Below are instructions for the alternate nostril breath and neck rolls
Alternate Nostril Breath
Type of yoga pose: Can be done seated or lying down
Body parts targeted: Lungs and nervous system
How to do the pose:
- Sit in a comfortable position on your mat or in a chair with your spine erect (or lie down on your back on a mat or other flat surface).
- You may choose to close your eyes. Closing your eyes enhances the relaxation and calming effect of this technique.
- Place your left thumb on but not closing your left nostril and place your index finger and middle finger on your forehead in the space between your eyebrows. Exhale deeply from both nostrils.
- Press down upon your left nostril with your left thumb and breathe in through your right nostril, expanding your abdomen and filling your lungs to the count of 4 or 8 or whatever count is most comfortable for you.
- Press your index and middle fingers down on your right nostril and hold your breath for a count of 4.
- Raise your left thumb off your left nostril and exhale all the air in your lungs through your left nostril to the count of 4 or 8.
- Without changing the position of your hand, follow by breathing in through your left nostril for a count of 4 or 8.
- Now press your left thumb down on your left nostril so both nostrils are closed. Hold your breath for a count of 4.
- Lift your index and middle fingers from your right nostril and exhale through your right nostril for a count of 4 or 8.
This completes one round of alternate nostril breathing. Switch arms for the next found of breathing and go through the same routine starting by exhaling through both nostrils and then inhaling through the right nostril.
Number of repetitions: 3 rounds or do the breathing for five minutes alternating nostrils. With practice, build up the counts so you are inhaling, holding, and exhaling for a count of 8. Do this breathing technique any time of the day when you need to relax, clear your mind, or slow down your pace.
Key benefits from this pose:
- Increases “prana” – i.e., the “life force” or energy in the body.
- Helps clear air passages.
- Relaxes and calms body, mind, and nerves.
- Clears mind.
- Balances opposite currents in your body and helps restore equilibrium.
- Functions as an excellent way to begin your yoga session, as a prelude to meditation, or for winding down after doing poses.
- Quiets the mind and can help in overcoming insomnia.
- Strengthens the nervous system and improves circulation.
- Relieves sinus conditions by dissolving obstructions in the nasal passages and can increase immunity to colds.
- Can alleviate headaches (or anxiety stomach aches).
- Helps develop overall serenity.
Laura’s special hints and experience with this technique:
Inhale and exhale without strain in and out through the nose, not through the mouth. When you begin this technique, you may notice, as I did, that one nostril is clearer than the other. I had trouble breathing through my right nostril. Don’t worry—over time both nostrils will clear and you will breathe through each one with no problem. And, some yogis say that our nostrils sometimes take turns being “in charge” throughout the day.
You can use this breathing technique to increase your energy during afternoon lulls or whenever you need to “pep” yourself up. I have used the alternate nostril breath technique to alleviate occasional anxiety and stomach aches by breathing and focusing on the words, “deep relaxation.” Within 2 to 3 minutes, the stomach pains subsided. This yoga breath technique can also quiet the body and mind before meditation or sleep. At bedtime, lie down in your bed and do 5 to 7 rounds of the alternate breath technique to relax and release all tension.
Yoga Neck Rolls
Yoga neck rolls are an excellent way to relax and warm up for the rest of your yoga practice. They're one of my favorite yoga techniques because they can be so soothing. Below is an excerpt from my book which tells you exactly how to do them. Enjoy!
Type of yoga pose: Can be done standing or sitting. Sitting in a cross-legged, half-lotus or full lotus position enhances the relaxation benefits of this exercise.
Body parts targeted: Neck and upper back
How to do the pose:
1. Stand or sit erect and relaxed with your hands and arms at your sides or on your knees if seated.
2. Breathe in and out slowly and relax for a few seconds.
3. First inhale and gently drop your head so that your chin is resting on your chest on or below your collarbone or as far as you comfortably can reach in the beginning. Hold for one or two seconds and exhale as you slowly raise your head and resume its upright position. Repeat this movement two more times.
4. Inhale and gently drop your head toward your back so the back of your head is touching your back or as far as you can comfortably go. Hold for one second. If you are very stiff and haven’t done many neck movements in years, you may experience discomfort. Take it easy and move gently. Exhale and move your head back slowly to its upright position.
5. Inhale and turn your head as far as is comfortable to the left side (no, you are not going to do a full head turnaround as in the Exorcist!), hold for a second, exhale and return your head to the center starting position. Be careful not to move your shoulders as you turn your head to the side. You want to maximize the neck stretch. Repeat twice more. Do the same movements to the right side and back three times.
6. Inhale and move your head straight downward to the left side, hold for a second, exhale, and return head to upright position. Repeat twice more on left side. Do the same movement on the right side three times.
7. Inhale and drop your head very slowly until your neck is completely limp and your chin is resting on your chest on or below your collarbone, or as far as you can comfortably go.
8. Ever so slowly, roll your head to your right side. Keep your neck loose and allow the weight of your head to pull your neck muscles. Imagine you are a marionette and someone is gently maneuvering the strings that move your neck.
9. Continue moving your head slowly until your head is touching your back. (You are making a half, not a full circle).
10.Exhale and gently roll head back to the front. Lift your head and resume its upright position. Repeat twice more on the left. Do the same movements on the right side three times.
Practice time: 3 repetitions of this pose takes about 5 minutes.
Number of repetitions: 3 on each side.
