what is yoga?
is it really lying on a bed of nails, walking on water, or being buried alive? Of course not, except for advanced students, perhaps. There are many types of yogas:
” Hatha yoga
” Raja yoga
” Karma yoga
” Jnana yoga
” Mantra yoga
” Bhakti yoga
” Kundalini yoga
Hatha yoga gives us a second chance at life. You can practice yoga at any age. If you want to live longer, be healthier and more at peace, yoga has the answer. How long will it take you to accomplish this? That’s up to you. If you only practice once a week, then it may take you a very long time. Each person is different, and your progress is completely up to you.
Hatha yoga is the combination of postures and breathing working together. The asanas give us strength, and the mudras add balance and steadiness to our lives.
Yoga is 6000 years old. Of its 8,40,000 postures, 48 are basic, 32 are beneficial, and 10 are essential and should be practiced every day. All postures should be performed slowly. We stretch, we do not strain. We use our body, we don not abuse it.
There are basically three types of postures. Stretching postures, such as the Cat improve our body’s flexibility and elasticity. They are especially beneficial for our tendons and ligaments. Inversion postures, such as the Plow, stimulate our glands and circulation. They refresh our brain and improve our complexion. Finally, sitting postures in combination with pranayama breathing calm our metabolism and nerves and increase our lung capacity, as well as our vitality. We must breathe properly with each posture.
Many forms of exercise are practiced quickly, violently, and make us tired and sore. Sometimes, rough exercise can cause injuries. You may even want to give it up after a while. Yoga is the complete opposite to this kind of practice. It is known a the “gentle” form of exercise. When practiced correctly and regularly, it strengthens the muscles, keeps the spine flexible, loosens stiff or aching joints, calms the mind, and, brings and harmony to the whole being. Yoga builds energy, while it relaxes you and massages all your organs.
Your success with yoga depends on two things: regular practice and progress. Continue searching for yourself, from beginner’s yoga, to intermediate yoga, to advanced yoga. There’s always something new for you to learn, and your body is always in need of being moved and stretched gently, just as your mind is always in need of rest and your spirit in need of inspiration.
As with any form of exercise, you should learn to pay attention to your own body because nobody knows your body better than you do. During your yoga practice, and after each posture, pay close attention to how your body reacts to past injuries or physical discomfort. You must learn to listen to your body. Your body communicates with you, and every movement affects your entire body. There are no isolated movements. Every twinge, every feeling of stretch, pull, and pain is a statement. Listen to it! If discomfort or pain arises in your practice, you should stop immediately and analyze what it is that you are feeling: Have you stretched too far, beyond your own level of comfort? Have you moved into a posture too quickly, without paying attention to the feel of your body?
As a beginner, you will simply “do” one posture at a time, stopping between each one, and learn to become aware of your body and the effects of the postures.
Proper breathing, perhaps the most important part of yoga, results in better health, sounder sleep, less disease, a clearer mind, and more cheerfulness. It slows the aging process and helps us feel light and supple. With yoga, we achieve perfect circulation. We relieve backaches, arthritis, bursitis, and headaches. We no longer feel tired, overweight, or underweight. With proper breathing, we can learn how to cool ourselves, how to warm ourselves, how to energize ourselves, and how to calm ourselves.
The Importance of Breathing
Our body removes 3% of its waste through the bowel, 7% through urine, 20% percent through our skin, and 70% by breathing. In yoga, relaxation is the “art,” breathing is the “science.” Here are some of the most important reasons why we need to maximize our breathing capacity:
” The tempo of our respiration determines all our body/mind activities. Although we breathe approximately 23,000 times a day, we do so on automatic pilot and do not think about breathing properly. Yoga brings our attention to breathing properly.
” Most of us use only one-sixth of our lung capacity, which causes us to become tired. Oxygen is fuel for our body. Our body renews itself twelve times a year, chiefly through oxygen, or what yoga calls prana energy, not through food.
” Our brain needs three times more oxygen than the rest of our body. We can not digest our food without oxygen.
” Inadequate oxygen speeds aging.
” All organs suffer without proper oxygen.
” People who suffer from cancer have an oxygen deficiency.
” A lack of oxygen can cause tension, sleeplessness, constipation, nervous headaches, heart conditions, and mental disabilities.
” yoga postures are much easier to perform with proper breathing. We inhale to lift our body, and we exhale to bring our body back together.
” Proper breathing is the doorway to meditation.
How to Approach Your Yoga Practice
When you begin to practice your postures, simply sit for a moment. Breathe deeply, make sure your body is totally relaxed and free of stress. This will allow you to perform the postures more easily and with out hurting yourself. Make sure to wear loose clothing so that your body is free to move. You should wait three to four hours after having a large meal, one to two hours if you have had a light snack, such as a sandwich, and at least one half hour if you have had liquids.
