Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Woman's Lifeline

By Nora Isaacs

Yoga has been a lifelong companion for Catherine de los Santos (shown at left in Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, or One-Legged King Pigeon Pose). She's loved movement since she was a child, and she started attending formal yoga classes at the University of Idaho at age 17. After learning more about the spiritual aspects of yoga in B.K.S. Iyengar's Light on Yoga, she committed herself to a daily practice. At the time she had no idea that yoga would help her weather so many physical and emotional challenges. In her energetic 20s, when de los Santos started teaching yoga, asana practice helped her to calm herself. During her 30s, it boosted her confidence. When hot flashes hit in her 40s, various yogic practices helped her manage them. Now 55, de los Santos says that yoga has helped her get through menopause and the emotional upheavals that came when her parents died.

"I think the key is to not stop practicing. That's what I tell my students," says de los Santos, who owns and teaches at Darshana Yoga studio in Palo Alto, California. "Weaving your poses around your life is a good idea." In the pages that follow, four women in the midst of life's very different stages—adolescence, the childbearing years, perimenopause, and postmenopause—give examples of how to do just that.

"Yoga has important elements for all phases of a woman's life," says Louann Brizendine, a neuropsychiatrist at the University of California at San Francisco and the founder of its Women's and Teens' Mood and Hormone Clinic. "During times of radical hormonal changes, women feel least inclined to practice yoga, but that's when we need it the most." Those changes in body chemistry can wreak havoc on your mood. But according to Brizendine, who wrote The Female Brain, there is good evidence that during a practice like yoga, your body releases chemicals into the bloodstream that bring you a sense of well-being and contentment.

A consistent yoga practice supports women physically, emotionally, and spiritually—but adapting your practice to meet your needs at each juncture is vital. While you can enjoy a challenging yoga regimen at any age, you'll get the most from a practice tailored to the present—in other words, customized for your stage in life and how you're feeling on any given day. Taking time to be aware of what's happening in your life, in your body, and with your emotions is the key to getting the most from what yoga can offer you, all through your life.

Setting Your Life in Motion

What's Happening Inside. The first stage of massive hormonal changes takes place during the turbulent years of adolescence, when the brain's neurochemical circuitry is getting established and both brain and body go through the undulating levels of estrogen and progesterone that make adolescent girls fertile. The fluctuating hormones of puberty can result in impulsive behavior, as the amygdala, a part of the limbic system involved with emotions, is infused with hormonal fuel. And the general hormonal flux can bring on buzzing energy, mood swings, and troubled skin as well as a new focus on communication, social connections, and sexuality. Girls are increasingly sensitive during this time and often unsure of how to deal with sexual attention from others. Yoga can help teens be more at peace with their bodies, according to yoga teacher and Yoga Journal contributing editor Carol Krucoff. "The practice of postures, breathing, and meditation helps achieve emotional equilibrium," she says, "allowing teens to truly hear the messages of their own heart and make choices that resonate with their personal values."

Starting a Practice. Christiane Northrup, a physician and the author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, thinks adolescence "lends itself to a strenuous yoga practice"—a vigorous sequence of Sun Salutations and vinyasa flow to allow teens to channel their intense energy. But yoga for teens shouldn't be all jumping around, cautions Krucoff, who has seen firsthand how difficult it is for teens to be still in Savasana (Corpse Pose). "They've grown up texting while watching TV, IM'ing while listening to CDs," Krucoff says. "They are so wound up and stressed out, they don't know how to just be." Start off with a dynamic sequence to release energy, then quiet the body and mind with seated poses and forward bends.

Real Experience. As 19-year-old Lindsey Smith, who is the model on these pages, can attest, learning to watch the breath and stay in the moment can improve concentration, help teen girls interact with others more mindfully, and empower them with the tools to ride the emotional wave of their monthly cycle more smoothly. Mastering difficult poses can build self-esteem, and restorative poses can help with PMS.

Smith says yoga saved her during the "traumatic, emotional roller coaster" of her senior year of high school. The stress of applying to college was isolating. "I felt so alone. I was a mess," she recalls. Then she signed up for yoga classes offered through the PE program at her alternative high school. "With the first pose, my body thanked me. I built strength. My body and mind became more flexible, and stress melted off," says Smith, now a freshman at Stanford University. "Yoga was the emotional and physical healing I needed."

Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana

by: Yoga Journal

Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana - Upward Facing Two-Foot Staff Pose

1. Begin by preparing as you would for Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose). Lie on your back, feet on the floor, heels under the knees, and step your feet a little wider than your hips. Bend your arms and place your palms on the floor by your ears, fingertips facing the shoulders, shoulder-width apart. Pause for a moment to focus and tune in to your breathing.

2. As you exhale, press your knees away from your torso and lift your hips, shoulders, and head from the floor as you straighten your arms. Widen and draw your shoulder blades toward your tail bone to lift your shoulders and lighten the load on your arms.

3. Bend your arms and place the crown of your head on the floor between your hands and feet, keeping your elbows shoulder-width apart and directly over your wrists. To ensure that your neck does not become compressed, exhale, press your hands into the floor, and again draw your shoulder blades toward your tail bone. Keep your chest open and lifted.

