I am back from Utah where, in Park City, I experienced the beauty of 60 feet of snow pack and the joys of snow shoeing and cross country skiing; after a 3 hour drive, I was captivated by the beauty and challenges of hiking in desert conditions in Moab! I did fit in some time for a traditional yoga practice, but reveled in the new experiences remembering that "this too is yoga"! Remember, yoga is any activity that helps us yoke the mind, the breath, and the body…. for sure, my Utah experiences did that.
The time with my good friend, Dorothy, and her family, also did much for my mind and spirit, reminding me of the importance of nurturing and cherishing relationships – just like those spring flowers that we are all anxious to see, friendships need to be nurtured and tended.
As we continue our exploration of the 8 limbs of yoga, we reach the fourth this week, pranayama, which is yogic breathing or techniques. The word comes from two Sanskrit words: prana (life force) and ayama (expansion). An article I read last year explained in the “eight-limbed system, pranayama sits at the intersection between the more worldly, physical practices and those that that develop the mind”. (More on those in the upcoming weeks!)
Prana is the life force or energy that runs through our body. Pranayama is the practice of controlling and directing this energy primarily by controlling the flow of breath. There are many different techniques that work towards different results. We can use the breath to calm and balance, to energize mind and body-the goal is to promote our overall physical, mental, and spiritual health.
A simple explanation on pranayama is in this Yoga Journal article:
Our practice – Ujjayi Breath – AKA Ocean Breath (or Darth Vader Breath)
We talk about ujjayi breath in class often. I think the Zoom students hear it the loudest as when I practice it with the mic on, which is clipped to my shirt, it likely sounds like Darth Vader is on the mat with them.
This pranayama technique is one that is warming and energizing. Great for a vinyasa flow class (or preparing for a run); not a great technique for a yin class or for practicing before falling asleep.
We will practice ujjayi this week, for more detail on the practice see link below.
Meditation on Breath
Two beautiful quotes on breath from Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk, meditation teacher, & author
“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.” – “If our breathing is light and calm—a natural result of conscious breathing—our mind and body will slowly become light, calm, and clear, and our feelings also.” - Thich Nhat Hanh
Nurturing with Food – Kimchi
It was my birthday yesterday, yes, April Fools Day, and we went out for Korean food on Friday, the night before, with our friends Barbara and Joe. There are so many health benefits to eating fermented foods (kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi) – however, I love food so much that I would never eat something I did not like just because it was healthy. I like it as a side dish with Asian food (or any food that needs a perk up), in the morning with eggs and sometimes on a sandwich. It is surely an acquired taste and not everyone in my house appreciates it.
Anyway, I had a delicious soybean stew with kimchi on Friday night, and while I have not made that yet, I do make Kimchi. It is easy and if you start to really like it, you will invariably want to make it yourself. Below is a link to an article in Real Simple about the health benefits and a link to our website with the recipe.
See you on the mat!