Uddiyana can be translated as “upward flying” and bandha as “lock”. This lock is located in the lower abdomen about three fingers below your navel; it is a band of muscle between your two hipbones. This space can be engaged in a full range of ways, from slightly firm, or intensely engaged, drawing the belly into such an extreme that it is visibly pulled up and under the rib-cage. For asana, we work towards something in the middle, as a start. For pranayama, we reach towards the more extremely engaged end of the spectrum.
How to practice Uddiyana Bandha:
1. Pull the low belly in and up towards your spine. For most yogis, this may take some time to recognize that it’s there.
2. Lay on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Take your hands to your belly at your hip bones and begin to press the arch of your lower back towards the floor. While you will not actually lose that space between the back and the floor, you likely will feel your belly begin to engage.
3. If the previous option doesn’t work, stay on your back and stretch your legs out on the floor in front of you. Try to lift your heels an inch off the ground. This is an optimal way to notice your lower abdominal lock.
A strong and engaged core is what you want in most of your yoga postures. This lock stabilizes the body by aligning the hips and spine, drawing strength from the center rather than the extremities. This will create a stronger core for the body to draw from, while also decreasing the potential for injury in the hip and shoulder girdles, as well as in the outer limbs. Once the core becomes strong and a part of practice, it makes other poses easier and more accessible.
There are other internal benefits to this lock, such as keeping the digestive organs clear and moving, helping the flow of energy sealed inside the body, building prana (life force) and heat while assisting in the removal of impurities. According to ancient yogis, the solar plexus (Manipura Chakra), is the seat of fire within our physical and psychic systems. The lower chakras are the energy centers of many vital functions and health issues within the physical body. Keeping this part of the body active and working prevents lower back problems and promotes healthy adrenal glands while improving kidney, bladder, and liver function.
By engaging Uddiyana lock the breath above the belly fills the lungs and rib-cage, thus, initiating ujjayi breathing. In addition to building focus and concentration on the breath’s sound, ujjayi is a powerful pranayama that heats the body and stimulates the flow of blood, increasing your circulation as well as your metabolism. Taking in more air also oxygenates the blood, which keeps the blood healthy and more resistant to disease.
While nurturing and providing an outlet for stress, relaxation and stretching, yoga is not easy. If we ignore our core muscles, we will likely have a higher risk of injury. When feel the intensity of our body getting stronger, the heat we’re creating and the sweat forming across the brow; acknowledge that your effort will not go unnoticed or be in vain, but will rather build towards a safer and stronger practice. Keep your energy centered, protect yourself from injury and celebrate your strength, awareness, and diligence.
“So we would say in yoga that the subtle precedes the gross, or spirit precedes matter. But yoga says we must deal with the outer or most manifest first, i.e. legs, arms, spine, eyes, tongue, touch, in order to develop the sensitivity to move inward. This is why asana opens the whole spectrum of yoga’s possibilities. There can be no realization of existential, divine bliss without the support of the soul’s incarnate vehicle, the food-and-water-fed body, from bone to brain. If we can become aware of its limitations and compulsions, we can transcend them. We all possess some awareness of ethical behavior, but in order to pursue yama and niyama at deeper levels, we must cultivate the mind. We need contentment, tranquility, dispassion, and unselfishness, qualities that have to be earned. It is asana that teaches us the physiology of these virtues.”
~B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom
Parsvottanasana comes from the Sanskrit words Parsva meaning side, Ut meaning intense and tan meaning to extend, stretch or lengthen. Hence the name Intense Side Stretch Pose. This pose is also called Pyramid Pose, which emphasizes the powerful foundation and strength created in this pose.
Getting into the pose:
Caution: Do not practice this pose if you have a hamstring injury. If you have a shoulder or wrist injury, do not practice the full version of the pose. Women who are pregnant and those with back injuries or high blood pressure should practice the pose against a wall. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. As with any exercise regimen, including yoga, talk with your doctor before practicing.
We spend a lot of time on our computers and on our cell phones. But since the likelihood of us getting along without our cell phones or laptops is probably not going to change in the near future, we have to take necessary precautions to ensure that our bodies stay strong as we work more and incorporate these tech gadgets into our daily lives.