4. On your next exhalation, slide one hand past your ear to cup the back of your head, bringing your weight onto your forearm. Repeat the same action with the other arm, interlacing your fingers behind your head (you may be more successful in these arm movements if you lift onto your tiptoes).

5. With a powerful exhalation, press down through your inner elbows and wrists and lift your chest to raise your head off the floor. As your head lifts, press your inner heels down. Of course, your head may seem glued to the floor; if that's the case, continue to hold the pose where you are.

6. If you do manage to lift your head, the pose may actually become easier, since this movement allows your upper arms to directly support your weight, easing the demand on your muscles. But be careful not to strain the shoulder joints by pushing them beyond your elbows. Avoid this over extension by keeping your weight evenly distributed between your elbows and wrists, and by not allowing your elbows to slide more than shoulder-width apart. It is absolutely fine to remain in this position, with your head raised and your heels directly below your knees.

7. In the full pose, however, you walk the feet away from your hands until your legs are nearly straight; then plant your inner feet and exhale as you stretch down through your calves and push to straighten the legs completely.

8. Place the crown of your head back on the floor inside the cup of your hands, press your elbows into the floor and draw your shoulder blades toward your tail bone to help your shoulders stay lifted. Your middle back will be asked to extend more deeply.

9. Come out of this asana with great attention. First, walk your feet back under your knees. Remain on your crown and return your palms to the floor next to your ears. Again check to make sure your hands are directly under your elbows. Push with your hands to lift the head and tuck your chin and tail bone in as you roll your spine back down to the floor, tail bone touching last. Consciously slow your breathing down until you are once again at rest and can feel the powerful calm that is the product of balanced backbends.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Yoga Therapy for Colds and Flu


While we all are bound to suffer from the occasional cold or flu, the practicing yogi/yogini is less likely to come down with the sniffles, and when he/she does, tends to have a much faster recovery rate. This is true because of yoga’s known abilities to regulate the immune system, keeping it strong and healthy to withstand infections, and yoga’s ability to boost immune function with specific yogic practices. Yoga’s stress reducing abilities is one of the primary reasons a regular practice of yoga helps prevent and cure the common cold. Stress is known as a major contributing factor to catching a cold or flu, as stress hormones cause the thymus to shrink in size, causing it to poorly function as a producer of immune cells. Besides the general calming effects of most yoga poses, restorative poses and forward bends are especially calming to the nervous system, helping to reduce whole-body stress. The following poses are known to be especially calming to the body and mind: child, shavasana, supine bound angle pose, seated forward bend, and seated head to knee.

Any type of physical activity will give a boost to the immune system, and yoga, with its inherent stress reducing and immune enhancing properties, will both provide a short-term boost and a long-term strengthening of the immune system. In addition to a general yoga practice, specific yoga postures can be used to target specific organs of the immune system to further enhance yoga’s immune boosting abilities.

Chest opening upper back bends will activate the primary organ of the immune system, the thymus gland, located in the center of the chest. The most beneficial postures for this purpose are Cobra, Pigeon, Fish, Boat, Bow and Bridge. Since the thymus gland is located at the fourth chakra center, chanting “yum,” this chakra’s bija mantra, while performing these poses can further activate the thymus gland .

Inversions increase the passive circulation of the lymphatic system, which is responsible for the production and circulation of the immune cells to defend the body from the viruses and bacteria. Inversions such as shoulderstand, headstand, plow and legs up the wall pose, will all help improve the flow of lymph and immune cells through the body. Twists and hip openers activate secondary organs of the immune system: the spleen and the lymph nodes in groin and armpits. These organs are the production sites for the immune cells, so using yoga poses to target these organs during a cold or flu would be especially beneficial. Use twists such as seated twist, prayer twist, and knee down twist, and hip openers such as bound angle, seated angle, and pigeon to activate these organs to keep them healthy and strong.

Lion pose is a specific yoga posture that activates the immune glands of the tonsils and the lymph nodes in the neck. Performing lion pose at the very beginning of a sore throat can dramatically stop and prevent the sore throat from progressing. Another specific yogic technique that helps prevent and cure colds, especially sinus related infections, is Jala Neti (nasal irrigation). Jala Neti is the use of a Neti pot to pour water through the nasal passages, flushing out the bacteria or germs that can cause infection.

Many practicing yogis/yoginis follow a yogic diet, which can also help to prevent and cure the common cold. A yogic diet’s emphasis on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes naturally provides the body with the proper nutrition and the abundance of antioxidants that the immune system needs to function optimally. A yogic diet is also naturally free or low of sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and fat—all of which are known to suppress various immune functions.

These various practices and poses of yoga are an excellent way to keep the immune system healthy and strong to prevent and quickly recover from the common cold or flu. If you do come down with a cold or flu, it is important to rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat simple wholesome foods and to practice some gentle yoga poses. If after three to four days there is no change in your symptoms, or a worsening of symptoms occurs, please seek medical attention from a qualified health care practitioner.

Corpse Pose -Savasana

by: Yoga Journal

1. In Savasana it's essential that the body be placed in a neutral position. Sit on the floor with your knees bent, feet on the floor, and lean back onto your forearms. Lift your pelvis slightly off the floor and, with your hands, push the back of the pelvis toward the tailbone, then return the pelvis to the floor. Inhale and slowly extend the right leg, then the left, pushing through the heels. Release both legs, softening the groins, and see that the legs are angled evenly relative to the mid-line of the torso, and that the feet turn out equally. Narrow the front pelvis and soften (but don't flatten) the lower back.

