We often use and abuse our shoulders a lot more than we realize. Whether it’s sitting at a computer, lifting weights, or even doing a few too many Chatarungas, it’s important to balance all of that strengthening or lack of movement with opening postures. Try these shoulder-openers when your shoulders are feeling tight or especially overworked.
Forward fold with chest expansion
Begin in a forward fold with your feet at least hip-width apart. Allow your head and neck to relax. Interlace your hands at your lower back. If your shoulders are tight, keep a soft bend in your elbows. Slowly draw your palms forward, over your head, to open through the chest and shoulders. Take the shoulder opening to your limit, and breathe here for as long as it feels good.
Begin in chair pose, or Utkatasana. On an exhale, swing your right arm under your left, and bring your right palm to meet your left in front of your face. Lift your right leg over your left leg and compress your inner thighs, finding a tight wrap. Find a bind with the right foot behind the left calf, or use your right foot as a kickstand. Breathe here with a strong core, and draw your elbows away from your chest, and your palms away from your face. Switch sides when you’re ready.
Begin on your belly with your chin facing forward. Bend your knees, drawing your heels up to your gluts, and reach back and capture your feet or ankles from the outside. Exhale, and as you inhale, kick your feet into your palms, lifting your chest away from your mat. Gaze straight forward, and try to rock your weight into your belly. Draw your knees toward one another and breathe.
Kneel and walk your knees toward the front of your mat. Lift your hips over your knees, and bring your palms to your lower back, fingertips facing down for a deeper shoulder opening. Squeeze your elbows toward one another and lift your gaze while you open through your chest. Keep your hips stacked over your knees, and arch your spine while you lift through your heart. Find five breaths in your fullest expression, and keep pressing your elbows toward one another to open through your shoulders.
Begin in a seated position. Bend both knees, and swing your left leg underneath your right. Nestle your left heel next to your right hip. Stack your right knee over your left, and let your right foot rest on the mat beside your left hip. Extend your left arm high, bend at your elbow, and reach your left palm in between your shoulder blades. Bring your right arm behind your back, bending at your elbow and reach up to grasp your left fingertips with your right. If you can’t grasp opposite fingertips, you can use a towel or a strap. This is a very intense shoulder opener – either stay here, or fold forward from your hips. Switch sides after 5 or 7 breaths.
With the increased interest people now take in yoga, it's no wonder that the market has been flooded with all sorts of products and accessories dedicated to yoga practice. Advertisements with the best yoga mat have become more than common; the so-called “best” mats often vary in price and quality. If you are buying a yoga mat for the first time, you may not know how to choose one. Yoga mats provide some cushion between the floor and your body, as well as, delineate personal space in a yoga class. Our yoga mats can also help to remind us of our commitment to practice when we see them rolled up by the door.
There are lots of options for yoga mats, and many factors to consider when choosing your mat. There are so many brands, names, sizes, colors, materials, thickness, etc., how do you know what's right for you? With the number of yoga mats on the market and it can be overwhelming making that choice of what to look for. Here are my top 6 tips to help you make a choice:
Eco friendly: Many basic yoga mats that you might find at your local retailer contain PVC and/or latex. Latex can be an issue for people with latex allergies. As for PVC, there is some evidence that links PVC exposure to certain illnesses like asthma. Considering how much of our yoga practice involves putting our faces and hands on and near our mats, it may be worth the extra money to buy a yoga mat made from materials like sustainable harvested rubber.
Good grip: A good grip is the most important function of a mat, so it’s important to test it before buying. There are many mats on the market which are designed for physical therapy or Pilates, so buy one specified for yoga practice. Some people sweat a lot from the style of yoga they practice like Ashtanga or Vinyasa flow; here it’s important that your hands and feet do not allow you to slide. Try a downward-facing dog, it’s THE grip test.
Thickness: Depending on the style of yoga you practice or if you have previous injuries (like your knees, back, elbows) you may be better suited to buy a thicker mat with proper padding. Though Table and Downward Dog positions don’t require much cushioning, other forms of yoga need some lining to maintain a proper balance. Extra thickness provides more cushioning for the joints especially when practicing on wooden floors however a thicker mat can prove more unstable in balance postures. Be warned, there are many cheap mats out there that say they are 6-7mm thick however the density of these mats are often very low meaning they offer little or no extra cushioning. A good tip is to check the weight of the mat to try to judge density.