Just as sitting too long at our office desks makes us more stiff in our shoulders and hips, keeping our hands positioned over the keyboard can have the same effects. Injuries or pains that result from repetitive movements whether it’s typing, texting, playing tennis or knitting are called Repetitive Stress Injuries, or RSI for short. They occur because the repetitious motion pulls on the muscles and tendons that surround the joint. In the case of computers, our wrists become overused and often mild to severe forms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) can manifest. But there is hope for your sore and achy wrists. A study by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine showed that a yoga-based routine was more effective at reducing the symptoms associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome than wearing a splint or receiving no treatment at all.
Yoga postures that relieve wrist pain also strengthen and elongate the supporting muscles of the hand making them more flexible and stronger to handle the constant motions of clicking away at the keyboard.
Get in the habit of doing these exercises every day as your computer warms up and even throughout the day when you need to take a break. But if your pain persists for more than a week, make an appointment with your doctor to rule out a more serious injury.
Winter is a time for slowing down and reflection. We naturally have less energy to burn in colder winter months; cancellations and school closings, work, and even our favorite yoga class may leave us feeling more tired and out of balance than usual. The dark, colder days and nights can be unforgiving! Take advantage of these winter days to nourish your body and mind, and give yourself permission to slow down and keep in sync with the earth’s natural cycles.
Here are some tips to practice during the winter (and year round):
Yoga Asana: Get on your mat every day. I know this may seem obvious, but increased movement especially during the winter is a great way to not only increase your energy levels, but it’s also a great way to warm-up your muscles. If a slow paced, Yin, or restorative practice is better for you, then welcome that. Turn on music that is reflective of your mood or energetic state. This creates an opportunity to get fully connected with the body, and move with the music in a very instinctual way without any desired outcome or goal. Often, we may feel pressure to complete a particular series of postures as a yoga practice, turning on some music is a way to let that go.
Just Sit: Literally. Nothing fancy, nothing forced. Just sit and be with what you notice. Thoughts, sounds, body sensations, your breath, the weather outside . . . be with it all. The best thing is there’s no right or wrong way to do this.
Eat and Drink Well: Prepare nourishing, warming foods with fresh, local ingredients. Eat slowly, with awareness. Turn off the computer and put your phone away. Drink a warm cup of tea while reading or watching the snow outside of your window. Focus on each bite or sip of food and all the sensations that accompany the moment. Savor the experience.
Practice Gratitude: Make it a practice to notice and reflect upon the positives, such as having a warm home, food to eat, clean drinking water, the relationships in your life, and the natural beauty of your surroundings. Consider extending the positive effects of this practice outward; show kindness to a stranger by saying “hello” or “good morning”. Let friendliness, compassion, and appreciative joy into your heart and see how it changes your life, as well as the lives of others.
Leave me a comment on how you apply any of these tips.
You want to start a yoga practice, or perhaps you’ve been practicing on your own at home and you don’t know how to pick a Yoga teacher. I understand, I’ve been there myself! This “CALM” check list will help you to find the right Yoga teacher for you.
The following is the “CALM check list.” This checklist is a basic criterion that your Yoga teacher should meet before you continue on to a second Yoga class with them. C.A.L.M gets its name from four main factors: Communication, Assist, Listen, and Modification. For the right Yoga teacher, you should be answering with a “yes” to all questions.
Communication: Does your Yoga teacher talk to you, and other students, in a manner of mutual respect? Can you ask a question during class time? Does your teacher show compassion for you and other students? Does your Yoga teacher take the time to lead you through a guided meditation or relaxation? Meditation and relaxation are major aspects of Yoga practice. There are Yoga teachers who just want to get “their workout” done. Beware of Yoga teachers who are so busy that they don’t have time for you. If you want to learn Yoga, you need an open line of communication with your Yoga teacher.
Assist: Does your teacher care about your form? Will your teacher give you a verbal or physical assist during your Yoga class?
Some students never have major problems with alignment and some do, but if your teacher doesn’t give verbal cues, what does that tell you?
