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24 Oct
Posted by Nikola Ellis

Why we need to put the breath first in yoga



The ancient sage Patanjali defined yoga as a state of mind in which all our conscious and unconscious patterns of belief quieten down. It’s the process of letting go of all the things you think (or subconsciously believe) about the world so that you can see things as they truly are.


That’s not something most of us can do at the drop of a hat, which is why Patanjali gives us an 8-step program for moving towards that state of absolute clarity – the Eight Limbs of Yoga.


The first two steps, Yama and Niyama, are guidelines for living a good life with clean living and healthy relationships at the top of the agenda. Next, Patanjali tells us to practice the aspects of yoga that are most familiar to Western students– asana (poses) and pranayama (breathing techniques). We're then asked to switch off from external distractions and move through the three stages of meditation, ending in Samadhi – the state of blissful awareness that we experience when all the mental noise and habits stop.


The first seven steps are all preparation for that final state of transcendent bliss, but we often don’t approach our yoga practice in that way. Asana becomes a form of exercise, novelty or distraction rather than preparation for a practice that promises to deliver the peace and clarity that we’re craving. So how do we approach asana in a way that makes it an effective part of our journey towards Samadhi? By putting the breath at the very heart of every practice.

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10 Oct
Posted by Nikola Ellis

How to do Nadi shodana (and why)

Pranayama, or yogic breathing, is an important part of yoga. But many yoga classes focus on the physical postures and don't include many breathing techniques. That's a shame because pranayama practices can make a big difference to how you feel - and fast.


The way we breathe directly influences the way we feel, think and behave. That's because our breathing regulates the autonomic nervous system. Each time we inhale, we activate the sympathetic nervous system - that's the 'fight or flight' mechanism that readies us to deal with looming threats. Each time we exhale, we activate the parasympathetic nervous system - this is the 'rest and digest' function that allows our bodies to go into repair mode, sleep soundly and build nurturing relationships.

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08 Mar
Posted by Nikola Ellis

Pranayama -  How yoga breathing brings balance

Does your regular yoga class include pranayama? Pranayama, yoga breathing techniques, can have a more profound impact on your health and wellbeing than any number of yoga poses. Depending on the technique you choose, pranayama can:

  • Soothe anxiety
  • Improve sleep
  • Boost energy
  • Bring balance
  • Create instant calm
  • Reduce headaches/migraines
  • Release muscle tension/pain
  • Promote healing from chronic disease by reducing inflammation in the body

So how does it work? And why isn’t everybody doing it?

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17 Jan
Posted by Nikola Ellis

Cooling yoga for hot days

Are you feeling the heat? I love hanging out at the beach with my kids in summer, but take me away from the cooling sea breeze and I get a bit hot under the collar (translation: grumpy). Maybe it's something to do with being English, but when the temperature soars, I need to cool down quickly!

Yoga offers some great tools to beat the heat, from cooling breathing techniques to diet and lifestyle changes. I've been practicing Sitali this week, a cooling pranayama (breathing technique) that never fails to beat the heat. If you feel irritable, drowsy or hot and bothered in summer, you can use Sitali throughout the day to take the heat out of things and leave you feeling calm, cool and in control. This video will show you how with a simple, step by step guide!

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05 Oct
Posted by Nikola Ellis

Lighten up!

I kick start many of my morning yoga classes in Spring with Kapalabhati. Kapalabhati is an uplifting, detoxifying and energising practise that is often confused with pranayama. Yes, it works with the breath, but it's actually a kriya - a cleansing practice. It's English translation is "skull shining breath" and it really feels like you've cleansed your frontal lobes after a session of Kapalabhati! 

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