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Yoga

Understanding The 5 Yamas For Gaining Self-Awareness And Inner Peace

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The 5 Yamas are the first limb of the ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga’ originating from the ancient philosophical text, ‘The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’. By practicing the 5 Yamas you gain self-awareness, transform negative energy into positive, and cultivate a deep sense of inner peace. In this article, I will introduce you to the 5 Yamas and give you some practical tips on how you can integrate them into your life!

8 Limbs of Yoga

There are 8 limbs of yoga, and Yama is the first limb.

The first limb: YAMA

Yama is a set of ethical norms that teaches us to communicate with others in the right way. To be brief, it means one thing: treat people the way you want them to treat you.

The second limb: NIYAMA

The step of forming the self-discipline and uplifting spirituality. This step involves regular visits to temples, meditative practices, a study of nature, thinking and walks.

The third limb: ASANA

Asana means ‘posture’ or ‘pose’. So by saying ‘asanas’ we mean body poses. Yoga practitioners know that our physical bodies are temples for our souls. Body care is one of the most important stages on the path to spiritual growth and enlightenment. Performing certain asanas, a person learns concentration and self-discipline.

The fourth limb: PRANAYAMA

Pranayama for Beginners Image

Pranayama is the ability to control your breath. It is a set and a system of special techniques that make it possible to establish a relationship between breath, mind, and emotions. Literally, pranayama translates as ‘extension of the prana’ or ‘breath control”. Pranayama practice allows you to rejuvenate the entire body and prolong your lifespan. We can practice pranayama as a separate type of yoga technique, or use it as a component of the complex of yoga practice.

The fifth limb: PRATYAHARA

‘Pratyahara’ means ‘gaining mastery over external influences’.

The purpose of this limb is to achieve a state of the distraction of the senses from the surrounding reality and the circulation of the gaze and consciousness inside of you. In other words, pratyahara is the ability to concentrate and not be distracted by various external stimuli. This step gives you the vision of the internal systems, understanding what can stop your personal and inner growth.

The sixth limb: DHARANA

Dharana means ‘concentration’ or ‘single focus’. By concentrating and abstracting, we get distracted from external ‘noise’.  This is how we can calm down our minds, which distracts us from knowing more than we are able to understand. It helps us to see the limitless of our possibilities. At this stage, there is a skill to slow down the thought process by focusing on sound, image, energy or body.

The seventh limb: DHYANA

Dhyana means ‘contemplation, reflection’ and ‘profound, abstract meditation’. This is the stage of the full development of the properties of meditation and concentration. Conscious inhibition of thought processes allows one to calm the mind, to feel serenity, not to give rise to new thoughts. To reach this stage, you need endurance and strength. For achieving this, you have to put in a lot of effort and time.

The eighth limb: SAMADHI

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Samadhi is a state of intense concentration that can be achieved through meditation. This is a state of bliss and understanding. On this stage, you extend the boundaries of your Self. You start feeling the connection between the divine origin and all living things, unity with nature and the world.

Samadhi is the highest stage of meditation, in which a person experiences oneness with the universe. In samadhi, the mind becomes still. You become totally aware of the present moment.

What Is Yama?

As you can see, Yama is the second limb of yoga.

Yamas represent a series of “right living” or ethical rules. It means “reining in” or “control”. These are restraints for Proper Conduct as given in the Holy Veda. The 5 Yamas are a form of moral imperatives, commandments, rules or goals.

The 5 Yamas are:

  1. Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा): nonviolence, non-harming other living beings.
  2. Satya (सत्य): truthfulness, non-falsehood.
  3. Asteya (अस्तेय): non-stealing.
  4. Aparigraha (अपरिग्रहः): non-avarice, non-possessiveness.
  5. Brahmacharya (ब्रह्मचर्य): chastity, marital fidelity or sexual restraint

Mastering these 5 Yamas is necessary in order to practice niyamas, asanas, pranayama and all other stages of the “eight-step path of yoga”.

Now let’s take a deeper look at each of the 5 Yamas!

The 5 Yamas

Yama #1: Ahiṃsā

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As I already said, Ahimsa focuses on nonviolence, non-harming other living beings.

Ahimsa is similar to the biblical principle “Thou shalt not kill.” In yoga, however, this principle is more extensive. Ahimsa is the renunciation of violence against anyone or anything, including oneself and the natural order of the world.

Why is it so important to renounce violence? If we look at this principle more globally, the main problems on this planet are caused by violence. This applies to the Planet, animals, people and many other living beings, i.e. to nature as a whole. After all, our planet is the same living organism as all the others, only in a slightly different form. That is why it is necessary to have the right attitude to the world.

