Samavritti Pranayama ( Square Breathing )

Samavritti Pranayama ( Square Breathing ) 

(Sama=Same)

Samavritti Pranayama, or Square Breathing, helps with meditation and improves concentration. It will recharge your energy. The count for beginners is four all-around: Inhale for four counts, hold with the lungs full for four counts, exhale for four counts, and hold again for four counts with the lungs empty. This cycle constitutes one complete round of Square Breathing. During both retentions, contract the pelvic floor in the rhythm with the the hold. No contraction is needed during the inhalation or exhalation. Keep the spine erect and tall throughout. Always hold the nostrils closed during retention with the right thumb and ring finger. Increase the count as long as the new raion remains comfortable and accessible. (the lungs are designed to hold the breath for long periods of time) A four- count retention is ideal for beginners, six to eight counts is average length, and anything over eight counts is more advanced. Focus on repeating mentally the sound of OM along with the wach count. This leads one naturally into deep mental absorption. In the final stages of advanced practice, one will be able to match the OM’s to the heartbeat.

 

Breathe in relaxation. Breathe out stress.

For years scientific studies have surfaced revealing the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation to treat a plethora of anxiety disorders, and general daily stress. In today’s world it is so easy to become overwhelmed by the things that surround us on a daily basis – stressful jobs, too little sleep, relationships, the overwhelming bombardment of information we receive from social media, news outlets,  and constant advertisements. It is easy to forget in our day to day lives to take a step back, and just breathe.

Most of us struggle with anxiety at least once in our lives, and to many it can be a daily objective. It is no secret that in today’s world we are constantly being torn in a hundred different directions, trying to balance the scales of our lives. There have been times in my life when I was having panic attacks on a daily basis, and there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. My thoughts would whirlwind and spiral out of control – there were times I couldn’t make it to class, or work, or even out of bed. This anxiety often led to feelings of helplessness, and depression. I tried so many different things. But nothing made it go away, until I began practicing breathing. It sounds so simple, so mindless, we breathe all day every day after all, so what does it mean to practice breathing?

Mindfulness is being aware of your breath, concentrating on your inhalations, pulling into your lungs that positive, pure air, and releasing your stress and anxiety with your exhalation. And it takes time – for many an unquiet mind, meditation can feel frustrating at first, as your thoughts spiral and you begin questioning “why am I doing this?” “there are a million other things I ought to be doing right now”, or focusing too heavily on those negative thoughts or self doubt. This is the challenge. The good news is, studies have shown that meditating for only five minutes a day can have a positive impact on your life, your mental health, and thereby your physical health.

Sitting in quiet contemplation just once a day, for however long, or short you have time for, can completely change your mood – leaving you more refreshed, energized, confident, and less stressed! And you can do it anywhere – I have a small space in my apartment with my meditation cushion and some incense (sage for lifting my spirits and awakening my mind, and lavender to soothe my mind and promote relaxation). It is quiet – away from the t.v., and peaceful – away from clutter, dirty dishes, and electronic devices. I also find practicing breathing outside, in a quiet park or near water or trees, is wonderfully refreshing – breathing in fresh air is also proven to lift your mood and relieve stress.

Waking up just five minutes early, and giving yourself that time, just for you and your head, is so uplifting. Try it once and boost your day. Practice it regularly and transform your entire demeanor.

 

MLK

Today we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr., a visionary leader whose life and legacy was and is about equality, and a oneness amongst all people. MLK was a great admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, and in February of 1959, King traveled for the first time to India. Though Gandhi was no longer physically there, his influence was abundantly present. In a personal account of this trip, published by Ebony magazine in 1959, King writes how “the spirit of Gandhi is very much alive in India today.”

As we embark on our individual journeys into the new year, it is vital to remember that we are all also on a collective journey - bound together. King left India more convinced than ever that nonviolence was the key to bringing about real change. He writes, “the way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of nonviolence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”

MLK’s 6 Principles of Nonviolence, in essence, are what we all try to seek in our yogic practices. Collectively, they are similar to the yogic principle of ahimsa, or non-harm. Today, these principles are as important as ever to remember.

  1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.

It takes a strong person to take the higher road when attacked, be it physically, verbally, or otherwise.. With yoga and meditation you can find the inner peace to handle the negativity around you in a peaceful way.

2. Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.

You may not practice yoga in the hopes of making new friends, but with it you will find yourself more able to listen to and understand yourself and the creatures around you. With understanding comes compassion, and a friendlier world.

3. Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.

Through meditation and the healing that comes with it, you are able to see that people need help - not just the ones who have been hurt, but also the ones doing the hurting. Healing is for everyone who seeks it because people need help, forgiveness, love – no matter what.

4. Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.

We are strongest in the places we have been broken.

5. Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.

Compassion and empathy are key components of nonviolence and ahimsa.

6. Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.

Karma.  

Sprouting Almonds

Almonds: Soak 12 hours, then rinse every three to four hours for a period of 18 hours. To store once sprouted, cover with water and place in refrigerator. ( The water should just cover one half inch over the top of the almonds) Peel the skin off before eating, as is becomes toxic during germination.

Sprouted Almond Milk recipes:

1 ½ cups sprouted almonds

4 cups of filtered water

3-5 dates (or agave nectar)

1 tbs. vanilla (or fresh vanilla bean)

Place sprouted almonds and water in a blender and mix until completely liquefied. Strain mixture with a nut- milk bag or cheesecloth, squeeze all milk from the pulp. Place liquid back in the blender with the dates and vanilla. Blend and ENJOY! Last 3+ days in refrigerator. Store in a glass container and shake before consuming.

Be Kind - To Yourself

In Sanskrit Ahimsa means “non-injury” or “non-harm”, and is one of the five Yamas, or the ethical, moral, and societal guidelines for yogis. Many people practice Ahimsa by observing a strict vegan diet, by buying eco-friendly cosmetics, or by biking to work. But one of the most important and difficult things to remember about ahimsa is that it also applies inward. It may come as a surprise, but violence towards ourselves can manifest itself in many ways –  some of the more obvious are things like eating or drinking in excess, not sleeping enough, or working too hard. But when our minds are polluted with negative thoughts like “I’m not good enough” or “I can’t do this,” we too are harming ourselves by filling up on self-doubt or self-loathing. Similarly, emotions can be toxic to our well-being - like when we become jealous, angry, possessive, or fearful. These emotions feel bad because they are bad – bad for our minds and our bodies. Research has shown that negative thoughts and emotions correlate with poorer health and a shorter lifespan, while positive-minded individuals are often more successful, healthier, and live longer.

Meditation and Yoga can be used to practice Ahimsa in our day-to-day lives. By tuning into your body and breath you can begin to watch as your thoughts form. Recognize any thoughts you are having that are harmful to yourself or to others - to recognize is not to react though. Simply observe them as they enter and leave your consciousness, as your breath does your body. To practice ahimsa is to practice compassion, and to accept things as they are. This awareness and mindfulness are key to controlling your negative thoughts, rather than letting them control you. Learning to be kind to yourself is a process, but likely the most important one you can learn.