Pranayama

Yesterday I went to my second Pranayama class at a well-respected yoga institution celebrating 40 years of yoga education in the San Francisco Bay area. It’s a monthly session focused on different methods of yogic breathing. I’ve always wanted to learn more about pranayama (a Sanskrit word that translates to “extension of the prāṇa (breath or life force)” or “breath control”).

Alternate nostril breathing. There are many pranayama techniques; this is just one.

In traditional yoga, as I understand, the natural progression is from asana practice (yoga postures or stretches) to pranayama to meditation. And I want to take up Gareth Walker’s challenge to me — start a daily meditation practice. With pranayama I can practice respiratory health and integrate daily meditation into my life.

I have felt the benefits of meditation — even with isolated short practices. I crave that stillness.

In yesterday’s 1.5 hour class we began on our backs in a restorative pose. For most of the class we reclined in different poses and focused on breathing in our lower back — expanding the space for our kidneys. During the final third of the class we were in a seated position. And that’s when I felt it…sort of like floating. Momentary bliss. If I could capture and bottle the sensation I couldn’t use it that much. I couldn’t write a blog post feeling blissed or could I?

My bliss may be different than your bliss. I felt the release of all tension in my body. The release of all thoughts of past and future and was firmly rooted in the now. No physical or emotional pain or stress.

So I asked the teacher how to begin a regular practice. She told me a good way is to practice for 20-minutes at least 4x/week. Start in a relaxed pose and work up to the seated position. Sounds simple enough.


Accessible Yoga for All

Accessible Yoga includes persons with disabilities, seniors, at-risk-youth, and many others not comfortable in more traditional yoga classes.

Jivana Heyman — registered yoga therapist and teacher — talks about the origin of the Accessible Yoga organization and the upcoming conferences in New York and San Francisco. Want to know what Accessible yoga is all about? Tune in to find out more.

During our conversation Jivana mentions Dean Ornish’s book, Love and Survival: 8 Pathways to Intimacy and Health. Why not buy it now?


The Science of Yoga

Murali in the cow-face pose

In this episode my guest, Murali Ventkatrao, discusses the yogic perspective on health and current scientific research exploring how yoga, pranayama (breathing), and meditation affect human physiology and has the potential to treat many pervasive diseases.

For additional information about Murali and an introductory webinar delving deeper into the science of yoga, visit the Ananda Institute.

 


Yoga Therapy: Cancer

What is yoga therapy? This podcast episode explores the question as it applies to people with chronic health conditions and most specifically those undergoing or post-cancer treatment. Cheryl Fenner Brown, a yoga therapist, talks about her work with the Cancer Support Community and the research project which helps frame the training she does with yoga teachers and health care practitioners.

To find a yoga therapist in your community, check this website.


Exploring Self-Care: What is Urban Zen?

Valerie uses Reiki therapy, one of five modalities used in Urban Zen Integrative Heealing

Valerie uses Reiki therapy, one of five modalities in Urban Zen Integrative Healing

Urban Zen integrates the practices of Reiki, aromatherapy, body scans, breath awareness, and movements/restoratives to initiate self-care and healing. In a conversation with Valerie Jew, I learn how these modalities can help not just people with chronic health conditions but caregivers as well as health care providers.

You can visit the Urban Zen Foundation website to learn more about this program.

Valerie recommends the following books to learn more about any of the specific modalities used:

 


Yoga teaches us to listen to our body – A conversation with JoAnn Lyons

Any body can do yoga. With teachers like JoAnn Lyons of the Piedmont Yoga Community making it possible, that is.

In this conversation JoAnn mentions different styles of yoga — Iyengar, Integral, Vedanta, and Sivananda. Check out these links if you want to learn more but this podcast is geared toward anyone with either an advanced or limited understanding of yoga.

For those wanting to know more about yoga for people with disabilities, JoAnn recommends the books Recovery Yoga and Yoga and Multiple Sclerosis.

Here are two books with great illustrations of people doing yoga using chairs: All I need is this Chair Yoga and A Chair for Yoga: A complete guide to Iyengar yoga practice with a chair.

Additional resources include the International Association for Yoga Therapists (this is where I search for yoga instructors in locations outside of the SF Bay Area) and the Accessible Yoga Conference.

Matthew Sanford is an inspirational yoga instructor who shares his personal story of surviving a car accident as a teenager in his book, Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence.


Yoga

I can’t remember when I started doing yoga. I may have tried it for the first time during my college years in New York. Or, an introductory class I took in the late 80s in Fort Lauderdale. That is my earliest memory of doing yoga postures, or asanas, in a classroom environment.

I did start doing the seated lotus position when I was very young. Maybe all children can do this but I continued doing it and now it’s easy to maneuver into. It’s comforting to fold my legs into a pretzel.

But, I digress.

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