Within us, there are various forms of energy that permeate and surround our bodies. These are closely connected with our health, the way we think, and how we react to the external world. Some of these energies are well known: nervous energy, chemical energy, and so on. Yet there are some which are not normally perceived in everyday life of most people. It is these subtle forms, as well as the grosser forms of energy that the practices of pranayama seek to harmonize and manipulate (57).
This subject of prana and pranayama will be fully discussed in the next lesson, but in this topic, I will describe one of the most straightforward practices of pranayama called samaveta pranayama as I've understood it based on the amazing book we have been exploring now since March 16, 2020.
IN TODAY'S BLOG YOU WILL FIND...
SAMAVETA = TOGETHER
The Sanskrit word samaveta means ‘together’. Therefore, samaveta pranayama is a practice where one breathes through both of the nostrils. This might seem to be an obvious and inconsequential statement, but the practice is so named to distinguish it from other techniques of pranayama where the flow of air is directed in one nostril by physically or mentally preventing the flow in the other nostril.
Technique for Samaveta Pranayama
Duration of the Retention of the Breath
Over a period of weeks slowly increase the time of breath retention from a second or so to a maximum of ten seconds. Do not hold the breath for longer than is comfortable. This is important. With practice, the time of breath retention will increase automatically. If you attempt a higher count and realize that it is causing some tension to arise in your body, perhaps back off and continue with the previous number a while longer. Be kind to yourself. Practice ahimsa = non-violence to yourself, mentally, physically, emotionally, etc. (57).
Benefits of Samaveta Pranayama
This is an excellent practice in preparing the lungs for more advanced practices of pranayama. At the time of retention, the amount of oxygen taken up by the blood and the amount of carbon dioxide that is discharged by the blood into the lungs is increased. When people breathe quickly and shallowly, the exchange between the circulating blood and the lungs is very small. The increased exchange during samaveta pranayama helps to revitalize the body and improve one’s health (57).
Q & A: Samaveta Pranayama & More
Some of the things that come up for me while attempting to practice samaveta pranayama are the following:
However, I made a few changes to my life and to my practice... more like, a few commitments. And, as a result, I've been successfully practicing samaveta pranayama for the last three days out of seven total. I'd like to share those with you now :)
HERE ARE SOME TIPS THAT MIGHT HELP US SUCCEED
Yesterday, A student of yoga who happened across my Youtube Channel asked me via whatsapp the following question:
"When do I know when it is time to move on from one lesson to the next lesson?"
This is a wonderful and intelligent question. Luckily for us, the answer to this question is provided by Swami Satayananda Saraswati on page 36 of the full, unabridged textbook, "A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya". He says:
From our experience, we recommend that the techniques contained in each lesson be thoroughly mastered before progressing on to the next set of practices. Generally, this takes a minimum of fifteen days and on the average, one month. This is very important and an essential prerequisite for the eventual success of your sadhana.
I hope the information I have provided here helps you in some way. I'm sending everyone out there a hug and wishing you a beautiful day. ❤ Ashley
Saraswati, Satyananda. A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Yoga Publications Trust, 2013.
In the previous lessons, Swami Satyananda described eight exercises to loosen up the body, particularly the legs, in preparation for meditative asanas and other types of asanas. In this topic, we will explain two of the simplest sitting positions, which can be used for various meditation, pranayama, and kriya yoga practices.
The following two asanas are very useful in the early stages of practice. However, the best sitting positions are the classical meditative asanas. These are padmasana (lotus pose), siddhasana (accomplished posed for men), and swastikasana (auspicious pose for women). Your aim should be eventually to sit in one of these classical asanas. Therefore, the exercises previously given for loosening up the legs should be continued so that the more advanced meditative asanas can be mastered in the future.
SUKHASANA (EASY POSE)
This is the easiest of the meditative asanas, and everyone should be able to sit in it. Although it may be used for meditation practices, it has one basic drawback: most of the weight of the body is supported by the small area of contact between the floor and the buttocks. After a period of time, this area soon becomes a little painful. However, this can be overcome to a degree by using a cushion under the buttocks. The other meditative asanas have a larger area of contact between the floor and the body - the weight of the body is supported partly by the buttocks and also by the legs, which reduces aches and pains from developing.
Note: As soon as one is able to comfortably perform any other meditative asana, sukhasana should be discontinued.
