This state of union requires that the mind be focused in the current reality and practicing breathing exercises (pranayama) such as Kapalabati and AnalomaVeloma can train your mind to be present in the moment rather than wandering in past memories or future dreams
Kapalabati involves repeatedly expelling the air from your lungs then inhaling and retaining the breath for at least a minute or as long as you can. This practice expels unwanted toxins and carbon dioxide from the small pathways in the lungs that we would normally not reach in shallow everyday breathing. Then the fresh breath of air is retained and the heart begins to pump quicker to deliver the oxygen to all the cells in the body and to remove waste from the cells and deposit it at the lungs for exhalation. This type of breathing has a heating, energizing effect. Some of the effects include tingling sensation at the fingers, and/or “seeing” light (the name Kapalabati means shining skull). This practice renews your system even if you smoke.
The second type of breathing I recommend for establishing union of mind, body and breath is AnalomaVeloma. AnalomaVeloma means alternative nostril breathing. This type of breathing balances the left and right sides of the body. The left side is the lunar, feminine, passive side and the right side is the masculine, active, solar side. In science, we now know that the left side of the brain is responsible to control the right side of the body. The left side of the brain is detail oriented and logic. The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and is more attuned to “the big picture” or holisitic thinking. To do analomaveloma breathing, block your right nostril and breathe in through the left nostril. Hold the breath then exhale trough the right nostril. Repeat by inhaling into the right nostril, retain, then exhale on the left. Do several cycles of this breathing until you feel the effect of calmness.
As the new year is right around the corner, resolve to practice one or both of these types of breathing. This will help you to establish peace of mind and will help you to cleanse your physical body as well.
A proper diet will support your goal of achieving unity of mind, body and soul through yoga. Eat three solid meals a day. This will help prevent snacking on junk food, which lacks nutrition and can be harmful due to high sugar and trans-fat content. Yogis like to include milk products in their diet so please enjoy (especially in the cold winter months) cheese, milk pudding, and other dairy products. Try switching to tea, black or green, instead of daily coffee. Try using honey to sweeten rather than refined sugar. Leafy greens, fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals that are essential for your body’s health. And don’t forget fat! Fat is necessary to insulate your nervous system. Do not cut all fat from your diet!
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Noha Sayed Alahl is a certified Hatha Yoga teacher and has been practicing Yoga since 2002.