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Archive for February, 2015

10 Reasons to Immediately Book Your First (or Next) Yoga Retreat

Posted on February 11th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

 

 

 

 

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by Tracee Stanley

I have been leading international yoga retreats for over 10 years and each time I notice the same thing. People come together with a group of strangers- stressed, tired and needing a vacation. On day one as the deep breathing and yoga begins, the layers begin to peel away as everyone begins to leave behind thoughts of their daily lives, mundane tasks and stresses. Day by day I can sense their bodies and minds becoming more and more relaxed.  And by the end of the retreat a transformation has occurred for us all.

Here’s my list of why you should not hesitate to book your first (or next) yoga retreat:

1.You meet new people who share similar interests and love of yoga as much as you do. Communing with like-minded souls is said to sustain our spiritual life. In some traditions of yoga it is said that if we can do nothing else towards our practice we should cultivate sangha.

2.We let go of “doing”. We can drop the masks and responsibility of everyday life and reconnect with what is true for us in the moment.

3.You will have new experiences like hiking up volcano’s, eating local cuisine and exploring  new cultures. You will be outside of your “normal” and you will feel alive!

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4.You begin to tap into the flow and pulse of life in an organic way and soon you are listening to our own inner teacher with the answers to life’s questions coming so much more easily.

5.You spontaneously wake up  to greet the day without 3 cups of coffee, feeling refreshed and energized. You may even find yourself getting up and meditating before sunrise.

6.By day three there usually is vibrance, a radiance that begins to emerge. I call it “the glow”. The glow comes from being in nature, eating fresh local food, being away from TV, media and our daily mudra of texting, emailing and posting our every move.  It also comes from the friction that comes from deep practice. We begin to let go, see more clearly and we begin to shine from the inside out.

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7.You shift towards becoming more in tune with yourself and with the people around you. You can sense who needs a hug and who wants to be left alone. And you take none of it personally.

8.Before long you are sharing with once strangers as you would with a sister or closest friend. You realize that we are more alike than different

9.Once you return home your friends notice your “glow” they see it in your smile, your skin and the light reflected in your eyes. You have gained a sense of ease. You inspire friends to practice self care or even take a yoga class.

10.You have connected deeply with yourself and others in a way that can only be felt in the heart. And you know that no matter what you want to return to that place. It doesn’t require you getting on plane though, just you getting on your mat. But sometimes we need to take a journey to remind us that all we need is already here.

 

For more information about retreats with Tracee click here

 

pictures courtesy of BaliWellness and Tracee Stanley

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Yin Yoga and Stretching the Spine

Posted on February 9th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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By Paul Grilley

When working a joint the first thing a yogi or yogini must decide is whether she intends to work muscle or bone. She must decide if she wishes to strengthen the muscles that stabilize the joint or stretch the ligaments to increase range of motion. In this article we explore the second option: stretching the joints of the spine through a specific yin yoga pose.

Two layers of the joints

A fundamental insight of Taoist analysis is to see the body as at least two layers. For different needs the body could be analyzed into many more layers than two but for a discussion of joint movement two is enough.

The two layers of a joint are Muscle and Bone. Muscle is the yang layer and includes muscle and tendon. Bone is the yin layer and includes the ligaments. With the proper yin yoga pose, yogis should train themselves to feel the differences between the muscle and ligament sensations.

The Neck

The following neck stretches are an effective way to start this process. Once a yogi has learned to discriminate the sensations of muscle and ligament in the neck with a certain yin yoga pose, then it will be easier to feel these differences in the rest of the spine.

Drop your chin to your chest and relax. This is a passive or yin stretch for the muscles and ligaments of the back of the neck. The muscles of the neck are on the left and right sides of the center line. The ligaments we are concerned with are on the centerline. A yogi can learn to feel the difference by comparing the sensations on each side of the spine with the sensations in the center.

Move the head to the right while it is still dropped forward. This yin yoga pose stretches the muscles on the left side of the neck making it easier to discriminate them. Moving the head to the left stretches the muscles on the right side of the neck. Bringing the head back to the center the yogi should be able distinguish sensations that are neither left nor right but in the midline. These are the ligaments.

Muscular stretches feel sharper and are easily locatable. Ligament sensations are deeper, duller and more attached to the bones. This is why Taoists use the expression “Stretch you Bones” to describe ligament stretches.

This simple yin yoga pose should be repeated many times. The distinctions may not be noticeable the first few times but with time and experience they become clear. Remember that it’s possible to feel ligament stretches when the head is moved to the left and right. But by exaggerating the stretch on the muscles it is easier to feel the difference between the two tissues.

