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Archive for December, 2015

Yoga Therapy Tip of the Day | Salabasana

Posted on December 15th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.


Salabasana= Locust Pose

Ardha Salabasana= Half Locust Pose

To practice self-care is to embody self-love and who couldn’t use more self-love in their lives. Whether it is responsibilities at home, deadlines and duties related to our jobs or maintaining social relationships that are our pivotal to our wellbeing, we are oftentimes short on time and effort when it comes to not indulging, but actually honoring ourselves by activating the heart chakra. As we open up the heart to readily and eagerly take in the vibrant energy of love, compassion and care not only towards others, but to ourselves we are also engaging the pran vayu. The pran vayu indicates forward as well as inward moving air; therefore governing the consumption, absorption and intake of such vital life force energy.

Locust pose as well as half locust pose are an ideal spine stretch along with a good back bend that increases flexibility and stamina of the body while simultaneously opening up the heart and upper chest. More importantly than physically achieving this back bend, is breathing evenly and smoothly through the pose. As with any posture done therapeutically and with awareness, the form is continuously secondary to the breath.

Yoga Therapy in Action with Salabasana

Keeping in mind that the movement follows the breath, to practice a dynamic ardha shalabasana sequence begin by lying on your stomach with your arms folded behind your back and your hands resting gently on your sacrum, palms facing the sky. Leading with the chest as you inhale your head also lifts and tilts to the left as you sweep the left arm forward into a salute position and lift the right leg up slightly with your toes pointing back and hips remain comfortably neutral. Your head returns to a central position as you lower your chest and head on an exhale while the left arm moves behind you and the right leg rests back down onto the  mat.

Continuing and moving into this backbend on the opposite side of the body reassures a sense of balance both physically and mentally by engaging both the left and right hemispheres of the brain. On your next inhale, shift your dristi and head towards the right as you sweep the right arm into a salute position. Still focusing on the gradual inhale, lift the left leg, toes pointing to the back. The head gently transitions back to center as you exhale, lowering the left leg and right arm behind you while simultaneously lowering the chest towards the mat. Now look towards the on your next inhale as you prepare for your next cycle of breath and repeat the given asana sequence.

To move into shalabasana, it is important to note that the focus here is on the breath and honoring the body into such a transition. When practicing locust pose, putting too much emphasis on the height or rather how high you lift your legs can place an unnecessary amount of strain on your neck and back and cause injury; therefore, counterintuitive to pose’s benefit of strengthening the spine. In shalabasana, your pelvis should be drawn firmly into the mat as your inhale and simultaneously lift both legs off the ground, toes pointing back and hips resting on the mat. Your chest also lifts on the inhale, your neck is neutral as the chin is parallel to the mat, gaze straight forward and your arms in this full variation are bent at elbows with your wrists directly underneath your shoulders. As you exhale, both your legs and chest lower down, gently placing your forehead on the mat.

While Shalabasana and ardha shalabasana are beneficial in minimizing if not circumventing feelings of fatigue, flatulence and lower back pain, please be mindful of moving into these asanas if you suffer from headaches and/or major back and neck injuries. Focusing on a breath-centric practice where the breath and function are the priority versus the form, reduces not only the risk for injury, but also the pressure or need to perfect the physical look of the asana.

One of the world’s leading yoga therapists and founder of American Viniyoga Institute, Gary Kraftsow  demonstrates various sequences catered to dealing with anxiety while providing ample support to keep you engaged, safe and receptive to the healing process in his DVD’s.

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What is Prānāyāma?

Posted on December 10th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.


By Gary Kraftsow

According to theories in neuroscience, the evolutionary origin of the limbic system is linked to the sense of smell and can be traced to that part of the limbic brain known as the olfactory lobe. It is primarily through the sense of smell that animals identify danger, food, or sexual partners; and it was from the olfactory lobe, in its most primitive form, that reflexive messages were sent to the rest of the nervous system, initiating appropriate behavioral responses. The limbic system still forms the “emotional core” of our own vastly more complex brains and, as we have seen, still has the capacity to powerfully influence and even override the   rationality of the cerebral cortex.

The ancient masters specifically developed the practice of prānāyāma (regulation of the breath) to balance the emotions, clarify the mental processes, and ultimately to integrate them into one effectively functioning whole. In light of what we now know about the close connections between the various structures of the limbic brain and the prefrontal lobes of the cerebral cortex, it is interesting to speculate about exactly what the ancients actually did understand concerning the power of prānāyāma.

