Annie Carpenter’s 5 Essential Pranayama Practices

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By Katherine Rae

How often do you practice pranayama? Technically you should at the very least be practicing it every time you do asana, because unless you are consciously breathing while you practice, really you are just stretching. But pranayama can be confusing. For one it seems deceptively simple…you breathe every day without even thinking about it so how hard can it really be? Pranayama is extremely helpful in getting us to understand activity and change in the subtle body, which we largely ignore in favor of the louder, more attention demanding physical body. Think of the physical body as a screaming infant that must be constantly fed, changed and snuggled, while the subtle body is more of a mysterious teenager who needs you to stop micro-managing them and start quietly listening without judgement.

Pranayama also gets us intimately acquainted with Aparigraha, the yogic precept of non-grasping. As the delightful Los Angeles based yoga teacher Annie Carpenter explained in Sunday’s workshop Pranayama: Developing and Sustaining Your Practice, there will always be a part of us that is grasping and thinking we are not enough because we live with the knowledge that our physical bodies will eventually die, no matter how much yoga we practice. This grasping often comes up during pranayama practice. You know that logically you are safe and absolutely will not die if you hold your breath for another second or two…but, “Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod,” says the anxious brain, “Inhale now, right now, right now or else!” Practicing pranayama is instrumental in teaching ourselves what we are capable of when we stop listening to the constant chatter of the mind and start listening to our bodies with our bodies. In Carpenter’s informative workshop we practiced and discussed the 5 pranayama that she feels are the most helpful and essential to your life and yoga practice. I’ve listed and briefly introduced them all below, but please remember that pranayama can be an extremely powerful practice and is best explored under the guidance of a qualified teacher.

1) Dirga (3-Part Breath)

Probably the first pranayama that most people learn when they embark on the yoga journey, Dirga teaches how to breathe fully and completely. Most of the time we take tiny, shallow breaths that are barely even noticeable from the outside. In teaching Dirga, often the instructor will have students place on hand on the belly and one over the heart so as to get a feel of the movement that should be happening there. Dirga first fills and expands the belly, then the rib cage and finally the heart and upper chest, and then exhales back down from the upper chest to rib cage to belly for a full, calming and balancing breath. With practice you will be amazed at the difference in length and quality of your breath when compared to your formerly unconscious, shallow breathing!

2) Ujjayi  (Conqueror Breath)

Another common pranayama, very popular in Ashtanga, power and vinyasa styles of yoga, Ujjayi is responsible for your classmates sounding like Darth Vader during practice. Meant to be just a slight constriction of the throat on both the inhalation and exhalation, often the constriction gets a little over-zealous, but hey, it’s called practice for a reason! Ujjayi is very effective in keeping the mind focused and in a state of dharana (one-pointed concentration).

3) Viloma I (Stop-Action Breath)

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4) Viloma II

Much less familiar, Viloma I and II make use of breath retention. For Viloma I, Carpenter instructed us to take a “sip” of air and hold it for a couple of seconds. Another sip, another hold and then a final sip of breath and hold before slowly exhaling completely. Viloma II is the opposite: a full, complete, continuous inhalation through the nose and an exhalation in 3 parts interspersed with breath retention. Viloma II’s focus on the exhalation provides more grounding, relaxing effects, while its brother Viloma I is energizing and stimulating. Both practices are invaluable at developing steadiness and control in the breath.

5) Nadi Shodhana (Channel Cleaning Breath)

Also known as alternate nostril breathing, Nadi Shodhana cleanses, purifies and balances the nadis, or subtle energy channels of the body, allowing healing prana (life-force energy) to flow freely throughout the body. Click the link above and watch an instructional video narrated by Sally Kempton on how to practice this most essential of pranayama.

 

                                                                                       

 

Yoga for Writers: Accessing Your Authentic Voice

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By Katherine Rae

A consistent and mindful yoga practice can enrich every aspect of our lives. When it comes to the creative process, yoga is especially helpful in quieting the incessantly chattering mind and allowing us to access ideas and inspirations from deep within ourselves. This makes sense, but let’s take it a step further. What if I said that yoga and writing are essentially the same damn thing? According to hilariously opinionated and delightfully potty-mouthed SF Chronicle columnist, yoga teacher and Yoga for Writers workshop creator Mark Morford, “Yoga and writing (or any creative exercise for that matter) are inextricable. They are one and the same.”

