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
Yoga is all about freeing the mind, enriching the soul, and working the body. But wearing the wrong clothing to your yoga practice can make you off balance, prone to injury, and downright clumsy. Even though there isn't any 'official dress code' for stepping onto the yoga mat, when you wear the wrong outfit you will not be able to get the proper form out of your poses – and trust me when it comes to yoga, your form matters.
If you are new to yoga, here are some simple tips to make you “yoga ready” :
We all like to look our best, it's only natural. But when you are on a yoga mat, your beauty comes from inside. Sure you might look great wearing that stylish toe ring, but if it gets snagged on your yoga mat whenever you prep for a downward dog then you might wind up toppling over in the middle of your class. The same thing goes for bracelets, necklaces, and big rings.
Same goes for you guys out there as well. Watches can tear into a yoga mat when you are flowing through your poses and they can also limit the flexibility of your wrists. So you may want to take them off before your practice.
Basically if it will dangle when you're upside down or if it can get snagged on your mat while you are working out then it should come off. The good news is that wedding rings usually don't cause a problem.
If you know anything about yoga you probably know that jeans are not acceptable. After all they limit your mobility and make it nearly impossible to get into a nice deep stretch. But what you might not know is that it isn't just tight fitting pants that can get you into trouble on a yoga mat, when your pants are too lose they can also be a hazard.
Think about the different poses that you do in yoga, even a simple plank pose can get aggravating when your pants legs are hanging down onto the floor. And if you are taking a flow class, those baggy pants will be nothing short of a disaster, (every time you try to flow in those floor poses your pants legs will be extremely uncooperative).
They make yoga pants because these are the best pants for your yoga practice. But depending on how often you practice yoga, yoga pants can get a little pricey. If you are looking for some pants you can wear regularly, remember that you want pants that feel comfortable but don't feel tight. You also want pants that are snug enough that they hug your body but they should also be loose enough that you love being in them.
Quick Tip: When you find the pants that fit right for you, you also want to check the length of the pants – the last thing you want is to have your feet tripped up by pants that are too long.
The good news is that your yoga shirt is not as big of a deal as the yoga pants. In fact, you can use almost any shirt to practice yoga in as long as it meets a few simple rules.
A good rule of thumb when picking out a shirt for your yoga practice is to try the shirt on and get into a downward dog position while you are at home. Since this is a popular yoga pose and it also forces your body upside down, it is a great gauge to how your shirt will do during your yoga class.
-Will others be able to see your stomach?
-Is the neckline so low that others can see your chest area?
-Are you comfortable in this shirt while you are in this pose?
These might seem like silly questions, but it is better to figure this stuff out while you are at home than when you are in a crowded yoga studio exposing everyone to your private parts..
Tip: If you choose to wear long sleeves you might want to make sure that the sleeves don't come down past your wrists – wrestling with the sleeves of your shirt will take you out of your yoga workout meditation and may even cause you to lose proper form during certain poses.
One of the greatest things about yoga is that you can come as you are. There is no dress code, there is no fitness level that you have to be at, and there is no one to compete with except yourself. Your yoga routine is all about meeting yourself where you are and taking yourself to the next level. When you dress for your yoga success, you will be unstoppable.
Living with arthritis pain is not something that anyone would like to happen to them. Many people suffer the aches and pains of damaged or inflamed joints. Some are just uncomfortable, and some become crippled as a result of a disease that has been recognized since prehistoric times but understood only in the past few decades.
Arthritis affects the joints, specifically where the areas in the body where two or more bones meet. There are several different parts of the joint that may be affected by arthritis, such as cartilage, synovium, tendons, and muscles. The neighboring ends of bones that form the joints are covered by a soft, protective material called cartilage that cushions the bones and keeps them from rubbing together. The joint is also enclosed in a capsule and lined with a tissue called synovium.
The term arthritis covers a group of more than 100 diseases that involve inflammation of joints and discomfort in connective tissues throughout the body. In many parts of the world, the disease is called rheumatism. Arthritis is a frequent conversational topic because it affects so many people. It is estimated that about one out of every seven people in America have arthritis in some form and the need to find arthritis pain relief is on top of most sufferers’ minds. It could mean taking a pill, performing gentle exercises, stretching or trying some other means to obtain relief such as yoga.
Yoga is an ancient practice using a system of postures and breath controls, which aim to achieve the perfect union of body, mind, and spirit. Yoga can be customized to help with a wide range of specific conditions including chronic pain conditions such migraines, fibromyalgia, chronic pain and arthritis.
Yoga for arthritis pain relief does not necessarily mean bending and contorting the body into impossible positions just to get comfort from the pain. It is enough that a person suffering from arthritis may practice breathing and self-awareness, the core of yoga practices. While stretching is certainly involved, yoga is really about creating balance in the body through developing both strength and flexibility. This is done through the performance of asanas or poses, each of which has specific physical benefits. The poses can be done quickly in succession, creating heat in the body through movement (vinyasa-style yoga) or more slowly to increase stamina and perfect the alignment of the pose. The poses are a constant, but the approach to them varies depending on the tradition in which the teacher has trained.
Yoga poses can be tailored for different joints. A common arthritic problem is swelling of the fingers and knuckle joints. In this case, if the condition is not too severe and the person suffers mild to moderate pain, a series of poses can be worked on that lengthen and spread the fingers. Hand stretches also create energy flow to the area that eventually moves to the fingers. Experts say that the heat is really good to the joints. As a therapeutic practice, yoga helps to create heat through deliberate breathing and movement. If you suffer from arthritis, find a teacher who asks the right questions about limitations and works closely with you as an individual. Start with some gentle yoga classes. Practice acceptance of where you are and what your body can do on any given day.
