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Vacancy: Opening the Body to Pranayama

Rahel Wasserfall is the incredible yoga instructor behind Artemis Yoga’s four-week Pranayama Series. With this interview, Rahel shares some insight into what Pranayama is, what it can do for us, and why Asana practice is necessary before! Join the first day of the series on Saturday, April 7 at 9:15AM to start your Spring off right!

  1. What is Pranayama?

Rahel Wasserfall

Pranayama is breathwork. It’s learning to access the breath in order to localize it in the body, see where it is, and to quiet the mind through technique. “Prana” means energy. So, in Pranayama, we are working with our energy levels in our bodies. While yoga postures work the physical body, pranayama works to create space between the breath and the mind.  When we connect the mind to the breath, we become aware of our breath and by doing so, you can quiet the mind and focus. The result of this kind of work is a feeling of quiet that is centered, and present. Pranayama is difficult because in other work you can extend your arm and feel it and see that your arm is stretching. The breath is hard to localize. It is something that is with us from the beginning and to our end when the breath leaves us in death.  The breath is a companion that we have all of our life. Without breath, there is no life. When we are anxious, so is our breath. When we are able to bring the mind and the breath together to quiet it, we are in a position to be more attuned to what is. It brings us well being. So in a sense, Pranayama is a well-being tool. 

  1. Why is Asana practice necessary before taking a Pranayama class?

Asana is necessary because the breath is such an elusive part of ourselves- we are very much in contact with it and yet not in contact at the same time. We know that we are breathing all of the time, but we are not aware of our breathing. In Pranayama, we are becoming aware of our breathing- that is, how we breathe and how we bring the breath in contact with the body. In order to do so, we need the openness of the Asana. We need to create a body, a container, where the breath can be. And if your body is not strong or open and if you don’t have those diaphragms open (there are three: lower, middle, and throat), we cannot access the breath.  Creating a sequence that is different from a sequence we would do in other classes, but using the same poses, we can create a vacancy, in a sense. We create an opening so that we can then access the breath. Asana is necessary because we cannot start Pranayama until we have a real understanding of opening our bodies through the posture work.

  1. How do Pranayama classes differ from Iyengar or Flow Yoga classes?

We use the same postures from these classes, but we create a sequence that is different in order to use all of the diaphragms. Depending on what kind of Pranayama we are going to work with, we are going to focus on an area of our body to open it. After, we will be able to work with the breath. It is different because it is  quieter; It is a more intimate practice. Students might see that we are using some of the same poses used in Restorative Yoga, but Pranayama is a more quiet practice. We have an hour for each class in this series. We are going to sequence it so that for the first half an hour (or even more), through these poses and with the use of props (blanket, chair, and bolster) we will work to open those three diaphragms. Then, after that work, when we are more quiet, we can start working with the breath.

  1. What is your favorite Pranayama breathing exercise?

There are so many of them! It depends on what we need it for. If I need to quiet my mind, I would do an interrupted exhalation pattern. But, if I need to create more fire in me, I would use another kind of breath. So, it depends. As with Asana, the kind of Pranayama that we do depends on what we want to achieve.

  1. What can students expect from the Pranayama series?

They can expect to become aware of their body and their breath and the relationship between the breath and their body to quiet their mind and focus. They can expect to learn a few Pranayama exercises. This is really an introduction series to Pranayama. We are working on becoming aware, learning Pranayama, and practicing a lot of repetition because that is the way we learn. In this four-week series, we are going to go very slow. Slow is better. We are going to explore becoming aware of the breath and where it is. We are going to work with some basic Pranayama, the sounded breath (Ujayii), interrupted inhalation, interrupted exhalation, and we might touch, at the end, sitting Pranayama. Depending on the students attending, we are going to start with sequencing laying down and then sitting Pranayama. In order to achieve sitting Pranayama, you have to have the spine erect (achieved through laying down Pranayama). You have to be able to keep your embodiment strong and need the muscles that are required. At the beginning, it is a lot to ask of someone to do sitting Pranayama. It requires different ways of putting our legs which we will first learn through laying down. Pranayama always comes after Savasana, or after the deep relaxation.

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Effective as of September 10, 2021

Accommodation Policy

Artemis Yoga is committed to enable individuals with disabilities to participate as fully as possible in classes at our yoga studio. On the first level there is a wheelchair accessible entrance, yoga class studio and bathroom.
All classes on the first floor are wheelchair accessible in our flagship, primary studio. The lower level studio is reached by two stairways. In the event that a class in the lower level is not accessible to a participant, the studio owner or manager on-premise will adjust that class location to the first floor, grade level studio. With reasonable notice, this change will readily be made as an accommodation.


The request can be made in person, via email or telephone and advance notice of the request to the studio is appreciated. Artemis Yoga will make an earnest effort and attempt to provide reasonable accommodation pending timely notice by participants needing such accommodations.

Artemis Yoga will also work with the individual to ensure that participation in class is achievable. This may include providing additional props, chairs or hands-on assistance that the teacher is able to deliver while continuing to teach the class to all participants.

If you have any questions regarding this policy, please reach out directly to the studio owner, Liz Padula.

“HOW TO” GUIDE FOR ONLINE CLASSES

Artemis Yoga offers “live” online yoga classes through Zoom. To join, find an inviting space to practice and follow the steps below:

Step 1: Use your MINDBODY account with Artemis Yoga to register for the class. 

  • Meeting ID in the class description.
  • Please register in advance to streamline attendance and to allow us to send you a recording if you miss the class or join late.
  • Please register even if the class is listed as “free community class.”

Step 2: Log into https://zoom.us/join and enter the Class-Specific Meeting ID then click “Join”.  

  • Meeting ID in the class description. 
  • Start the login process 10-15 minutes before class so that you are ready.
  • We recommend downloading the Zoom client on your computer, laptop, tablet, or phone. You can enter the Meeting ID number from there.

Step 3: Once you click on the Meeting ID, register with your name and email in Zoom. Please use your real name so we can match with Mindbody. You will then be entered in the “Waiting Room.” 

  • The Waiting Room is where Artemis Staff checks attendance. If we can’t identify you from your Zoom user name, you will not be let into class. 
  • You will be asked if you registered in Mindbody, if you had trouble doing so, please click “No” and stay in the Waiting Room, we will assist you after class. 
  • We start letting people in from the Waiting Room 15 minutes prior to class. Large classes take a bit for us to check everyone in, please be patient.

Step 4: When let in from the waiting room, click “Join with Computer Audio.” 

  • We mute participants during class but you may unmute yourself at any time to ask questions or to say hello! We like to see you and greet you, though you may choose to turn your camera off. 
  • Use “Chat” to communicate if you do not want to speak out loud. 
  • Zoom prompts for consent to be in a recorded class, please accept so you may continue to be in class. Note that the recording is set to record only the teacher who is in the spotlight. Recordings are sent to registrants who are absent.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US ONLINE FOR CLASS!