It is the end of the week now. I am about to jump into my jammies and watch a movie cuddled up in a blanket. My fingers are cold as well as my toes so the extra warmth will be appreciated. This leads me to my new exercise program of walking. It is not really new, I love to walk but haven’t been doing much of it. I need to complement my yoga practice with more cardiovascular exercise. I think that is why my fingers and toes are so cold. One of my students loaned me a DVD for walking – Leslie Sansone. I never thought I would be a purveyor of an exercise DVD but she truly leads a fun “real” class and the one I did is over in 30 fast minutes. I’ve only done it twice thus far but feel that it will be very beneficial for my circulation. Check her out for a fun walkabout.
Alternate Nostril Breath (Nadi Shodhana)
This breath invites the calm in, balancing both sides of our nasal passages and our brain. We tend to breath predominately with either the left or right nasal passage and we become unbalanced. A few minutes at the start of a class or practice, can merge the two hemispheres of the brain and allow you to become more receptive.
Breathing through the right or left nostrils gives different effects.
increases heart rate, increases verbal performance, stimulates left brain, increases rate of blinking
Left Nostril decreases heart rate, increases spatial performance, stimulates right brain, reduces rate of blinking,
The Practice: Find a comfortable seat or laying down. Using the right hand, bring the middle and index fingers to rest toward the palm. Alternatively, they can be placed at your third eye (forehead area). Begin with even breaths through both nostrils, gently close off right nostril, then inhale through left nostril and exhale through the right nostril. Gently close off left nostril, as you inhale through right and exhale through left. Keep the same count for both sides. That is one round. Repeat for 5 to 6 rounds or more. Tongue comes to rest on roof of mouth.
Other variations of this breath are:
- Retaining the breath after the inhale while keeping both nostrils gently closed.
- Extending the exhale longer than inhale
- Cessation of breath after the exhale, with only one nostril closed
- Mental Nadi Shodhana. Mentally instruct the breath to come in and out through alternating nostrils. Can even visualize breathing in from one far away place and breathing out to another far away place (Mt. Everest (Inhale), African plains (Exhale)
Supported Pigeon Pose (variation)
Props: bolster, blankets
Benefits: gentle hip opener, grounding, aids in digestion, stretches out spine, upper leg, mild stretch in chest wall
Sitting on a blanket, bring one hip next to bolster bending bottom leg so foot rests lightly against upper leg kneecap. On an inhalation, lengthen upward and on an exhalation, recline over the bolster face down. Arms drape on either side of the bolster. Add an extra blanket to bolster for more comfort and any other blankets to give a feeling of grounding. Stay for 5 to 8 minutes and change sides.
Supported Head to Knee Pose (Janu Sirasana)
Props: bolster, blankets, neck roll
Benefits: Stretches hamstring and back of leg, centering and calming to central nervous system, gently stretches back, mild hip opener.
In the variation that we practiced in class, we placed the bolster upright on short end on our thigh and draped the arms over it letting the fingers and hands relax. Use blanket support under knee and possibly to sit on to take pressure off of the low back. Add a neck pillow or other cushioning for the head to rest on. Stay for up to 5 minutes and switch sides mindfully. We warmed up some with a flowing Head to Knee pose prior. Try out the Mental Alternate Nostril Breathing.
Reclined Bound Angle (low version)
Benefits: opens the hips and groin facilitating blood and energy flow to the urinary tract and reproductive organs. Opens the chest and abdomen benefiting breathing problems.
Props: 4 blocks (or firm cushions, pillows or rolled-up blankets), eye pillow
Again we changed this a little to make it lower, more grounded. Place two blankets stacked on top of each other lengthwise. Recline head, upper body onto blankets. Bring feet together in bandakonasana with support under the knees. Arms can rest by your side with an eye pillow over the eyes and any other support under your neck. As we have entered the windy fall, allow a blanket to hug in your body warmth. Stay for 10 minutes, breathing into sensation.
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