When we explore the layers of the wisdom that comprise the yoga poses we hold, breathe and release, we start to discover symbolism and meaning in every movement. If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, your instructor has most likely guided you into poses such as Warrior II (or in Sanskrit Virabhadrasana II). The Sanskrit words vira means “hero”, bhadra means “friend”, and asana meaning “seat or posture”. Not only does this pose offer many amazing benefits, there’s also an interesting story behind the pose.
According to Hindi mythology, Virabhadra, was a fierce warrior who was at the command of Shiva. In the myth, a powerful priest named Daksha refused to accept Shiva, even when Shiva and Sati (Daksha’s youngest daughter) were married. This dislike between Sati’s father and Shiva upset her so greatly that she killed herself. Upset by his wife’s death, myth says that Shiva created the fiercest warrior from a bead of sweat on his forehead. This warrior’s name was Virabhadra, and Shiva set him out to destroy those who had caused the death of his beloved Sati.
This mythical story shows our human responses to emotions. We often overlook emotions like anger, jealousy, and bitterness in spiritual pursuits like yoga. Being a yogi isn’t about being blissful or “Zen” every single day. Practicing yoga means being able to deal with life’s ups and downs. Along with the extraordinary range of emotions we exhibit, we also have the capacity for reflection. So when our life battles seem beyond our control, we possess the most important tools of the “spiritual warrior”, compassion and forgiveness.
Caution: Do not practice Warrior II if you have hip, knee, or shoulder injury, or if you are experiencing diarrhea or high blood pressure. Those with neck injuries should not turn their head to face the front hand (modify the pose as seen in the picture). Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
Revolved Side Angle pose or Parivritta Parsvakonasana comes from the Sanskrit word, Parivritta meaning to turn around, Parsva meaning side and asana meaning pose. Parivritta Parsvakonasana is a side angle twist pose that has many variations. One of the classic variations for Revolved Side Angle Pose is to practice this pose with Anjali Mudra(hands in prayer position near your sternum).
All twisting asanas stimulate detoxification, improve blood circulation and rejuvenate the spine. When you twist your torso you compress your internal organs, cutting off all blood supply. When you release the twist you allow fresh blood to flow to your internal organs. This process cleanses your organs and improves their ability to function.
How to perform Revolved Side Angle Pose
Begin standing in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms at your sides. Breathe deeply and evenly, calming your mind and focusing on the present moment.
Turn to the right and step your feet wide apart, about 4 to 5 feet. Turn your left foot out 90 degrees. Align your front heel with the arch of your back foot. Your pelvis and torso should face the same direction as your toes.
Parivrtta Parsvakonasana is a powerful pose that can shift your yoga practice to a deeper level. It will build focus, detoxify your organs, and develop inner and outer strength. When practicing this pose, remember that the "goal" is not to achieve the full expression the pose, but to be aware of the pose you are currently in; staying focused in the present moment.
Ashtanga yoga can be a challenging and disciplined practice consisting of a series of asanas linked with the breath and performed in a sequence to build a flow between movements during the 60 to 90 minutes it takes from start to finish. The regular practice of Ashtanga yoga builds strength and flexibility and improves posture. Although Ashtanga is a challenging yoga style, beginners must remember it is a slow process. The focus of Ashtanga yoga is internal cleansing, not a workout.
Ashtanga yoga, meaning "eight-limbed yoga," it incorporates the eight paths to spiritual purification that include moral codes, self-purification and study, asanas, breath and sense control, concentration, meditation and mind control. Traditional Ashtanga practice opens and closes with a meditative chant intended for inner healing, prosperity or praise.
At its foundation, Ashtanga yoga focuses on Pranayama breathing, or “victorious breath in Sanskrit, which requires the student to narrow the air passage in the throat in order to control inhalations and exhalations more precisely throughout each move. The premise of controlled breathing is that it expands the lungs to create heat within the body, inspiring a meditative state of mind.