From the point of view of the law of karma, causing harm or violence to other living beings, we earn negative karma. Accordingly, the more people, for example, kill animals, the more negative karma they accumulate. And each individual karma eventually forms the collective karma of society, as a result of which everyone will suffer in one way or another. If we help others to understand the consequences of their actions, then the overall situation on the Planet will improve.

How to practice Ahimsa?

Practice being more kind, accepting, and forgiving of yourself and others. Stop eating animals, fish, eggs, and other products of murder. Buy only cruelty-free products that were not tested on animals. Recycle your trash so it won’t harm our planet. Stop buying and wearing leather, fur, silk, and other materials that were created as a result of killing. Start being more mindful of what you are investing your money in. Don’t sponsor violence, cruelty, murder, and harm.

Yama #2: Satya

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Satya focuses on truthfulness and non-falsehood.

“Truthfulness” means seeing and reporting things as they are rather than the way we would like them to be.

The importance of this prescription is obvious. When we are truthful to ourselves we can see the internal problems that exist, and, therefore, to make efforts to solve them. When we see a problem, it is easier for us to understand and choose the tool that will help solve it. Only when we are truthful with ourselves can we be truthful with others.

Perhaps some of you would ask: “Can we lie for good or saying a half-truth?” To begin with, in many Vedic Scriptures, the Buddha and many other sages of the past sometimes told only half-truths to the disciples. It is important to understand why they could do this. The fact is that their level of development allowed them to see all the karmic consequences of their words for the disciple. Therefore they could do it without hurting anyone. There are not too many people who can do the same nowadays. Most people still struggle to control their egos. And ego can blind anyone! That’s why it’s better not to experiment with karma and stay committed to truthfulness.

There is also the energy aspect of lies. Guided by false thoughts, deeds, and sayings, a person forms a reality that contradicts the objective reality. So with the help of the lies he/she says, he/she creates around him/her such an energy that after a while will make him/her see the world around him/her is not what it really is. Because of this, a person will constantly be making mistakes and experience confusion in life. His life eventually will turn into an illusion.

Moreover, according to karmic law, we always attract what we radiate. If you allow yourself to lie, you also give other people permission to lie to you.

However, by telling the truth you should always remember to follow the first Yama – Ahimsa (non-violence, non-harming). Don’t harm anyone by telling the truth.

For example, if a person is a thief and you know it, you can not hide this fact or lie about it! Otherwise, your lie or silence about it will harm others who will be robbed. Everything is pretty clear with this example.

Now let me give you another example. Many decades ago there was a Brahman who devoted his existence to the study of the Scriptures. Once, during his meditation, a cow ran by. Sometime later, the butcher who wanted to kill the cow came. He asked the Brahman which way the cow had run. Because the Brahman has been speaking only the truth all his life, as the Scriptures say, he showed the direction.

When the butcher overtook and killed the animal, the Brahman went to the hellish planets to be judged by Yamaraj. The Brahman did not understand why he was there. Yamaraj charged him that he was responsible for the death of the cow.

Living without lies is hard enough, especially if the truth hurts others. Lying is a distortion of reality, which entails certain consequences. It is important to learn how to present information so that it does not harm anyone. However, only a few who have reached certain heights in spiritual development can do so.

How to practice Satya?

In order for us to start practicing Satya, we need to learn to recognize the cascade of negative emotions that prompt us to twist reality. Once we have understood and processed those emotions, our thoughts, speech, and actions can be realigned with the truth, even as we look more deeply into our needs and desires. Outwardly, refrain from telling lies and speak with kindness, compassion, and clarity.

Yama #3: Asteya

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Asteya focuses on non-stealing. In other words, it is the renunciation of the desire to possess what does not belong to us.

Speaking of energy, it should be said that everything that a person has, in one way or another, is impregnated with his/her energy. A good example is clothing that carries the energy of the person who wore it. If a person stole something from someone, he undeservedly appropriated part of the vital energy of its owner. According to the law of conservation of energy, that loss must be replenished. And then the one who stole will suffer to compensate for the energy balance.

It is important to understand that suffering can manifest itself, both in this life and the next. The law of karma is absolute.

Usually, people associate stealing with tangible objects. However, intangibles, such as information and emotional favors, are more likely to be the objects stolen in our world.

How to practice Asteya?

Since the urge to steal arises from a sense of unhappiness, incompleteness, and envy, the solution is to practice giving any chance you get. Get involved in charity, get a volunteering job. Give food; give money; give time. Since abundance is ultimately a state of mind, you will feel increasingly abundant; and through selfless giving and serving, your sense of inner abundance may bring you outer wealth.

Yama #4: Aparigraha

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Aparigraha focuses on non-avarice and non-possessiveness.

This yoga principle teaches not to be attached to things. It is similar to the previous Yama, however, when practicing aparigraha you should not get attached to anything. In other words, you should follow the principle: “all the things of the world are yours to use, but not to own”.

