Yoga can be transformative, and though the advanced yoga postures are in fact difficult to the beginner, the changes that yoga can bring into one’s life belie the apparent simplicity of just stretching muscles. After all, we stretch muscles at the gym during a warm up. So, what is the difference between yoga and regular workouts? Yoga integrates the breath with movement and consciousness with physical stretches as a way of strengthening the internal muscles of the body; particularly the pelvic floor.
In yoga, through the breath, and focusing on it within our body, we come to a greater understanding of both our body and ourselves. We begin a more conscious relationship with our individuality. We meet that unique expression of ourselves expressing physically in that moment. We can begin a process of changing that which is blocking the vital flow of our energy.
That is why it doesn’t matter what state we are in when we begin practicing yoga. We might not be flexible, or perhaps we are in pain, or distracted. It is a journey of discovery, not of trying to fit ourselves into an external idea, even if that idea is represented in that moment by the yoga posture we are trying to do. T.K.V. Desikachar (son of the great yoga master Sri Krishnamacharya ) wrote that the body can “only gradually accept an asana”. We should not strain ourselves, or judge ourselves, if we cannot fit into that posture. That posture is a possible outcome, yes, but what we do in our practice of yoga is to take the journey.
T.K.V. Desikachar makes another important point: “We should remain flexible so that we are still able to react to changes in our expectations and old ideas. The more distanced we are from the fruits of our labors, the better we can do this… Paying more attention to the spirit in which we act and looking less to the results our actions may bring us – this is the meaning of Ishvara pranidhana—surrendering. ”
The asanas are a way of preparing us to more fully meet the challenges of life in a way that does not throw us off balance, but increases our capacity to adapt to those changes that are inherent in life. They allow us to be more sensitive and aware to what is really going on inside and in life itself. This growing self-knowledge then provides us with a complete picture in which our responses to whatever situations confront us more accurately reflects what is truly present. There is a deeper engagement that goes beyond the wandering of the mind, the self-doubt, the domination of our preconceptions and expectations, or our need for something to be a certain way.
When we are distracted or preoccupied with doubt, worry, fear, and even hope that is attached to an outcome (need), the vital energy of our whole being is leaking, diffused. Through yoga practice, we can clear the debris, to redirect our subtle energy within, to sit within the body, our being, again. This is an energetic aspect of self-mastery. Integral to this is the knowledge of oneself as whole, and simultaneously a part of the wholeness that is within everything.
References: The Heart of Yoga, T.K.V. Desikachar
Research shows that yoga is very beneficial when it comes to alleviating stress and controlling the effects of high blood pressure (hypertension). Some doctors actually encourage patients to practice yoga as a preventative measure. Yoga provides a holistic approach to dealing with constant worry and stress, which enables you to alleviate its harmful side effects. The practice of yoga stretches, postures and poses help relieve tension and pain throughout your entire body. With focus, guided meditation practices and basic breathing exercises you can train yourself to still your mind, thus relieving stress.
The best things about the practice of yoga is that you can stretch and relax your body at anytime you our feeling overwhelmed by stress. It helps you become aware of what is going on inside your body. The more you practice the easier it becomes to achieve balance and harmony.
Another great thing about yoga is that you can practice certain breathing and relaxation techniques anytime you are feeling anxious, worried or under pressure; all you have to do is take a break, sit down, relax your shoulders, take a long steady breath in and slowly exhale. By repeating this practice three to five times, you will notice that you feel calmer, less stressed and energized.
When it comes to controlling high blood pressure, there are two effective yoga exercises that have been proven to help lower blood pressure:
Inverted yoga reverses the action of gravity on the body. The most profound changes brought about by Inverted Yoga is better circulation. In inverted poses, legs and abdomen are placed higher than the heart. Perform this pose by lengthening up through the legs and keep them very active so your spine opens and the entire body becomes involved in the pose. One of the reasons for this is the force of gravity is reversed and the rate of blood flow back to the heart (venous return) becomes significantly greater.
During inverted poses, gravity causes the blood to flow easily back through the veins and this brings the blood pressure in the feet to a minimum. This in effect gives skeletal muscles a chance to rest. This drainage of blood and waste from the lower body back towards the heart helps alleviate other symptoms, such as varicose veins and swollen ankles as well.
Did you know the simple act of breathing, inhaling and exhaling has the power to nourish the body, calm the mind and ultimately reduce stress?
