Yoga practice consists of breathing exercises (pranayama) and Yoga postures (asanas). We will first explore the various breathing exercises; correct sitting positions and details descriptions of the positions. The benefits of each pose will be discussed. Before we begin however it is important to understand the energy centers in the body and how they relate to our mental and spiritual states.
The word chakra is Sanskrit for (wheel) or (disk) and signifies one of the seven basic psychoenergetic centers of the body through which Prana or life energy circulates. There are certain colors associated with the chakras.
Yoga helps to open the energy channels in the body and
release any blocks in certain chakra regions. This is
because we metabolize our experiences into our bodies and
imbalances develop in specific regions. Yoga addresses the
mind-body connection and alters the pattern and flow of
energy throughout the system making adjustments to create
balance. The most important energy channel runs from the
base of the spine to the crown of the head.
Before you begin, it is important to understand the role breathing plays in your Yoga practice. Prana, which is the ancient Sanskrit term for breath, also means life. This is because the intelligence of the universe travels effortlessly through your physiology with every breath. The breath is a vessel that can help transport you to a calmer more focused reality. As you go along you will notice a direct relationship between the breath and each Yogic position. The appropriate inhalation or exhalation that should accompany the movement of each position will be indicated throughout the book.
In some cases your breathing will be very gentle as when you go into deep states of meditation. Other times your breathing will be very rapid and deep as in certain Kundalini positions.
Most people breath from their chest. We tend to get stressed and we hold on to our breath and tighten our abdominal muscles. For purposes of Yoga you want to relax and loosen those abdominal muscles. We will practice some deep Yoga breaths to orient us to this. All breathing should arise from deep in your belly and should come through your nose slows down your breath and stimulates the Chakra associated with energy, (Prana).
In Yoga your body moves in four different directions; forward, backward, sideways and twisting. You should exhale at the beginning of each of these positions except for the backbends, which commence with an inhalation. As you practice the breathing will occur naturally.
Try this simple exercise. Sit comfortably in a chair, close your eyes and imagine you are snorkeling in a tropical coral reef. Place one hand on you abdomen and notice how your breath flows in a long natural rhythmic motion corresponding to the ebb and flow of the tide. Now take some long deep breaths in through your nose and then gently exhale through your nose. Try this for sixty seconds or approximately thirty rounds. Afterwards sit with your eyes closed and take notice of the changing energy patterns. You may notice a calming sensation and an enhanced attentiveness and clarity.
Perhaps not much of anything has happened. With continuing practice the benefits will become more apparent
The benefits of yogic breathing are as follows:
1) Reduces tension and anxiety.
All movements should be slow and graceful. Hatha Yoga is really a moving meditation where each position represents a different attitude toward the universe. You are an antennae to the cosmic mind. By slowing down the movements you:
a) Can more easily attain the meditative state in a
position thereby increasing the depth and intensity of the
seated meditation to follow.
Remember it is better to bend your legs and arms in any given position than to risk injury. Over a period of time you can challenge yourself to gradually straighten out in a pose.
Generally each pose will include first bending in one direction and then bending in the opposite direction.
There are two basic postures you'll we need to master:
The primary position for meditation and many Kundalini breathing exercises is a seated posture. Many Westerners will find that their knees are a few inches higher than their hips when they sit cross-legged on the floor. I recommend that you use a pillow or thickly folded blanket to elevate the buttocks to the point where your knees drop to at least the level of your hips. Make sure that you are not sitting against a wall but your spine is straight.
If you find that cross-legged sitting is too painful you can position yourself against a wall for support. When your legs get tired, you can extend them out in front of you. Gradually, you can build up your flexibility so you can sit through Yoga positions and meditation. For those of us with physical limitations a chair sitting posture is perfectly acceptable.
1) Use a sturdy armless chair and sit near the front edge
of the seat without leaning against the back. If your legs
are not perpendicular with the floor you either need to put
a phone back under your feet or your buttocks.
The recommended posture for beginners is the Easy Posture. This position is a steady and easy position for both Kundalini breathing exercises and meditation.
1) Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of
Perfect Posture (Lotus position)
A more advanced posture is sometimes referred to as the Lotus Position or the Perfect Posture. This posture is very helpful for men with prostate problems as it opens the first and second Chakra regions. The perfect posture also improves flexibility in the ankles, knees and especially the hips. It will also strengthen the back and help to deepen the meditative state of awareness. Sit on the floor with legs straight out in front of you, arms to the sides, and shake out your legs to loosen the muscles.
1) Bend your left knee and bring the heel into the groin,
near the perineum. Stabilize your left ankle with your left
Do not attempt an inversion if you have high blood pressure, hiatus hernia, glaucoma, or neck problems. In addition if you are overweight you should use your best judgment. Also caution should be used if you are balancing against a mirrored or glass surface.
An inversion is a position where the normal upright position of the body is reversed as in the headstand or handstand or shoulderstand.
Inversions are different from other Yoga postures, which are called Asanas.
Inversions are actually a Mudra in that the life energy force is retained.
These are the most powerful of all yoga postures for promoting good health in the body and strengthening the internal organs.
There are many benefits to this type of posture. It has been scientifically proven that when men or women either stand on their head or lean on their head over the edge of a bed for at least 15 seconds per day, hair growth is stimulated. The ancient Yoga masters knew this, even thousands of years ago.
By defying gravity you can reverse the effects of aging, and improve your overall health.
Lymph, which is a clear yellowish fluid that circulates throughout your body, is pulled downward by gravity during the course of a given day.
Inversions clear the lymphatic passageways and revitalize your entire body.
The positive effects of inversions on the endocrine system include:
1) Facing fears
Before doing an inversion there are some things to consider. Due to the necks vulnerability, you should precede doing these postures with the
Opening Bell (Sun Salutation) that is described in our recommended Yoga program.
Inversions will be explained in detail in the Yoga Workout section at the
end of this chapter.
Light-headedness may occur while doing inversions so it is recommended that you start out slowly and gradually increase the time you hold your positions.
After an inversion it is recommended that you assume the Childs Pose Posture see Start by kneeling on your hands and knees
1) Place your knees hip width, hands below your
You should try to remain in all positions for at least thirty seconds. You can gradually increase the length of time you hold a pose. If you feel any pain or discomfort please discontinue immediately.
Spinal twists are very important for strengthening the spine, improving circulation and massaging internal organs. Unfortunately for people with disk problems, these exercises are not appropriate.
© 2008, Bruce Eric Van Horn
If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health. - Hippocrates
Author, CPA, MBA and yoga instructor Bruce Van Horn founded Yoga for Business, Inc., a company devoted to organizational and individual wellness. He presents a daily Yoga Workout routine that provides a complete physical, mental and spiritual workout. He is the author of Yoga for Prostate Health and Yoga for Men, designed for all levels of experience with yoga.. He has renamed (Asanas) positions in Yoga using terms from business to help you identify with the movement and focus your attention. He is the Chair of the Advisory Board for the Center for Complimentary Medicine at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Bruce also leads a volunteer yoga program designed for cancer patients and healthcare workers at Beth Israel Medical Center. He lives outside New York with his wife Michelle who is a Reiki Master. Bruce has two daughters who have asked that he refrain from headstands at the town pool. His website is www.yogaforbusiness.com If you have any questions, feel free to write: E-Mail.
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