Size: A standard size yoga mat is around 61cm wide and 180cm long. If you are tall like myself, you may want a longer mat that’s 68cm wide and 185cm long. Also be sure to look for an extra-long mat bag to carry it in.
Price: It’s up to you how much you want to spend on a yoga mat If you can, it is better to spend a reasonable amount on your yoga mat especially if you use it every day or if you plan to use it often for yoga classes, plus some more expensive mats will last longer than a few yoga practices. Less expensive mats may be made with less sturdy material or be made of PVC, which may disintegrate after a few sessions. Prices vary for different patterns, textures, thickness, antimicrobial treatments and eco-friendliness.
Understanding your style of yoga and your body's needs are the first steps to picking a mat that can best support you. Remember: it’s what takes place on the mat that matters most. For more information on finding a great yoga mat for your practice, check out this guide: https://www.reviews.com/best-yoga-mats. See you on YOUR mat!
Balasana (Child’s Pose) comes from the Sanskrit words bala meaning child and asana meaning pose. Child’s pose is practiced in almost every style of yoga and class. This pose is usually practiced as a way to rest after an intense pose or sequence. However, it has numerous benefits of its own. Balasana is a great pose that allows you to turn inward; providing the opportunity to calm the mind and restore energy. Child’s pose is a basic beginner pose that nearly anyone can do.
Child’s pose is one of the most common postures that you will see when using yoga for back pain due to the versatility that it offers. Child’s Pose relieves tension in your back and hips while increasing flexibility and circulation to the muscles and joints in your low back. When practiced in the full expression of the posture, Child’s Pose can produce immediate back pain relief. Above are more great benefits of Child’s pose.
Getting into the pose:
To come into this pose, kneel onto the floor, and sit back onto your ankles. Keep your knees and big toes touching one another as you sit back. Lean forward at the waist and place your forehead on the floor. If your hips pop up, don't worry about it. As you stay in the pose, keep inviting your hips to meet your heels.
Your arms can take several positions:
To open your body farther, begin the pose in the same manner as described above. Instead of keeping your knees together, spread them as wide apart as is comfortable for you. Still keeping your big toes together.
Caution: If you have a groin injury, back or hip problems, consult with your physician prior to doing this pose. Please, carefully check in with your body before doing this pose, and do NOT do anything in which your body feels unsafe!
Yoga practice offers us the time to truly be with our breath. As we move through asanas (poses), our breath is there, offering the balance between breathing in and breathing out. Many times during yoga practice we are focused on our breathing, spending equal time and effort on the in-breath and the out-breath.
But the real question is, how can we focus on our breath off the mat too?
Breathing in signifies the doing that we have going on in our lives from work, school, taking care of our family, running errands; it’s our never-ending to-do list. When we are always doing (something), we are likely to feel stress. We can’t always handle the adrenaline in all this doing and not enough rest can become overwhelming for our bodies.
Breathing out represents the “being” in our lives: meditation, reading, spending time with a friend, napping, resting, taking a walk along the beach and so on. Breathing out is not only a reset for our body, but also the mind and spirit. Breathing out is when we can let go, and let in. Breathing out we do out of love, allowing us to care more deeply for ourselves.
Breathing in is busy.
Breathing out is quiet.
Breathing in is depleting.
Breathing out is nourishing.
According to yoga and Ayurveda, we need a balance in our lives between breathing in and out, just like our yoga practice. In fact, it is said that if we overemphasize breathing in in our lives, that we will eventually find that we are breathing out more and more in the form of sickness and disease. If we don’t stop to take a needed break, we may find we get that break whether we consciously want it or not.
Breathing out is more powerful when it is done consciously. While binge watching on Netflix may be enjoyable, it can numb rather than nourish. Breathing out activities reminds us of who we truly are. There is a sense of inner listening that defines breathing out. Do you like to write music or sing? Do you like to design or create art? Look towards those activities that replenish you, that feed you on a deeper level, where you become inspired and more yourself.
Here are some practices to consider:
Have a daily meditation practice
Practice Yoga Nidra
Write in a journal
Do a weekly oil massage (Abhyanga)
Go for a walk outside
Read that book you’ve been putting aside
Watch the sun rise or set
Spend more time with your spouse, significant other or friend
Padangusthasana or Big Toe Pose is a beginner yoga asana (pose) that is a very good stretching pose for all muscles of the body – from head to toe. In Sanskrit Padangusthasana translates as Pada meaning foot, angustha meaning thumb, hasta meaning hand, so the pose literally translates to thumb to foot pose and hand to foot pose.
