Yoga is an ancient science that aims to create a balance between the body, mind and spirit, thereby curing physical mental and spiritual disorders that are caused by this imbalance. In common language, yoga means union; it’s a union of the individual consciousness with the super-consciousness. To be exact, yoga aims at reminding us of this union that already exists and has merely been forgotten. To put it simply, yoga is experiencing and knowing what already exists, not inventing anything new.
At the physical level, yoga can create a balance and harmony among the various organs and systems of the body, allowing the healing powers inherent in the body to work and cure physical ailments. At the mental level, yoga is the harmony between mind, heart and hands or between thought, speech and action. At the spiritual level, yoga aims to destroy the individual ego that stands between the individual and the cosmos, thus attaining the ultimate truth.
Yoga is essentially a set of systematically devised physical exercises that place emphasis on balance and posture. Combined with breathing exercises they have the capacity to cure almost any ailment of the body and mind. The underlying concept of yoga is to create the situation in which the human body can function at optimum capacity.
Yoga asanas or poses are simple and effective body movements that massage the muscles lubricate the joints and tone the whole body. Yoga poses help to keep the body healthy and the mind peaceful. Asanas exercise the nerves, glands, ligaments, and muscles. These exercises increase flexibility and balance in the body. Yoga poses refer to the sequence of exercises which is extremely important to get the best results. They are scientifically graded to move from the simple to the complex, to cure the body first and then move on to mental and spiritual goals.
Although you can start a yoga practice under the guidance of a yoga teacher, you can also learn to practice at home with the help of yoga videos online. Once you have learned the basic poses you can make yoga a part of your daily routine. It’s best to have a regular time and place for practicing yoga so that you can reap the benefits from it. After some time you will see a change in yourself. Your body will become strong, more flexible and healthy; you will have a positive attitude and your worldview on life will become beautiful; thus creating unification between mind, body, and spirit.
In Hatha yoga, Sun Salutations warm-up the body. This Hatha yoga sequence gives the body time to settle into the posture and the mind a chance to go inward. Sun Salutation has twelve postures or asanas in it. Surya in Sanskrit means Sun and Namaskar means to bow down. Sun Salutation is one of the most powerful sequences in yoga; it is our basic source of energy and is one of the pranic forces (life forces, chi) that keep us alive. Classical Hatha Yoga has its own Sun Salutation system, which differs from the traditional Ashtanga Yoga Sun Salutation method. The main difference between the two sun salutation methods are the postures and the order of sequence they are in. There are many benefits in the daily practice of Sun Salutations. It strengthens the digestive system and improves the functioning of the whole body. The whole process purifies the blood and improves blood circulation throughout the entire body.
This sequence of twelve classical yoga postures flow into each other and works almost every muscle in the body. Each movement is accompanied by either an inhalation and an exhalation and it is important for the rhythm of the breath to match the rhythm of the movement as not to become breathless and tired. The yoga breath (ujjayi breath) is essential to this practice. Attempt to keep your breathing as long and as even as possible. This sequence should be done in an even flowing manner. If you have never practiced this sequence before, then start off by only doing one round. This would mean that you do the sequence twice: the first time taking the right leg back and then doing the sequence again, taking the left leg back.
Baby Cradle pose or Leg Cradle pose, is a seated hip-opener that also stretches the hamstrings and calf muscles. It is a slight variation of pigeon pose and is sometimes also known as rock the baby pose. Although this pose is considered a beginner level yoga asana, its benefits can be profound. This asana is a wonderful yet gentle preparation for meditation and for more challenging asanas, such as full lotus and pigeon pose.
How to do Hindolasana
1. Begin in Dandasana / Staff Pose.
2. Inhale and lift your right leg up.
3. Place your right foot on your left forearm, and your right knee on your right forearm.
4. Clasp for fingers and bring your right shin close to your chest.
5. Twist your upper body to right side and then to your left side.
To come out of this pose, release your foot and sit in Dandasana / Staff Pose.
Repeat the sequence on your left side for the same length of time.
If this pose causes your lower back to round, or doesn’t feel good for your knee, try a seated figure four stretch instead, planting your feet on the floor and your palms or fingertips on the floor behind you. Lean back (keeping a long spine); cross your right ankle over your left thigh, keeping your right foot flexed; and walk your hands back until you find a position where you’re able to maintain a gentle curve in your lower back.
