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The Nose Knows

Swami Satchidananda said that we don’t eat through our nose, so we shouldn’t breathe through our mouth. But why? Why do we practice breathing through the nose in yoga?
According to ancient yogis, the five traditional elements (earth, water, fire, air, and space) are all present in localized spots on the inner lining of the nostrils. This means that you can affect the quality of those elements in your body simply by channeling your breath over the different sites.
We may not think about it very often, but we do hold tension in our noses and that tension does have an effect on how we breathe. Picture your nose. The little rounded bumps on the sides of your nostrils are called the wings. They should remain passive and soft while breathing, regardless of rapidity and strength of respiration.
Try to rest your wings, first becoming physically aware of them. Use your index finger to gently stroke down along the side and wing of the nose from the inner corner of your eye all the way to your upper lip and finally to the corner of your mouth. Do this several times. picturing the wings releasing downward. Keep moving the wings downward as you breathe, especially on the inhale. This softening will help the breath flow more easily in and out of the body.
Here’s another way to become very aware of your nose while breathing. On the inhale, direct the breath over the lining of the inner nostril (along the septum) and exhale over the lining of the outer nostril (under the wings). By doing so, you deepen the space of the inhale and smooth the texture of the exhale. You can also imagine that your nostrils are mirror images of your lungs (they are the same shape, after all). So when you breathe in along the inner nostril, you are breathing in along the inner lining of your lungs nearest the heart. As you exhale along the outer edges of the nostril, your breath is moving along the outer edges of your lungs. To learn more about your incredible nostrils, study Light on Pranayama.
Explore more about wellness, the physiology of yoga, the science behind the practice, and the peaceful power that yoga cultivates in our studio classes, Y4A’s unique workshops, and on our Facebook page.
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Trataka Meditation

There are as many types of meditation as there are types of meditators. It is always useful and enlightening to explore different meditative practices with compassion and curiosity to find the one(s) that speak to you.
Trataka meditation is a powerful way to still the mind and develop strong concentration through steady gazing. Traditionally, practitioners gaze at something luminous like a candle flame or the moon. But, really, you can use almost any object to gaze at, as long as it is an object that brings you a sense of calm, like a leaf or even a dot on the wall. Please avoid using a candle if you have cataracts, glaucoma, myopia, astigmatism, or epilepsy.
To begin your trataka meditation, place a lit candle in front of you at eye level about 2 feet away. Be sure it is stable and away from drafts. Sit in a comfortable position and gently close your eyes. Take 3 deep yogic breaths in and out through your nose, allowing your body to become more relaxed and still with each exhale.
When you are ready and relaxed, gently open your eyes and let them rest at the top of the candle wick. Don’t concentrate on not blinking. Instead, gaze with the intention of allowing the eyes to be relaxed and still. Let your whole awareness be on the flame. Your mind and your eyes are connected with the flame, as if it were the only thing in the whole universe.
After about 3 minutes, close your eyes but keep staring in the same direction. You might see an after-image of the flame. If you do, just keep focusing on it. If it moves around, keep staring at the center of your vision. If the image disappears or if you don’t see an after-image, just keep watching the black screen of your mind and notice anything that appears. When your eyes feel rested and the after-image has disappeared, you can repeat the process again.
To close the practice, rub your hands together vigorously to build up heat and energy. Cup them over your closed eyes. Gently open your eyes and let them rest, just gazing forward without focus for a few moments.
Explore more about wellness, the physiology of yoga, the science behind the practice, and the peaceful power that yoga cultivates in our studio classes, Y4A’s unique workshops, and on our Facebook page.
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The Power of Pranayama

In yoga, we call our breathing practices pranayama. Prana means life energy and yamameans control in Sanskrit. Put them together and our breath is our means to control our life’s energy. Powerful stuff, isn’t it?
According to The Complete Book of Yoga, when practicing full yogic breaths, “you are conscious that you draw more air into the lungs and empty them more thoroughly”. Your inhale should be carried to the point of feeling full, but not strained. Likewise, the exhale should give the feeling that you have emptied the lungs completely (although that is physiologically impossible). A yogic breath is complete when you are conscious of all the respiratory muscles working, you have a feeling of fullness and then a feeling of emptiness in the lungs.
A favorite pranayama practice for yoga movements is that of dirgha pranayama. In this simple but powerful practice, you inhale from the bottom of the lungs (it’ll feel like the belly) to the top (near the collarbones) and exhale from the top to the bottom. Imagine it like this: your trunk is an old-fashioned thermometer. Your belly is the bulb of mercury and when you inhale, energy builds and the temperature rises from bottom to top. As you exhale, the temperature falls again, returning the mercury back to the bulb, from top to bottom. Practicing pranayama fifteen to twenty minutes a day is ideal and “increases vital capacity, energizes, exercises the lungs and respiratory muscles, oxygenates and purifies the bloodstream, removes phlegm, cleanses the sinuses and nerve channels, soothes and tones the nervous system, improves thoracic mobility and broadens the chest, improves digestion, massages the abdominal viscera, and calms and concentrates the mind.” WOW!
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Compassion and the Yoga Sutras

