Breath is life, yet, we understand very little about it. It remains a mystery.
The workshop aims at study and practice of various classical techniques and understanding of the breath. We explore how to use the breath in various contexts, such as in our practice, as a diagnostic tool, a healing process and for stilling the mind, etc. We investigate the origin of such techniques in the classical texts and our learnings from the great masters Sri. T. Krishnamacharya and Sri. T.K.V. Desikachar. We eventually focus our efforts towards using the breath as a means to prepare for such practices as Dharana and Dhyana (meditation).
Lakshmi Ranganathan is a senior teacher in yoga, and was a student of Sri. TKV Desikachar from 1970 and has also learnt from Sri T.Krishnamacharya. She was one of the first teachers in Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram where she worked till 1986. In 1990, she helped found the Sanjeevani Ayurveda Yoga Centre where she taught therapeutic yoga extensively to patients. She has been a yoga teacher for 44 years and she is adept at the therapeutic use of yoga as a treatment and has led several seminars on Yoga for Women, Pranayama & Meditative techniques and Yoga Therapy. She also trains teachers on the use of yoga as a means for therapy and practice. She was an honorary Yoga instructor at "The School" run by the Krishnamurthi Foundation of India. She has also taught leprosy patients in Ramakrishna Mission using yoga techniques. The teachings of Yogacharya Krishnamacharya and Sri TKV Desikachar has had an inestimable influence upon her study of yoga. Along with her daughter, Dr Nandini Ranganathan, she translated "Yoga Makarantham", a treatise of Yogacharya T Krishnamacharya, into English.
Open to all yoga practitioners, teachers & therapists seeking to deepen one's own practice and understanding of the power and application of the breath in teaching and healing.
Recordings of the session will be made available for a limited period of time for the registered participants
A special 4 week workshop with Lakshmi Ranganathan April 10, 17, 24 7 may 1, 2021 (Saturdays) 3 - 5 PM
A few simple breathing techniques coupled with yoga, can flush out tiredness and infuse new energy into the body, says Saraswati Vasudevan
Tiredness is of the mind, not the body,” a colleague once told me. That’s quite true – even without physical exertion, we could get tired just by thinking!
Negative thoughts are heavy, compulsive and pervasive, leading to weak memory, poor decision-making skills, and lack of enthusiasm. Our vital energy (prana) gets trapped in our conflicting belief and emotional patterns, and the more the prana gets stuck, the less we have at our disposal. How can yoga help release the stuck energy and overcome this kind of exhaustion? Such negative thoughts/emotional patterns could precipitate illnesses in due course, if not dealt with appropriately.
Try this next time you are feeling really tired (lying or seated position):
As your mind begins to chant, “I am so… tired/exhausted/burnt out”, take notice. Without trying to verbalise the sensations, can you observe what is happening in the body? Spend a couple of minutes on this.
On a subjective scale of 0-10, make a note of how tired you are feeling.
Observe your breath: Is the inhalation short? How deep is the exhalation? Are you holding the breath a lot? Where are you feeling the breath in the body? Allow this tiredness to take over completely. Mentally tell yourself, “It is okay, I fully allow myself to feel this exhaustion”. If you are sitting, place your palms and feet down so that you can completely ground yourself and transfer this heaviness to the earth. If you are lying down, surrender your weight to the earth completely, letting go…
Is the mind still busy? See each thought like a wave in the ocean of the body and allow that wave to sink into and merge with the bottom of the ocean. Exhale deeply and completely, releasing all thoughts and sensations. Hold your breath a few seconds after each exhalation. Observe the stillness – feel the complete, total surrender to the moment. Now focus on the inhalation, breathing into the abdomen (allowing the upper abdomen to expand) and continue to exhale slowly and completely. With each inhalation, you are inviting fresh prana to enter and fill the body. You may also hold your breath for a few seconds after inhalation to consolidate your energy resource.
Go back to your subjective scale and check the level of tiredness now. Has it shifted, even by a few points?
This simple lying twist helps release heaviness and fatigue from the neck, upper back and lower extremities. Lie down on the mat with your legs bent, feet close to the hips, slightly apart. Spread your arms open to the shoulder level. Inhale, and as you exhale, begin to draw the lower abdomen in and up, relaxing the chest as you slowly lower the knees down to one side, turning the head to the opposite side. Inhale as you bring the knees and head to the neutral position and exhale as you twist to the opposite side. Stay in the twisted position for a few slow deep breaths, on either side and back to the neutral position. This posture activates the digestive fire (jathara agni), improves circulation and cleanses the abdominal organs by its squeezing action. It relaxes the hips, legs and spine till the neck. It facilitates prana sancharam (movement of prana) and prana shodhanam (purification of prana).
Bio: Saraswathi Vasudevan is a yoga therapist trainer in the tradition of Sri T Krishnamacharya. She specializes in adapting yoga to the individual. (www.yogavahini.com).