Practicing Ashtanga yoga at home is possible because the primary series of poses do not require a lot of space or special equipment. Each pose is repeated on both sides of the body to promote whole body balance. To begin, start with 5 rounds of Sun Salutation A; the muscles start to warm-up thus avoiding injury and bringing heat to the body. Once you’ve warmed the muscles, continue your Ashtanga home practice with 3 rounds of Sun Salutation B. Always practice according to your fitness level. Work through the posture but don’t force yourself into a position that is painful.
Opening the Hamstrings, Release the Low Back
When you begin moving into your standing poses, pay close attention to stretching the hamstrings , or the muscles that run behind your legs, and opening the low back. Standing Forward Bend calms the nervous system and stimulates blood flow to the brain. Practice Ashtanga yoga primary series gently and often, without strain or forcing yourself into poses you’re not quite ready for. It's okay to bend the knees slightly in the beginning, especially if your hamstrings are tight. Remember, it’s okay to modify when needed.
Ashtanga yoga doesn’t vary in the sequence; the asanas are always the same (Some people think that doing the same sequence of postures every day is too repetitive and they lose interest. Of course everyone is different but, I have found that performing the same sequence everyday enables you to become familiar with the physical movements that you can solely focus on the breathing throughout the practice). For a beginner, teachers advise to gradually build proficiency in each pose, given the physicality involved in the series. As a beginner, it’s best to practice Ashtanga yoga 4-5 days a week before trying the 6 day a week practice. The challenge of Ashtanga yoga is cumulative – as you practice, you will find that your ability to move into more difficult asanas comes from the previous foundation work.
Are you ready to start your Ashtanga yoga journey? Getting started is easy; here's a great video for beginners ranging from 10 minutes to 60 minutes with my teacher, R. Sharath Jois (practitioner and lineage holder of Ashtanga Yoga, in the tradition of K. Pattabhi Jois).
Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages in the world. The oldest form of Sanskrit is Vedic Sanskrit that dates back to the 2nd millennium BCE. Known as “the mother of all languages,” Sanskrit is a classical language of the Indian subcontinent and one of the 22 official languages in India. Sanskrit can also be therapeutic. Pronouncing Sanskrit words involve the hard and soft palate, and the reverberating sounds create inner vibrations that are said to affect the central nervous system and the flow of prana. There are several ways to learn the names of yoga poses in Sanskrit. Here are a few ways to learn:
How to learn Sanskrit
Learn some of the basics before coming to class. There are several words repeated throughout the yoga class that you can easily understand. The word "asana" means yoga pose, so you'll hear the word asana placed after every pose. The beginning of a pose name usually relates to a natural feature, animal or person. For example, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana translates to Upward Facing Dog Pose. Other popular Sanskrit words that are used often are "adho" for downward, "hasta" for hand, "pada" for foot and "supta" for lying down or supine. Learning these Sanskrit words you'll know what poses you’re doing next.
Attend yoga classes where the classes are taught using Sanskrit pose names. It's very rare that a yoga class would be taught completely in Sanskrit, so you'll still have alignment cues in your native language. Ashtanga yoga for example, is a style of yoga that traditionally uses Sanskrit pose names. Talk to a yoga teacher prior to class to ask about whether you can expect to hear Sanskrit in the class.
Enroll in a class to learn Sanskrit or speak with a yoga teacher who can help with correct pronunciation. Each traditional yoga pose has a mythical story attached to it that explains the name of the pose and the spiritual connections. Learning the stories behind the poses helps to give background on the Sanskrit names.
Consciously think of or even say the Sanskrit name aloud when you transition into that pose. For example, every time you are in Mountain Pose, think or say to yourself “Tadasana.”
Take advantage of numerous websites and apps that offer quizzes to test your knowledge of Sanskrit. If you don’t want to use the internet or apps, you could make yourself a set of flashcards to help you memorize the poses.
In yoga, the word inversion is used to describe any asana (pose) where the head is below the heart. Most of us think of headstand, handstand or one of these more advanced asanas when we hear “inversions,” but there are many approachable inversions that can be practiced even for a beginner.
