Archives for posts with tag: pranayama

Life itself is a school. When we graduate from university and start earning our living, we think we know everything and we act so. However, education never ends with graduation from university. Life-long education. Life teaches us new things. We develop and progress continously throughout our lives. Yoga classes are the same. When we become a yoga instructor, we think that we know everything. How wrong it is. Every class is an interaction and exchange. It is possible for us — the teachers — to learn new things from our students. Also, it is possible for us to develop and progress ourselves with the help of the questions asked by our students.

In the previous week, one of the students asked why we were breathing through the nose in yoga. At first, I could not make up my mind. I could explain why we were inhaling through the nose but I could not explain why we were exhailing through the nose because I had no information in detail. Every word I said would just be a guess. I promised to look into this issue.

Breathing in yoga? Yes, “prana” simply means “breath.” In deeper sense it means “life force” and “physical, mental, intellectual, spiritual and cosmic energy.” “Prana” is the principle of life and consciousness. It is breath, respiration, life, energy and strength.

“Pranayama” is comprised of two words: “Prana” and “ayama.” “Ayama” means extension, stretch, length, expansion, regulation, prolongation, restraint or control. So, “pranayama” means extension of the breath or its control. “Pranayama” consists of inhalation, exhalation and retention. Retention can be done after both inhalation and exhalation. Inhalation stimulates the system whereas exhalation is to throw away the toxins from the body. Retention distributes the energy throughout the body. When we talk about “pranayama”, we talk about movements including horizontal expansion, vertical ascension and circumferential extension of the lungs and the rib cage.

When we breathe in, the chest expans and the lungs fill with fresh oxygen. When we breathe out, the chest narrows and the lungs are emptied. When we hold breath, the heart rate slows down and the heart muscle takes a rest.

Generally, it is possible to talk about four types of respiration:

  1. High/Clavicular (collar bones) respiration: The neck muscles activate only the upper parts of the lungs.
  2. Intercostal/midbreathing Only the central prats of the lungs are activated.
  3. Low/diaphragmatic breathing: The lower parts of the lungs are activated chiefly whereas the top and central parts remain less active.
  4. In total/pranayamic breathing: The entire lungs are sed to ther fullest capacity. When we inhale, the chest and abdomen rises and when we exhale, all these parts distinguish. The chest and abdomen is lifted up, forward and to the sides.

In yoga classes, “pranayamic breathing” is preferred. In classes, teachers ask students to breathe in and out through the nose. The air is cleaned and warmed up with the help of the structure of the nose. The air then goes down through the neck and reaches the lungs. When the diaphragm muscle contracts, the ribs move up and forward (intercostal muscles), the lungs expand and fill with air. When exhailing, the diaphragm relaxes, the ribs move down and inward (intercostal muscles) and lungs shrink, giving out the air.

When we expand in yoga classes, when we extend the spine, when we open the arms to the sides or lift them, when we are getting out of a forward bend or twist, when we are rising up from a pose against gravity, we inhale. When we close our bodies, when we bring the arms to the center, when we bend forward or twist or do something in line with the gravity, we exhale.

We have told that the reason why we breathe in through the nose is to clean and warm up the air. So why do we prefer to exhale through the nose? When we breathe out through the nose, the air exhaled absorbs moisture, reducing dehydration. When we breathe out through the nose, it is good for oral health.  Mouth breathing causes a drying out of the gums, increasing the acidity in the mouth. Exhaling through the nose reduces snoring and sleep apnoea and enables a good sleep. Moreover, breathing through the nose regulates the volume of air breathed, so that it can effectively match the body’s oxygen needs.

Also, breathing through the mouth causes overbreathing or hyperventilation as we use the upper chest rather than the diaphragm. It dries the airways, causing coughing and worsening of asthma.

Also, breathing through the nose is related with the carbondioxide level in our lungs and blood. When the carbondioxide level is normal, enough oxygen is sent to our tissues and brain. Most of us believe that carbondioxide is bad for us. However, if no carbondioxide, then we cannot get the oxygen our bodies need. When the carbondioxide level is in proper level, it triggers the red blood cells to release oxygen they carry.

We provide the carbondioxide our bodies use through our own bodies, not the air. Therefore, if we do not breathe correctly, we cannot produce the proper level of carbondioxide we need.

The lungs store carbondioxide. If the carbondioxide is under a certain level, we feel some imbalance and some symptoms show up. When there is enough carbondioxide in the lungs, the respiration is done through the diaphragm.

When we breathe out through the mouth, the carbondioxide level in our lungs and blood reduces and less oxygen is sent to the brain and tissues. When the carbondioxide level is less than normal, the blood PH degree rises toward its alkaline limit and a message is sent to the brain. The brain stops the diaphragm to stop the respiration and carbondioxide level increases. When the blood pH is restored and oxygen flows again, the brain tells the diaphragm to start to move and the next breath is allowed.

If we do not use the diaphragm as the main muscle of respiration, we face problems in regulating the carbondioxide level in our lungs, When we breathe out through the mouth, we only use the upper chest not the diaphragm. We can feel tense in the chest and have problems in respiration, We regulate the carbondioxide level we will throw away the body, thanks to the diaphragm.

For all these reasons, we prefer inhaling and exhaling through the nose. In spiritual and mental dimension, breathing through the nose calms down the body and breath and silences the mind. When we breathe in and out through the nose, the breath is extended, deepened and thus, the mind is calmed down.

As a result, “prana” is not just “breath.” It is “life force.” “Prana” is breath, respiration, life, energy and strength. Yoga classes are a part of life and it is possible to learn new things during classes. The aspiration of students to learn new things make them ask questions to questions, which in return develop and progress teachers. If one of the students had not asked me why we were breathing through the nose in yoga, I would not have made such a deep research. Every moment is an opportunity for us to develop and progress. Every yoga class is an opportunity for us to develop. What is important is to open to development and progress. I am so glad I have so many wonderful students. Namas’te.

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I have been waiting for summer to come for almost two months. As I am waiting, it is not coming. I love hot weather, sun, pool, sea and sunbathing. The more I want all these summer-linked things, the longer it takes for summer to come. Moreover, I want to write an article on what type of yoga we can do during the summer. However, I cannot write it as the summer has not arrived yet. I decided to write anyway June 21, the summer solstice, has passed away. What type of yoga should we do to celebrate the summer solstice?