Down in the dumps? Try yoga, suggests Saraswati Vasudevan
Yesterday I had a dream, and in my dream I was happy and smiling”. This was the first time in many years that my friend was feeling a streak of happiness! Illness and depression had made it difficult for him to experience joy, but the practice of yoga had lifted the cloud a bit.
One of the first changes that a regular yoga practice brings is a change in our mental environment. “I don’t have so many negative thoughts now”, “I can feel the heaviness coming but can quickly bounce back with some active practice”. Active asana practice with regulated breathing helps you open up the body and mind to experience freedom and lightness. Initially, through the teacher’s guidance, but subsequently through your own efforts, you start investing more of yourself into the practice.
A few guidelines to follow.
Initially keep the practice short, not more than 20 minutes. Keep asana movements dynamic and simple; include variations to sustain interest.
During movements, chanting on exhalation helps engage the mind and enables better breathing. Sounds such as Ha or Ra activate the diaphragm and abdomen and cause them to empty out the heavy energy in the lower abdomen. The vibrations of sound in the throat is uplifting, and activates the udanavayu. Chanting has a way of drowning the chatter in the mind, thereby helping you dwell in the present.
Practise postures where the heart centre (centre of the chest) is free to open and expand.
Holding the breath for 3-8 seconds progressively after inhalation in opening postures like back arches can activate the mind and body. This is called a Brhmana practice.
Within a practice routine, vary from standing to lying, seated to kneeling, actively moving from one position to the next in a harmonious manner.
Avoid kapal bhati or fast and forceful breathing techniques because they could churn up deep-seated emotions leading to a downward spiral.
Avoid extended stay in a posture, or seated meditation with eyes closed as that gives the mind time to slide back to gloomy thoughts.
Virabhadrasana – the warrior pose
Stand with feet together, arms by the sides of the body. Take a big stride forward turning the back foot out at an angle. On inhalation, raise both arms from the front simultaneously bending the front knee to bring thighs almost parallel to the floor, bring palms together, keep head straight, gazing at the horizon. On exhalation lower arms straightening the front leg, repeat a few times and stay in this posture for a few breaths (to be done on both sides).
You can hold your breath for upto 8 seconds after each inhalation to intensify the effect of the posture.
Virabhadrasana helps to open the chest, counter a stooping back profile, improve inhalation, uplift the mind, and energise the body.
Sleep is one of the biggest casualties of our speeded up and hypersensory lifestyles. Saraswati Vasudevan offers tips from yoga
When was the last time you woke up feeling fresh and rested?
If you have trouble going to sleep, yoga practice is an excellent therapy.
In yoga, sleep (nidra) is an important activity of the mind. When all other activities have ceased and the heavy energy of tamas takes over, nidra ensues.
When do you go to bed? Is it at least two hours after your dinner? Are you able to sleep within a few minutes or are you awake for more than 30 minutes? Do you wake up in the middle of the night? How often, and are you able to go back to sleep soon or not? How many hours do you need to sleep or stay in bed? Do you feel fresh when you wake up in the morning, or groggy and irritable? Do you tend to doze off during the day or have the need to take day naps?
There may be many reasons for sleep deprivation – illness, pain, ageing, stress, worries, excessive physical activity… Or what is more common nowadays – a sedentary lifestyle with a hyperactive mind that cannot switch off from the external world, especially social media and the resultant sensory overload!
Many of these known causes can be minimised or eliminated by modifying your food habits, lifestyle, with a little help from yoga.
If you have a physically active lifestyle, you will have to wind down your activities towards the evening. A relaxing evening practice with seated and lying postures with focus on long exhalation during asanas and pranayama will help the body and mind to relax.
If you have the sedentary lifestyle that most of us have, start the day with a rejuvenating morning practice. Dynamic asana sequences with conscious breath regulation, keeping inhalation equal to exhalation with a few seconds of breath retention after inhalation in postures, will help clear out tamasic energy.
An early evening practice which is again active with long inhalation and exhalation in a slow dynamic asana practice with a longer pause after exhalation, will shift the focus from mind to body and release stagnant energy. This can be followed by some seated and lying postures that involve staying with long inhalation, exhalation and retention after exhalation. This is best done before dinner.
Please avoid watching TV, using the computer, or checking your social networks late at night. Avoid arguments and discussions on sensitive issues at night.
Viparita Karani (half-shoulder stand) is an excellent posture for promoting relaxation and sleep. Here is a modification of the posture which anybody can do.
Place a few floor cushions against the wall and sit on the cushions one side of the body touching the wall. Turn around, lie down facing the wall with your hips on the cushions and head and chest down on the mat (use a small cushion for the neck and head if needed), stretch the legs up on the wall. Keep your arms open in the most relaxed position. You can inhale with a soft hissing sound in the throat (ujjayi) and exhale long and deep with a humming sound (bhramari) or chanting OM – keeping exhalation as long as possible. Stay in this posture for 10-20 breaths. You can do this even at bedtime about two hours post dinner.
About the author : Saraswathi Vasudevan is a yoga therapist trainer in the tradition of Sri T Krishnamacharya. She specializes in adapting yoga to the individual. (www.yogavahini.com)