Though a full treatment of the complex and highly evolved science of prānāyāma is beyond the scope of this work, it is interesting to note that the practice of prānāyāma has a significant impact on the olfactory lobe and, in this way, on the limbic brain. In fact, the ancient masters taught that states of physical and emotional arousal or nonarousal can be regulated via control of the breath at the nostrils. Specifically: inhaling through the right nostril and exhaling through the left (sūrya bhedana) is said to activate or stimulate our system; and inhaling through the left nostril and exhaling through the right (candra bhedana) is said to calm, soothe, and pacify our system. We can also use both inhalation (brahmana) and exhalation (langhana) techniques to stimulate or soothe our systems respectively; and we use different ratios between the various parts of the breathing cycle— i.e., between inhale, retention after inhale, exhale , and suspension of the breath after exhale —to achieve very specific degrees and types of stimulation and pacification.

Excerpt from: Yoga for Wellness: Healing with the Timeless Teachings of Viniyoga by Gary Kraftsow. 

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KraftsowGary Kraftsow

Gary Kraftsow, the leading proponent of viniyoga therapy in the US, has been a pioneer in the transmission of yoga for health, healing, and personal transformation for 30 years. After studying in India with T.K.V. Desikachar and his father T. Krishnamacharya, Gary received a special diploma from Viniyoga International in Paris. In 1999 he founded the American Viniyoga Institute where he is currently director and senior teacher of the Institute’s teacher and therapist trainings.

To learn more about Gary Kraftsow, check out his DVDs here at Pranamaya.

Image is from a great article on


The First Dimension: The Physical Body

Posted on December 8th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

By Gary Kraftsow

Chakra Meditation Guide

According to the ancients , the physical body consists of five aspects: the head, the torso , the two arms, and the two legs— and the related practice of āsana.

Our tendency today is to think of physical fitness and health in terms of measurements (the percentage of muscle to body fat or the target pulse rate, for example) and/ or standards of performance (the ability to run a marathon or to bench-press our body weight). Bringing this mentality to āsana practice, many have the impression that it is about performance and that we can measure our progress by our ability to perfect the forms of the postures.

The ancients, however, based their concept of physical fitness and health on an entirely different set of criteria : a feeling of lightness in the body (aṅgalaghavam); an ability to withstand change (dvaṅdvānabhighātaḥ); and a stable body and focused mind, ready to sit for prāṇāyāma practice, in which the ancient science of the breath is applied.

They recognized that, from the moment of conception, all aspects of the physical body must be nourished. They understood that the needs of our bodies change from infancy through childhood, from adolescence into adulthood, and again from the child-bearing into the senior years. On the basis of this recognition and understanding, they developed the science of āsana practice (āsanābhyāsaḥ) as a way of promoting the balanced growth of the body and the maintenance of that balance into old age.  And just as our bodies change through time, the ancients suggested that the purpose and methods of āsana practice must also change. In other words, traditionally, the practice of āsana was always considered as an integral part of a holistic practice, never as an isolated fitness system.

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Excerpt from: Yoga for Transformation: Ancient Teachings and Practices for Healing the Body, Mind,and Heart by Gary Kraftsow.


KraftsowGary Kraftsow

Gary Kraftsow, the leading proponent of viniyoga therapy in the US, has been a pioneer in the transmission of yoga for health, healing, and personal transformation for 30 years. After studying in India with T.K.V. Desikachar and his father T. Krishnamacharya, Gary received a special diploma from Viniyoga International in Paris. In 1999 he founded the American Viniyoga Institute where he is currently director and senior teacher of the Institute’s teacher and therapist trainings.

To learn more about Gary Kraftsow, check out his DVDs here at Pranamaya.



The Yin and Yang Of the Tissues by Paul Grilley

Posted on December 4th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

yoga outdoors

By Paul Grilley

Yang tissues should be exercised in a Yang way and Yin tissues should be exercised in a Yin way. Muscles are Yang, bones and connective tissue are Yin. Yang muscles should be exercised with rhythm and repetition. Connective tissue or bone should be exercised with long periods of stasis or stillness. The rhythmic contraction and relaxation of weight lifting is the proper way to train our muscles. The long, sustained pressure of braces on our teeth is the proper way to change their alignment.