Practicing this pose increases blood circulation to the brain and stretches the thigh muscles, hamstrings, calf muscles and the back, lower back and both the arms. This is one of the very few poses that increase muscle density and burn fat accumulated in them. Padangusthasana massages the liver and spleen and gives strength to the knees.
This pose is said to balance the body and mind is ideal for women who are trying to conceive due to its stretching quality. Big Toe Pose improves concentration, memory and focus and can help prevent osteoporosis to a great extent. It calms down the practitioner and cures headache and insomnia, making the body more flexible at the same time. The Big Toe Pose helps relieve wind and rejuvenates tired muscles.
How to do Padangusthasana:
Caution: In all forward bending poses, be to fold from the hips, not the waist. As you fold from the hips it will require a little more effort as you are moving more of your body than when folding at the waist. Performing hip flexion instead of spinal flexion in this pose will protect your intervertebral discs.
For centuries yoga has been used as a powerful method to nourish mind, body, and soul. More and more people across the globe are accepting the fact that yoga has the power to go beyond one’s physical well being. It can strengthen our mental toughness, improve concentration and can even transcend our mind into a much deeper metaphysical world. Mindfulness and meditation have a deep connection with yoga. To put it concisely, regular yoga practice can help us to make the most of our meditation sessions.
To start, a study conducted by The University of Illinois, practicing yoga for 20 minutes on a daily basis has the potential to improve brain function. The study also illustrated the participants, after going through their yoga session, was better able to utilize their mental resources, process information more effectively, and retain information for a longer period of time.
Yoga allows you to focus inward; the way you breathe and align your body moves through transitions in the form of “asanas”, you get the results that are otherwise achieved through supreme meditation – focus, energy, confidence and a blissful state of being.
Here is a list of the best yoga asanas that will help you meditate more effectively:
The Crow Pose (Bakasana)
The Crow pose (also interchangeably known as the crane pose) is basically a balancing exercise that has immense health benefits if done properly. This asana is the symbol of happiness, youthfulness, and longevity. This pose makes you feel light and joyful due to which your attitude towards life gets renewed. These qualities make crow pose a powerful asana that allows you to meditate with yoga. Physically, it is very important in strengthening your wrists, abs, upper back and legs. It increases your digestion as well as the flexibility and elasticity of your spine.
How to do it:
Place your palms firmly on the floor, bend your knees, join your legs, stretch your feet. Now lift your body into the air. Transfer your weight evenly on to your hands and squeeze your elbows in alignment with your shoulder in order to lift your body higher. Now breathe calmly and stabilize your shoulder muscles, and hold in this position for a few breaths.
The Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana 1)
Virabhadrasana 1 or the Warrior 1 pose depicts and honors the exploits of an ancient fierce warrior called “Veerbhadra”. While standing in this pose, it allows you to overcome negative feelings – anger, impatience, and tension. So rather than reacting, just observe your thoughts and start believing that just like this pose, all the negative things in life will eventually end.
It takes away your feeling of irritation and makes you appreciate the stillness of the moment even while your thighs are burning. In this very moment, you will experience a sense of mindfulness, for you will witness the present moment without judgment or reaction.
How to do it:
Stand straight and spread your legs. Bend your forward leg while stretching the rear leg. Now lift your arms sideways, bring them over your head and join them. Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply and make sure that your knees did not go ahead of your toe. Remember to hold this pose with the same determination of a warrior.
The Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
The Eagle pose or Garudasana is performed in the honor of Garuda – a mythical bird from Hindu mythology which is half eagle and half human. It is like a phoenix that represents birth after death, i.e., the moving aspect of creation and destruction. You need to do this pose in the early morning with an empty stomach. The eagle pose is especially beneficial for cultivating focus as it makes your mind silent and pure.
It strengthens the muscles of your legs, balances your body and helps restore your neuromuscular coordination. When you master this pose, your body feels like it is riding in the wind, just as an eagle does. This sense of overcoming obstacles allows a positive energy flow through your mind and body.
How to do it:
Stand straight, bend your right knee and wrap your left leg with your right ankle. Raise your arms in front of your eyes, wrap them also with one another and join your palms, and close your eyes. Bring down your hips and hold the pose for a few seconds. Breathe slowly and deeply and let go of the negative emotions.
