Are you rushing during your day? Is your day one long to do list and then a hard stop to go to bed? Do you take quick moments to stop the momentum and just enjoy life?
I enjoyed my Yoga for Healthy Aging training/certification from Baxter Bell and his wife Melina Meza this past year. One of the best items I took to heart was the importance of slowing down. Taking more breaks during my day to disrupt my busy momentum and give my entire self a rest. Focusing fully on one task at a time. Not just to give my full focus, but for safety reasons as well; in the case of cooking or even going up and down the stairs in my home multiple times a day. This slowing down and giving myself intentional breaks during the day, has also improved my overall mood and sleep pattern. Of course I technically get less down during the day with these mini breaks. However, my intention for my life isn’t just to get a bunch of stuff done or have a perfectly clean house, it is to enjoy my time and have fun.
The yogi’s life is not measured by the number of his days but by the numbers of his breaths
Connecting to the turtle spirit animal with the breath
A slower breath pattern to relate to the master of conserving energy, the turtle. A reptile with one of the longest lifespans. Focusing on a slow pace, low volume, light breath that is centered around the low ribs or diaphragm location. This decreased rate impacts the body and mind to feel more relaxed, as if in hibernation. If comfortable, including a pause after the inhale and after the exhale as well.
“My senses rest inward, restored completely, allowing me to live with clarity and vitality”
Mudras for Healing and Transformation by Joseph and Lilian Le Page
Kurma (Turtle) Mudra
Mudra supports a drawing inward to self, just like a turtle into its shell. Both for safety and restoration. Cultivating an inner calm and silence.
Right hand = Curl middle and ring fingers in towards palm
Place right hand palm down onto left hand’s palm
Right thumb to middle of left wrist
Connect right index finger to left thumb
Connect right little finger to left index
Curl remaining three left fingers around right hand
Not only a fun name to say “Microcosmic Orbit”, but also a visual tool for your breath pattern to help to focus your mind in the here and now.
Other names include small orbit, chi circulation or in Japanese “shoshuten” which means “circling of light”.
I originally discovered this pattern during my Yin Yoga training with Bernie Clark. Yin has a connection with the Daoist view for energy, using the Meridian Lines to map the directional movement of Qi/Chi or energy throughout the body. This method is a way to gather stray energies in the body and make a circle pattern around the torso (think length of spine) to promote circulation of Chi for both health and wholeness. This technique touches all of the chakras and both yin and yang meridian lines and their associated Organs (spelled with a capital “O” since it represents both the actual physical organ like the lungs but also their functions).
If you have ever enjoyed a pool in the summer, you may have walked around the circle and created a whirlpool effect. If you also had the task of cleaning the pool, you would notice the dirt and debris then gathered at the very center in a water tornado. If you walked this path for long enough and then switched directions, you have a hard time walking against the water’s current. This is how I see this breath pattern. Imagine that the pool is your body, the water is the breath and any debris is energy that is stagnant. Using the breath (water) in a circular fashion, the energy is stirred around. You get activity, momentum, a whirlpool!
In this visual breath pattern, your focus and intention are set to move the breath to aid in the circulation of energy. It can be done in any position but most often from a comfortable upright seated position so the spine is neutral. I highlight around 2 minutes with just focusing on your breathing first before adding in the visual aspect which can be done for another 2 or 3 minutes. So in total, it is a great way to spend 5 minutes of your day.
Practice Details ~ Total time around 5 minutes
Find a comfortable seat so the spine can have its natural curves. My suggestion is to sit on a bolster or folded blanket on the floor. Or use a chair but sit away from the back support.
Allow your tongue to lightly rest on the roof of your mouth. Seal your lips to breath via the nose.
Take a moment to align your spine. Shifting around to ensure your base or pelvis is comfortable and neutral. Release the shoulders. Draw the head back to align ears over shoulders and slight tip down of chin towards chest to elongate the neck.
Palms rest in your lap or you can select a mudra for your practice.
Establish a connection to your breathing. This is an important step to ensure you are not taking too large of a breath and remain relaxed/comfortable. This step normally takes me 2 minutes at least. Breath via the nose and allow a light, silent and slow inhale and exhale. The movement is felt around the low ribs, or diaphragm area, and the volume of breath is low. It is not a full to lung capacity or deep breath. (more on this in future blog posts using Restoring Prana by Robin Rothenberg book) If you find it helpful to count your breath in seconds, try for a 4 second inhale, 1 sec pause, 4 second exhale, 1 sec pause.
Draw awareness to the lower belly or second chakra (svadhisthana). Set your intention for the practice and imagine energy starting to stir.
Ascending Orbit = As you inhale, follow the flow down the midline of the body, looping around the pelvis towards the backline of the body. Following up the spine from tailbone to the crown of the head. All of the way to the third eye (ajna, point between the eyebrows).
Pause for 2 seconds
Descending Orbit = As you exhale, the breath/energy travels from third eye towards the throat, heart center and back to the lower belly again.
Pause for 2 seconds.
Continue for 2 to 3 minutes (or longer if you choose).
When done, let the visualization go and linger for a few seconds and notice how you feel.
Tips & Tricks
The distance to visually travel for the ascending orbit (low belly, back of torso to third eye) is longer than the descending orbit (third eye to low belly). I tend to visualize that part of the loop to be fairly quick since I do not want to take in more unnecessary oxygen.
Take your time. Establish your breathing pattern first and then add in the focus of the visualization. The more you relax into it and step away from timing yourself, the more benefits you will receive.
Be patient with any visualization. It may feel like you are “faking it” or just using your rusty adult imagination skills, but give it time. Pranayama is a practice.
