Urban Fundamentals: Exploring the Foundation of Pranayama & Asana
For my first installment in Urban Fundamentals, I think we should explore the breath together. Seems easy enough, right? Being the breath/pranayama junkie that I am, this task got my head swimming with possible ideas to explore about the breath. How to breathe, why we breathe, and the power of the breath are just a few of the key topics that came to mind. To keep it structured I will be writing breaking this topic down into a number of installments. The first being breath basics, techniques and methods to adopt immediately in your practice.
♥ Breath in and out through the nose.
In our yoga practice we breathe in through the nose and out through the nose, unless guided by your instructor to do otherwise. In yoga we are trying to maximize the breath, of prana (life force, chi, energy, I will be diving into this more next week). Inhaling through the mouth is both dry and dispersing. When we continually exhale through the mouth we are releasing the prana (energy) that we have been building throughout the practice. I have also noticed through my own practice that when inhaling through the mouth I am unable to receive my full capacity of breath, and when exhaling through the mouth I am unable to release to full capacity. We are ultimately striving for balance, in our breath, in our practice, and in our lives.
♥ Sama Vritti Breath
Sama Vritti translates to same wavelength. Basically, balanced breath. This is a very accessible technique to apply at the beginning of your practice to begin to spark a connection with yourself. It is also wonderful to use as a guide throughout your asana practice, to maintain balanced breath, in your flow, in your favorite poses (rajas), and in your least favorite poses (dveshas). When the mind gets busy, come back to sama vritti, when you begin to feel bored, come back to sama vritti, when you are feeling connected and alive, stay connected and feel sama vritti.
To begin, find a comfortable seat, grab a blanket, a block, a chair, I don’t mind if you lay down, just get comfy. For this technique we will be inhaling and exhaling through the nose. Place your right hand on your abdomen and breath in and out from the belly, you should be able to feel your abdomen rise on inhale, and fall on exhale. (This is abdominal breathing. If this is new to you, I recommend staying with this for a few days or until it gets comfortable, then move on to equal ratio breath.) Do this for a couple rounds of breath, and then release your right hand.
Now begin to equal the lengths of your inhales and exhales. When you first begin, counting the breath is a great tool to have. If you are inhaling a count of four, exhale a count of four. The breath should feel effortless; if at any point it feels forced, just lower your count. You are not going to win any medals by forcing your way through a six count. You will however, do a number on your nervous system, taking you away from a place of balance, which is ultimately what we are aiming for.
Once you begin to feel comfortable with sama vritti in seated pose, play with it in your asana, and just notice your tendencies. I’ve noticed that I hold my breath in challenging arm balances, and that exhaling is easier for me than inhaling. These are my observations, information, from myself to myself. I hold no judgment about my self from these observations, and am really just interested and curious.
As you begin to get more acquainted with your tendencies in your practice you can bring awareness to these tendencies/imbalances. When we are aware, and our open to the info-energy our bodies’ and breath provide, we can begin real transformation. By creating balance in our bodies’ and breath, we create balance in all areas of our lives.
**If you have any questions about asana, breath, or anything under the very big, beautiful yoga umbrella, feel free to contact Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will do her best to get back to you. **2,969 Comments »
What to do when you lose your connection to your yoga practice by Kim Smith
Read Kim’s latest article here,
Take Kim’s class,
Tues & Thurs 9am Slow Flow
Weds 7:30pm Candlelight Flow to Zen
Kim Smith on Music in the Yoga Room
There have been so many articles of late highlighting the benefits of music in the yoga class and different playlist for different flows, moods and themes of classes.
Heck, in some YTT programs, how to build a playlist is something that is being taught to aspiring teachers. I am lending a different perspective. I want to say a fresh perspective, but in the sense of the yogic tradition, this view is very old school—don’t play music or at the very least, take the attention off the music and put it back where it should be, our students, our teaching, and the practice.
I know I am not going to be making any friends by saying this and in general am going against the grain of modern yoga in America, but I think something must be said for the simple connection to breath that is the internal soundtrack of any yoga practice.
Here are three reasons to turn off the tunes in your yoga practice:
If a student walks up to you after class and says “Great playlist” what are they really walking away from their yoga with?
A deeper connection to self, a stronger understanding of their bodymind, or are they humming some recently made popular tune by the Lumineers or FUN.? As teachers, we are not important, but the work we do is very important. It is our job to facilitate the growth of our students. Sometimes this means giving them what they want, sometimes this means giving them what they need; often two very different things.
