Ayurvedic Yoga

Bhastrika Pranayama

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Bhastrikameans “bellows breath” or “the breath of fire.” During this transitional period between winter and spring, practicingbhastrikaevery day helps minimize spring’s kapha-aggravating potential while encouraging the body to eliminate any excess kapha accumulated during the winter. It is a great pranayama practice for balancing kaphaand vata;but practicedin excess, it can aggravate pitta, so it should only be done in moderation for pittaconditions.

Practicing bhastrikacleanses mucus from the chest and sinuses; kindles gastric fire; improves circulation; and supports vigor, vitality, and proper elimination. It improves the tone of the bronchial, heart and diaphragm muscles, and helps prevent heart and lung diseases. It’s a very easy to perform and can be incorporated into your daily life no matter where you are. To practice bhastrika, follow the instructions below:

  • Sit cross-legged, keeping the right hand on the right knee, the left hand on the left knee, and the spine straight.

  • Do a slight chin lock, contract the anus, and begin to do bellows breathing, which means inhaling and exhaling forcefully. This involves rapid and vigorous inhalations and exhalations powered by the rhythmic contractions of the diaphragm. The movement of air as you inhale and exhale should be audible.

  • You can do 30 bellows breaths of equal vigor and duration and then rest.

  • When you’ve finished the required number of expulsions (30 per round is a good starting point), follow the final expulsion with the deepest inhalation possible. Hold this breath for as long as it feels comfortable to do so; then exhale very deeply and slowly.

  • The end of this deep exhalation completes one round of bhastrika. You may start with one or two rounds (30 each) and work yourself up to more inhalations and exhalations per round.

  • Contraindications include pregnancy, high blood pressure, glaucoma, hydrocele, hernia, ascites, and recent history of heart attack. 

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any

Incorporating Essential Oils into Your Daily Yoga Practice

Integrating essential oils into your daily yoga routine can expand the capacity of your practice to nurture wellness by supporting your immune system, sharpening your concentration, and lightening your mood. It’s easy to heighten the mental and physical effects of yoga with the nourishing properties of essential oils, and the impact of doing so can be profound. I suggest using dōTERRA essential oils for their purity and effectiveness. Below are a few suggestions on how to incorporate the oils into your practice:

For a mood-balancing practice, begin with dōTERRA’s Breathe essential oil to strengthen your connection with your breath and deepen your breathing. Place a drop or two in your palms, and  cup your hands over your face. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Then concentrate on feeling grounded as you practice the poses.

To optimize your mental energy, place a few drops of peppermint oil at the top of your mat. Dip your finger in the oil, and draw a circle on your mat, repeating the circle a couple times. Peppermint oil works a lot like a mantra; it helps you focus by evoking a calm yet alert mental state and supports intelligence throughout your practice. Just before ending your practice, apply Balance essential oils to the bottoms of your feet, and then relax into corpse pose.

If you need to make your practice quick, sun salutations are the way to go. Start by sitting in lotus position at the top of your mat. Add 1–2 drops of peppermint oil to the palm of one hand, rub both hands together, and breathe in deeply, allowing yourself to connect to your breath and clear your mind. Next, apply the oil to your chest, over your lungs; this helps open the airways and prepare your body for effective oxygenation. Then place 1 drop of wild orange on your wrists and 1 on the back of the neck. Inhale deeply and start your sun salutation practice. Once you are done with the sun salutations, end your practice by applying lavender oil to the bottoms of your feet and resting in corpse pose.

Additional Tips:

Some people like to help the body detox during a yoga practice; if this is you, take 2 drops of lemon essential oil in your water before and after your session to help flush toxins and cleanse the body.

For meditation, use sandalwood and or frankincense to balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

To clean your mat, pour 4 ounces of water into a glass spray bottle, and add 10 drops each of lavender and melaleuca essential oils.

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. 

Tips for Vata Yoga

People with Vata derangement typically move quickly, sometimes with little awareness, and often push themselves harder than their bodies can take. Vata dosha is characterized by the qualities cold, mobility, lightness and expansiveness. A yoga practice for a Vata individual should be one creating warmth, serenity and nourishment. Vatas can cultivate this by following some basic guidelines:

  • Practice at a slow, smooth and steady pace.
  • Explore fluidity in your poses. Use gentle movements such as spinal and pelvic undulation, rotation in the joints, counter-poses, and flexion and extension.
  • Hold each posture for a short amount of time, but do multiple repetitions.
  • Draw into and move from your power center or hara. The hara is the area below the navel and above the pubic bone.
  • Focus on the foundation of the pose to create stability.
  • Internally rotate the femurs and press into the outer edges of your legs.
  • As you move, imagine you are moving through a substance like warm water or warm mud.
  • Focus on lengthening your inhalation.
  • Stay connected to the earth. Ground down through your big toes.
  • Fix your gaze below or at the horizon.
  • Engage your entire body by hugging your muscles to the bones.
  • Do not over extend or deplete yourself. Your practice should be strengthening, not draining. Vatas easily exhaust themselves and when the vata imbalance becomes severe, a restorative practice is best.
  • Be present in your practice.
  • Stay warm.
  • Conclude your practice with a long relaxation.

When Vata has gone out of balance, too much air has accumulated in the mind, body, environment. The result is a sense of un-groundedness. The best way to balance excess Vata is to bring more earth and stability into the physiology. Think relaxing.

