Inversion poses involve any asanas that lift the feet above the head. Other inversion poses that are well known include shoulderstand (salamba sarvangasana) and half shoulderstand (viparita karani); but even lying on the floor with your legs up the wall is an inversion pose. The concept behind inversion poses is expressed in yoga texts as viparita karani. Viparita karani is translated as meaning ‘opposite processes. This means facilitating a different perspective. From the purely physical point of view, this different perspective in inversion poses is literal – in terms of looking at the world from a different physical viewpoint – as well as involving the body being supported in a different way.
Yoga is more than simply physical exercises, there are other processes that are assisted. Yoga is designed to help us change mental habits as well as physical habits. Through increasing our ability to adapt to change, instead of being stuck in old habitual responses, we increase our capacity for growth and transformation. This applies in all areas of our lives.
There is a theoretical concept in yoga about why inversion postures help. Ayurveda considers that many of the body’s impurities are in the lower abdomen. When we raise our feet above the head, gravity is assisting us to move these impurities towards what the Ayurvedic system calls agni, or ‘fire’. Agni particularly relates to our ‘digestive fire’, and is thus located above our lower abdomen. So, by being upside down, and by using the deep and slow breathing typical of yoga, we help ‘burn off’ the impurities that were previously stuck. Improved circulation is a more readily apparent and less ‘esoteric’ benefit of inversion yoga poses.
Although inversion postures have many health benefits, the ability to receive those benefits depends as much on one’s capacity to comfortably hold these sometimes difficult postures. For example, headstand and shoulder stand should not be done by women who are pregnant, those who have neck pain, high or low blood pressure, neck injuries, or are menstruating. Neither of these postures should be attempted without the appropriate preparatory postures. Otherwise the risk of injury, or stiffness, particularly to the neck area, will result. Likewise, if doing these postures is uncomfortable or difficult, one should practice the modified versions, or simply work on other yoga poses that strengthen these areas.
Tips for Doing Inverted Postures
For Half Shoulder stand:
* Lengthen the exhale
* don’t lock the chin
* Keep your weight not on the head but on the wrists and elbows
* Don’t try to pull your torso (and legs) vertical like in full shoulder stand if you have difficulties with your neck. By doing so, you’re placing more pressure on your neck.
* Make sure you do the appropriate balancing postures afterwards. These include shalabhasana and bhujangasana
* Don’t worry so much about keeping your elbows and arms parallel. This will create more tension in your neck if you’re not proficient in this posture.
* Do the appropriate balancing postures. These are the same as for half shoulder stand.
* Don’t ever make adjustments whilst in headstand. If you feel your alignment is not quite right, come down and do it again.
* Never do this posture first up, or without the prerequisite postures. It will lead to stiffness in the neck at best, and injury at worst.
This posture is never done traditionally without preparation.
* Use a wall for support as a learning stage
* Support your head with all of your fingers, including the little fingers and thumbs
* Finding the right position for your head will make sure weight is distributed evenly, and ensure you don’t have to overly press down with your elbows to compensate
* Don’t hold your weight too much on the back of your body. It will place too much pressure on your neck.
* Rest your neck before doing the balancing postures, however. Lie down with your legs bent.
* Other balancing postures include chakravakasana, dvipada pitham with the arms, and shalabhasana
There may be fears or a sense of limitation about doing inversion poses that will be confronted. Sometimes, it’s best to start an asana gradually. Most inversion poses offer variations that one can use to build up strength and flexibility, as well as overcome any fear based feelings about the posture and the ability to do it.
*Caution: Do NOT attempt any of these poses if you suffer from neck or shoulder pain/injury. Always seek the advice of your physician prior to beginning any yoga regimen. Remember to practice within your own comfort level as well as, only attempt these poses once you have warmed up.
Practicing yoga is not always about getting a workout. People practice different types of yoga to benefit in various ways. For example, restorative yoga can help your body relax and open up; and there are yoga breathing techniques you can practice which can help to clear your mind and focus the brain. If you set aside a small amount of time during each day to practice yoga, you can benefit from it even more in your everyday life. But how can one fit a yoga practice into a busy life?
When you think of a yoga practice, what comes to your mind? Yoga mats, yoga pants, yoga blocks, or perhaps a yoga studio? You don’t necessarily need all of these things for your personal yoga practice. It depends on what kind of yoga you want to practice and if you have the space. need yoga props, or want to practice in a yoga studio.
The first thing to think about is where in your day can you set aside 10 to 20 minutes for practice? Is it at home before you leave for work or after the kids have left for school? Is it on a tea or lunch break? Is it at the end of your work day on your way home? Try to figure out when the most suitable time for your yoga is, and how much time you can dedicate to your practice, even if it is only 10 minutes.