2. With your hands lift the base of the skull away from the back of the neck and release the back of the neck down toward the tailbone. If you have any difficulty doing this, support the back of the head and neck on a folded blanket. Broaden the base of the skull too, and lift the crease of the neck diagonally into the center of the head. Make sure your ears are equidistant from your shoulders.

3. Reach your arms toward the ceiling, perpendicular to the floor. Rock slightly from side to side and broaden the back ribs and the shoulder blades away from the spine. Then release the arms to the floor, angled evenly relative to the mid-line of torso. Turn the arms outward and stretch them away from the space between the shoulder blades. Rest the backs of the hands on the floor as close as you comfortably can to the index finger knuckles. Make sure the shoulder blades are resting evenly on the floor. Imagine the lower tips of the shoulder blades are lifting diagonally into your back toward the top of the sternum. From here, spread the collarbones.

4. In addition to quieting the physical body in Savasana, it's also necessary to pacify the sense organs. Soften the root of the tongue, the wings of the nose, the channels of the inner ears, and the skin of the forehead, especially around the bridge of the nose between the eyebrows. Let the eyes sink to the back of the head, then turn them downward to gaze at the heart. Release your brain to the back of the head.

5. Stay in this pose for 5 minutes for every 30 minutes of practice. To exit, first roll gently with an exhalation onto one side, preferably the right. Take 2 or 3 breaths. With another exhalation press your hands against the floor and lift your torso, dragging your head slowly after. The head should always come up last.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Plank pose

by: Yoga Journal
1. Start in Adho Mukha Svanasana. Then inhale and draw your torso forward until the arms are perpendicular to the floor and the shoulders directly over the wrists, torso parallel to the floor.
2. Press your outer arms inward and firm the bases of your index fingers into the floor. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then spread them away from the spine. Also spread your collarbones away from the sternum.
3. Press your front thighs up toward the ceiling, but resist your tailbone toward the floor as you lengthen it toward the heels. Lift the base of the skull away from the back of the neck and look straight down at the floor, keeping the throat and eyes soft.
4. Plank Pose is one of the positions in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. You can also perform this pose by itself and stay anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Yoga For Insomnia


Yoga will benefit your sleep in many ways. The quality of your sleep will improve because of the stimulatory effect yoga has on the nervous system, and in particular the brain. The practice of certain yoga postures will increase the blood circulation to the sleep center in the brain, which has the effect of normalizing the sleep cycle.

You will need less sleep because yoga increases the elimination of toxins from the body and rejuvenates the entire body right down to cellular level. The practice of breathing allows for more oxygen in the body providing clarity in the mind.

It has been claimed that on average, for every minute you put into yoga you will need one minute less sleep. This makes yoga an excellent time investment.

Yoga will help you fall asleep sooner and improve the quality of your sleep so that you need less. You will have a more restful sleep because of the relaxing aspect of yoga and the subsequent relieving of stress, tension and fatigue.

You will wake up every morning ready to go instead of wishing you could stay in bed.

Yogic cure for obesity


Obesity is becoming a common health hazard and leads to many other diseases like coronary heart disease , high blood pressure, diabetes, psychosomatic disorders and a shorter life span. The main cause of obesity is excessive eating. The best method to control weight is to reduce the intake of protein, carbohydrates and fat and increase the supply of mineral and vitamins, and also increase exercises.

Yogic Cure

The natural way to lose weight involves body purification ( nature cure), yogasanas, and mental and spiritual management. The biggest advantage of this system of cure is that the individual does not have to undergo fasting and feel any weakness. Also the reduction of weight is gradual so that the person does not feel any loss of strength. Due to gradual reduction there is no sagging of facial skin and conditioning of the body takes place simultaneously . The yogic method may take longer in correcting excessive weight as compared to gimmicks claiming to reduce weight in matter of days and weeks through usage of various pills, gadgets etc. , which cause various disorders and do serious physical- mental harm to the users. The yogic method reduces weight in a lasting and a permanent way. It does not cost a penny. There is no disturbance in normal way of life.

Recommended Asana :

Surya Namskar (Sun salutation) - exercises every part of the body. 6-8 sets daily help a lot.
Uttanpadasan ( Raising the legs) - reduces obesity of thighs, hips and other parts of the body.
Urdhavhast- Uttanasan (Raising half arms) - reduces fat from lower part of body.
Katichakrasan ( Hip twist) - develops sleek waist.
Hastuttanpadasn ( Hands touching raised legs) - reduces fat of abdomen , hips , thighs and arms. Sarvangasan ( Shoulder stand) - strengthens lungs and heart.
Halasan (Plough pose) - makes legs flexible.
Naukasan (Boat pose) - strengthens shoulders, neck, back and legs.
Dhanurasan (Bow pose) - benefits abdomen.
Shavasan ( Corpse pose) - relaxes the body.

Each asana should be practiced 5 times with retaining each position from 10 -15 seconds. You should relax between 2 asana. All or some of the asana in which you feel comfortable can be done.