For every single thing you own you need to invest a certain amount of energy. Everything you have needs to be fed by energy. And you are the one who unconsciously gives your energy to every single thing you own.

We should be very careful about what we buy, how often and for what purpose. It is necessary to ensure that each purchase was as rational as possible. In addition, the principle of non-violence should always be kept in mind. Before you buy a thing, think about what it is made of.

We need to learn how to make good use of the possessions that come to us and enjoy them without becoming emotionally dependent on them. Then they neither control us nor lead to false identities and expectations.

How to practice Aparigraha?

In order for us to start practicing Aparigraha, we need to examine our own tendencies toward possessiveness. To learn more read my article “Quiz: Are You Attached To Material Possessions?”.

The practice of non-possessiveness helps us to examine our assumptions and guides us back to healthy relationships with others.

To learn more about Aparigraha, read my article “Aparigraha: An Essential Step In Your Spiritual Evolution!“.

Yama #5: Brahmacharya

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The literal translation of brahmacharya is “walking in God-consciousness.” Brahmacharya turns the mind inward, balancing and supervising the senses, and leads to freedom from dependencies and cravings. When the mind is freed from domination by the senses, sensual pleasures are replaced by inner joy.

Brahmacharya focuses on chastity, marital fidelity or sexual restraint.

This requirement has a very broad basis. Starting from excessive sexual pleasures, ending with attachment to taste sensations.

Now let us consider in more detail why the sages of the past tried to avoid sexual relations almost completely. This was done in order to accumulate and raise energy as much as possible, to serve as much as possible for the benefit of society, using the seed only for procreation. It is worth making an important reservation that orgasm and ejaculation are completely different things.

Of course, in modern society, all the media and the so-called mass culture, constantly propagandize and install in the people’s consciousness of the maximum possible satisfaction of sexual desires. Because of this, it is very difficult to change what has been laid in the mind for decades. But nothing is impossible.

The need to control sexual energy is connected with the fact that, satisfying sexual passions, a person loses a huge amount of vital energy in the process of obtaining such a short-term pleasure. And when there is no energy, it becomes impossible to think about self-improvement and engage in spiritual practices on a higher level.

Of course, you may say: “Though I have sex 3-4 times a week, I still have the energy for my spiritual development”. And then I would answer: “You have no idea what you are capable of! You’re using just a very small percent of your potential! If you had more energy you would be able to master so much more in this life! You would discover hidden talents, passion for science, psychic abilities, immediate manifesting abilities, healing gifts, etc.”

The same applies to attachments to taste sensations. It is believed that the more you are attached to taste, the more vital energy you spend on the enjoyment of food. In this way, you need to strive to ensure that the food is simple and healthy and doesn’t stimulate your taste in the way that you get addicted to it. This will save more energy for a more efficient life and development.

Usually, attachments to taste and sexual desires testify to the energy blockage of the Svadhisthana chakra. In this case, an effective method, in addition to the practice of the asanas, is a cleansing technique Shank Prakshalana. It allows you not only to physically cleanse the body of toxins but also it can cleanse your energy.

How to practice Brahmacharya?

Be honest with yourself about what dependencies and cravings you have. Start making wise choices about the books and magazines you read, the food you eat, the movies you see, and the company you keep. It will help you conserve energy and keep your mind focused and dynamic.

Learn to be moderate in all sensual activities so that you don’t dwell on them. Staying committed and faithful to one partner in a relationship. This is a good way to start practicing Brahmacharya.

The Bottom Line

It is through your personal practice that you can learn the basics of yoga, which will help to achieve spiritual enlightenment in the future. Attentively study and find your own ways to practice the 5 Yamas in your everyday life. Then you’ll be able to build your own path to spiritual enlightenment. Even if you are just a beginner in yoga and meditation, practicing the 5 Yamas above will help to make a great start on your spiritual path!


Katya Ki is the Founder of SOLANCHA Magazine, a Metaphysical Expert, a Reiki Master, and Human Rights Attorney. She has been studying Eastern metaphysics, cosmology, and esotericism for almost 20 years now. And she's still discovering new knowledge, which is hidden in ancient teachings. During her pilgrimage to the monastery of Saint Catherine in Egypt, she discovered the SOLANCHA System. This is how the SOLANCHA journey started!

Yoga

Bhakti Yoga: 9 Principles To Heart-Centered Life

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Bhakti yoga is one of the main yoga paths that can lead you to full awareness of your true nature. It is the path of devotion that is based on the service to God. The path of Bhakti yoga allows us to use all of our senses, emotions, and actions to express love in our daily interactions and offer it to God. This path involves total dedication and surrender.

