All posts tagged: pranayama

Beautiful and Sensual

I have been using essential oils in my practice and for self-care for many years.  It all started when I participated in some classes and workshops taught by Amy Galper and Schuyler Grant around yoga, acupressure, and aromatherapy about sixteen or so years ago. A couple weeks ago, I received an offer from Utama Spice.  They very generously sent me a complimentary nebulizing essential oil diffuser with a bottle of their own Cajeput essential oil in exchange for my honest review of their products on my blog.  How could I say no?  Also, I very much appreciated the genuinely personal communication I received from Utama.  I made it clear that I would only write a completely honest review and they were in agreement with the conditions I presented to them.  As soon as I opened the package from Utama, I knew I was in for a treat.  The Danau Satu diffuser came in the most tasteful packaging with a floral decoration.  As soon as I pulled it out of the box I was amazed at …

Buddhist Philosophy and Yoga Anatomy Workshops

These workshops are no longer being held fall 2016. Please check back for future collaborations and check out Mark’s website for his teaching schedule. Philosophy and Embodied Anatomy Workshops I am honored to host our guest instructor, Mark Chandlee Taylor, the Director of BodyMindMovement to facilitate the following embodied anatomy workshops yoga students and teachers.  All workshops are held at Mookshi Wellness Center in the Regent Square neighborhood of Pittsburgh.  Sessions begin with an hour of practice and discussion of the required text with Sharon which will be followed by a short break and then three-hours of anatomy with Mark.  All workshops are from noon to 4:00 pm.  I recommend that students obtain a copy of “Awakening of the Heart: Essential Buddhist Sutras and Commentaries” by Thich Nhat Hanh and read both his translations and commentaries in preparation for discussions.  Alternatively, I have provided links below where you can find PDF versions of the required texts. As space is limited, pre-registration is highly recommended.  Workshops are $45 when you register online.  If you are blocked from online registration, please email …

Keeping Cool with Yoga

Top Three Ways to Cool Down with Yoga and Meditation You might not think of yoga when you consider ways to cool down.  As a matter of fact, with the proliferation of hot yoga, you may only think of yoga as an activity that is meant to generate heat.  But, yoga and meditation offer a variety of ways to help balance your experience of heat. First, we should explore the concept of “heat” in the context of yoga.  There are many different ways to look at heat and fire in energetic principles, asana/movement, and pranayama/breath.  One approach to heat is to examine the “agni” or digestive fires located in the navel center.  The heat produced during the effort of practicing yoga poses (asana) is designed to clear “energetic” impurities.  An example of an “energetic” impurity might be an emotional block or a mental pattern that is no longer helpful.  This allows energy to move more freely through the subtle body and creates potential where there may have not been any before the block was removed. …

Seven Stress Related Health Problems

Here are seven stress-related health problems you can do something about with gentle yoga and meditation.  Remember, stress isn’t a “feeling”–it is a physiologic response to perceived (or real) danger.  It isn’t in “your head” and yoga and meditation provide release of deeply held tensions, fears and anxieties through physical, mental and spiritual exercises. Heart Disease and Diabetes Stress raises your glucose levels making it harder to manage Type 2 diabetes.  Mindfulness-based meditation programs have been proven to reverse heart disease. Asthma Chronic stress makes asthma worse and children with stressed-out parents are more likely to have asthma. Obesity Stress causes higher levels of the hormone cortisol which makes you collect fat around your middle. Headaches Migraines and tension headaches.  Enough said. Depression and Anxiety Adults who report having stressful jobs (like having a lot of work and very few rewards) have an 80% higher chance of developing depression than adults who do not report a stressful work environment.  It’s unlikely that you can change your work situation overnight, but you can change your response …

Have a Cuppa for Holiday Tension

Many of my yoga students confide in me that they “can’t meditate.”  In most cases, this is based on a misunderstanding of what meditation is.  In many cases, I inform my students that, in fact, they have been meditating with me for years in our practices together!  Here is a meditation in the form of a tea drinking ritual that everyone can enjoy and an added breathing exercise with aromatherpy for even more emotional balance. Making an excellent cup of tea takes time.  Use this time to focus on what you are doing.  This ritual starts with the selection of your tea making equipment and mug.  If at all possible, boil fresh water in a kettle on the stove or an electric kettle.  If you must use a microwave, then you must, but for this ritual, it would be most effective if you boiled the water using heat generated from electricity or natural gas so that you can listen to the sound of the water bubbling and boiling.  The type of tea that we will …