However, not just any breathing will do the trick. If you're like most people, you take short, shallow breaths, pulling your stomach in as you inhale and never emptying your lungs of carbon dioxide when you exhale; but what most people don't know is that long, slow breaths are more efficient and beneficial than short, fast ones.
To take in a good breath, your lungs must first be completely empty. the key to efficient breathing lies in exhaling completely. A full exhalation begins with the upper chest, proceeds to the middle chest and finishes with tightening the abdominal muscles. Only after a good exhalation can you draw in a good lung full of the oxygen-rich air your
blood needs to nourish your cells.
The practice of rhythmic breathing can help harmonize the body, mind and emotions. This unique breathing technique eliminates stress as well as, fatigue and negative emotions such as anger, frustration and depression, leaving you calm and relaxed.
Kapalabhati is a very important asana and it should be part of your daily practice. This pose is also known as the Fire Breathing Pose, due to intake and outlet of air, with force. The exercise purifies your lungs and nasal passage. It is one of the powerful breathing exercises which help the entire body. It is one of a kind of the breathing exercises in Pranayama. Kapalabhati helps to make the motions of diaphragm very easy and controlled. This helps it to discard the muscle cramps present in bronchial tubes. Lot of force is used to do this asana. While exhaling the process is very strong and while inhaling it is done very calmly. It is a very energizing technique to re-boot all your muscles. It is a cleansing technique which emphasizes on cleaning your air passages and blockages in your chest.
Here are the 5 benefits of practicing the breath of fire:
Cleanses the body of toxins
Kapalabhati clears the body from the constant intake of toxins, thus detoxifying it. This technique helps to replace any toxic air with fresh air. The breathing mainly takes place from the abdomen, as opposed to the chest, and this specifically is what helps to remove the toxic air. Kapala means "the skull" and bhati means "brings lightness." Breathing in this way lightens your skull by extracting problems like sinusitis. This is an invigorating and energizing practice as it fills your stuffy skull with fresh air.
The practice also improves bowel movements which rids the body of the many diseases.
Excellent for respiratory problems
It is also one of the best exercises for asthma patients and people suffering from respiratory problems. This stimulating breath can do wonders for every single tissue in your body. The breathing technique will invigorate your spine.
Increase blood circulation
It is also useful for maintaining blood pressure. The abdominal organs also become strengthened from the pressure applied to these organs while breathing and exhaling. It increases the blood circulation due to fresh supply of blood. It is also useful for removing impurities from the blood.
Tones the abdominal area
The abdominal area is toned with the help of this breathing technique. It helps clear the entire nervous system which proves to be very useful in making the body fit.
Helps with decision making
A sense of calmness is also achieved due to the lightness of the skull. Kapalabhati helps one to think better and make decisions quickly while also keeping the mind alert. This is a wonderful breathing technique to help the mind and soul, as it helps to awaken the spiritual power which heals many problems facing many of us today.
Caution: It is important to exercise all precautions before following any of the asanas from this article. To avoid any problems while doing the asanas, it is advised that you consult with your doctor and an experienced yoga instructor who can best illustrate this breathing technique.
Prenatal yoga is an exercise that is designed to promote breathing exercises, posture and emotional relaxation. This approach is often sought by pregnant women who are preparing for a natural childbirth or who wish to stay physically and emotionally healthy during their pregnancy. One of the many benefits of prenatal yoga is the lack of physical exertion that is required, which makes it a safe practice for many moms-to-be.
During the pain that is associated with a natural childbirth, prenatal yoga will promote proper breathing that will help to make the process an easier one. In addition, relaxation is essential during the childbirth process and although it can be difficult, prenatal yoga can help to teach women how to relax themselves as much as possible.
For some, prenatal yoga may be sought as part of a spiritual process that helps them to connect with their unborn child and/or prepare for the new arrival. In some cases, prenatal yoga may even be beneficial after the birth as it instills techniques that are associated with relaxation. As every new mom knows, there is a definite need for relaxation after having a child.
Furthermore, prenatal yoga may help women to return to their pre-pregnancy weight more quickly than others. For most, this is a struggle that takes a lot of patience and determination. In general, yoga is an exercise that promotes not only physical fitness and proper breathing, but also spiritual and emotional connections.
