Author: liveyoga

the Third: Solar Plexus Chakra

The Third/ Solar Plexus Chakra and what you need to know about it

The Third/ Solar Plexus Chakra deals with our personal growth and development. A prominent part of our development is to discover our place and purpose in the world. When our primal survival needs are met, and we build a healthy emotional relation to pleasure through our body, we begin to investigate what it is we further want from life. To feel fulfilled and happy, we want to claim our unique place in the circle of life. From this natural urge to define ourselves, we begin to explore what it is that makes us unique and how we can use that to find our purpose. The energies that govern this personal sense of I-ness are located in our Third/Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura in Sanskrit). It is associated with the element of fire.  The third Chakra is the home of our power, self-esteem, self-image, energy, will, responsibility, and life purpose.

A Simple Guide to the Root chakra.
A Simple Guide to the Sacral Chakra
A Simple Guide to the Solar Plexus Chakra.


What is The Third/ Solar Plexus Chakra and how it affects us

The Third Chakra is located just below the solar plexus (our diaphragm). It is in the centre of what is often described as the gut-brain. Since our guts are lined up with many nerve cells, it forms a direct connection with the brain. The constant dialogue between the gut (emotions) and the brain (thoughts) results in a personal sense of I that is unique and authentic and wishes to apply itself onto the world.

These energies of personal will, power, self-esteem, digestion and assertiveness are part of the Solar Plexus Chakra, which is associated with the element Fire. This Fire quality pushes us to develop, discover and to expand our life all the time from inside out. From here our authentic personality grows as we begin to touch the world in our own meaningful and unique way.


How does it feel when we have a healthy sense of Self?

As humans, we always wish to find and do what we love. We feel unfulfilled if we spend our days doing something we don’t. The active fire energy of our Third Chakra is essential in helping us grow towards our potential. When we listen to it we learn about what moves us and what touches our curiosity and passion. We are aware of our own energy and let it guide us. Through this, we develop a healthy sense of self. This helps us to find our place in the world and apply ourselves fully. When we notice that life starts providing us with possibilities fitting to who we are and what we love, it is a sign the energies in our Third Chakra are in balance.

This brings a sense of fulfilment and happiness that is based on us applying our authentic self onto the world. We found jobs, relationships or places to live that give our life a true sense of purpose. No longer do we worry extensively about what we should do and where we belong. We dare to stand up for ourselves, our passions and inner voice. There is a constant process in which we grow further and discover more branches of our own personal tree of life.


How can our Third/ Solar Plexus Chakra become imbalanced?

Life is constantly demanding for us to react. Things happen all around us and circumstances change constantly. As healthy humans, we get better at reacting to life. We respond to the weather, to people around us, to our bodies, thoughts, sensations, and so on. Life is really flowing within and without us. However, often we tend to live more on the outside and ignore our inner fire. This causes problems because our fire needs to be recognised and given the freedom to express itself. When we do not listen to our own inner calling and act upon it, our life boils down to a chain of reaction to things on the outside. We begin to define ourselves only through what is happening to us. We don’t allow our inner fire to find its way into our external lives.

When our third Chakra is imbalanced we don’t have a clear sense of knowing ourselves and what makes us special. We may find ourselves doing jobs we don’t really connect with just because we have been doing them for some time or because of the need to simply survive. We feel disconnected from our life purpose and the sense of personal fulfilment that comes from living our purpose. It’s common to feel low on self-esteem, or even experience an identity crisis. We may feel ‘burned out’ in our jobs and in desperate need of a break. We become hungry for meaning in our lives beyond comfort, pleasures or social status.


How to balance the energies in our Solar Plexus?

In nature, fire is both destructive and nourishing. When out of control, fire can burn down a forest and all the life in it. When under control, it can warm our bodies, heat our food and save our lives. But even when the forest burns down, the soil which is left is incredibly fertile. New life always starts to grow straight away.

The fire of the Third Chakra can work for us in the same way. As we have seen in the previous paragraph, not allowing our inner fire to burn healthily can cause us to be imbalanced into different directions. However, it is important to understand that this is a very natural process through which we all go. We have to experience an imbalanced state before we can truly realize that we have to correct our course. There is an opportunity for us to grow in the process. It is a chance to realize our true self and its place in the world.

Through practices like Yoga and Mindfulness, we can start to see more clearly who we really are as opposed to who we think we are. We start to see we are an integrated part of the world. Our personal lives are important but at the same time also a part of a  bigger whole. We accept that this polarity (us and the world) is not a paradox to be solved but a dance to be enjoyed. This recognition balances our sense of self and ego. We value ourselves but do not take our ego too seriously. It is not the sole centre of our whole being – just the centre of our personality. From here we naturally find our place in the world.