Before answering this question, let’s try to explain what summer solstice mean and what happens that day. We experience two solstices a year, including winter solstice on December 21 and summer solstice on June 21. It is the time when the movement of the sun’s path (as seen from Earth) comes to a stop before it reverses direction.

The summer solstice or June 21 is the longest day of the year. It is the completion of the cycle that began at the winter solstice. The sun is at its highest point on this day. After June 21, days start to get shorter and nights grow longer until September 23 — the autumnal equinox. I should remind you that all these things happen in the northern hemisphere. It is just the opposite in the southern hemisphere.
Let’s come back to the solstice after this brief scientific information. The solstice is the best time to let the nature embrace us. Particularly during the summer solstice, we can find ourselves dancing with bare feet on grass or sand with the sun warming our bodies and soul. So far, we have only talked about the effects of the solstice on our souls.

If you ask me what type of yoga we could do to mark the summer solstice, I would just tell you to perform 108 “surya namaskara” (sun salutations). The sun is at its highest point on this day, so it is so meaningful to mark the day with sun salutations. This way we can burn the fire within us. We can expand each time we inhale and imagine that the sun is warming us each time we exhale.
Can we only mark the summer solstice with a flow yoga? Of course not. We can also mark June 21 with yin yoga. We cannot burn the fire within us with this type of yoga but we can extinguish the fire and we can calm ourselves down on this summer solstice. These are types of yoga we may perform on June 21 summer solstice. Now let’s try to find an answer to the question “what type of yoga during summer”.
As you may remember from my previous articles, our bodies are divided into three groups according to Ayurveda (Indian science of living). They were “vata, pitta and kapha”. Only one type was dominant on some bodies. On some bodies, two or three types were active. Also, one of the body types can be dominant over other during different seasons. During cold, dark, severe and harsh winter, the “vata dosha” (air and space) in our bodies was increasing. Therefore, we were giving priority to grounding in our yoga practice. During winter, the “kapha dosha” (earth and water) was dominant and to this end, we were feeling heavy and exhausted.

What happens to our bodies during summer? When summer comes, the “pitta” (fire and water) in our body increases. We may feel ourselves tired due to hot weather. Moreover, as the “pitta dosha” increases in our bodies, we may be aggressive and demanding. For this reason, it will be good for us if we begin our yoga practice by lying supine during summer. Starting with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) to bring the awareness to our yoga practice, then a lateral stretch and a twist will make us feel well at the beginning of our yoga practice. This way we can balance our internal heat.
Not only at the beginning of our yoga practice but also during the entire practice we may prefer a calmer yoga style than a fast and active yoga style. This way, we can give more priority to relaxation and meditation. But, this does not mean that we should not practice a flow yoga during summer. We can do it in a calmer and more aware way when we practice flow yoga.
Naturally, we can begin the practice with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series and go on with all standing asanas such as “trikonasana” (triangle), “ardha chandrasana” (half moon pose), “utthita parsvakonasana” (wide angle pose), “setu bandhasana” (bridge), “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel), “bharadvajrasana” (sage Bharadvaj pose), “upavista konasana” (seated angle pose), “parivritta janu sirsasana” (twisted head to knee pose), “baddha konasana” (bound angle pose), “paschimottanasana” (east looking forward bend), “halasana” (plow pose), “salamba sarvangasana” (supported shoulderstand), “karnapidasana” (ear pressure pose), “matsyasana” (fish pose). We can focus on forward bends in our yoga classes or own practice in order to calm the mind and body down.
In addition to all these asanas, we can use a “pranayama” technique called “sitali” to cool our bodies down. In short we curl the tongue and protrude it slightly past the lips. We inhale deeply and smoothly through the tongue and mouth and exhale through the nose. This technique calms and cools us. You may feel cooler when you do this pranayama for a few minutes.

Another “pranayama” technique we can use during summer is to close the right nostril and just breathe through the left nostril. Right nostril is the male and solar side of our bodies and named “pingala nadi” (solar energy center). The left nostril is the female and lunar side of our bodies and named “ida nadi” (lunar energy center). When we close the right nostril, we close the male, active and warming side of our bodies and when we inhale and exhale through the left nostril, we use our female, passive and cooling side.

At the end of our yoga practice, we can either rest in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) or we can reverse the flow of the body and rest in “viparita karani” (legs up to the wall).

Have you noticed that yoga is such a wide world that you may practice different types and use different “pranayama” techniques in every season. It is possible to warm or cool our bodies during winter and summer with these breathing techniques. So you may ask how to breath during spring or autumn? There is a breathing technique to equalize the right and left energies in our bodies, which can be used especially during spring and autumn. That is, yoga offers us many different things.
This or that way, summer or winter. Or spring or autumn. Not important. What is important is to love yoga and have yoga in our daily lives during all seasons maybe only by asanas; or by asanas, pranayama and meditation; or by asanas, pranayama, meditation and philosophy.

 

 

We are so used to living in a rush that we try to hurry even in our spare time. Some of us want to read a book, some want to take a walk, some want to dance, some want to go shopping, some want to wander around and some want to practice yoga and meditation in our spare times. Can we really fully live in the present time and benefit totally from our spare times?

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When I show up in yoga classes, I see students who want to make the most benefit from one-hour classes. As we think of yoga as one of physical activities we do in gym clubs, we only think of which muscles are strengthened and how many calories we can spent in that one hour and what we want is to only get the maximum benefit from yoga classes. We forget that yoga is something beyond physical activity but it is something that makes our soul and mind feel relieved. And classes turn into periods of time in which we only focus on our bodies.

As time passes, we come to understand that yoga is something beyond body. Even though how strong the bodies are, we can have difficulties in practicing some “asana”s (poses) and start to think why we cannot do those poses. And at that moment we realize that yoga is beyond physical activity and it is something in which our body should act in harmony with our soul and mind. When that moment comes in group classes, students want to experience “pranayama” (breath liberation)  techniques and “meditation”, which had just happened in two group classes last week.

We prepared our mind to turn inward by forward bends before trying “meditation.” Our mind is always interested in the outside world, not the inside. So we closed our eyes which were always looking outside and tried to see what is inside with the eyes closed. We watched our breath and directed the mind to a single point.

