Yoga Health Education: Importance of Proper Breathing

Yoga Health Education: Importance of Proper Breathing

Breath is life. We can live for days without food or water but deprive us of breath and we die in minutes. In view of this, it is astonishing how little attention is paid to the importance of proper breathing.

According to Yoga, there are two main functions of proper breathing: to bring more oxygen to the blood and thus to the brain; and to control prāna or vital energy, leading to control of the mind.

Prānāyāma – the science of breath control – consists in a series of exercises especially intended to meet these needs and to keep the body in vibrant health.

Re-learning Abdominal Breathing
Most people have forgotten how to breathe properly. They practice only chest and clavicular breathing, breathe through the mouth and make little or no use of the diaphragm – either lifting the shoulders or contracting the abdomen when they inhale. In this way, only a small amount of oxygen is taken in and only the top portion of the lungs are used, resulting in a lack of vitality and lowered resistance to disease.

The practice of Yoga demands that you reverse these habits. Breathing correctly means breathing through the nose, keeping the mouth closed, and involves a full inhalation and exhalation, which brings the full capacity of your lungs into play. As you exhale the abdomen contracts and the diaphragm moves up, massaging the heart; when you inhale, the abdomen expands and the diaphragm moves down, massaging the abdominal organs.

What is strange is the fact that abdominal breathing is the most natural type of breathing: children generally breathe with their abdomen, and both children and adults breathe abdominally during sleep. So what causes the body to lose this natural ability for abdominal breathing during waking adult life?

The main reason is simply stress. When you become stressed, the solar plexus (located in your abdomen), which is a major control center for the nervous system, becomes tense, as do the abdominal muscles, which then hinder the natural movement of the diaphragm. Fixed mental images may be another reason for compromised breathing, such as the concept of ‘manhood’ causing you to project a body image in which the chest is expanded and the abdomen is tight.

Inhale – Abdomen rises Up
Exhale – Abdomen back down towards the spine

Change your Breathe, Change your Life
Proper Breathing, one of the 5 Points of Yoga, is an important tool in the Yoga Health Educator’s practice. The Yoga Health Educator often begins by assessing the mechanics of a person’s breathing to see if they are breathing correctly. Are they breathing through the mouth or the nose? Chest breathing? Reverse breathing? Is it a rhythmical breath? How is their lung capacity? Is the breath strained? Is the person aware of their breath? Are they aware of their state of mind?

There is a direct relationship between the quality of the breath and the quality of one’s thoughts. A slow, steady and rhythmical breath pattern indicates a calm mind. In this case, the person is relaxed and has greater capacity to make positive choices. A shallow and short breath pattern indicates stress and anxiety, often with the person breathing into the upper chest (not breathing into the abdomen) and with tightness in the upper back and shoulder region. Under stress, we are less likely to make positive choices, we are prone to reactions, and will remain stuck in old habits.

The Yoga Health Educator helps to bring awareness to the breath with simple breathing exercises beginning with conscious abdominal breathing.

1. Abdominal Breathing Exercise
Lie down in savasana. Place your right hand on your abdomen or use a pillow on the abdomen. Inhale, feel the abdomen rise; exhale, feel the abdomen descend. Count to 3 with each inhale and exhale to create a steady rhythmical breath pattern. Practice 3-5 minutes.

2. Full Yogic Breath
If you are comfortable with the abdominal breath, you can try the full yogic breath. A full yogic breath combines abdominal (deep), chest (middle) and clavicular (shallow) breathing with a deep breath and continuing the inhalation through the intercostal (ribs) and clavicular areas. Inhale the abdomen expands, then ribs, then finally the upper chest. Exhale abdomen first, then ribs, then chest. Full yogic breath utilizes the full capacity of the lungs. Practice 3-5 minutes.

After some time, you are ready to add the pranayama practices of kapalabhati and anuloma villoma to your daily routine.

Inhale – Abdomen out, raise the chest | exhale – ab in, chest down

Benefits of Abdominal Breathing

  • Activates parasympathetic “rest and repair” response
  • Lowers the harmful effects of the stress hormone cortisol
  • Lowers heart rate
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves oxygen intake (efficiency)
  • Slows the rate of breathing
  • Reduces stress – 80-90% of all doctor visits are due to stress-related health conditions. Stress weakens the immune system. Chronic stress can lead to depression, fear and anxiety, and can have further debilitating effects on immune system response.
  • Increases awareness of one’s breath and thought patterns.
  • Conscious breathing is an important aspect of meditation practice and helps to calm the mind, regulate the flow of prana, and to balance the emotions.