The best time to practice is early in the morning. It keeps us from putting it off until the afternoon or the evening, when something is likely to come up, or we might feel like watching television instead. In the morning, our stomach is already empty, so we do not have to worry about waiting for any food to digest. We are also less likely to be interrupted. It’s best not to start if you are going to be interrupted, if you have to worry about children or the phone ringing. Besides, practicing yoga first thing in the morning truly sets the pace for our entire day. We have stretched our body into aliveness; it feels good and is ready to move.
Yoga has been deliberately, and decisively formulated to allow us to become masters of our own senses, rather than being slaves to them. It allows us to enjoy a healthier physical life and a more peaceful mental life. It even allows us to become acquainted with our spiritual side. Yoga brings all these aspects into balance and harmony in a most gentle way.
Remember, the rule in yoga is this: You are not in a competition. Each body is different. Perform each posture only to the extent that your body will allow, not what someone else can do. Listen to your body. Our body whispers to us all the time, but we do not listen. We wait for it to scream and. then, it’s generally too late.
” Dreaming Dog
Lie on the floor on your back with your arms by your sides, and very gently bounce your arms and legs up and down, like a dog having a dream and “running” while asleep. This will get your circulation flowing very gently through your body.
” Lie and Stretch
Lie on the floor just as in Dreaming Dog. Inhale and lift your arms over your head. Stretch your legs forward, as if you were just walking up. Really stretch your body. You want to get your circulation to go up and down your spine, moving within the negative and the positive, the yin and the yang. Rotate your wrists and ankles as you stretch. Really stretch, then exhale and relax.
Lie on the floor and raise your upper body with your elbows. Lean your head back so that the top of it is on the floor. Release your elbows and stretch your arms out, along your thighs. Breathe normally. To release the posture, return your elbows to the bent position at your sides, gently lift your head out of the position, and slowly lower your upper body back to the floor. when your head is tipped back on the floor, You should feel a tightness in the neck area; then, you know it’s working.
This movement allows you to open up your chest cavity and is good for bronchial and lung ailments. The fish pose also helps stimulate the thyroid, parathyroid, and pituitary glands. It corrects posture problems, alleviates stiffness in the spine, and relaxes and beautifies the neck. The Fish is also effective for regulating the bowels, menstruation, and relieving hemorrhoids. Further along in your practice, you should use it to open your chest back up after compressing it with the Shoulder Stand.
Head to Knee and Pull
Lying on the floor with your legs straight, inhale and raise your arms over your head. As you begin to sit up, hold your breath. Exhale as you bend forward and bring your body together, resting your head on your knees. Grab your toes, hold on to them, and try to look up at the ceiling. This posture nicely stretches your back area.
This posture’s name indicates its purpose. From a kneeling position, sit back on your heels. As you inhale, lift your arms and cross them in front of your body in the area between your lower rib cage and slightly above your hip bone. Exhale, bend forward, and rest the top of your head on the floor, while keeping your buttocks on your heels. Rest in the position for three to four minutes. You should feel a lot of movement in your stomach area. If you do not feel a change taking place, inhale, gently rise out of the position, a drink a glass of warm water. When you return to the position, you should feel movement in your stomach. It’s preferable to perform this posture first thing in the morning when your body is empty.
Sit in a cross-legged position on the floor. Relax your neck, pointing your chin to your chest. Inhale, roll your head to your right shoulder; then, roll it toward your back. Exhale to roll it your left shoulder. Relax your chin down to your chest again. Repeat this roll three times for each side. If you feel dizzy after each rotation, simply turn a half circle in the opposite direction, and the dizziness will disappear. As you roll your neck, you will probably hear sounds like grains of sand. The louder the noise, the more stress and tension are in your body. This posture is excellent for relaxing your neck area and for relieving headaches. If you have, or have had, neck injuries or discomfort, you may wish to return your neck to a center position between each movement.
Kneeling Reverse Arm Raise
Sit with your buttocks resting on your heels. Inhale, bring your arms behind you, and clasp your hands together. Exhale and lower your body forward, with your face to the floor. On the exhalation, raise your arms behind you as high as you can, leaving your buttocks on your heels. You’ll want to feel the pull in your shoulder. Release your hands and, as you inhale and lift your body, let your arms fall to your sides. This posture releases stress in your shoulder area.
Shoulder Lift and Roll
Sit in a cross-legged position on the floor. Inhale and lift your shoulder up toward your ears. Exhale and let them drop down. As you practice this posture, sigh on the exhalation. Your body enjoys the “sigh,” which tells it to relax. Repeat the pose three or four times, inhaling up and exhaling down. Then, roll your shoulders in a backward motion three or four times and forward three or four times. This posture releases the tension in your body, and relieves you of stress, fatigue, neck ache, and headaches.