VAJRASANA (THUNDERBOLT POSE)
Many people find this asana a little uncomfortable at first because it is a sitting position that few people ever use. At first, the ankles and knees tend to ache, but with practice, this asana will become most comfortable and almost a joy to sit in. Besides being an excellent meditative asana used by Muslims and Japanese Buddhists, it is the starting pose for a large number of other asanas.
The Sanskrit word vajra means 'thunderbolt.' The psychic vajra nadi, which is greatly affected by this pose, is an important energy pathway which carries nervous impulses of the genito-urinary system from the brain. It is the same word that has given the name Vajrayana to a form of Tantric Buddhism, which uses sexual union as part of its spiritual sadhana (practice). The term has various other meanings, all connected with the same subject. As such, vajrasana is said to enable the practitioner to gain control over the sexual functions and direct the energy towards expanding consciousness.
ADVICE FOR BEGINNERS
Beginners may find it difficult to sit on their feet without the support of the arms. A good method for loosening up the legs is to support your body weight with your arms and then slowly lower your buttocks towards the feet. Bear the discomfort for a second or so and then take support of your arms again to release the tension. Then again, lower your buttocks and repeat the procedure. With practice, you will find that the tension disappears, and eventually, you will be able to sit on the feet for longer periods without the slightest difficulty. Remember, the loosening up exercises will also help you very much to make your legs more supple and allow you to sit in vajrasana.
Beginners who find that their legs and feet ache after a very short time in this position should return to the kneeling position and then sit on the floor with the legs outstretched. Bend one leg, hold the ankle, and vigorously shake the foot until all signs of stiffness have disappeared. Repeat with the other leg. Then again, sit in vajrasana.
Vajrasana is one of the few asanas which can be performed after taking meals, as asanas, in general, are strictly contraindicated after food. We actually recommend that vajrasana be practiced for five or ten minutes after meals. The reason is simple: vajrasana is a very relaxing position, conducive to a calm mind and body, so it stimulates the digestive processes working in the stomach.
As we have already explained, vajrasana is an excellent meditative asana and, in fact, is the only practical meditative asana for people who suffer from sciatica or sacral infections.
Vajrasana has one notable advantage over sukhasana: one tends to automatically hold the spine straight while doing vajrasana, whereas in sukhasana there is more of a tendency to slump forwards. For this reason, vajrasana is far superior to sukhasana once it is mastered.
Isabella's Aromatherapy Filled Yoga Classes
Saraswati, Satyananda. A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Yoga Publications Trust, 2013.
As I begin writing this, it is Sunday, and this morning I realized that I have formed a healthy habit! :) I have been placing my yoga mat in the same place every day, and I have been practicing on it, around the same time, every single day. How did this happen?
Before I read Lesson 2 from the book we are working with, “A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya,” and of which I am about to share with you, I used to place my yoga mat in the living room of my home. I would practice on it throughout the week, but not daily. Now, I find myself drawn to my mat, and I believe the reason is that I followed the directions from the book, and mindfully created a place of practice that is special to me. I created it with intention. And I've been practicing slowly, taking my time, never feeling rushed or forced.
Let me tell you about my teeny-tiny yoga space. The space I have created is cozy and receives a lot of sunlight, which is so important to me here in London. I didn't want to clutter the space, so I selected only a few yoga items, displayed pleasantly. My Tibetan singing bowl. A plant. A few yoga blocks of various sizes. An eye pillow filled with lavender. A strap. A small bag with a few also intentionally chosen essential oils in it: lavender, rosemary, jasmine flower. And that’s it.
My yoga space is welcoming. It calls to me now, whereas before, the place I had initially been practicing in, the living room, hardly caught my attention at all.
And so, as a result of consciously preparing a yoga space for myself, I have been practicing more often. Lately, I begin my practice with the yoga asanas that we learned in the last chapter (I save naukasana (boat pose), savasana (corpse pose), and pranayama for the end of my entire practice). Then I move into something different. Lately, I have been practicing ashtanga yoga, but only Surya Namaskara A and Surya Namaskara B. This usually takes me about 15-20 minutes to complete, in addition to the 10 minutes I spend on the kriya asanas we’ve learned. Sometimes after ashtanga, I do more of my own personal flows, following my intuition and my body’s signals. Sometimes I continue with more ashtanga. Sometimes I rest and practice pranayama and then rest in savasana. And sometimes, I only get through five rounds of Surya Namaskara A, and then I relax and put my mat away. It all depends. The point, though, is that I am practicing every day. Sometimes more than once a day.