Key benefits from this pose:
1. Helps warm you up for your yoga session.
2. Relieves stiffness, tension, and pain in the neck and upper back.
3. Enhances flexibility and mobility of the neck.
4. Helps tighten the area right under the chin.
5. Smooths lines from the neck and helps elongate the neck.
6. Relaxes body.
Special hints and Laura’s experience with this pose:
The neck is an area of the body that tends to collect neuro-muscular tension that can cause pain and stiffness. Once, when I was 24 years old I spent an entire day typing at an office. I barely moved as I focused on completing a project. Big mistake! I put undue stress on my neck. My neck became so stiff that I could hardly turn my head for the next 3 days! I had to take several warm baths before the stiffness eased and before I could resume turning my head and moving my neck normally.
Neck rolls are feasible for most beginners. If you have had any neck injuries or whiplash, check with your physician or medical advisor first. If done very gently, however, neck rolls can help to strengthen the neck area and heal it from injury. As yogi Erich Schiffman recommends in his book, Yoga – The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness, keep your eyes closed as you do the neck rolls to “magnify the sensations.”
At first, you may hear cracking or graveling noises in your neck as you move your head. I heard mild crunching at the top of my neck when I began doing neck rolls. However, with consistent gentle practice, your head should be able to revolve smoothly as if it had been well lubricated and any crunching or cracking noises should be minimal. Remember, never jerk your head in any way. Think s – m – o – o – t – h movement.
You can fit in neck rolls throughout the day as an afternoon tension reliever at your desk or at night before sleep to totally relax you. If I have trouble sleeping, I do the neck rolls. However, I usually do neck rolls in the morning as a warm-up for my daily yoga session.
I love practicing yoga in the comfort of my home!
This morning, as I was thumbing through the August 2017 edition of the Yoga Journal, I found the editor in chief's interview with yoga instructor Caley Alyssa about the importance of listening to your intuition on and off the yoga mat.
I was most struck though by Alyssa's response to the question, "What is the biggest lesson you've learned from practicing yoga?" She replied,
"Less is more. When you're doing something repetitively, you really can injure yourself. It's better for me to stay home and do 30 minutes of what my body needs than to go to a big public class and do what someone else is telling me to do when it doesn't feel good in my body that day."
I could not agree more! That is my philosophy as well - especially for the beginner! I have known a number of people who have suffered injuries in yoga class because they pushed themselves too far, before they were ready, just to keep up with a yoga instructor.
However, the beginner does need to get good instruction in yoga. I managed to find some excellent books that explained yoga poses step by step in comprehensive detail which enabled me to learn yoga on my own. And, I wrote my book, Yoga at Home: Gain Energy Flexibility, and Serenity in 20-30 Minutes a Day for the beginner for that same purpose.
However, I am NOT a yoga instructor so my advice here is to keep you motivated to practice at home and share some tips to help you keep your commitment. And to share resources that I come across to help you maximize your practice.
Last week, a long-time friend stayed with me for several days and she showed me the YouTube videos of a wonderful yoga instructor, Adriene, who was new to me. I have watched a few of her videos and I find Adriene to be down-to-earth, non-intimidating, charming, totally understanding of the challenges a beginner faces in learning yoga, and fun to watch. She is delightful and authentic!
By watching Adriene's yoga videos, you can create a beneficial, safe home yoga practice and do yoga at your own pace. And with your dog by your side!
Check her out below!
Yours for enjoying a wonderful yoga practice in the comfort of your home!
Laura Venecia Rodriguez, yoga at home coach
I have been practicing daily yoga for 47 years (except during late pregnancy or when certain events interfered with my practice). Like anything else, it's easy for such a routine to become "routine."
Just like a long-term relationship, you need to consistently make your yoga practice feel "special" to maintain your enthusiasm and commitment.
I recommend the following tips and reminders (which I followed to the letter this morning) to maximize the results of your home practice. I have presented them in the past and they are simple, but truly powerful. When I completed my practice this morning I felt especially energized, alert, awake, and attuned! Here they are:
* Create rituals and infuse spirit into your practice to make it special. My "ritual" is turning on my battery-operated candle (if I forget to turn if off, I won't burn my house down!) and placing it near my yoga mat. This ritual signals to my entire being that I creating a magical time for myself and that I am "lighting" up my body, mind, and spirit with yoga.
* Begin with a breathing technique. The alternate nostril breath technique is my one of my favorite yoga breathing techniques.
* Set an intention with a "key word" such as joy, serenity, peace, energy... and dedicate your practice to that intention. In other words, since I chose "energy" this morning, this meant that as I performed my various yoga poses, I focused on gaining lots of energy from each pose. This reinforces yoga's benefits and you will feel a difference!
* Warm up with a yoga egg roll and neck movements/rolls. The yoga egg roll boosts my energy because I feel like a kid each time I do it since it reminds me of being in gym class in elementary school ready to do tumbles.
* As you do each pose, listen to and observe your body as you move through all the steps of a pose. Be grateful for all you CAN do and don't give a second thought to what you cannot do (at this time...).
* Move slowly and gently as if you were watching a slow-motion dream sequence in a movie - "no pain or strain is all gain."
* Experience the "power of the pause" between poses. One you complete one pose, pause and adjust your body to prepare it for the next pose.
* Conclude with a resting pose (savasana) for at least 2-5 minutes and allow the energy you have awakened in your body to re-settle throughout your body and mind.
If you follow these guidelines consistently, you will gain the following benefits:
"Y" - "Youthing- rejuvenation and youthful vitality regardless of your chronological age
"O" - Oneness and openness of your mind, body, and spirit
"G" - Grace in how move and hold your body
"A" - "Awakening," "Alertness," and "Attunement" in all aspects of your body.
Yours for practicing yoga in the comfort of your home,
Laura Venecia Rodriguez