According to yoga master Patanjali’s “ashtanga yoga”, first comes “pranayama” (breathing exercises) and then come “pratyahara” (withdrawal of senses), “dharana” (concentration) and “dhyana” (meditation). After meditation comes “samadhi”, i.e. “bliss”.

We used “shanmukti mudra” (the seal we used for withdrawal of senses) and in order to ensure concentration we needed to focus our attention on a single point. In the evening class, we had candles and lit the candles for “trataka kriya” (mind purifying method by gazing at candle light). In the morning group class, we gazed at a bottle. In fact, the mind was doing the same exercise when it felt tired. Have you ever realized what you do when you look at the monitor for a long time and your vision is blurred? Yes, you are right. You gaze at a wall or some plain place and you empty your mind, don’t you? You look at the sea, lake or a river in order to empty your mind.

The breathing exercise came afterwards. Inhaling and exhaling throught the left nostril only in order to activate the calm side our body. To turn the brain waves from “beta” to “alpha” and prepare the mind for meditation.

Following the breathing exercise, we started medatation without opening the eyes. What was important was to feel comfortable and not to feel cold because the body could not meditate when it did not feel comfortable. Wearing a sweatshirt or using a blanket, leaning on a wall or lying supine. All were welcome in order to feel comfortable. To focus on the breath and concentrate the mind on a single point. Then to only watch the breath and the mind without chasing after the thoughts. Colors, geometric shapes. To think that we were not breathing for a moment but not to be deceieved by the games of the mind. To free the soul and to lay the groundwork for liberation of the soul. To let the soul fly if it wanted to. Then came bliss, “samadhi”, “nirvana”.

Can we really turn inward in our daily lives? Can we close our eyes, turn inside, count to at least five and respond more healthily instead of reacting suddenly when we get angry? Can we stop for a moment? Can we stop and wait instead of running and hurrying? Can we live our spare times happily and without rushing or hurrying? Can we take a deep breath, close our eyes and honor our soul for a moment? Can we enable our mind not to go forward but to act in harmony with our soul and body? Can we live without rushing?

What is the difference between yoga and other physical activities? I sometimes find myself asking this question. What is the difference between yoga and “dynamic stretching” or “pilates”? Or any other physical activity?

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Yoga literally means to unite, to yoke. Yoga means the unity of the body, mind and soul. It means the harmony of the body, mind and the soul. If we lose the harmony among body, mind and soul when flowing in a yoga class, we are not in a state of “yoga”. “Yoga” is actually a “state” instead of a physical activity.

What instructors care about the most in yoga classes is the harmony of the body and the breath. Inhaling and getting into one “asana” (pose) and exhaling into another “asana.” Let’s elaborate it. Doing one “asana” as long as we breathe in and doing another “asana” as long as we breathe out and end up in the final position of that “asana.” Surely we cannot ignore the importance of breath in all physical activities however breath has a peculiar place in yoga. Breath is our soul and therefore any obstruction in the breath means making a concession of our soul. For this reason, we practice “pranayama” (breath liberating) exercises at the beginning and end of yoga classes. Sitting in a cross-legged position or on the knees, keeping the spine erect and focusing on the breath. Focusing on the breath and expanding the breath and in time achieving “pranayamic breathing” which means “yoga breath.” A respiration with the lungs, diaphragm and the abdomen. Using the full capacity of the lungs, deep and long breaths with the help of the diaphragm and the abdomen. And when doing the “asana”s throughout the class, expanding the capacity of the lungs and using “pranayamic breathing.” This breathing style and the importance attributed to breath i.e. the soul throughout the class differs yoga from other physical activities.

Using the breath when flowing from one “asana” to another in fact reduces the burden on the body. We helped our body be opened and closed with the help of the breath and continued the flow without making ourselves physically exhaused thanks to our breath. Actually we were generating energy within our bodies. We were focusing the mind on the breath and thus the mind could not think any other thing when trying to harmonize the body and the breath. It was only watching the breath and the body and tried to move the body simultaneously with the breath. Therefore, the mind was just dealing with the body and the breath and was wandering neither in the past nor the future. It stayed right in the moment and the present time. And this was what differed yoga from other physical activities. The breath, i.e. the soul, the mind and the body was in unity and harmony.

Moreover, we were working on a certain part of the body in yoga classes and made a peak pose at the half of the class depending on that certain part we had stretched and strengthened. We could work on a hip opening flow in one yoga class and focus on inversions in another. We could choose to backbend in another yoga class.

Lastly, the most important feature that differs yoga from other activities is to work on a mental relief. To meditate for at least five minutes at the beginning of the class and to direct the attention and mind on the body and breath in order to release all the tension and tiredness of the day. A long “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) at th end of the class in order to overcome the physical tiredness of the class.

You may think why I am writing this post. I am writing it because I talked to one of the students before a group class last week. The student said, “it is not important how tired I am or how it is hard for me to come to class or how a challenging and difficult flow we do throughout the class, I feel energetic after resting in “savasana” and waking up after this pose. It is as if my body is re-charged.” Yes, it was really so. As we deepen our breath in yoga, more fresh oxgyen is pumped to the blood and this boosts our energy, making us feel more healthy, strong and enthusiastic. According to some studies, yoga poses adjusts “cortisol” hormone, which makes us feel energetic. Like in all other physical activities, yoga helps increase “serotonine” and “endorphine” hormones and we end up the class smiling. I think there is no need to talk about how energetic and enthusiastic we may feel with laughter and smile. What differs yoga from other physical activities? And you are still asking me this question? No traces of tiredness after class but instead a body full of energy which may take you to the next class. And haven’t you still tried yoga yet?

The falling leaves, cool weather, less sunshine, more clouds and sudden rainfall… Yes, again autumn has come. And September 23rd the fall equinox. Day and night was equal. However, this equinox was a bit different from that on March 21. On March 21, there is the summer ahead of us. We all know that days will be longer, the northern hemisphere will be hotter with longer and brigther days. However, on September 23rd heralds darker, shorter and colder days for the northern hemisphere. You may think, “what’s the use of informing us about all these geographical facts?” In fact, it concerns us. If you keep following  my blog for some time, you must have seen that the sun and the moon affect our bodies, souls and minds. So do the changing seasons. They all affect our yoga practice. What type of yoga should be do in the fall equinox and the following two-and-a-half-month fall season?