Preparing for your daily yoga practice
Once you have decided when your yoga practice will be, you then need to make some preparations so that when it comes to doing your yoga practice there will be nothing to distract you. The time of the day you find most convenient will tell you where you are likely to set aside the time for your practice. Here are some ideas:
If you have chosen to practice in the morning you may want to do a short Sun Salutation Sequence before your morning shower. You can prepare by keeping your mat near the bathroom. You may even want to light a candle to create a relaxing environment and sense of meditation. It may be a good idea to have a clock or use a timer on your smartphone to track the time.
If you decide to take a few moments before going inside to work, why not sit in your car for 5 minutes and take some time to go through a few yoga breathing exercises? There is no need for any movement. Just sit up straight in your car seat and do some deep yoga breathing. It will help you prepare for the day, and calm down any adrenaline or stress so that you are ready to enter your workplace feeling clear-headed and ready for anything!
If you have a gym membership, maybe you could stop on your way home from work every day even if it’s just a short practice. Take half an hour to an hour, change your clothes and unwind with a sequence that helps you after a hard day at work.
Create a dedicated spot in your home to practice your yoga
It might be a good idea to create an area in your home that is like a retreat; a place you can go to whenever you want to practice your yoga, rest or meditate. Here are some things to consider in designing your very own yoga retreat in your home:
Light some scented candles or incense to help you to create a meditative state of mind
Perhaps you have a window with an inspiring view
Create your own collection of music to suit the different types of yoga you like to practice at different times of the day
What about lighting? Do you prefer bright lights or dim lights?
Do you live in a small space? If so, can you store your mat flat under your bed so that you don’t have to have it laid out in the way, and you don’t have to unroll it every time you want to use it
Stretching the muscles before any exercise (including yoga) is key to a safe experience, and yet the ankles are often ignored; interesting, considering an ankle sprain is the most common type of sports injury. Many yoga poses can help protect the ankles, increasing strength, balance and flexibility so sprains are less likely to occur. Here are 4 yoga poses for the ankles:
Mountain pose is a standing pose that strengthens the ankles, knees and thighs, while also reducing flat feet. To get into the pose, start with your feet close together, your heels just barely apart. Lift your toes and spread them out onto the floor, distributing your weight evenly on the inner and outer sections of your feet. Drop your tailbone toward the floor, slide your shoulder blades down your back, and let your arms hang strongly by your sides with your palms facing forward. Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute.
Lotus pose is a sitting pose that stretches both the ankles and the knees. If you have tight hips, you may wish to prepare for the pose by bringing your knee up toward your armpit and rotating it around a few times. Start sitting evenly on your sit bones with your legs out in front of you. Place your left foot on top of your right thigh, and your right foot on top of your left thigh, keeping your heels close to your abdomen and the soles of your feet facing upward. The knees should touch the floor (use yoga blocks, yoga bolsters, or pillows under the knees if necessary to take any strain off the knee joints. Hold the pose for a few seconds. After you have tried the pose a few times, hold for one minute.
*Modify this pose as seen in the picture. Careful as not to put pressure or strain on the knees especially if you have any knee problems.
Also called a yogic squat, garland pose stretches the ankles while also toning the abdomen. To get into the pose, squat down on the floor with your feet about hip-width apart. Your feet should face outward at about a 45-degree angle. If you can't keep your heels pressed to the floor, put a folded mat or blanket under them. Your knees should face the same direction as your ankles to prevent possible injury. Press your hands together in prayer position as you press your elbows into your knees and lift your heart upward. Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute.
Hero pose is a sitting pose that stretches and strengthens the ankles. Start in a kneeling position with your feet a little more than hip distance apart and the tops of your feet pressing down on the floor. Sit down on the floor between your feet and slide your shoulders down your back. If you can't comfortably sit on the floor, place a yoga block under your buttocks (as seen in the picture) for support. Sit up straight, with your sternum lifted, and rest your hands on top of your thighs. Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute. You may eventually wish to hold the pose for as long as five minutes.
This 30 minute sequence is for those that are “time-challenged”. Start with a few rounds of Sun Salutation to warm-up the body. A shorter yoga practice is a great place to start as a beginner (or anyone else with time constraints) without feeling too overwhelmed and thus more likely to make the practice of yoga a daily habit. It is much easier to find 15 to 30 minutes of a yoga practice than it is 90 minutes, which is often hard to do. The most important thing to remember is that this is your practice!
Modify poses when needed and always enjoy your time spent on the mat!