Frozen Food Month

Seriously, did you know that March was Frozen Food Month?  I didn’t know this until I received an e-mail from Giant Eagle supermarkets here in Pittsburgh indicating that there was just one week left to appreciate frozen foods.  From Lean Pockets to Ego waffles to Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream (my personal favorite of the frozen edibles), we had a whole month to appreciate frozen foods and I squandered it not realizing my loss.  But, it’s not too late, there’s still a whole week to take advantage of this special time to explore the delights of our freezers. Did you know what else March is? Women’s History Month.  Yes, women share the glory of this month with frozen foods.  So far, President Obama has not yet made an official Women’s History Month 2011 Proclamation.  When he does, it will be posted here. Now, while we mere citizens have an entire week to honor frozen foods and the ladies we love at the same time by buying them some ice cream, the President only has one …

What is Restorative Yoga?

Restorative yoga is a practice that brings the energy of the body into balance, releases deeply held tension and calms the nervous system.  In this yoga practice, there are gentle movements, breathing exercises and physical poses that are held for five-minutes or longer with the support of blankets, pillows and other props.  These longer held poses allow the body to release into the pose with support so there is no physical strain or effort.  In this way, the practitioner receives the full benefit of the pose without creating any additional stress in the body or on the nervous system. This type of practice is counter-intuitive to adults who have come to think that more effort, more work, more sweat and more pain means more and better results.  One of the greatest challenges of restorative yoga is accepting the fact that doing less brings the most significant transformation in the body and mind.  This is not a gentle, wimpy or easy practice!  Restorative yoga is a gentle unfolding of the damage we do to our bodies …

Duh? Breathing is Important!

Apparently, new research has shown that breathing is important.  While this may seem ridiculously obvious, the health implications of a breathing practice (aka. pranayama) may not be.  What yogis have known for thousands of years is just being discovered again and revealed in this NPR article. To make a long story short: Breathing is good for you You can use your breath to calm down Breathing is so powerful that it can change your gene expression If you already have a yoga practice, then you know the profound effects of learning to take deeper breaths.  If you don’t, then there is no time like the present.  Place your feet on the floor, relax your shoulders and take a deep breath and release it.

Art of the Inhale

At Yoga Matrika, an intimate community-based yoga studio in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, I offer a class three times a week called Body, Breath and Mind.  These are intermediate level yoga classes with a holistic approach to yoga practices including asana, pranayama, energy anatomy,philosophy and ethics and meditation. This week, one of the pranayama exercises we will practice is Anuloma Krama.  This beautiful breathing practice starts with a complete exhale.  The empty lungs are then filled in two sips of breath with a pause between.  In this sweet ode to the in-breath, we pause to appreciate what it feels like to be full of potential, energy and life.  Then, we realize that we can open just a little bit more.  Then, we pause in this great state of expansion and life before returning to where we began, with a complete exhale. While these instructions are given here for general use, it is important to note that: Many people should not hold their breath, including women who are pregnant.  Please ask your doctor if you have any …

Yoga and Hope

In the March 2010 issue of ODE Magazine, there is a thought provoking article, Great Expectations: How hope therapy can help banish mild mood disorders and boost happiness, by Catherine Ryan.  Among the many things that I started to think about was the way that yoga promotes hope. What precisely is hope?  Hope is a subtle sensation and state of being, sometimes an emotion, that provides a vague sense that something other than what “is” can be possible.  It provides the foundation for every change, every decision and every transition that we find ourselves on the other side of.  Without hope, the capacity to love, to move, to grow or to change is stifled and the great shadow of fear and doubt can overwhelm us.  Hope is sometimes confused as faith, but although these both require one another, they are quite different.  In order to act on hope, one must have faith in the potentially positive outcome of one’s actions.  In order to have faith, there must be a song of hope in one’s heart …

Walking on Earth

There is a Chinese proverb that says that: The miracle is not to fly in the air, or to walk on the water, but to walk on the earth. This is the same with a yoga practice.  Over time and with intelligent stretching practices, the body will open and become more flexible.  With practice, beginning yoga students advance in their alignment and ability to do a greater variety of poses.  It is truly beautiful to see an experienced yogi express the spirit of a pose with a deep and profound expression of grace.  Advanced students create a flowing meditation through soft and easy breath and the control of balance and energy through bandha work and reflection on the philosophy and science of yoga.  While these are all beautiful reflections on the potential of yoga to create balance, ease and strength and grace, I see the miracle in the beginners.  It starts with the honesty of effort and the realisation when new students see that even by drawing their awareness to the breath, without changing anything …