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Before talking about this issue, I have to first remind some facts about Indian science of living, “Ayurveda.” As you all know, Ayurveda classifies bodies in three different types, called “doshas” and named “vata”, “pitta” and “kapha.” “Vata dosha” dominates in some bodies whereas “pitta” and “kapha” doshas dominate in some others. Similarly, certain “doshas” dominate the seasons. Fall is the season of “vata dosha.” “Vata” is a “dosha” that activates the nervous system and the process of elimination and governs movement in the body. The qualities of vata are cold, dry, rough, light, changeable, irregular and moving. Vata is composed of elements of air and space. As the energy of vata increases during fall, we may feel ourselves unbalanced and ungrounded. For this reason, we should attach importance to grounding in our yoga practice. When we are practicing a standing asana, we should feel the energy of the earth under our feet and try to feel more grounded and when we are in a seated asana, we should try to ground ourselves from our buttocks.

In order to balance the energy of vata and to feel a bit warmer energy, we can also use “pranayama” (breathing) techniques. We can close our left nostril and inhale and exhale through our right nostril, which will wake the male and solar energy in our bodies and help get and feel warmer in the cooler days of autumn.

When we talk about equinox, whether its fall or spring, we should always talk about a balance. Day and night are equal in these times of the year and either night or day will start to get longer in the following few days. When night and day are equal, dark and brightness will be equal. We should establish a balance between fire and water and yin and yang are equal. Static and dynamic, known and unknown, inner and outher journey, seen and unseen, logic and intuition, conscious and unconscious because on September 23, we are moving from sun to moon, light to dark, yang to yin, outer achievements to inner reflection, action to contemplation and fire to water. To this end, balance is so important in these times of the year. Either in our yoga classes or own yoga practice, we should practice balancing poses like “vrksasana” (tree pose), “garudasana” (eagle pose), “natarajasana” (dancer’s pose), “utthita hasta padangusthasana” (hand to toe pose) and “virabhadrasana III” (warrior III).

Moreover, we can practice asanas stimulating the lung and large intestine meridians during the fall equinox and autumn. For instance, “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch), “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog), “uttanasana” (standing forward bend), “tadasana” (mountain pose), “high lunge”, “virabhadrasana I” (warrior I), “parsvakonasana” (wide angle pose), “garudasana” (eagle pose), “natarajasana” (dancer’s pose), “apanasana” (knees to chest pose), “yogic cycles” (abdominal work) ve “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist) can be a beneficial flow to stimulate large intestines and lungs.

“Eka pada adho mukha svanasana” (three legged downward facing dog), “virabhadrasana III” (warrior III), “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), “trikonasana” (triangle), “parighasana” (gate pose), “ardha chandrasana” (half moon pose), “malasana” (squat pose), “bakasana” (crow pose), “sirsasana” (headstand), “dandasana” (staff pose), “paschimottanasana ” (seated forward bend),  “balasana” (child pose), “phalakasana” (plank pose), “chaturanga dandasana” (low plank), “salabhasana” (locust pose), “dhanurasana” (bow pose), “supta virasana” (supine hero pose), “bhujangasana” (cobra pose), “vasisthasana” (side plank pose- Sage Vasishta pose), “marichyasana” (SageMarichi twist), “ustrasana” (camel pose) are other asanas we may practice in our yoga classes and own yoga practice during fall.

I have said that we should attach importance to grounding in our yoga practice during fall. “Ujjayi pranayama” (victory breath) not only warms our bodies up but also prevents us from getting injured. So, it is an efficient breathing technique we can use in all our yoga practices throughout the year, not only in autumn.

We can feel more flexible due to the increasing element of “vata” in fall and we can cross our limits and get injured. Therefore, we should practice at a slow, smooth and steady pace. We can stay in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) — the sine qua non asana of all yoga classes — longer than usual to balance vata energy. We can get a blanket and cover our eyes with an eye pillow to feel calmer.

We can also welcome the equinox with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series. “Vata dosha” is related with the elements air and ether in the body. In order to balance the elements air and ether, we could increase the element air in the body. Therefore if we practice 108 sun salutations in the equinox, we can warm the body up and increase the elements fire and water, i.e the “pitta dosha” in the body.

I had no intention to celebrate the equinox when I went to group class this week. What a coincidence that everybody wanted to focus on grounding in all classes. They all wanted to try standing poses, particularly “warrior” posses. All students wanted to pay attention to alignment and grounding and feel the element earth. “Virabhadrasana I”, “virabhadrasana II”, “virabhadrasana III” (warrior I, II and III), “parsvakonasana” (side angle pose), “trikonasana” (triangle). Reviewing all alignment from the sole of the feet to the top of the head… And we waited at least ten breath in all poses to feel the grounding more and more. We paid attention to harmonize the body and the breath. We tried to do one pose throughout one inhale or exhale. We tried to feel the harmony of the body and the breath by closing the eyes. We also experienced to feel the energy earth climbing to the top of the head through the entire body. We felt the unity of body, breath and mind.

I had forgotten to focus on equinox in my classes however the bodies had not. Students wanted to ground and feel the energy earth instinctively. And this was what had happened in all my yoga classess last week.

Days, months and seasons… One come after the other. There is a flow in our daily lives like in yoga. Always an action. Winter, spring, summer. And now comes the autumn. We can practice different types of yoga to make our bodies, minds and souls happier and calmer in each season What is important is to ensure the integrity, unity and balance of our bodies, minds and souls in all these seasons. The rest! No need to care about!

 

Sometimes I find myself always busy with some projects and plans. Yoga classes, meetings, hangouts, excursions, trips and a rush. In those days, I do not even think of taking a rest even for a while. I feel like time is flying so quickly and I cannot catch up with it. Can you imagine living your entire life this way? We will get exhausted at one point, won’t we? And I feel myself tired and exhausted after such an active period of time. Yang, isn’t it?

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Then I start to live my days in a calmer way. I start to take a rest, read books and live on my own. I start spending time alone and turn inward. Yin, isn’t it?

