Yoga is a technique dating back thousands of years, which creates harmony between mind, body and spirit. There are specific positions that are especially used for helping us to relax our mind and body.
+ Yoga is a method of learning that originated in India thousands of years ago through the practice of postures and techniques aimed to unite mind, body, and spirit through exercise, breathing, relaxation and meditation. The practice aims to improve your health, increase your resistance, and develop your mental awareness to unite your consciousness to the Universe's energy.
Yoga poses work on all the various systems of the body –brain, cells, muscles, glands, internal organs, nerves, and joints.
It increases your clarity and mental concentration, and prepares the body and mind for meditation, making it easier for you to achieve a quiet mind and be free from everyday stress.
To fight stress it's ideal to practice complete yoga sessions at least two times per week. Many yoga poses (also known as asanas) and breathing techniques used in yoga are particularly helpful in bringing peace and balance to the body and mind which suffer from stress. These exercises or poses can be done at any time, although it's best to do these exercises in the morning before starting your day.
BREATHING IS VERY IMPORTANT
Practicing breathing is a very important element in yoga. It helps you maintain your balance and fight pain, because breathing is related to emotions. This is why taking deep breaths helps you calm down and feel better when you're upset.
You can instantly alleviate stress by practicing abdominal breathing. By taking deep breaths your diaphragm moves down expanding your abdomen (see steps 1 and 2).
1. Take a deep breath, inhaling slowly through your nose and voluntarily expanding your abdomen.
2. Hold your breath for a few seconds. Then slowly exhale, releasing the air in twice the amount of time you took to inhale.
WHEN YOU ARE TENSE
To practice proper abdominal breathing, begin by placing one of your hands on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Breath through your nose as indicated in the steps above. The hand on your abdomen will rise as oxygen fills your lungs pushing the diaphragm down and expanding your abdomen. But your hand on your chest should remain immobile. Exhale through your mouth. You can also practice this exercise when lying down, with a book placed on your abdomen. You will see the book rises as air expands your abdomen and then slowly descends as you exhale.
HOW TO GET READY
Before practicing yoga positions or asanas you should first do stretching exercises as a way of warming your body up to get better results. You may be more comfortable using an exercise mat or exercising on a carpeted floor, especially if you suffer from back pain.
The Rocking chair
You should always perform this position with your chin pressed to your chest (to prevent neck injuries). Breathe through your nose when you bring your body backward and exhale through your mouth as you move forward; this keeps your spinal cord from stiffening up and tones your muscles. Each time you exhale imagine that you are getting rid of negative energy.
1. Sit with your legs crossed and lower your chin to your chest. Take the ball of your right foot in your left hand and vice versa. Bring your body forward, taking care to maintain your chin's position.
2. Lift your legs and bring your body backward. With very slow and controlled movements, place your back on the floor. You should use your abdomen to control your movements. You should feel each segment of your backbone pressing against the floor.
3. Continue to raise your legs above your head until you touch the floor with your toes. Lift your legs again, concentrating on your abdomen to control your movements, while exhaling. Your hands should stay placed on your toes. Repeat this step several times to stretch out your body.
RELAXING YOUR NECK
These exercises are ideal to get rid of neck pains brought on by tension. You should always take deep breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.
- • Sitting with your legs crossed, hands on your knees and back straight, turn your head to the right, without tensing up your shoulders. Slowly return your head back to the center and then move your head to the left.
- • With your head centered and facing forward, move your head backward. You should feel the back of your neck close and your throat open. Continue by moving your head forward until your chin is pressed against your chest. Concentrate on how your neck feels as it stretches and your throat zone closes.
Yoga is a discipline designed to improve your flexibility and harmony. The exercises use gentle movements without straining your body. When practicing the asanas remember not to strain yourself. There is no need to push yourself too far. Through time and willpower, you will improve your body's health naturally and get in tune with your body.
Relaxing your shoulders
After a tense day, these exercises can help to relieve stiff shoulders. With your legs crossed and your back upright and straight:
1. Lift up your arms so that your elbows are pointed outward and aligned with our shoulders. Keep your hands relaxed and your wrists bent. Place the palms of your hands on your shoulders and bring your elbows bowed toward your chest, so that they touch. Next, lift your elbows so that they are pointed up and then bring them down again, keeping your hands on your chest. Continue by slowly rolling your arms, always taking deep breaths –inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
2. With the palms of your hands on your knees, inhale through your nose and raise your shoulders; then lower them, exhaling through your mouth. Repeat several times.
If yoga positions or asanas bring tranquility and harmony, the following positions are ideal for beginners to easily reach serenity.
This asana is especially good to help you completely relax your body and mind.
1. Begin the position lying on your back, with your legs together, arms down by your sides next to your body and palms of your hands pressed against the floor. Bring your chin toward your chest and press your back muscles to the floor. Inhale through your nose and raise your legs up until they are at a 90 degree angle with your torso. Exhale, then inhale and bring your hips off the floor, supporting your back with your hands.
