Manomaya Kosha: The Mental Body

In the January blog, we discussed that koshas are the subtle layers of the body and that we would explore one kosha per month starting with the outer layer and working our way in.  In the February blog, we overviewed the physical layer (Anamaya kosha) and in March we explored the breath/energy layer (Pranamaya kosha).   The next subtle layer as we work our way inward is the mental/emotional layer, or the Manomaya kosha.

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Pranamaya Kosha: The Energetic Body

In the January blog, we discussed that koshas are the subtle layers of the body and that we would explore one kosha per month starting with the outer layer and working our way in.  In the February blog, we overviewed the physical layer (Anamaya kosha).  This month (March), we will explore the next subtle layer as we work our way inward, the energy/breath layer or the Pranamaya kosha.

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Yoga: A Whole Health Approach

No matter where you look there’s a new fashion on how to live your life. One thing is certain – people want to live better, happier, healthier lives. Yoga is not new, it’s been around for over 5000 years. If you’ve checked out our last few blog posts you’ll know that yoga is more than just a way to stretch and/or add  body weight exercises into your daily life. We touched on how important breathing is to your overall well being, as well as a few ways to introduce meditation and mindfulness into your lives. These practices can help us find balance in all areas of life: physical, psycho, social, and spiritual. In yoga we have a model for this: the pancha kosha.

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Let’s Breathe

Last month we wrote about how breathing works, this month we’re offering up a few breathing practices for you to try.…enjoy! 

To feel calm

  1. Diaphragmatic Breath– also known as dirga pranayama or three-part breath. This is great for feeling calm, but also oxygenates the blood and nourishes the whole body and brain, and creates better focus and alertness. Lie on your back and bring awareness to your breath in the belly. Feel the rise on the inhale and fall on the exhale. Do this a few times and then bring awareness to your rib cage. As you inhale feel your ribs move outward and on the exhale, they draw back in. Do this a few times and then bring awareness to the breath in the chest and feel the movement of the collarbones on each breath. And put it all together…feel the belly rise, the ribs expand, the chest fill, and on the exhale collarbones lower, ribs close, and belly lowers. 
  1. Ujjayi pranayama– also called victorious breath or sometimes ocean breath. This is an audible sound made in the throat that can sound like distant waves, a baby snoring, or Darth Vader. My favorite way to teach the sensation we want to feel in the throat is to hold your hand out in front of you and with an open mouth exhale onto your hand as though you’re fogging up a mirror. On your inhale, imagine pulling that same breath back out of your hand with an open mouth. Then try to create the same sensation with your lips sealed and be mindful to keep your teeth, tongue, and jaw relaxed. 
  1. Alternate nostril breath– also called Nadi Shodhana and can have a profound impact on nervous system regulation. Every 90 minutes or so we have a nostril that is more dominant and one that is more clogged so this brings some awareness to that and can bring clarity and stress relief. If you have a stuffy nose or bad allergies, this can be done by just imaging the closing of the nostrils if that feels more comforting. Use your thumb for the right nostril and ring finger for the left. Exhale completely and close the right nostril, inhale through the left, close the left and release the right, exhale and inhale through the right, then close the right and open the left and inhale and exhale through the left. Continue this for 10-12 cycles. 

To feel Invigorating  

  1. Kapalabhati– also called breath of fire or skull shining breath and is purifying, warming, and cleansing. This breath consists of shorter, more explosive exhales and more passive inhales. The power of the breath is generated from contracting the lower belly on the exhales to push the air out of the lungs. You can start slow and after practicing it might get quicker. Find a seated position and bring awareness to the belly. Take a big inhale, then with short and quick bursts and contraction of the belly exhale out of the nose eight to ten times and then take in another inhale and repeat this cycle.
  1. Breath of Joy– one of my favorites and pretty simple to do and like the name implies, can bring a sense of joy and vital energy. For this you will breathe three semi sharp and quick inhales through the nose and then a long open mouth sigh of relief/release on the exhale. This can be done seated or I love doing it in a wide legged fold (prasarita padottanasna)…as you inhale through your nose let your arms lift straight over head, then out to the side then straight over head again (like big, floppy music conductor arms) and on your exhale fold forward and sigh it out of the mouth.