Just like in my daily life, my yoga classes are affected with my yin and yang mode. When I feel myself so yang, my classes show up to be yang and especially I teach “vinyasa” (flow) style classes. We flow from one “asana” (pose) to another just like I rush from one place to another in my daily life. In such a time, I focus on core strengthening classes, backbends, arm balancing poses and inversions.

When my yin mode is on, I focus on stretching the body. I teach yin yoga classes, stay longer than usual in all poses and aim to ensure body and mind relief. I use “pranayama” (breathing) techniques and meditation to calm the mind down.

After a busy week, my “yin” mode was on in my classes. I was on “yin” mode but what about the students? Students usually prefer flow yoga in evening classes so we practiced “vinyasa” with them. When I went to one of my morning private groups, students were also in “yin” mode, which pleased me a lot.

Following a long meditation, we practiced “butterfly,” “half frog”, “half saddle”, “dragonfly”, “sleeping swan”, “melting heart” and “twisted roots.” We stayed for four minutes in each pose and tried to accept the body as it was at that moment and surrender that way. We observed how we got deepened in the pose as minutes passed. We ended the class with a long “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).

What if life was monotonous? What if there was only the night and not the day? What if there was only summer and not the winter? What if the world was just full of women and not men? What if we were living our lives so quickly and in a rush or what if we had a dull and calm life? How boring it would be, wouln’t it? Yin and yang… Feminine and masculine… Sometimes yin and sometimes yang. What is important is to establish the right balance and flow. When we want to act crazy and live our days full of joy, to be “yang” and when we want to rest, calm down and live in serenity, to become “yin”… Shortly yin and yang… Shortly a life in a right flow…

I have been waiting for summer to come for almost two months. As I am waiting, it is not coming. I love hot weather, sun, pool, sea and sunbathing. The more I want all these summer-linked things, the longer it takes for summer to come. Moreover, I want to write an article on what type of yoga we can do during the summer. However, I cannot write it as the summer has not arrived yet. I decided to write anyway as today is June 21, the summer solstice. What type of yoga should we do to celebrate the summer solstice?

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Before answering this question, let’s try to explain what summer solstice mean and what happens that day. We experience two solstices a year, including winter solstice on December 21 and summer solstice on June 21. It is the time when the movement of the sun’s path (as seen from Earth) comes to a stop before it reverses direction.

The summer solstice or June 21 is the longest day of the year. It is the completion of the cycle that began at the winter solstice. The sun is at its highest point on this day. After June 21, days start to get shorter and nights grow longer until September 23 — the autumnal equinox. I should remind you that all these things happen in the northern hemisphere. It is just the opposite in the southern hemisphere.
Let’s come back to the solstice after this brief scientific information. The solstice is the best time to let the nature embrace us. Particularly during the summer solstice, we can find ourselves dancing with bare feet on grass or sand with the sun warming our bodies and soul. So far, we have only talked about the effects of the solstice on our souls.

If you ask me what type of yoga we could do to mark the summer solstice, I would just tell you to perform 108 “surya namaskara” (sun salutations). The sun is at its highest point on this day, so it is so meaningful to mark the day with sun salutations. This way we can burn the fire within us. We can expand each time we inhale and imagine that the sun is warming us each time we exhale.
Can we only mark the summer solstice with a flow yoga? Of course not. We can also mark June 21 with yin yoga. We cannot burn the fire within us with this type of yoga but we can extinguish the fire and we can calm ourselves down on this summer solstice. These are types of yoga we may perform on June 21 summer solstice. Now let’s try to find an answer to the question “what type of yoga during summer”.
As you may remember from my previous articles, our bodies are divided into three groups according to Ayurveda (Indian science of living). They were “vata, pitta and kapha”. Only one type was dominant on some bodies. On some bodies, two or three types were active. Also, one of the body types can be dominant over other during different seasons. During cold, dark, severe and harsh winter, the “vata dosha” (air and space) in our bodies was increasing. Therefore, we were giving priority to grounding in our yoga practice. During winter, the “kapha dosha” (earth and water) was dominant and to this end, we were feeling heavy and exhausted.

What happens to our bodies during summer? When summer comes, the “pitta” (fire and water) in our body increases. We may feel ourselves tired due to hot weather. Moreover, as the “pitta dosha” increases in our bodies, we may be aggressive and demanding. For this reason, it will be good for us if we begin our yoga practice by lying supine during summer. Starting with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) to bring the awareness to our yoga practice, then a lateral stretch and a twist will make us feel well at the beginning of our yoga practice. This way we can balance our internal heat.
Not only at the beginning of our yoga practice but also during the entire practice we may prefer a calmer yoga style than a fast and active yoga style. This way, we can give more priority to relaxation and meditation. But, this does not mean that we should not practice a flow yoga during summer. We can do it in a calmer and more aware way when we practice flow yoga.
Naturally, we can begin the practice with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series and go on with all standing asanas such as “trikonasana” (triangle), “ardha chandrasana” (half moon pose), “utthita parsvakonasana” (wide angle pose), “setu bandhasana” (bridge), “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel), “bharadvajrasana” (sage Bharadvaj pose), “upavista konasana” (seated angle pose), “parivritta janu sirsasana” (twisted head to knee pose), “baddha konasana” (bound angle pose), “paschimottanasana” (east looking forward bend), “halasana” (plow pose), “salamba sarvangasana” (supported shoulderstand), “karnapidasana” (ear pressure pose), “matsyasana” (fish pose). We can focus on forward bends in our yoga classes or own practice in order to calm the mind and body down.
In addition to all these asanas, we can use a “pranayama” technique called “sitali” to cool our bodies down. In short we curl the tongue and protrude it slightly past the lips. We inhale deeply and smoothly through the tongue and mouth and exhale through the nose. This technique calms and cools us. You may feel cooler when you do this pranayama for a few minutes.

Another “pranayama” technique we can use during summer is to close the right nostril and just breathe through the left nostril. Right nostril is the male and solar side of our bodies and named “pingala nadi” (solar energy center). The left nostril is the female and lunar side of our bodies and named “ida nadi” (lunar energy center). When we close the right nostril, we close the male, active and warming side of our bodies and when we inhale and exhale through the left nostril, we use our female, passive and cooling side.

