Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Half Spinal Twist Pose - Ardha-matsyendra-asana

The Half Spinal Twist Pose - Ardha-matsyendra-asana
The Half Spinal Twist Pose - Ardha-matsyendra-asana
Posture : The Half Spinal Twist Pose - Ardha-matsyendra-asana

Translation : Ardha means half. Matsyendra is one of many Siddhas or masters who where accomplished Yogis mentioned in the medieval Yoga text the Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika. This posture posture is traditionally called the Spinal Twist because the spinal column is twisted gently.

Pronunciation : ard-ha-mat-syen-drah-sa-na

"Keeping the abdominal region at ease like the back, bending the left leg, place it on the right thigh; then place on this the elbow of the right hand, and place the face on the palm of the right hand, and fix the gaize between the eye-brows. This is called Matsyendra-posture."
                                             -Hatha-yoga-pradipika I.37 
The Half Spinal Twist Pose (Ardha-matsyendra-asana) Instruction:

1. Sit in any comfortable cross-legged position.

2. Straighten the legs out in front. Bend the right knee and bring
the heel of the right foot close to the left hip.

3. Inhale and bend the left knee upward and place the left foot flat
on the floor to the right of the right leg with the ankle touching the right thigh.

4. While turning the spine to the left straighten the right arm bringing
 it around to the outside of the left knee and grasp the left foot with the right hand.

5. Turn your head as far as possible to the left and bend the left arm
behind your back. Keep your spine, neck and head aligned and continue
to exert effort at turning to the left.

6. Repeat the posture the other side by reversing directions 2-6.

Comments : The Half Spinal Twist is one of the best Yoga postures for
 cultivating flexibility and strength in the spine. It sooths stiff necks and
upper back tension caused by stress, poor posture, or prolonged periods
of sitting in one position.

The alternating compression and release of the abdominal region flushes
 this area with blood and massages the internal organs. Muscles of the
stomach and hips are also toned from repeated practice of the Half Spinal Twist.

Durations/Repetitions : The posture can be held for as long as you are
 comfortable. (One repetition consists of performing the posture on each side.
Two to three full repetitions should be done at each session.

The Half-Moon Pose - Ardhachandra-asana

The Half-Moon Pose - Ardhachandra-asana
The Half-Moon Pose
Posture : The Half-Moon Pose - Ardhachandra-asana

Translation : The Sanskrit word ardha means "half," and the word chandra means "moon," thus, this is the "half moon" posture.

Pronunciation : ard-ha-chun-drah-sa-na

"Standing straight on the left leg, bend the right leg and place the right foot on the root of the left thigh. Stand thus like a tree on the ground. This is called vriksha-asana."
                   -Gheranda-samhita II.36
"Having caught the toes of the feet with both hands and carried them to the ears by
drawing the body like a bow, it becomes Dhanura-asana." The Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika

The Half Moon Pose (Ardha-chandra-asana) Instruction :

1.Stand in the tada-asana (Stand with both feet touching from the heel to the big toe,
keeping the back straight and the arms pressed slightly against the sides with palms
 facing inward.

2.Bring the hands together at the chest with palms lightly pressed against each other
 (the Anjali-mudra).

3. Inhale and raise the arms straight up keeping the palms pressed lightly together.

4. Arch your body backwards keeping your arms alongside your neck and head, tilt the
head backward and hold. Keep your knees straight while holding posture.Arch your
body backwards keeping your arms alongside your neck and head, tilt the head
 backward and hold. Keep your knees straight while holding posture.

5. Slowly return to the tada-asana.

Comments : The ardha-chandra-asana is a basic stretching and balancing pose
 that benefits principly the lower back, abdomen and chest. It is equally suitable for
use in your stretching routine as well as formal asana practice.

This pose is also one the postures that are are sequenced in surya-namaskar
(the Sun Salutation).

Durations/Repetitions : Repeat ardha-chandra-asana two to three times.

The Salutation Pose - Anjaneya-asana

The Salutation Pose - Anjaneya-asana
The Salutation Pose - Anjaneya-asana
Posture : The Salutation Pose - Anjaneya-asana

Translation : The Sanskrit word anjaneya means salutation or praise from the root anj which means to honor, to celebrate, to anoint.

Pronunciation : Ahn-jah-nay-ah-sa-na

"As inumerable cups full of water, many reflections of the sun are seen, but the sun is the same; similarly individuals, like cups, are inumerable, but spirit, like the sun, is one."
-The Shiva-samhita I.35 II.42-43.
The Salutation Pose - Anjaneya-asana Instruction :

1. Sit comfortably in the vajra-asana (thunderbolt pose).

2. Kneel up on your knees until your back, buttocks and thighs are aligned.

3. Extend your left foot foward bending your left knee at about a 90 degree angle.

4. Place the palms of your hands together at the heart in the anjali-mudra.

5. Raise your arms stright up keeping the palms together while bending the head
backward and looking up.

6. Slowly bend backward stretching the arms backward and straightening out the
right leg. Hold this position for as long as comfortable while breathing gently through
the nostrils.

7. Come back to the vajara-asana (thunderbolt pose) then reverse the posture by
alternating legs.

Comments : The anjaneya-asana combines several postures and mudras (gestures)
in a fluid, evolving flow that combines motion, stretching and holds. It delivers great
benefits for the back, arms, chest, legs and hips. Regular practice will strengthen
concentration and improve balance.

Perform this posture with a sense of reverence and praise. Take a moment to reside in
silence and peace as your hands are held at the heart in the gesture (mudra) of salutation
 (anjali-mudra). Keep the intention of praise in mind as you extend your arms skyward.
Feel your entire body-mind-heart extending outward in recognition of the sacredness of life.

