Category Archives: Yoga Poses

UPSIDE DOWN………………

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“−−On the first day he should remain [only] a little while in the headstand, with legs in the air. Increase the practice time a little each day. After six months gray hair and wrinkles disappear. He who practices three hours a day conquers death,” ….Hatha Pradipika claims. Is it tempting enough to bring inversion postures in our practice?  Unfortunately daily practice of three hours sounds a bit too difficult.  Lets keep aside the death conquer part, just tackling “gray hair” and “wrinkles” itself is good enough reason. Still not many students are willing to venture into this area of turning yourself upside down.

 

And what is so difficult about learning this? Purposely turning ourselves upside down is contrary to our human physical locomotion-nature. The transition from childhood to adulthood has taught us to be “upright”. We have forgotten the playful ways of experimenting. And probably it’s the fear in the mind which is restricting the body from turning upside down.

 

Just as yoga gently encourages us to move away from any unconscious habitual patterns, the invitation to invert is simply another way to step out of the comfort zone.

 

Inverted poses are an important group of asanas. Inverted asanas reverse the action of gravity on the body; instead of everything being pulled towards the feet, the orientation shifts towards the head. As you age, fat and skin sag, which physically and, perhaps emotionally, drags you down.

 

As gravity pulls your body down, tissues and fluids in your body pool towards the lower extremities — resulting, potentially, in varicose veins. Anatomist David Coulter, PhD explains in a Yoga Journal article that “when you turn upside down, the fluid in your lower body drains better to the veins and lymph vessels, helping to clear up congestion in all parts of your body. Blood goes quickly to the heart and circulation improves, which may help your body get rid of waste products more efficiently and enhance the flow of nutrients to working cells. Fluid and blood that tends to concentrate in the lower lungs due to gravity is distributed to the upper lungs during inversions and this may enhance the health of your lung tissue”

Continued practice of shoulder stand eradicates common colds and other nasal disturbances. Due to the soothing effect of the pose on the nerves, those suffering from irritation, shortness of temper, nervous breakdown and insomnia are relieved. The asana is recommended for urinary disorders and uterine displacement, menstrual trouble, and hernia. It also helps to relieve epilepsy, low vitality and anemia. It activates the abdominal organs and relieves people suffering from stomach and intestinal ulcers and severe pain in the abdomen.

By reversing the pull of gravity on the organs, especially the intestines, it helps to cleanse them and overcome problems of the liver, kidneys, stomach, intestines and reproductive system. Headstand increases gastric fire and produces heat in the body. When done properly, headstand helps the spine become properly aligned, improving posture, facilitating good breathing and reducing muscular stress. The weight of the abdominal organs on the diaphragm encourages deep breathing, which gently massages the internal organs. Sirsasana is used to treat asthma, hay fever, diabetes, headaches, anxiety and menopausal imbalance.

Inversions give you temporary relief from the pull of gravity. Similarly, on the emotional and psychic levels, inverted asanas turn everything upside down, throwing a new light on old patterns of behavior and being.

 

Inversion postures build the core strength as well as the strength of shoulders and arms—especially for women who tend to be stronger in the lower body, inversions create body balance by developing upper body strength.

Generally, these practices improve health, reduce anxiety and stress and increase self-confidence. They also increase mental power, concentration and stimulate the chakras. There are four major systems in the body that the practice of inversions positively influences: cardiovascular, lymphatic, nervous, and endocrine. The circulatory system is comprised of the heart, the lungs, and the entire system of vessels that feed oxygen and collect carbon dioxide and other waste products from the cells. Arteries fan out in an intricate tributary system from the heart, which pumps freshly oxygenated blood from the lungs outward. Veins return blood to the heart, and, unlike arteries, make up a low-pressure system that depends on muscular movement or gravity to move blood along. One-way valves at regular intervals prevent backwash and keep fluids moving towards the heart in a system known as “venous return.”