In this article, I will introduce you to Bhakti yoga and its 9 principles following which will help you to live a heart-centered life.

What Is Bhakti Yoga?

The Sanskrit word bhakti comes from the root bhaj, which can be translated as “selfless service” or “devotion”. Bhakti yoga is often described as “love for love’s sake” and “union through love and devotion.” This yoga path is the path to self-realization, to having an experience of oneness with everything through reconnection with the Divine forces.

Religion sees the manifestation of love for God through strict submission to his higher powers, because (according to almost any religion) God is wiser and more enlightened than any representative of humanity. In Christianity, the highest spiritual knowledge was possessed by Jesus; in Judaism – by Moses, in Islam – by Muhammad. Bhakti yoga has a different approach: there is no need to be afraid of God because God is the highest intelligence that understands and loves everything and everyone. And anyone can communicate with God through unconditional love, kindness, and gratitude.

Thus, we can say that Bhakti yoga is a spiritual path of divine love mysticism, that focuses on an intimate understanding of oneness and harmony of the eternal individual with the Divine and all creatures, is a constant delight. This is the yoga of a personal relationship with God.

As you tap into universal love, you naturally develop a sense of trust that this benevolent, wise universe provides everything you need. This understanding helps you relax so that you can’t help but generate positive energy for others.

9 Principles Of Bhakti Yoga

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One can attain clear and pure love to God through the nine principles of Bhakti yoga.

Principle #1: Sravana

This is the Sanskrit term for listening to sacred texts, sincere praise to God, poems, or stories about God’s virtues and mighty deeds. This principle cannot be practiced in isolation. The devotee must hear the stories from a wise teacher and seek the companionship of holy people.

Sravana is the first and obligatory principle of devotional service that cannot be circumvented. If one does not listen to the descriptions of God, one cannot clearly understand the other methods of devotional service.

This principle teaches us to turn our spiritual practice into sound. It teaches us listening and understanding of what we hear.

The person who demonstrated how this principle works is Maharaja Pariksit. He listened to Srimad Bhagavatam for seven days and attained transcendental realization through practicing the Sravana principle.

Principle #2: Kirtana

This principle refers to the singing or chanting of God’s praises. This is what Ram Dass said about this principle, “When you are in love with God, the very sound of the Name brings great joy.”

Kirtana is considered the main principle that should be practiced in Kali Yuga. However, it is impossible to practice Kirtana without Sravana, since these two principles are related. We can imagine Sravana as the inhale and Kirtana – as the exhale. Exhaling is impossible without inhaling.

The person who demonstrated how this principle works is Sukadeva Goswami. He recited Srimad Bhagawatam and achieved perfection by practicing the Kirtana principle.

Principle #3: Smarana

This principle refers to remembrance of God at all times, or keeping God in the forefront of your consciousness. In Christian terms, Smarana is what the French monk Brother Lawrence meant by “the practice of the presence of God.”

Smarana is a natural result of the Shravana and Kirtanam principles practice.

Smarana requires regular meditations. Therefore, it is very important to learn proper meditation in order to practice Bhakti yoga principles.

A person who has attained perfection through the Smarana method is Prahlada Maharaja.

Principle #4: Padasevana

Padasevana is gaining the opportunity to serve God, after mastering the previous three principles. This Bhakti yoga principle expresses love toward God through service to others.

Lakshmi Devi was the one who demonstrated how this principle works.

Principle #5: Archana

This Bhakti yoga principle refers to the worship of God through such external images as icons or religious pictures or through internal visualizations. The purpose of Archana is to purify the heart through the love of God.

Worshiping takes place under the guidance of the guru and in accordance with the instructions of the Pancharatra.

Prithu Maharaja was the one who demonstrated how this principle works. By performing austerities Prithu became steadfast in spiritual life, worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead 24 hours a day. In due course of time, Prithu Maharaja was able to fix his mind firmly upon the lotus feet of Krishna. Practicing the mystic yoga system, he raised his soul to the top of his skull.

Principle #6: Vandana

This Bhakti principle refers to prayer and prostration (lying face down on the ground with arms outstretched). Vandana is intended to curb self-absorption and self-centeredness through prayers and worship of God with love and devotion.

Akrura was the one who demonstrated how this principle works.

Principle #7: Dasya

This principle focuses on becoming God’s tool by opening yourself to God. In order to do this, you need to meditate on the words of God, caring for people, and helping to clean or repair sacred buildings or places.

By practicing Dasya, you dedicate your every action to God. Your life becomes a service to God, planet, and humanity.

Hanuman was the one who demonstrated how this principle works. A characteristic feature of his dasya bhava (devotional mood to serve) for the Lord, as mentioned in the Hanuman Chalisa, is his keenness in working for Rama.

