yoga by degrees

Mindful Monday: Pranamaya Kosha

Good morning and happy Monday, oh mindful ones!

The nadis are our energetic irrigation system; in essence, they keep us alive.

Let’s continue our study of the koshas. Last week we discussed the first, outermost kosha: Annamaya which is the physical body.

The second kosha is Pranamaya kosha. Yes, you guessed it! Prana is our life energy.

Simply put, prana is what animates and brings life force to the physical body and the Annamaya kosha.

It allows the invisible indweller, our True Self to be able to manifest in the external, physical world. However, it is easy to misidentify the eternally still, silent center of consciousness as the moving, visible physical body.

The pranamaya kosha is said to be located at the third eye, head and chest. Because it is also related to the aura, it is not simply contained within the physical body – because our aura expands out beyond the body.


To add another layer on to this – the prana is then said to be subdivided into various forms called the vayus. They are: prana, apana, samana, udana and vyana.

Yogic texts also tell us that prana moves via the nadis (energy pathways) to the chakras (spinning energy centres that collect, transform and distribute the energy). This might be harder to grasp because we can’t see the vayus, chakras or nadis, not even with an x-ray.

There are said to be 72,000 nadis, and three main ones – the ida, pingala and sushumna nadis.

We’ve covered the main chakras in previous blogs. For purposes of this post, we will stick to the Pranamaya kosha.

Breath is paramount to our yoga practice. It is what grounds us into the present moment.

Noticing the breath automatically triggers us to not only lengthen the breath, but to make sure it is actually happening. Of course breath is automatic, but sometimes we hold the breath or allow it to become shallow.

We equalize it – inhale and notice the count – exhale and notice the count. This stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response), quieting the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response). This also builds up our capacity of breath and the awareness of it. We can notice if the breath is slow and steady or choppy and quick.

This breath awareness prepares us for meditation as well as for conquering our daily life challenges!

Inhale I’m breathing in

Exhale I’m breathing out

Inhale Let

Exhale Go

Inhale I calm my mind

Exhale I smile

Have a great week, yogis!

Mindful Monday: Annamaya Kosha

Greetings, mindful ones! Happy Monday.

We are moving into our more deeper and subtler practice of yoga. It’s such an interesting and exciting journey, isn’t it?

The more we start to learn and discover, our realization is that we have just scratched the surface of this deep and ancient practice.

Today we go into more depth of the outermost kosha: the Annamaya. Kosha translates to sheaths or different bodies that cover our true nature/Self. In our ancient texts, “Maya” means illusion. So these sheaths or covers are illusions, skewing our awareness of ultimate self.

An example of maya is if you are looking in the darkness and can just make out the shape of a man standing outside. You are convinced there is a person there because you can see it. Actually, it was the just post of the old fence.

This outer sheath is the literally the body layer—muscles, bones, skin, organs. Anna means food, which is what sustains this level. Asana keeps this kosha healthy and can be used to treat problems that arise in the body.

We exercise this outermost aspect of ourselves, take care of it, nurture it, so that we can both enjoy our external lives and go inward without it being an obstacle during meditation time. In meditation, we become aware of Annamaya kosha, explore it, and then go inward, to and through the other koshas.

When life is out of balance, we must identify the kosha that is troubled and take on practices to help it come back into harmony with the others. Exploring and integrating each layer brings us closer to a state of bliss.

The Koshas can be imagined as nesting dolls. Each sheath or doll covers the innermost doll which is Atman or Self.

February 2020 Pose of the Month: Utthita Tadasana or Five Pointed Star Pose

Happy February, oh dearest ones!

Do you want to feel like a superstar? Then this pose is for you!

Five pointed star pose or utthita tadasana is a heart opening and very grounding asana.

The five pointed star yoga pose facilitates deep breathing, improves posture and encourages joy. And when we do it in a squad, we feel both confident and connected to the earth and one another.

Here’s how:

1. From a standing position, step your feet out wide with feet either parallel or toes pointing slightly outward.

2. Extend your arms out wide at shoulder-height or slightly higher with your palms facing forward. Your feet and wrists should be about the same distance apart; adjust your stance if needed.

3. Drive down through your heels and straighten your legs fully, but do not lock or hyperextend your knees. Ground your feet firmly into the earth, pressing evenly across all four corners of both feet.

4. Draw the tops of your thighs up and back, engaging the quadriceps. Tuck in your tailbone slightly, but don’t round your lower back. Lift the back of your thighs, but release your buttocks.

5. Bring your pelvis to its neutral position. Do not let your front hip bones point down or up. Instead, point them straight forward. Draw your belly in slightly.

6. As you inhale, elongate through your torso. Exhale and release your shoulder blades away from your head, toward the back of your waist.