Let’s break that down a little bit. What is the purpose of yoga? In a nutshell, to liberate yourself from identification with the ego (that small “self” and all of the fears, desires, attachments and suffering that come along with it) by resuscitating your relationship to your true nature, that authentic Self with a capital S. You know, the eternal, perfect Self that connects you to everyone and everything else, the Source of all existence. And where does your best writing come from? When you are past deadline and the baby is sick and the phone is ringing and your toothache is throbbing and your aunt is in the hospital and your smartphone is constantly beeping at you and you sit staring at your computer gritting your teeth and threatening yourself with all kinds of self-inflicted torture if you don’t finish this paragraph RIGHT NOW but first you have to make some coffee because you stayed up too late netflixing Sons of Anarchy hot damn is that rebel biker cute and oh you also have to check your Facebook feed one more time in case anyone has decided to validate your existence in the last 15 minutes?

Probably not. Your authentic voice does not arise out of this fractured, distracted place. If you are looking to create fractured, distracting writing, by all means, carry on. But if you are seeking to write from an endless spring of inherent knowing and inspired creativity, you’re gonna have to do some inner work, aka yoga. As Morford puts it, “By employing numerous practices and techniques to redirect your gaze from up in your messy, unreliable headspace, down into the quiet, eternal stability of the heart,” you can “reconnect to the True Self ” from which your Authentic Voice arises. So really, when you are practicing yoga you are in essence also practicing the writing process, and when you are writing in your Authentic Voice you are living yoga.

Morford’s advice on where to start? Meditation is absolutely essential, he says. Pranayama does wonders for tapping into your creativity. And asana, of course, so that your physical form is healthy and you can sit and meditate (and sit and write) without discomfort. Finally, create some ritual around your creative process. Developing a ritual around your practice and how you create will help you cultivate a deeper habit of creation as well as make the writing process sacred.

Kino MacGregor: Sharing the Tradition of Ashtanga Yoga

By Molly Ruby

At the age of just 29, Kino MacGregor received her Certification to teach Ashtanga Yoga from Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (“Guruji”), the founder of traditional Ashtanga Yoga, after years of dedicated study and travels to Mysore India. Today, Kino practices through the Fourth Series of Ashtanga Yoga. Her dedication to the teachings of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois has evolved through years of focused study, personal practice and traditional teaching of Ashtanga yoga as she learned it directly from Jois.

Kino is passionate about making authentic Ashtanga yoga accessible to modern day students through her work at the Miami Life Center which she co-founded, her writings which include: Sacred Fire (2012) and her newly released book The Power of Ashtanga Yoga: Developing a Practice That Will Bring You Strength, Flexibility, and Inner Peace  as well as through Kino Yoga You Tube channel.

Kino’s clear, concise instruction and her inviting warmth as it is felt through her You Tube videos will be evermore present to attendees of Yoga Journal LIVE in Florida 2013! Whether you are delving deeper into the Business of Yoga to gain real-life perspective about Marketing on a Budget, looking to continue your education with Yoga Teaching Fundamentals, or attending the Main Conference sessions, register today to study with Kino LIVE in Hollywood Florida October 31 – November 3, 2013! 3843809366_904b8ed705_z

Discover the depth of asana, spirituality and accessibility of Ashtanga Yoga as taught by Kino MacGregor in the Sri K. Pattabhi Joice tradition!

Ana Forrest: Luminous Core

By Molly Ruby

“Our bodies tell our stories, and they always tell the truth when we listen. I want to help you hear your body’s story and then teach it to speak its truth.” – Ana T. Forrest from Fierce Medicine

As a yogi, if you have not yet experienced the truth that Ana speaks of you can take her class Luminous Core, an all-day intensive on Friday, November 1st at Yoga Journal Conference: Florida.

She herself speaks the truth in a direct, profound way drawing on personal experiences of healing from both physical and emotional pain. Creator of Forrest Yoga, the depth of her experience draws on nearly forty years of teaching yoga, studying and practicing Native American medicine – evoking truth from both body and spirit.

In a Forrest Yoga class be prepared to get in touch with, uncover, and reveal the fear that keeps you from breathing deeply or living more fully. Within the first few moments of an asana practice Ana will call upon that fear, she calls it “fearasana” and will teach you to hunt, stalk, and release your fear. Fully engaged in Bridge pose by the tenth breath with trembling thighs, fear sets in. Ana will ask you to stay with that fear, giving it a few more breaths and stay present.

Listen for “Ana”isms – her unmistakable and signature invitation to “Walk in Beauty” and “Embody your Spirit!” But what does this mean? In Luminous Core, Ana will guide you through breathing and asana toward a connection with your core to help you better understand what you value deeply and what can be discarded. Deepen this new-found understanding in Building the Warrior Heart, on Saturday, November 2nd or choose from two other offerings with Ana during the Main Florida Conference.

Prior to the conference come to know Ana Forrest in Fierce Medicine.