The lymphatic system is a key player in keeping the body healthy. As lymph moves through the body it picks up toxins and bacteria to be eliminated by the lymph nodes. Because lymph moves as a result of muscle contractions and gravity, getting upside down allows lymph to more easily travel into the respiratory system where much of the toxins enter the body.

 

Shirshasana (Headstand) and Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) are seductive poses—physically challenging, visually dramatic, and exhilarating. Like all things in life, the suggestion to get upside down should not be universally prescribed. Unfortunately, however, beginning and veteran yoga students are seen seeking help of medical professionals with compression of the upper spine and impaired mobility in the neck, presumably from the practice of inversions. This indicates some students are clearly flinging themselves into inversions too soon.

So, to Invert or not to invert? How, then, do we evaluate and approach inversions, poses that are said to be invaluable and that possess distinct physiological benefits?

 

If you are new to yoga, take your time before inverting—Self-study or swadhyaya plays an important role here as self-awareness makes our practice safe. Even if you are inverting consistently now, there will be times when the practice is inappropriate. We practice yoga to decrease suffering and develop our capacity to be fully present in our lives. Why persist in practicing Headstand and Shoulderstand if it causes you pain?

 

When we think of inversions the postures which come to the mind are, head stand, shoulder stand, hand stand or forearm stand. But any pose that has you put your head below your heart is classified as an inversion. So, the gentler options like Adhomukhshwanasan, Setubandhasana are safer to start with. While the intense inversions (handstand & headstand) energize, inversions of the cooling type (Downward facing dog and bridge pose) work to calm the nervous system, thereby activating the parasympathetic nervous system and producing feelings of balance and calm.

 

Work closely with an observant and knowledgeable teacher. Attend class regularly. Learn the fundamentals: Find the extension of the spine first, open the shoulders with and develop balance, clarity, and strength by practicing appropriate postures.Structure a yoga practice that is balanced and wise. Practicing alone will help you purge the urge to perform your asanas for others and cultivate a deeper understanding of your body and its rhythms so that you can practice in ways that respond to your needs. With mindfulness, even a beginner can practice inversions without injury.

 

If you already invert, ask yourself how you do it. Do you use muscle to stay up? How much do you observe yourself in the pose, focusing on your alignment? If you wish to work towards longer poses, by all means do so. But do so intelligently, and be willing to progress slowly if you want a healthy neck in your old age. Observe the subtle changes in your neck and throat, and watch your breath. Stay up for short periods of time first—a minute or two. Back up on occasion. Always come down if there is pain.

 

There are certain contraindications that should be observed so as not to cause or aggravate previous injuries or illnesses: un-medicated high blood pressure, some heart conditions, neck injuries, recent stroke, detached retina, glaucoma, and epilepsy are common issues that should be addressed before inverting. Talk with your doctor and teacher if you are unsure about your status. Additionally, women on their “ladies holiday” should indeed take a vacation from inversions.

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PHOTO CREDITS-ANAHATA YOGA ZONE

Surya Namaskar – A Holistic Practice to Learn

If you’re looking for a simple, enjoyable way to start your day that provides a diverse range of health benefits, consider practicing Surya Namaskar. Surya Namaskar is an important part of yoga and should be done in the morning. Suryanamaskar is the art of solar vitalization.

It is a complete meditative technique in itself as it includes Asanas, Pranayama, and Mantras. In simple words, Suryanamaskar is a combination of 12 different postures, followed in a particular sequence with a specific breathing pattern. It helps an individual to vitalize.

One circle of Surya Namaskar

A full round consists of performing two sets of this series. During the second set, practitioners move the opposite leg from the one involved in movement during the first set.

Posture 1: Pranamasana

Mantra: Om Hraam Mitraya Namah

Stand erect, ideally facing the morning sun. Fold together both your hands in such a way that both the thumbs begin to touch your chest. Expand your chest and pull in the belly gently. Look straight ahead. The head, the neck and the body should remain in a straight line.

