Bakasana comes from the word "baka" and is translated as crane pose. Most students who are new to Bakasana may find it difficult to lift themselves off the floor so it may be helpful to use modifications or props when first practicing this pose. The most important beginner’s tip for this pose is that the heels and hips should be close together with the body tucked in tight. Once the feet are off the ground, the upper arms should be placed against the shins for better support while the groin is pushed into the pelvic region. This makes it easier to balance the body. To perform Bakasana, you need good strength of the wrist, hands, core and shoulders along with a sense of balance to maintain the position for up to 20 seconds. Bakasana is the foundation and key to all other arm balances in yoga.
Caution: Those with high blood pressure and cerebral thrombosis should avoid this asana. Do not practice this pose if you have chronic wrist or shoulder injury, or if you have carpal tunnel syndrome. Women who are pregnant should also avoid this pose. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. Prior to beginning any exercise regimen including yoga, talk with your doctor first about any medical issues.
As yoga becomes a more popular activity in the West, the number of places holding Yoga classes is on the rise and there are a plethora of different styles and types of Yoga. When you are starting out with yoga it can be difficult to find which style suits you. Yoga is about finding what works best for you as you develop your relationship with your own body, so it is important to consider which style you chose. It is this decision that will encourage you to continue on your journey of self-discovery.
Below is a list of the 5 most common yoga styles with explanations that will give you a foundation to further explore and make your decision. You may want to try out more than one style to see which you enjoy most, and which benefits you the most.
Hatha Yoga – in Sanskrit (an ancient classical language of India) “Ha” means “sun” and “tha” means “moon”. This type of Yoga is relatively slow paced, gentle type of Yoga and is a good place to start if you are completely new to Yoga and don’t know any of the asanas (poses). Like all types of Yoga, Hatha Yoga aims to unite the mind, body and spirit.
Ashtanga Yoga – this is the type of Yoga that I practice on a regular basis and means “eight limbs” in Sanskrit. It’s a fast moving, intense style of Yoga practice and is based on a progressive set sequence of asanas, synchronized with the breath. Based on the ancient yoga teachings, Ashtanga was made more popular when it travelled to the West, brought by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in the 1970s. The difference with Ashtanga is that you practice the exact same poses in the exact same order. This means that your body and muscles can get used to the pattern, memorizing it so that your movements flow smooth and fast. Ashtanga Yoga can be physically demanding as you constantly move from one asana to the next, so you’ll find that it will improve your stamina as well as, your flexibility and strength.
Power Yoga – this is a western interpretation of Yoga and is based on Ashtanga Yoga. A Power Yoga class may not necessarily stick to the exact sequence of poses like Ashtanga Yoga does, but it does involve practicing a series of poses without stopping and starting.
Iyengar Yoga – This type of Yoga is based on teachings by B.K.S Igengar and concentrates on the correct alignment and form of the body. Unlike Ashtanga Yoga, there is an emphasis on holding each pose for a long period of time rather than moving constantly from one pose to the next. Iyengar Yoga uses props such as blocks and straps to help align the body into the different poses.
Vinyasa Yoga – Vinyasa means breath synchronized movement and is another fast paced type of Yoga, with an emphasis on breathing. A practice typically starts with sun salutations and moves on to more intense stretching. Throughout the practice each pose is balanced with a counter pose.
Bikram Yoga – otherwise known as “Hot Yoga”, is practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees, with a humidity of around 40%. Generally a sequence of 26 different poses is practiced during a Bikram Yoga class and the hot temperature helps to loosen muscles. Due to the high temperature most people sweat a lot during the class and this helps to cleanse the body of toxins.
This is just a short list of the many styles of yoga practiced today. If you’re just starting out or have never practiced any Yoga before, I recommend trying a few different styles to find out which you like best. Remember, there’s no rule that says you have to stick to one type of Yoga. After all, variety is the spice of life!
Yoga offers many benefits, from reduced stress to improved strength and flexibility. But it can also be intimidating to some people. You may not be able to keep up with the pace in a yoga class, or have physical limitations that prevent you from easily moving from the floor to standing poses for a full hour. Seated floor yoga, is a gentle style of yoga that incorporates the breathing and mind-body benefits of a traditional class.
This is a slow, gentle and restorative yoga practice of floor stretches and seated poses perfect for beginners, those recuperating from illness or those who just want to take it easy. Use this yoga sequence on days when you need some stress relief. If you choose to practice with props, use a yoga block and belt.
*Before you begin any new physical activity, you should consult with your healthcare provider. These poses are suitable for most people, including seniors and people living with chronic pain.
Yoga is ideal for women who are thinking about getting pregnant or having trouble conceiving. Yoga has been shown to greatly help promote general relaxation and reduce anxiety, stress and depression. Research also suggests that yoga may significantly help to promote conception on a physiological level. The three main health benefits of yoga: reducing stress, improving circulation and increasing flexibility (especially in the pelvic and hip area)—all fertility boosters; are key for conceiving, not to mention having a comfortable pregnancy and healthy delivery.