The average yoga class is full of Type A students, practicing a power or strong vinyasa based flow class, listening to very rhythmic, upbeat tunes. Students come to class after leaving their high stress jobs, after sitting in traffic, rushing to get to class, to be physically and mentally stimulated by their practice and the accompanying playlists. Is this what they want? Yes. Is this what they need? I am not so sure.
Maybe a chance to connect to the sweet mantra of the breath would be more healing and beneficial in the long run. As teachers, we should be setting the tones of class, not the other way around.
If the skill and artistry being put into a playlist is more than that of the yoga, what are we really teaching?
If as a teacher you always have an upbeat, current playlist, then out of the blue the music stopped, what would happen? Would your students, your regulars, continue to show up? Or would they find another teacher with a playlist more suited to their “needs”? Do your students come to class because they are soothed by the sounds of your playlist, or because the overall effects of the teachings has left them feeling more connected to self and balanced? Is the same mastery, thought, and skill put into the energetics, the sequencing, and the theme of every class, as is put into its playlist? As my teacher the amazing Mary Bruce says, “What do you want to be? A yoga teacher, or a DJ?”
“Yogas chitta vritti nirodha” Yoga is the calming of the fluctuations of the mind:
Music invokes motion and emotion, emotion being energy in motion. In this second sutra, Patanjali clearly states a main goal of our yoga practice, for the mind to become still. Is this clarity, this stillness available to a student with a loud playlist “energizing” the asana? Is a student who is singing along with the music really making any connection to source? Where is the opportunity for stillness, for settling in? Our chitta vritti may be our thoughts from our day, or our plans for tomorrow; however, song lyrics are just chitta vritti in pretty disguises. It’s all distraction.
I am not by any means saying to go cold turkey on your playlists! Just imagine the panicked frenzy in yoga studios across America! I am hoping to inspire some reflection.
As a teacher, is music one of the most important aspects of your class, or the most important?
Try just skipping music in savasana for one class a week, then bump up to a whole class without music once a week. Give your students some context; let them know the philosophy behind practicing without music, the importance of stilling the mind and connecting to breath. Instill in them a desire to try something new and to achieve a deeper connection with their practice. Just observe and note, the practice may become challenging to students, but in new and exciting ways.
I know there are a lot of amazing teachers out there teaching amazing yoga with amazing playlists to amazing people. I think we could literally “drop some beats” here and there and still have a whole lot of people enjoying the benefits of this amazing practice that is yoga.
As a student and/or teacher, have you ever practiced without music? Try it. If it’s challenging, good, see what you can learn. Where is your resistance? What are you holding onto? Let’s get comfortable with the uncomfortable. You might be surprised what silence and connection to breath will reveal.
The practice of yoga is ancient and timeless. Like all things, it is expected to evolve with our modern times. The way we practice, the clothes we wear when practicing, the places we practice in, are all examples of this ancient practice evolving to accommodate the very different needs of modern day Americans.
Under all of this change, the “hype”, the common threads of the philosophy should be strong and unchanging. Yoga is not a contest to see who can hold the longest handstand in the middle of the room, or a fashion show displaying our newest purchases from Lululemon, and it certainly is not a disco, dancing and singing along encouraged—we are not talking Kirtan here, we are talking top 40.
The thread of yoga is union, a connection to self that helps guide us to a better place of understanding, knowing, and balance in our lives.
The science of yoga is meant to expose our own radiance, not drown it in thumping bass beats. It is in the space between thoughts and actions that true connection occurs. It is resting in the sweetness of stillness that our inner radiance begins to shine.
Turn off the tunes, tune into the melody of your own being and let the rhythm of your breath guide you to new places in your practice.1,372 Comments »
A Yogi’s Guide to Life with a Toddler by Kim Smith
Urban’s Tuesday & Thursday 9am Instructor penned an insightful article in Yoganonymous.com. Check out Kim’s thoughtful article on Ahimsa and parenting a toddler. Meet Kim February 10th, 1-3pm in a Shoulder Therapy workshop to soothe, strengthen, learn modifications for your practice.
Ahimsa is the first of the yamas, a set of basic moral codes for yogis to live by.
Ahimsa translates to non-violence, non-violence in our speech, thought, and actions;
I can think of no other place where this code of conduct is more important than in the raising of a child.