Exercising Yang tissue in a Yin way could be damaging and vice versa. Doing deep squats at the gym and holding each one for a long time could be disastrous for the spine and knees. Rhythmically wiggling our teeth back and forth could be disastrous for our teeth.

Exercise should be modified according to the tissue we wish to affect but just what is exercise? How does it work? This is the subject of today’s article.

Theory of Exercise

The fundamental theory of exercise is that we must stress a tissue to make it stronger. We lift weights at the gym to make our muscles stronger. The funny thing is that we are weaker after our training then when we started. After we stress our muscles during training they are left exhausted and weak. Indeed it is a measure of pride for a body builder to brag how he “Didn’t have the strength to tie my shoes!” after a “good” session.

If the goal of weight training is to get stronger than why do we try so hard to exhaust and weaken the muscles? Because it is our hope that once we have recovered our muscles will be stronger. Our muscles are changed by our efforts. In fact straining and exhausting our muscles results in their being not just repaired but improved by growing more nerves, blood vessels and proteins. When we stop to think of it this is remarkable! How does this happen?

The bottom line is nobody knows.

The ancient Yogis recognized this enigmatic ability of life to modify itself and attributed it to a life force they called “prana”. The Taoists called this life force “chi”. It is this life force that distinguishes the living and nonliving realms. If we were to routinely stretch and twist a piece of rope it would not “recover and grow stronger”. The rope would simply weaken, fray and eventually break.

The ability to grow and adapt to stress is an effective definition of living things. Rocks and sticks don’t adapt to stresses, they just crumble under them.

Theory of Sacrifice

In ancient scriptures the Theory of Exercise was subsumed by a larger Theory of Sacrifice. The Theory of Sacrifice is that we must give up some of what we have if we are going to gain more of it in return. The Theory of Sacrifice included not just the physical realm but all realms of human endeavor including the political and spiritual. Indian scriptures are replete with stories of Sacrifices that lasted days and were enormously expensive. Sacrifices were done to insure harvest, bring prosperity to a kingdom and to ward off plague.

Although it is not explicitly stated the Theory of Sacrifice is still with us. In exercise we sacrifice our strength in order to gain greater strength. In investment we risk our money in order to gain more money. In vaccination we sicken the body with a weakened form of disease in order to increase its resistance.

Each time we lift a weight we are making a sacrifice. These acts of sacrifice make us weaker not stronger. It is our hope that our sacrifice will be rewarded by increased strength. Do we know exactly how this happens? No. Do we have any control over how strong we will get? No. Do we have any control over how long it will take? No. All of these things are out of our control. All we can control is the sacrifice we are willing to make. In the Bhagavad Gita II:47 Krishna says to Arjuna. “Man has it in his power to sacrifice but the fruits of his sacrifice are not in his power.”

Stress: Too Much or Too Little?

All living tissues adapt to the stresses put upon them. When an astronaut spends weeks in a weightless environment she loses 15-20% of her bone mass. This is because her bones are not stressed by weight bearing exercise so her bones adapt by releasing calcium and altering their structure. If we do not stress our bones they will atrophy. If we do not stress our muscles through work and exercise they will atrophy. The tissues in our bodies need to be stressed in order to be strong. This is a law of life. Use it or lose it.

Of course it is possible to overstress the tissues of our bodies. We can wear down our strength by overexerting and not allowing adequate time to recover. We can overstress our bones and joints by straining against too much weight. We can consume too much salt and raise our blood pressure. We can consume too little salt and lose our electrolyte balance. Too little stress causes our tissues to atrophy and too much stress breaks them down. This is the play of Yin and Yang. Proper health is between these two extremes.

Connective Tissue

So we have come to a Theory of Sacrifice or a Theory of Exercise that asserts that the proper health of our tissues is determined by alternately stressing them and then allowing sufficient time to recover. This theory is readily accepted as regards aerobic and strength conditioning. In fact it is almost too obvious to bother elaborating. So why spend nearly a thousand words to examine it? Because Yoga extends this theory beyond muscle and bone and systematically applies it to the joints and connective tissues of the body. It is a common misconception that the joints should not be “stressed”, that they should be “protected” during exercise. In fact in the 1960s Yoga was sometimes declared as unfit for Westerners to do. In our next article we will examine some of these misconceptions.

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To learn more about Paul Grilley, visit his website at 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.