Taken from ManipuraMala

The Second/ Sacral Chakra

The Second/ Sacral Chakra and what you need to know about it

The Second/ Sacral Chakra is about our senses and emotions. As children, we begin to know the world through our senses. They tell us which things cause pleasure or pain. Naturally, we start longing for pleasure and avoiding pain by trying to control the things we come in touch with. This dialogue with the world affects much of our sensuality, libido, and passion for anything we do. These energies are located at our Second/ Sacral Chakra (Swadhisthana in Sanskrit). which governs the ‘pleasure seeker’ inside us. Here is what you should know about it and the way to balance it.

A Simple Guide to the Root chakra.
A Simple Guide to the Solar Plexus Chakra.

What is The Second/ Sacral Chakra and how it affects us

The Second/ Sacral Chakra is located at the roof of the pelvis, just below the navel. Together with the first chakra, it governs the primal energies of our body. But while the First/ Root Chakra mostly deals with our primal need for survival, the Sacral Chakra is about the body’s interaction with the external world. It governs our emotional reaction to its sensations.

When our roots are firmly planted (being physically safe and grounded), we want to experience the world. As we grow, our emotional landscape develops through interaction with the world. The nourishment we receive on this level is not only physical but mostly sensory and emotional. We discover the pleasure in things and develop cravings to the positive sensations that some bring us. Since we are not in control over our sensations or their duration, we begin to develop emotional reactions towards them. We crave pleasant things and fear their unavoidable end. On the other hand, we fear other things and long for their end.

The emotional energy in our Sacral Chakra (which is associated with the Water Element) is forever in motion. It keeps flowing and changing throughout our lives. Like water, our push and pull game with the world is in constant flux and never rest. Our sexuality, creativity, and passions all arise from here. So too most of our addictions and fixations. In many cases, this energy is the silent driving force behind what we do (or avoid) in the world as adults.

How our emotional and sexual energies become balanced?

When the Second/Sacral chakra is in balance, we are in a healthy relationship with objects in the external world. We allow ourselves to enjoy what the world brings us without being attached to it. There is no shame or guilt in us just because we allow our emotions and feelings to be. When we manage this, we can let go of pleasure and accept less pleasurable moments. We are emotionally balanced as we feel a capacity to handle a full spectrum of emotions. The push-pull dialogue with the world is not overwhelming.

The more we can accept our emotional spectrum, the more we are able to accept it in others. We begin to recognise ourselves at this stage as sensual and sexual beings with different appetites and urges. From here, we form relationships with others that are pleasurable, non-judgmental, and non-addictive. We let it all come, stay and leave, and we are in peace with that. Just like the Water Element that governs the Sacral Chakra, it’s energy needs to stay fluid. It just needs to come and go. This is the first secret to emotional balance.

How our emotions become imbalanced?

When we find ourselves too invested with seeking pleasure or avoiding pain, we create a pattern of addiction. We start associating happiness and life with our sensations. We become dependant on objects and begin to see the world and the things in it (people included) as a means to an end.

Rather than allowing sensations and emotions to come and go, we start holding on to some while pushing others away. Since this ultimately leads to more pain, we feel lost, anxious and more addicted. On the other hand, when we become selective of what kind of emotions are allowed and which are not, we may also begin to judge ourselves for it. We push away a natural part of our being. This causes feelings of shame or guilt.

The result is further blockages in our emotional landscape. The natural flow is cut off. We are afraid to express our emotional and physical needs. This ends in insecurity, sudden outbursts of anger, fear or sadness, or emotional detachment.

Physically, blockages in our Sacral Chakra can result in issues with the lower abdomen (stomach/colon) and lower back, kidneys and reproductive organs.

How to balance our Second/ Sacral Chakra

Everything in nature moves in cycles. Just like Earth and its seasons, the moon has its cycle and affect the rise and fall of the water on our planet (tides). The fluid emotional and sensual energies of our Sacral Chakra are no different. The more we allow the natural rising of these energies, without pushing them forwards or holding them back, we start to find and accept our natural equilibrium.

This is not only teaching us to recognize and trust the cycles of nature within us, but also to see that we can also bring extra balance to the table. Our emotional nature needs to be acknowledged without being totally absorbed by it. We can observe the sacral energy rising. It is about allowing ourselves to feel our emotional reactions without interfering. When its time we allow them to leave again.

It is like observing our breath without controlling it. It is a meditative practice and can lead to emotional balance and real spiritual growth.