Breathing for Relaxation

By Claudia Cummins

Beginning students often ask for instructions on the "right" way to breathe. Alas, there's no single answer to that question, since the optimal breathing pattern at any given moment depends on the type of practice. Restorative yoga focuses solely on relaxation, though, and emphasizes breathing that creates calm and serene states of being. When you settle into restorative poses, try the following techniques for cultivating breathing patterns that are hallmarks of relaxation and well-being.

MOVE THE BELLY WITH THE BREATH. When we are at ease, the diaphragm is the primary engine of the breath. As we inhale, this domelike muscle descends toward the abdomen, displacing the abdominal muscles and gently swelling the belly. As we exhale, the diaphragm releases back toward the heart, enabling the belly to release toward the spine.

KEEP THE UPPER BODY QUIET. During high-stress times, it's common to heave the upper chest and grip the muscles in the shoulders and throat. When we're at rest, the muscles of the upper chest remain soft and relaxed as we breathe, and the real work occurs in the lower rib cage. To promote this type of breathing pattern, consciously relax the jaw, throat, neck, and shoulders, and envision the breath sweeping into the deepest parts of the lungs as you breathe in and out.

BREATHE EASY. Although some breaths may be deeper or faster than others, when we're relaxed, the alternating rhythm of the inhalations and exhalations feels like a lullaby—smooth, soft, and uninterrupted by jerks and jags. Consciously relaxing into this wavelike, oceanic quality of the breath deepens our sense of peace and ease.

LENGTHEN THE EXHALATIONS. When we feel stressed, our exhalations tend to grow short and choppy. When we're relaxed, though, the exhalations extend so completely that they are often longer than the inhalations. Some teachers even instruct that if we're deeply relaxed, each exhalation will be twice as long as the inhalation. To facilitate this, try gently extending each exhalation by one or two seconds.

PAUSE AFTER EACH EXHALATION. In our most relaxed state, the end of each exhalation is punctuated by a short pause. Lingering in this sweet spot can be deeply satisfying and can evoke feelings of profound quiet and stillness.

LET THE WHOLE BODY BREATHE. When we are at ease, the whole body participates in the breathing process. Imagine a sleeping baby: When he breathes in and out, the belly swells and releases, the hips rock to and fro, the shoulders bob, and the spine gently undulates. This offers a mini-massage for the muscles and organs of the whole body, and turns each breath into a soothing melody that further calms and quiets every cell within.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Utkatasana (Chair Pose) - step by step

by: Yoga Journal

1. Stand in Tadasana. Inhale and raise your arms perpendicular to the floor. Either keep the arms parallel, palms facing inward, or join the palms.

2. Exhale and bend your knees, trying to take the thighs as nearly parallel to the floor as possible. The knees will project out over the feet, and the torso will lean slightly forward over the thighs until the front torso forms approximately a right angle with the tops of the thighs. Keep the inner thighs parallel to each other and press the heads of the thigh bones down toward the heels.

3. Firm your shoulder blades against the back. Take your tailbone down toward the floor and in toward your pubis to keep the lower back long.

4. Stay for 30 seconds to a minute. To come out of this pose straighten your knees with an inhalation, lifting strongly through the arms. Exhale and release your arms to your sides into tadasana.

Point of Concentration: Halasan


-The spine in this pose is stretched up to three inches more than its length. As a result it becomes more resilient and healthy. It also aids in lengthening the size of the body.

- As the bones do not release calcium they do not suffer from faulty holes and rigidity. Besides, this asan helps supplying adequate quantum of blood into bones.

- All the glands, thyroid, parathyroid, kidneys, spleen, liver, pancreas, adrenal, seminal etc. get contracted in this asan. When we return to the original position they get expanded. This way, these glands are benefited internally.

- By stretching the spinal cord all the nerves connected with the spine and the muscles are stimulated in such a manner that one is absolutely relieved of fatigue. Body gets relaxed and doubly energized.

- Since the lungs are pressed from inside they release maximum quantity of carbon dioxide. When we come back to the starting position, they are filled with fresh oxygen and as a result their functional capacity is stimulated.

- In the final position of this asan, the flow of blood is pointed towards the coronary vessel. This feeds heart and the shape of the heart is not unnecessarily enlarged due to the flow of blood towards the face it gains in luster. The pressure on throat will improve the function of the vocal cord.

- The pressure exerted on palms and arms relieves the shivering of hands and strengthening of shoulders.

- Since all the organs of the abdomen are pressed inside, they get strengthened.Due to its impact on pancreas, diabetes is cured. It gives relief in gastric troublesand constipation.

- All the muscles from the toes to buttocks are toned up and benefited.

- Helps in reducing obesity.

- Cures sterility.




1. Lie flat on the back, stretch the arms straight close to the body and bring the toes and heels together, stretching the toes forward. The palms will face the ground. Keep the body fully stretched.

2. Inhaling, raise the legs together slowly. Exhaling, press the palms down on the floor and raise the legs beyond the head till they come parallel to the floor.

3. Move the legs forward until the toes touch the ground. Take the toe together more forward. Chin should touch the lock of the throat. The hands will stick to the ground and bring the arms nearer to each other. Normalizing the breath, hold this posture as long as comfortable.