7. Spread your fingers and reach out energetically through your fingertips as you broaden across your collarbones. 

8. Press your shoulder blades toward the back ribs, but don’t squeeze them together. Keep your arms straight, fingers extended, and triceps firm. Allow your inner arms to rotate slightly outward.

9. Lengthen your neck. Your ears, shoulders, and hips should all be in one line.

10. Keep your breath smooth and even. With each exhalation, feel your body elongating in all directions: Up, down, left, right, forward, and backward. Softly gaze forward toward the horizon.

This is one of those poses you can do whenever you need a boost of energy or a shot of confidence!

Mindful Monday: Meditation

Happy Monday, dearest mindful ones!

This week’s topic is one near and dear to my heart: meditation.

Did you know that the reason we practice our physical poses is to prepare mind and body to sit easily in meditation?

Yes! So interesting, right? Our asanas allow us to develop more awareness of reality; they discipline our mind and body for stillness; we learn not to react to sensations in the body; we learn to calm mind and body when the urge to run away is overpowering; we become mindful of how our thoughts can be mastered.

Physically, asanas prepare the body, especially hips and spine, to endure staying seated and upright without distractions from physical discomfort. Poses also identify and flush out energetic and muscular stress, tension and resistance. The physical practice paves the way for pranyama, breath awareness, which deepens the focus and slows the mind.

So the ideal opportunity to meditate is directly following asana and pranayama practice.

So what is meditation, exactly? Meditation is a habitual practice of training your mind to focus, redirect and eventually to still your thoughts altogether. Like all things worthwhile in life: it is hard work and it requires discipline and accountability.

“But I don’t have time!” This is not even an original excuse. We make time in our lives for things we prioritize. Wake up five minutes earlier. Cut into your social media time. Take just five minutes at the end of your day.

There are numerous studies and entire books, blogs and documentaries devoted to all of the benefits of a meditation practice. Here are some of the quick and dirty major benefits:

1. Stress release

2. Anxiety reduction

3. Increases focus

4. Decreases blood pressure

5. Promotes better sleep

Just like any new habit/discipline, start out slow and steady!

1. Try to get to yoga class a little early so you can sit and practice mindfulness! You’ll notice a definite shift in your vinyasa practice. This is exactly why we hold quiet space before and after classes.

2. Stay just a few minutes after class to sit quietly. If you’re on a tight timeline, forgo savasana for a seated meditation.

3. Wake up five minutes early and just sit (or lie in bed!) and notice sensations in your body and begin your day with a positive and clear mindset.

4. Take a few minutes right before bed to practice mindfulness. You can sit and observe or you can even do legs up the wall as you release your day and prepare for deep, healing sleep!

5. You can even practice mindfulness when you’re standing in line or sitting in traffic in your car! Or performing daily rituals and repetitive, habitual tasks, e.g.: vacuuming, doing dishes, cleaning bathtub.

Set yourself up for success. Have some short term goals and discipline yourself to stick to them! Not only will you get all the benefits of mindfulness practice, but you’ll get a boost to your self-esteem knowing you are supporting the development of your best and highest self.

Have a great, mindful week, dearest ones! I’d love to hear how your mindfulness practice is developing!

Mindful Monday: Ajna Chakra

The Ajna Chakra or the Third Eye chakra is associated with the LIGHT element and the color INDIGO.

Mantra: “I see” or “Aum/Om”

The Ajna is located on the forehead between the eyebrows, just above and between the eye line.

It governs your vision, intuition, illumination, psychic abilities, perception of subtle dimensions and movements of energy, connection to insight, wisdom, inspiration and creativity.

When your Ajna chakra is open and balanced, you clearly see reality without the filters of your ego, expectations, past experiences and other social programming. The gift of your Ajna chakra is the ability to be mindful and live in the present moment. Your third eye chakra is the center of your intuition and wisdom, allowing you to open your mind to deeper understandings and expand your intuition.

When it is blocked, you may feel stuck in the daily grind without being able to look beyond your problems and set a guiding vision for yourself and have a lack of clarity.

When it is overstimulated and without support from the rest of the chakra system, you may indulge in fantasies that appear more real than reality, and experience psychic fantasies and other illusions.

To balance this chakra, try forward folds, shoulder stand and balasana, childs’ pose.

See clearly, my dear yogis!

Mindful Monday: Throat Chakra

The Vishuddha Chakra is associated with the Ether element and the color BLUE .

Mantra: “I Speak” or “Ham”

The Vishuddha is located in your neck and throat.

It governs your feelings of being heard, self-expression, ability to advocate for yourself, emotional honesty, living an authentic life and how you manage conflict and confrontation.

When Vishuddha or throat chakra is in balance, you’ll be great at making yourself understood. You’ll be able to say what you really want to say tactfully and clearly. You’ll know what you need, and be able to state that out loud in a way that gets people to listen.