Principle #8: Sakha-bhava

This Bhakti principle is the attitude of a friend, looking at the master as your friend, and delight in companionship with God

Sakha-bhava is the discovery of deep and sincere feelings for God, based on a friendly attitude and a transition to a higher spiritual level.

Arjuna was the one who demonstrated how this principle works. Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures praise Arjuna for his close relationship with Krishna. Not only is Arjuna known as Krishna’s friend, but Krishna is known as Arjuna’s friend. In Bhagavad Gita (9.29) Krishna tells Arjuna, “I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.”

Principle #9: Atma-nivedana

This principle focuses on the complete self-offering or self-surrender to God.

Bali Maharaja was the one who demonstrated how this principle works. He did not do anything extraordinary. He simply gave to Krishna whatever he possessed. By giving to God, by serving God, by loving God, nobody is a loser, everyone is a gainer. So therefore we should immerse ourselves in this process.

How To Practice Bhakti In Daily Life?

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If you are a beginner on the path of Bhakti Yoga and don’t know what to start your practice with, try to simply keep your focus on Divine love no matter what you’re doing.

However, you should keep in mind that Divine love is different from human love. Human love tends to be grasping and self-serving, whereas Divine love is selfless and giving.

Start with transforming the relationships in your life by offering whatever you do as service to the Divine Light within them. In this way, you deepen your spiritual connection to your own inner light.

The Bhakti Sutras say that by cultivating and deepening virtues, such as non-harming, truthfulness, purity, compassion, faith, and humility, in our worldly relationships, we refine them and make them more harmonious, so they become a clearer reflection of the Divine.

If this is still too much for you, start with simply treating others the way you would like to be treated. When you see that someone is having a hard day, offer to help, say a prayer, or just listen with an open and compassionate heart.

Put some extra love into your relationships with others. Heal and nurture your spiritual connection with others. If someone has hurt you or upset you, try to see the situation through the eyes of this person and offer your forgiveness silently. Learn how to accept the apologies that you’ve never received and forgive people with an open heart.

Find your own ways to serve your family, friends, and community. Let it be natural and spontaneous. Let all your actions be inspired by love, reverence, and devotion.


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8 Essential Types Of Pranayama To Calm Your Mind

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Living in uncertainty in the midst of the worldwide pandemic, most of us experience stress and an increase in anxiety. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. We all are trying to find our ways to cope with this global uncertainty and calm our minds. Yoga and meditation have become more popular than ever. And pranayama, as a mind-calming tool, is increasing its popularity among conscious people. Many people who ever tried pranayama would agree that there’s nothing like indulging in a breathing break to calm the mind and relax the body. In this article, I will share with you 8 essential types of pranayama to calm your mind and decrease your stress level so that you can get back to your daily routine happy and energized and live your life to the fullest despite any challenges you might face!

What Is Pranayama?

Prana‘ is the Sanskrit word for breath, “life force”, or “vital principle”. ‘Ayāma‘ can be translated as “the suspension of breath” or “control”. Thus, “pranayama” can be translated as “control over vital energy”.

Usually, pranayama is associated with breathing exercises that have a beneficial effect on the body, saturating it with oxygen. However, yogis use this technique not only for the purpose of improving their physical bodies but also as a way of controlling the flow of prana (vital energy).

According to Patanjali, pranayama is the length of time between inhalation and exhalation. During this period, the time of assimilation of prana increases, the fluctuations of the mind decrease and the perception expands.

You may ask: “how is it possible to reduce the excitation of the brain by holding the breath?” Well, this is due to the fact that nerve impulses in some parts of the body are suspended, and the structure of brain waves is harmonized. Therefore, pranayama is one of the most important elements of Hatha yoga.

How Does It Work?

Pranayama allows you to lengthen the breath, which increases longevity. Thanks to pranayama, we learn how to properly use our lungs.

The fact is that in everyday life, most often only the top of the lungs is involved, which leads to oxygen starvation and accumulation of stagnant air in the lower part of the lungs. The ability to use the entire volume of the lungs allows us to become less exposed to respiratory diseases, increases the level of vital energy, and makes it easier to cope with stress and anxiety.

Pranayama practice affects our Central nervous system. Breathing affects the hypothalamus, which is responsible for emotional responses and the transformation of perceived reality into the experience. It helps us to reach emotional balance, calm our minds, relax the body, and let go of negative emotions. Pranayama practice allows our bodies to release stress and tensions which helps in bringing down hypertension and achieve a balanced state of mind.

8 Types Of Pranayama For Calming Your Mind

Now let me introduce you to different types of pranayama that you can use for calming your mind and getting rid of stress and anxiety.

#1: Nadi Shodhana Pranayama

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The regular practice of Nadi Shodhana offers an energy boost in the body and releases stress and anxiety. It should be practiced in the morning in the fresh air with an empty stomach.