Listen: Does your Yoga teacher take the time to listen to your feedback? Is your teacher “in the moment” with the class?
Once in a while, there is a Yoga instructor who runs, “The-it’s-all-about-me-show.” You are not going to learn anything from this type of teaching. Beginners will be put at risk, trying to keep up with a seasoned Yoga teacher who doesn’t explain anything.
Modification: Does your Yoga teacher allow modifications and props? If your teacher discourages props, you are in the wrong place.
Some students will need props, especially so for some beginners and those who have limited range of motion. Just because a teacher can do a posture without props, doesn’t mean every student can.
Some students crave “the stern, but loving parent” types. They will push you harder, but how much pushing do you really need? You want a Yoga teacher who encourages you out of your comfort zone, without being overly pushy that could cause unnecessary injuries.
Respect is a two way street, and you deserve as much respect as your Yoga teacher does. Let common sense be your guide. You should feel good after a Yoga class, and you maybe even feel muscle soreness days after a vigorous class.
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.
Most human problems and every stumbling block along the path to spiritual fulfillment are the result of one thing: clinging to attachments. For example, rather than seeing anger as a simple temporary feeling that will pass, we cling to it and don’t let go. It can quickly consume our entire lives, blocking the way to any type of peace or enlightenment. We consider desire to be an internal desire that must be acted upon, rather than seeing it as a simple feeling or thought that will pass if we only let it go. All of our thoughts and reactions to feelings become serious burdens, and we wrap ourselves totally up in those things, in essence making them part of ourselves. When we can't let go of these attachments, we become them.
In order to achieve spiritual freedom, you muѕt let go of everything that you consider to be part of yourself, especially the negative things. One of the greatest benefits of non-clinging is that even early in your path, you will recognize partial results and accomplishments. Learning not to internally identify with just a few emotions or thoughts will allow you to experience a little bit of lightness of foot, more joy and freedom walking through your life. Non-clinging will soon become its own reward, when you realize the benefits it affords.
However, be careful not to confuse non-attachment with detachment. Non-attachment is the opposite of detachment, because you muѕt consciously focus on a thought or emotion in order to release the attachment you have to it. Through non-attachment you can be free to love others, to be completely engaged in your life, your friends, your family, and your career. Through non-attachment you can detach yourself from the barriers in place that separate you from others and from the things that will complete you and fulfill you. By comparison, detachment serves to strengthen the cold, unfeeling barriers that separate you from your life.
If you feel hurt or slighted in some way, an entire army of emotions and negative thoughts may arise and persist for hours or even days. If you stop and observe your reactions to those thoughts, you will quickly see how you cling to them and how they affect your life. Through that observation you will be able to release the hold your reactions have on you by releasing your grip on them, and then they will go away all on their own. You will breathe easier, and you will feel free to respond or not respond do the situation that led to the thoughts in the first place. Your energies will be saved for more productive uses, such as seeking joy and nurturing mindfulness.
According to the Buddha, non-clinging is very valuable to all stages of achieving spiritual depth - the beginning, the middle, and the end of the path. The single price you have to pay to be fully unconditioned, open to the presence of God, is to give up all the things we are clinging to. We may actually catch a glimpse, if even for a moment, of the Divine power that can complete uѕ - if we are able to relinquish our attachments to things that do not matter.
"In the process of letting go, you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself." ~Deepak Chopra
Everything in life eventually ends. Our bodies, and the bodies of people we love, grow older, grow ill, slowly age, and eventually die. All of our material possessions are ultimately consumed by time. By the same token, passing emotions and situations that cause them will be entirely forgotten eventually. However, equanimity opens up our minds to timelessness, where there iѕ no death. Equanimity is created by our contact with the part of our soul that exists outside the time constraint. The peace that exists outside the world of time helps uѕ to embrace the world without the constraints of time.
Life itself can help you learn to release attachments and stop clinging. For example, when anger takes control of your mind, take the time to identify it, consider why you are angry, become aware of how much control it has over you, and simply let it go. Doing so can be extremely hard, and especially so when the anger iѕ great, but firmly taking control and releasing your hold on the emotion iѕ necessary if your goal is to free yourself and approach the Divine. Letting go of clinging to anger, fear, and greed iѕ an essential part of respecting yourself. Non-clinging is a spiritual practice that allows you to relax the ties that drag you down, relax your attitude, and release your grip on the bottom in order to reach for the top.
