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Pranayama

Hatha Yoga combines both asana (physical postures) and pranayama (breath awareness). Read about the techniques and benefits of pranayama here.
  • Pranayama Bolster: Not Just for Pranayama

    Do you practice pranayama? The fourth limb of yoga—coming just after asana—pranayama is an essential part of Hatha Yoga practice. Practicing with attention to the breath is one of the things that separates yoga from other physical disciplines. Pranayama is a slow build. Unlike asana, where people often feel immediate results, breathing practice integrates more gradually. For this reason, many practitioners lose interest. Plus, it can be very frustrating. It can be harder than you’d think to take a deep, satisfying breath. Breathing deeply is especially challenging when we’re sitting. That’s why BKS Iyengar devised a way to practice lying...

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  • How to Use a Pranayama Pillow

    One of the first bolster-type pillows that Hugger Mugger made back in the 1980s was the pranayama pillow. Made to BKS Iyengar’s specifications, the pillow is designed to support the spine and expand the chest for free respiration in supine pranayama practice. Until the 20th century, pranayama was always practiced in a sitting position. BKS Iyengar discovered that not all his students could sustain this position easily for long periods of time. Using props, he designed a way for practitioners to practice lying down instead. This allowed students of all body types to practice pranayama with a neutral spine. Placing...

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  • Pranayama: Linking Body and Mind

    Supine Pranayama with Pranayama Pillow and Blanket The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali outline an eight-limbed framework for yoga practice. These limbs, in their written order, include: Yama: Ethical precepts, including non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, wise use of sexuality and non-greed Niyama: Daily practices, including cleanliness or simplicity, cultivation of contentment, commitment to practice, study of self and sacred texts, dedication of your practice to something bigger than oneself Asana: Physical postures Pranayama: Refinement of the breath Pratyahara: Releasing attachment to the senses Dharana: Concentration Dhyana: Meditation Samadhi While the limbs are not hierarchical—all of them operate simultaneously to feed into...

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  • Getting in Touch with Your Body: It’s More than Sunshine & Rainbows

    How Nadi Shodhana Taught Me to Listen Don’t you hate it when people talk about something that seems like a metaphor but you’re not sure if it is? Like listening to your body? Or trusting your gut? I sure do. When I was starting my yoga practice in the late ’90s, I had no idea that the instruction to “listen to your body” was an actual thing. I thought it was a lovely metaphor, something that yoga teacher types liked to say because it sounded good. So I carried on, trying to wedge myself into poses that my belly...

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  • Three Months of Pranayama Practice: On Flexibility

    Back in January, I wrote a post about my resolution to practice pranayama every day this year. As my third month comes to an end, I’m reflecting on the practice so far. Here’s what I’ve learned—or more accurately, relearned: Flexibility is a positive: In late January after I wrote my first post I succumbed to what was likely a tenacious case of the flu. After three flu-free years, this bug was determined to make an impression. I had all the classic symptoms: fever, chills, sore throat, fatigue, and a monumental cough that eventually displaced a rib. As much as I...

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  • Nadi Shodhana: Purifying the Subtle Body

    Nadi Shodhana in Arches National Park February was awarded month-hood relatively late in the game. Along with January, it was the last to be added to the Roman calendar in 713 BC. The addition of these two served to define the no-man’s-land of winter that Romans had traditionally considered a monthless period. February originally took its place as the last month of the year, where it remained for almost 300 years. As such, it seemed a perfect time to purge the old in order to make way for the gifts of the coming year. Named after the god “Februum,”...

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