Dear Sweet Community,
First of all, let me apologize for my lag in newsletters. I have been traveling and my capacity to do my newsletters has been compromised. I feel this apology is very necessary since I have made a commitment to all of you, my Sangha (community). Without that dedication of all of us, the community begins to fragment. So I truly apologize for not reaching out to all of you and keeping up my end of the bargain. After all - you all show up morning after morning and practice. And because of your practice, we all feel energized and held, because of you the greater community feels the reverberations of your intentions.
Being busy, is what congests relationship. I am aware of this as I write to all of you. As a somatic therapist, I am always telling my clients to breathe. Because just breathing drops us into our bodies and brings us into the present moment, commitment etc. So that is what we have focused on this past week and as I start this newsletter I shut my eyes and remind myself "just breathe Ariel.."
Alignment Tip of the Week:
The past two Fridays we focused on Vrksasana (tree pose) and Ujjayi and Kapalbhati breath.
Ok, I get it I should breathe but how should I breathe? What kind of breath do I need right now? In Yoga, we have the opportunity to use different forms of Pranayama (breath work) to manipulate our prana (life force) and nervous system.
Imagine your sympathetic nervous system as the gas peddle in your car; it responds to stimulation and creates adrenalin. The parasympathetic nervous system is like the brake; it responds to safety and creates relaxation. The parasympathetic nervous system is turned on by the vegus nerve. The vegus nerve can be accessed and stimulated at various points in the body. By stimulating this nerve, we can move from being stressed in the sympathetic nervous system to being relaxed and calm in the parasympathetic nervous system. If you are feeling hyper stimulated and in your sympathetic nervous system, then you will benefit from Ujjayi breath. To do Uijayi breath, sit comfortably and breathe in through your nose and out through your nose. As you breathe open the back of the throat so the breath feels like it is making a vacuum. Try breathing in for 5 counts and out for the same. Uijayi breath is real diaphragm breathing. The vegus nerve passes through the diaphragm, and as this amazing muscle moves it massages the nerve and stimulates it. So Uijayi breath can be used to calm you. Just don't do too much Uijayi when you are driving a car ;)
If you are stressed and need a quick "reset" to your nervous system you may try a cleansing breath; simply breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Generally speaking exhaling with an open mouth is cooling and therefore calming and breathing out with a closed mouth is heating or stimulating. Another form of cooling breath is Sitali breath. For Sitali breath, sit comfortably and make a tube with your tongue (much like a hot dog bun). With your lips open breathe air in through your tongue, this will be cooling, and then release your tongue and breath out with the mouth shut. Repeat this for several rounds until you notice that you have cooled down.
If you are feeling tired, relaxed, even sluggish, then you will want to do Kapalabhati breath. To do Kapalabhati breath sit comfortably and take a shallow inhale in through the nose, then push the air out through the nose with a snap of your belly. Keep repeating this. You will be focusing on the exhales and not the inhales. As you breathe keep pumping the belly. Be careful not to tense up your face, keep it relaxed. By breathing this way you are stimulating the body's response to oxygen. The brain "awakens" when there is less oxygen and becomes more alert, your sympathetic nervous system will be stimulated, producing cortisol which gives you more energy. So this is a good form of breath when you want to become more engaged in your environment. Be careful not to do this form of breath when you are stressed as it will make you more stressed.
Choose a form of breath that supports your nervous system and meditation, both grounding you and increasing your alertness for meditation.
Breathing is one way of grounding, so is one leg balancing. Vrksasana, tree pose, is meant to mimic the grounding quality of a tree; we use our roots to steady us while being limber enough to move with the subtle winds of our environment.
While tree pose may seem simple, it challenges us to find our center. To do tree pose, stand with your feet together. Bring your right knee into your chest and bring it out to the right. Open your arms wide in a T shape and lift the right knee towards the right elbow. Take the right foot with your hand and either place it on the inside of the left leg high up by your pelvic floor, or right above or below the left knee. Then press your right knee back and down towards the floor. As in all balancing poses, spread the toes of the left foot and feel the four corners of the standing foot. This is your roots. Pull up along the inner legs feeling the shins press in and the quadriceps roll out. Feel the ribs lift off of the hips and the front of your ribs close anchoring your torso in a solid, straight and sturdy trunk. Then allow your hands to float wherever they like creating the branches of your tree.
If you like, you may try shutting your eyes. Turning your gaze inwards and trusting the grounded roots of your standing foot and the unwavering anchor of the core and trunk. Breathe into any wobbling as the breath helps us to recover like the bending tree in the wind. Play around with your faith in your capacity to weather fluctuations and come back to your center. Tree is very good for grounding us.
See you on the mat,