I feel so much healthier. My mood is lighter. I have more energy. I feel grounded. So, I’d like to share what I’ve been learning with you now with the hope that it will also help you find the same sense of groundedness and peace that I saw as a result of following a few rules and preparation tips I discovered in the Kriya Yoga book. I wish you all the best as you prepare your yoga and meditation space with love and intention. ❤ ~ Ashley
In this blog you will find:
A Teeny Tiny Yoga Space & A Teeny Tiny Yogi
Asanas: Rules and Preparation
Here are some of the written guidelines to be observed during asana practice, as stated in the, "A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya". I've also included a video of myself below, in which I explain a bit more about some of these points and offer examples of how these rules have positively impacted my own practice.
Lesson 2, Topic 3 - Discussion
Rules & Preparations:
Let's review the breathing/pranayama portion of our Kriya Yoga program before we move on to the second lesson! :) I'm amazed at the progress I've made so far with this book. I literally feel like I am participating in my own yoga training. How do you feel about it? Feel free to comment and let me know :)
Below, you will find either a link (for email subscribers) or an audio tool (for web viewers). The audio includes our first pranayama practice! In the first half (1:00-18:00) of the recording, I take a moment to read the portion of the chapter that discusses the following important pieces of information:
- A review on breathing capacities
- Why slow breathing?
- The mechanics of breathing
- Different methods of breathing
- Preparations necessary for Yogic Breathing
Then lastly, I lead an exploration into what it means to really breathe. We break down what it means to experience abdominal breathing, middle breathing, upper breathing and finally, yogic breathing. Please feel free to skip the first half if you like, but once you get to the descriptions of the different methods of breathing, I suggest a careful listen. Sometimes these lectures have so much wonderful information and context, so if you do happen to skip the first part but are left wondering if you missed something, then perhaps give it a full listen.
The deep systematic yogic breathing will tend to retrain breathing nerve reflexes that may have ceased to be active by lack of use. In other words, at present you might be breathing only from the chest, hardly using the abdomen at all. Yogic breathing will start to make you breathe abdominally, intercostally and clavicularly during the day, and therefore, allow you to inhale the full amount of air that your body requires for nourishment and good health.
To develop the yogic breathing as an automatic and normal function of the body, try to develop the habit of consciously breathing yogically for a few seconds or minutes. If you feel tired or angry, sit down, or if possible lie down, and practice yogic breathing. If you can breathe slowly then your mind will become calm and revitalized.
Please, let me know if you practiced the recommended five Yogic breaths to start and how it made you feel. And don't forget, tomorrow, add two more breaths and so on. ~ Ashley
What Are We Going to Do Next?
Saraswati, Satyananda. A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Yoga Publications Trust, 2013.
- Is it really okay to shorten the practices?
- Is it okay if I skip an asana (pose)?
- What do I do about ankle pain?
- When do I know to come out of a pose?
I’ve answered some of those ponderings down below in this first video. And, in the second sped up video, I’ve demonstrated the asana portion of the practice in its entirety.
I WAS THINKING... if you have time now in your quarantine routine, and if maybe you would like to catch up and do the practice together, please reach out to me! I’m happy to walk you through the whole program from lesson one of our book. :)
Hi! Long Time, No See
~ PRANAYAMA ~
- The Art and Science of Relaxation
Tomorrow or so, I'll include a recording of our first pranayama practice called "Yogic Breathing". I hope you'll give it a listen. The first half includes information about the mechanics of breathing, in general. The second portion includes a breakdown of our first pranayama practice, including a led portion for you to practice to. I hope you enjoy it! I found that the levels of stress and anxiety that come with being quarantined and isolated dissipates with each breath. It literally melts away. Let me know what you think and if it helps you too! :)
1. You can buy a cheaper, abridged version of the book we are working with! It is called "Asana, Pranayama, Mudra Bandha" by Swami Satyananda Saraswati. It has all of the exercises we are doing, but it lacks much of the lecture part, the explanations, history, etc.
2. I posted a blog on March 23, but it failed to send to email subscribers. If you're interested in it, there is a slide show presentation that explains all the poses of the first program. Take a look :)
3. I offer yoga classes virtually :) If you're interested, please reach out to me. Your first class is free! We can use any platform, whether it's Facetime, Zoom, Skype etc. So long as you have the time, a place to practice, comfortable clothing and a camera, we are good to go. Let me know if you'd like a yoga class soon. I'm happy to lead one for you.
