Sunday, April 2, 2017

Kapalabhati Breathing: Skull Shining Breath

"Reach With Your Prayers" (Photo by Najmat) 
A few have asked about  Kapalabhati breathing, or "skull-shining breath," one of the many different breathing techniques that are part of the yogic practice of pranayama. This practice is most effectively done in the morning, when the belly is empty and the brain is open to the buzz of light this work can ignite.

In class I explain this as a sharp exhale caused by pulling the lower belly back to the spine (I like to engage mulabhanda or the "root lock"). The contraction is felt behind the lower ribs or the lungs. I've had one teacher use the image of a bellows, a quick compression that forces the air from the lungs, so it can refill with new breath.

The Yoga Journal describes this practice in detail along with other yoga techniques for pranayama.
http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/skull-shining-breath/

Go here also for more exploration of pranayama techniques:
 http://www.yogajournal.com/category/pranayama/

And keep asking questions!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Yoga Music 2017: Loscil-Electronic and Ambient Music

Endless Falls by Loscil
One of my favorite local yoga teachers, Lindsay Ashmun, got me into the by Loscil.
For a long time, I just used the title track. It begins with rainfall and builds to big sound, but I sometimes use the full recording, start to finish in class. It's meditative but not necessarily the kind of meditation that puts you to sleep. Just another frame of mind. Their latest recording, Monument Builders, is already on my wish list.

The other more "ambient" recording I use is Flying by Garth Stevenson, a double bassist.  I also use the title track and sometimes the entire album. Stevenson is big on the yoga circuit and is appearing in Wanderlust Festivals this summer.
Garth Stevenson's Flying can be found at this link.

Yoga Music 2017: Traditional Yoga Music

The Yoga Sessions by Massood Ali Kahn
Among the more classic yoga music I've been using this spring:

One of the more traditionally driven albums I've using in particular is Masood Ali Kahn's album "The Yoga Sessions: Hang with the Angels," featuring Kahn's ethereal music and guest vocalists. The track I use in class most is by Lisbeth Scott singing the Gayatri Mantra.

The words to this traditional chant to the sun are:
Om bhur bhuvah svah
tat savitur varenyam
bhargo devasya dhimahi

dhiyo yo nah prachodayat.

-->
The eternal, earth, air, heaven
That glory, that resplendence of the sun
May we contemplate the brilliance of that light
May the sun inspire our minds.
(Translation by Douglas Brooks)

Krishna Das' Pilgrim Heart
I also use very frequently Krishna Das' "Mountain Hare Krishna" from his album Pilgrim Heart. Krishna Das is a huge name in the yoga chant scene. On this particular track, he sings with Sting (yes, Sting of The Police). The track ends beautifully with a segue into "Amazing Grace" and then back into the traditional Hare Krishna chant. In this article, also from Yoga Journal, Krishna Das talks about the value and practice of chanting, a practice the West has certainly picked up from the Eastern practices. Krishna Das is coming to the Rubin Museum for a screening of the film "One Track Heart."


Friday, March 24, 2017

Yoga Music 2017: Max Richter (A Perfect Savasana)

Image from Max Richter's website.
In yoga classes lately, I've been using electronic music and "new music" by British composer Max Richter. If you've been coming, here are the albums (and tracks) you've been hearing.

Max Richter's new "Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works" features moody orchestral works inspired by the writing of Virginia Woolf. The tracks I use most in class are "Mrs. Dalloway in the Garden," "Mrs. Dalloway: War Anthem," "Orlando: The Tyranny of Symmetry," and "Orlando: Transformation." But on my off time, I listen endlessly to "Mrs. Dalloway: Words," which features the only recording of Virginia Woolf's voice and the last song, which is devastating but exquisitely beautiful. I got it on I-tunes.





Another Richter album I use in class is Richter's deservedly well known Recomposed, a remix of Vivaldi's Four Seasons. The track you've heard most is Summer II. And finally, Max Richter's Sleep. We've been using the first track for Savasana lately. The whole recording is eight hours. Richter worked with a neuroscientist to create this overall work and it mimics the mind flight if you actually sleep eight hours. "An experiment into how music and consciousness (And if you regularly sleep eight hours every night, you are probably not living in NYC with the rest of us.) There is also a shorter version, but I listen to the eight hour version all day long when I can. It's very sattvic, as we say

 Below is a trailer that he made when he released the album.