Yoga for fertility focuses on the centers of the body or “chakras” associated with fertility and reproduction. In particular it uses specially designed yoga poses that open the pelvis and stimulate the second chakra located just below the naval. This vital center has long been associated with fertility and creativity. More than just improving blood flow to the reproductive organs, yoga for fertility helps relax the body and restore physical and emotional balance.
The above yoga poses for fertility can be practiced at home. If you would like to find a Yoga for Fertility class in your community visit www.yogaforfertilityresources.com
*The above article is meant for informational reading only and should NOT be replaced by advice from your physician. As always, seek the advice from your healthcare professional before beginning any yoga practice.
Knowledge (Jnana) does not come about from the practice of yoga alone. Perfection in knowledge is in fact only for those who begin by practice of virtue (dharma). Yet, without yoga as a means, knowledge does not come about. The practice of yogic methods is not the means by itself, yet it is only out of that practice of yoga that the perfection in knowledge comes about. “Yoga is for the purpose of knowledge of truth,” said Shankara.
All things rest upon something else-that is, all things are supported by one another. This is because a foundation is needed for anything to exist. Being Himself the Ultimate Support of all things, God alone is free from this necessity. Yoga, then, also requires support. As Trevor Leggett said in his introduction to Shankara’s commentary on the Yoga Sutras: “This is yoga presented for the man of the world, who must first clear, and then steady, his mind against the fury of illusory passions, and free his life from entanglements.” Patanjali very carefully and fully outlines the elements of the support needed by the practitioner, giving invaluable information on how to assure success in yoga.
The first Yoga Sutra says: “Now the exposition of yoga,” implying that there must be something leading up to yoga in the form of necessary developments of consciousness and personality. These prerequisites may be thought of as the Pillars of Yoga, and are known as Yama and Niyama.
Yama and Niyama
Yama and Niyama are often called “the Ten Commandments of Yoga.” Each one of these Five Don’ts (Yama) and Five Do’s (Niyama) is a supporting, liberating Pillar of Yoga. Yama means self-restraint in the sense of self-mastery, or abstention, and consists of five elements. Niyama means observances, of which there are also five. Here is the complete list of the ten Pillars as stated in the Yoga Sutras 2:30,32:
1) Ahimsa: non-violence, non-injury, harmlessness
2) Satya: truthfulness, honesty
3) Asteya: non-stealing, honesty, non-misappropriativeness
4) Brahmacharya: sexual continence in thought, word and deed as well as control of all the senses
5) Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-selfishness, non-acquisitiveness
6) Shaucha: purity, cleanliness
7) Santosha: contentment, peacefulness
8) Tapas: austerity, practical (i.e., result-producing) spiritual discipline
9) Swadhyaya: introspective self-study, spiritual study
10) Ishwarapranidhana: offering of one’s life to God
All of these deal with the innate powers of the human being-or rather with the abstinence and observance that will develop and release those powers to be used toward our spiritual perfection, to our self-realization and liberation.
These ten restraints (yama) and observances (niyama) are not optional for the aspiring yogi-or for the most advanced yogi, either. Shankara states that “following yama and niyama is the basic qualification to practice yoga.” Mere desire and aspiration for the goal of yoga is not enough, so he continues: “The qualification is not simply that one wants to practice yoga, for the sacred text says: ‘But he who has not first turned away from his wickedness, who is not tranquil and subdued, or whose mind is not at rest, he can never obtain the Self by knowledge.’ (Katha Upanishad 1.2.24) And in the Atharva text: ‘It is in those who have tapas [strong discipline] and brahmacharya [chastity] that truth is established.’ (Prashna Upanishad 1:15)And in the Gita: ‘Firm in their vow of brahmacharya.’ (Bhagavad Gita 6:14) So yama and niyama are methods of yoga” in themselves and are not mere adjuncts or aids that can be optional.
The practice of yoga assists the aspiring yogi to follow the yamas and niyamas, not be discouraged from practicing yoga in the present, believing you must wait until you are “ready” to begin yoga. One should should practice yama, niyama, and yoga simultaneously. Success will follow.
Even a short yoga practice can be relaxing and invigorating. Yoga can improve posture and blood flow to the body's organs and tissues. Here are some tips for setting up a quick yoga practice, for those days when your schedule doesn't allow you to commit to a longer practice.
1 - Set aside at least twenty minutes a day when you can take time for yourself without any distractions. Practicing just Sun Salutation A and Sun Salutation B both constitute a full yoga practice.
2 - Clear a space and gather what you need. Play some soft music. Focus on your breathing, fluid body movements, and a clear mind.
3 - Stretch and warm up before you begin. Roll your shoulders and rotate your neck. Do a cat stretch by getting on all fours and slowly rounding your back.
4 - Perform the downward dog. Get down on your hands and knees. Keep your feet and hands on the ground while pushing your hips up to form an inverted V.