Yesterday we discussed and researched what the Ayurvedic practices of dinacharya are, as well as the benefits of adding this regular routine to your daily life. We discovered that dinacharya is a daily routine developed to ensure proper hygiene and dosha balance in the human body.
A daily routine invites health, vitality, and a sense of clarity into our lives. Adopting an appropriate daily routine is undoubtedly one of the most grounding and nurturing things you could do for yourself, and while the concept of having a daily routine is at the heart of an Ayurvedic lifestyle, no single prescription is right for everyone. So imagine yourself now as your own healer; realize that the general template I am providing can and should be adapted to meet the needs of each individual’s (your) constitution and current state of balance. And that’s the beauty of it, because the right daily routine can dramatically improve your life.
Keep in mind that it takes some time to establish a habit or new routine, so be gentle with yourself if you miss a day. Just come back to the routine the next day. The benefits of dinacharya to your health and wellbeing are immense, so it’s worth putting your time and attention on developing a nurturing balancing routine for your self.
In the last blog post we explored a few practices contained within a morning dinacharya routine. Today we will explore the options available within an evening dinacharya routine. Tomorrow we will dive further into the details, applications, and benefits of jala neti, abhyanga, and mindful-meditation.
Twilight Dimming: As the sun goes down, lower the lights in your home to signal to body and mind that the frenetic pace of the day’s activities is coming to an end—and that it’s time to stop being “on.” According to modern Ayurvedic experts, that means minimizing screen time on your electronic devices for at least an hour before bed, too. Wind down by reading something uplifting or spending time with your family or friends.
Stick to A Consistent Dinner Time: Ideally, we would eat dinner early enough that our food has time to move completely out of the stomach before we go to bed. This means allowing your body a minimum of 2-3 hours between dinner and bedtime. It may also mean eating a lighter dinner than we might otherwise be accustomed to. These practices allow for proper digestion, prevent the unnecessary accumulation of toxins, and support healthy sleep patterns.
Take Triphala: Triphala is a traditional Ayurvedic formula comprised of three fruits that are balancing for vata, pitta, and kapha. It is revered for its unique ability to gently cleanse and detoxify the digestive tract while replenishing, nourishing, and rejuvenating the tissues. About half an hour before bed, steep ½ teaspoon triphala powder in a cup of freshly boiled water for 10 minutes. Cool and drink. Or, take 2 triphala tablets with a glass of warm water.
- Brushing the teeth
- Washing the face
- Applying oil to the feet and scalp
- Other soothing, quieting activities that appeal to you
Note: Reading in bed is not recommended, as it disrupts the desired association between being in bed and sleeping. If you like to read before bed, designate a specific place – other than your bed – and enjoy. But keep in mind that reading before bed can be quite stimulating to the eyes and the mind, which can disrupt healthy sleep patterns. If you tend to struggle with disturbed sleep, you might want to try giving up your bedtime book for a while to see if you notice a difference in your quality of sleep.
Soothe: There are several marma points, or Ayurvedic pressure points, on the foot that correspond to the entire body. Doing a foot massage, can relax the entire body in just a few minutes.
I will write more about marma points in the future if you're interested in learning about them. Just let me know by leaving a comment below this blog.
Wash and dry your feet. Apply warmed, organic, cold-pressed sesame oil to one foot at a time, using your palms to rub the sole from heel to toe in small circular motions. Repeat on the top of the foot. Massage the ankle, followed by the sides of the foot. Interlace your fingers between your toes, gently push the foot to flex and point, and make clockwise and counterclockwise circles. Beginning with the little toe, rub each toe gently, and apply a little pressure in the webbing. Finally, pull each toe slightly, rub either lavender (soothing) or vetiver (grounding) essential oil into the sole of the foot and then put on clean cotton socks to sleep in.
Savor: Before bed, heat a cup of organic whole milk until it boils. Add a pinch of ground cardamom, nutmeg (spices that, in Ayurveda, are said to promote sleep), and cinnamon (to aid digestion). Let it cool a bit and add honey to taste. Warm whole milk is used in Ayurveda as an insomnia remedy. Don't drink milk? Sip chamomile, valerian, or lemon balm tea.
Place your right thumb over your right nostril to close the airway. Inhale through the left nostril, and then use your ring finger to close off the left nostril. Lift your thumb, and exhale out of the right nostril. Breathing in through the right nostril and putting your thumb over your right nostril again, exhale out of your left nostril. This completes a single round; try to do 5 to 10 rounds per sitting. This practice helps you transition from activity to stillness.