If you are searching for a prenatal yoga class or instructor, the best place to start is through your physician. During your visit, ask your doctor if prenatal yoga would be safe for you and, if so, who you could contact for instruction. Some physicians may be aware of local classes or instruction being given and will often be able to refer patients to a class that is most convenient for them. Most women prefer to have the father of their child or a friend or family member attend prenatal yoga classes for support and guidance. Having someone familiar will also make the classes more enjoyable and relaxing for the mom-to-be. Before enrolling in prenatal yoga, it’s best to make sure that the instructor is licensed, certified or highly trained and experienced in teaching this type of relaxation method.
*The information in this article is to be used for informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of, or in conjunction with, professional medical advice. Anyone with questions regarding prenatal yoga should consult their physician for further information.
Your yoga practice and the way you breathe are intertwined. You won’t fully experience the benefits of yoga without first learning how to breathe properly.
Different types of yoga practice call for different types of breathing, so it is important to note from the beginning that there is no one right way to breathe in yoga. If, in your yoga practice, your goal is total relaxation then your breathing should reflect that. This means long deep breaths meant to slow your heart rate and allow you to fully relax into the yoga pose. Here are 6 tips for breathing properly in yoga:
* Your diaphragm is where the breath originates in yoga and in everyday life. When you breathe in, your stomach puffs slightly because your diaphragm is filling with air. When you breathe out, your stomach flattens as your diaphragm empties itself of air. When you breathe, be sure that your stomach is moving, that you aren’t restricting this movement in any way.
* It’s important to relax every muscle in your chest, your face, your neck, your shoulders – even your jaw – in order to benefit from a relaxing breath in yoga. One way to do this is to breathe in deeply then release the breath completely. You may not even realize that your muscles are locked until you try to contract them.
* Keep your breaths smooth and easy during your yoga practice. Everyone breathes at their own natural rate, but becoming conscious of your breath does not mean controlling it in any way. Notice your breath and relax into your own natural rhythm.
* Breathing faster, in and out, is a natural reaction to stress or excitement. It stands to reason then, that relaxing breath in yoga should accentuate the exhalation. Breathe in naturally and make sure that your exhalation is longer than your inhalation and fully empty your diaphragm and lungs of air.
* Pausing between breaths will allow you to relax even further in yoga. No need to rush through your relaxation.
* When you breathe, feel the oxygen in the lungs and visualize it reaching every extremity, every toe and finger. Let your whole body enjoy the relaxing breath in your yoga practice.
When you learn how to breathe, you will find that it comes naturally in your yoga practice and in time, will continue in your everyday life.
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 the individual 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 to the ultimate truth.
Yoga is a set of systematically devised physical exercises that lay 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 its 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.
Though it is best to begin yoga practice under the guidance of a trained yoga teacher, you can now learn to do these exercises at home with the help of books, videos and online yoga classes. Once you have learned the basic exercises you can make it a part of your daily routine. It’s best to have a time and place for practicing yoga so that you can be regular and reap rich benefits from it. After some time you will see a change in yourself. Your body will become more flexible, stronger and healthy; you will have a positive attitude and your worldview on life will become beautiful. You will feel blessed!
Surya Namaskara B (Sun Salutation B) is a series of postures that are linked together by using the breath. Surya means the sun and Namaskar means a greeting or salutation in honor of the divine present in each of us. The sequence presented here is usually practiced after several rounds of Sun Salutation A (Surya Namaskara A). Sun Salutation B includes many of the same components of Sun Salutations in most styles of yoga, with the inclusion of Warrior I pose. Remember to breathe through your nose as you practice; it will help to warm your body and bring a meditative state of mind. If you’re having trouble breathing smoothly, relax your practice a bit. Make sure not to force yourself and always work within your own range of limits and abilities.
The art of chakra healing has been used for centuries to balance important energy centers in our body called chakras. We can use a number of different tools such as stones or meditation during chakra balancing. The end result will be a physically healthier body and a happier, more peaceful you.
According to practitioners of chakra healing, we all have seven primary chakras that correspond with vital areas of our bodies and emotional and spiritual aspects of our lives. The seven chakras form a line from the base of your spine to the top of your head. Chakras have their own color, vibrational frequency, and symbol. For example, the first chakra is found at the base of the spine and is known as the root chakra. This chakra governs the spinal column, kidneys, legs, feet, rectum, and immune system. So, when this chakra is out of balance, it may lead to lower back pain, varicose veins, leg cramps, rectal conditions, depression, as well as immune related disorders. A lack of balance in the root chakra may be caused by feelings of low self-esteem, insecurity, or family concerns.