maitri-karuna-mudita-upekshanam such-dukkha-punya-apunya-visharyanam bhavanatash-citta-prasadanam
The projection of friendliness, compassion, gladness, and equanimity towards objects – be they joyful, sorrowful, meritorious, or demeritorious – bring about the pacification of consciousness.
–Yoga Sutra 1:33
Yoga is, traditionally, a solitary practice. Our time on a mat provides great potential for transformation, for awakening, and for growth. Sure, we know how to breathe and center while in a balance pose. Holding chair pose for several breaths is tough, but we know how to soften around the challenge. And we learn to settle our racing minds during meditation. But, often, it is our time between yoga sessions that test the strength of our practice. It is when we are interacting with the world, from strangers on TV to our most intimate relationships, that we can truly examine ourselves as yogis.
According to Patanjali, cultivating compassion is part of the journey toward the “pacification of consciousness”. It’s hard to find calm if you don’t also seek compassion – for yourself, for others, and for all beings in the universe. And Patanjali is hardly alone in his direction to live with compassion. According to 1 John 3:23, Jesus says, “Love one another”. The Dalai Lama is regarded as a reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion. In Japan, this Buddha is named Kannon, translated to “she who hears the cries of the world”.
Shouldn’t we all be hearing “the cries of the world” right now? The word compassion is from the Latin prefix com- and the Latin word pati. Put them together and compassion means “to suffer with”. We have been mandated to express compassion to, and share in the suffering of, everyone, all the time. And, according to Patanjali, in doing so we will be purified and rest in the “pacification of consciousness”.
We invite you to take some time this week and practice cultivating compassion.
  • Strengthen your compassion “muscles” by writing down all the ways you behaved compassionately each evening before bed.
  • Notice how often during the day you judge yourself. When a judgmental thought pops up, purposefully replace it with a compassionate thought (like “I’m doing my best right now”).
  • Show compassion to your colleagues, family, and fellow students by keeping their health, safety, and mental well-being in mind.
Actively practicing compassion isn’t easy. You may feel like you are giving up some comfort or happiness. It may feel like what you are doing is an unfair burden. Do it anyway. Share in the suffering of others so we can all grow together. Love one another by keeping each other safe. Hear the cries and respond with compassion.
Explore more about wellness, the physiology of yoga, the science behind the practice, and the peaceful power that yoga cultivates in our studio classes, Y4A’s unique workshops, and on our Facebook page.
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Make Mindfulness a Habit

Mindfulness has been in the news A LOT in the last few years – and with good reason! Science has shown that a mindfulness practice can:
  • promote empathy
  • enhance self-compassion
  • decrease stress and anxiety
  • improve general quality of life
Sounds good, doesn’t it? And the best part is you can start a mindfulness practice right now! It’s simple, powerful, requires no equipment, and is quite portable. Mindfulness simply means being aware of what is happening inside and outside without trying to change it.
Here’s an easy mindfulness practice: Name Three. Sitting right where you are, name 3 sounds you can hear. Name 3 sensations you are physically feeling. Name 3 things that are blue (or brown, or green, etc.). Just by stopping your endless loop of thoughts for a brief moment to observe what is happening right now gives your mind a chance to reset so you can go back to your normal routine, but hopefully with a bit of added peace. The more you practice mindfulness, the stronger those “muscles” become. Click HERE for some one minute mindfulness activities (sometimes called Brain Breaks). And click HERE to see how meditation has made positive differences in people’s lives.
Explore more about wellness, the physiology of yoga, the science behind the practice, and the peaceful power that yoga cultivates in our studio classes, Y4A’s unique workshops, and on our Facebook page. ┬áSee you in the studio!