A Breathing Practice to Calm, Soothe, & Relax

By AOLRC
December 20, 2018



For the last 35 years, the Art of Living has taught over 30 million people how to use breathing exercises to quiet the mind, reduce stress and make meditation easier – and Alternate Nostril Breathing is one of our favorites.

In Sanskrit, Alternate Nostril Breathing is called Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, which translates to “subtle energy clearing breathing technique”, and it has many benefits. Alternate Nostril Breathing helps calm the mind, reduce anxiety, and bring a feeling of relaxation to the entire body. It also relaxes the mind in preparation for meditation, which can be helpful for those struggling to settle down before meditating. When performed for just a few minutes, Alternate Nostril Breathing can instantly reduce stress and fatigue, and is a quick and efficient practice to do before high-stress situations such as job interviews and public speaking engagements.

How To Do Alternate Nostril Breathing

  • Sit in a comfortable position with the spine long and the hips relaxed. Release any tension from your jaw. Close your eyes.
  • Place your left hand on your left knee with the palm face upward, or in the Chin Mudra by pressing the index finger and thumb together.
  • Place the tip of the index finger and middle finger of the right hand in between the eyebrows with the ring finger and little finger on the left nostril, and the thumb on the right nostril. Use the ring finger and little finger to open and close the left nostril and use the thumb for the right nostril.
  • On an exhalation, close the right nostril with your thumb and breathe out through the left nostril.
  • Breathe in through the left nostril and then close with the ring finger.
  • Release the thumb on the right nostril and breathe out through the right nostril.
  • Inhale through the right nostril, close with the thumb, release the ring finger from the left side and exhale through the left nostril.
  • These two full breaths are called one round of Alternate Nostril Breath.
  • Perform 5 to 9 rounds of this alternating breath between the nostrils. Remember to always inhale through the same nostril you just exhaled through.

The Nadi Shodhana Pranayama will relax the mind and prepare it for meditation, making it a great technique to perform before meditating.

The Benefits

  • Calms and centers the mind
  • Brings the mind to the present moment and out of the past (releasing old fears, regret, and worry)
  • Therapeutic for the circulatory and respiratory systems
  • Stress relieving and relaxing for the body and mind
  • Helps harmonize the left and right hemispheres of the brain, which correlate to the logical and emotional sides of our personality.
  • Helps purify and balance the nadis, the subtle energy channels, thereby ensuring smooth flow of prana (life force) through the body.
  • Maintains body temperature.

3 Things to Remember

  • The breathing pattern is breath out, breathe in, switch sides.
  • Do not force the breath – keep it gentle and natural. Allow the breath to be smooth and even without creating force or pressure. Do not breathe through the mouth or make any sound such as in Ujjayi breath.
  • Place the fingers very lightly on the forehead and nose. There is no need to apply any pressure.

Full article originally posted on ArtofLiving.com

Watch Art of Living faculty member, Jim Larsen, guide Alternate Nostril Breathing.

Next Steps

Join us for Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training – an authentic and immersive 3-week 200H Yoga Alliance accredited training with a world-class faculty. Dive deeply into yoga and emerge from this life-changing immersion as a confident, heart-centered yoga teacher with a profound practice to share. Next training June 20 – July 11, 2019 Learn More


 

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TAGS: art of living , breathing , experiences , health , meditation , pranayama , self-care , wellness , yoga , yoga practice , yoga teacher training

5 Benefits of Using Ujjayi Breath in Your Yoga Practice

By Tommi Howard
August 6, 2018

 

Whether you have just started out on your yoga journey or are an advanced practitioner, the Ujjayi breath is a powerful technique that you can use to transform your practice. Ujjayi is unique in that unlike some other forms of pranayama, or breathing exercises, it can be used during your moving asana practice as well as whilst seated – adding a whole new dimension to your yoga.

Breath of Victory

Ujjayi breath means “breath of victory” as it brings a sense of upliftment, power, and confidence to the practitioner as well as soothing and focusing the mind through its ocean sounding movement – giving this pranayama its other name: the ocean breath.

Integrating Ujjayi pranayama into your practice will deepen your experience both on and off the mat. Here we share the top five benefits of Ujjayi:

 

1. Physical Health

The technique builds internal heat which helps release tight areas of the body thus making the body less prone to injury while stretching. At the same time, by expanding the lungs further than usual, circulation increases and toxins are released from the inner organs. Further benefits include a strengthened immune system, improved sleep, assistance in controlling high blood pressure and thyroid problems, and rejuvenates the nervous system.

 

2. Flow of Energy

The Ujjayi breath allows more prana, our vital life-force, to enter the mind-body system, cleansing the channels (nadis), through which it passes, of stagnant energy which helps the body overcome fatigue, stress and negativity. This pranayama further encourages the movement of energy from the root energy center all the way up to the crown.

3. Relieving Stress

When you’re feeling agitated, anxious, or nervous, the slow, concentrated, rhythmic nature of the Ujjayi breath has been shown to be very effective in calming the nervous system almost immediately. Studies have also shown the breath balances the cardiorespiratory system. Restoring balance to these two systems helps release stress, irritation and frustration and calms the mind and body.