A home practice is a great way to go deeper into your yoga practice as well as build your understanding and knowledge of yoga. Home practice can be defined as your own yoga practice outside the class setting, without a teacher guiding you. You essentially become your own teacher when you learn yoga at home.
Developing your own yoga practice at home 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 it. This is the beauty of it, to create and develop it yourself and make it your own. We tell ourselves that we don’t have the time or don’t know what to do for our home yoga practice.
Here are my personal tips for practicing yoga at home:
1. Listen To Your Body
During the course of my yoga practice at home, 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 hadn’t cleared out a space just for my yoga practice. I knew I needed an area that needed to be free from clutter to avoid any kind of distractions. 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 Ashtanga 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. By giving up on other asanas earlier and losing will power, I realized that this might probably be the way I approach different challenges off the mat as well.
5. Be Consistent
There are mornings that I just don’t feel like getting up at 5:30; I just want to hit the snooze button on my alarm and sleep! I practice every day because I know yoga requires the consistency to keep at it, to keep it a habit. I know that yoga makes me feel better, that I literally need it in my life, that it resets my days and all those reasons are enough to keep up with my practice. However, sometimes I think it would be a struggle to get going if it wasn’t a habit, my yoga would probably be much more sporadic. Consistency is key, even if you only practice 10 minutes a day!
The Rewards Of Home Practice
While it may take time to develop the discipline for a continuous session of yoga at home, 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!
Iyengar Yoga is a system of hatha yoga developed by B.K.S. Iyengar; it is rooted in the traditional eight limbs of yoga as explained by Patanjali in The Yoga Sutras. Iyengar who was also direct disciple of T. Krishnamacharya with Patabbhi Jois (who developed Ashtanga Yoga) were responsible for bringing the practice of modern yoga (as we know it now) to the West.
As a widely practiced style, Iyengar Yoga continues to provide benefits to all practitioners. Although there are numerous reasons to practice Iyengar yoga, here are 4 reasons to give this practice a try:
1. It can be adapted for beginners
Iyengar Yoga offers a balanced and progressive method to Hatha yoga through its emphasis on sequencing asanas (yoga postures). Unlike classes in other styles, a typical Iyengar Yoga class for beginners always starts with basic standing poses as the grounding element. The legs and arms are part of the “karmendriya,” or organs of action. They provide the structural foundation for the rest of the body. Forward-bending and lateral twisting poses are also introduced to continuing beginners. They prepare students for inversions, backbends, and arm-balancing poses. In a class, poses are organized to improve flexibility, strength and to prepare the mind and body for pranayama (yogic breathing) and dhyana (meditation).
2. It creates a greater sense of body awareness
The practice of Iyengar Yoga helps practitioners develop body awareness through focus on postural alignment. The emphasis on alignment is the basis of the practice. Instructions on how to do the poses direct attention and awareness to different parts of the body. This awareness allows one to understand different “koshas,” or layers of the material body, like muscles, joints, organs and nadis (energy channels). This enhances a smooth flow of energy throughout the body and mind.
3. It’s totally safe practice
Iyengar Yoga offers a flexible and safe instruction, suited to the student’s needs through the use of props. Iyengar adopted the use of props to get students to move deeper into a pose. For students with physical or mental limitations, props provide invaluable support and feedback. The use of props builds flexibility and endurance. For example, in Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel pose), feet are on blocks to lift the pelvis and create more length in the lower back.
4. Like other styles of yoga, it’s universal
Iyengar Yoga is for everyone, at all ages and physical levels. Iyengar was the first modern yoga master to conduct “group classes.” Young or old, fit or weak, athletic or injured, people are drawn to Iyengar Yoga for its accessibility. Iyengar Yoga is available for all in their healing and rehabilitative process. In this sense, Iyengar Yoga clearly offers more benefits than just physical fitness. It is a holistic lifestyle of self-care and well-being.
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