When it is blocked, throat chakra primarily manifests in an inability to say what you really want to say. You may feel like you’re stuck holding onto secrets, that people don’t want to hear your thoughts, or that you can’t find the right words for your feelings.

When it is overstimulated, you may find yourself speaking rudely, out of turn, or maliciously. Looking down on others, you become highly critical of small details. The slightest, most innocent comment from someone may strike you as intentionally rude. You may even speak negatively about yourself, or others, to the point it borders on verbal abuse. Gossiping, criticizing and judging and non-stop talking are telltale signs of over activity.

To balance this chakra, fish pose, ploughing or shoulder stand. Lion’s breath is also a great way to clear and balance Vishuddha!

Happy Monday, and be expressive, dearest yogis!

Mindful Monday: Manipura Chakra

The Manipura Chakra is associated with the Fire element and the color YELLOW.

Mantra: “I do or “Ram”

The Manipura is located between your naval and your solar plexus.

It governs your feelings of will, inner power, strength, ego, stamina and self-esteem.

When this chakra is balanced, you feel powerful, strong, confident, capable active and determined.

When it is blocked, you may experience feelings of unworthiness, lack of energy and determination, guilt and fatigue.

When it is overstimulated, you will experience control issues, stubbornness, be overly critical and tend toward perfectionism.

To balance this chakra, try Navasana (boat pose), dhanurasana (upward facing bow) or and standing twists like crescent lunge with prayer twist or revolved Trikonasana (trianglepose).

Be powerful, my dear yogis!

December 2019 Pose of the Month: Malasana or Garland Pose

Hey, yogis!

This is our final POTM not only for 2019, but for the entire decade!

Our December 2019 pose is Malasana or Garland Pose, sometimes simply called a yogi squat.

I love closing the year with such a grounding and stabilizing pose!

Let’s do it!

1. Start in a standing position with feet mat with distance apart and hips externally rotated with heels in and toes turning outward.

2. Draw your hands to heart center as you bend your knees and lower your hips toward the earth.

3. Rock your weight back and forward a few times until you find stability and balance.

4. Drive your feet into the earth, wrap your core around your spinal cord, slurp your belly off your upper thighs and lift out of your waistline.

5. You’ll feel Apana vayu, the downward and outward flow of energy stabilizing as you experience Prana vayu through the upforce of energy lifting through your spine.

6. Placed your palms together at heart center and use your elbows to pry your hips open even wider.

7. Other variations include expanding chest by grounding one hand and reaching in opposition with the other hand.

Enjoy, yogis!



Mindful Monday: Sacral Chakra

The Svadhistana or Sacral Chakra is associated with the Water element and the color ORANGE.

Mantra: “I feel” or “Vam”

The Svadhistana is located between your genitals and just below navel center.

It governs your feelings of creativity, sensuality, pleasure and fun.

When this chakra is balanced, you feel creative, a sense of overall wellness, abundance, joy and synced into the ease and flow of life. You are brimming with passion.

When it is blocked, you may experience emotional instability, fear of change, sexual dysfunction, depression, or addictions.

When it is overstimulated, you can experience a quick temper, rage and are argumentative. You may engage in self- destructive behaviors and feel jealousy, codependency and possessiveness in relationships.

To balance this chakra, try goddess pose, Supta baddha Konasana or reverse warrior.

Be passionate, my dear yogis!

Mindful Monday: Muladhara or Root Chakra

Good morning, and Happy Monday, Mindful Ones!

To review last week’s blog post, a chakra is an energetic center within the auric and physical body of all human beings. Chakras can be thought of as vortexes that serve as a non-physical highway through which cosmic energy travels connecting this energy with the physical body. This cosmic energy is what we know as life force or “Prana.”

Today, we’ll cover the first of the seven main chakras.

The Muladhara or Root Chakra is associated with the Earth element and the color RED.

Mantra: “I am” or “Lam”

The Muladhara is located at the base of your spine, between your perineum and genitals.

It governs your feelings of survival, groundedness, belonging, and stability. Your earliest memories are stored here, including whether or not your basic needs were met.

When this chakra is balanced, you feel strong, confident and able to stand firmly on your own two feet. You are confident that your basic survival needs are met and that you can handle anything life throws your way. You feel secure, stable and full of health and vitality.

When it is blocked, you feel unstable financially and/or emotionally, fearful, anxious, unsure, ungrounded. You may be easily angered or feel yourself shut down totally. You may become needy.

When it is overstimulated, you feel aggressive, cynical, materialistic, and greedy. You may engage in self- destructive behaviors.

To balance this chakra, try Warrior II, Malasana, or Tree pose. Seated poses also help to provide stability and groundedness.

Be courageous, my dear yogis! Until next week …