Yoga can be an effective part of a healthy lifestyle, offering many benefits for both the body and the mind. Yoga is also an amazingly way to help your body naturally detox and eliminate excess toxins while improving digestion and the efficiency of your body systems.
It can be a challenge to practice yoga at a studio regularly especially with work schedules, travel time to a studio, available class times, and costs of the class; one’s practice can become sporadic or cease altogether. If you’re struggling to fit yoga into your fitness routine, consider starting your own at-home practice. So whether you’ve taken hundreds of classes in a studio or you’d need a demonstration to be able to do Chaturanga, you can absolutely benefit from an at-home practice.
Here are 5 reasons to practice yoga at home:
1. Be present, NOW
The point of yoga is to relax, clear your head, and free your mind from all the busyness going on and put aside all the things that are consuming your thoughts. The thing about going to a studio, is that this has to happen at a specific time dictated by someone else. Practicing at home, that you can clear your head and mind when you decide you need it most.
2. No Excuses
It’s snowing, it’s too far to drive, the teacher I like is not teaching that day/time, and none of the classes work with my schedule. When you have to go somewhere for a class at a time that someone else chooses, it’s easy to come up with a lot of excuses of why you can’t practice. Practicing yoga at home, there’s no excuses; you and your mat are already in the same room in the right place at the right time.
3. Practice at a time convenient for YOU
As much as I love yoga, sometimes I just don’t have the time to commit to a 90 minute class. Let’s be honest, by the time you get ready, get to the studio a little early to sign in, practice, socialize a bit and drive back home, it’s 2 hours later. At home, you can practice for an hour on your own schedule and if you don’t have much time, you practice for 20 or 30 minutes. The great thing about an at-home practice is you can do it at whatever time is best for you!
4. You can wear what you want
Have you skipped yoga class because you didn’t have the latest lululemon yoga leggings or you just haven’t had the time to find your favorite leggings in that laundry pile? The good news is, that when you practice at home, you can wear whatever you want. You can wear your comfy sweat pants you’re your favorite t-shirt or even your pajamas! After all, the only person who will see you is you. 😊
5. You become the teacher
Practicing yoga at home you can go at your own pace, holding or repeating poses to meet your body’s specific needs on any given day. You can modify (or skip) poses that suit you that day. Practicing yoga at home offers more privacy and no studio distractions. Plus, if you are new to yoga, or not as advanced as other students in a yoga class, there’s no need to worry about not being able to keep up with the yoga teacher or person on the mat next to you.
If you’re interested in starting to practice yoga more (or for the first time) on your own don’t take yourself too seriously! A yoga practice is just that- a practice- not an aim at perfection.
A home practice is a great way to go deeper into your yoga practice as well as build your understanding and knowledge of yoga. A home practice can be defined as your own yoga practice outside of a class setting without a teacher leading you. You essentially become your own teacher. Developing your own home yoga practice can be challenging and even scary! It forces you to be comfortable in your own skin! Many people find it difficult not having someone guide you through a yoga practice. This is the beauty of it, to create and develop it yourself and make it your own! So if you think you don’t have the time or don’t know what to do for a home yoga practice, here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Listen to your body
During the course of my yoga practices I have learned how to listen to my body. In order to maintain a consistent practice, I needed to start practicing at home. But my first few times were not easy. I would push myself into poses that either I was not ready for or that I “thought” I could do because I saw someone else do it. I never took time to really listen to my body and what it was saying. I know better these days and I’ve learned to be in-tune with what it’s telling me.
2. Clear the clutter
This may seem like a challenge at first, clearing out a spot in your home for your yoga practice. I remember laying down my mat in my apartment where my only space to practice was the perimeter of my yoga mat. After the first Sun Salutation, I was looking around my room searching for things to pick up because I had not cleared out a more suitable space for my yoga practice. I knew I needed an area that needed to be clutter free as not to distract me from my practice. The area you choose doesn’t have to be large, just a spot for you and your yoga that’s clear of clutter and junk.
3. Withdraw the senses
At a yoga studio, you are asked to put away your belongings so you’re not distracted by your personal possessions so you can give yourself your undivided attention. This is not easy at home when you have things to do or people there to distract you. In Yoga, we practice Pratyahara, or withdrawal of the senses. It took me a while to feel unaffected by my home environment and to remain focused in my practice.
4. Embrace the challenge
Ask yourself, “When am I feeling compelled to step off my mat?” “When do I give up?” The answer is simple…when the practice becomes challenging. As soon as I began practicing yoga I began to feel the challenge that I was searching for. Not just the asanas, but the deeper connection I felt towards my inner self. I realized over time, that I was limiting my potential to grow. I was not allowing the poses to work and exiting early was a metaphor to how I reacted to other challenging situations in my life off the mat.