Caution: Do not attempt this pose if you have knee or hip injury.
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.
Welcome to a five-part series of Why Yoga Matters. Each day you will learn about yoga, its health benefits and how the practice of yoga can enrich your life. In this part, we are going to talk briefly about the history of yoga as well as its physical and emotional benefits.
According to the World English Dictionary the definition of yoga is:
“Any method by which such awareness and tranquility are attained, esp. course of related exercises and postures designed to promote physical and spiritual wellbeing.”
Ultimately, the practice of Yoga is meant to connect body, breath, and mind to create balance and energy. It includes physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation to improve overall health and well-being. While there is still some debate about the actual origins of Yoga, the majority consensus concludes that it began in India three to four thousand years ago. The word yoga originates from Sanskrit which literally means of "yoke" or to join. While yoga is often considered a spiritual practice, it has never actually been viewed as a religion.
Approximately 5 million people in the United States alone practice some type of yoga, whether it be in the form of dance, stretching exercise or even martial arts classes which usually have postures and poses that come originate from yoga.
There are many types of yoga, including; Integral, Bhakti, Ananda, Hatha and many more that we will discuss in Part 2 tomorrow.
Hatha Yoga is the one of the most practiced forms of yoga. It emphasizes physical postures known as asanas. During these exercises, flexing is followed by extension, a rounded back is followed by an arched back, and physical exercise is then followed by some form of meditation.
Benefits of Yoga
The practice of Yoga has numerous benefits including increased flexibility, strength, and balance. Combined with breathing exercises and meditation it works remarkably well to help promote overall physical and mental well-being. As well as the physical and emotional benefits of yoga it has also been proven as an excellent way to reduce stress, ease panic attacks, lower blood pressure, help alleviate back pain, arthritis pain, depression, mental fog and reduce the risk of many other common health problems.
Here is a quick list of yoga benefits:
- It is known to increase flexibility with postures that trigger the different joints of the body that are not normally affected in most regular exercises routines.
- It can improve the function and lubrication of joints, ligaments and tendons, helping to alleviate pain and increase flexibility.
- Yoga is perhaps the only exercise that can be beneficial to your internal organs which hardly ever get externally stimulated during other forms of exercise. This stimulation and massage of the organs can even help prevent disease.
- Yoga increases circulation and offers a complete detoxification of the body. As it gently stretches the muscles, joints as well as well as massaging the various organs of the body it is ensuring optimum blood supply and good health.
This helps in by flushing out of toxins from every nook and cranny of your body as well as providing proper nourishment to yourselves, which can promote optimum energy and a sense of well-being. it can also help delay the aging process.
These are just a few of the physical benefits associated with yoga. Yoga combined with meditation harmonizes the body and mind in a way that can only be fully understood by people who practice it. So, what are you waiting for? Why not start taking part in this age-old practice and enjoy the benefits for yourself. There's no better day, than today!
Tomorrow I will be talking about some of the more common types of yoga and their benefits.
Hatha Yoga is mainly practiced for health and vitality. Hatha Yoga was introduced in the 15th century by Yogi Swatmarama. Hatha yoga focuses on the purification of the physical being which leads to the purification of the mind or vital energy. The exploration of these physical-spiritual connections and body centered practices led to the creation of Hatha Yoga. Today in the West, hatha yoga has become wildly popular as a purely physical exercise regimen divorced of its original purpose.
Whatever the historical details, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (an Indian yoga teacher, ayurvedic healer and scholar) has become the undisputed father of modern-day hatha yoga. Krishnamacharya’s first lessons in yoga were from his father and his grandmother and passed on through generations of practice.
Hatha Yoga follows in that vein and thus successfully transcends being particularly grounded in any one religion. This exploration of these physical and spiritual connections and body centered practices led to the creation of Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga has been included in the life style of these traditions. Hatha Yoga classes tend, among other things, to emphasize physical mastery.
Hatha also means a force or determined effort, and yoga, of course, translates as yoke or joining together. The very name hatha yoga, a combination of “ha,” meaning sun, and “tha,” meaning moon, denotes the union of opposites. Through the practice of yoga an individual can gain information about physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being.