There is a lot of debate going on right now about the appropriate means of discipline for children. One side argues that there is no good and bad behavior, that there is only behavior. The other side argues that children need boundaries, rules and regulations. As our yoga practice teaches us, I believe there is an exquisite balance that can be found when a true understanding of your child and their needs is had.
I do not believe discipline is an appropriate term to use when talking about raising toddlers. Toddlers by nature are curious, mess-making little wonders all wrapped in your grandmother’s nose and your husband’s eyes. They are the true innocents of this world.
They do not know violence; they cannot comprehend the basic idea of consequence and action. They are simply trying their best to see, touch, taste, smell, spill, climb, and explore everything in their very new world. This is where the balancing act must come into play; this is where ahimsa is so crucial.
Maintaining an attitude of non-violence towards your child is maintaining an attitude of love towards your child. Ahimsa implies a calm tone when speaking to your babe. Ahimsa implies patience. Ahimsa implies giggling over another spilled cup of water, rather than frustration. Ahimsa implies that we replace “discipline”, with a nurturing understanding that encourages our children’s imagination and creativity to flourish.
>>Never spank/hit/swat, etc. this is a no-brainer.
I do not believe in any sort of physicality when handling children. I have however, scraped my daughter off the grocery store floor, screaming and wailing, mid-tantrum, and made a beeline for the nearest exit, abandoning my very full grocery cart, all while hugging my babe and telling her very softly that it’s ok, honey. All kids have meltdowns. This does not mean that you as a parent are allowed to have a meltdown. Which leads me to…
>>Never yell/raise your voice.
Remember, we are talking to very little people. Very loud to a toddler can be scary, even terrifying. These littles are just getting the hang of communicating. They don’t understand the complex thoughts we are trying to convey. True, they may be in the infancy of understanding a few key words or phrases, but none of us are sitting around discussing the Sutras with our 15 month olds.
Toddlers understand our tone, the manner in which we present the information to them. If a situation arises that may be dangerous for your babe, be firm with your tone and facial expression. There is a difference between conveying to your child “this is dangerous” (calm, firm, soft) and “Mommy is dangerous”(angry, re-active, and loud). Be very, very thoughtful in the way you communicate with your children.
>>Get on your kid’s level.
Literally, get down on the floor with your kids! Beginning to understand the world from their perspective helps to remind us that the oh so familiar light switch to us, is to them this amazing button that creates light, and if I do this, then the light is gone! Miraculous? Amazing? A light switch? To a toddler, yes. Imagine seeing everything around you with fresh eyes. Try it, your patience level will quadruple.
As a parent I am well aware of the sometimes-exhausting effort that is required to practice ahimsa, aka,“keep my cool.” T.G.F.Y. (thank goodness for yoga). It seems as if every time the floor is mopped, there is a spill, or a load of laundry is folded, and Little Miss Sassafrass has pulled the laundry basket off the bed and the clothes are in a pile in the middle of the floor. I get it. It’s hard.
Slow down, take a moment to really look at the situation, there is a giggling, happy babe climbing around that pile. To her the pile of laundry is soft and warm, full of different textures, to touch and to cuddle. There’s grace in that mess. There’s laughter and the potential to bond with your babe, if you let go of frustration, grab a towel, and play a game of peek-a-boo.
I like to think of ahimsa as a stepping into peace. When I find myself getting overwhelmed, frustrated, or if I am just plain old tired, I remind myself of this first yama. There are two options, re-act, or take a step back, slow down, and connect to my breath.
One breath, sometimes two is all it usually takes to remember the big picture here: I am raising a child, a beautiful baby goddess in pigtails and a tutu. The more I continue to settle into an essence of peace with my daughter, the easier it will be for her to connect to that peace as she grows up.
Ahimsa is a commitment to love; it is the new discipline.
About the Author
Kim Smith is the PaleoYogaMom. First and foremost, her family is her passion. Her children inspire her everyday. Coming in at a close second is the practice of yoga. The practice, the lifestyle that is yoga has reconnected her to the shining light of creativity and light that exists in us all. Through yoga she hopes to instill in her students and her family a deeper knowing of grace, love and joy. Through the Paleo diet she has been able to achieve maximum health and all the benefits that health has to offer. If you are interested in learning more about Kim’s personal relationships with her family, yoga, and the Paleo diet, please visit her blog.
New Arrivals from Teeki yoga wear: made from recycled water bottles!