Instructions:

  1. Sit comfortably on flat ground.
  2. Now close the right nostril with your right thumb and breathe from the left nostril. Then close your left nostril with middle and ring finger and breathe out from the right nostril.
  3. Now closing in the left nostril breathe in deeply with the right nostril and then close the right nostril and breathe out deeply with the left nostril. Do the repetition.

#2: Sheetali Pranayama

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‘Sheeta’ means ‘cooling’, which is exactly the effect of this pranayama. This is one of the most effective types of pranayama for stress, anxiety, and tension relief.

Instructions:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with the back and head erect, hands on the knees in Jnana mudra, and eyes closed.
  2. Make a puckered circle with your mouth then stick out your tongue and curl the edges inwards to form a tube.
  3. Inhale slowly and deeply through the tube as if sucking air through a straw to the count of 4.
  4. Fill up your abdomen and chest to full capacity.
  5. Retain the breath.
  6. Straighten your head and exhale through the nostrils until all air is expelled.
  7. Repeat.

#3: Sheetkari Pranayama

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This pranayama is also known as the hissing breath. Similar to Sheetali pranayama, this pranayama is a cooling breath that does wonders for anxiety and depression. This is one of the most effective types of pranayama for mental tranquility, calming yourself before sleep, and relaxation.

Instructions:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position, lengthen your spine.
  2. Rest palms on your knees.
  3. Close your eyes, turning awareness inward.
  4. Gently hold teeth together and allow teeth to be exposed.
  5. The tongue may remain flat, or folded against the palate.
  6. Inhale slowly through your teeth, allowing the breath to cool.
  7. At the end of the inhalation draw your tongue inside your mouth.
  8. Exhale through your nose.

Repeat the cycle (steps 6-8) for 9 to 15 rounds.

#4: Anuloma Viloma

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Anuloma Viloma pranayama is one of the most simple types of pranayama for everyday use. This breathing practice increases the resistance to stress, stabilizes the nervous system, improves mood, profoundly calms the mind, increases the clarity of thought, improves the immune system, lowers stress, and anxiety.

Note that Anuloma Viloma should be practiced on an empty stomach!

Instructions:

  1. Sit comfortably with a straight spine.
  2. Rest the left palm on the knee in Jnana Mudra (thumb and index fingers touching) to create a pranic circuit that drives energy toward the brain.
  3. Place the right hand in Vishnu Mudra (by tucking the index and middle fingers into the palm). The thumb, ring, and pinky fingers will be more or less extended.
  4. Close your eyes. Inhale comfortably. Close the right nostril with the right thumb. Exhale slowly and completely through the left nostril.
  5. Now for the first round, inhale slowly and comfortably through the left nostril. Close the left nostril with the ring or pinky finger – and then release the thumb from the right nostril.
  6. Exhale slowly and completely through the right nostril. Now breathe in through the right nostril. Close the right with the thumb, release the ring or pinky finger from the left, and exhale through the left.

This completes one round. Practice 5 to 10 rounds.

#5: Ujjayi Pranayama

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Ujjayi breathing is a breathing technique employed in a variety of Taoist and Yoga practices. It is sometimes called “the ocean breath”. It is due to the fact that the ujjayi breath is meant to mimic the sound of ocean waves. This rhythmic sound can help you focus your mind and link your movements to the sound of your breath.

This pranayama helps to balance and calm your mind and reach the inner peace similar to a day by the ocean brings.

Instructions:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position. Relax your body and close your eyes. Let your mouth drop open slightly. Relax your jaw and your tongue.
  2. Inhale and exhale deeply through your mouth. Feel the air of your inhalations passing through your windpipe.
  3. On your exhalations, slightly contract the back of your throat, as you do when you whisper. Softly whisper the sound, “ahhh,” as you exhale. Imagine your breath fogging up a window.
  4. As you become comfortable with your exhalations, maintain the slight constriction of the throat on your inhalations, as well. You will notice your breath making an “ocean” sound, softly moving in and out, like ocean waves.
  5. When you can comfortably control your throat during the inhalations and exhalations, gently close your mouth and begin breathing only through your nose. Keep the same constriction in your throat as you did when your mouth was open. You will continue to hear the “ocean” sound as you breathe through your nose. Direct the breath to travel over your vocal cords, across the back of your throat. Keep your mouth closed, but your lips soft.
  6. Concentrate on the sound of your breath. Allow it to soothe your mind. It should be audible to you, but not so loud that someone standing several feet away can hear it.
  7. Let your inhalations fill your lungs to their fullest expansion. Completely release the air during your exhalations.

Start by practicing Ujjayi pranayama for 5 minutes while you are seated. For deeper meditation, increase your time to 15 minutes.