If you’re interested in learning more techniques or how to offer them to service members, their families, or veterans check out our next teacher training.

Yoga and the Military

Yoga gets a lot of misconceptions, sometimes people think you need to be flexible, or wear lululemon, or that it’s always in a hot room, or that you just lay around. Well, all of these things can happen but none of them are true all at the same time. There are no prerequisites to start a yoga practice. There are many styles and ways to practice, so in this blog post we’re gonna break down some of the basics of what yoga (asana) is, how to start a practice, and WHY it’s an important practice for everyone, especially the military, veterans, and their dependents.

What is yoga?

This comes up a lot, but yoga as we typically see it in the Western Hemisphere, is the physical practice, doing poses, aka “asana.” This is what you see on the cover of Yoga Journal, what you experience when you do yoga at your gym, and the P90XTM yoga sessions. There are many different styles of yoga and they range from being extremely athletic to spending 90-min laying down on the floor nearly asleep.

When you try yoga for the first, second, third, or hundredth time, keep an open mind. There are many styles, and within each style, each teacher can take a different approach to the same sequence or pose. You don’t need to be strong or flexible to do yoga, but yoga can help you develop both of these characteristics. Some poses do require a good amount of either, or both, strength and flexibility, but generally there are modifications for just about every yoga pose to help you feel the effects, without causing injury.

As I alluded to above yoga is not just about the physical. Asana for many is the way in, but it’s not the asana that keeps people coming back. Last month we covered meditation and mindfulness, and next month we’ll cover breathing techniques. Both of these yoga practices are essential to overall personal growth – including within a particular yoga pose.

Benefits of yoga

As you probably guessed yoga can help you increase your flexibility and your strength. Different styles of practices encourage different aspects of the physical. Finding a style that helps you meet your personal goals is important. Over time a yoga practice can help increase your proprioceptive awareness (where you are physically are in space), your interoceptive awareness (your internal cues to bring awareness to how you’re feeling), your resiliency (ability to bounce back after adversity), your relationship with yourself and others, and your overall outlook on life.

Starting a practice

What you need

You don’t need anything to do yoga, but generally having a yoga mat is a great place to start. It helps you define an area that is yours, and often your mat becomes a sacred space. You can buy an inexpensive mat to start, and as you find a style of yoga that you like to practice regularly you can purchase a better quality, more expensive mat, to fit your needs. We (the co-founders of PTSYA) love this Manduka Pro mat because of its lifetime warranty, its surface, and its durability. It is an investment, but each of us have had ours for over a decade now.

Wearing clothes that are easy to move in (and wick sweat if you jump into a hot yoga class) will ensure your comfort during your practice. Taking a towel and water bottle to a vinyasa or hot yoga class will ensure you can wipe off your sweaty hands so you can stick to the floor and then rehydrate as you lose all the water due to perspiration. 

Where to go

You don’t have to leave your home to take a yoga class. For many people there’s a sense of insecurity the first time they take a group yoga class. This insecurity is usually unfounded, but it often takes trust in yourself to make that first step. If you feel ready to go, search for yoga studios near you or find out what times the yoga classes are offered at your gym. If you’re not ready to take the public plunge, turn to YouTube for free classes of all kinds. Yoga with Kassandra and Yoga with Adriene are both excellent channels to check out when you’re just starting.

Why yoga is good for you

Well, it’s up there☝️ Helps you build strength and flexibility, increases your proprioceptive and interoceptive awareness, increases your resiliency, and leaves you in a parasympathetic (rest and digest) state. The impact of this practice over time helps you increase your overall well being. If you have spent even just a few years traveling with the military, running through war time drills, or even just being uprooted that one time, having a yoga practice can help you better adjust to the experiences you have had and any future ones to come.

If you’re already drank the yoga kool-aid and want to help share its benefits with other active duty, reservis, guard, veterans, or dependents check out our upcoming yoga teacher training!

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