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What Is Pranayama?

What Is Pranayama?

One of the most important parts of a yoga practice is the connection to breath. There are lots of other elements that “make” a yoga class, but breath is high on that list. If it weren’t for this conscious awareness then it would be a program for stretching and strengthening, not quite yoga. Some of us may know that pranayama has something to do with breath, but what does it really mean? There are a few different translations for pranayama, one is “breath control,” a variation on that definition is “extension of prana, or breath.” Prana refers to one’s life force energy. The entire universe shares this connection as one, larger organism: plants, animals, water, food, even the sun and moon contain prana. So why is pranayama so important? Consciousness while breathing creates a stronger connection with the rest of the universe – it can take us from being one person, to a sense of “oneness.” There are many other benefits to a pranayama practice. Common Benefits: Guiding the nervous system into the parasympathetic response a.k.a. the rest-and-digest or relaxation response; giving the body an opportunity to restore and heal Increases oxygenation of blood Eliminates excess carbon dioxide in the body Can increase lung capacity Encourages full range of motion in the diaphragm Promotes a steady stream of concentration or consciousness There are many other specific benefits that come from practicing specific breath techniques. A recent 2014 study (Pal et al.) showed that slow yogic breathing improved heart rate variability and cardiovascular risks in young adults. However, certain pranayama should be avoided if you have specific concerns such as...
Yogic Breathing For Well-Being

Yogic Breathing For Well-Being

Yogic breathing is the act of breathing consciously in-and-out through the nose. Nothing out of the ordinary, only the use of proper breath mechanics to soothe body, mind and spirit. For many people, everyday life induces the sympathetic nervous system, or stress response, which can affect ones breath rate causing rapid, shallow breathing. Proper yogic breathing is essential for well-being to relieve stress and maintain good health. One of the simplest ways to ensure proper breathing is to practice “three part breathing” or what’s known as dirgha pranayama.  This yogic breathing technique can be used sitting up or lying down. How to practice three part breathing: – Start with one hand on your low belly, and one hand on your upper chest – Feel your inhale expand into your low belly, mid belly, then into your upper chest – On your exhale, allow your breath to relax towards your spine – Repeat Once you feel confident that your low belly initiates the inhalation, you are welcome to rest your palms or take a mudra (hand gesture) and continue yogic breathing. Practicing this breath not only promotes proper yogic breathing, but it will help calm your nervous system. Although this technique is great to add to your yoga practice, it can be practiced anytime to cultivate well-being and...
Snowga | Yogacara Studios

Snowga | Yogacara Studios

By Emily Kane, Owner & Teacher at Yogacara Whistler With yoga’s increasing popularity there are many emerging trends branching off to fit every lifestyle. “Snowga” is definitely no exception. For every skier or snowboarder who’s ever thought about trying yoga this may now be your chance… or maybe you’re a yogi who’s thought about giving one of these snow sports a try. Whatever’s brought you to the mountains, Snowga is a new way to blend yoga and snowsports. The basic idea of “Snowga” is exactly how it sounds: merging the powerful practice of yoga with a lesson in skiing or snowboarding. The focus is on asana, or the postures in yoga, as wells as pranayama, or breath technique, along with meditation to help calm and prepare the body for a better mountain experience. The philosophy is that by using the conventions of yoga we can improve our skills and abilities to bring more enjoyment to snow sports. And what better way to enhance your yoga practice than by being in a pristine winter wonderland? The benefits of Snowga range from enhancing self-awareness, improving well-being, preventing injury, increasing energy and self-confidence, as well as balance and alignment. If you’re still not convinced, the tools learned in Snowga can also be taken into your daily life. Even if “Snowga” isn’t available in your area, we can always use the techniques learned in yoga classes and bring that intention to skiing or snowboarding. Or even if it’s just on a scenic chairlift ride. Whatever your interest is, find your mountain bliss by blending yoga with winter activities; a great way to have...
Yoga Yin and Yang | Yogacara Studios

Yoga Yin and Yang | Yogacara Studios

Most of us are familiar with the Yin and Yang symbol that originated in Chinese philosophy, but did you know that this philsophy, literally meaning “shadow and light”, can be used to describe the varying styles of yoga? Yoga Yin and Yang is used to describe how polar opposites or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other in relation to each other. In this philosophy, Yin is characterized as slow, soft, yielding, cold, and passive;  associated with water, earth, the moon, femininity and nighttime. In contrast, Yang, is fast, hard, solid, focused, hot, dry, and aggressive; associated with fire, sky, the sun, masculinity and daytime. Yin and yang are not opposing forces, but rather complementary forces, that interact to form a greater whole. Everything has both yin and yang aspects as light could not be understood if darkness didn’t exist, and shadow cannot exist without light. This concept shows up in yoga as well, we wouldn’t have Yin yoga without Vinyasa yoga and vice versa. Many of us live our lives in “Yang”, rushing, constantly moving, focused and aggressive and struggle with the moments in our lives that are more “Yin” like, slow and passive. We understand that in our lives we need balance, work and play, company and solitude. We know that we need to have an equal balance in order to be truly happy. Some of us need less play and enjoy more work, but doesn’t mean that it is not enjoyed when we have it. Planning vacations and taking time away from technology and “work” are things we find we need to...
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