Prana, Pranayama & Practicing Yoga

What is prana? It is not exactly the breath. It’s the breath, but it’s also everything else in the universe. This energy which is everywhere is called prana. Prana is a force.  

So, what is pranayama? In the Patanjali Yoga Sutra Chapter 1, sutra 34 it says: 

prachchhardanavidharanabhyan va prannasya
By throwing out and restraining the breath 

To control the breath through techniques is called pranayama. Inhaling, exhaling and holding the breath with awareness can make your mind calmer. Through breathing techniques, you can control motions in the mind and energy currents in the body. At Hatha Yoga World you’ll learn and practice different pranayama techniques every morning.   

To gain control and calmness takes time. Pranayama is a practice which will change the body over time because of new channels being made in your brain. But is takes time because humans like to use the old channels already in the brain because it’s easy. The word channel, in this case, is just an example to explain what happens in your mind and body.  

Whenever you think about something it makes a channel. This channel will close if you don’t use it. Memories will keep the channel open because the channel in your brain is being used when you have a similar thought.  

Whenever a new topic comes, a different thought, a new channel has to be made to be understood. This is difficult and therefore the brain resists these new thoughts and ideas. So, prana is trying to make new channels but the brain won’t allow it.  

The less channels a brain has, the more difficult it is to accept new thoughts. But the more channels, the easier it will be to accept new ideas and new thoughts.  

The yoga practice is new and this creates resistance in your mind at first and therefore also in your body. When you deal with philosophy and psychology it’s difficult to understand because it’s not familiar. When it’s new to you and you begin to think about it, it produces new channels in the brain which disturbs your whole system and makes the practice difficult at first. That is why you should choose the yogic path and yoga practice which is most suitable for you.  
 
In our 100, 200 and 300 hour yoga teacher training course you will be introduced to the different yogic paths and aspects of yoga. This will help you find your yogic path and find a practice which can be with you daily and lifelong.  

What are Nadis?

There are 72.000 Nadis in our body. The most often mentioned are the Ida, Pingala and Sushumna Nadi. You will learn about these Nadis and chakras during a 100, 200 or 300 hour Teacher Training at Hatha Yoga World.

Nadis are channels where energy flows. The meaning of the word Nadi is literally flow. Vital energy flows in our Nadis to every part of our body.  

Sushumna is the central energy channel flowing though the center of the spine. Here seven chakras are located from base to crown.  

Ida is representing the moon, and Pingala the sun. These two pranic flows are responsible for the experience of duality which meets at Sushumna Nadi, the central energy channel. The current of energy in Ida and Pingala Nadi flows from below and upwards in a criss-cross, making the chakras spin.   

Ida and Pingala controls the body alternately. If you notice the air passing through your nostrils, you will find that in one side the air is flowing more freely.  

When the left nostril is open, it’s the lunar energy, Ida Nadi and the right-side brain which is in function. When the right nostril is more open, the solar energy, Pingala Nadi and the left part of the brain is activated. This affects our whole body and daily life.  

When the Ida and Pingala energy flow are balanced, then the energy flows through the Sushumna Nadi. This leads to a feeling of peace and bliss. This higher level of consciousness is what can be experienced through yogic practices like meditation, asana, pranayama which is all a part of our offered yoga teacher training course in India, Rishikesh. 

Enjoy your practice.

Namaste.

Yin Yoga Poses: Cat Pulling Its Tail

This pose is one that we practice often and happily at Hatha Yoga World in the 200 & 300 hour yoga teacher training courses. It’s just a great pose with lots of benefits.

Benefits
– Cat pulling Its Tail bring chi or prana to the spleen and stomach (earth element), gallbladder (wood element), urinary bladder and kidney (water element) meridians.

– The variation shown on the pictures will give your spine a well appreciated twist which feels nice as a counter pose after any deep forward fold or backbend.

– If you want to and if it’s available, you can grab your feet for a hamstring stretch and quad stretch at the same time.

PS. Remember benefits will only be there for us if we listen to our body and limits. Never go beyond and never feel pain.

How to practice Cat Pulling Its Tail?

