Discount Sale: 2014 Classes

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Take my class today!

Now you can download 5 of my last classes of 2014 for just $5. There is a Yin class, 2 Hybrid classes, and 2 Flow classes. Please enjoy!

  • meditation
  • balance
  • abdominals
  • breathing exercises
  • stress relief postures

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These classes are great for when you are traveling, I use recordings quite often in my own practice.

Once you have access to the download, just save it to where you want to store the audio file (your desktop works great). From there, you can upload it to your phone, iPod, or whatever portable device you might want to use.

 

 

The Respiratory System

Anatomy of Lungs and Respiration

Get ready to be blown away by something you have done every moment of your conscious life. Humans have two lungs and five lobes, two on the left and three on the right (the right is bigger), each of which can be from 70-100 square meters in surface area, about the same surface area as a tennis court. The lungs have 2,400 kilometers of airways and 300 to 500 million alveoli which are gas exchange points for the bloodstream. These are powerful organs of exchange with the environment, with power and functioning that should not be taken for granted.

The respiratory system is a series of organs responsible for intaking oxygen from the atmosphere and expelling carbon dioxide back into the air. This basic gas exchange between the body and the atmosphere is completely dependent upon the respiratory system and almost every vertebrate animal has one. This exchange affects every other system, as they oxygenation of blood is necessary in every organ. The nervous system also seems to draw energy from the respiratory system, and the cardiovascular system takes cues from the respiratory system (both cue off brain activity) to determine how much blood it should be pumping based on breath rate. When the sympathetic nervous system becomes active (the flight or fight mechanism), heart rate is increased, respiratory rate is increased, the sensitivity of the nervous system is heightened to allow for survival, but this comes at a cost.

Yoga focuses primarily on the respiratory system’s functioning to move the muscular-skeletal system in the opposite way. In our modern world full of non-environmental stress and high levels of adrenaline in non-life threatening situations, the sympathetic nervous system is overactive and is probably the biggest contributor to the high fatality rates from cardiovascular disease (nutrition would be the other competing contributor). The respiratory system is vital to the functioning of every mammal on the planet and is one of the most intricate and powerful tools for surviving, prospering, and thriving on planet Earth.

I honestly think the vast majority of people take breathing for granted. Most Americans are in such a rush that they don’t even notice their superpower of consciousness. We don’t learn about breathing in school, or in early sports, which is really a shame because breathing concentration allow for intense amounts of focus. Every athlete should learn breath control techniques from young ages; I can remember when I learned to run with proper form at 15 and I think that learning about breathing should happen even younger. This is what keeps us all alive, after all, and we really should learn how to keep our nervous systems functioning optimally through breathing exercises.

To really understand how intricately related the nervous system and respiratory systems are, we need to go back in time to when you were born. At birth, a babies lungs are full of fluid, but once the child is released from the birth canal, the central nervous system trigger a huge change in reaction to the environment, which then triggers the first breath, about 10 seconds later. From there, the lungs develop rapidly until at about 2, the alveoli are fully developed, then the lungs begin to grow normally until full adult muscular maturity is reached. The lungs are muscular and most mammals use their musculoskeletal systems to support their breathing, as humans do. This is why yoga can alleviate many hampering disabilities having to do with lung functioning, because strengthening the accessory muscles to the diaphragm strengthens the overall functionality of the respiratory system.

The muscles of the respiratory system are the following:
  • the diaphragm (primary)
  • the external intercostals
  • the internal intercostals (intercostals interlace on the inside and outside of the ribs).
The accessory muscles are:

As you can see, there are a tremendous amount of accessory muscles involved in breathing. I interpret this a particular way, that there is an enormous spectrum between thriving and breathing with ease and freedom contrasted to breathing for survival, or breathing only with the diaphragm and ribs, which puts extreme amounts of stress on those muscles. I think the idea of balance between the primary and accessory muscles is the right idea, and the stronger the accessory muscles, the more powerful breathing will follow. This takes time, muscles build strength in increments, and this is probably the biggest reason why yoga is so difficult for many Americans. Because we need it the most!

What kinds of breathing exercises do you practice for optimal health? What kinds of breathing exercises would you like to learn about?

 

 

Jalandhara Bandha | जालन्धर बंध (Bandhas part 3/4)

Jalandhara bandha is an interlock tucking chin into chest to elongate the back of the neck. This is particularly useful in inversions like headstand and shoulder stand, which can place stress on the neck if it is not properly elongated. This interlock can also include opening the chest and sternum in many cases to allow for great lung expansion when inhaling.