At the end of our yoga practice, we can either rest in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) or we can reverse the flow of the body and rest in “viparita karani” (legs up to the wall).

Have you noticed that yoga is such a wide world that you may practice different types and use different “pranayama” techniques in every season. It is possible to warm or cool our bodies during winter and summer with these breathing techniques. So you may ask how to breath during spring or autumn? There is a breathing technique to equalize the right and left energies in our bodies, which can be used especially during spring and autumn. That is, yoga offers us many different things.
This or that way, summer or winter. Or spring or autumn. Not important. What is important is to love yoga and have yoga in our daily lives during all seasons maybe only by asanas; or by asanas, pranayama and meditation; or by asanas, pranayama, meditation and philosophy.

December 21… Winter solstice… The shortest day and the longest night of the year… When winter comes, I feel depressed. Even though I am a person who have been practicing and living in yoga for years, I cannot get accustomed to the duality of life. Actually, I have accepted duality in many areas, however when it comes to winter and summer, summer is much more important for me. In fact, the sentence saying “there is winter if there is summer” is not one that I feel like saying.

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Winter… Cold, dark, dry and harsh… All these are characteristics of “vata dosha”, one of the three body types in Ayurveda (Indian science of living). “Vata dosha” resembles adjectives like airy, light and creative. The main feature of this body type is instability and inconstancy. “Vata dosha” controls the central nervous system. When this “dosha” is out of balance, it can lead to nervous problems, including anxiety and depression.

With the cold, dry and harsh weather during winter, the “vata dosha” in our bodies rise irrespective of what our ayurvedic body types are. When the “vata” in our bodies rise, the best thing to do is to ground in yoga classes. Therefore, we should give priority to grounding in our yoga practice during winter and we should keep our awareness in our roots and grounds.

Why do we have to ground when “vata” increases in our bodies? “Vata” is associated with not only cold, dark, dry and harsh but also light and airy. Therefore, when “vata” increases in our bodies, it is so normal to fell ourselves lighter, more airy and as if we are flying. To this end, we should reduce, balance or regulate the “vata dosha” in our bodies. If we give priority to inversions that increase “vata” during our yoga practice and mainly practice “sirsasana” (headstand), “adho mukha vrksasana” (handstand) and “pincha mayurasana” (forearm stand), we raise the “vata” in our bodies. Thus, our mind will be tired, we feel impatient, and we feel like we are flying. We cannot focus, we cannot stay at one place and we will lose attention.

If we have such complaints, we should focus on grounding more than ever during winter in order to ensure physical, emotional and spiritual balance because most probably, the “vata dosha” in our bodies has increased. The standing yoga poses, particularly “tadasana” (mountain pose), “virabhadrasana I” (warrior I), “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), “trikonasana” (triangle) and “vrksasana” (tree pose) are all poses that ground us and help us regulate the “vata dosha”. These standing poses do not only make us stronger but also help us stand firm and balanced on our feet.
Actually, we do not only ground in standing poses. If our aim is to ground ourselves, we can feel our roots in every pose. You must be wondering how we can do that? For instance, let’s practice “paschimottanasana” (sitting forward bend). If we bring our awareness to our sit bones in this pose and aim to get rooted and ground towards the earth through these bones, we can also make ourselves be rooted and grounded in a sitting yoga pose.

Similarly, we can also get grounded and rooted in backbends. For example, we can get into “bhujangasana” (cobra) or “salabhasana” (locust) poses, and we can ground ourselves onto the earth from our abdomen while we raise only our chest from the ground.

Twists also help us regulate the “vata dosha” in our bodies. However, our breath should freely move when we are in a twist. If not, the “vata dosha” in our bodies can increase.

We can get cold or flu more easier during winter than all other seasons. Therefore, it could be useful if we focus on asanas opening the chest, throat and sinuses. After warming the bodies up with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series, we can open the chest with backbends like “ustrasana” (camel), “dhanurasana” (bow) and “salabhasana” (locust) and clean and purify the throat with “salamba sarvangasana” (supported shoulderstand) and “matsyasana” (fish pose).

Besides all these yoga asanas, warming the bodies up with “ujjayi pranayama” (conquerer breath) during the winter can be a good method to balance the increasing “vata dosha”. Other techniques that can warm the bodies during winter are “bhastrika pranayama” (bellows breath) and “kapalabhati kriya” (skull cleansing method). Particularly “kapalabhati” could help eliminate mucus from the bodies.

What type of a yoga class could we practice on the winter solstice? Focusing on standing poses could be a good alternative or we could just warm the bodies with only “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series. In yoga, it is a tradition to mark the solstice with 108 sun salutations. Why 108? First of all, 108 is the number of “Upanishads” (the last part of sacred Indian book Veda). 108 is the number of names of Shiva and Buddha. 108 is the number of beads on a Catholic rosary and “mala” (Indian, Tibetan beads). 108 is twice the number “54”, which is the number of sounds in “Sanskrit” (sacred Indian language). 108 is the number of “sutras” (aphorisms) in “Yoga Sutras” (oldest text on yoga). 1 stands for Higher Truth, 0 stands for Emptiness and 8 stands for Infinity. Moreover, the diameter of the Sun is 108 times than that of the Earth.

So, we can regulate and balance the “vata dosha” in our bodies by trying to ground ourselves more on the ground and earth during this cold, dry and harsh winter. Let’s try to ground ourselves more and more on earth in standing yoga poses but at the same time let’s try to feel the energy rising from our soles. Let’s try to flow our energy to the ground, and feel the energy coming from the earth and ground in every yoga pose.

Grounding… One of the main principles of life. Everybody and everything wants to have roots and belong somewhere. Winter is a good opportunity to get grounded and be rooted and to improve our sense of belonging. If there is duality in life, we should continue being grounded until the moment we need to take our feet off the ground, i.e. till summer. Don’t forget that the days when we will need to take our feet off the floor are also ahead of us…

You know that I have been teaching classes on “vayu”s (currents of prana/life force or literally winds) for a few weeks. Since last week was June 21- the summer solstice – I taught classes with the solstice theme and therefore I suspended “vayu”-focused classes for a week. This week was the turn of the last “vayu”: “Vyana vayu” i.e. “outward moving air.