Step one: Lie down on your left side. Bring your right leg out in front of you.

Step two: Wiggle your left shoulder further forward and bring both shoulders towards the floor to twist your spine.

Step three: With your right hand you can now reach towards your left foot behind you (you can use a belt or strap if you want).
For an even deeper stretch you can reach your left hand to hold your right foot in front of you.

Notes: Practice the pose on both sides and bring your knees to chest afterwards as a counter pose.

Hold the pose 2-5 min on each side.

See you on the mat!

 

Important Topics In Yin Yoga

What Is Fascia?  

Fascia is connective tissue, more specifically collagen, elastin and fibronectin. It is a human web that has no beginning and no end and it binds around every muscle fibre, organ, bone, joint and cell. Fascia is made of collagen sheaths and fibril tubes that slide along each other and it holds and transports fluid. It is the largest communication network in body.  

We target the fascia in a Yin Yoga practice. At Hatha Yoga World in Rishikesh we teach Yin Yoga to complement the other Yang styles practiced. It’s a great tool to positively affect a Yang practice like Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Hatha yoga which we also offer in our 200 and 300 hour teacher training courses.

Rebound  

The fascia is coming back to its natural form to reshape itself. The value of rebound in fascia is becoming healthier, stronger, taps into the nervous system, relaxation and healing, sensation and body awareness improves. Rebound allows Qi and fluid to flow freely through the body. The fascia reforms itself, generating a calming and relaxing effect on the body and mind. The result of stressing the tissue, gives us a larger range of movement within the muscle and fascia. The functional purpose of the asana, is to stress the connective tissue in a target area. Stressing the tissue induces a phase change, by crushing the tiny crystal formations of liquid in the fascia. The fluid changes from gel to liquid and therefore we feel a melting sensation.  

Traditional Chinese Medicine  (TCM) 

Yin and Yang is a duality of one source. ‘Qi’ is a bioenergy and translated into Sanskrit it is the same as ‘Prana’. It can be seen as the spirit or the life force energy. TCM see the body as an energetic system working towards balance. Qi flows in a system of channels to every part of the body. TCM works with restoring and balancing Qi to obtain good health. The source is divided into the energy of Yin and Yang and further split into five elements. In TCM the five elements are water, wood, fire, earth and metal.    

Principles and benefits of a Yoga practice

Principles of a Hatha Vinyasa practice

  • Flow, enjoy and express any desired movements.
  • Creates internal heat
  • Target muscles through a contraction
  • Encourage the practitioner to be aware of self
  • Feel which movement are appropriate to obtain natural balance.

What are the benefits?

  • Flexibility
  • Health
  • Strength
  • Calm mind
  • Self Improvement
  • Body awareness

Principles of a Yin Yoga practice

  • Identify the target area.
  • Explore variations.
  • Find the appropriate edge.
  • Support with props if necessary.
  • Relax muscles and body scan to check where tension is.
  • Cultivate stillness.
  • Stay long in the asana to feel the benefits.
  • Breath awareness.
  • Be mindful and present. Witness thoughts and emotions.
  • Rebound: When coming out the asana, be conscious and move slow.

Benefits of Yin Yoga

  • Prevents contracture of ligaments (natural shortening of ligament tissue)
  • Lubricates joints
  • Fascial release
  • Stimulates the flow of Qi and fluid in the body.
  • Creates a bridge from asana to meditation, nourishing acceptance and passiveness.
  • Naturally restores energy.
  • Stillness is the goal and relaxation is the key.

What Is Vinyasa?

Vinyasa is a flow and movement in coordination with the breath. The flow brings a feeling of natural balance.

‘Vi’ means ‘in a special way’ and ‘Nasya’ means to place. In this case the word special is describing the intention behind the placement of the body and the logic of the movements.

Experience the beauty of listening to your body and flow from one asana to another safely, with your knowledge on adjustments and alignment which you will gain in the teacher training courses at Hatha Yoga World in Rishikesh, India.

When you know the benefits of each asana then you can build a session for yourself and students according to the different bodies and the energy you want to create. You will learn how to create a sequence in the 200 and 300 hour yoga course and this way you’ll be able to roll out you mat and flow safely.