Taken from ManipuraMala


The First/ Root Chakra and what you need to know about it

The First/ Root Chakra governs our primal needs to survive, to be safe, and to belong. To survive we need food, shelter, and protection from danger. It is difficult for us to live a balanced and happy life when these basic needs are not taken care off. We need to feel connected to the Earth by being an integral part of it. These primal energies are centred in our Root Chakra (Muladhara in Sanskrit). Here is what you should know about it!

A Simple Guide to the Sacral Chakra
A Simple Guide to the Solar Plexus Chakra.

What is The First/ Root Chakra and how it affects us

The Root chakra locates at the base of our spine, just below the tailbone. It is all about security, safety and a sense of belonging. In simple words – Grounding.  It takes care of our primal needs, physically, mentally and emotionally. Only after this happens, we have a solid foundation to evolve as human beings. Just like plants; first the roots arise, then the stem grows, the leaves, and finally, flowers appear. In other words; without a proper foundation of safety and belonging, it is difficult to speak of happiness and fulfilment on higher levels.


How do we plant our Roots firmly?

We have to plant our roots firmly to feel connected to the Earth. When we do this, we feel safe and at home, wherever we are. This may mean that we feel healthy and energetic even if we experience hard times once in a while. Therefore, when our Root Chakra opens, we tend to have the self-esteem and trust in our personal path because we feel connected or part of a bigger whole – the planet. Whatever challenge life throws our way, we are able to handle it from a grounded sense that all will be alright in the end.

Deep down we always know that we are connected and protected. Such trust eases the primal anxiety we all share as human beings. Working on this basic level is the same as preparing the soil in our garden, for instance. Once it is fertile and moist, we can start sowing some seeds knowing that they will grow well.



How do the energies in our first chakra get imbalanced?

The first/ Root Chakra can be imbalanced on various levels. Physically, it can be due to some real state of danger. As a result, most of our energy directs itself to the need to survive. It wants us to just find food or a safe place to sleep. Severe Illness or chronic pain may also challenge our sense of physical safety.

On the Emotional side, the root chakra relates to a sense of belonging we all crave. Our basic sense of being part of the world (family, country, humanity, etc.) and have the right to exist in it. Even if we are not in any real physical danger our Root Chakra can get out of balance because our minds (thoughts) may experience danger. Psychology teaches us that If we have not experienced a safe and loving environment as children, our minds may project this sense of basic insecurity onto our present lives and situations. In this case, our primal energies block the Root Chakra. This will lead us to various degrees of depression, anxiety, fear, and sometimes physical conditions of the pelvic area


How to balance the primal energies in our root chakra?

Planet Earth is the biggest source of grounded healing energy we have. Also, our human bodies consist of Earth. Within that body, the Root Chakra is our primary connection to the planet. It allows us to recharge with Earth’s power and dispose of what we do not need. However, this connection is compromised when the energy in our Root Chakra is blocked. To restore balance, we need to reconnect to Earth on every level. It has to do with the process of grounding. But how to come back to the most basic dialogue between our bodies and the planet?

We just have to trust that the planet will always give us what we need, on every level. We recognize we are safe and taken care off, that we belong, always and everywhere. Such recognition can create faith that will reconnect our roots to the planet.  Here we begin to tap into the healing and fresh flow of endless energy.

Taken from ManipuraMala 

Balance the first/root Chakra


Menstruation Yoga sequences for self practice

During menstruation, quiet practice of sitting postures, supine supported postures and supported forward extensions is best for the physical conditions. The find suitable classes for you, visit our Class Page.

Menstruation sequence – beginners

This menstruation sequence is suitable for beginners but not limited, all levels can benefit from this sequence. Students are encouraged to stay in the pose according to their capacity; repetitions are recommended over timings, to avoid strain.

Menstrual Yoga Sequence


More Sequences

Here you will find level 1 sequences!
Here you will find level 2 sequences!


Level 2 yoga sequences for self practice

On this page, you can find various yoga sequences suitable for level II. To know more about our Level 2 Iyengar classes, visit our Class Page.

Four general sequences

These level II sequences include poses including Salamba Sirsasana (head stand). Timings are given for some poses; students are encouraged to do others according to their capacity; repetitions are recommended over timings, to avoid strain.

level 2 sequences

Grounding sequence

This Grounding sequence uses many seated asanas including the basic sitting asanas, seated twists, seated forward extensions and meditation asana as Siddhasana. Students are encouraged to stay in the pose according to their capacity; repetitions are recommended over timings, to avoid strain.

Grounding Yoga Sequence

More Sequences

Here you will find level 1 sequences!
Here you will find Special yoga sequences for menstruation!


