Yoga - More Then You Know
What do you know about yoga? Postures, stretching, bending and twisting like a pretzel, right? Or maybe sitting cross legged and saying "om" over and over? Well, you are partially right. Poses and and meditation are a part of this practice, but there is so much more.
There are so many different types of this practice, but what a lot of people don't know is that it entails pretty much everything that encompasses your life.
Our intention for this page is to be a simple guide for you to help sort out the aspects beyond the "exercise" as well as the different types that you may want to try. We'll also provide you with lots of great additional resources to help you along the way.
We hope to inspire you to start your practice today, at your own pace so that you can find more time to enjoy the wonderful benefits of health and wellness that this practice will provide to you!
Did you know that a regular prenatal yoga practice can give you the energy to enjoy your pregnancy, the serenity to build a deeper intimacy with your body, and the ability to be present for the miracle of birth? It can ease the discomforts of pregnancy, such as moodiness, shortness of breath, swollen ankles, nausea, indigestion and insomnia; and help you prepare for the rigors and mysteries of labor.
What is Yoga?
Basically, yoga is about balance. Balance of body, mind and spirit. The word in Sanskrit actually means “union”, so in essence it is union of body, mind and spirit. Most people commonly think of it as a series of postures. This is partially true, but it is actually made of eight limbs, one of them being the series of poses known as Asana. The other seven limbs are more concerned with mental and spiritual well being rather then physical activity. These eight limbs are known as Ashtanga.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga
1. Yama - Moral Behavior Towards Others. The 5 ethical guidelines are: nonviolence, truthfulness, nonstealing, nonlust & noncovetness. The easiest way to describe it is to compare it to the Golden Rule.
2. Niyama - Moral Behavior Towards Oneself. The 5 ethical guidelines are: cleanliness, contentment, sustained practice, self study & devotion to God or Supreme Being.
3. Asana - Practice of Postures
You might think that the practice of Asana is all about stretching, but what it actually is about is creating balance in the body by developing strength and flexibility through the performance of poses. Each pose has a specific physical benefit.
4. Pranayama - Practice of Breathing Exercises
5. Pratyahara - Withdrawal of the Senses. The exterior world is not a distraction from your interior world.
6. Dharana - Concentration, or the ability to focus on something without interruption by anything external or internal.
7. Dhyana - Meditation. Concentration is not focused on one thing but is all encompassing.
8. Samadhi - Bliss. The merging of self with the universe, known as enlightenment or awakening.
On this page we'll concentrate primarily on the Asana branch of yoga, but will touch on the other branches here briefly along with some great resources if you want to learn more. Eventually, though, there will be a page dedicated to the spirtual aspect of living and the other branches will be covered in more detail then. Be sure to check back often!
Wake up to Yoga! Because of our natural rhythms, daybreak is the perfect time to open our bodies and center our minds. Let Rodney Yee be your daily guide through these five 20-minute morning practices with A.M. Yoga for Your Week . Each workout focuses on a specific area to loosen your muscles, relax your mind and energize you for the day ahead. Choose from Standing Poses, Twists, Backbends, Forward Bends and Hip Openers. It’s simple enough for beginners, but effective for everyone. So go ahead and give it a try and see how energizing it will be to start your day!
There are many different styles of yoga from balancing, flowing and fast moving to gentle and more reflective styles. We'll go over the basic styles so you can decide which one would work best for you. There's a style that's just right for everyone!
Here is a list of the basic styles:
Hatha - This is a very general term and is more slow-paced and gentle. It can provide a good introduction to the basic poses.
Vinyasa - Vinyasa means the the poses are breath synchronized. This is a more vigorous then Hatha and is based a series of poses called "Sun Salutations" in which movement is matched with breath.
Iyengar - Iyengar focuses on the precise structural alignment of the body and is known for the use of props such as blocks, straps and cushions.
Kundalani - Kundalani is based on the concept of the Chakra System and consists of body postures, expressive movements, utterances, meditation, breathing patterns and degrees of concentration.
Bikram - Also known as "Hot Yoga", it is characterized by a series of 26 asanas and 2 breathing exercises practiced in 105 degree room with 40% humidity. It's designed to warm and stretch muscles, ligaments and tendons in the order in which they should be stretched.
Here are some basic, yet simple poses to help you get started in your practice. Remember, you do not have to push yourself into any of the poses. You can modify until you feel flexible enough to do the full pose:
Mountain Pose (Tadasana) - Mountain Pose is your basic starting position for standing poses and is also used in between standing poses. It's a great way to improve your posture!
1. Stand with the bases of your big toes touching, heels slightly apart (so that your second toes are parallel). Lift and spread your toes and the balls of your feet, then lay them softly down on the floor. Rock back and forth and side to side. Gradually reduce this swaying to a standstill, with your weight balanced evenly on the feet.
2. Firm your thigh muscles and lift the knee caps, without hardening your lower belly. Lift the inner ankles to strengthen the inner arches, then imagine a line of energy all the way up along your inner thighs to your groins, and from there through the core of your torso, neck, and head, and out through the crown of your head. Turn the upper thighs slightly inward. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor and lift the pubis toward the navel.
3. Press your shoulder blades into your back, then widen them across and release them down your back. Without pushing your lower front ribs forward, lift the top of your sternum straight toward the ceiling. Widen your collarbones. Hang your arms beside the torso.
4. Balance the crown of your head directly over the center of your pelvis, with the underside of your chin parallel to the floor, throat soft, and the tongue wide and flat on the floor of your mouth. Soften your eyes.
5. Tadasana is usually the starting position for all the standing poses. But it's useful to practice Tadasana as a pose in itself. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute, breathing easily.
photo & instructions, courtesy of Yoga Journal
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) - This has got to be my absolute favorite pose! It's a great overall stretch, and one of the poses in the Sun Salutation. You may not be able to put your heels down all the way at first, but after a few tries you'll be flexible enough to get the full pose.
1. Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under.
2. Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis and press it lightly toward the pubis. Against this resistance, lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling, and from your inner ankles draw the inner legs up into the groins.
3. Then with an exhalation, push your top thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them. Firm the outer thighs and roll the upper thighs inward slightly. Narrow the front of the pelvis.
4. Firm the outer arms and press the bases of the index fingers actively into the floor. From these two points lift along your inner arms from the wrists to the tops of the shoulders. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then widen them and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep the head between the upper arms; don't let it hang.
5. Adho Mukha Svanasana is one of the poses in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. It's also an excellent yoga asana all on its own. Stay in this pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. Then bend your knees to the floor with an exhalation and rest in Child's Pose.
photo & instructions, courtesy of Yoga Journal
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