5. Stay consistent
If you only have time for a few rounds of Sun Salutation it’s better than doing nothing at all! There are mornings when I just want to sleep. I practice daily because I know yoga requires the consistency to keep at it, to make it a habit. I know that yoga makes me feel better, that it jumpstarts my day in a way that drinking coffee never did. Remember that consistency is key, even if you only practice 15 minutes a day!
The rewards of a home practice
While it may take time to develop the discipline for a home practice, it can be very rich and rewarding. You can try new things and have the freedom to explore your own creative movement. If you’re just getting started or experiencing some of these similar challenges, keep going, stay committed. Make yourself and your practice a priority. You will not regret it! Just know that a practice is anything you need that day. A quick break, a deep breath, and a little bit of patience is all you need to get yourself going. Enjoy!
Yoga poses and the practice of yoga can be beneficial to your mind, your muscles, and even internal functions like your digestive system. With so many benefits, it is no wonder that yoga’s popularity is on the rise. Before you begin however, it is a good idea to have the right information to help you succeed and get the most out of your practice. Follow these yoga tips as you begin your physical, mental, and spiritual journey.
1. Buy a Yoga Mat
Shopping for your first yoga mat (or even a new one) may seem overwhelming, however, being new to yoga you want to make sure you have a yoga mat that best works for you. Choosing among the various materials, sizes, and thicknesses can feel like a huge decision. Buying a yoga mat isn't about finding the most expensive or nicest looking one, but instead finding one that can help you practice yoga safely and properly. Use a mat that you are comfortable with and works best for you!
2. Practice Often
Yoga offers many benefits to your mind, body, and spirit, and these benefits may be maximized with regular practice on your own as well as, a few classes with a yoga teacher. As a beginner, it is especially important that to practice so that you may see and feel the benefits early on. With yoga, the frequency with which you work on your poses is as important if not more so than the length of the practice sessions. Try to find a few minutes each day to do a little bit of yoga.
3. Practice Poses Correctly and Modify When Needed
Most anything you read, watch, or listen to about yoga will tell you to practice often, but one of the yoga tips that sometimes get skipped is that you must practice correctly. Don’t just practice only your best poses, but also work on poses you struggle with as well. Such a practice will be more productive and give you the feeling of self-assurance that you seek with yoga. Don’t be afraid to modify certain poses if you need to. Too many yoga injuries often occur when students don’t modify poses when they should.
4. Maximize Your Potential
One of the more important tips for beginners is to let go of your ego. In order to get the most out of your yoga experience, you must forget about such things like impressing your teacher, classmates, or even those pretty pictures you see posted online. One of the central ideas of yoga is self-study. To fully study yourself, you must try not to compare yourself to other yoga students, but instead, you should strive to maximize your own learning and improvement during each practice session.
5. Find Yourself
During practice, remember what is important. The depths of your poses are not nearly as important as how deep you delve into yourself. In yoga, you learn about your inner attention. Be sure to use that attention when practicing and when with your instructor to get the most out of your poses even if you cannot get deeply into them physically.
6. Find the Right Teacher
No number of yoga tips can compete with having the right teacher. When selecting a yoga teacher, make sure you find someone with whom you feel comfortable. Your instructor should be knowledgeable and compassionate as well as have respect for you as a person. You want a yoga teacher who encourages you out of your comfort zone, without being overly pushy that could cause unnecessary injuries.
As a beginner in yoga, there are undoubtedly times that you feel a bit lost. That is okay. Hopefully, though, with these tips you will have an idea of what you need to do to feel more successful in your yoga experience. Yoga is not a religion, but in some ways it does become a way of life, and by following these tip you can start your journey toward that way of life on the right foot.
If gift buying, holiday parties and baking holiday treats have you feeling stressed out, sluggish or just plain drained rest assured you are not alone. Here are 5 yoga tips and poses to help relieve some of your holiday stress:
Breathe: This is the simplest and most effective way we can do to calm the nervous system is to breathe deeply with awareness. Sit tall or lie on your back. Close your eyes. Fill your belly with breath on your inhale and release all the air from your lungs on the exhale. Continue for 5-10 minutes resting your awareness solely on your breath and feeling the tension fall a way.
Practice gratitude: We have so many blessings in our lives, whether it’s the food on our plate, the roof over our head or sharing a laugh with a loved one, become aware of the abundance in your life by simply being aware.
Remain dedicated to your yoga practice: It is in times of stress that our yoga practice holds the most importance. By dedicating time to yourself through your practice, you will begin to feel more calm and relaxed. Even a 20-minute home practice will help connect the body and mind, improving concentration and relieving stress.