Breathe and Relax!
Proper Breathing is one of the 5 Points of Yoga. Combined with asana, savasana, vegetarian diet, meditation and positive thinking, the 5 Points of Yoga give us the energy to live a healthy and harmonious life and to connect to our innate wisdom to consciously overcome the negative karmic tendencies that cause stress. Take time every day to breathe and relax. Make it your daily routine. You can practice abdominal breathing and full yogic breath several times each day to calm your mind, come back to your center, increase awareness of your breath and your thoughts, thereby bringing you peace, health and happiness.

The Yoga Health Educator is dedicated to empowering each person in their own self-healing journey through the teachings of classical Yoga. For more information about the Sivananda Institute of Health and Yoga and the Sivananda Yoga Health Educator Training, please visit https://sivanandayogafarm.org/800-hour-yoga-therapy-program/

Light Pumpkin Curry

Light Pumpkin Curry

Good Karma Diet Recipe December 28th

Light Pumpkin Curry
Assists in reducing inflammation

1 small sugar pumpkin (sub with Acorn, or butternut squash ok) peeled and chopped
1 cup unsweetened coconut
2 fresh tomatoes chopped (1/2 cup canned ok)
5 carrots grated
Fresh ginger 1-2 tbls minced
Curry powder 1 tbls
2 tbls roasted coriander seeds (powder ok, seeds preferable)
1 tbls black mustard seed for popping
1 branch Curry Leaves (if available)
Fresh cilantro for garnish
Fresh lemon for garnish
Ghee or Coconut oil

Blend Unsweetened coconut , and roasted coriander seeds in blender 10 mins add water to create thick consistency set aside

Cover diced pumpkin with salted water simmer until tender 20 mins or so. Set aside..

In a heavy bottom pan, or Dutch oven with lid. Heat ghee or coconut oil (enough to cover bottom). Add ginger , carrots soften, add curry powder sauté gently until,very aromatic 1 minute or so stirring constantly. Add tomato’s stir add water, if needed to make a runny paste.
Add drained pumpkin coat with paste stir gently (reserve pumpkin water) to add to sauté. Stir gently and cover for 15 mins. Add coconut and simmer again for 10 mins or so.
Remove from heat . Heat heavy bottom small pan with coconut oil or ghee when hot but not smoking carefully add mustard seeds . Pop,until they are silent . Remove from heat add Curry leaves , quickly add to Pumpkin curry . Garnish with fresh Cilantro, and Squeeze lemon Season with Salt, and Pepper. Red dried chilies may be added to mustard seed fry for heat
Serve with with brown rice

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What is Forest Bathing?

What is Forest Bathing?

In a time when our dependence on technology and our separation from the natural world is becoming more and more apparent, taking time to unplug and practice forest bathing has never been more important. But what is Forest Bathing?Here’s a hint – it’s not taking a hike into the woods and plopping yourself into a bubbly bathtub.

Forest bathing, or Shinrin-Yoku, is about bathing the senses in the natural world. Since we receive healing energy, or prana, through our senses, it is no wonder that people feel great after doing the practice. And there’s science to back it – studies have shown that Forest Bathing not only reduces stress, but uplifts the mood, reduces inflammation, pain, blood pressure, and induces an overall sense of well-being. 

Add all of those benefits to the fact that trees can enhance your blood oxygen levels and give you immune-boosting phytoncides, and you’ve got a pretty simple way to improve your health. 

 Forest Bathing, and Nature Therapy in general, can be integrated into any holistic healing regimen. It works synergistically to supplement the healing effects of Yoga, Ayurveda, meditation, breathwork, and proper diet/lifestyle.  

How to Practice Forest Bathing

Anyone can practice forest bathing, regardless of your age or background. The steps are very simple, but they may take some practice to perfect.

1. First, turn off your phone, put it on silent, and/or put it away if you feel safe doing so. This will get rid of unnecessary distractions.

2. Get into any area with trees, the more secluded from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, the better.

3. Let go of any agenda what-so-ever. There’s no destination. No running, no journaling, and no thinking about your to-do list. No planning. If you have a restless mind, a good session of breathwork and/or meditation before your practice can help calm the mind

4. Walk slowly. Pauses to sit or relax are encouraged.

5. Spend time mindfully observing in each of the five senses. What can you smell, feel, see, hear, or taste?

6. Focus on deep, abdominal breath throughout the practice. This helps keep you grounded in the present and reduces stress. 