What is Hatha?

Hatha focus is to balance the flow of Prana, meaning life force, in Ida nadi and Pingala nadi. Ida nadi represents the female energy and the Pingala nadi, represents the masculine energy. This is the duality present is every human body.

We can create balance by purifying our body through yoga practices like an asana practice. In Hatha Yoga we are seeking balance and to unite our body, mind and spirit to find absolute truth. Only through self practice these benefits will arise. There are many ways to practice Yoga, but one of the fastest ways to experience this union and purification is through our body. That’s why we practice asanas. Our body is a vessel towards experiencing all your spiritual gifts that has been located inside of us all along.

Performing asanas is about much more than just exercise, but you cannot argue with the endless benefits for our physical well being. Traditional Hatha Yoga is a practice that will make you feel light, strong and healthy. Your muscles will feel stretched, joints will be painless, internal organs will get a massage and your mind will feel clear.

At the Hatha Yoga World school in Rishikesh, India we teach traditional Hatha with focus on adjustments to be in proper alignment in the poses and to gain the full benefits on the pose. In the 200 and 300 hour Yoga teacher training courses you will learn how to be aligned yourself but also how to help others to be aligned with hands on adjustments.

Through the physical body we are transforming our whole being with Hatha Yoga. We create a flexible body to be able to sit in solitude to obtain a flexible mind. This can only be achieved without any discomfort in our body when we sit in meditation. This is the main purpose of our Yoga practice.

What Is Yin Yoga?

At Hatha Yoga World we include Yin yoga in our teacher training courses. Yin Yoga is a wonderful way to detox both mind and body. Here poses are held from 2 to 10 minutes. According to different bodies, props can be used or not. When you choose not to use props, it can be quite challenging.

Yin Yoga is based on the ancient, Taoist concept of yin and yang. This is the dual principles in nature and it also works with the principle of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to shift ‘Qi’ through the body. In Hatha Yoga the Sanskrit word for ‘Qi’ is ‘Prana’. The two opposite energies of Yin and Yang is similar to the principle of the duality of Ida and Pingala nadis, which are the channels we work with in traditional Hatha Yoga. The two energies can be used to benefit different people in different situations.

The ancient text called ‘The Hatha Yoga Pradipika’ (14th or 15th centuries C.E. by Swami Swatmarama) is the oldest text describing Hatha Yoga. In the asana section, only fifteen asanas are described and most are done while sitting or lying on the ground.

A Yin Yoga practice is characterized by long static holds, using mostly floor based asanas sitting or lying allowing for a meditative focus, self-reflection, letting go of stored emotions and thoughts, to surrender and find stillness. It is a powerful self-healing practice.

The asanas work with the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and fascia. Here we are slowly working into the connective tissues to activate change at a deep level. Stimulation creates tension and compression which induces a healthy phase change in the tissue. Yin Yoga primarily targets our connective tissue in contrary to Yang Yoga that targets muscles as the primary tissue, through contraction and focus is on internal heat.

Passive postures challenge you to find calmness in an asana, which might be a slight uncomfortable position to hold. You learn how a small movement can change the asana completely, sit with difficult and painful emotions and work though this in the asana. If aware meditation will happen naturally and the asanas are promoting free flow of energy in the nadis or meridians of the body.

Yin Yoga is a way to increase or maintain flexibility without having to do a strong yang practice and it is also a great way to positively affect your yang practice. The approach in this style is to focus on the yin side in contrary to the yang approach observed in Ashtanga Vinyasa, Hatha Vinyasa or other dynamic sun orientated styles. Yin Yoga nourishes our Yin energy and the feminine force.

The energy of Yin is nurturing, darkness, rest, moisture and cold. In TCM it is described as the shady side of a hill. The energy of Yang is light, activity, dryness and heat. In TCM it is described as the sunny side of a hill.

Our 200 and 300 hour teacher training course in Rishikesh, India invites you to go deeper in the practice of Yin Yoga and explore a practice which focuses on opening up the body by stretching the muscles and detoxing the mind, with the stillness found in the asana.