4. Be very careful while returning to the original position. Balancing the weight of the body on the palms and resting each vertebra of the spine on the ground, bring back the leg very slowly until they rest on the ground. The more slowly spine is brought to the ground, the more resilience it will gain. When the back rests on the floor, bring down the feet slowly towards the ground and place the heels on the floor gently and comfortably. The slow downward movement of the legs will benefit the abdomen in a big way. On return, relax.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle), with chair

By Andrea Ferretti
Place a chair in front of you and put your right foot between its front legs. Step your left foot back about 4 feet and turn it in 80 degrees. Place your hands on your hips and square them. Inhale, lift your torso, exhale, and fold forward, placing your left hand on the chair seat, in line with your right big toe. Place your right hand on your sacrum and twist to the right, bringing the right shoulder toward the ceiling and the left ribs forward. To go deeper, place the left elbow on the chair and raise the right arm.

Bharadvajasana (Bharadvaja’s Twist), with chair

By Andrea Ferretti
Sit sideways on a chair with your right hip facing the chair back and a block between your thighs. The chair will stabilize the lower back, pelvis, and legs, allowing you to safely rotate your upper spine. Place the hands on the chair back as you inhale and lift the spine. Exhale and twist, pulling with the left hand and pushing with the right. Allow the head and neck to follow the twist of the spine.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tips for Regular Yoga Practice

by Michael Russell

As with everything in life, yoga is effective but it will only work if you 'work it'. For results with Yoga, as with any program, one needs to learn two simple rules; dedication and persistence. You have to be dedicated and follow the practices on a regular basis if you really want to get results. If you have bought some books on yoga and meditation, don't let them gather dust while you plan and hope you will start the practice one day.

Yoga postures and basic meditation exercises are simple enough to learn, even for a child. The major problem with most yoga 'drop outs' is not getting the techniques right, as most people have aligned their minds to believe, but the ability to establish the habit of following the practices through on a regular basis. The following tips may help you to do your yoga and meditation on a daily basis.

Determination: Start your yoga with a firm determination to see it through. Yoga begins and ends with the mind, if you can convince yourself you really want to do it, then you should be able to keep the spirit. The problem with most people is that they rush into everything that sounds interesting before they are sure of whether they want it or not. These people will usually dump a program before they even really begin it. Close your eyes, search deep within you, "is yoga really important to me?" Decide you will give it a fair try and stick to that determination. There are days when you feel low and won't want to do your yoga, remember your initial soul deep determination and you will always find the right spirit to go ahead.

Be organized: Things go smoothly and are more interesting when they are well organized. Make a regular schedule for your yoga practice and stick to it. The mere fact that you will always look forward to the period of your daily yoga practice will always keep it in your consciousness. You will get best results from yoga if you do your practice daily. No matter how busy you are, keep some time free during the day and reserve this time for your practice of yoga and meditation. It is better if you can get up early in the morning or late in the evening, when there will be fewer distractions.

Free your Mind: It is not enough to reserve a time for yoga if you can't put your all into the practice. When you decide to do your yoga practice and meditation, remember that the next couple of minutes have been reserved for the development of your mind and personality. It would be pointless, if your body were doing the practice while your mind were busy sorting out some other worries. Once you begin your daily yoga practice all other worries and responsibilities should be tucked somewhere else until you are through.

Add Some Color: Learning how to give and share is an important part of the personality yoga seeks to create in you. Add some color and fun into your daily yoga practice by involving your friends who would also benefit from practicing yoga. The enthusiasm of others would rub off on you any day you feel low and don't want to continue with your practice. Yoga is not what you keep to yourself - bring in one or two friends.

Learn Patience: It took you several years to build up your present personality and physical structure. You can't change it overnight. Although, with yoga you don't have to wait for that many years to change yourself because the regular and systematic practice of yoga postures and basic meditation can help you to make great changes within the shortest possible period. It's being human, sometimes you feel like you are getting results and other times, you feel like nothing is changing. You shouldn't worry so much about the short-term effects, what really matters is the ultimate goal you want to achieve. It takes a little time, but with dedication and persistence, your most profound yoga dreams will be achieved.

Crow - kakasana

by Yoga Magazine UK

The crow exercise is designed to cleanse the sixth chakra . Regular performance of this exercise dramatically improves its strength. According to yoga theory if you fail to exercise regularly then with the onset of old age the bones become brittle, especially the knees. By conducting the crow exercise you will make the joints of both the arms and legs stronger. Additionally you will improve your stamina.

1 Squat down onto your knees, buttocks to ankles keeping them apart. The heels of your feet should not touch the floor.

2 Place the palms of your hands facing down on floor and wrap arms in between the knees.

3 Very carefully place your body weight onto your arms. You should tilt your body forwards when doing so.

4 The heels of your feet should be used as a springing board to push you forwards.

5 Slowly raise each foot from the floor while tilting forwards. Keep your spine straight and head facing forward.

6 Now lift your whole body onto your arms and hold position for as long as possible. While doing so inhale and exhale your breath at a normal rate.