7. If you are in a group, practice silence or mouna as much as possible. Talking can be a distraction fro the wonders of nature around you. 

8. Lastly, spend as long as you comfortably can in nature. Start with short intervals and build yourself up to two hours or more for a complete practice.

Next Steps

Spending time outdoors is not just a hobby; it is an essential human need. Humans actually get sick if they spend too much time indoors and away from nature. That’s why connecting with nature in any capacity is beneficial for your health.

If you live in a city, desert, or anywhere far away from a forest, you can still experience the benefits of nature immersion. While the specific practice of Shinrin-Yoku traditionally requires a proper forest with trees, the above principles can be applied in any ecosystem. You can even practice nature awareness indoors with house plants!

If you seek further guidance in forest bathing, the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy offers a list of certified guides. Here are some additional tips for beginners: “Your Guide to Forest Bathing”.  The Sivananda Yoga Farm also offers outdoors and nature programs and retreats.

That’s all there is to it! There’s nothing to do, and nowhere to be. The goal is to just be fully immersed and connected with nature. Side effects may include deep relaxation, weight lifting off of your shoulders, feelings of awe, gratitude for being alive, and positive life-changing experiences.

Colin Eldridge (Krishna Das)

Colin teaches and helps coordinate Yoga, permaculture and outdoors programs at the Sivananda Yoga Farm. He is a trained Sivananda Yoga instructor, permaculture designer, and Yoga Health Educator.

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What are the Permaculture Zones?

What are the Permaculture Zones?

The following text on the permaculture zones is an excerpt from the “Create a Harmonious Legacy through Permaculture” by Dwayne View, which is the workbook for Dwayne’s gardening courses. The full workbook is available for purchase through our on-site boutique.

Permaculture zones and the elements that are placed into them are chosen according to the amount of attention (labor input) those elements within each zone require for success. These zones move from higher input levels to lower input (or no input) levels. As the level of input decreases, the distance of that zone increases from the living areas.

Every space and each element should serve more than one function. Please consider this example; a fruit tree can be located to provide shade to a patio space or to the west side of a building, and it can yield edible fruit. And everything in each space is supported by more than one element.

The basic layout of the zones is a series of concentric rings that ripple outward centered on the dwelling structure. However, there is opportunity to be had in thinking about the zones in a less ordered manner. Have the zones’ perimeters and shapes conform to the needs of your site.

Zone map of the Sivananda Yoga Farm in Grass Valley, California. Zone diagrams courtesy of Fractal Permaculture.

Zone 0

Zone 0 is home or a cluster of human dwelling structures. Some of the activities well suited to Zone 0 would include an appropriately sized space for culinary preparation. This space should be available to process and preserve yield from your permaculture site.

It too should accommodate sprout production and fermentation projects. All wastes that are generated in Zone 0 should have designed-in systems for their collection with a method to easily move those by-products to their appropriate outer zone for further processing.

Additional spaces in this zone should include areas for meditation, for education, and for sleep. A well thought-out bath space to accommodate the average amount of users would be important to place into this zone. Some residents will have companion animals that will require their needs to be met.

Other structural items in this zone could include attached greenhouses, shade houses, sod roofs and energy collection and storage systems.

The home dwelling and kitchen space are important aspects of Zone 1.

Zone 1

Zone 1 is the area surrounding the home. The two main attributes of this zone are constant attention and the requirements of daily interaction with the elements and systems within it. You should be alert to the need for implementing wild fire safety designs in this zone.

Be mindful of creating convenient and numerous access points between this zone and Zone 0, thus increasing niches for success. Some activities that could be accommodated in this zone would include meditation, exercise, education, cooking, dining, and processing yield.

Some of the permaculture systems that could be included in this zone are: potted plants, propagation tables, culinary herbs, garden beds, egg-laying boxes, compost collection, and locations for utilities. Cob, rammed-earth, adobe, metal, masonry, stone, and stucco surfaces can help to offer improved fire protection over extensive use of wood as the main design themes.

Plant herbs right outside of the kitchen door to reduce labor in zone 1.

Correct grading and ,the use of permeable paving would be highly beneficial in this zone. All areas of this zone should have some form of mulching. It could be a nice gravel that is comfortable to walk upon, kept clean and would help to reduce fire danger. Then the garden beds could be dressed in compost.

