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2019 TOUR STOPS

These 2 Essential Breath Practices Will Help You Create Space Within to Access Intuition

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After all, you have to clean a glass before refilling it.

Santosh Maknikar, Salt Lake City-based yoga teacher, shared two essential pranayama practices—Kapalabhati and Kumbhaka—with the Live Be Yoga ambassadors

Live Be Yoga ambassadors Lauren Cohen and Brandon Spratt are on a road trip across the country to sit down with master teachers, host free local classes, and so much more—all to illuminate the conversations pulsing through the yoga community today. 

While Yoga for People and Santosh Yoga Institute founder Santosh Maknikar is not gracing the cover of magazines or racking up Instagram followers, he is in every sense a master teacher. Since he was a little boy in India, yoga has been ingrained in him; he was first introduced to the practice at the age of five.

For Santosh, yoga is a way of being. He shares his lifetime of wisdom with his local community by offering classes and teacher trainings in his home and hosting community events to offer yoga to those who may not otherwise have access to it.

In Salt Lake City, we had the opportunity to meet him in his basement studio, practice with his community, and share a homemade kitchari meal in his home. 

During our time together, Santosh led us through what he considers two of the most important breathing exercisesPracticed one after the other, they help practitioners create space within and access intuition.

We began focusing on exhalations, because we must start by clearing and cleansing the system. “Just like having glass of water, we first want to empty the glass and clean it before refilling,” said Santosh.

Kapalabhati (Skull-Shining Breath)

“Kapalabhati breath is the most important pranayama practice we can do,” says Santosh. In Sanskrit, kapala translates to “forehead” and bhati means “light.” 

“In the old days you could tell how enlightened a person was by looking at how shiny their forehead was,” he joked. In fact, there’s some truth to that: In this specific kriya (cleansing technique), the blood flows to the brain and activates the frontal cortex to help cultivate clarity and connect to intuition.

Kapalabhati can be done anytime the belly is completely empty. Santosh recommends practicing for one minute every day, beginning with 50-100 exhales per round and slowly building a capacity to stay with it for longer periods of time. The key, however, is to meet yourself where you are, and start slowly at a pace and length of time that feels appropriate for you.

Practice Kapalabhati:

Step 1: Find a comfortable seated position on your mat or cushion on the floor, ideally with your knees touching the earth or a blanket beneath them. You can sit cross-legged in Sukhasana (Easy Pose) or on a block on the shins in Virasana (Hero Pose).

Step 2: Keep the chin parallel to the floor and your arms soft and natural, either cupping your knees with your hands or holding the belly. Close the eyes gently or keep a soft, natural gaze.

Step 3: Inhale fully and begin taking sharp, quick exhalations, pulling the belly in all the way in each time. You won’t intentionally inhale in between these sharp exhales; the air will naturally re-enter your lungs after each pump.

*Begin with 50 rounds, then build up to 100, 200 and so on.

Contraindications: Always start slowly and build your capacity to practice this breath over time. Kapalabhati is may cause anxiety or dizziness; if you experience this, slow down or pause. Avoid this breath if you are pregnant, have high blood pressure, acid gastric issues, heart disease, or abdominal pain.

Kumbhaka Pranayama (Breath Retention)

Kumbhaka includes two types of practices, depending on whether you hold your breath at the top of the inhalation (antara) or at the bottom of the exhalation (bhaya). As you hold the breath at the top of the inhalation or at the bottom of the exhalation, Santosh says, you enter a deeper state of consciousness and may even increase lifespan. This breath practice offers benefits to the digestive, respiratory, and nervous systems.

Practice Antara Kumbhaka (Breath Retention on the Inhale):

Step 1: Set the timer for 30-60 seconds to begin.

Step 2: Sit tall, close the eyes softly, and keep the chin parallel to the ground.

Step 3: Inhale for as long as you can (start with 8-10 counts or the amount of time that feels comfortable for you), filling your lungs fully and pausing for 5-10 counts at the very top.

Step 4: When you feel you cannot hold any longer, gently and slowly exhale from your mouth.

Step 5: Repeat until the timer goes off.

Practice Bahya Kumbhaka (Breath Retention on the Exhale):

Step 1: Set the timer for 30-60 seconds to begin.

Step 2: Sit tall, close the eyes softly, and keep the chin parallel to the ground.

Step 3: Take a full inhale. Exhale completely (start with 8-10 counts or the amount of time that feels comfortable for you), and pause for 5-10 counts at the very bottom.

Step 4: When you feel you cannot hold any longer, gently and slowly inhale through your nose.

Step 5: Repeat until the timer goes off.

Follow the Live Be Yoga tour and get the latest stories @livebeyoga on Instagram and Facebook.



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2019 TOUR STOPS

Watch: "I Never Paid for Yoga Until I Came to This Country"

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How one yoga teacher is making the practice accessible in his community.

Many yogis talk about making yoga accessible, but how is it actually taking place? While visiting Salt Lake City, Lauren Cohen and Brandon Spratt joined Santosh Maknikar, founder of Yoga for People and Santosh Yoga Institute, for an evening of practice and kitchari in his home studio. Where Santosh grew up in India, everyone could participate in yoga—without paying a cent. In the video above, he discusses his mission to offer the practice to his community for free.

Live Be Yoga ambassadors Lauren Cohen and Brandon Spratt are on a road trip across the country to sit down with master teachers, host free local classes, and so much more—all to illuminate the conversations pulsing through the yoga community today. Follow the tour and get the latest stories @livebeyoga on Instagram and Facebook.

Watch also The True Meaning of Yoga, According to Richard Freeman & Mary Taylor



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2019 TOUR STOPS

Watch: The True Meaning of Yoga, According to Richard Freeman & Mary Taylor

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It all adds up to so much more than the shapes on your mat.