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We all know that the thing we call “prana” in yoga philosophy is not just “breath” but also “life force.” We also know that “prana” moves our body and helps our mind think. We can reinvigorate the body and mind with the help of “prana” in yoga practice, increase our awareness and reach high consciousness.
Therefore, yoga masters realized that “prana” was moving in five directions in the body and enumerated them as “prana vayu” (inward and forward energy wind), “apana vayu” (downward and outward energy wind), “samana vayu” (balancing air), “udana vayu” (upward energy) and “vyana vayu” (outward moving air). All these “vayu”s affect different parts of the body and when they work in harmony, the body and mind are healthy.
“We all know that the thing we call “prana” in yoga philosophy is not just “breath” but also “life force.” We also know that “prana” moves our body and helps our mind think. We can reinvigorate the body and mind with the help of “prana” in yoga practice, increase our awareness and reach high consciousness.
Therefore, yoga masters realized that “prana” was moving in five directions in the body and enumerated them as “prana vayu” (inward and forward energy wind), “apana vayu” (downward and outward energy wind), “samana vayu” (balancing air), “udana vayu” (upward energy) and “vyana vayu” (outward moving air). All these “vayu”s affect different parts of the body and when they work in harmony, the body and mind are healthy.
“Vyana vayu”, i.e. outward moving air, is the opposite of “samana vayu” (balancing air). This “vayu” is an energy wind that balances all the other “vayu”s. It is an energy wind that circulates throughout the body and goes beyond the body. It is an energy wind called “aura” which is thought to be spread out of the body.
Responsible for all types of circulation in the body including food, water and oxygen, “vyana vayu” sends these stuff to necessary parts of the body, helps assimilation of them and then production of positive energy at the end of this assimilation.
Located in the heart and lungs, the healthy functioning of “vyana vayu” depends on healthy functioning of all the other “vayu”s. It is related with the “svadisthana” (sacral), “manipura” (navel), “anahata” (hearth), “vishuddha” (throat) and “ajna” (third eye) chakras and thus related with the elements water, fire, air and ether. It is responsible for the free circulation of thoughts and emotions in mind.
If “vyana vayu” is healthy, then we move in harmony and in balance. If it is unbalanced, the mind and body connection is lost and we are open to diseases. If “vyana vayu” is in balance, then we are physically, emotionally and mentally in balance.
So how could we stimulate “vyana vayu?” With standing asanas, balancing poses and backbends… We could use “nadi shodhana” (alternative nostril breathing) as a “pranayama” (breathing) technique.
We began the class with meditation. After meditation, we inhaled and put the hands on the heart and we exhaled and opened the hands on the knees as palms facing up to feel the “outward moving air.” In each exhale, we tried to feel the energy going out of arms and hands with eyes closed.
After the breathing exercise, we came on all-fours and warmed up the spine with “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch). We stretched the chest with “uttanasa shishosana” (extended puppy pose) and we backbent the spine wit h”vyaghrasana” (tiger pose). We rested in “utthita balasana” and stoop up with a “vinyasa” (flow) and ended up in “tadasana” (mountain pose).
We tried to feel all five “vayu”s in “tadasana.” As we grounded beneath the feet we felt the “apana vayu” and as the spine extended up to the ceiling from the top of the head we felt the “udana vayu”. We stayed in the center with “samana vayu” and when we inhaled the chest moved forward and we felt the air entering the body and thus the “prana vayu.” Finally we felt the energy going out of the fingertips and thus the “vyana vayu.”
We warmed up the body with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series. We were trying to do each “asana” with full awareness. When we lifted the arms up (urdhva hastasana), we felt the energy going up and out from the hands, when we bent forward we felt the energy going down. When we opened the spine half-way and kept the spine straight, when we got into low plank (chaturanga dandasana) and the upward facing dog (urdhva mukha svanasana), we felt the energy rising up and forward from the “sternum” (chest bone)… In downward dog (adho mukha svanasana), we felt the energy in the navel– the center. Because we could stimulate “vyana vayu” only if we stimulated the other four “vayu”s.
In-between sun salutation series, we added standing asanas like “virabhadrasana I” (warrior I), “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), “parsvakonasana” (side angle pose), “utkatasana” (chair) and “trikonasana” (triangle) to stimulate “vyana vayu” more. The body had warmed up well. Now we could go on with balancing poses. In-between “surya namaskara” Series, we started to add balancing poses like “virabhadrasana III” (warrior III), “vrksasana” (tree pose), “garudasana” (eagle pose), “ardha chandrasana” (half moon pose) and “navasana” (boat pose).
We could also activate “vyana vayu” with backbends. Therefore, we added some backbends in-between sun salutation series. Inhaling in “urdhva hastasana” we bent backward a bit and stayed there for five breaths. “Viparita virabhadrasana” (reverse warrior), “camatkarasana” (wild thing), “udhva mukha svanasana” (upward facing dog), “bhujangasana” (cobra), “sphinx” and “salabhasana” (locust) were the other backbends.
We sat down in “dandasana” (staff pose) and lifted the arms up and then we neutralized the body with “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend). Before deep relaxation and resting pose, I aimed to clean the energy channels in the body with a “pranayama” (breathing) exercise: “Nadi shodhana:” We tried to equalized and balanced the right and left energies in the body, or the male and female energies, with this breathing exercise. In the most simple way, we sat in cross-legged position, used the index and little fingers of the right hand (or the left hand if we are left-handed) and opened closed the nostrils one by one. First we inhaled and exhaled from both nostils, then closed the right nostril and inhaled through the left nostril. As the exhale is over, we closed the left nostril and exhaled through the right nostril. After the exhale, we inhaled through the right nostril and closed it then exhaled through the left nostril and went on doing the same one by one. One from the right one from the left. To end the breathing exercise, we should exhale from the left nostril and place the hands on the knees to feel the effects of the breathing exercise on the body and mind.
Following “pranayama” exercise, we laid on our backs and felt the outward moving energy “vyana vayu” with “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist). We brought the energy to the center with “apanasana” (knees-to-chest pose) and spread the “prana” (life force) to the entire body with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).
How could I end the class after “savasana”? We realized that “vyana vayu” was an outward moving energy and an energy that was spread from the body named “aura.” We knew that this “vayu” helped “prana” (life force) to move from the energy channels named “nadi.” We also realized that we could feel a pose more and more deeply if we felt the upward, downward, inward, outward and centered energies. Now all five “vayu”s were totally in our mindb. From now on, we would not only do an “asana” but try to feel the energetical aspects of that “asana.”
And “vyana vayu”? Do I have a balanced life or am I nervous and is my mind confused? Am I in harmony and balance? Is my mind and body a whole, in balance and harmony or is my mind disjointed? Am I in harmony with myself and environment? Am I physicall, emotionally and mentally in balanc? Am I moving in grace? Do my thoughts and emotions freely move in my mind? Is my entire body in harmony and balance? This was what we was left behind “vyana vayu”-focused classes.