Level 1 yoga sequences for self practice

On this page, you can find various yoga sequences suitable for level I.

Four general sequences

These Iyengar Yoga Level 1 Sequences include foundation poses from the Teacher-in-Training certification including Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulder stand). Timings are given for some poses; students are encouraged to do others according to their capacity; repetitions are recommended over timings, to avoid strain.


Basic standing sequence

This Basic standing sequence includes the basic standing poses with restorative supine poses towards the end of the practice. Students are encouraged to stay in the pose according to their capacity; repetitions are recommended over timings, to avoid strain.

Standing Poses Sequence

20 min ‘yoga fix’ sequence

This 20-Minute-Yoga-Fix-Sequence is ideal for ‘on the go’ or if you are short of time. The sequence includes 10 asanas only and is designed to energise the body and calm the mind. Students are encouraged to stay in the pose according to their capacity; repetitions are recommended over timings, to avoid strain.


More Sequences

Here you will find level 2 sequences!
Here you will find Special yoga sequences for menstruation!

Sanskrit LiveYoga Blog

Sanskrit Dictionary – the language of yoga

Sanskrit is the original language of yoga. The names of the asanas (postures) often help to understand the pose. Some are names of sages from a known legend/poem, while others are names of animals, body parts, movements, and more.

The Sanskrit names of asanas are used in most Iyengar classes. I found that I could benefit more from the asana if I know the Sanskrit name. I immediately prepare for the following asana and don’t have to wait and see what others are doing first.

I made this list when I wanted to learn the Sanskrit names. I chose the words that were part of the most common asanas practised in class at the time. It is not a complete list but it should get you going.


