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Savasana – The Corpse Pose

March 27, 2020

‘Verse 32 of the First Chapter of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika states: ‘Lying upon one’s back on the ground at full length like a corpse is called Savasana.  This removes the fatigue caused by the other asanas and induces calmness of mind.’ (Light on Yoga, p 422)

And we’re finally at the end of our Immunity Sequence.  In the past few weeks many of us have incorporated these asanas into our daily yoga routines and it’s been incredibly gratifying to see everyone stick to yoga routines and, quite frankly, make the most of a bleak situation.  I do feel that once we’re through this #21daylockdown, we will see that our individual actions actually did make a difference.

Svasana is also called the Mritasana.  Sava and Mrita means a corpse.  Your main objective in this asana is to simulate a dead body.  A dead body has no movement, and no thoughts (wherein lies the challenge).

It helps to:

  • Calms the nervous system.
  • Reduces blood pressure.
  • Relieves anxiety.
  • Restores balance.
  • Facilitates healing.

 

Contraindications

No contraindications!  Anyone and everyone can and should practice the savasana.

 

Busting the Myths

Savasana is everyone’s favorite posture.  It’s often treated as a posture where your body rests.  However, in this posture your mind is also supposed to remain still.  And this is what makes this posture the most difficult.   Read on for some practice pointers…

Practice Pointers

  • Initially you may fall asleep during savasana.  This just means that your body needs more rest.  Once your body get the adequate amount of rest, you will be able to bring a meditative quality to your savasana.
  • In a one hour class you must make sure to stay in savasana for at least 10 minutes.

 

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Lifestyle Yoga

Viparita Karani – The Inverted Pose

March 26, 2020

 

There’s a general consensus among modern yogis that Viparita Karani or Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose may have the power to cure whatever ails you. (Yoga Journal)

 

In Sanskrit Viparita means ‘upside down’ and karani means ‘doing’.

It helps to:

  • Regulate blood pressure.
  • Treat cardiac disorders.
  • Treat stress-related headaches, including migraines.
  • Gives relief from swollen feet.
  • Relieve nausea.

Contraindications

This is an inversion and as such should be avoided if you have serious eye problems such as glaucoma.

Busting the Myths

This is actually a restorative and relaxing asana, but the final pose is quite difficult for beginners and those with stiff backs.  Read on for some practice pointers.

Practice Pointers

  • You can do this asana with your legs on a chair, or even on your bed!
  • It’s a little unwieldy to get the buttocks close to the wall to get the legs up, but there is a technique (see video).

Stay tuned for more from our Yoga to Boost Immunity Sequence.

Download the Daily Yoga Practice Checklist.

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Lifestyle Yoga

The Sarvangasana Cycle

March 24, 2020

It is one of the greatest boons conferred on humanity by our ancient sages.  (Light on Yoga p 212)

Sarvangasana variations comprise the ‘Sarvangasana cycle’. The immunity sequence comprises of :

  • Eka Pada Sarvangasana :  In this variation (shown on the left), one leg is brought down to rest on the floor similar to Halasana.  The other leg should be absolutely straight.  This posture draws upon the the flexibility of the hamstrings and the strength of the quadriceps muscles too.
  • Parsvaika Pada Sarvangasana : In this variation (shown on the right), one leg is brought down to the side of the body, diagonal from the trunk.  As with all Sarvangasana variations, this requires control and strength of the core muscles, but this variation also requires an flexible hip joint.

We perform these variations to gain more control over our bodies.  They require us to use more of our core strength, or cultivate the necessary core strength.  All Sarvangasana variations are great to tone and strengthen the muscles of the legs and are a boon for the kidneys.

Contraindications

The contraindications that apply for Sarvangasana apply to the variations as well.

Busting the Myths

When students first start practicing these variations there is a rush to touch the toes to the floor.  This compromises the alignment of the raised leg. Read on for some practice pointers.

Practice Pointers

  • The variations can be performed after staying in the Sarvangasana for 5-10 minutes.
  • Do them for 30 seconds on each side.
  • If your leg doesn’t reach the floor use a stool or chair under it (see video).

 

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Lifestyle Yoga

Halasana – The Plough Posture

March 20, 2020

Hala means a plough, the shape of which this posture resembles, hence the name. (Light on Yoga, p 216)

 

There are asanas we encounter so many times that we don’t realize there is a lot more to them than meets  the eye.  The halasana is one such posture…

It helps to:

  • Relieve backache.
  • Bring flexibility in the shoulders and elbows.
  • Relax the mind and body.
  • Promote better sleep.
  • Improve digestion and appetite.

 

Contraindications

Don’t practice if you have diarrhea, or are menstruating.  If you have a neck or back injury then wait until you are completely healed.