Zone 2

This zone is going to need regular interaction with input to tend the needs of chosen animals and plants. You should continue to treat this zone as a “fire management area.” Make informed choices that will reduce fuel loads and crowding of flammable materials. Consider adding permanent fire-fighting systems.

Zone 2 has quite a diverse offering of elements that are well suited here: greenhouses, sheds, barns, compost bins, propagation area, and multi-purpose spaces. Your domesticated animals along with their housing and feed can be blended into barns and stables. Hardier edible annuals and perennials can be established as the permaculture’s main production beds.

Large greenhouses are a source of major vegetable production in Zone 2.

Dwarf or semi-dwarf fruit trees, including citrus if climate permits, can be established as an orchard. The orchard can be surrounded by and intermixed with fruiting vines and bushes. The integration of plants that support pollinators and beneficial insects belong in this zone, too.

Bee boxes for solitary native bees and bee hives for honey production are desirable for generating higher yields from your garden beds. Include ponds with larger margins to increase the opportunity for niches that will help to remove pollutants from your permaculture system. Slow flowing shallows with natives, rush (Juncus patens) and yerba mansa (Anemopsis californica,) are well suited to remove pollutants from aquatic systems.

Two additional elements included in this zone might be wind breaks and the first installation of guilds. Wind breaks could be well suited to your site, offering protection from harsh winter winds. Successful guilds are your biologically diverse creations that provide support within their system and yield from their production. The guilds are to be permanent, dynamic living systems.

This peach tree guild in the Yoga Farm orchard hosts daffodils, tulips, clover, lavender, lupine, oregano and more.

Zone 3

Known as “the farming zone.” Some of the elements that are well suited in this zone include large fruit and nut trees, orchards, berries and brambles, long-lived woody perennials, beneficial annuals to support pollinators, pasture areas for self-
grazing animals, large water storage, guilds, and wind breaks.

Again, be mindful of fire risks and design in elements to reduce the dangers. This zone will be visited less than Zone 2 and the elements here should be hardy enough to handle occasional neglect and weather extremes with resilience. This zone may not even have any piped irrigation and might subsist on precipitation alone.

So the construction of swales and ponds would make a huge difference in extending the time of available soil moisture into late spring or even summer and the extra water that is retained will continue recharging the water

2 acres of low maintenance lavender fields are part of zone 3 on the Yoga Farm property.

Zone 4

Zone 4 is a “wild food gathering” range. This zone may or may not be on your physical property. Be mindful to reduce fuel loads and remove fire dangers, if it is within your property boundaries. Activities and elements that belong in this zone include more water storage, native tree and plant restoration, habitat for beneficial native insects and animals, wood cutting, food gathering, limited technology that specifically supports the permaculture system, and hasty animal grazing to improve habitat.

You and other members of you community may visit this site only a few times per year.

Zone 5

Zone 5 is the outer most zone in permaculture design. Again, this zone may or may not be within your permaculture boundaries. It could even be a zone that might not get visited. Consider this area to be a “natural unmanaged area.” This space can serve as wildlife preserve and corridor.

Untouched ecosystems are important and vital aspects of any permaculture design.

Members and animals of your permaculture community might occasionally forage inside this zone. However, it would be best to leave it untouched. This could be the zone where, over large periods of time, your community creates lasting habitat for endangered species.

Chances for wildfire in this zone are immense! Natural and man-made conflagrations will pose significant risk to the residents, the animals, and the infrastructure of your permaculture site. Your energy overlay and library research could reveal how wildfire might move across your site, giving you the ability to implement defenses.

Dwayne received his Horticulture Degree in 1996 and recently received his SmartScape and Qualified Green Gardener certification to further his plant knowledge. He currently works as the Nursery Operator in the Outdoor Garden Center at Emigh Ace Hardware in Sacramento. He has written multiple educational workbooks on topics such as gardening, permaculture, horticulture and has designed landscapes for yards, gardens, river-friendly purposes and more.

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5 Edible and Medicinal Springtime Weeds

5 Edible and Medicinal Springtime Weeds

At the Sivananda Yoga Farm, a winter full of precipitation ushers in bright green hillsides dotted with multicolored wildflowers. However, Spring also brings lots of new weeds in our garden and greenhouse. Not all weeds are bad though, in fact most of them have a use. While invasive annual grasses are an unwelcome guest our garden, there are many weeds that we leave in place for their benefits.