The Campus Closet: Eco-conscious and Wildly Adorable Teeki Yoga Pants
By Gabrielle Nelson
January 26, 2013 at 9:28 am
You can tell her designs and patterns are influenced by nature; my favorite pair resembles a sunset. Wearing them during a run or intense yoga class is like a dream. Despite being made from recycled bottles, the material is surprisingly sweat resistant, flexible, and breathable.
You can find Teeki yoga pants locally at Urban Yoga, located in downtown Phoenix.
Go active fashionistas!
Read Gabi’s full article here,
http://www.statepress.com/2013/01/26/the-campus-closet-eco-conscious-and-wildly-adorable-teeki-yoga-pants/2,846 Comments »
Manifest Peace in the New Year
Check out AZ Foothills feature on 5 easy ways to manifest more peace in 2013 – one day at a time, one moment at a time. You might be thinking, yeah right, sounds easy, but…. TRY IT – and respond to the blog and let us know more ways to manifest peace in 2013. We want to hear from you!
Happy New Year Yoga Family!
May you and your family be blessed with Peace, Health & Happiness!
Love & Light from everyone at Urban Yoga2,066 Comments »
Pants made from recycled plastic bottles???
Eco-conscious Yoga clothes are a great gift idea for your significant Yogini 🙂1,995 Comments »
Amma: the Hugging Saint from India Embraces the World
If you don’t know about Amma, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, the Humanitarian leader who embraces everyone with Divine Love, then take a few minutes and get to know Her. If you have had an Amma hug, write about it. We would love to hear your experience!
About a decade ago Amma traveled to Indianapolis and I experienced my first Kirtan followed by a hug from this woman who was a stranger, but not really. When the light of her heart opens around you, there is a feeling of deep connectedness to everyone and everything on the planet, even Amma herself. Often she gives you a word to contemplate and reflect in your own meditation.
When I need inspiration, I close my eyes and think of Amma hugging the world. Look at all of the awesome ways her organization brings Love, Service, Conservation into actual practice into the world. Amma believes in Education for Everyone and is the Chancellor of Amrita University.
Embrace the World and let the World embrace you back.
When and How do Yoga teachers incorporate Qigong movements into an asana class?
Danielle Godfrey, Goddess of Zen Gong, at Urban Yoga Saturdays 11:30am, answers the questions:
First, words to the wise (from the weary): guage/assess your crowd and the venue of each class as mixing styles is not always welcome or appreciated. That said, at start of class, before salutations, it’s good to incorporate meridian stretches to ensure subtle energy awareness.
For example: (1) From samastitihi, extend arms over head, clasp fingers, turn palms up and press up, then forward fold. (2) Repeat coming down to floor on both right and left. (3) Then repeat with just arms (no forward fold), part hands as arms come down, and flexing wrists, press palms towards floor, chin tucked, head forward, light jalendara bandha. (4) Repeat with chin upward reaching. (5) With arms extended to side, turn one palm up clockwise, other palm up counter-clockwise and twist in direction of clockwise palm and alternate sides.
At the end of class, qigong breathing (simply belly breathing and connecting with Center) prepares for Savasana as it is the body’s natural breath for sleep.
Experience a transformational awakening with Zen Gong every Saturday 11:30am with Danielle. The experience involves 75minutes of sound therapy with an array of therapeutic instruments and guided relaxation with sequenced restorative postures.693 Comments »
Winter Solstice Mala w/ Kim Smith Saturday, Dec 22 1-3pm
The holidays are jam packed with outings, events, and ever increasing to do lists. It is easy to get caught up in the holiday hubbub. Our bodies and minds become overwhelmed with details and we often find ourselves expending more energy than we have to give. The winter solstice is a time of inner reflection. It is a time for renewal and rest. Yoga provides the perfect balance to the holiday mayhem. This workshop will allow you to cleanse and detoxify the physical, mental, and emotional stresses that accumulate from over-doing. It will also promote time and space to breathe, release, and most importantly, just be.
In this workshop we will practice a modified mala, repetitive rounds of sun salutations. Each round of mala will be themed with setting a personal intention to manifest in your life. The heat, or tapas we will build during the mala is the perfect tool to burn away and shed old ways of thinking, acting and believing that no longer support our most authentic selves.
Between malas, we will move into longer held poses and practice breathing techniques that promote a sense of steadiness and ease. With the aid of pranayama, yin and restorative yoga we will give ourselves the opportunity to turn inwards and reflect. The space we create will help to establish a stronger connection to our innermost knowing, enabling the practitioners to rest fully in the light of their own authenticity.
