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March 31 2024: Exploring Spring Renewal in Our Yoga Practice On and Off the Mat, Exploring Pranayama and Making Healthy Delicious Kimchi




As we transition from winter to spring, recognizing that this is New England and we very well may have some more cold weather, I was thinking about hope filled transitions in general. I am always excited to see the first shoots of spring flowers poking through the ground; for me these signal and symbolize the possibility of fresh starts and growth. Yesterday, I took my 90-year-old mom to church for Stations of the Cross. As I listened to the story, I was struck by how Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus (the promise of eternal rebirth) while we are “awakening” out of the grey of winter. I know this is an obvious parallel, but I still felt struck by it. Whether you celebrate as a christian or any other faith or spirituality, I think we can all appreciate the symbolism of spring, the rains that wash away the real and symbolic detritus of winter and the early growth that gives us hope for a fresh start. I have a brother who has struggled his whole life and who is, today, experiencing his own fresh start. Spending time with him each day and taking each of those days one day at a time as a gift, has reinforced my own spring hope. So, this week, as we explore the fourth limb, pranayama (breathing techniques), let’s breathe in deeply the promise of spring and practice our yoga on and off the mat with hopeful anticipation and promise of spiritual renewal.

 

As we continue our exploration of the 8 limbs of yoga, we reach the fourth this week, pranayama, which is yogic breathing or techniques. 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 breath to calm and balance, to energize the mind and body with the goal to promote our overall physical, mental, and spiritual health. The word comes from two Sanskrit words: prana (life force) and ayama (expansion).  An article I read last year explained that in the “eight-limbed system, pranayama sits at the intersection between the more worldly, physical practices and those that that develop the mind”.

 

A simple explanation on pranayama is in this Yoga Journal article:

 

 



Our practice – Ujjayi Breath – AKA Ocean Breath (or Darth Vader Breath)


When I first started practicing yoga and learned about ujjayi breath, I was a bit taken aback by how loud it can be. Now, in a yoga class, I am often soothed by the audible rhythmic breathing when a class is all practicing it. This pranayama technique is one that is warming and energizing.  Great for a vinyasa flow class (or preparing for a run); but not a great technique for practicing before falling asleep.   

 

We will practice ujjayi this week, for more detail on the practice see link below.




 

Speaking of breath. Each time I travel to Utah I am struck by the challenges of hiking in higher altitudes. This picture was taken on a snow shoe adventure from 6,000 feet to 7,000 feet. I learned on my first trip there not to attempt that kind of thing on day one before being acclimated! This picture was taken a few days in and, admittedly, it was still a challenge but the views were worth it!


Meditation on Breath

 



“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.”  – Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk, meditation teacher, & author


“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

 


I noticed I posted this recipe last year around my birthday. Although I know it is not a food that inspires joy in everyone, I love it and my brother loves it perhaps as much as I do, I am suggesting we all try making it again this spring!

 

There are so many health benefits to eating fermented foods (kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi) – however, I do not espouse eating things you do not like just because they are healthy; mealtime are far too important to squander on things we do not enjoy. I like it as a side dish with Asian food, in the morning with eggs and sometimes on a sandwich.  It is surely an acquired taste, and it has been suggested to me in my home that i not open it when others are around (full disclosure once you put it in a dish the smell is not pungent, it is just when you open it up!)

 

While I do not cook Korean food (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. 

 

 

Recipe:

 

 

 

See you on the mat!

Namaste

Julia Anne

 

 

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