Sanskrit – English Dictionary


SanskritEnglishAsanas (Sanskrit)Poses (English)
TadamountainTadasanaMountain pose
VrksatreeVrksasana, Adho Mukha VrksasanaTree pose, Full Arm balance pose
Utthitaextended, strechedUtthita Trikonasana, Utthita Parsvakonasana, Utthita Hasta PadangusthasanaExtended trianlge pose, Extended lateral angle pose, Extended hand-to-big-toe pose.
TrithreeUtthita TrikonasanaExtended trianlge pose
KonaangleUtthita Trikonasana, Baddha Konasana, Supta KonasanaExtended trianlge pose, Bound angle pose, Reclining angle pose
TrikonatraingleUtthita TrikonasanaExtended trianlge pose
Parivrttarevolved, turned round or backParivrtta Trikonasana, parivrtta Parsvakonasana, Parivrtta Janu SirsasanaRevolving triangle, Revolving lateral angle pose, Revolving head-to-knee pose
Parsvaside, flankUtthita Parsvakonasana, Parsva HalasanaExtended lateral angle pose, Side Plough pose
Virahero, warriorVirasanaHero pose
Virabhadraname of a hero in Siva’s armyVirabhadrasana (I,II,III)Warrior (I,II,III)
Suptasupine, lying downSupta Virasana, Supta Baddha Konasana, Supta PadangusthasanaReclining Hero pose, Rclining bound angle pose, Reclining hand-to-big-toe pose
ArdhahalfArdha Chandrasana, Ardha Matsyendrasana (I,II, III)Half-moon pose, Half spinal twists
ChandramoonArdha ChandrasanaHalf-moon pose
HastahandUtthita Hasta Padangusthasana, PadahastasanaExtended hand-to-big-toe pose. Hand under foot pose
PadafootPadangusthasana, Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, Prasarita PadottanasanaHand-to-big-toe pose, Extended hand-to-big-toe pose, Wide-legged forward extension
Angusthathe big toePadangusthasanaHand-to-big-toe pose
UtintenseParsvottanasanaIntense side stretch pose
Tanto extend, stretch, lengthenParsvottanasanaIntense side stretch pose
Uttanaintense strecthParsvottanasana, Prasarita Padottanasana, Uttanasana, PaschimottanasanaIntense side stretch pose, Intense standing forward extension, Intense seated forward extension
Prasaritaexpanded, spreadPrasarita PadottanasanaWide-legged forward extension
UstracamelUstrasanaCamel pose
Utkatapowerful, fierce, unevenUtkatasanaChair pose
GarudaeagleGarudasanaEagle pose
SalabhalocustSalabhasanaLocust pose
DhanubowDhanurasana, Urdhva DhanurasanaBow pose, Upward Bow or Full Wheel pose
Dandastaff, rodDandasanaStaff pose
ChaturfourChaturanga dandasanaFour-Limbed Staff pose
Angalimb, partsChaturanga dandasanaFour-Limbed Staff pose
BhujangaserpentBhujangasanaCobra pose
UrdhvaupwardsUrdhva Mukha Svanasana, Urdhva DandasanaUpward facing dog pose. Upward staff pose
AdhodownwardsAdho Mukha SvanasanaDownward facing dog pose
Mukhaface, mouthUrdhva Mukha Svanasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Gomukhasana, Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana, Adho Mukha VrksasanaUpward facing dog pose, Downward facing dog pose, Cow-face pose, Upward facing intense west stretch, Full arm balance pose
SvanadogUrdhva Mukha Svanasana, Adho Mukha SvanasanaUpward facing dog pose, Downward facing dog pose
Paripurnaentire, completeParipurna NavasanaFull Boat pose
Navaship, boatParipurna Navasana, Ardha NavasanaFull Boat pose, Half boat pose
GocowGomukhasanaCow face pose
SiddhaSemi-divine being, inspired sage, seer, prophetSiddhasanaAccomplished pose
Baddhacaught, restrainedBaddha KonasanaBound angle pose
PadmalotusPadmasanaLotus pose
MatsyafishMatsyasanaFish pose
MatsyendraLord of the fish, one of founders of Hatha VidyaMatsyendrasanaSpinal twist
JanukneeJanu SirsasanaHead to knee forward extension
SirsaheadSirsasanaHead stand
Paschimathe west (back of body)PaschimottanasanaSeated forward extension pose.
MarichiRay of light. Name of a sage. Son of Brahma and grandfather of SuryaMarichyasana (I,II)Marichi’s pose. Twist
SuryasunSurya NamaskarSun salutation
UpavisthaseatedUpavistha KonasanaWide-angle seated forward extension pose
Purvathe east (front of body)PurvottanasanaUpward Plank pose
Salambawith supportSalamba Sirsasana, Salamba SarvangasanaSupported Head-stand, Supported shoulder-stand
SarvaallSalamba SarvangasanaSupported All limbs pose (Shoulder stand)
EkaoneEka Pada Sirsasana, Eka Pada Sarvangasana, Eka Pada Viparita DandasanaOne-legged head stand, One-legged shoulder stand, One-legged inverted staff pose
HalaploughHalasanaPlough pose
KarnaearKarnapidasanaEar-pressure pose
Pidapain, discomfort, pressureKarnapidasanaEar-pressure pose
SetuBridge, dam, dikeSetu Bandha SarvangasanaBridge pose
BandhaConstruction/formationSetu Bandha SarvangasanaBridge pose
MayurapeacockMayurasanaPeacock pose
Bharadvajaname of sageBharadvajasanaBharadvaja’s twist pose
MalagarlandMalasanaGarland pose
HamsaswanHamsasanaSwan pose
Pinchachin or featherPincha MayurasanaForearm balance pose
KurmatortoiseKurmasanaTortoise pose
Skandaname of Kartikeya the god of warSkandasanaGod of War pose
Hanumanname of a powerful monkeyHanumanasanaMonkey pose
Dwitwo, bothDwi Padda Viparita DandasanaTwo-legged Inverted Staff pose
Viparitareversed, invertedDwi Padda Viparita DandasanaTwo-legged Inverted Staff pose
SavacorpseSavasanaCorpse pose

Invocation to Sage Patanjali

At the beginning of Iyengar Yoga classes, we chant an invocation to sage Patanjali – the father of yoga.

Visit our schedule page to find out when we teach Iyengar Yoga at LiveYoga Amsterdam.
Every other week we have workshops based on the Iyengar Style of Yoga. Visit our Event page.


According to Indian mythology, Patanjali was the incarnation of lord Adisesa. Legend says he fell into the praying hands of Ganukia who had no children. One day she was praying to the Sun God while a little snake in the water in the palms of her hands turned into a human shape. She raised him as her child and named him Patanjali; pata = fall, anjali = the folding of the hands during prayer.

Patanjali is the author of three important commentaries; the Mahabhasya, on grammar for right speech, Ayurveda, medicine for health, and The Yoga Sutras – showing how through Yoga practice we can gain control on our mind and emotions, overcome obstacles and attain union with the divine.


patanjali invocation

Salutation to the noblest sage – Patanjali, who gave us yoga for serenity of mind, grammar for purity of speech, and medicine for the health of the body.

I prostrate before Patanjali, whose upper body has a human form, whose arms hold a conch and disk, and whose crowned by a thousand headed cobra,

O incarnation of Adisesa, my salutations to Thee.