2. Without bending your knees, stretch out your legs by bringing them behind your head, until your toes touch the floor. Your arms should stay forward, with the palms of your hands pressed to the floor. Stay in this position breathing slowly and deeply. Next, inhale through your nose and slowly lower your legs while you exhale. Concentrate on how each segment of your backbone presses against the floor.
This is an asana for the lower back region, it stretches the spinal column and relieves tensions where we most often store them: in the back.
1. Lie down, with your arms extended next to your body and your knees bent, feet together, keeping the balls of your feet pressed against the floor and as close to the buttocks as possible.
2. Tighten your buttocks and inhale while keeping your feet pressed to the floor; exhale while you lift up your hips, while keeping your knees pressed together and lifting your bellybutton as high as you can. Stay in this position inhaling and exhaling three times; each time you exhale try to lift your bellybutton higher.
This asana relaxes the entire body and brings a sense of total well-being, while at the same time it helps bring on sleep.
1. Kneel down and sit on your feet with your heels pointing outward. Your knees should be separated, about the width of your hips. Inhale as you lift your arms above your head and exhale while you bring your torso down to your thighs. Place your forehead, palms of your hands and forearms on the floor, while keeping your shoulders relaxed.
2. Next, bring your arms behind and keep them relaxed next to the body. Stay in this position for however long you like, breathing softly and keep your mind on your spinal column.
THE TREE, A POSITION OF BALANCE
This position helps concentration, brings confidence and elasticity to the body. It also works with the body's balance, mental stability and spiritual harmony. It is practiced with your back straight and constantly looking forward. Always concentrate on your breathing and use very slow and controlled movements. Little by little you will gain confidence.
- • Stand with your legs apart and putting all of your weight on your left foot. Place your right foot on the inside of your left thigh. Once you have balance, bring your hands together toward your chest, breathing slowly; while you inhale lift up your hands –always with your palms together– above your head. Stay in this position as long as you can. Next, return to the initial position by doing the steps backward. Repeat the position, but with your other leg.
POSITIONS FOR MEDITATION
The following exercises, when done in a series, help you reach the Lotus asana. This pose, along with Siddhasana, improves circulation, brings serenity, harmony and promotes concentration.
Ideal for increasing flexibility in the legs.
1. Place your feet together and take them in your hands.
2. Slowly bring your torso forward, open and close your knees, imitating the flutter of a butterfly, slowly increasing the rhythm.
This exercise helps you stretch out even more than the previous position.
1. Stretch out and spread your legs. Bend your right leg and place it on the thigh of your left leg, which should be stretched out.
2. Take hold of the foot on your thigh, and with your other hand take hold of your knee, lowering it to stretch out the ligaments. Repeat both steps with your other leg.
Once you have acquired flexibility you may be able to practice this meditation asana.
Sit on the floor, with your legs in the form of a V and your hands placed on your knees. Bend your right leg, placing the ball of your foot against your left inner thigh. Next, bend your left leg and place the heel near your pubic bone.
Sit on the floor with your legs spread out in the form of a V. Clasp hold of your right foot with both hands and bring it high onto the left thigh, up to the groin. Keep the ball of your right foot pointed upward and your right knee placed on the floor. Next, bring the left foot over the right and place the left foot in the groin. Cup your hands, with the tips of your middle finger and thumb touching. In this mudra or finger posture, the hands have a strong symbolic importance. The union between the fingers symbolizes your connection with universal knowledge and the search for union between one's own consciousness and the Universe. The Lotus yoga pose is a perfect meditation posture. You can also place your index finger and thumb together as a sign of the search for harmony and balance.
Lotus exercise helps us eliminate negative thoughts and calm the mind to build a connection with the here and now. When practiced, we reach a true sense of being alive, without memories, ideas, bad thoughts from the past or worries about the future. This state charges our bodies with energy and helps us reach a sense of transcendental meditation.
After you meditate, the way you see reality changes and your senses take on a new dimension, removed from fear, anxiety and worry.
Meditation is a way for you to get away from your tensions and daily problems, to connect with your inner being and essence.
The asanas and breathing exercises in Hatha Yoga prepare our bodies for meditation. It is best to meditate in the morning or evening, in the Lotus posture, for 20 minutes: the palm of your hands cupped and pointed upward, with your middle finger pressed to your thumb forming the shape of an O. In this position, your arms only have one reason: your physical senses meet at the palms of your hands.
The practice of meditation aims to reverse the use of our senses, to not use them as we normally do. The objective is to eliminate external and internal interference and to tap into our vast sources of pure energy.
At the same time, while taking deep breaths internal sounds or mantras ( Om is the best known) are practiced. The mantra creates a vibration, which impedes the flow of thoughts until they stand still. It's similar to controlling all interruptions in your mind.
These are all techniques which allow us to connect with the energy of the Universe. To achieve optimal results with meditation an instructor is necessary, at least when you begin.