Upavistha Konasana: Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend

1. Sit in Dandasana, then lean your torso back slightly on your hands and lift and open your legs to an angle of about 90 degrees (the legs should form an approximate right angle, with the pubis at the apex). Press your hands against the floor and slide your buttocks forward, widening the legs another 10 to 20 degrees. As with Dandasana, if you can’t sit comfortably on the floor, raise your buttocks on a folded blanket.
2. Rotate your thighs outwardly, pinning the outer thighs against the floor, so that the knee caps point straight up toward the ceiling. Reach out through your heels and stretch your soles, pressing though the balls of the feet.
3.With your thigh bones pressed heavily into the floor and your knee caps pointing up at the ceiling, walk your hands forward between your legs. Keep your arms long. As with all forward bends, the emphasis is on moving from the hip joints and maintaining the length of the front torso. As soon as you find yourself bending from the waist, stop, re-establish the length from the pubis to the navel, and continue forward if possible.
4. Increase the forward bend on each exhalation until you feel a comfortable stretch in the backs of your legs. Stay in the pose 1 minute or longer. Then come up on an inhalation with a long front torso.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Shift Stress into Low Gear

By Andrea Ferretti

You might equate a stress-related health problem with a minor upset stomach or a tension headache. But physician and Yoga Journal medical editor Timothy McCall warns that stress may also fuel chronic illnesses, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. "If you are continually stressed, you leave the door open to a variety of health conditions," McCall says. Yoga is an effective stress reducer. Here are McCall's tips for using your practice for that purpose.

Focus on your breath.

The ancient yoga masters taught that moving and breathing with awareness quiet the mind. When we stop ruminating and our inner monologue slows, we tend to experience relaxation and a feeling of being centered.

Practice restorative poses and forward bends.

Both are thought to calm the nervous system. Use blankets, pillows, and bolsters to support you in the poses.

Be consistent.

Long-term, regular practice will encourage a sense of inner peace that will last throughout your day. "This equanimity and mindfulness has countless positive effects, including an appreciation for the beauty around you in every moment," McCall says. "You may even realize that some of what you've been getting worked up about really isn't that important. And that may be the biggest stress reducer of all."

Easing Ujjayi Breathing

By Tim Miller
My teacher has told me that my Ujjayi breathing is too strained. I've tried to ease it, but I am not sure if I'm doing it right. —Heidi Palmqvist, Sofia, Bulgaria
Read Tim Miller's reply:

When done properly, Ujjayi (translated as "victorious") breathing should be both energizing and relaxing. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali suggests that the breath should be both dirga (long) and suksma (smooth). The sound of Ujjayi is created by gently constricting the opening of the throat to create some resistance to the passage of air. Gently pulling the breath in on inhalation and gently pushing the breath out on exhalation against this resistance creates a well-modulated and soothing sound—something like the sound of ocean waves rolling in and out.

The root of your problem may be as simple as the effort you exert to perform Ujjayi. It is important to remember that the key to Ujjayi breathing is relaxation; the action of Ujjayi naturally lengthens the breath. Some small effort is required to produce a pleasing sound, but too much effort creates a grasping quality and a grating sound. Generally, it is the inhalation that presents the greater challenge. So begin by practicing on the exhalation where there is a natural letting go process.

To practice the inhalation, focus on creating a soothing and pleasing sound that is unhurried and unforced. I suggest working on your Ujjayi breathing in a seated, relaxed cross-legged position. Imagine sipping the breath in through a straw. If the suction is too strong the straw collapses and great force is required to suck anything through it. Once Ujjayi breathing is mastered in a seated position, the challenge is to maintain the same quality of breathing throughout your asana practice.

Throughout your practice, try to maintain the length and smoothness of the breath as much as possible. Once you find a baseline Ujjayi breath in a pose that is not too strenuous (Downward Facing Dog for example), endeavor to maintain that quality of breath throughout the practice. Some asanas require great effort, and you may begin to strain in your breath. If you are straining in your breath, you may be pushing yourself too hard in your practice. Use that feedback as a guide throughout your practice—if you start to strain, it may be time to back out of a pose and rest.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

By Kate Tremblay

Perhaps the kindest of the lot, Setu Bandha Sarvangasana is a passive arch for the back; it allows the back muscles to completely relax as the front body opens, with the legs and hips taking on most of the work. To come into the pose, lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor hip width apart. Press into the feet to lengthen the lower back, bringing it into contact with the floor. Continue pressing through the feet as the knees reach away from the shoulders, lifting the buttocks and increasingly more of the back from the floor. Remind yourself that this is a pose in which your back muscles can actually relax while your legs do the work of opening the front body. By keeping the effort at 50 percent, you'll find space to enjoy the drape of the back from the pelvis down toward the shoulders, relaxing into the force of gravity.

Let the arms remain passive on the floor or, if your chest is flexible enough to permit, bring them under your back, interlacing your fingers and straightening the arms as much as possible. Either way, reach the arms, like the legs, toward the floor to support the arch of the pose. Once you're situated, settle into a rhythm of breathing in as you extend the chest toward both ceiling and chin and breathing out as you lengthen the lower back. Try reaching strongly through the heels, contracting the hamstrings to pull the sitting bones toward the back knees. As the hamstrings contract, the lower back is pulled long from below.

This is a wonderful action to call upon in any backbend. When you are able to lengthen the lower back by tugging the back of the pelvis down with your hamstrings, the front body becomes more available to lengthen and open. If you struggle with the comfort of your lower back in backbends, however, you may still find the most comfort by continuing to stabilize and lengthen the lumbar spine at least partially through the contraction of your abdominal muscles.
When you are ready to come out of the pose, release the arms out from under you and slowly return the spine to the floor, one vertebra at a time. Rest a moment with the knees bent and the feet on the floor to observe new sensations and to relax.