The Lotus Pose (Padmasana)
The Lotus pose or Padmasana is the most germane and fundamental asana of Yoga. It is an extremely powerful pose that wonderfully connects mind, body, and spirit. Lotus is an auspicious symbol found in Buddhism as well as Hinduism. Many Hindu gods along with Buddha are often seen sitting in this posture and meditating. It increases your awareness and attentiveness that are very important for your physical, mental and emotional well-being.
This simple asana can create a deep change within you. Other benefits of Padmasana are: it opens up the hips, keeps the spine straight, eases menstrual discomfort and sciatica and restores energy levels.
How to do it:
Sit quietly on the floor with palms down. Bend your right knee and put it on your left lap, similarly bend your left knee and put it on your right lap. Now stretch your hands and put them on their respective knees with palms facing forward. Take deep and slow breaths and remain in this calm position for a few seconds.
The Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
The Fish pose or Matsyasana is a complete pose in itself. It opens up the chest and releases tension from the worked out shoulders. It also stretches the muscles between the ribs and the throats and in this process relieves the stiffness of the neck. It involves a large number of muscles of your body and increases blood circulation in all these regions.
Matsyasana is extremely helpful in regulating emotions and reducing stress. It has a great effect on your mind. Also by working in the crown on your head, it has great psychological benefits. If you practice the fish pose regularly, it will take you in a position where you can express yourself better by feeling better.
How to do it:
Lie down on your back, join your legs and stretch your body. Now place your hands underneath your torso and lift your chest by opening it, forming an arc with your back caving in. Drop your head down keeping the arc intact with your feet together but relaxed. Breathe slowly and steadily and hold your body in this position for some moments.
Suzanne is an independent healthcare industry analyst & speaker and entrepreneur. Having hands-on experience in health, she has the answer to all your health-related queries. She loves to share her thoughts by writing article and discussion with people. She is also a contributor on BookMeditationRetreats.com.
Yoga is no longer just a trend, fitness routine or a fashion statement; it has become a way of life. Yoga has been in practice for thousands in India practiced then by ancient sages as part of their devotion to God. The practice of yoga helps your mind, heart and body fit and ready for the many challenges of life.
Total fitness is something that most people want and desire. In pursuit of a healthy and strong body people join the gym or a fitness club, but often they don't continue it for long. Why not opt for yoga?, It doesn't require a lot of time nor equipment and gives you total fitness guaranteed. Yoga in the western world concentrates more on poses called asanas. They are usually a mixture of a form of breathing breathing and meditation techniques. Many yoga poses are specially designed for the relaxation of mind and body. Yoga has exercises or styles that help you move your body in new ways which increases flexibility, mobility, strength and balance.
Health Benefits оf Yoga
A woman undergoes hormonal changes all of her life and this gives rise to different issues. To make sure that she can handle different issues properly, it is important to understand the benefits of yoga for a peaceful and healthy life. Yoga enhances muscle flexibility and stretching involved in various yoga poses releases the lactic acid which is the main cause of muscle pain after a workout. There are different types of yoga that focus on muscles and strengthening the core of the body. If you practice yoga regularly, in time you will see an increase in your endurance levels. A woman who practices yoga regularly seldom suffers from muscle pain because she is stretching her muscles through the practice of yoga. Yoga should be a must for women suffering from breathing problems as it improves breathing capacity and lung functions, as well as for women who have migraines, have difficult menstrual cycles and for women who are in menopause (just to name a few). Yoga also teaches you to control your breathing in order to deal with stressful situations.
Benefits of Yoga for Women
Yoga health benefits are more than just stretching and improving the shape of your body. They also exercise your internal organs and allow one to achieve complete body and mind fitness.
It increases flexibility and joints in the body.
Different yoga exercises increase the conditioning of joints, tendons and ligaments. This helps in reduction of pain caused by an old injury.
Yoga is 360° workout. Which means from head to toe you are using every single muscle which helps in strengthening the nervous system.
As you continue practicing yoga asana for weight loss, your overall cholesterol levels will begin to drop. This helps in fat burning and weight loss.
One of the best benefits of yoga is improved blood circulation. Regular practice of yoga will help with conditions like low blood pressure and anxiety.
Ashtanga yoga poses are practiced in a sequential and fluid manner and in parallel with controlled breathing. Speed is not important when first beginning this style of yoga. The synchronization of the breath with movement is more significant. Why? When proper breathing is combined with movement, the body releases energy that eases tension. As an effect, one feels more relaxed. The energy used by the body is transformed to intense heat and is released through sweating. Toxins and other impurities present in the blood stream are expelled from the body through this process.