This workshop will help you to connect to your inner light, stoking the internal fire of change while promoting an essence of support.
Give yourself the gift of practice with intention.
Join Kim in this very special mala practice and celebrate the bright light that shines within.2,207 Comments »
3 Easy Ways to Live in the Present by Jenn Chiarelli
Check out these great, easy tips from Jenn on how to live in the present each day!
1. Slow down.
Everyone is in a rush these days. In order to live in the present moment we need to slow ourselves down, from our driving, eating, our speech, to our thoughts. In order to experience the present we just need to consciously slow down. The next time you’re chatting with a friend, notice if you take breathes in between your thoughts. Do you cut your friend off or do you stop and listen? This is an important way to do some self study. In yoga this self study or self reflection is called svadhyaya. It’s the 4th Niyama of the Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga.
2. Get out and enjoy nature.
A way to slow down and become more highly aware is to get outside. Enjoy a long walk and listen to the sounds that surround you: the birds, the wind, a dog barking in the distance. Observe what you smell: the flowers, the crisp fall air. Notice what you feel externally (the sun on your skin), and internally (are you happy, sad, calm, uneasy?). Observe your feelings. Connect with the rhythm of nature and notice that you are a part of it all.
Most of the time our breath is completely involuntary, however, in yoga we teach conscious breathing. This will immediately slow you down and shift you into presence. Take a long inhalation, filling your lower belly first, then your middle belly, and finally your upper chest and clavicle. Then slowly exhale from the upper chest, then middle belly, and finally your lower belly. Draw your navel in to expel all the stale air out. Practice this a few rounds. This simple yogic breathing exercise is called 3 part breathe or Dirgha Pranayama. When you’re stressed or overwhelmed, this very simple breathing technique will calm you and bring you to a peaceful state of being.
Take Jenn’s classes Tues, Thurs & Fri from 12-1 pm for an All Levels, Vinyasa Vibin’ Flow !
Read her tips featured in a recent AZ Foothills magazine article here2,317 Comments »
Welcome to Teacher Chat Mondays!
Welcome to one of Urban Yoga’s newest blog pages : Teacher Chat Mondays
… featuring UY teachers & staff members who will contribute various articles each week — sharing yoga knowledge, philosophy, lifestyle tips, & more ….
Let us help kick off your week with some great reads and positive vibes 🙂
We look forward to seeing you here & in class !
Namaste ~903 Comments »
Mary Bruce featured on “Where is My Guru?” on Blog Talk Radio
Check out our very own Mary Bruce featured with Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland. Mary talks about her own teacher, Rod Stryker, her experiences teaching yoga on tour, and her upcoming Master Yoga Immersion (at Urban Yoga!) Click on the title link to listen to the broadcast 🙂
2,678 Comments »
Mary Bruce is featured in Origin Magazine’s September “Inspire Series”
1,396 Comments »
Urban Yoga is a proud sponsor of Yoga Rocks the Park in downtown Phoenix!
Check out Girish’s live music performance & more info on the event by clicking the title link above!
* Urban Yoga will be the featured sponsor with our very own, Jenn Chiarelli co-teaching on MAY 6!
Kate Murphy teaches a simple approach to Bakasana (Crow Pose)
Thanks for your wonderful teaching Kate, and great way of breaking down the pose! Bakasana is accessible for all levels! Click on the title link to watch the video!
Wanderlust Yoga Festival
Urban Yoga was at the Wanderlust Festival on tour in Phoenix May 3, 2011! We also had the largest representation in students & teachers than any other studio — way to go Urban Yogis!1,190 Comments »
Urban Yoga is voted Best of Greater Phoenix Best Yoga Studio 2010!
We are so excited an humbled to be voted the Best Yoga studio in Phoenix for 2010 by the readers of Phoenix New Times!1,370 Comments »
Urban Yoga is Lululemon’s Studio of the Month!
Urban Yoga is Studio of the Month for October 2010! Lululemon is hosting free classes by your favorite Urban Yoga Instructors all month long! Classes are from 10:30-11:30am and held outside in the Biltmore Shopping Center Lawn. Come and practice with us on Sundays in October !591 Comments »
Mary Bruce leads Sugarland’s lead singer, Jennifer Nettles though a yoga class featured by Nike
Congrats Mary! Click on the title link to view the video
270 Comments »