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Category:Self Care

Relaxation in Action: Full Yogic Breath

Yet another way we can align with cycles of nature is to pay some attention to our breathing. A lot of us have mind and body health symptoms that would be soothed to some degree with proper breathing. In fact, breath is one of our most important forms of nourishment.

The breath is a wonderful tool on our path because it is always available to us. By learning to trust it, we can find a less effort-full way of moving through the world. By becoming more sensitive to its changes we can also recognize subtle ways we try to control it.

There are many practices for working with the breath, but we always need to start with just remembering how to take a full breath. In yoga we call this “Full Yogic Breath”.

Full Yogic Breath helps us become accustomed to deeper breathing as a regular habit. Bringing the breath into the belly helps to soothe anxiety or pain caused by being overstimulated. Resting your awareness on the process of breathing cools intensity and irritability caused by heat and stress.

Full Yogic Breath

Here’s a 5 minute audio of the practice:

To Practice:

Lie on your back on a bed or the floor.

Feel your body relax into the support of the earth.

Imagine your body is like a hollow vessel that you are pouring the breath into. Inhale, filling that vessel with the breath, from the base of the pelvis to the pit of the throat. The belly inflates first, like a balloon. Then the breath moves upwards, filling the sides and back of the ribcage.

As you exhale the breath back out, the vessel empties from throat to base. The navel relaxes back toward the spine.

In the beginning, it can be helpful to place one hand over the navel and one over the sternum. As you breathe, remind yourself to fill the belly first and then the chest. When exhaling, empty the chest and then the belly.

Stay connected to the full, deep breath and continue breathing like this for as long as you like. Try 5 minutes at first, but you might want to stay longer.

Once you are able to comfortably practice the breath lying down, try it sitting up and then standing. Before long you will find that you are breathing in this way more and more of the time without having to think about it.

 

 

How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Sleep

There is nothing more frustrating than lying in bed staring at the ceiling, tired but unable to sleep.

A healthy, full night’s sleep is one of the essential supports of a healthy full life. When we get enough sleep, we have the opportunity to enter the next day with a sort of clean slate and renewed energy.

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Summer Health: Stay Juicy!

In the beginning of the summer, most of us feel pretty great. It may seem strange to even think about “summer health.”

but…

As we slip into the heat and long days of the summer, the influence of the sun on our bodies and nature around us becomes more and more obvious. Summer solstice (June 21) marks the center of the half of the year that is  governed by the sun and by fire element (the other half of the year is ruled by the energies of the moon and of water element).

In the summer…we want to increase our exposure to cool, moist, smooth, soft and non-oily foods, situations and emotions.
For those of us with the spark of a fiery (pitta) constitution, or with a Pitta imbalance, in the summer it is vital to pay more attention to staying cool, calm and collected. But at this time of year that  becomes important for all of us.  The hot, penetrating, intense and bright qualities of the summer sun increase those same qualities inherent in Pitta dosha. Over time, especially if the weather turns dry and windy, these conditions also disturb Vata dosha.

What does increased Pitta or Vata look like?

When Vata and Pitta increase, we heat up and dry out. We get less and less juicy. And our juiciness is our claim to life.

Excess Pitta can manifest as:

  • Irritability—of the mind, digestive system or skin
  • Anger, frustration or impatience
  • Excess body heat
  • Heartburn
  • Acne
  • Skin rashes
  • Diarrhea
  • Intense body odor
  • Headache
  • Ulcers

 Excess Vata shows up as:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Gas and bloating
  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Exhaustion
  • Emaciation
  • Irregular digestion

What can we do?

Ayurveda recommends that we change our lifestyle and diet habits with the seasonal changes in the environment to help lessen the effects of the weather on our body.

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How to Drink Water (with recipes)

How much water should I drink?

For years, most of us have heard the suggestion that we should drink “8 cups of water a day.” Unfortunately it isn’t really that simple.

In fact, each of us has a unique constitution and lifestyle that actually has different requirements to stay hydrated. The amount of rehydration we need on a given day is directly related to how much hydration we have lost through the loss of bodily fluids.

When we eat, we need to sip just enough fluid with our meal to make our food somewhat liquid.
In addition, if we can’t digest our water it doesn’t matter how much we drink, we never really get hydrated. It may seem strange to think that we have to digest our water but, just like anything that we swallow, water has to be digested and transformed into a suitable fluid for our body’s nutritional needs. We have probably all had the experience of feeling bloated and overly full after drinking water—this is a sign that it is not being properly transformed.

And that is actually the most important factor. Our body is not like a sponge. Our bodily tissues don’t just immediately soak up the water we drink and suddenly become hydrated. If we drink too much water, just as when we eat too much food, we can dampen our digestive fire. Drinking too little water can also weaken our digestion.

The simplest way to know how much water we should drink is to drink when we are thirsty. Modern nutritionists say this is probably too late—that we are already overly dehydrated by this point—but this may be because most of us have lost touch with the subtle signs of our thirst. It may take some time to redevelop that sensitivity.

In general, all of us will tend to need to drink more water from the middle of summer through the autumn and less from mid-winter through the spring.

When Should I Drink Water?

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Sankalpa: Experimenting with Change

Ayurveda and yoga offer many wonderful recommendations on living a life closely aligned with nature. When we first hear these suggestions and take a step back from our habits to imagine what we would like our life to look like, we might feel compelled to change everything at once. For any but the most extraordinarily strong-willed person, this approach will probably lead to failure and frustration.

Other times we might just feel paralyzed by the enormity of what we realize needs to change to help us experience more freedom and happiness, and do nothing at all.

What area of my life needs more attention applied to it?

The thing is, these beautiful practices weren’t created to give us more opportunities to punish ourselves. And change doesn’t have to be a constant struggle.

One of the practices that yoga offers us to support change is called “Sankalpa.”

What is Sankalpa?

Sankalpa is a Sanskrit word that refers to a vow or resolution that we make internally which will help us to experience a deeper connection to our life.

A Sankalpa is not another “should” that we lay on ourselves and then feel guilty when we fail to fulfill it. Especially when beginning, it is often best to choose something very simple.

The most effective Sankalpas are “discovered.” This involves being still and silent for long enough to listen to your deeper intentions. It may only take a few moments to listen in this way and with practice it will take less and less time.

Start small and trust yourself to guide you in the right direction.

And you might be surprised what arises. For example, maybe you think that you need to get more things done, but perhaps what arises is that you actually need more rest to be more aligned with nature.

The point is that Sankalpa is the result of something you discover for yourself, it has nothing to do with what anyone else thinks is important for you.

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