 

Busting the Myths

The final posture is usually depicted with the toes touching the floor.  However, if you don’t have the requisite flexibility, forcing your toes to touch the floor can do more harm than good.  Read on for some practice pointers…

Practice Pointers

  • In an attempt to touch the floor with the toes, many practitioners end up  pushing themselves beyond their capacity and injure themselves.  A simple trick is to rest your feet on a chair or a small table instead of on the floor.
  • There is a strong link between the halasana and the paschimottanasana.  When your back gains mobility in one, then the other improves too.
  • Tighten your thighs and roll them in to activate your legs and engage your core.  You are trying to keep the spine extended.

 

Over the years I’ve studied the nuances of the halasana and that has certainly improved my practice.  I found an older picture of me doing this asana here.

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Lifestyle Yoga

Sarvangasana – The Mother of Asanas

March 19, 2020

Sarvanga (Sarva=all, whole, entire, complete; anga=limb or body) means the entire body or all the limbs.  In this pose the whole body benefits from the exercise, hence the name.  (Light on Yoga, p 206)

 

The Sarvangasana is beneficial for your entire body, which is why it’s called the Mother of all Asanas.  Just like the mother nourishes you at many levels, so the Sarvangasana nourishes you at many levels.  In fact, there is also the chinlock, the Jalandhar Bandha that forms.

It helps to:

  • Expand the chest enabling deeper breathing.
  • Eradicate common cold and other nasal disturbances.
  • Stimulate the thyroid and parathyroid glands.
  • Get rid of even chronic headaches.
  • Relieve insomnia and hypertension.
  • Detoxify the system.

 

Contraindications

Ladies who are menstruating should not do the sarvangasana.  People suffering from diarrhea or headaches should also not practice this asana.

Busting the Myths

In many old yoga books you will find this posture also called the Candlestick posture because the body is supposed to resemble a straight candle on a candle holder.  Read on for some practice pointers…

Practice Pointers

  • In the final position only the back of the head, the neck, shoulders and upper arms should be on the floor.  You must take care NOT to bring the chin in to the chest, but to bring the chest forward to the chin.  When you do this the entire spine stretches.
  • If you find that your body isn’t perpendicular work on tightening the buttocks and lifting up vertically.
  • Don’t allow the elbows to widen outwards.  This will make it more difficult to straighten the trunk.
  • Also ensure that your neck doesn’t move sideways, as that will cause injury to the neck.

 

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Lifestyle Yoga

Dwi-Pada Viparita Dandasana – Two-Legged Inverted Staff Posture

March 17, 2020

The Hindu devotee prostrates before the Lord lying flat upon the floor, face downwards with hands outstretched.  The Yogi on the other hand prostrates himself in the graceful inverted arch… (Light on Yoga, p 373)

Dwi pada means both feet.  Viparita means reverse or inverted.  Danda means staff or rod, a symbol, authority or punishment as well as the body and its prostration.

It helps to:

  • Expand the chest enabling deeper breathing.
  • Relax an anxious mind.
  • Keep the spine healthy.
  • Relieves pain in the coccyx.
  • Energises the whole body.

 

Contraindications

Those who suffer from vertigo should practice this with due caution.

 

Busting the Myths

Many practitioners don’t fully understand the benefit of using props for yoga practice.  Many think they don’t ‘need’ props, feeling that it shows physical weakness to use props.  The truth is that props are akin to a teacher.  Used correctly, props can have a powerful impact on your yoga practice.  Read on for some practice pointers…

Practice Pointers

  • If you feel queasy or dizzy in this posture, adjust the position of your back on the chair and use some support under your head.
  • Tighten your thighs and roll them in to activate your legs and engage your core.

 

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Lifestyle Yoga

Sirsasana – The King of Asanas

March 17, 2020

The weight of the body will be felt on the elbows and the position of the head may change.  The face will appear to be flushed and the eyes either strained or puffed.  It is therefore, advisable for a beginner to do the head stand in a corner where two walls meet, placing the head some 2 to 3 inches from either wall.(Light on Yoga, p 182)

The sirsasana is the king of the asanas.  It’s not hard to see why.  Sirsa means head, and this is the seat of the brain.  The brain controls the entire nervous system.  It is where your knowledge, intellect, wisdom and power come from.

It helps to:

  • Increase blood flow to the head.
  • Improve immunity by flushing the lymphatic system.
  • Improve digestion.
  • Relieve fatigue.
  • Improve insomnia.

 

Contraindications

Those who suffer from high or low blood pressure must never practice sirsasana.

 

Busting the Myths

Most practitioners think that balance is the only important aspect of sirsasana.  In reality, in this posture we have to keep our awareness on our body alignment at all times and continue to fix it moment by moment.  Read on for some practice pointers…

Practice Pointers

  • In the final position only an area the size of a rupee on top of your head should be in contact with the floor.
  • The head, the trunk, the back of the thighs and the heels should be in a straight line.  Avoid ‘banana-back’.
  • Do not widen the elbows thinking it will give you better balance. In reality this will make the pose weaker and lead to a neck injury.