5 - To get the full benefit of a short yoga workout, try to perform at least one pose for each major muscle group. Some suggestions are: the locust, the half-moon, and the pigeon -- but you can customize your series as you wish.
6 - Perform poses that flow naturally from one to another. For example, do standing poses first, then move on to sitting poses and inversions. This will help your practice flow quickly and smoothly.
7 - Your breathing should be slow and controlled during your quick yoga workout. Fill your lungs completely when you inhale, and exhale slowly through your nose.
The name Trikonasana comes from the Sanskrit words trikona which means triangle and asana which means pose. Trikonasana is an excellent pose for developing strength and balance. It also gives flexibility to the legs, waist and knees. It gives a sense of expansiveness as the arms and torso are bent while reaching for the toes. This pose gives a sense of balance to the whole body. One advantage of this pose is that it can be practiced at any time or at any place. Many people who sit at a desk or a computer during the day will find this asana beneficial for encouraging good blood circulation, eliminating aches and pains in the back, neck and the entire body. If you feel stiffness in your leg, waist or torso muscles while doing this, then perform this asana very slowly with slow deep breathing. In time, your body will develop the flexibility and the stiffness will go away.
Modifications: Use a yoga block on the floor to support the lower hand.
Caution: Those suffering from back and neck injuries should avoid this asana. Also those who have high or low blood pressure should do this slowly with care or discontinue if there is any discomfort. Those suffering from vertigo also should practice this asana with caution. As with any exercise regimen including yoga, it’s always best to speak with your physician first.
When you practice yoga, it is not necessary to have a full understanding of yoga history in order to fully benefit from your practice. A brief understanding of the history behind yoga, however, may increase your spiritual practice and inspire you to find out more about the tradition behind the discipline.
The first writings about yoga were written in Sanskrit in early religious manuscripts in India called the Vedas. The word ‘yoga’ has many meanings. The root of the word is ‘yug’ which means ‘to hitch up’, referring to fastening horse bridles to a carriage. But yoga also means ‘to actively put to use’ or ‘yoke’ or ‘join’. Today, it is agreed upon that yoga is a method of joining or a discipline. Men who practice yoga are called yogi or yogin and women who practice yoga are called yogini.
Yoga was first passed from generation to generation by word of mouth. It wasn’t until about 2000 years ago when an Indian named Patanjali wrote ‘The Yoga Sutra’ that the philosophy of yoga was committed to paper. Yoga is not just about stretching and breathing and holding poses. Yoga is a philosophy on how to live life and deal with the challenges that human beings face daily. The Yoga Sutra defined this philosophy in 195 statements.
Sutra can be defined as ‘thread’ or ‘aphorism’, which means ‘a short declaration of truth’. It also means ‘the concentration of a large quantity of information into a simple definition’. It is a way of looking at truths that apply to everyone despite culture in the clearest way possible.
Hatha yoga, or the yoga that you do when you take a yoga class or perform yogic poses, was started as a physical form of meditation. The physical act of yoga calms your body and allows your mind to become calm. It also gives you the physical strength to sustain long periods of meditation.
When you perform the physical practice of yoga, you are only engaging in half of the discipline as it has been practiced for thousands of years. Yoga is an incredible form of exercise and calming for the body, but it can also be used as a spiritual practice and a way to calm the mind and will as well.
Chakra is a Sanskrit word meaning spinning wheel. These are a system of seven energy centers located along the spine. Each chakra corresponds to an area of the body, a set of behavioral characteristics and stages of spiritual growth. Practicing yoga and focusing your energies during different postures can help you to align your chakras and get all the wheels spinning in the same direction and speed. Understanding how to fine tune and control your chakras through yoga and meditation can help bring balance and peace to your mind, body and spirit.
There are seven chakras, each associated with a different part of the body along the spine from the perineum to the crown of your head. Each chakra is associated with a particular body location, a color, a central emotional/behavioral issue, as well as many other personal aspects including identity, goals, rights, etc.
The seven chakras are:
Muladhara - base of the spine
Svadhisthana - abdomen, genitals, lower back/hip
Manipura - solar plexus
Anahata - heart area
Visshudha – throat
Ajna – brow
Sahasrara - top of head, cerebral cortex
Through the movements and postures of yoga, you can learn to focus your concentration and energy to and from the various chakras in your body. This can allow you to compensate for areas that may be out of sync with the rest of your body or not active at all. By balancing the energy among all seven of the chakras, balance can be achieved. This spiritual energy is known as Kundalini energy. In its dormant state, it can be visualized as a coiled up snake resting at the base of your spine, the Muladhara chakra. Since the chakras act as valves or pumps regulating the flow of energy through your system, controlled and purposeful movements such as yoga can be extremely beneficial in realigning your chakras in a way that can cause great benefits to you in your physical and emotional wellbeing.
Above are 7 yoga poses to help balance your chakras.
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