By Kate Tremblay

Salabhasana is quite challenging for those who have a long torso, a stiff front body, and weak back muscles. If this is the case for you, try Utkatasana instead. Like Salabhasana, Utkatasana is an active backbend. It can challenge the back muscles to develop strength, but it does so using gravity, which makes it easier for weaker backs. To come into the pose, stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), with your feet parallel and hip width apart. On an inhalation, raise the arms overhead. On an exhalation, bend your knees as if to sit in a chair as you bring your hands to the thighs. To keep your knees safe, be sure they track directly forward in line with the toes. The closer the thighs come to parallel with the floor, the more challenging the pose, both for your legs and your back. Remind yourself to work at 50 percent so you have plenty of space to make subtle adjustments.

On each inhalation, lift the chest away from the thighs, pulling the apex of the curve into the thoracic spine. On each exhalation, gently contract the abdominal muscles, tucking the tailbone under and lengthening the lower back. Stabilize the pose by reaching into the four corners of each foot, most strongly into the inner and outer edges of each heel to encourage length in the lower back.

If your body calls for more opening and a stronger surge of energy, bring your arms straight out in front of you and parallel to the floor. For an even stronger position, reach the arms overhead. Keep adjusting the depth and apex with each position change. When you are ready to come out of the pose, return to Tadasana, releasing your arms down to your sides, and take several breaths.


By Kate Tremblay

Salabhasana involves an active contraction of the back muscles to open the front body. This feels delicious when the back is strong and the front body is not overly restricted. Remind yourself that the primary purpose of backbends is to release tension along the front of the body, helping you feel more movement of breath and energy in those areas. As an active backbend, Salabhasana also offers the promise of strengthening muscles along the back of the body. In service of these intended benefits, try lifting your body only 50 percent as high as you comfortably can. Use the reserved energy and the mental space created to stay a few breaths longer than you might be able to if you were really pushing yourself. Then use the extra time to observe sensations and to maneuver within the pose.

To come into Salabhasana, lie facedown with your forehead on the floor and your arms alongside your body, palms down. Exhale and lengthen the lower back by drawing the belly gently toward the spine and pressing the pelvis and thighs toward the floor. Hold a subtle tension in the belly as you inhale and lift the chest and head. Exhale and again lengthen the lower back, drawing the belly gently toward the spine. Inhale, expanding the chest forward and at the same time pulling the apex of the arch from the lower back up to just behind your breastbone.

Stay in touch with your level of exertion and any signs of resistance in your lower back. Resistance doesn't necessarily mean you should stop what you're doing, but it is a reminder to slow down and pay attention to what is happening. Lower the chest a bit to slow down and observe. Find space to move within the pose, to work the chest forward on your inhalations and lengthen the back on your exhalations.

Once you've mastered the action, begin to experiment with deepening the backbend, taking care to honor your own comfort level. Is there enough ease in your lumbar spine (in the lower back) to offer it a little more arch? Ideally, you want the lumbar spine and the cervical spine (in the neck) to arch without overcompressing and without compromising your ability to open the front of the thoracic spine (in the middle and upper back).

If you've lifted the apex of the curve upward and your lower back feels fine, release a little of the abdominal contraction at the end of your next inhalation, letting the lower back move a little farther forward. Work to keep the apex of the curve drawing upward, and support the lifting heart from underneath by bringing the shoulder blades firmly against the rib cage. Mirror the action of your chest with the base of your skull, extending it upward on an inhalation so the neck comes to its full length. Then look forward and up with the chin still slightly tucked, as if you were arching up and back over a large ball. The entire spine should lengthen and open into a long graceful bend, with no single part receiving a disproportionate share of the backbend. This feels glorious. Savor it.

If you want to move more deeply into the pose, add your legs, lifting them and stretching back through the heels. Every time you move, take only 50 percent of what is possible. Know that as the body opens, you can take another 10 percent—and another, and another. If you are still comfortable and want a bit more chest opening, lift the arms off the floor too. Keep them by your side and turn the palms to face each other, or interlace your fingers behind your back and stretch the knuckles back toward the heels. Just be sure to keep some extra wiggle room for observing and responding—the ultimate yogic conversation between body, breath, and mind.

Whenever you take all that your body will give, the question of when to come out of the pose never emerges. You come out when your body gasps "uncle." By contrast, working as you are here, and as the Yoga Sutra advises—balancing sthira (steadiness) and sukha (ease)—there is room to observe cues that the quality of your effort is beginning to wane and it's time to rest. Do you have less control over the subtle actions of controlling depth and apex? Is your breath beginning to lose its smooth, easy rhythm? When your resistance to remaining in the pose overpowers the conversation of your body, it is time to come out. Lie down slowly, turning your head to one side and resting your arms alongside the torso, palms rolling up toward the ceiling. Listen to the echoes of the pose reverberating throughout your body. Enjoy the total release of effort and observe the new quality of your energy. After a while, push back into Balasana (Child's Pose).

The Compassionate Backbend

In backbends, we come face-to-face with the boundaries of our flexibility, patience, and equanimity. But learning to practice with our limitations—instead of struggling against them—can make backbending an exercise in self-acceptance.