Yin Stresses

Once a yogi has learned to feel the difference between muscle and bone the next step is to determine how much leverage to use when stretching them. Passively dropping the chin to the chest is a gentle approach to this yin yoga pose. The next most aggressive effort would be to contract the muscles of the neck to depress the chin deeper toward the chest. But the most aggressive stretch would be to use the hands to gently pull on the back of the head. This is the deepest possible stretch for the neck while seated.

Yang Stresses

All three of the above stretches are yin. The muscles of the front of the neck were used in second variation and the muscles of the arms were used in the third variation. But in each variation the muscles of the back of the neck were relaxed. This allowed the neck to round forward and stretch the joints. If while doing any of these exercises a yogi contracts the muscles of the back of the neck he is resisting the forward bend and preventing the stretch. This principle can be demonstrated as follows.

Gently drop the chin and place the hands on the back of the head as before. Now engage the muscles of the back of the neck and try to lift the head up. At the same time gently pull down on the head with the arms. The yogi is now in a tug-of-war with himself. His arms are trying to pull the head down but the neck muscles are trying to lift the head up.

 

To learn more about Paul Grilley, visit his website at paulgrilley.com  and check out his DVD’s and online courses here at Pranamaya.

Paul Grilley:  A well-known master of yin yoga, Paul brings a thorough grounding in Hatha and Ashtanga yoga as well as anatomy and kinesiology to his teaching, which integrates the Taoist yoga of martial arts master Paulie Zink and the Chinese meridian and acupuncture theories of Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama. Paul’s book, Yin Yoga: Principles and Practice, explains how yin yoga can teach us to relax, be patient, be quiet, and focus on the skeleton and its joints—a necessary counterpoint to today’s more ubiquitous muscular yoga.

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Yin Yoga and the Breath

Posted on February 1st, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

By Sarah Powers

 

Yin YogaUsing our natural intelligence to focus on our breath and mobilize the distribution of prana throughout our body is called pranayama, which is an enhancement discipline that involves three aspects: inhalation (puraka); exhalation (rechaka); and the gap between, or suspension of breath (kumbhaka). By varying our respiration and holding our breath, we enhance the quality and mortality of the prana within. When practiced skillfully, yoga exercises for breathing have physical, energetic, and mental benefits. Physically, they help oxygenate the blood and strengthens our digestive, eliminative, circulatory, and respiratory systems. Energetically, a pranayama practice helps balance, concentrate, and harmonize the flow of prana within us. When our energy is imbalanced, our prana is dissipated and weak, often resulting in unpredictable and dissonant emotions that leak out in uncontrolled, chaotic ways. A yogi, on the other hand, is described as someone whose prana is contained within the center of her body. Her emotional life is rich and her mind is clear.

In pranayama, we attempt to reduce the amount of prana that leaks out and enliven the quality of energy existing within us. This is not possible without concentration. Our mind is closely linked to the quality of our prana, and our breath influences our pranic body. When we concentrate on yoga exercises for breathing to balance the subtle (or energy) body, there is a unifying effect on our overall state of being.

Through aligning our minds with our breath, we can experience relaxed alertness in the energy body and mind, a state that has extremely therapeutic effects on the body. The key ingredient is attention. As we watch our breath, we begin to tune in to our capacity for focus and concentration, qualities that arouse meditative awareness. Pranayama is therefore a wonderful practice to sequence before meditation, because it tethers the mind and prana within our body, amplifying our awareness in the present moment.

The breath can be thought of as the catalyst for inner circulation. When we engage in yoga exercises for breathing, we use our diaphragm in an unhurried and conscious way, we assist in enhancing the distribution of prana throughout our bodies. This style of breathing is called Ujjayi (“victorious”) breath and has a number of benefits. As we slow down the rhythm of each breath, it has a soothing effect on our nervous system. This in turn releases the tensions in our body, helping us to feel more relaxed. As we let go, we tune in to the sound of our breathing, helping to diminish the distractions of the mind and leading to more inner quietude. Focusing on yoga exercises for breathing helps increase our ability to concentrate in an effortless manner, preparing the body and mind for deeper integration.

Excerpt from: Insight Yoga by Sarah Powers.

 

To learn more about Sarah Powers, visit her website at www.sarahpowers.com, and check out her DVD’s and online courses here at Pranamaya.

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 SARAH POWERS

An internationally acclaimed master teacher, Sarah Powers weaves the insights and practices of yoga and Buddhist meditation in an integrated practice that seeks to enliven the body, heart, and mind. Her yoga style blends a yin sequence of long-held poses to enhance the meridian and organ systems, with a yang or flow practice influenced by Viniyoga, Ashtanga, and alignment-based vinyasa teachings. – Read more HERE.

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