Other chakras include the sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, brow, and crown chakras. Each energy center must be vibrating at the proper frequency independent of one another in order for the entire body to vibrate in harmony. Therefore, each chakra is equally important to optimal functioning of the body according to the chakra healing tradition.
Many powerful tools can affect the vibration of the chakra, and that’s where chakra balancing comes into play. Chakra stones, the human voice, music, chants, mantras and chakra meditation bring the frequency of the chakras back into proper vibrational alignment. For example, the root chakra is greatly affected by the hematite, onyx, ruby or garnet gemstones. During chakra healing a practitioner may use one or all of these chakra stones to cleanse your root chakra and bring it into harmony.
Chakra meditation may also be used to open up your chakra centers and improve the flow of positive psychic energy in your body. During meditation you simply concentrate on each of the chakras starting with the first one and working your way up to your crown chakra. By imagining the flow of energy from chakra to chakra, you are helping to remove blockages in each energy center that might be causing pain and disease.
Because the chakras govern every organ and system in your body, chakra healing has far reaching health implications. Chakra balancing can lead to improved heart, lung, and brain, immune and digestive function and may also help with depression, anxiety, and other emotional imbalances. Many believe that the chakras have the power to transform your life both physically and spiritually. It is only when our chakras are in sync that we can truly access higher levels of consciousness.
If the powerful art of chakra healing sounds intriguing to you, visit an experienced chakra healer. A good healer will ask you plenty of questions about your health in order to pinpoint which of your chakras are the most blocked or unbalanced. From there he or she may employ any number of tools to help lead your energy centers into harmonious vibration.
Mudra is a Sanskrit word which means ‘to lock’ or ‘to seal’. The word ‘mudra’ signifies hand gestures, or even symbols. Mudras are an integral part of a yoga practice in that they enable you to control the flow of prana, or the life force, thereby making you more energetic and full of vitality. In addition to this, mudras help you lock energy inside your body so that you can utilize it, rather than letting it dissipate. There are 25 major mudras in Yoga. Mudras are not just hand gestures, but can also be done with the eyes, body postures or take the form of cleansing rituals. The gestures themselves are symbolic of various states of consciousness. However, certain gestures can lead to the state of consciousness that they represent. So, practicing a mudra can alter your state of consciousness.
It is believed that by bringing together the fingers of the hand you call upon the energy of the elements that those fingers represent, and these energies can heal your body, mind and soul.
Our hands and feet contain more nerves and endocrine glands than any other part of our bodies. Mudras can be enhanced with breathing exercises, meditation, mantras, color, affirmations and music. The thumb is associated with the fire element, the lung meridian and the planet Mars and represents willpower and logic. The index finger is associated with the air element, the stomach meridian and the planet Jupiter. It represents the mind and the power of thought. The middle finger is associated with the ether element, the circulation and gallbladder meridians and the planet Saturn. It represents our spiritual path. The ring finger is associated with the earth element, the liver meridian and the sun (or Apollo, the sun god). It represents vitality and health. The little finger is associated with the water element, the heart meridian and the planet Mercury. It represents communication, sexuality and personal relationships.
Always make sure that you don’t apply too much pressure and always keep your hands relaxed when practicing the mudras.
Mudras can be done while you’re seated, standing or even lying down. Your body and mind should feel relaxed and centered.
There is no specific time to practice mudras. Whatever time you choose, you need to be able to relax and withdraw into yourself. This can be before or after eating, as soon as you wake up, or right before you go to sleep.
Always plan your mudras depending on what you need. Practice one or two mudras consistently for a few weeks. Monitor the effects of these mudras on your body. You will see that as things change in your body, you will see a corresponding change in your life as well.
Here are 4 of the many mudras:
Chin Mudra: This gesture symbolizes the connected nature of human consciousness. The circle formed by the index finger and thumb represents the true goal of yoga – the merging of the individual soul with the universal soul, or the soul of God. The nail of the index finger is placed into the first joint of the thumb. The last three fingers always face down towards the earth in this mudra. It is a gesture of receiving. When the finger touches the thumb a circuit is produced which allows the energy that would normally dissipate into the environment to travel back into the body, and up to the brain.