Establish a Consistent Bedtime: The trick here is to be consistent. Having predictable sleep and wake times helps our bodies naturally attune to a daily rhythm. It is often helpful to work backward from your desired wake time and establish a sleep time that ensures that you get enough rest each night without being excessive. This is a beautiful way for us to honor our need for sleep and to ensure that an appropriate amount of rest is built into each day.
Seasonal Adjustments: Each of the seasons arrives with its own unique personality. We can support an improved state of balance throughout the year by making a conscious effort to live in harmony with the cycles of nature and by making small adjustments in our routines in order to accommodate the arrival of each new season. For more information on how you might adapt your routine as the seasons change, view my Ayurvedic Lifestyle Programs services and then contact me... or wait for future blogs.
Adjustments for Imbalances: Similarly, if we are dealing with imbalances that do not line up precisely with our constitutions, it is often helpful to adopt a routine that pacifies the dosha(s) that are most aggravated. If you are unsure of your current condition, contact me today and I will help you determine your current dosha. If you know your current imbalances and would like to adapt your routine to better support those doshas, let me know and we can create a routine suited just for you.
At the most fundamental level, our physiology is very much adapted to – and supported by – some sense of regularity. Actually, this is precisely why the daily routine is such potent medicine. In effect, having a daily routine offers the grounding, stability, and predictability that are largely absent from our hectic modern lives. The routine itself creates a number of familiar and comforting reference points throughout each day that send a resounding affirmation to the deep tissues of the body that all is well, that we can be at ease. And so, when the body becomes accustomed to – and learns to count on – a daily routine that includes things like adequate rest, appropriate exercise, and a nourishing spiritual practice, the nervous system can finally begin to relax. As a result, a daily routine can elicit profound rejuvenation throughout the body without requiring any conscious awareness of the healing process.
Adopting a daily routine is also a very purposeful and enduring act of self-love. Each day, our routines provide us with a tangible opportunity to prioritize our own health and wellbeing, regardless of what else might be going on in our lives. They quickly become poignant reminders that we are in fact worthy of a healthy dose of loving attention every single day. The cumulative affect of caring for ourselves in this way is quite powerful. And for many, committing to a daily routine results in a greatly improved sense of wellness in a very short period of time.
Adopting a daily routine is also a very purposeful and enduring act of self-love. Each day, our routines provide us with a tangible opportunity to prioritize our own health and wellbeing, regardless of what else might be going on in our lives. They quickly become poignant reminders that we are in fact worthy of a healthy dose of loving attention every single day. The cumulative effect of caring for ourselves in this way is quite powerful. And for many, committing to a daily routine results in a greatly improved sense of wellness in a very short period of time.
When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still.”
~ Svatmarama, Hatha Yoga Pradipika
I focused on my work and I focused on each step that I took, just trying to be present as I took a step forward in my life. Just trying to make progress. And if I discovered I was living in my past again, I just took another deep breath. And another. And another... breathing deeply helped me heal some more today.
I got a lot done at work and I hurt a little less and I miss her just as much, and that's okay.
In the yogic practice of breath control (or pranayama), the exhale has a special function. While the inhale is stimulating, the exhale is relaxing. While the inhale is about bringing energy into the body, the exhale is about releasing stress, toxins, and pain.
Because of this, you can use conscious breathing as a break in your day just as I did. By focusing on your exhale, you can let go of the past and come into the present with a renewed commitment.
Here's How: Seriously, give it a shot ;)
Sit up in your chair with your feet on the floor and a long spine. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Inhale through the nose, feeling your spine get longer and taller. Tuck your chin a little, remaining humble... Then exhale through your mouth with a deep sigh. As you exhale, visualize the difficult moments of your day moving away from you. Smile some.
Try this for a few minutes anytime you need to let go of something. It can have a profound effect on your emotional and physical health. When I practiced it today I was able to write this blog. I was able to enjoy my walk in the sunlight and the cool northern air in my hair. I was able to cry a little and smile a little and accomplish things that made my life easier and the lives of the people around me easier too. Just by breathing deeply and consciously, I was able to ground a little more in this world and look at it through new lenses. You can too. Just breathe. Give it a shot. And smile.
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ~ Nelson Mandela
Love is the essence of our life. I have written this blog with love, and I offer it to you, dear reader, with the hope that the suggestions offered here will become a vital part of your self-healing and continued well-being. ~ Ashley
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