The conch and the disk are symbols for alarm and destruction in the case of a danger such as evil thoughts or disease. Through the practice of yoga, one learns to recognize and eliminate these evil thoughts or diseases and reach God.

The Cobra has many symbols, every religion had some sort of serpent worship. In the ‘Hathayoga Paradipika’ the Lord of Serpents, Ananta (=infinite, eternal), supports the earth and protects it. It is believed that snakes shed their skins and emerge as new, therefore they are a symbol of eternity, fertility, regeneration, evolution and wisdom. It’s venom is poisonous but medicinal, it represents the practice of Yoga in which we learn how to convert emotions like anger, greed and lust to control, contentment, love and compassion.

The Human Torso symbolises the essence of Yoga, our evolution through the yoga practice. As Patanjali transformed from a small snake into a human body, so does anyone can grow, expand their intelligence and transform.

Yoga and Pilates Classes

Rhythm of Breathing Affects Memory and Fear

Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered for the first time that the rhythm of breathing creates electrical activity in the human brain that enhances emotional judgments and memory recall.

Visit our class page to find out which of our breathing classes suits you!

Breathing is not just for oxygen; it’s now linked to brain function and behaviour.

These effects on behaviour depend critically on whether you inhale or exhale and whether you breathe through the nose or mouth.

In the study, individuals were able to identify a fearful face more quickly if they encountered the face when breathing in compared to breathing out. Individuals also were more likely to remember an object if they encountered it on the inhaled breath than the exhaled one. The effect disappeared if breathing was through the mouth.

“One of the major findings in this study is that there is a dramatic difference in brain activity in the amygdala and hippocampus during inhalation compared with exhalation,” said lead author Christina Zelano, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “When you breathe in, we discovered you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala and hippocampus, all across the limbic system.”


Northwestern scientists first discovered these differences in brain activity while studying seven patients with epilepsy who were scheduled for brain surgery. A week prior to surgery, a surgeon implanted electrodes into the patients’ brains in order to identify the origin of their seizures. This allowed scientists to acquire electro-physiological data directly from their brains. The recorded electrical signals showed brain activity fluctuated with breathing. The activity occurs in brain areas where emotions, memory and smells are processed.

This discovery led scientists to ask whether cognitive functions typically associated with these brain areas — in particular fear processing and memory — could also be affected by breathing.

Image shows the location of the amygdala in the brain.

The amygdala is strongly linked to emotional processing, in particular, fear-related emotions. So scientists asked about 60 subjects to make rapid decisions on emotional expressions in the lab environment while recording their breathing. Presented with pictures of faces showing expressions of either fear or surprise, the subjects had to indicate, as quickly as they could, which emotion each face was expressing. image is for illustrative purposes only.

The amygdala is strongly linked to emotional processing, in particular, fear-related emotions. So scientists asked about 60 subjects to make rapid decisions on emotional expressions in the lab environment while recording their breathing. Presented with pictures of faces showing expressions of either fear or surprise, the subjects had to indicate, as quickly as they could, which emotion each face was expressing.

When faces were encountered during inhalation, subjects recognized them as fearful more quickly than when faces were encountered during exhalation. This was not true for faces expressing surprise. These effects diminished when subjects performed the same task while breathing through their mouths. Thus the effect was specific to fearful stimuli during nasal breathing only.

In an experiment aimed at assessing memory function — tied to the hippocampus — the same subjects were shown pictures of objects on a computer screen and told to remember them. Later, they were asked to recall those objects. Researchers found that recall was better if the images were encountered during inhalation.

The findings imply that rapid breathing may confer an advantage when someone is in a dangerous situation, Zelano said.


Nasal Respiration Entrains Human Limbic Oscillations and Modulates Cognitive Function

