There is a lot more to Yoga than yogis atop a mountain and complicated body twists and stretches. Some might find Yoga slow and boring without realizing its full potential as an intense and holistic exercise, with roots in India that focuses on developing balance, strength and flexibility. Over the centuries and thanks to many celebrities from across the world who have discovered the true spirt of Yoga, the practice has become popular worldwide as a way to stay fit and get in touch with ones’ inner self to keep a balance of sanity in a little insane world.
Yoga is an ancient philosophy that develops ones’ personal growth and well-being. Hatha yoga the physical form of yoga uses poses (Asanas) and focused breathing to attain a greater union of body, mind and spirit. Regardless of age, body type and experience anybody can practise yoga. It is a myth that yoga involves lots of difficult poses which requires flexibility or a thin body frame. Yoga is beyond it and any one can start yoga practice to maintain their health. A Yoga session is sure to leave energized and relaxed. You will not only work your muscles and bones but you will also start breathing deeply and in a rhythmic and synchronized way to raise oxygen level in your body.
“Yogash chitta vritti nirodhah |”
“Yoga is the mastery of the activities of the mind-field.”
Things that are needed for yoga practice:
- Yoga Mat – To practice yoga you will need a yoga mat to get a non-slip surface that provides comfort you throughout the practice.
- Yoga Props – Props are very helpful for beginners, they help you in attaining a perfect posture. Yoga block is used to stabilize the standing poses, for stretches, yoga straps are useful while bolster and blankets help in restorative poses.
- Yoga Clothing – From branded yoga clothes made with breathable fabrics to loose, stretchable clothing, wear what makes you comfortable while practicing yoga. A comfortable t-shirt with loose pyjama pants can be chosen for the practice.
When you have the things for practice you can choose to do yoga at home or from a trained yoga instructor. Learning yoga from trained person is always a best choice as they can guide you and ensure you practice your asanas safely and accurately without causing harm to your body. In case you choose to practice yoga at home then you will have to remember a few things in mind.
- Correct way of breathing – It’s very important to breath properly specially while doing asanas. A typical example when one is asked to observe their breathing is push the stomach in while inhaling and push it out while exhaling – Remember this is the wrong way of breathing. When you blow a balloon it becomes big. Similarly when you inhale, your abdomen should bloat and your chest has to expand and when you exhale your chest and abdomen will sink down. So remember and breathe consciously when you are doing your yoga asanas. Breathe deeply through your nose and keep your mouth closed during yoga asana practice.
- Start yoga practice with a prayer by sitting in a comfortable and easy pose. Praying with your eyes closed and in namaskara mudra helps you in focusing while you practise.
- Start with basic level postures. Begin with a warm-up and then some basic yoga asanas. (At the end of this article I have suggested a sequence that anyone can practice in their daily routine.) Remember to stop when you’re feeling uncomfortable in a pose. There is no need for one to bend or stretch too much in the beginning.
“Sthira sukham asanam|” – Postures should be stable and comfortable.
- End the practice with relaxation in Shavasana – Resting on your back in Shavasana while you are consciously relaxing your body will remove the tension both in your body and mind. 15 to 20 minutes of relaxation will keep you fresh throughout the day.
Yoga Beginner Sequence
Begin with a Prayer:
Om Saha Nau-Avatu |
Saha Nau Bhunaktu |
Saha Viiryam aravaavahai|
Tejasvi Nau-Adhiitam-Astu Maa Vidvissaavahai |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih |
Om, May God Protect us Both (the Teacher and the Student),
May God Nourish us Both,
May our Study be Enlightening and not give rise to Hostility,
Om, Peace, Peace, Peace,
May we Work Together with Energy and Vigour,
Warm Up – Sukshma Vyayama
Neck rotation, shoulder rotation, wrist rotation, waist rotation, and knee rotation, ankle rotation (All rotation exercise in both clockwise and anti-clockwise direction). Opening and closing of fingers by forming fist, jogging on toes.
Standing Yoga Sequences
- Tadasana (The Mountain Pose) – This asana strengthens the legs and abdomen. It may help relieve sciatica and reduces flat feet
- Ardhakatichakrasana (Half-waist Wheel Pose) – The lateral thoracic muscles are stretched and blood supply increases to the waist region, reduces excess fat around waist. Reduces back pain, improves digestion and strengthens hip joints
- Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) – Improves the spine flexibility, corrects shoulders alignment, and relieves backache, gastritis, indigestion, acidity, flatulence and tones the pelvic organs
- Padahartasana (Intense Forward-Bending Pose/ Hand to Foot Pose) – Tones abdominal organs, reduces bloating of the abdomen, relives constipation, indigestion and other gastric troubles. Helps to relieve sciatica, spine becomes straight and flexible, improves circulation of the blood throughout the body, muscles of the back are stretched and energized
- Ardhachakrasana (Half-wheel Pose) – Stretches the front upper torso, tones the arms and shoulder muscles
- Virabhadraasana 1 (Warrior 1 Pose) – Strengthens and stabilizes the muscles of the feet and knees, also strengthens shoulders, arms and back. Stretches the hip flexors and calf muscles, improves balance and concentration
Sitting Yoga Sequences
- Dandasana (Staff Pose) – Improves digestion, prevents sciatic pain, stretches and activates the muscles of the legs and calf-muscles
- Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward-bend Pose) – Improves digestion, strengthens spine, useful for diabetic patients, reduces pre-menstrual symptoms, and improves concentration
- Baddha konasana (Bound Angle Pose) – It is an effective groin-and hip-opener, relieves sciatic pain, Strengthens pelvic organs and reduces menstrual pain
- Gomukhasana (Cow face Pose) – Stretches your hips, thighs, ankles and chest, shoulders
- Shashankasana (The Hare Pose) – Strengthens the pelvis, improves digestion, beneficial for diabetes, reproductive organs. The pose help improve circulation to the brain
Pavanamuktasana or the Wind Relieving Pose
It helps in passing the gas, which gets blocked in intestine. The pose helps improve digestion and reduces abdominal fat.
Bhujangasana or the Cobra Pose
The pose helps strengthen the spine, stretches the chest, shoulders, and abdomen, firms the buttocks, and relieve stress and fatigue.
Shavasana is a deep relaxation technique or Yoga Nidra.
You may experience some pain or ache in your body after the first practice, this is Ok. It might also feel awkward to do yoga for the first couple of times but as time passes and you continue practice you will get the benefits of it and you will enjoy the bliss.
After all practice makes perfect!
Further reading material:
- Iyengar Yoga for Beginners, by BKS Iyengar
- 30 Essential Yoga Poses: For Beginning Students and Their Teachers, by Judith Lasat
- Yoga Journal’s Yoga Basics: The Essential Beginner’s Guide to Yoga for a Lifetime of Health and Fitness, by Mara Carrico
- Hatha Yoga Illustrated Paperback, by Martin Kirk