Not feeling anything or any different? Don’t give up. You may not notice it right away, but you may sense body temperature changes, mood shifts, better night of sleep, etc.
In case you wanted to record yoga videos or other instructional videos for YouTube or sites like Vimeo, I wanted to document ALL of the details around video, audio and lighting that I use. I had a ton of trial and error over the span of a year in figuring this out. So if this helps to save time for someone, then I am happy to type up this info and share it.
Please note, depending on how you want to record, you can utilize your existing cell phone, gather lamps from around your home and not use a wireless microphone. This is just the route I took since I wanted to make high quality content and I knew this is how I wanted to teach going forward. Everything listed below was a huge investment, it was close to $2000 in total. (Even just to use Vimeo is $240 per year) I want to be blunt and honest about the cost of AV equipment since it is important to figure out if this is just something you want to try or if you are certain that you will be doing this for years to come.
Camera = Canon EOS M50
Important note for all cameras, there is a limit to the length it will record video. This camera is around 29 minutes and then it turns off. This happens with most mirrorless digital cameras. If you really want to record for longer, there are ways around it like some Sony and Panasonic Lumix (which I believe records for 100 minutes). If I researched before buying, I may have gone instead with the Panasonic Lumix. I just knew I enjoyed Canon before and wanted a camera that I could use for recording yoga videos but also one that I would enjoy for photography.
How do I get around the 29 min limit? I like the camera as close to me as possible when filming. So after positioning the tripod, I record the warm-up part of the class near the floor. I stop the recording when I am in a paused position (child’s pose, seated, etc). Then I move my tripod further away and up higher and pick up from that same position (as close as possible) and continue from there. The final part is ending downward facing dog, malasana or a seated position and stopping for a final time. I move the tripod to the original spot and film the cool down close to the floor. I end up making 3 pieces of video that I need to edit and then paste together for a full yoga class.
Memory card = SanDisk Extreme Pro, 128GB
Lens = The kit lens is 15mm-45mm which has aperture of f3.5. I went with a new lens since I wanted the f2.0 aperture since my videos were too dark. I wanted them light and bright. The lens I purchased separately is the 22mm and it is a very small pancake type lens. It is easy to manually adjust to get a clear picture and I can get my f2.0 aperture, meaning more light gets into the lens to achieve the brighter image. However, the downside is that now I needed more distance between myself and the camera. So if I stayed with the kit lens of 15mm, I could get away with having the camera literally closer to me. With the 22mm lens, I had to move the tripod further away from me. Currently the distance is 9 feet from the camera to the middle of my yoga mat when I am recording low to the ground. When I am seated in a chair or standing, I have to move the tripod back even further, about another 1.5 feet.
Shooting Mode (select manual mode, otherwise while you are moving, the camera auto-focused too often)
Shooting mode = Manual
In order to have a balance of video quality, but also not have too large of a file size, I selected FHD 23.98P
ISO speed is set to 100
In order to make the picture bright (aka pull more light into the lens), I adjusted this on the touchscreen to F2.0 which is the aperture. Note you may or may not need this depending on the level of light in your room. Again, I could only get this with the separately purchased 22mm lens.
White balance = Daylight
Audio = Rode Wireless Go
I had to make some adjustments since directly out of the box when connecting to the camera, there was a loud white noise sound in the background. Very noticeable when I was silent.
Receiver = Connected via the cable provided to the mic input (3.5mm) on the camera. Note that I had to adjust the receiver setting labeled “dB” button to the medium volume. The unit itself sits on top of the camera.
Transmitter = Nothing to do here but turn it on and clip it to my top while recording.
Camera settings =
Sound recording = Manual
Rec. level = I moved this to be one quarter of the way from the left
I don’t recall changing this but the other setting was under wind filter/attenuator and the setting for attenuator is set to enable.
Side Note = If you want to utilize this wireless microphone with your cell phone, you can do that as well. You just need to purchase an additional cable which is different than the one you use with your camera. The cable is Rode SC7 which is a TRS to TRRS Patch Cable. One end is gray (that is the one that connects to your cell phone’s headphone jack) and the other end is black (connects to Rode receiver). Note that not all cell phones have a 3.5mm headphone jack, so this might not work with yours.
2 light boxes from brand Fovitec. They are on adjustable stands but I tend to leave them at the same height if I am filming seated or standing. The top of the rectangle light box is the same height as the top of my shoulder.
I went with the 2000W Fluorescent Studio Lighting Kit on Amazon. 20 by 28 inch softboxes, 10 bulbs, 2 light stands.
The important thing about this kit, not only does it come with the 2 lights, but each of them holds 5 light bulbs so I get a large amount of light from each box.
Plus, the unit has three switches on the back so I can turn on 1, 2 or all 5 light bulbs at the same time. So depending on your room, you can adjust the light intensity.
I always film with all 5 light bulbs running (aka all three switches turned on).
The bulbs are very large 45W fluorescents.
Recording with the help of a Computer Monitor
When filming, I cannot see the small camera screen, even though it does flip outward to the side.
I am around 10 feet away so I cannot see the timer for recording or if I am in focus or not.
I use a computer monitor (I went with Dell) and hooked up via HDMI on the back of the monitor to the mirco HDMI on the camera. So when I am filming, the image goes to the computer monitor instead of the camera monitor.
I just had to buy a cable which is micro HDMI to HDMI to connect the two together.
Note that if you want to play back a recording, you can use the monitor to view the video. But you will not hear the sound since the monitor does not have speakers. So to check the video and audio together, unhook the HDMI cable and play the video back to check both the video and audio together via the camera touchscreen.
When editing, I trim the video to remove the start and end. Meaning the part where I am going up to the camera to start and stop recording. I then use OpenShot Video Editor to piece the videos together.