  • Go to bed and awaken at the same time every day.
  • Meditate twice a day to quiet the mind.
  • Practice yoga to connect with your body.
  • Wear relaxing fragrances.
  • Eat three meals per day and favor, sweet, sour and salty taste.
  • Perform a slow daily self massage with warm Relaxing herbalized oils.
  • Drink Relaxing herbal tea.
  • Look for opportunities to create rhythm and routine in your life.
  • Finish things once you start them.

Yoga and Ayuveda

Ayurveda and yoga are sister Vedic sciences that have been united for thousands of years for the sake of healing body, mind, and consciousness. Generally speaking, Ayurveda deals more with the health of the body, while yoga deals with purifying the mind and consciousness, but in reality they complement and embrace each other.

The ancient rishis (seers) were the original masters of all Vedic sciences. They understood that good health is a great asset on the path toward Self-realization. If the body is neglected it can easily become an obstacle to spiritual practice. Anyone who has practiced meditation for any length of time would agree to how difficult it can be to sit still for long periods of time without feeling discomfort and fatigue. Both yoga and Ayurveda are mutually supportive and offer many ways to prevent and heal various disorders as well as to cleanse and rejuvenate the body.

Besides sharing a philosophical foundation, both systems have many similarities in relation to attitude, nutrition, diet, hygiene, exercise, cleansing practices, as well as spiritual practices. Traditionally, a student of yoga would first live close to and serve the guru for many years, during which time he would learn healthy habits. The basic Ayurvedic principles for health and longevity were past on in the lineage in oral form to serve as a foundation for a life of sadhana (spiritual practice).

Nowadays, the teachings of yoga are easily available to all, and whether prepared or not we can leap headlong into its practice. This has its blessings, in the sense that more people can be turned on to the teachings, although much is often lost without the parampara, or close guidance at the feet of an accomplished master. With this in mind, modern yoga practitioners would most certainly benefit from a basic knowledge of Ayurveda to help establish a healthy daily routine and adjust their practice according to the constitution, dosha imbalance, season, and so on, to prevent disease and promote longevity.

First, let's take a look at the similarities between yoga and Ayurveda: Both are ancient Vedic teachings. Yoga originates in the Yajur Veda, while Ayurveda originates in the Atharva Veda and Rig Veda. Both recognize that keeping the body healthy is vital for fulfilling the four aims of life: Dharma (duty), Artha (wealth), Kama (desire), and Moksha (liberation). Both recognize that the balance of doshas (humors), dhatus (tissues), and malas (waste products) is essential for maintaining good health. Both share virtually the same metaphysical anatomy and physiology, which consists of 72,000 nadis (subtle channels), 7 main chakras (energy centers), 5 bodily sheaths, and the Kundalini Shakti (energy). 

Both advocate the use of diet, herbs, asana, pranayama, meditation, mantra, astrology, prayer, puja, and rituals for healing the entire being. Both encourage physical health as a good foundation for mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Both share the same view on psychology. Ayurveda embraces all six of the main schools of philosophy including the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and Vedanta (a non-dual philosophical and spiritual path). They both understand that the attachment to the body-mind complex is the root cause of all suffering and that the ultimate state of health is experienced when we abide in our true nature, which is total peace, regardless of the state of the physical body. Both use cleansing methods for the body, all of which encourage the removal of waste products and toxins through their natural routes of elimination. Ayurveda has panchakarma (five cleansing actions) and yoga uses Shat Karma (six purification measures) 

The use of asana, pranayama, and meditation for healing is known as Yoga Chikitsa, or Yoga Therapy and has been used for thousands of years by Ayurveda. In Yoga Chikitsa, a group of yogic exercises are chosen that will best support the individual and are practiced daily. This can be done over an extended period of time in conjunction with an Ayurvedic regime and herbal and dietary therapies. Yoga Chikitsa also plays an integral role in the Ayurvedic cleansing and rejuvenation process known as panchakarma. For a well balanced personal yoga practice, it is important to take into consideration the individual's body structure, prakruti (original constitution), and vikruti (present constitutional imbalance). The following are general recommendations according to the predominant dosha.

Vata predominant individuals should remember to focus on calming, grounding, stillness, strengthening, and balancing while doing their practice. Vinyasa or flow styles of yoga tend to move too quickly from one pose to the next and can aggravate the hyper-mobile quality of vata over time. Flow sequences can be made to be more vata pacifying if they are not excessively long, the length of time poses are held is extended, and transitions are done slowly and consciously. Those with lower back problems may find that bending the knees in standing forward bends can prevent discomfort. Back bends should be done slowly, carefully and within one's own limits.

Pitta individuals should maintain a calm, cool, and relaxed intention while doing asanas. Pitta types may benefit from trying to cultivate an attitude of forgiveness, and of surrendering or offering the fruits of their practice to the divine of to those in need of positive healing energy. Because asana practice tends to generate heat in the body, it is best to do them at cooling times of the day, such as dawn or dusk. Also, it is useful to place some emphasis on poses that help to release excess heat from the body, such as poses that compress the solar plexus and poses that open the chest like.

Kapha types tend to be sedentary and often dislike vigorous exercise. For this reason, their practice should be energetic, warming, lightening, and stimulating, providing they are physically capable. Vinyasa or flow style yoga is good for kapha because it is dynamic and moves quickly from one pose to the next, it induces sweating and gets the heart pumping.

Yoga poses that address specific doshic problems can be easily added to an Ayurvedic regime and integrated into an existing yoga routine, or they can be organized as a small session with the help of an Ayurvedic clinician who knows each individual case well and can help set up a well balanced program according to the needs of each client.