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



yoga poses to encourage calm

yoga poses to encourage calm

Yoga poses to encourage calm enable the brain to focus, not on fighting gravity, but surrendering to it. One of the ways we achieve this is through supporting the head. A forward bend with the head supported on a block, for example, allows the brain to recover from mental fatigue, gain mental clarity, and can be held for a more extended period of time. Great benefits are reaped, such as a reduction in blood pressure, and lowered heart rate, which are all very soothing to the nervous system.

yoga poses to encourage calm

yoga poses to encourage calm

Paschimottanasana, or seated forward bend pose, is a lovely spine lengthener, assuming you can get the thoracic spine to expend. Sometimes very tight hamstrings pull the pelvis and the result is more struggle than surrender. When done comfortably though, it is a pose that benefits the digestive system, and stimulates the reproductive system, a long with producing calm. Whereas it may be hard to support the head on a block, you can always use a horizontal or vertical bolster. For those of us who cannot rest with that, sit on a blanket stack and bring a chair over to rest the head. Breathe and relax. Properly supported, a restorative forward bend can really encourage calm.

Mantra of the Day

Mantra of the day:

mantra I am









Let’s begin with a definition of the word ‘mantra‘, a noun originally found in Hinduism and Buddhism. Mantra is generally defined as “a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation, a Vedic hymn, a statement or slogan repeated too frequently.” The root of the word “man” means think.

Yoga practice is an eight limbed system to guide us to a calmer state, one where the thoughts we have don’t run rampant, our decisions get clearer, and we identify less with the active monkey mind, and more with the Universality of peace. To be simple, there are different tools we use, at different times, to calm and heal. Whether you are stressed out, very athletic, very busy, have pain, you as a person repeat certain thoughts which become interwoven in your cells. This poem by Rumi ” I am not this hair, I am not this skin, I am the soul that lives within” reminds me of the SOHUM mantra ~ I Am … We all have personas and identities but beyond that, when we go into a state of deep dreamless sleep we just ARE. No drama there. A mantra takes us “there” while keeping us wakeful and present. This one is very affirmative

yoga in the park jersey city

Yoga in the park Jersey city : The sound of water is so relaxing, the trees are so green, the air is so calm, the sun is a presence, felt from the shade. It is a perfect location for a stay-cation yoga class in Hamilton Park, located in New Jersey. A few friends have asked me to do a class next Saturday morning, July 26th at 9 AM.

I think being in the park in the middle of a city is a great way to ‘do’ yoga – being with distractions and activity, yet remaining focused and present with who we are and the task at hand.

The event, yoga in the park Jersey City  will be a donation class, and please email me at if you will be participating or if you are unsure whether the weather is cooperating. Most likely as long as the ground is dry in the park it will be a go. Bring a yoga mat, some towels and a yoga strap at least. I may bring some extra props but the goal is just to move and breathe and be in this kind of oasis in the middle of the city….

yoga in the park New Jersey

Stillness And The Ability To Listen Inwardly

Be still and listen..rather an art form.

Here are some tips to start cultivating this art :
1. Make notes of anything in your life that is difficult, painful, joyful, and notice how your breathing, heart rate and other bodily sensations respond to each of these.
2. Pay attention to what your body feels like. For example, do you feel fluid, numb, or stuck? These feelings are your body’s wisdom; clues in your inner guidance system.
3. When you experience a bodily sensation such as “gut reaction,” back pain, a headache, a stomach ache, pay attention to it. Are emotions such as anger or fear connected with any areas of your body? When a sensation arises, stop, lie down, breathe and wait with the emotion or sensation – what insights come up through this process?
4. Notice how you routinely talk to yourself. Do you chastise or appreciate when you look in the mirror? Are you hyper critical or do you give your body positive messages, and gratitude. Your body digests meals, breathes in and out, and your heart beats 24/7… Cultivate a positive chain between your inner mental dialogue and the rest of you.
5. Understand that you risk your health when you consistently undermine your body. Burning the candle at both ends, worrying incessantly, food choices, activity choices, friendship choices…it all affects our system as a whole.


The Yoga of the Warrior Mind

This is an interesting focus for a pose that many people do regularly.

Sometimes you just have to give up the past in order to embrace the present.

I say this after moving (again) ~ Now happily settled in Jersey City, NJ., so if you are looking to get your yoga on, are in pain, on the mend, stressed out, need some R & R you should reach out, private yoga classes are just the ticket !



spirit of the warrior

Yoga, Healing, and You

Do you believe yoga heals?

Take the test: Get calm: for options click here.  Then, before practice, set an intention. Probably most helpful to identify just one issue on your mind, or in your body. Write it down. check in with it after. Usually, if you have a balanced practice that is right for you there will be some transformation. It is this simple feeling of things changing and getting better, the positivity of it all, that cultivates our sense of healing, which is quite miraculous (yet simple at the same time)



Yoga and Self Confidence

Ah yes! If you haven’t read my post on mindful shopping – check it out

Yoga builds self-confidence in different ways, especially by getting you to listen inwardly and live authentically but that is just my opinion :-)

This is why I love props  and using yoga therapeutically – when your practice meets your needs you tend to feel more empowered and stronger which feeds emotional strength and self confidence as well…not to mention, when you are calm you care less about things like gossip etc

I am now inspired to start a new hashtag : #liveyouryoga – join me on twitter 

The best thing to wear

Yoga and the practice of surrender

let it go

Word of the day ishvara pranidhana ~ surrender to the divine. In the West we tend to think of this concept as a last resort, a giving up out of angst or failure. In the East, and in the spirit of the intention of Patanjali, it is more of an ongoing path/inner practices (and one of 5 niyamas). The ‘goal’ is ultimately to still the agitations of our mind, and connect us not only with the core of our own peacefulness but also to help us see the interconnectedness of all beings. Sounds huge right? I think it is more like a path of balancing well intended action with letting go once we have done our best, standing aside in trust that we are connected to a source of universal power greater than our understanding.

Forward bends can be particularly soothing, with the head lower than the heart; in this photo, I would add a block or two under the head – it is very calming