Durations/Repetitions : Repeat twice on each side.

The Tree Pose - Vriksha-asana

The Tree Pose - Vriksha-asana
The Tree Pose
Posture : The Tree Pose - Vriksha-asana

Translation : The Sanskrit word vriksha means tree, thus this is the Tree Posture.

Pronunciation : vrik-shah-sa-na

"Standing straight on the left leg, bend the right leg and place the right foot on the root of the left thigh. Stand thus like a tree on the ground. This is called vriksha-asana."
                                                                                                          -Gheranda-samhita II.36
The Tree Pose (Vriksha-asana) Instruction :

1. Stand with the feet together and the arms by your sides (see the tad-asana).

2. Bend the right leg at the knee, raise the right thigh and bring the sole of the right foot as
high up the inside of the left thigh as possible.

3. Balancing on the left foot, raise both arms over the head keeping the elbows unbent and
joining the palms together. Hold the posture while breathing gently through the nostrils for
about 10 complete breaths.

4. Lower the arms and right leg and return to the tad-asana, standing position with feet together
and arms at the sides. Pause for a few moments and repeat on the opposite leg.

Comments : The challenge of the vriksha-asana is maintaining balance on one leg. Poor
balance is often the result of a restless mind or distracted attention. Regular practice of this
posture will help focus the mind and cultivate concentration (dharana).

When practicing vriksha-asana it may help to imagine or picture a tree in the mind and apply
the following technique: Imagine that the foot you are balanced on is the root of the tree and the
leg is the trunk. Continue by imagining the head and outstretched arms as the branches and
leaves of the tree. You may be unsteady for a while and find the body swaying back and forth,
but don't break the concentration. Like a tree bending in the wind and yet remaining upright,
the body can maintain balance.

Aim to achieve the "rootedness" and firmness of a tree. Regular practice of the vriksha-asana
improves concentration, balance and coordination. Because the weight of the entire body is
balanced on one foot, the muscles of that leg are strengthened and toned as well.

As you advance in this posture and are able to remain standing for more than a few moments,
try closing the eyes and maintaining your balance.

Durations/Repetitions :Hold the vriksha-asana as long as your comfortably can. Repeat
it two or three times on each leg.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Iyengar yoga

Iyengar yoga
Similar to Hatha, but focuses heavily on proper body alignment during the asanas (poses) and improving balance. This is prop-heavy yoga, using blankets, bolsters, straps and blocks to help maintain poses longer and more accurately.

Best for : People who want more fitness benefits but still desire a relaxing, risk-free workout. Those with specific problems like back pain can easily use the props to modify poses.

Not for : Again, anyone who is seeking a full-on workout might be disappointed with this type of yoga. However, a lot depends on the instructor – some Iyengar classes include an intensive series of standing poses that can provide more vigorous exercise.

Kundalini yoga
Combining the spiritual and physical sides of yoga, Kundalini classes involve a fast-paced routine of poses while stressing proper breathing and meditation. Moving through the asanas (some of which can be quite challenging), you awaken your chakras (the seven centers of consciousness), which allows the mind to open, and tension to disperse.

Best for : Anyone who desires a more spiritual yoga, while still getting a good workout.

Not for : Meditation and chanting is not for everyone, and Kundalini puts a heavy emphasis on the mind-body connection. Those new to yoga that might be scared off by the spiritual side of Kundalini may want to start with a Hatha or Iyengar class instead.

Hatha yoga:

Hatha yoga:
Probably the most popular form of yoga in the U.S., Hatha concentrates on relaxation, vitality and meditation and involves a gentle, slow flow of poses.

Best for : Those who want to gently stretch muscles and learn to use the breath to relax and deal with stress; older or infirm people.

Not for : People who want a more vigorous workout. Hatha tends to be a “beginner-friendly” practice, and does not raise the heart rate anywhere near an aerobic range.

What is the Best Yoga for me

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of yoga. However, you may not be aware of just how powerful this ancient practice can be. Recent studies have shown that yoga can alleviate insomnia, depression and anxiety; reduce back pain; and boost your immunity to heart disease. But even more importantly, there are many different types of yoga, making it a truly equal-opportunity activity – even those with restrictions or injuries can reap the benefits. While those who desire a strenuous workout can seek out Ashtanga or power yoga classes, there are also modified versions of the practice that cater to the elderly, the pregnant, or the sick.

Read on to learn about the different varieties of yoga, and discover the style that fits your individual lifestyle, health, and fitness goals.

Changing Perceptions : Yoga as exercise

Skeptics say that yoga classes are not intense enough to burn sufficient calories for weight loss. A recent study, however, suggests that yoga does in fact aid in weight loss.

15,000 middle-aged adults were followed for a 10-year period at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center of Seattle, WA. Some of the participants took yoga classes while others didn’t. At the end of the study, those who hadn’t practiced yoga gained on average18 pounds more than those who had practiced. Participants who were already overwight at the onset of the study showed even more interesting results. Those without a regular yoga practice gained around 13 pounds in a 10-year period. By contast, without trying any other specific diet or exercise plan, the overweight participants who incorporated yoga into their lives lost 5 pounds.

It’s not totally clear how yoga affects weight loss, but it’s probably due to the strong mind-body connection it requires. The beauty of yoga is that it is not only gentle on the body, but it teaches us to enjoy the journey rather than the destination. By learning better ways of breathing, standing, balancing and stretching, our bodies and minds can achieve better health without the risks inherent in many competitive sports and goal-oriented fitness classes.