Pratyahara means sense withdrawal, and goodness knows we could all use some during the holidays. By attending to internal sounds you powerfully engage your relaxation response and give your nervous system a welcome break.
Bumble Bee Breath can be done reclining or sitting up and can be as simple as humming while you exhale with your eyes closed. The vibration in your body is a focal point for attention and letting go. You can add a mudra that emphasizes the internalizing of the senses, too - just listen to this short audio instruction and let me know how it goes for you.
Music in the background by Bill Bruedigam of Taos Winds - "Green Tara," with permission.
Reprint from my first blog, YogaGuide (http://yogaguide.wordpress.com/2007/10/25/fall-yoga/)
Nadi Shodhana, or Alternate Nostril Breathing balances breath by directing it in & out of each nostril, well, alternately. We know from experience and scads of research on EMDR as well as cross patterning that stimulating the halves of the body alternately assists the nervous system in sorting information. Alternate nostril breathing is also really great for allergies, at least in my case.
Take your right hand and bend in the first and second finger. Place the thumb against the right nostril and inhale smoothly, slowly (say, to a count of four if that’s comfortable) through the left. Close off the left with the ring & pinkie (both nostrils are compressed right now) for a retention of comfortable length (you might try one equal to the count for the inbreath). Release the right nostril and exhale – smoothly and slowly for the same count as the inhale – through the right nostril, and observe a rest, or kumbacha of the outbreath, at the bottom, allowing your spirit to reside in the emptiness, for a comfortable period of time, again you might try another count equal to the inbreath.
Then inhale right nostril, compress it (the left is still compressed from before, so both are closed at the top); practice a comfortable, non-straining retention at the fullness again, release the left nostril and exhale smoothly, yes, for the same count, resting in emptiness at the end of your outbreath.
This was one round and it won’t take as long to do as it does to read about. Do about four rounds to start and add as you become familiar and comfortable.
Skull shining breath is a fast, exhale focused belly pumping breath, really excellent at creating heat, clarity & focus. You're also preferentially offloading carbon dioxide, which acts as an acid in the body and this is helpful in combatting inflammation.
If you make a diamond by joining your thumbs and forefingers, then place it on your abdomen by putting your thumbs in your navel, you’ve framed the portion of your belly you want to engage. It’s the transverse abdominus, and you pump breath out in short bursts, allowing the breath to flow back in passively as you relax your low belly before pumping it out again. Go slowly at first and only go faster as you feel comfortable. Both exhale and inhale through the nose. You'll hear a burst of air through your nose as you exhale and the inhale is usually silent. Allow the inhale to happen on its own after each forceful contraction of the low belly that generates your energetic exhalations.
In our ongoing Wednesday "Hip Health: from Hip Pain to Living in Hip Harmony" Series, I thought we'd look at why a home yoga practice can be so healing for individuals with hip pain, injury, healing and recovery.
In Home Yoga Practice (HYP), you are the container for your practice. Which is both a philosophical and a practical advantage. You are the awareness in which your practice is held, so the practice is authentically your own and not a modification of your teacher's practice (which has its place as well). But you also get to choose: Is today a 15 minute Legs Up the Wall day to reduce inflammation and restore your inner cruise? Or is today one on which you want to explore new ways to step forward in Sun Salutations because the standard foot placement isn't working any longer? Is today a day for gentle Crow Walking and Toe Tapping, wrapped up with a Bridge before Savasana? Or do you want to explore range of motion with Figure 8s?
Whether you deal with hip pain, another locus of pain or simply want to explore your practice on your own, HYP offers you options to tailor your practice to your life that aren't possible in classes or even private lessons. As little as 5 minutes a day at first can radically change your quality of life, as well as of your yoga on and off the mat. Give it a try; comment below to share your experience and even request suggestions. See you on the mat!