There are numerous benefits to inversions: bringing the head below the heart reverses blood flow and improves circulation, builds core strength and confidence, promotes diaphragmatic breathing, stimulates the lymphatic system, and soothes the nervous system. Seniors especially can benefit from inversion poses, but everyone can enjoy improved circulation, reduced foot and leg swelling and of course, rush of oxygen to the brain by including regular inversions in their yoga practice.
While you can practice inverted yoga poses at any time during the day, practicing them early in the morning will help keep you energized and refreshed throughout the day. All inverted yoga poses for beginners can act as elixirs of life, provided they are practiced regularly (and safely). Remember, yoga is a lifelong journey. You don’t need to practice any fancy arm balances to reap the benefits of inversions. Starting with these beginner-friendly inversions is a great way to turn your world upside down. 😊
Caution: Before attempting any inversions, be sure to check with your doctor, particularly if you have elevated blood pressure. Ladies will also want to refrain from inversions during their menstrual cycles.
Adho Mukha Svanasana is most often performed as a part of Surya Namaskaras (Sun Salutations). Downward-facing dog comes from the Sanskrit word Adho Mukha Svanasana (Adho meaning downward, Mukha meaning face, Svana meaning dog, and asana meaning pose or posture). This pose is like the position a dog takes while stretching after having a nap.
Since the head is brought lower than the pelvis this pose is generally classified as an inversion pose. Downward dog is considered one of the most easily accessible inversions. This simple yet dynamic yoga pose is often used as an opener for more complicated and demanding yoga asanas. Downward-facing dog can be practiced independently as it has an entire set of physical, mental and emotional benefits that can be obtained by practicing this asana regularly.
This inverted pose is performed lengthwise with the hands and feet pushing against the floor. The hips are raised in the air. The body eventually forms a pyramid triangular- shape. Yoga beginners can use yoga props such as placing the hands on yoga blocks or keeping the knees bent (as seen in the picture above) to help maintain proper alignment in the pose. Even if your feet do not touch the ground, they eventually will with continued practice. The goal is not necessarily for the feet to touch, but to keep the back in the “slope” position.
Avoid this pose if you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome or diarrhea.
Avoid practicing this pose during the latter stages of pregnancy.
It is unadvisable to practice this pose during menstruation.
If you have a headache or suffer from high blood pressure, you should support your head with a block or bolster.
Avoid this pose if you suffer from a chronic or recent injury to the shoulders, arms, hips and back.
*Always consult your doctor prior to beginning any exercise regimen including yoga. If you have any questions or about this pose, consult a yoga practitioner to ensure that you learn the posture correctly to avoid injuries.
One good thing about yoga is that it can be practiced almost anywhere, at any time of day by all people of all ages. Most people prior to beginning any sort of yoga practice often wonder what type of yoga equipment they need. You don’t need anything hi-tech or fancy to start practicing yoga. All you need is the desire and a good attitude to get started. But this doesn't eliminate the need for some yoga equipment, especially if it helps you do your postures properly.
Most yoga equipment is built to help you achieve proper alignment and balance as well as make the pose a bit easier to do, especially for beginners. Here are a few ways yoga equipment can help those who are beginners or those who have prior injuries or mobility issues:
- It lessens the stress and strain on your body from doing
certain yoga positions.
- It helps support your muscles and protects you from injury.
- It helps save energy by exerting less effort on a pose.
Here are some of the more basic types of yoga equipment:
While opinions vary when it comes to the proper yoga attire ultimately the choice is up to you, however it's a good idea not to wear tight fitting clothes. Loose-fitting, comfortable and easy to move in clothing will make your practice much more enjoyable.
A good yoga mat provides cushioning on a hard floor, this is especially needed if your yoga studio floor is made of cement or hard wood, it can also provide traction for your hands and feet thus preventing you from slipping or sliding when you’re doing your postures.
There are special towels that are made for yoga. You may find super- absorbent towels that will be quite helpful if you sweat. You can also buy a skid-less towel that you can use on your mat to help absorb sweat.
If you buy a lot of yoga accessories or want to carry with you your cell phone, a water bottle, or a yoga towel, you may want to buy a special bag to carry them. They look like duffel bags, and are often made of nylon. They can range in size and price, so make sure to find one that fits your specific needs.