The need to breathe links the mammalian olfactory system inextricably to the respiratory rhythms that draw air through the nose. In rodents and other small animals, slow oscillations of local field potential activity are driven at the rate of breathing (∼2–12 Hz) in olfactory bulb and cortex, and faster oscillatory bursts are coupled to specific phases of the respiratory cycle. These dynamic rhythms are thought to regulate cortical excitability and coordinate network interactions, helping to shape olfactory coding, memory, and behavior. However, while respiratory oscillations are a ubiquitous hallmark of olfactory system function in animals, direct evidence for such patterns is lacking in humans. In this study, we acquired intracranial EEG data from rare patients (Ps) with medically refractory epilepsy, enabling us to test the hypothesis that cortical oscillatory activity would be entrained to the human respiratory cycle, albeit at the much slower rhythm of ∼0.16–0.33 Hz. Our results reveal that natural breathing synchronizes electrical activity in human piriform (olfactory) cortex, as well as in limbic-related brain areas, including amygdala and hippocampus. Notably, oscillatory power peaked during inspiration and dissipated when breathing was diverted from nose to mouth. Parallel behavioral experiments showed that breathing phase enhances fear discrimination and memory retrieval. Our findings provide a unique framework for understanding the pivotal role of nasal breathing in coordinating neuronal oscillations to support stimulus processing and behavior.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Animal studies have long shown that olfactory oscillatory activity emerges in line with the natural rhythm of breathing, even in the absence of an odor stimulus. Whether the breathing cycle induces cortical oscillations in the human brain is poorly understood. In this study, we collected intracranial EEG data from rare patients with medically intractable epilepsy, and found evidence for respiratory entrainment of local field potential activity in human piriform cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus. These effects diminished when breathing was diverted to the mouth, highlighting the importance of nasal airflow for generating respiratory oscillations. Finally, behavioral data in healthy subjects suggest that breathing phase systematically influences cognitive tasks related to amygdala and hippocampal functions.

“Nasal Respiration Entrains Human Limbic Oscillations and Modulates Cognitive Function” by Christina Zelano, Heidi Jiang, Guangyu Zhou, Nikita Arora, Stephan Schuele, Joshua Rosenow and Jay A. Gottfried in Journal of Neuroscience. Published online December 7 2016 doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2586-16.2016




Half Moon Pose

The Sanskrit word chandra refers to the brilliance of the moon. In a pose like Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose), the extension of your torso in one direction and the uplifted leg in the other draws a line that represents the flat edge of a half moon, while the energy in your extended arms and standing leg radiate out like beams in the night sky. Half Moon Pose is a great asana for learning how to balance and grow awareness in what can at first seem a disorienting position. The pose can also ease lower-back problems, relieving sacrum pain, sciatica pain, and lumbar aches. Note, though, that Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose) is both the entrance and the exit to Ardha Chandrasana, so you’ll need to be comfortable with that pose first. Because of the external rotation of the standing leg, opening of the chest, and lateral extension of the spine, Ardha Chandrasana is like a balancing version of Triangle, and you may just find that your Triangle improves because of Half Moon.

The idea of “radiating out” in a balancing pose may sound out of reach. But I’ve found that if you concentrate on creating stability in your standing leg, hip, shoulder blades, and tailbone, you’ll have a strong foundation from which to extend and expand in all directions. The variations here will help you build that foundation so you can balance with confidence and shine in all directions. In the first variation, with your back against the wall, you can experience the shape of the pose without having to struggle to keep your balance; in the second variation, you’ll focus on the stretch of the torso and top leg in opposite directions. In the final pose, you can put all of the components together, so that with strength and stability, you can stretch and expand like a brilliant moon.

Pose Benefits:

  • Helps with some kinds of lower back pain
  • Strengthens back, legs, hips, and abdomen
  • Increases flexibility of spinal muscles
  • Eases premenstrual tension


  • Recent hip or knee replacement
  • Osteoporosis
  • High blood pressure or eye strain (avoid looking up)

The Great Wall

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Doing this pose with your back against a wall gives you a chance to feel the shape without much of the challenge of balancing, allowing you to work on the proper alignment and the muscle actions in the legs, hips, back, and shoulders. The wall can also alleviate any fear of falling backward, and thus build confidence in the pose.
For this variation I recommend using a block for your hand. The block is helpful if you have a stiff back or tight hamstrings. It essentially raises the floor so that you can lift your torso and experience the lightness and sense of expansion of Ardha Chandrasana.

To begin, stand with your back against a sturdy wall. Step your feet wide apart, place a block in between the outer edge of the right foot and the wall, and extend your arms to the sides. Turn your right foot and leg out 90 degrees so that the inner edge of the foot is parallel to the wall. Turn the left toes in slightly, but keep the back of your left heel in contact with the wall. Exhale and extend the torso over your right leg, place your right hand on the block, and come into Triangle Pose. Bend the right leg deeply, and step your left foot halfway toward the right foot as you move the right hand and block about a foot (or more if you’re tall) forward. Straighten and firm the left leg and keep the right leg bent as you lift the left leg up until the foot is slightly above the pelvis. Turn your right knee out, aiming for the right foot’s little toe, as you pull the quadriceps up and straighten the right leg.

Press your left thighbone and heel into the wall. Extend the back of your left heel along the wall away from your head as you lengthen your chest away from the left heel. Roll the shoulders back and extend the left arm up in line with the right arm.