Hatha Yoga represents opposing energies: hot and cold, fire and water following the theme of ying and yang, male and female, positive and negative. Hatha yoga attempts to balance the mind and body. The balancing of the mind and body is brought about via physical exercises (also known as asanas), controlled breathing (pranayama) and relaxation or meditation.
Pranayama refers to breath control in yoga. In this yoga is defined as a means of binding or controlling the breath and the mind using the syllable “Om”. In this case yoga has extremes, practices of fasting, breath control, and postures to transcend the body, and not cultivate it. Asana body postures that are contemplative in nature and are designed to align the body and bring about the optimum situation for relaxation.
Traditional yoga is a holistic yogic path and is becoming wildly popular.
Your adrenal glands are located just above each of your kidneys and play a crucial role in many bodily functions, including balancing hormones. When there is a constant high amount of cortisol and adrenaline in the body, these important little glands become very tired. Their job is doubly hard with challenges like endometriosis, hormonal imbalances and other issues that are becoming common, particularly for many women.
If you're experiencing adrenal fatigue, then you probably already have some of the symptoms including difficulty falling asleep, easily frustrated or irritated, lack of concentration and mood swings. You may be having what could be the result of overworked adrenal glands, and a sustained "fight or flight" response in the body. That may sound like a lot very common symptoms, but unfortunately adrenal fatigue is very common, so the symptoms that arise are sometimes seen in our daily lives as just being “normal”. Because the adrenal glands are so important in regulating our stress response and aiding a huge number of bodily functions (including digestion), the body starts to down-regulate our body’s other less necessary tasks and it’s this down-regulation that often causes the symptoms of adrenal fatigue. The main culprit of adrenal fatigue is cortisol, an important hormone that’s become the infamous stress hormone. If you’ve got overactive cortisol, then your body tends to work in overdrive and then crash suddenly when you least expect it.
The one thing to note is that adrenal fatigue can sometimes take a while to develop, and therefore prevention is essential. It is also worth noting that it takes several months to restore balance to the system. My personal experience with recovery has been that there are good days and bad days. The best thing I have learned to do is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system – through deep breathing, relaxation and yoga! Above are some fantastic, refreshing and restorative yoga poses to replenish the adrenal glands.
Tips to Begin
Props are a great addition to a restorative yoga practice. If you don't have a bolster roll up a blanket. These poses are best enjoyed in a warm room where you will not be disturbed. Relax in these poses for 3-10 minutes per pose, breathing slowly and consciously through any tension or emotions that arise. The aim of the poses is to allow your body to relax, so if you feel uncomfortable at any point then use pillows or blankets as described, or slowly come out of the pose. Listen to your body and enjoy!
*The above article is for educational purposes only and should not replace the advice of a healthcare professional. Prior to beginning any exercise regimen including yoga, consult with your physician first.
Savasana, also spelled Shavasana or Shivasana, means corpse pose. For many, Savasana may seem to be one of the easiest asanas, but that is not the case. Even though it may look very simple and non-beneficial, it’s actually the most important pose in yoga practice. It is the asana which gives you the opportunity to completely relax. As you lie down it makes you aware about your body and how each part of your body plays a very important role in your life.
As you go along meditating it relaxes each nerve of your body and improves your respiration which creates the areas for energy and vitality. It benefits mentally as well as physically, which helps in focusing your positive energy for a greater good. Mind and body should not waiver while in this asana. Full concentration is required and it may prove to be useful in times when you need it the most. A motionless mind and body helps you reach the level of optimum relaxation. Listening to a soothing voice or some chants may also help you reach that meditated level.
The respiratory and circulatory system is cleared and opens to a more refreshing life. The overworked muscles tend to relax when you are in this asana. Every system in the body relaxes which gives them the breathing space to conserve energy and be more useful later on. It is very beneficial for people who are heart patient as well as suffering from blood pressure. It helps in improving your stress level and may also relieve you from slight depression. Minor problems like headache, fatigue and insomnia may also be reduced.
One of yoga’s most profound teachings is to cultivate a state of surrendering to the Divine. In Savasana, we get to practice this. Every time we lie in Savasana, we experience a feeling of letting go, accepting what is, and surrendering to the present moment. It’s a great time to cultivate this relaxed and enlightened state of being.
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!
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.
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