When we explore the layers of the wisdom that comprise the yoga poses we hold, breathe and release, we start to discover symbolism and meaning in every movement. If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, your instructor has most likely guided you into poses such as Warrior II (or in Sanskrit Virabhadrasana II). The Sanskrit words vira means “hero”, bhadra means “friend”, and asana meaning “seat or posture”. Not only does this pose offer many amazing benefits, there’s also an interesting story behind the pose.
According to Hindi mythology, Virabhadra, was a fierce warrior who was at the command of Shiva. In the myth, a powerful priest named Daksha refused to accept Shiva, even when Shiva and Sati (Daksha’s youngest daughter) were married. This dislike between Sati’s father and Shiva upset her so greatly that she killed herself. Upset by his wife’s death, myth says that Shiva created the fiercest warrior from a bead of sweat on his forehead. This warrior’s name was Virabhadra, and Shiva set him out to destroy those who had caused the death of his beloved Sati.
This mythical story shows our human responses to emotions. We often overlook emotions like anger, jealousy, and bitterness in spiritual pursuits like yoga. Being a yogi isn’t about being blissful or “Zen” every single day. Practicing yoga means being able to deal with life’s ups and downs. Along with the extraordinary range of emotions we exhibit, we also have the capacity for reflection. So when our life battles seem beyond our control, we possess the most important tools of the “spiritual warrior”, compassion and forgiveness.
Caution: Do not practice Warrior II if you have hip, knee, or shoulder injury, or if you are experiencing diarrhea or high blood pressure. Those with neck injuries should not turn their head to face the front hand (modify the pose as seen in the picture). Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
The physical and psychological benefits of yoga for stress management has been increasing. With regular practice of yoga it can help decrease stress and tension, increase strength, balance and flexibility, lower blood pressure and reduce cortisol levels. It also produces strong emotional benefits due to the emphasis on breathing and the interconnection of mind, body and spirit. Frequent practice of yoga for stress management encourages better sleep, helps individuals to not focus on things beyond their control and how to live in the present. It makes a stressful event a lot easier to handle, whether it's family or work. While most people have the notion that you have to be flexible in order to do yoga, the truth is, anyone will benefit from yoga regardless of age.
There are many different styles of yoga to suit your preference. It's not about doing yoga better or worse than the others, it's about how you feel in your body and how relaxed you can allow yourself to become. Yoga is considered as a deeply personal practice and no two people can or should hold a pose in exactly the same manner. A person has to work at his or her own level of flexibility, one that is challenging but not overwhelming. If you don't feel good with what the instructor is telling you to do, don't do it. Your body will warn you if you are about to get hurt. It is important that you listen to your body, push the limits gently, but don't let yourself be overcome by ego. Allow your body to guide you and be your friend.
The “goal” of yoga is to synchronize the breath and movement. It is important when to inhale and exhale as you work through poses. Breathing only through your nose keeps heat in the body and keeps the mind focused. Concentrating on your breath is the key to yoga for stress management, as it helps you let go of external thoughts and anxiety. The easiest way to bring yourself into the present moment is to focus on your breath. Feel how it goes down your nose and into your body. It helps you let go of the worrying thoughts. As you end each yoga session, simply lie on your back with both arms at your side with eyes closed and breathing deeply. This final pose (Corpse Pose or Savasana) is designed for deep relaxation.
Keep in mind that yoga is a slow process. Forget about expectations. Let go of competition and judgment. As yoga brings you into the present moment, you will experience joy not only in the physical movement and mental benefits but in spending time in the now.
Feeling stressed out? Try these yoga poses during the holiday season or anytime you need a break!
*This article was originally published by Jill Paschal at Lexiyoga.
When a baby can't stand, you may wonder how they can practice yoga and how it can be beneficial for them. In addition to a number of yoga for babies DVDs, there are a growing number of classes offered at local yoga studios. Babies never stop moving and many of those movements are naturally designed to alleviate discomfort. For example, when your baby arches their back, they may be trying to alleviate gas pain. These natural movements are mimicked in yoga and can be preventative. Here are just a few of the many potential benefits to your baby.
Some studies have indicated that baby yoga can help prevent future ailments like irritable bowel syndrome. Similar studies have shown that there can be an improvement in their immune function, thus helping to prevent colds and viruses – which means less stress and more sleep for you!
Exercise helps improve the quality and quantity of sleep for people of all ages and it's true for babies as well. If your baby is struggling to sleep through the night or they're not getting the quality sleep they should be, consider trying yoga.
Muscle strength and development
Baby yoga is performed with the assistance of an adult. You'll manipulate your baby's body to help position them into specific poses. These movements help strengthen their muscles and aids in development and coordination.
If you're working with your baby during the yoga sessions then there will undoubtedly be some bonding. You'll pay attention to your baby's cues, touching your baby which fosters oxytocin release and enhances bonding, and learning to connect with each other. It may be one of the most significant benefits.
As your baby's body is moved into various poses, they'll be making powerful mind-body connections. These connections are mentally stimulating and the connections will carry them into their childhood and beyond. It teaches them to be aware of their body and enhances the learning process. Because you're working with a baby, special care needs to be taken. The movements should be slow and gentle. Infants need to have head and neck support, and soft spots need to be protected. Additionally, if your baby has tight ligaments and joints then extra care needs to be taken.
Pay special attention to your child during yoga sessions. If they look uncomfortable or unhappy, release the pose. Additionally, baby yoga isn't designed for 60-90 minute sessions like it is for an adult. Fifteen minutes is a good time frame to aim for. Baby yoga can provide a number of benefits for both baby and parent. Your little one may carry what they learn into their life and continue practicing yoga throughout.
This article was originally published by Jill Paschal here: http://www.lexiyoga.com/baby-yoga
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