According to permaculture, every time you pull a weed, you create a disturbed soil condition ideal for more weeds to germinate. Some weeds beneficial, as they provide medicine, attract insects, protect the soil, and even increase fertility.

We try to employ the philosophy of leaving as many plants in the ground as is practical. The weeds listed below definitely make our “leave it in the ground” list.

1. Chickweed

Chickweed is an edible green herb that also makes a great groundcover, meaning it will creep along the ground and cover an entire spot. It has small white flowers that attract pollinators, and it also a healthy salad green or soup addition!

It has medicinal properties as well, be but beware not to confuse chickweed with its poisonous lookalike, scarlet pimpernel. Caution: it can be hard to tell the two apart without their flowers. Only eat wild plants you when have a positive identification from an expert!

2. Yellow Dock

Yellow dock is a common weed that grows in old orchards, around trees, and often near waterways. It is an edible green high in minerals that is best eaten cooked. The plant can also be used medicinally as a laxative, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and diuretic.

Dock is also a mineral accumulator and may help fertilize the soil around it with iron, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus if you chop and drop the leaves. Plant it around your fruit trees for helpful companion plant with many uses.

3. Bittercress

This spectacular weed is in the brassica family, the same class of plants as broccoli, cabbage and kale. Likewise, it is full of good-for-you nutrients such as Vitamin C, glucosinolates (which remove carciongens from the body), and beta-carotene.

The sweet and bitter green will grow in USDA hardiness zones 4-8, and will commonly volunteer itself in gardens, pathways and untended lawns. It can be eaten raw or cooked, and used as a garnish or as an excellent addition to salads.

4. Mullein

Mullein is an essential herb for any herbal first aid kit. It is easy to identify with its fuzzy leaves. It is a biennial plant, meaning it has two-year life cycle. In its second year, it grows a 2-8 foot tall stalk with yellow flowers.

Mullein is an effective medicine for most lung related conditions including asthma, allergies, cough, bronchitis, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and more. It is also used to treat flu symptoms, cold, migraines, joint pain, gout, colic, diarrhea and a myriad of other symptoms.

We find the herb especially useful in California during the fire season, because it helps to cleanse the lungs. The dried and fresh leaf can both be used, and will store for a long time if dried. Mullein is a very common herb and can grow in poor, dry and compacted soil conditions.

While the leaves are the most commonly used part, the flower can be made into a tincture to treat swelling and ear infections. The root is used to treat nerve and muscle pain.

5. Dandelion

Last but certainly not least, we have dandelion, the word-famous lawn weed. Most manicured lawn-lovers hate this common weed, yet it is loved by herbalists, permaculturists and naturalists alike.

This powerful bitter herb has so many uses. The entire part of the plant is both edible and medicinal. The young tender greens in early spring make a great salad addition. Dandelion’s yellow flowers are also edible and have a sweet taste. More mature greens are intensely bitter and taste better when cooked.

The root can be roasted and made into a tea that is used a coffee substitute. Its bitter quality gives it liver cleansing and detoxifying properties, which is especially important in the spring time when the body is waking up and getting rid of winter weight. Research shows that dandelion can also be used to reduce inflammation and even treat cancer and diabetes.

Dandelion thrives in poor, compacted soils because of its strong taproot. It is one of the first weeds to show up in order to remediate tilled, damaged or compacted soil. The plant also provides joy for adults and children alike, because people enjoy blowing its mature seeds into the wind.

Weeds Are Your Friends

I always tell people, there’s no such thing as a bad plant. There are only plants that humans don’t want in certain places. Sometimes we feel the need to remove weeds to beautify spaces, increase crop production or take out overly invasive weeds. However, when done in excess, constant weeding can create imbalance on the land and then we miss out on the viable medicine and food they provide.

Weeds are mother nature’s warriors and healers. They come into action when land has been disturbed, in order to improve soil conditions and protect it from erosion. In the same way that certain weeds heal the Earth, many weeds are also medicinal herbs and can be used to heal people as well. Next time before thinking about pulling a plant out of the earth or spraying it with a pesticide, try to identify it first. Maybe it is there for a good reason.

Colin Eldridge (Krishna Das)

Krishna Das teaches and helps coordinate Yoga, permaculture and outdoors programs at the Sivananda Yoga Farm.

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