Join Yoga Journal in Florida to hear the story, embrace the truth that your body is telling you, tap into a deeper understanding and breathe deeply with Ana as your guide!

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Meet Ellie Haberl: Estes Park 2013-Share Your Yoga Scholarship Recipient

The student becomes the teacher, and then becomes the student again!

By Molly Ruby

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University of Colorado Boulder Graduate Student, Ellie Haberl, is back in the classroom this September.

She recently made the move to Colorado from Wisconsin where she was a high school teacher and a yoga instructor. Her yoga students ranged in age from three years to pre-teen and teenagers both in traditional school settings as well as after-school volunteer programs.

Ellie discovered yoga and the benefits of a breath and meditation right out of high school herself. As an academically driven student she sought out a way to still her mind and bring peace to daily living, a peace that she came to know by developing a regular yoga and meditation practice.

Returning to the classroom as a high school teacher, Ellie’s young students were dealing with similar pressures and demands that had initially prompted her to discover yoga. Primarily young women, her students were turning to Ellie with cries of help, seeking the tools to deal with anxiety and the stress of academic and social pressures. As a classroom teacher, she was merely teaching students to think cognitively and yearned to help them learn (in her words) “To think better, deeper, more” with emotional intelligence! Ellie realized that the same training that had helped her find peace of mind could be taught to these young women at an early age to benefit them now and throughout the rest of their lives.

Ellie obtained her yoga teacher certification through Rainbow Kids, a program that teaches kinesthetic, aural, visual, intra- and interpersonal skills to keep kids involved and focused while having fun! Realizing that many of her students had no access to yoga, that it was a brand new concept to most of the teens she saw every day, Ellie started a Yoga Club during study hall volunteering her time to teach both the physical practice of yoga as well as mindful meditation.

Expanding her volunteer efforts to age groups other than high school, Ellie learned of an after-school program in a beautiful community center supported by the Salvation Army. Here she was able to teach the skills of self-regulation and self-calming using a Lion’s breath to three and four year olds and teach pre-teen young adults to use alternative “tools” in their tool-box such as journaling and breath control to manage intense situations, pain and trauma.

Through her volunteer work and these valuable teaching experiences Ellie came to know that her goal and her dream is to teach children to be happy while giving them the cognitive skills for academic success and pursuing her passion for tapping into emotional intelligence. She believes, “You get the chance to give what you need!”

Immersed in continuing her education at UC Boulder, Ellie seeks to add tools to her toolbox for teaching both in the classroom and on the mat. She feels as though becoming a Share Your Yoga scholarship recipient is equivalent to winning her own personal lottery! She looks forward to studying at Yoga Journal Conference-Estes Park with Baron Baptiste and Sean Corn, among others who will continue to help her still her mind and live peacefully as both a student and a teacher with a love for life-long learning!

Meet Lisa Thomas: Yoga Journal LIVE Colorado 2013 Scholarship Recipient

By Molly Ruby

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Moving to a new state, looking to connect and make new friends, with time to explore new hobbies, six years ago led Lisa Thomas to discover yoga.

In her first Hot Yoga class, Lisa recalls the instructor saying, “You’ll come to yoga for one reason, you’ll keep coming for back for other reasons!” At first, yoga seemed perhaps too “mellow” for this runner and tennis player. She found herself coming back to class regularly while at the same time, discovering a new sense of relaxation, watching pounds melt away, and looking at a seemingly more youthful, happier reflection as her practice and love for yoga grew!

This discovery led Lisa toward completing a 200 hour yoga teacher training earlier this summer. (June 2013)  Her first class offerings were taught in a local park, free of charge and soon thereafter, she added a Monday night class at a local studio.

When the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, (where Lisa is a full-time employee) opened a Health Wellness center for employees, several of her yoga students recommended that she offer classes at the Wellness center.  She began teaching to employees and their families and was soon approached by the Head Oncology Nurse to offer a program for Cancer patients and survivors.

While once unable to access Camel Pose herself, Lisa now teaches students to feel the healthy emotional release that can come from heart opening postures such as Camel. She notes that an age range in any given class can be from 40 years old to 78 years young! Whether it be a new diagnosis or a celebration of recovery, Lisa’s work with the Women’s Cancer group allows patients, survivors, families and even hospital employees to connect in a nurturing, healing environment.

Lisa will be attending Yoga Journal LIVE for the first time in Estes Park this September and is looking forward to learning all that she can so in turn she can take it back to her mat, in Provo, Utah, where she can practice and then share with her students, their families and survivors at the hospital.