The sanskrit meaning of the word is enlightening: Jala means web, or net and dhara means contracting. So the contraction of the chin towards the chest lengthens the posterior (rear) neck muscles to elongate the back of the neck and highest portion of the spine. The neck muscles truly are an interweaving web to allow for the massive amount of rotation and movement that our heads are capable of. neck_muscles_detail

By tucking the chin to chest, you allow the spine to grow longer, creating more room for breath neck_veins_detailcapacity (the spine is intricately linked to respiration). This is why the jalandhara bandha is used often in breathing exercises. Lengthening the rear neck muscles also creates more space for blood flow and nerve connections to the brain and skull. The arteries and veins that run along the neck muscles are extremely important; they transport oxygenated blood to the brain. This is why headstands and shoulderstands are so beneficial; they reverse this bloodflow and while the jalandhara bandha is locked allows for the nervous system to reverse it’s usually flow against gravity. The lymph system also receives enormous benefit from being inverted for an appropriate period of time.

There are also some essential organs that are compressed during the interlocks. The thyroid gland get compressed during the lock, which can create more space for functioning of the organ. The lymph system is also greatly affected by the interlock, because compressing the lymphs will also create more room for the flow of lymphatic fluid. The physical benefits of the interlock are undeniable.

neck_fullanatomy_details neck_greys_anatomy

You can see the muscles of the neck in more detail and how the interlock is truly a contraction of a web of muscles surrounding the Hyoid bone. We’ll talk more about the hyoid bone in the next article, part 4: Jiva bandha. You will also notice a release in the shoulders when practicing the interlock, because of the relationship between the neck and the shoulders. You can see the trapezius muscle extends all the way to the back of the skull and that lengthening this in combination with the serno-cleido-mastoideus muscle. Muscularly, the contraction is extremely important for headstands! You should not be practicing balancing on your head without this interlock! It will lead to neck pain and possible injury. Headstand, according the yoga alliance statistics, is the pose where people get injured the most often in the United States. This is probably a result of not knosasankasanawing how to fully extend the neck using the jalandhara bandha interlock. If you want to start learning about the lock without a chance of injuring yourself, start in shoulderstand. Lengthen your neck as much as possible and then practice building the strength necessary for headstand in rabbit pose (sasankasana).

Here is Leslie Karminoff’s depiction of shoulderstand, this is a great way to work on the bandha. I highly recommend checking out his work at Bandha Yoga.neck_muscles

Compress chin to chest during meditation at the end of exhales. You can retain the lock for an inhale as well, notice the increased space on your inhale. Combine this with the uddiyana bandha and mula bandha and then notice how much space there is. This is a full lengthening of the spine through muscular contractions and muscular interlocks, which is extremely useful for creating space for breath, and life force energy.

Stay tuned for the final piece of the puzzle of the bandhas, the Jiva bandha. Used in conjunction, these interlocks will change the way you practice. Stay tuned for part 4, talk to you soon…

Uddiyana Bandha | उड्डियान बंध (Bandhas part 2/4)

Ashtanga Yoga Founder Krishnamacharya

Uddiyana Bandha is the second yogic muscular lock that occurs at the bottom of the rib cage. Uddyiana bandha is popularized, but largely misunderstood, I believe. Uddiyana means upward flying and bandha means energy seal, so this interlock moves energy up the spine. This opposed the mula bandha (root) lock descending down to the base of the spine. The Uddiyana bandha is important for inversion work, floating into handstand, jump backs from crow, etc. Think of anything where you are moving the trunk large distances as requiring the bandha lock. This is why lots of movements occur at the end of an exhale, because your abdominals are compressed towards your spine making for spinal stability during movement.

Uddiyana bandha is not a hollowing of the stomach! For some reason, people think that caving your stomach in supports your spine, but this is not true. Uddiyana bandha is far more of an engagement of the abdomen through breathe. Uddiyana bandha can be practiced in a wide variety of positions and the only time the stomach should be caved is after an exhale while doing prana-yama. Otherwise, Uddiyana bandha is simply the upward abdominal engagement of the obliques.

Most people will refer to the abdominal lock by hollowing the stomach in breathing exercises, but in truth, the muscular lock is a complex anatomical binding that allows for inversion and stabilized trunk movement in space.

The term Uddiyana bandha refers to the following muscles: the illiopsoas (hip flexor, walking muscle), the obliques, and the diaphragm. Together, these muscles are what allows you to walk, run, and move in space. This is why you will find so much yoga focusing on the psoas: think crescent lunge, low lunge, backbends, and hamsting lengthening in pyramid or ardha hanumanasana. a lot of yoga is geared towards making the psoas more malleable and flexible so that the body has more freedom for movement.

Patthabi Jois knew the importance of the bandhas, which is why the ashtanga system makes such heavy use of them. These interlocks can be attended to in each pose to allow for alignment, energetically and physically, of the spine. But to be honest, I’m fairly disappointed at the lacking of knowledge in this area. The uddiyana bandha is one of the more important muscle groups in the body and will take your practice to the next level will mindful work. Yes, even if you are already jumping into handstands.

This concludes part 2 of the bandha series. Check back soon for the Jalandhara bandha, part 3!

If you haven’t gotten a chance, check out part 1 here