 

4. Focus

The steadiness, sound, and depth of the Ujjayi breath help align the mind, body, and spirit with the present moment. When this happens, mental clarity and focus increase. The flow between asanas is effortless. Stability increases, and it is possible to hold postures for a longer period of time. Maintaining the Ujjayi breath throughout your practice allows you to remain centered, grounded and embodied – keeping thoughts at bay.

 

5. Meditation & Relaxation

The Ujjayi breath promotes calmness in the body and mind. The constriction of the throat causes vibrations in the larynx, stimulating sensory receptors that signal the vagus nerve to relax the mind and body. This contraction also exerts a gentle pressure on the carotid sinuses in the neck, leading to reduced tension. The slow, steady rhythm of the breath also makes it easier to let go during restorative postures and further supports sense withdrawal, helping ease the way into a meditative state.

Ujjayi is a profound pranayama with far-reaching benefits. Introduce Ujjayi into your asana practice and begin experiencing the power of this breath.


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TAGS: art of living , breathing , meditation , yoga
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The Practice: What are the Eight Limbs of Yoga?

By AOLRC
January 28, 2018

Art of Living Retreat Center

 

Increasingly, the practice of Asana, or the physical poses we understand as yoga, is being alienated from the very source of its conception; its moral, ethical, and philosophial raison d’être and foundation. Perhaps this is because the modern practice has separated the metaphorical wrapping paper from the gift itself, interchanging the two and taking the wrapping paper instead of the gift.

 

Most practitioners of Yoga have heard of the eight limbs of yoga: Yamas, Niyamas, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. These eight limbs are integral to one another: they are neither dispensable nor separable. Why, then, does Asana remain the centerpiece of the modern experience of yoga? Why are they understood as a progression on the path of yoga, when in fact they are a composite and part of an organic whole?

   

Yamas

The five Yamas are as follows: Ahimsa, or non-violence, Satya, or truth, Asteya, or non-stealing, Brahmacharya, or moving in Brahman (infinity), and Aparigraha, or non-accumulation. These five principles are universal in nature, without exception. An intrinsic part of human values and an ethical code of conduct. The understanding of, and more importantly, incorporation of them, changes the entire texture of our physical practice.

 

Niyamas

Niyamas can be understood as the cultivation of the self. There are five Niyamas: Shaucha, or physical purity, Santosha, or contentment, Tapas, or endurace, Swaadhyaaya, or self-study, and Ishwara Pranidhaana, or devotion to the Divine.

 

Asana

Asana is widely understood as the totality of yoga. The Yoga Sutras define Asana as that which is steady and comfortable. Again, in the words of Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, “Feeling the body, letting go of the effort, and experiencing the infinity is Asana.”

 

Pranayama

In Pranayama, we understand the dimension of the breath. Various Pranayama techniques are outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. At a fundamental level, the inhalations and exhalations are controlled in a certain rhythm or pattern. A good example of this is the Sudarshan Kriya breathing technique taught by Art of Living that has helped bring a greater mental clarity and physical well-being to millions around the world. Patanjali has stressed that Pranayam should be explored with proper guidance, as they thin down the curtain around the light – prakash avanaram. 

 

Pratyahara

Pratyahara is the inner canvas, the reference of the inner world and the coaxing of the senses to withdraw inward. It is fundamental to cultivating a practice that is not thrown off by the external fluctuations of the body, the senses, and the circumstances. Various guided meditations are helpful to invite the mind to dive inwards.

 

Dharana and Dhyana

Dharana and Dhyana are sometimes thought of as interchangeable. While meditation has become popular even outside the realm of yoga, the concept of Dharana, which is the singular pointed attention of meditation, was prescribed by a teacher in accordance with the needs of the individual and his or her progress on the path of yoga. Dharana and Dhyana are intimately tied to Pranayama, a good example of why no limb of yoga is separate from the other.

 

Samadhi

Samadhi, or the state of ultimate bliss, as long been considered too lofty a goal for the common man. This eliminates the opportunity for us to blossom on the path of yoga. Every moment that we feel one with the infinite self is one of Samhadi.

 

What is truly profound is astoundingly simple. When our experience is clouded, our understand is blurry as well. If your only experience of yoga is sweating in a hot room, then the opportunity for a deeper experience and understanding diminishes. The gift of yoga is the opportunity to experience the whole being, not just the body. Why settle for less?

According to Yogi Krishan Verma, director of Sri Sri Yoga Trainings at the Art of Living Retreat Center, “You are more than just the body.”

 

 

While this may sound like a lofty goal, in experience, it is simple, and brings a seismic shift to the way we practice. At the basic level, when the emotions are clouded or the mind is scattered, the body reflects that as well. The body and the physical practice is just one limb of yoga. Why would we take the part as the whole?

When we move through the eight limbs of yoga as a dynamic whole, the practice parts to reveal our true self. All conflict and duality shifts to illuminate the light that we are. As explained by Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, “When a body develops, the whole body develops together. Simultaneously all the aspects, all the limbs of the body develop.” The eight limbs of yoga are just that – limbs in the body of yoga. This realization is a gift that we unwrap with a sense of awe and wonder!

by Shalini Parekh

 
 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

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TAGS: asana , breathing , eight limbs of yoga , meditation , sudarshan kriya , yoga , yoga practice

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