I have been waiting for summer to come for almost two months. As I am waiting, it is not coming. I love hot weather, sun, pool, sea and sunbathing. The more I want all these summer-linked things, the longer it takes for summer to come. Moreover, I want to write an article on what type of yoga we can do during the summer. However, I cannot write it as the summer has not arrived yet. I decided to write anyway as today is June 21, the summer solstice. What type of yoga should we do to celebrate the sumer solstice?

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Before answering this question, let’s try to explain what summer solstice mean and what happens that day. We experience two solstices a year, including winter solstice on December 21 and summer solstice on June 21. It is the time when the movement of the sun’s path (as seen from Earth) comes to a stop before it reverses direction.(You can visit https://burcuyircaliblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/yoga-during-winter/ to read my article on yoga during winter)

The summer solstice or June 21 is the longest day of the year. It is the completion of the cycle that began at the winter solstice. The sun is at its highest point on this day. After June 21, days start to get shorter and nights grow longer until September 23 — the autumnal equinox. I should remind you that all these things happen in the northern hemisphere. It is just the opposite in the southern hemisphere.
Let’s come back to the solstice after this brief scientific information. The solstice is the best time to let the nature embrace us. Particularly during the summer solstice, we can find ourselves dancing with bare feet on grass or sand with the sun warming our bodies and soul. So far, we have only talked about the effects of the solstice on our souls.

If you ask me what type of yoga we could do to mark the summer solstice, I would just tell you to perform 108 “surya namaskara” (sun salutations). The sun is at its highest point on this day, so it is so meaningful to mark the day with sun salutations. This way we can burn the fire within us. We can expand each time we inhale and imagine that the sun is warming us each time we exhale.
Can we only mark the summer solstice with a flow yoga? Of course not. We can also mark June 21 with yin yoga. We cannot burn the fire within us with this type of yoga but we can extinguish the fire and we can calm ourselves down on this summer solstice. These are types of yoga we may perform on June 21 summer solstice. Now let’s try to find an answer to the question “what type of yoga during summer”.
As you may remember from my previous articles, our bodies are divided into three groups according to Ayurveda (Indian science of living). They were “vata, pitta and kapha”. Only one type was dominant on some bodies. On some bodies, two or three types were active. Also, one of the body types can be dominant over other during different seasons. During cold, dark, severe and harsh winter, the “vata dosha” (air and space) in our bodies was increasing. Therefore, we were giving priority to grounding in our yoga practice. During winter, the “kapha dosha” (earth and water) was dominant and to this end, we were feeling heavy and exhausted. (You may read more on this issue on https://burcuyircaliblog.wordpress.com/2015/03/21/remedy-for-spring-fever-yoga/)
What happens to our bodies during summer? When summer comes, the “pitta” (fire and water) in our body increases. We may feel ourselves tired due to hot weather. Moreover, as the “pitta dosha” increases in our bodies, we may be agressive and demanding. For this reason, it will be good for us if we begin our yoga practice by lying supine during summer. Starting with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) to bring the awareness to our yoga practice, then a lateral stretch and a twist will make us feel well at the beginning of our yoga practice. This way we can balance our internal heat.
Not only at the beginning of our yoga practice but also during the entire practice we may prefer a calmer yoga style than a fast and active yoga style. This way, we can give more priority to relaxation and meditation. But, this does not mean that we should not practice a flow yoga during summer. We can do it in a calmer and more aware way when we practice flow yoga.
Naturally, we can begin the practice with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series and go on with all standing asanas such as “trikonasana” (triangle), “ardha chandrasana” (half moon pose), “utthita parsvakonasana” (wide angle pose), “setu bandhasana” (bridge), “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel), “bharadvajrasana” (sage Bharadvaj pose), “upavista konasana” (seated angle pose), “parivritta janu sirsasana” (twisted head to knee pose), “baddha konasana” (bound angle pose), “paschimottanasana” (east looking forward bend), “halasana” (plow pose), “salamba sarvangasana” (supported shoulderstand), “karnapidasana” (ear pressure pose), “matsyasana” (fish pose). We can focus on forwardbends in our yoga classes or own practice in order to calm the mind and body down.
In addition to all these asanas, we can use a “pranayama” technique called “sitali” to cool our bodies down. In short we curl the tongue and protrude it slightly past the lips. We inhale deeply and smoothly through the tongue and mouth and exhale through the nose. This technique calms and cools us. You may feel cooler when you do this pranayama for a few minutes.

Another “pranayama” technique we can use during summer is to close the right nostril and just breathe through the left nostril. Right nostril is the male and solar side of our bodies and named “pingala nadi” (solar energy center). The left nostril is the female and lunar side of our bodies and named “ida nadi” (lunar energy center). When we close the right nostril, we close the male, active and warming side of our bodies and when we inhale and exhale through the left nostril, we use our female, passive and cooling side.

At the end of our yoga practice, we can either rest in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) or we can reverse the flow of the body and rest in “viparita karani” (legs up to the wall).

Have you noticed that yoga is such a wide world that you may practice different types and use different “pranayama” techniques in every season. It is possible to warm or cool our bodies during winter and summer with these breathing techniques. So you may ask how to breath during spring or autumn? There is a breathing technique to equalize the right and left energies in our bodies, which can be used especially during spring and autumn. That is, yoga offers us many different things.
This or that way, summer or winter. Or spring or autumn. Not important. What is important is to love yoga and have yoga in our daily lives during all seasons. Maybe only by asanas, or by asanas, pranayama and meditation, or by asanas, pranayama, meditation and philosophy.