They provide support for your spine, abdomen and legs in several different poses. Yoga bolsters can help you achieve better results overall.
Like blankets, yoga blocks are props that help you make yourself more comfortable and improve your alignment. Blocks are great for standing poses in which your hands don't reach the floor. Blocks can be made of foam bricks, bamboo, cork or wood. These also vary in price.
Yoga wedges can be used in many ways to add support and length for many different postures, especially under your heels, tail bone, or knees when practicing downward-facing dog to make it easier to place your hands flat on the floor without compromising correct form and posture.
They can help you feel relaxed and comfortable which is essential in the practice of yoga. Not only do they help keep the chill off, the folded blankets can be used as props or to sit and lie on during class, especially at the end of class for Savasana.
These are most commonly made from cotton or nylon and allow you to grasp body part which you cannot reach effectively. Yoga straps also give you added flexibility and help you hold your poses a little bit longer. They are particularly useful for bound poses if your hands do not reach each other, and for poses where you need to hold onto your feet but cannot reach them.
For beginning yoga students, a yoga kit may be the solution to all their problems. A basic yoga kit contains everything you need to get started practicing the art of yoga right away. A good kit can help you avoid confusion and the extra expense often spent on individual and unnecessary items.
For the most part yoga equipment is made to provide support to help you feel relaxed and move deeper into the poses. Tomorrow, I will be talking about how yoga can be used to help control your blood pressure and relieve stress.
Yoga helps promote good balance by elongating, and aligning your spine as well as the muscles in your back. It also strengthens other parts of your body, including your abdominal muscles, which helps guard you back from injury. Good yoga posture teaches every part of your body to bear its own weight as an alternative of relying on other muscles to carry the load.
Yoga poses function and perform differently. Each pose is designed to develop one’s flexibility and strength. Here are some common yoga poses to practice:
Standing is one of the important yoga poses. This type of pose is helpful in aligning your body and your feet. This is also very useful in improving and maintaining a good posture. It is an advantage because if you have a bad posture, your backbones can be stretched and straightened without noticing it. Standing poses helps in giving strength to your legs and at the same time increase elasticity in your legs and hips because they are all connected to each other.
These types of yoga poses increase your lower back and hip’s flexibility. This also strengthens your back. This adds suppleness to your knees, groin, ankle and most especially your spine. Another advantage is that it helps you to breathe in deep which gives you that calm and peaceful feeling.
This type helps you in stretching the hamstrings and your lower back also strengthening it. This lessens the tension found in your neck, shoulder, back and increase flexibility in your spine. Calmness is also achieved in this type of pose.
Back bends like bridge pose are amazingly helpful in opening your chest, hips and even the rib cage. This is helpful in strengthening and making your arms shoulders stronger. At the same time, it simultaneously increases your flexibility and elasticity in your shoulders. The great thing is that it helps to relieve the tension from the front of your body up to your hips and it
increases your spinal ability. Your spinal cord is one thing that is important in your body so you need to take good care of it.
Balance poses are very challenging because they require leg strength and upper body flexibility in addition to the ability to balance on one leg. The real challenge comes as you move from pose to pose while keeping one leg lifted off the floor the entire time. Tough but worth it!
By practicing these basic poses on a regular basis, it will help you build strength, flexibility and stamina. Don't worry if you can't perform them correctly at first, just keep trying and as your strength increases you will be available to perform them more easily.
Tomorrow, I will be talking about some of the different types of yoga equipment and what it can do for you.
Yoga is one of the best aerobic exercises that can be done on a regular basis. It is beneficial for to the body, mind and soul. Although some men prefer sweaty, energetic workouts, yoga can be very challenging and can provide a holistic workout along with innumerable health benefits. Apart from enhancing fitness levels, yoga also increases stamina levels and is a great exercise regimen for men of all ages and all fitness levels. To help men build a stronger base for their gym exercises, decrease stiffness and increase stamina, the yoga poses mentioned below can go a long way.
Standing Forward Fold
Uttanasana, or Standing Forward Fold, opens the back of the legs, the hips and the back. Men can easily modify this pose by keeping the hands on the thighs, calves or ankles or use blocks to shorten the distance.