Hridaya Mudra: From a seated meditation posture with the head and spine straight, place the tips of the index fingers at the root of the thumbs and join the tips of the middle and ring fingers to the tips of the thumbs. The little finger remains straight. Place the hands on the knees with the palms facing upward. Close the eyes and relax the whole body, keeping the body motionless. This mudra diverts the flow of energy from the hands to the heart area, improving the heart’s vitality. The middle and ring fingers relate directly to the energy channels connected with the heart, while the thumb closes the energy circuit and acts as an energizer, diverting the flow of energy from the hands to these energy channels. The heart gesture mudra helps to release pent-up emotion and unburdens the heart.
Aadi Mudra: (primal or first gesture) this mudra is made by curling the fingers around the thumb making a very light fist. It has a soothing influence on the mind and is said to positively influence breathing. Aadi mudra can be very useful in savasana at the end of asana practice to quiet the nervous system.
Lotus Mudra: This mudra opens the heart chakra and is a symbol of purity. The message of the lotus mudra is to stay connected to your roots, open yourself to the light and realize that the greatest sense of steadiness in life is an open heart. Lotus Mudra drains out misunderstanding, helps to release tension, and is also practiced to enhance the fire element in the body. It is a great reminder of the beauty and grace that is within you and those around you.
Breathing is life. It is one of our most vital functions. One of the Five Principles of Yoga is Pranayama or Breathing Exercise which promotes proper breathing. From a Yogic point of view, proper breathing is to bring more oxygen to the blood and to the brain, and to control Prana or the vital life energy. Pranayama and Yoga asanas goes hand in hand. The union of these two Yogic Principles is considered as the highest form of purification and self-discipline, covering both mind and body.
Yoga breathing, or Pranayama, is the science of breath control. It consists of series of exercises especially intended to meet the body's needs and keep it in vibrant health. Pranayama comes from the following words:
Prana - "life force" or "life energy
Yama - "discipline" or "control"
Ayama - "expansion", "non-restraint", or "extension"
When we focus on the breath, we are listening to and contemplating the true nature of consciousness as it is spoken through the breath. Breathing is therefore more than a simple physical action each breath has an underlying significance and a particular “coded message”. If you can realize the true reality of the breath, you can realize the atma or soul. It is the mechanics of respiration that opens up the space for pranic energy and for the spread of consciousness.
In our respiration process, we breathe in or inhale oxygen into our body, going through our body systems in a form of energy to charge our different body parts. Then we exhale carbon dioxide and take away all toxic wastes from our body. Through the practice of Pranayama, the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide is attained. Absorbing prana through breath control links our body, mind, and spirit.
Because of the daily work, family, or financial pressures, we tend to ignore our breathing. Thus, it tends to be fast and shallow. The use of only a fraction of your lungs results to lack of oxygen and may lead to different complications. Heart diseases, sleep disorders, and fatigue are some of the effects of oxygen starvation. Therefore, the negative energy of being restless and troublesome leads to lesser prana inside the body. By practicing deep and systematic breathing through Pranayama, we can re-energize our body.
Regular practice of yogic breathing has been shown to increase yogic breathing. This raises the vitality of the body and efficiency of the bodily functions. Breathing with the awareness of the heart is a way of entering the silence of the heart, a moment of inner calmness and joy, and steadiness of mind. You will become established in your own natural inner silence.
Benefits of Pranayama
Pranayama teaches us the proper way to breathe. We became used to breathing from our chest, using only a fraction of the lungs, not knowing that this unhealthy and unnatural way of inhaling may lead to several complications. With yoga breathing, we increase the capacity of our lungs, bringing more oxygen supply to the body to function well. We learn how to breathe slowly and deeply - the right way.
Pranayama reduces the toxins and body wastes from within our body. It prevents one from acquiring diseases.
Pranayama helps in one's digestion. With the proper way of breathing, one's metabolism and health condition will start to improve.
Pranayama develops our concentration and focus. It fights away stress and relaxes the body. Controlling one's breathing also results to serenity and peace of mind.
Pranayama offers a better self-control. Through concentration, one can better handle temper and reactions. Mind can function clearly, avoiding arguments and wrong decisions. Moreover, self-control also involves control over one's physical body.
Pranayama leads to spiritual journey through a relaxed body and mind.
*It is worth noting that Pranayama should not be forced and done without proper preparation. It is part of a process in yoga. Breath control is a spiritual practice of cleansing the mind and body which should be done appropriately and with proper guidance and preparation.
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