 

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Lifestyle Yoga

Prasarita Padottanasana – Wide Legged Forward Fold

March 12, 2020

Prasarita means expanded, spread, extended.  Pada means a foot.  The pose is one where the expanded legs are stretched intensely.  (Light on Yoga, p 81)

Are you unable to do the Sirsasana?  But still want the benefits?  Well, this pose is for you!

It helps to:

  • Stretch the hamstrings, calves, glutes and lower back.
  • Gently open up tight hips, thereby helping to increase hip mobility.
  • Improve posture.
  • Relieve fatigue.
  • Strengthen the feet, improving flat foot.
  • Speed up healing.

 

Contraindications

Avoid practicing the prasarita padottanasana when you have a headache or migraine.  The rush of blood to the head may exacerbate the condition.

 

Busting the Myths

Widening the distance between your feet will not help you in getting your head closer to the floor.  This just makes your stance unstable.  Read on for some practice pointers…

Practice Pointers

  • The body weight should never rest on the head.
  • Many students compromise on the straightness of the legs in an attempt to bend down more.  Instead of focusing on the head reaching the floor, focus on extending the torso forward.
  • As with Uttanasana, rest your head on a block or a chair to enable further extension.

 

Incidentally, I wrote about the adho mukha svanasana a few weeks ago.  Check out the blog, it may shed more light.

Stay tuned for more from our Yoga to Boost Immunity Sequence.

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Yoga

Downward Dog – Adhomukha Svanasana

March 11, 2020

This pose resembles a dog stretching itself with head and forelegs down and the hind legs up, hence the name.  (Light on Yoga, p 110)

Adho means “down,” mukha, meaning “face,” svana, meaning “dog,” and asana, meaning “pose”.

It helps to:

  • Relieve pain and stiffness in the legs and heels, so great for runners and sprinters.
  • Strengthen and shape the legs.
  • Open up the shoulder blades and shoulder joints.
  • Strengthen the arms and legs.
  • Relieve fatigue.

 

Contraindications

Avoid practicing this asana when you have a fever or are feeling lightheaded.  Also if you have diarrhea, avoid this asana.

 

Busting the Myths

Most yoga students feel touching your head to the floor is the ultimate goal in this asana (a la BKS Iyengar).  Guess what?  Forcing your head to the floor makes you curve your spine, which is definitely not what you want to be doing.  Read on for some practice pointers…

Practice Pointers

  • Resting your heels against a wall and pushing into the wall will enable you to engage and extend the back of the legs.
  • If you are menstruating, have high blood pressure or a headache, rest your head on a bolster or block.

 

Incidentally, I wrote about the adho mukha svanasana a few weeks ago.  Check out the blog, it may shed more light.

Stay tuned for more from our Yoga to Boost Immunity Sequence.

Download the Daily Yoga Practice Checklist.

Follow Amrutha Bindu Yoga here.

Follow Medha Bhaskar here.

Follow me (Pragya Bhatt) here.

Yoga

Uttanasana – The Standing Forward Bend

March 11, 2020

 

Ut is a particle indicating deliberation, intensity.  The verb tan means to stretch, extend, lengthen out.  In this asana, the spine is given a deliberate and an intense stretch. (Light on Yoga, p. 92)

The Uttanasana is the first posture in the immunity sequence, and, if practiced  correctly, very powerful.

It helps to:

  • Stretch and tone the entire back of the body.
  • Cures stomach pains, including menstrual cramps.
  • Tones the liver, the spleen and the kidneys.
  • Because of the reversal of blood flow, the mind is refreshed.
  • Relaxes the nervous system and reduces stress.
  • Improves balance and coordination.
  • Pacifies anxiety and depression.

 

Contraindications

Practice with the utmost care if you have chronic back pain or injuries to your ankles and knees.

 

Busting the Myths

In many yoga classes there is an emphasis on straightening the legs.  Guess what?  Your legs do not need to be straight.  Read on for some practice pointers…

Practice Pointers

  • Instead of focusing on straightening the knees at any cost, focus on lengthening the spine, as though you want to extend your head to the floor.
  • Spread your soles firmly to the ground, distributing your weight evenly.
  • Lift your hips up, as though the tailbone has to reach the ceiling.  You will feel an extension on the hamstrings too.
  • When you have a cold or flared up sinuses, you will feel very uncomfortable with your head hanging forward.  Rest your head on a block or a chair and et viola!  your Uttanasana feels good again.  Same thing if you have vertigo or a fluctuating BP.

Stay tuned for more from our Yoga to Boost Immunity Sequence.

Download the Daily Yoga Practice Checklist.

Follow Amrutha Bindu Yoga here.

Follow Medha Bhaskar here.

Follow me (Pragya Bhatt) here.