In addition to stretching muscles, Standing Forward Fold lowers blood pressure, eases headaches, improves circulation and helps you sleep better.
This posture stretches men where they need it most—the hips and shoulders. On top of opening these tight areas, Virabhadrasana is a strengthening posture. It builds the muscle of the thighs along with the areas around the knees, which means more stability and protection for sensitive joints during high impact sports.
Chair pose works the quads, ankles, butt and shoulders, while also opening the chest—helping to develop greater stability. It’s also useful for improving flat feet and stimulating the abdominal organs.
Downward Facing Dog
Downward Dog, or Adho Mukha Svanasana, brings the attention to those tight areas in men; the hamstrings, calves, arms, shoulders, back, hips and more. And while it stretches the body, Down Dog also strengthens the arms and legs.
This pose also strengthens the heart as it improves circulation, reduces stress and helps high blood pressure.
Low Cobra Pose
Cobra pose can help to open the chest and strengthen the back and arms. This posture will help anyone who sits behind a desk all day by opening the abdomen and hip flexors.
*For men who also enjoy more strenuous forms of exercise, Upward Facing Dog is another great way to warm up and get the muscles stretched and blood flowing before expecting the body to go all out.
Boat Pose (modified)
Boat pose, or Navasana, will not only strengthen the core, but it also strengthens the hips flexors and spine. This posture is particularly beneficial to men for what it does to stimulate the prostate gland and reduce tension in the pelvic region.
Baddha Konasana increases blood flow to the pelvis, kidneys, prostate and bladder. It’s also a good way to draw attention to mula bandha, the root lock, which brings awareness and more energy to the area around the hips.
This posture is can be quite challenging, but you can ease yourself into it as your hips open more and more. Since it’s a powerful way to open the glutes, hamstrings, abductors and hip flexors, Half Pigeon can help men when they take part in physical activities. Once the tension is released in the hips, men will feel the benefit in the lower back and other areas of the body.
It’s not unusual for men to experience tight muscles throughout the torso, so Bridge pose can help open the upper body and release tight muscles. Whether most men realize it or not, tightness in this area makes for shallow breathing and can make other physical activities more challenging.
Over time, practicing bridge pose will create more space in the chest and make for easier, fuller breathing.
Reclining Hand to Big Toe
This posture opens the lower back to get energy moving more freely, and when it does, it also stimulates the prostate gland and improves digestion. *Try using a yoga strap to make the pose easier especially if you’re not quite flexible.
Now it’s time to really relax. As the asana suggests, you simply lay on your back, eyes closed with your hands at your sides or on your chest. Breathe normally and let your worries dissipate as you exhale.
Yoga can be very challenging and mastering these yoga poses will help strengthen and stretch the muscles, prevent workout injuries and improve posture and overall balance.
Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose or Low Plank) is one of the most challenging yoga poses done in every vinyasa and Sun Salutation often rushed through and done incorrectly. When done correctly, this challenging yoga pose has several benefits, including arm, wrist and abdomen strengthening. When practiced without proper alignment, Chaturanga can lead to shoulder, elbow, wrist and even lower back injuries.
Because Chaturanga Dandasana is a weight-bearing pose, wrist injuries are among the most common. Sometimes in yoga, we tend to use our strongest muscles to achieve difficult poses, instead of using the appropriate muscles. While in Chaturanga, many yoga students flatten their carpal tunnel, the narrow, tunnel-like structure in the wrist where several tendons and the median nerve pass, causing compression on the median nerve. Repetitive practice of this incorrect motion can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Chaturanga is a pose that uses all of the muscles in the body. To keep your body safe from injury, use your core for stabilization and activate your legs for support. While learning proper alignment and building strength,modify this pose by dropping to your knees (This decreases the weight on your back and shoulders, therefore you don’t need as much strength to do the pose as with your legs straight).
Here are some tips for a safe Chaturanga Dandasana:
Hopefully, this information will help you with your Chaturanga and keep you injury free. Remember that you can always modify the pose or skip it altogether.
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