Center Yourself with Alternate Nostril Breathing

For thousands of years, yogis have believed in the power of breath. To this day, yoga instructors even go as far as to say that if you lose track of your breathing during your yoga practice, you basically void the benefits of your asanas. Long story short: breathing is a crucial part of yoga!

Pranayama, or yoga breathing, makes you more connected to your breath. Although it is important to practice during your yoga practice, it can be beneficial to practice before meditation, right before you go to bed, right before you wake up, or when you just need to recharge. I have found that returning to my yoga breath can really help when I am stressed and need to reset my brain, like when I am hanging off of a mountain on a hard rock climbing route.

A technique that I love and have been using everyday is alternate nostril breathing (also known as Anulom Vilom). It is a great beginning pranayama practice, and can be done by everybody!

Alternate nostril breathing can be an extremely therapeutic and calming ritual. It cleanses your lungs and your mind, calms your emotions and your nervous system, encourages the flow of prana (energy), and can relax a restless brain and body. Doesn't that sound wonderful? Lets get to it!

Begin by getting into a comfortable seated position on your yoga mat. Sit up straight, with your neck, back, and tailbone stacked. Using your right hand, place your pointer and middle finger on your third eye (in the middle of your forehead just above your eyebrows). Take a few relaxed breaths until you feel centered and ready to begin.

Using your thumb, close off your right nostril. Slowly breathe in through your left nostril for a count of four. Hold breathe for a count of four.

Close off left nostril with your ring finger, and release your right nostril. Slowly breathe out for a count of four. Inhale though the right nostril for a count of four. Hold for four, then release through your left side as before. Repeat a few rounds of this alternate breathing and feel how your body responds to this gentle and nourishing practice.

Never be forceful with your pranayama practice. If holding four counts is too much, try shorter increments until you can work your way up to it.
Health conditions, such as high blood pressure, might mean that you shouldn't participate or hold your breath. (Translation: Talk to your doctor.)
If possible, try to practice on an empty stomach or if has been a few hours since eating.

Do you practice pranayama? How do you use yoga breathing techniques in your everyday life?

Rise with the Sun

With the exception of my teenage years, I have always been a morning person.
As a child, I would wake around 5:30, softly pad into my parents' room, and pinch my father's big toe until he woke up. We would then spend our weekend mornings together, getting breakfast at our favorite dinner, running errands, fishing, and bird watching. Even at a young age, I remember marveling at the serenity of the world when you are awake while most are still curled up in bed.

As an adult, mornings have become my serene sanctuary once again.

With the chaos of work schedules, social commitments, date nights, and the rest of life's hectic activities, mornings ensure I get that essential "me-time". By carving out time centered around taking care of myself, inside and out, I have found that I am more present throughout the day and am able to better tackle the day's challenges.

Here's a peek into my typical morning routine:

7:00 am: First alarm. (Currently: Destiny's Child "Say My Name", in case you were wondering.) I let the dingo hop up and enjoy my nine minute snooze while snuggling.
7:10 am: Boil a pot of tea, let the dog out, and roll out the yoga mat for at least 20-30 minutes of yoga.
7:40 am: Read a chapter from "Meditations from the Mat" by Rolf Gates & Katrina Kenison or take a moment to meditate.
8:00 am: Start cooking breakfast, like eggs over-easy with fresh vegetables and some paleo pancakes. 8:05 am: Feed the dingo (he does a bucking horse dance around his bowl when he's hungry).
8:20 am: Enjoy my healthy meal while pouring over a book or watching a rerun of Friends.
8:45 am: Get dressed, throw on some Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer & mascara.
9:15 am: Wake up Z with a cup of black coffee.
9:30 am: Go start the car so its nice and toasty (leather seats and -10 degree weather makes for a frozen tuchas). Run around my house a couple times throwing things in my work bag while attempting to be quiet because Z has inevitably fallen back asleep curled up with the dingo.
9:45 am: Run out the door and head to work!

That said, there is always variety from day to day. As the sun starts coming up earlier, I am working on pushing my alarm back a few minutes so that I will eventually be waking up at 6:00 am in hopes that I can squeeze in more exercise time (either at the climbing gym or outside once the temperatures start rising).

Although I have found myself to more naturally sway towards being a morning person versus a night owl, I planning on sharing a few tips and suggestions I have collected along the way that help make mornings all the more easier.

Have a beautiful day!