Yoga Journal LIVE – Colorado 2013 Conference Scholarship Recipients

by Molly Ruby

Karma Yoga: the path of selfless action, the path of service

By definition or through translation of the Bhagavad-Gita, Karma Yoga is commonly understood as duties fulfilled with a pure heart, without expectation of reward.

It is in this same spirit of Karma Yoga that Yoga Journal extends the Share Your Yoga Scholarship Program to well-deserving yoga teachers who serve their communities selflessly.

These teachers bring yoga to underserved members of a greater yoga family including:

  • Veterans and Military Families
  • Children and Teens
  • Seniors
  • People with Disabilities
  • Homeless or low socioeconomic communities
  • Immigrants
  • Imprisoned Individuals or Groups

Recipients of the Share Your Yoga Scholarship submit an online application to include an essay explanation of service, personal and professional references, a resume and show limited household income themselves.

This scholarship program is partially funded by conference attendees through your generous donations and then matched by Yoga Journal.

Respectfully, Yoga Journal Events recognizes our current scholarship recipients and in the next few weeks leading up to Yoga Journal LIVE in Colorado, we will introduce you to Kate Hendricks, Ellie Haberl, and Lisa Thomas, highlighting each recipient’s Karma Yoga in action!

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Meet Kate Hendricks: Having served in the Marine Corps herself, she now serves Military Veterans as a volunteer with Team Red, White, and Blue.

She has served her country and has witnessed both family members and fellow Veterans who’s lives have been “irrevocably changed” after coming back from overseas active duty. In a compassionate conversation with Kate this past week, she shared how “intensely connected” service men and women become with their active service units which in turn can potentially lead to a sense of isolation and alienation as Veterans return home to lead civilian lives.

Just 26 years old when she returned home from overseas, Kate understands first hand, the importance of being supported by a healing community. Now, as a doctoral candidate at the University of Alabama, completing her studies in Health Promotion and Education, a Certified Personal Trainer and Yoga Alliance E-RYT 200, Kate combines her education, experience and passion for teaching as the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham community director and volunteer for Team Red, White, and Blue. http://www.teamrwb.org/

A non-profit organization working to build civilian community partnerships for returning veterans, Team Red, White, and Blue was initially founded by Army Major, Mike Erwin.  In October 2012, Team RWB sponsored a 3-day Bikram Yoga Camp for Veterans.

as a way to blend the physicality of yoga and the benefits of a cohesive healing community with over 30 Veteran attendees from more than 10 states and a dozen well-known yoga instructors participating.

Through her involvement with Team RWB, Kate looks to bring the physicality of yoga in combination with the research based benefits of mindful movement practice to the young Veteran population of Tuscaloosa.  Kate is also a contributing author in: PHOENIX: WOMEN WARRIORS ON RESILIENCY, RECOVERY, AND TRIUMPH, to be released in 2014, celebrating the perseverance and victories of Women Warriors!

Grateful to have the opportunity to share her work and the mission of Team RWB, Kate is equally as grateful for the opportunity to attend Yoga Journal Conference at Estes Park this September as a Share Your Yoga Scholarship recipient!

Thank you Kate for your expression of Karma Yoga, selfless action, and path of dedicated service!

 

The First Lady of Yoga: Colleen Saidman Yee

By Molly Ruby

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Just this spring, the New York Times profiled Colleen Saidman Yee on the front page of the Sunday Style section, calling her the First Lady of Yoga. She graces both the front and back covers of the September Yoga Journal, and it’s likely that you’ve practiced with her in your own home with a guided Gaiam Yoga Studio class, or a Gaiam DVD’s featuring Colleen and her husband Rodney Yee.

Yoga Journal LIVE in Hollywood, Florida October 31st through November 3rd is an opportunity to move beyond the comfort of your own home and practice alongside Colleen Saidman Yee, our featured presenter this week!

Coming from her home studio, Yoga Shanti in Sag Harbor, NY where she is the Director (Owner), an instructor and Co-creator of Urban Zen’s Integrative Yoga Therapy program Colleen brings to Florida, this intent “All I want to do is guide women into their own bodies so they can be more content.” NY Times April 2013.

One glimpse of her radiant smile and unmistakable golden tresses draws you into discovering the 16 years of an experienced instructor who demands full engagement from her students. Whether you seek this full engagement in: Unlocking the Mystery of Backbends or Twists, Hip Opening and Arm Balances, just two of the Main Conference sessions in Florida that Colleen is presenting with Rodney Yee, you will benefit from Colleen’s radiant light and teaching experience.

Seek stylish inspiration from the September Yoga Journal print edition with Colleen and turn that inspiration into action by registering for Florida to practice LIVE with both Colleen and Rodney Yee!