gets lost in phrases like “I have no time” or “there isn’t enough time” and “I don’t have a minute to breathe”.

Well it may be true that you live with time constraints and a full schedule. Sometimes though, we waste our time and energy by making non-nourishing choices. If you want to change those habits moving forward, train yourself..Just momentarily checking in with yourself, with your breath, not your thoughts, is what mindfulness training begins with. If you want a five minute practice, check out my Yoga Mind Cd or just give yourself permission to check in and let go right now with your breath and heartbeat, slowing them down, and giving up the need to evaluate yourself…how do you feel?

yoga basics in Jersey City

yoga basics: come join me at 9:30 Sundays for yoga basics class in Jersey City

“yoga is not for the flexible, it’s for the willing” love it!

I am teaching this morning, a basics class, called FUNdamentals. Each week we break down some of the essential skills in asana and pranayama, and try to fit in a little practical yoga wisdom so that you leave feeling refreshed and inspired. Last week we worked on backbends. This week we are going to work on standing poses. All standing poses begin with Tadasana, mountain pose. Also referred to as samasthiti, which means pose of balance, this one pose establishes the fundamentals of alignment that are required for al other standing poses. Look for creating symmetry and stability.

The key ingredient to any pose is awareness, even if you can’t somehow access a certain area in your body, or movement that is asked of you. In this pose we look for a neutral pelvis, and a lengthening from kneecaps up.. It is also a great pose to investigate how you place your head, whether you thrust your chin forward or drop your head back. We look to lengthen the back of the neck and lift from the crown of the head upwards. Any gains in flexibility, by the way, happen when you are not struggling, and you are able to hold a posture for a length of time, as opposed to just 3 breaths. Join us or contact me for a one-one!

 

yoga basics

yoga basics

proper breathing

proper breathing: “without proper breathing the yoga postures are nothing more than calisthenics” R. Schaeffer

Asana is a great forum to discover who you are as a breather. You know from past posts of mine that breathing is a vast topic, with many therapeutic uses and applications. I often work with private clients to dive into their breathing persona and uncover the areas that could benefit from specific asana to help them move toward “proper breathing”.

proper breathing

For some, and I think this is what the above quote refers to, the tendency is to hold the breath or use stressed out breathing (short and shallow) while holding a posture, especially in a challenging pose. This creates more stress and tension in the body. In yoga, we want to create a calm and relaxed body, breath and mind through the conscious use of the breath in asana.

In asana, the break is the link between the mind and body, so that as you learn the  coordination of breath and movement, your practice becomes harmonious, and your breath deepens of its own accord, therefore increasing circulation and stimulating metabolism … Also since there is a huge correlation between emotions, thoughts and breathing practices, one can direct the breath to enhance muscle relaxation by concentrating on tense areas of the body and consciously relaxing those parts with each exhalation.

 

proper breathing

proper breathing

smile breathe move

smile breathe move: these 3 cues can inspire your yoga today

1. Smile – research shows that smiling actually benefits the brain. That simple mona lisa moment activates neural messaging that turns on the endorphins and happiness molecules. This mechanism is what helps fight off the stress molecules, so the minute you turn your frown upside down, the feel good neurotransmitters (dopamine, endorphins and serotonin) are all released. This induces the relaxation response which can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and potentially act as a pain reliever.

2. Breathe – the breath is the link between the mind and emotions. For basic tips, I invite you to download the YOGA MIND cd. Diaphragmatic breathing is associated with the relaxation response as well.  Learning to breathe properly can lengthen life span, slow the heart rate, decrease blood pressure, and help you maintain a calm inner state during stressful situations. Good breathing increases energy, helps overcome headaches, helps restore emotional/mental balance, and helps decrease anxiety and sleep disorders

3. Go slowly. Well, mindfully and at your own pace. Everyone is unique so you need to learn to know and trust what you are feeling, and move from that place.

smile breathe move

smile breathe move

I love my yoga practice

I love my yoga practice

Laughter is the breath medicine :-)

The best thing about private yoga classes, as my students tell me, is that they get to ask questions. Maybe you don’t feel your third eye (yet) or have awareness of your thighs (yet) or are less fearful (yet) …  but … every time you practice you can enjoy some aspect and self-reflect, learn about yourself, and ultimately transform/organize/balance out in a new way. Enjoy the day on and off the yoga mat
I love my yoga practice

Do You Breathe Well?

The Breath…Ahhh…

breath as the bridge

“The purpose of pranayama is to make the respiratory system functin at its best.  This automatically improves the circulatory system, without which the processes of digestion and elimination would suffer.  Toxins would accumulate, diseases spread through the body and ill-health becomes habitual” ~ B.K.S. Iyengar,  Light on Pranayama

Do you have  tension in the neck, shoulders and lower back?   Do you complain about headaches, poor sleeping habits, fatigue, stomach aches and high levels of stress ?

Maybe you do not breathe well. Part of a balanced yoga practice frees muscular restrictions which impede healthy breathing. I have some basic breathing practices on my Yoga Mind Cd and am available for private yoga classes to address your particular needs. There are also a few articles I have written online with practices you can check out.

Breathing Techniques For Mindfulness

Breathing Techniques For Mindfulness:

If you are thinking stressful thoughts the body will hold onto them and create knots in the muscles, this post gives breathing techniques for mindfulness. “Whatever you are FOCUSING upon is TRAINING you into a habit of thought” ~ Abraham Hicks

So what would happen if you focused on your breath? It would not change the situation, but it would alter your perception. I just experimented with this at the dentist. First focused on my breath, then the drilling (OWWW) then back to my breath. Drilling still there, I was calmer though. My heartbeat wasn’t pounding. So … taking this to another situation seems like a good stress management plan.

mindfulness

mindfulness

This is a great reminder. The breath is the link between mind and body. If you are thinking stressful thoughts the body will hold onto them and create knots in the muscles (etc). This is why learning to use your breathing in a conscious (mindful) way will help you in all kinds of ways by triggering the parasympathetic response (relaxation response) in the nervous system. Like anything it takes practice, and the good news is I am available here in Jersey City for private yoga lessons or to give a workshop at your studio :-)

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of the moment, live in the breath” ~ Amit Ray. Anxiety can be very loud, and this noise can cloud judgemtn. What would happen if we could just be, in silence?

mindfulness

inner listening through mindfulnness

Focusing on the essential natural breath ( a practice from my YOGA MIND cd) is easy to use and learn, because it basically requires you to cultivate awareness more than “technique”, and can be done even 5 minutes a day – anywhere: car, subway, bus, walking, at your desk…

Mindfulness

Mindfulness

Meanwhile this is one of many breathing techniques for mindfulness – you simply repeat to yourself when you breathe in, breathing in relaxation and when you breathe out, you focus on breathing out tension. It just takes a few moments to breathe mindfully so give it a whirl

breathing in and out