#6: Sahita Kumbhaka Breath

breath work image

We’re often so concerned with our inhales and exhales that we completely forget about the space found between. Kumbhaka is the state of pause, or suspension, between the breaths, and helps us find stillness through focused mindfulness. 

Instructions:

  1. Inhale slowly.
  2. Pause and hold for a few moments at the top of the breath.
  3. Exhale slowly.
  4. Hold for a few moments at the bottom of the breath.
  5. Repeat for five minutes, then return to a normal breath.

This pattern of breathing may feel a bit unnatural at first – after all, we’re typically rushed in our busy lives – but in time you will become more mindful of your breathing patterns (and the stillness found within) and will find that your breath naturally becomes more steady, deep, and intentional with practice.

#7: Samavritti Pranayama

Murcha Pranayama Benefits Image

This pranayama is also known as Balancing Breath or Counting Breath.

When the mind is spinning, counting the breath is one of the most effective ways to slow down. The steady rhythm of the count helps to settle the mind’s fluctuations and reestablish balance. This makes Samavritti Pranayama one of the most powerful types of pranayama for calming your mind.

The most common practice is maintaining a one-to-one ratio. For example, inhaling and exhaling to the count of three. It’s natural to begin at a faster pace and gradually slow down as the mind begins to quiet.

Instructions:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Rest your palms on your lap.
  2. Inhale smoothly as you count to three.
  3. Exhale smoothly as you count to three.  
  4. Continue for three to five minutes, or until you feel mentally and physically settled.

You can practice this type of pranayama any time of day or night, whenever you feel overwhelmed or overstimulated. It will help you to enhance calmness, steadiness, and serenity in body and mind.

Variation:

To enhance the relaxation response, lengthen the exhalations. For example, inhale to the count of four, then exhale to the count of six or eight. 

#8: Humming Bee Breath

6 steps to meditating image

This is one of the best types of pranayama for anxiety relief.

This pranayama is named so because of the humming sound produced at the back of the throat during the practice – like the gentle humming of a bee.

The technique of performing Bhramari Pranayama is quite simple and does not require special training. It can be performed at any time of the day and even after having a meal. Also, it has no age restrictions.

Instructions:

  1. Sit in any position that is comfortable for you with a straight back and relaxed shoulders.
  2. Close the lips, keeping the teeth slightly apart.
  3. Bring the tip of your tongue to the space behind the upper front teeth. Maintain this position throughout the practice, frequently checking to ensure that the jaw remains relaxed.
  4. Close each ears with the thumbs, place the index fingers at the midpoint of the forehead – just above the eyebrows – and reach the middle, ring, and pinky fingers across the eyes so that the tips of these fingers press very gently against the bridge of the nose.  
  5. Take a long, deep breath in through the nostrils, bringing the breath all the way into the belly.
  6. Drop the chin to the chest and begin to exhale slowly, making a steady, low-pitched ‘hmmm’ sound at the back of the throat – like the humming of a bee. Focus on making the sound soft, smooth, and steady.
  7. Keep the body completely still and bring your awareness to the center of the head – to your Third eye chakra – letting the sound fill the head and spread to the body.
  8. At the end of the exhalation, slowly straighten your neck as you inhale again through the nostrils to repeat the process.

This is one breathing cycle. Start mastering this pranayama with 7 breathing cycles and gradually increase to 20-30.

The Bottom Line

Uncertainty can be stressful. Therefore, make sure that you doing everything to help yourself to manage stress and anxiety. Even 10 minutes a day spent on pranayama practice can do miracles for your mental health. Use the above types of pranayama to calm your mind and stay balanced. Remember that only a balanced mind can solve any problem and make the right choices!

Stay safe, stay calm!


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Demystifying Aerial Yoga: The New Yoga Trend

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What Is Aerial Yoga Image

Aerial yoga has become one of the most Instagrammable wellness trends. This new concept that is quickly becoming popular amongst devoted yogis and beginners alike. What does it mean? What is in store for you, especially when you are self-isolating due to a global pandemic? And which basic exercises can you use for your practice? But first, let us understand this practice.

The History

Aerial yoga dates back to 1991 in New York. Christopher Harrison, a Broadway choreographer and former gymnast came up with the practice. At that time, all he wanted were aerial moves that a group of gymnastic athletes could do when they retired from the competition. However, its success made the practice a hit and spread nationwide.

Today, you can enjoy a fulfilling aerial yoga session at any Crunch gyms for barre practice. Or, enroll for Unnata Aerial Yoga in various studios nationwide. And, if you prefer the privacy of your home, get a hammock and workout videos, and you can start your aerial yoga exercises at home.

What Is Aerial Yoga?