Have Fun: This may seem difficult, but have fun! Play games with your kids, play in the snow, sing Christmas songs out loud, or watch any funny Christmas movie or cartoon. Finding playfulness in our daily activities helps us to not take ourselves too seriously. It’s hard to feel anxious, sad or angry when you are laughing, so even if it feels a bit fake at first, crack a smile and see what happens.
Cultivate compassion, forgiveness and peace: Easier said than done, right? Not necessarily. The key to cultivating happiness is forgiveness; forgiveness of others, forgiveness of self. Holding onto a grudge hurts you in the end. Forgiveness is a choice and it requires a lot of compassion that ultimately leads to peace and we can all use peace in our lives no matter what time of the year.
The kids are out of school for the holidays, the cold weather has got you in a “funk”, your job is stressful and you have no time for yourself. If anyone told you that you could reach a state of physical and emotional bliss with yoga, you may not believe them; but believe it or not, you can beat the blues with yoga!
Yoga is a great mood enhancer that requires no drugs or medications. Like all forms of exercise, yoga releases hormones that help ease feelings of stress that often lead to the blahs, blues, or outright depression. Being active keeps your mind away from negative thoughts, and allows you to gain a greater and clearer perspective on the problems you are facing. People, who are depressed, or simply feeling "down", often lack the motivation to exercise. That's why yoga can be such a great option. It takes far less effort to complete yoga routine as it takes to out to a video or drive to the gym.
When you're feeling down, it may be difficult to think positively. People who are depressed often lack the concentration to detach themselves from their thoughts. Yoga is a "moving meditation", so it is easier to take your mind away from negative thoughts. Our essential inner nature can be blocked by negative thoughts. Apathy, despair, doubt, hopelessness and sleeping too much or too little are all signs of depression that must be addressed. Yoga is designed to bring you closer to your inner truth, naturally helping with some of the symptoms of depression. With a focus on balance, yoga can help to restore mental stability.
There is a definite connection between mind, body and spirit that indicates people can beat the blues with yoga. No other form of exercise alone can achieve these same benefits. Certain yoga postures can influence your mood and help to relieve depression. Yoga postures can help increase low energy levels and relieve lethargy. They are also helpful in opening lung capacity to allow more oxygen to reach all parts of your body, and even your mood. Ask your yoga instructor to help you learn the postures that will balance your moods.
It's also possible to beat the blues with yoga because of the calming effects yoga has on the nervous system. Proper breathing techniques are important elements to practicing yoga, as these can help curb your anxiety and quiet your thoughts, allowing you to concentrate on positive rather than negative energies. As you learn more about yoga, you'll come to understand the connection between your mind and your emotions, and you'll find that they can help each other. Even performing the most basic yoga routines can help lift your spirits. While not physically demanding like other forms of exercise, yoga will make you feel much better at the end of a session. Try it and you'll find that you can beat the blues with yoga!
Caution: If you think you may be suffering with severe depression, seek professional advice. Yoga is a drug-free alternative that can be safely practiced in conjunction with any medication or therapy your doctor orders. Some yoga routines are specifically designed to alleviate depression and taught by instructors who have been extensively trained to understand the most therapeutic positions.
It’s that time of year again when the weather begins to change and the temperatures get much colder. As most people spend more time indoors, the susceptibility of catching a cold rises. You have to drink plenty of fluids, get lots of rest and take the regular cold remedies, but practicing yoga during your cold or flu can also help get over your cold faster. Get on your yoga mat, but remember to take things slowly and rest when you feel like you need to rest. Remember that yoga poses for cold and flu should be easy and relaxing poses.
Here are a few yoga poses for cold sufferers:
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana): Brings energy to the head and respiratory area; helps clear the sinuses.
Supported Bridge Pose (Salamba Setu Bandhasana): Opens up the chest and increases circulation to the upper torso.
Legs up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani): Brings energy to the groin and opens the chest area to facilitate breathing.
Supported Bound Angle Pose (Salamba Baddha Konasana): Opens the chest, abdomen, and groins; relaxes the nervous system.
Reclining Twist (Modified Jathara Parivartanasana): Releases physical and stress-based tension.
Widespread Forward Bend (Upavistha Konasana): Quiets the internal organs; relaxes the mind.
Corpse Pose (Shavasana, Savasana): Most helpful with a towel roll placed from the lower spine to head to open up your breathing.
*The most important thing in practicing yoga while you’re sick is to wait until you are past the worst stages (or first few days) and regaining some of your energy. Always consult with your physician prior to beginning any yoga practice.
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