Posture 2:  Ardhchankrasan (Backward bend – Inhale)

Mantra : Om Hreem Ravaye Namah

With your hands together raise your arms up in the air while you breathe in. Bend over backwards forming an arch from the hands to your feet. Inhale and expand your chest at the same time. The flexibility of the spine is ensured in this posture. Feel the stretch on entire front portion of body. Toning of muscles of abdomen, chest, forearms and upper arms is the benefit.

Posture 3: Padhastasan (forward bend – exhale)

Mantra : Om Hroom Suryaya Namah

Bring your hands down while you breathe out to touch the floor on either side of your feet. In this posture, it is imperative to keep your knees straight as you bend forward from the waist and your head as close as possible to the knee. Engage the inner corset (TA). This posture helps melt the excess fat around the stomach by aiding digestion. Increases blood supply to facial muscles, eyes and brain.

Posture 4:  Ashwa Sanchalan (Backward bend – Inhale)

Mantra: Om Hraim Bhanave Namah

While breathing in, put your hands flush with the floor and lower your hips and stretch your left leg back, allowing it to balance on your toes, and your right leg bent in a crouching stance. With your hands firmly on the ground and your arms straight as a die, raise your head upwards to face the sky. This one is for the flexibility of spine and leg muscles, and boosts immunity from diseases. Continue reading

Yoga for Diabetes Management

The percentage of diabetic patients all over the world is increasing day by day. Diabetes is the third most widespread and serious disease after heart disease and cancer. According to the IDF (International Diabetes Federation) , the number of diabetics in the world stands at 365 million, representing around 8.5% of the global population.

The good news is regular practice of yoga reduces the risk of diabetes and yoga can even cure diabetes. Doctors all over the world recommend diabetes patients to practice yoga.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder.

Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy.The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies.When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should.This causes sugars to build up in the blood.

Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations.

Diabetes is predicted by a clear set of symptoms, but still often goes undiagnosed.

The three main symptoms of diabetes are:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased need to urinate
  • Increased apetite

Diabetes is becoming increasingly more common throughout the world.

Continue reading

Bhramari Pranayama – Soothing Massage to the Brain

Massage to the brain? Does it sound weird? Not if you know about a pranayama technique called Bhramari.

Brahmari Pranayama

Brahmari Pranayama

What is Bhramari?

The word Bhramari has originated from the Sanskrit word Bhramar which means humming bee. The name refers to the humming sound to be created in this pranayam. The most conspicuous effect of this Pranayam is that it relaxes the brain. If done regularly it can have positive effect on stress, fatigue and high blood pressure.

Bhramari, a safe, easy-to-learn practice, has tremendous therapeutic potential for those who suffer from anxiety or anxious (rajasic) depression. Like other pranayamas, its power comes partly from its effects on the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Lengthening the exhalation relative to the inhalation activates the calming parasympathetic branch of the ANS. The incessant buzzing sound can reduce the constant activity of the mind for at least for a few minutes, making it a useful starting point for those whose minds are too “busy” to meditate. Continue reading

Yoga Poses for Spine Alignment – Cure Back Problems Naturally

Spine Flexibility

Do you take care of your spine?

You are as old as your spine!

….A well known saying in the world of yoga. What does it mean ? It talks about our biological age, not chronological. Your age might be 40 but your spine can show your age as 30,or 50.Why does the spine matter? Consider this – “The major evolutionary advancement of man over the rest of the animal world began with his assumption of the erect posture.” Only after this could he use his limbs in many new ways.Our daily activities involve movement of the spine in different ways, for example; bending forward (forward flexion), bending backwards (extension), bending sideways (lateral flexion), and twisting (rotation). A certain degree of flexibility is required to carry out these actions safely.

Apart from flexibility another important aspect is the connection between the spine and the nervous system. Your nervous system controls and co-ordinates every function of your body. It is your nervous system that allows you to adapt to your environment. A large portion of your nervous system passes through your spine. Your spinal cord acts as the major cable exiting your brain, travelling down your spinal column and branching off into spinal nerves at various levels of your spine. These spinal nerves then exit between individual spinal vertebrae and go to the various parts of your body. For good health, it is essential that your nervous system function properly and free from any interference. Continue reading