Ashtanga yoga consist of three main parts: the opening sequence, one of the six main series, and the finishing sequence. These parts have been patterned such that the preceding movements prepare the mind and body for more difficult, strength developing poses. Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutation) is the traditional opening sequence which is followed by the standing series.
This is then followed by one of the six fundamental series of the poses: The primary series known in Sanskrit as Yoga Chikitsa (translated as Yoga Therapy); the intermediate series called Nāḍī Shodhana (translated as Nerve Cleansing); and finally the advanced series A, B, C, D known collectively as Sthira Bhagah (translated as Steady Strength).
The Sun Salutation is like the preface of a book. This fundamental series is performed five times at the beginning of the Ashtanga yoga practice. The aim is to condition the mind for the session as well as to warm-up and strengthen the back and hamstrings.
There are two sets of sun salutation sequences. The first sequence has nine asanas (postures or positions) while the second sequence has seventeen asanas. The second sequence is just an extension of the first sequence. The sun salutation is then followed by a series of six standing postures that aim to strengthen the core. Mastering the opening sequence will provide a good base for anyone who would like to be a practitioner.
After the opening sequence, begins one of the six fundamental series of Ashtanga yoga poses. The primary series is called Yoga Chikitsa or Yoga Therapy. This series is composed of movements that aim to purify and restore physical health. It is practiced only after warm-up to prevent injuries. The overall effect of this series is the progressive strengthening of the body.
In the primary series, the movements are arranged in such a manner that each asana (posture or position) builds on the previous one. Postures in this series are primarily twists and forward folds that prepare the spine for back bending poses performed in the finishing sequence and intermediate series. Practicing the opening sequence is strongly advised before proceeding with the primary series. Doing so will ensure that one is protected from injuries and that the flexibility needed to smoothly transition to the next pose, has been developed.
The intermediate series of Ashtanga yoga poses is called Nāḍī Shodhana or Nerve Cleansing. The purpose of executing this sequence is to open and clear the subtle energy channels in the body. Proper execution of the poses in this series requires a higher level of strength and a sufficiently cleansed body. Therefore, mastery of the first series should be obtained to maximize the benefits of nerve cleansing.
The advanced series of Ashtanga yoga poses is called the Sthira Bhagah or Steady Strength. This sequence of postures aims to strengthen the inner spirit of the yogi. Hence, advanced ashtanga yoga practitioners have a more intense focus and are also able to have a steadiness of the body and mind.
The finishing sequence is the final series of Ashtanga. If the sun salutation prepares the body and mind for practice, the finishing sequence prepares the person for rest. This sequence consists of sixteen asanas specifically designed to cool the body. Ashtanga yoga poses in the closing set give practitioners the opportunity to reflect on the practice. Aside from developing strength, patience and humility are qualities that are cultivated as yogis go through the different postures. More difficult poses require patience in order to achieve proper execution safely and fluidly. More importantly, it's the finishing postures that allow us to reflect upon the concept of UNION and how our action contribute to the evolution of the entire world.
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.
Practicing yoga (and meditation) together can help switch the mind from a state of turbulence to the bliss of tranquility. The mind doesn’t shut off but it does stop chattering, letting you be in the moment to enjoy it completely. So, practice yoga (and meditation) be happy! 😊
Garland Pose is a hip-opening yoga pose that helps to lengthen and open the hips, helping to create more mobility. The Sanskrit name for Malasana comes from two words: mala meaning garland and asana meaning pose. Malasana offers numerous benefits especially for those who sit all day at work. Sitting leads to a higher percentage of stress on the back and lower spine. When we sit at a 90-degree angle in a chair, we shorten our hip flexors (the psoas). As the psoas shorten, our lumbar spine is pushed forward and pulled out of alignment. Prolonged sitting can lead many people to experience a back injury or pain.
Our hips are one of the largest joints in our bodies, an energetic area where we tend to store anger, tension and rigidity. Our hips allow us to move forward in life with grace and ease, therefore, it’s important to keep this part of our body limber, open and lubricated. When aligned properly, practicing this pose can feel great, opening up the hip flexors and offering a deep stretch to the groin muscles and a complimentary release for the sacral chakra (second chakra) which oversees the flow of creative, sexual and reproductive energy. It can also help strengthen and relax the lower back, calves, and glutes. It also helps boost metabolism, stoke the digestive fire, and alleviate constipation.
Modifications & Variations
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