Do you feel light and free? Or have you relaxed the muscles, collapsed the chest, and bent the standing knee in order to balance? To radiate extension, inhale as you lengthen your tailbone and buttock toward the left foot. Turn your chest toward the ceiling and the left side of the waist toward the wall. Your head and left shoulder, arm, and heel should be on the wall. Your right buttock may be touching too, but don’t lean it on the wall.

To come out of the pose, exhale and bend the right knee deeply. Now reach back with the left leg to place the left foot back down on the floor. Put your right hand on your right ankle and straighten both legs, returning to Utthita Trikonasana. Come up on the inhalation, and repeat on your left side.

Moving Up and Out

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In this variation, the wall does not aid with balance as much as it gives the raised foot something to press into, which helps bring more life into your uplifted leg and align it with the spine. Stand with the outer edge of your left foot against the wall and step your feet apart so that the distance between them is a little less than it would be for Triangle. Your body is perpendicular to the wall this time, not leaning against it. Turn the right foot 90 degrees away from the wall. Place a block on the outside of your right foot. With your right hand on the block and right knee bent, step the left foot forward toward the right foot, and move the block forward 12 inches or more. Then raise the left leg and place the sole of the left foot on the wall. Rest your left hand on your left hip with your elbow bent.

Take a look at both legs to make sure you’re set up properly. The left foot should be a little higher than the left side of the pelvis and parallel to the floor, with the arch in line with the right heel. The right leg should be perpendicular to the floor. If it’s not, you may need to step your right foot closer to or farther from the wall. Finally, take the back of your head in line with your buttocks.

Once you’re set up, bend both knees. Turn your right thigh out so that your kneecap points over the right toes. On the inhalation, pull your right kneecap and quadriceps up as you straighten your right leg, maintaining the rotation. Now push your left foot into the wall and straighten the left leg by pressing the front of the thigh back. As you lengthen the left Achilles tendon and inner heel into the wall with the foot flexed, lengthen the entire backside of the left leg from the buttocks toward the wall. Now extend your chest and torso away from the wall.

Then, once again, bend the right knee and turn the right leg out as you lengthen both buttocks toward the wall, away from your head. Straighten the right knee, keeping the buttocks and outer right thigh turning toward the wall as you pull the right thigh muscles up from the knee to the hip. Repeating this will help train and strengthen your legs and hips, so that instead of sinking into your hip and knee, your joints support the lift of the spine. Move your shoulder blades forward into the chest, inhale, and revolve your chest toward the ceiling. If you feel balanced, turn your head to look up.

You can hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute; to come down, exhale and bend the right leg, step the left foot back to the floor at the wall, and straighten both legs before standing up. Now turn around and repeat on the other side.

On Your Own

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When you do the final pose without the support of a wall, you’ll combine the alignment of the back body that you learned in the first variation with the alignment of the uplifted leg that you learned in the second. The back of the body needs to be strong to support you as the wall did. The standing leg and its hip and the shoulder blades need to be firm to help you balance.

Begin by coming into Utthita Trikonasana. Then enter the pose as you did for the variations. As you inhale, extend the left leg fully and look straight ahead (not at the floor), with your chin in line with your breastbone. Lengthen the chest to the right so that the right armpit comes directly over the right hand.

Keeping your left leg absolutely straight and your inner left thigh firm, inhale and lift your left leg up toward the ceiling. Reach out from your inner left thigh through your inner heel, broaden the bottom of the left foot, and extend the entire backside of your left leg. Start with your foot flexed, and then press out through your big toe.

Balance the weight evenly on all four corners of your right foot, turn the right leg out, and pull the quadriceps up as you straighten the right leg. Refine the work of the standing leg by cutting your outer right hip, buttock, and tailbone back away from your head without throwing the left leg forward or back.

Now extend your torso to the right as you lengthen the right armpit forward away from the right thigh. Inhale and extend the left arm up toward the ceiling; use the pull of the left arm to draw the left side of the chest up and away from the right arm. Move the shoulder blades in toward your chest, and open your chest as you turn your trunk toward the ceiling. As you inhale, roll both shoulders back, the way you did when you had the wall behind you, and revolve your chest upward. If you feel stable, turn your head to look up at the top hand. With your legs, hips, spine, and shoulders aligned, you can elongate your lower back by lengthening your top leg and your torso away from one another.

To come out of the pose, bend your right knee deeply and reach back with the left leg to take a large step back with the left foot. Straighten the right leg and return to Utthita Trikonasana. Repeat on the other side. See if you can maintain some of the opening from Half Moon Pose at the end in Triangle so that the radiating quality of firmness and expansion of Ardha Chandrasana becomes accessible in all of your yoga asanas.

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