It’s time to kick off the 2019 Live Be Yoga Tour! Ambassadors Lauren Cohen and Brandon Spratt are on a road trip across the country to sit down with master teachers, host free local classes, and so much more—all to illuminate the conversations pulsing through the yoga community today. (Be sure to follow the tour and get the latest stories @livebeyoga on Instagram and Facebook.)

In their first meeting in Boulder, CO, they sat down with legendary Ashtanga teachers Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor and discussed the true meaning of yoga. Here, Richard and Mary offer instant inspiration on how your poses translate to something greater than their shapes.

Read also 5 Tips to Live Your Yoga, from Richard Freeman & Mary Taylor



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2019 TOUR STOPS

Are You Living Your Yoga? 5 Tips Inspired by Richard Freeman & Mary Taylor

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The master teachers share decades of wisdom to reveal the essence of yoga and how it manifests in our day-to-day lives.

Master Ashtanga teachers Mary Taylor and Richard Freeman sit down with LiveBeYoga ambassadors to emphasize how important it is to take your practice off the mat. “The most powerful thing is your relationship with other beings, rather than your ability to hold your breath or to focus your mind,” Richard said.

Live Be Yoga ambassadors Lauren Cohen and Brandon Spratt are on a road trip across the country to sit down with master teachers, host free local classes, and so much more—all to illuminate the conversations pulsing through the yoga community today. 

It was a true honor and privilege to kick off the LiveBeYoga tour in Boulder with two of the greatest living yoga teachers, Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor. There’s something unexplainable about what it felt like to spend an afternoon with two teachers I admire so deeply, but I’ll try; after all, they are two leaders who have held true to the roots of yoga and paved a path for so many students and teachers today. Together, they shared what it truly means to live yoga and distilled the essence of the practice into one key word: relationship.

As I walked into Richard and Mary’s light-filled home, I felt a surge of inspiration and ease. Yoga seemed to be infused in the intricate woodwork and architecture, in their collection of mystical artwork, in the surrounding foothills, and, most importantly, in their very being. Soft-spoken, yet deliberate and direct, Richard and Mary got right to the heart of the matter—just by being who they are and how they are.

Ironically enough, this became the root of our conversation: how to experience yoga as a way of being in and with the world and how to embody the practice to relate more intentionally to ourselves and others.

“Through yoga, things that are apparently separate start to interface. On the mat we are interfacing with various sensations, and off the mat it’s with other people at the coffee shop,” Richard said. “The most powerful thing is your relationship with other beings, rather than your ability to hold your breath or to focus your mind.” After all, if you can’t relate to your neighbor, what good will it do to get your leg above your head?

“The most powerful thing is your relationship with other beings, rather than your ability to hold your breath or to focus your mind.” —Richard Freeman

This way of viewing yoga is particularly important in this day and age, where instant gratification, certifications, and external validation are seemingly top of mind, especially with social media and more and more yogis enrolling in teacher trainings, leading retreats, and opening studios. 

“It takes a few years—if not a few decades—to notice how everything we’ve practiced and cultivated on the mat begins to automatically spill out into how we relate to and see others in the world,” Mary said. This integration process takes time, discipline, and diligence and requires one key quality: ongoing studentship.

When Richard and Mary opened their now-shuttered Boulder studio in 1988, yoga was not a career path like it is today. While on one level, it’s a wonderful thing that practice and profession can intersect, it has the potential to cause more harm than good. What happens when business and marketing motivation overrides the purity of intention? According to Richard and Mary, when a desire to create a successful brand becomes more important than the teachings and the practice itself, we’ve lost sight of the true essence of yoga.

As a full-time yoga teacher, I’ve been thinking a ton about what it REALLY means for my practice to intersect with all aspects of my life. I am constantly checking in with myself and my intention for teaching, because, in the midst of the hustle, it can at times get skewed. Especially now being on the road, away from my regular public class schedule and community, I am exploring other ways to share the practice, to live it, and to notice my reactions, preferences, and judgements in my day-to-day interactions. I continue to ask myself: Have I integrated my practice enough? What does this look like for me? Are my actions aligning with my values? Can I maintain the integrity of my intention while making a living? What supports me in taking my practice off the mat? What is my part in all of this?

Through our conversation, it became clear to me that what we were really talking about was how to refine and nurture personal practice so that we can be of service to others. In doing so, we must remain in constant inquiry and introspection. We must cultivate curiosity and compassion while remaining intentional and integral; we must look at ourselves with an internal magnifying glass and still remain in wonder of what we may not have seen. As Richard says, we must “practice all day everyday and all night every night.”

Inspired by our conversation, here are five key points to consider as you cultivate your practice—off the mat:

  • REMAIN CURIOUS: Ask questions, even when you think you know the answers.
  • BE COMPASSIONATE: Practice kindness toward yourself so that the same gesture can be extended to others.
  • STAY HUMBLE: Remain a student of yourself and of life; surround yourself with a sangha (community) and teacher that support your growth.
  • BEGIN AGAIN: Pause long enough to catch yourself in moments of misalignment and, as Mary says, to “reignite enthusiasm for life.”
  • REMEMBER: Return, again and again, to the original spark that drew you in; allow that spark to be the foundation from which you practice, share and live yoga.

As part of our journey on the road, we are asking each teacher we meet with what their single hope is for yoga practitioners today. Richard and Mary hope that you “discover what makes you truly happy, and from that sense of happiness, feel an embodied sense of connectedness to all other beings.” 

Follow the tour and get the latest stories @livebeyoga on Instagram and Facebook.



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