Aerial Yoga Image

Aerial yoga is a hybrid type of yoga that combines traditional yoga poses, Pilates, and dance with the use of a hammock.

Aerial yoga involves using a sling-like hammock made of a silky fabric and hanging from the ceiling. This hammock will support your full body weight as you engage in various poses, using the sling as your assistant. Think of doing headstands, pushups, back-flips, swings, and triceps dips while suspended in the air.

If you are steady, expect to crush your in-shape goals in no time. The yoga is so powerful; trainers describe it as a moderate-intense workout. Hence, it can borrow from ballet, HIIT, and Pilates, to feature in an athletic curriculum for such sports.  Notably, a study by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) on women doing aerial yoga found that doing three, 50-minute aerial yoga sessions a week for six weeks can: –

  • Help cut weight by 2.5 pounds on average
  • Reduce body fat by 2%
  • Trim the waist by 1 inch
  • Raise the VO2 max by 11%

Aerial Yoga Benefits

Aerial fitness Image

Despite starting as a high-end workout for the elite in New York, aerial yoga is now easy for anyone to practice. All you need is a hammock and the urge to grow your fitness level. This routine offers the following unique benefits for each participant: –

#1: Burns Fat

Besides the known scientific proof of how aerial yoga can help the participants to lose weight, this yoga has a significant effect on your body fat. The activities you engage in offer a full-body workout for cardio and strength training. Hence, at the end of an hour’s practice, the participant will have engaged every muscle in their body.

#2: Boost Fitness Level

There are at least ten parameters you check when gauging your fitness level. These are: –

  • The plank exercise – Measures the strength and stability of your core
  • The head-turning activity – Checks for neck flexibility
  • The vertical jump test – How high can you jump?
  • Push-ups – Checks for your upper body strength
  • Wall sits – Checks for leg muscle strength and endurance
  • Loop the loop – Confirms posture and shoulder movements
  • Waist to hip ratio – Measures fat concentration around the waist in comparison to the hip area
  • 12-minute run or walk – Measures cardiovascular fitness
  • Resting heart rate – Indicates the robustness of the cardiovascular system-
  • Wet footprint test – Checks for pronation and supination

Aerial yoga can help you complete all the fitness goals as per the above parameters. For example, the training assists you to connect to your core, similar to doing planks. And, when you work out on gravity, you free the tension in the joints and also correct your posture and flexibility.

#3: Beginner-Friendly

Antigravity for beginners image

Christopher Harrison’s gain in using aerial yoga for the first time shows that for sure, anyone can do it. You don’t need any prior training, any specialist sportswear, or any fancy gear to get your body back in shape.

#4: Makes Tough Workouts Fun

Are you practicing for your acrobat’s competitions? Well, your one-hour long session of aerial yoga will be a fun experience, because, this yoga makes it seamless to learn new gymnastic tricks. And, if you are training for your ballet, you can also perform many stunts with little help from the barre. Likewise, if you never used to enjoy your workouts, with aerial yoga, you will be looking forward to your next training session each time.

#5: Excellent for the Abs and Cardio

Aerial yoga is excellent for achieving that ripped stomach you always wanted. Its off-the-ground moves will engage your core, improve your stability, and curve that six-pack abs for a boost in self-confidence. Similarly, any lady struggling with excessive weight in the upper body will experience strengthening of the upper body in about six weeks. In this time, they will notice more defined shoulders and arms. This way, ladies can sculpt and firm the body they always wanted.

#6: Assists in Mastering Yoga Mat Poses

Silk wraps used in aerial yoga offer excellent support for various yoga poses. The wraps give you a feel of how you should turn when on the mat. Similarly, if you struggle with inversions or any other back-breaking poses, opt for the aerial yoga to master such mat poses.

Tips for Practicing Aerial Yoga at Home

aerial hammock image

Now that you have an idea of what to expect from aerial yoga, here are some tips to get you started: –

  • Practice it with an open mind. Allow yourself to explore your body and enjoy the experience.
  • Hydrate your body before practice. Avoid overindulging in alcohol or food. You don’t want to hang upside down, swing, or move up and down with a full stomach.
  • Wear tight-fitting, comfortable clothes to minimize friction. Shorts should reach below the knee. Avoid tops that are too revealing as they can get uncomfortable when doing your flips.
  • Enhance your safety by removing all jewelry before starting your session. Hair clips, piercings, or rings may get caught up in the hammock and cause an accident.
  • If training as a group, use mild perfume on your body.

Conclusion

Aerial yoga is ideal for everyone, including persons living with a disability, nursing an injury, or struggling with obesity. You can start by enlisting at a local studio. Find out about the studio’s policy and prepare well. Then, continue the practice in the comfort of your home. Or better still, watch videos from yoga gurus to learn and start practicing at home.


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