By Kate Tremblay

Most of us come to yoga seeking sanctuary. We realize how important it is to briefly step away from the demands of life and relax into a spacious quality of mind that allows us to be with ourselves as we are, without judgment. Insulated from the racket of demands and from the need to rush, we become quiet enough to hear the stirrings of our hearts. And in the act of accepting whatever we find there, we replenish our energy and inspiration. Accepting the truth of our selves, our hearts, our muscles, our level of energy in any given moment is the height of compassion, and practiced this way, yoga becomes an exercise in equanimity.

How is it, then, that so many of us quickly abandon these ideals when we practice backbends? If we're not paying close attention, the acceptance and lovingkindness we were working with in other poses suddenly dissipates. Any practice of the yamas and niyamas, those attitudes and behaviors that epitomize the spirit of yoga, falls away. We grasp for a deeper opening, greedy for the glory of a perfect pose. We refuse to surrender to our own body's wisdom. If we're not paying close attention, we can become shockingly forceful and disrespectful of ourselves.

With few exceptions, backbends elicit a passionate response. People either pepper their practice with deeper and deeper ones or they skip them whenever possible, dreading the inevitable discomfort. Those who avoid them mostly do so sheepishly, for what does it say about us if we dread backbends? These are poses that open the heart chakra, build courage and stamina, and give us the sort of energy that propels us to reach out toward others. Do we not value those benefits?

Chances are very good that if you are miserable in backbends, it's not that you don't value the benefits; it's more likely that you have never truly experienced them. Maybe you are stiff along the front body or have weak back muscles, or perhaps you instinctively know to protect a vulnerable heart from openings you are not ready for. If you have yet to find joy in opening the front body, it's time to develop a different approach to your practice.


The discipline of yoga is a purification practice, but not in the sense that we Americans seem so inclined to believe. The goal is purification not for the sake of perfection but for the sake of freedom. If you practice backbends intent upon eradicating aspects of yourself that you see as somehow "not measuring up," such as weak muscles, stiff joints, or protective insulation, you succeed only in beating yourself up. There's no freedom on that path and, incidentally, no purification either. It's a path that leads only deeper into neuroses.

If the discipline of yoga is to bring greater freedom, you must practice backbends in a way that accepts and accommodates your resistance—even values and honors it—while still letting you receive the intended benefits. The point of this practice is not to become someone else but to become more fully yourself, to achieve not the glorious backbend pictured on a yoga calendar but the one that is at once stable and comfortable for your body and glows with an inner experience of joy, exhilaration, and freedom.

You're more likely to choose poses that honor your limits if you keep in mind the point of the practice, which in this case is opening the front of the body. You probably already do this instinctively after long periods of time spent hunched forward, whether over a computer, a patch in the garden, or something else. You know the stretch: arms reaching up and out, chest puffing forward, maybe even accompanied by a yawn or a growl. This informal backbend opens the muscles of the front body that tightened and shortened while you were pitched forward, and it offers the overstretched and fatigued back muscles relief by shortening them, flushing out waste, and bringing in a fresh supply of oxygenated blood. It feels great to open this way, doesn't it?

What makes this most natural of backbends especially pleasurable is that you rarely try to reach beyond your body's natural comfort level. You're not trying to achieve anything in particular, just instinctively going for the relief and exhilaration of the arch. If you can remind yourself that this revitalization is possible with even the simplest of poses, you will gravitate willingly and eagerly toward the practice of backbends.


But sometimes even that natural impulse to arch backward is accompanied by an unexpected twinge of pain in the lower back. This is the area of the spine that typically bears the greatest strain during backbends, and if you tend to experience compression in the lower back during practice, you may decide that your body just doesn't bend backward with enough ease to garner the benefits of the practice. Fortunately, the breath can be used to create both comfort and control in backward-bending poses. Lifting and arching the chest on an inhalation and drawing the abdomen in to lengthen the lower back on an exhalation intentionally creates a shallower and more uniform arch. This also pulls the apex of the curve up and out of the lower back, where it tends to settle uncomfortably, and gives it a new home in the chest. Practiced this way, backbends are not only safer but easier to hold. Rather than struggling against the pose, you can relax into it and receive the gift of opening it has to offer.

Using the breath to control the depth and apex of a backbend offers an interesting encounter with aparigraha, the attitude that's described in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra as the ability to accept only what is appropriate. You make a conscious choice not to take all you could, not to move into the fullest backward bend your body can manage, because you see value in holding back; you value the health and integrity of your body more than the glory of a deeper backbend. You value the primary function of the pose—the opening—more than the final shape or form of the posture. (For more on aparigraha, see "Enough Is Enough".)

This kind of restraint is so uncommon in our culture that it can feel quite unnatural. To embrace restraint, you might need to acknowledge how strongly it conflicts with the messages we regularly receive about what it means to be accomplished and successful. Like it or not, the culture we live in has a strong influence on our psyches. If you move into backbends without acknowledging their potential to collide with the values of yogic practice, doing your best can translate into doing your most. Not only can this lead to injury, but it can also sabotage the benefits of the practice altogether. If you want to give backbending your best effort and still remain true to the spirit of yogic practice, you have to remind yourself that success comes with taking only what you need from a pose—only what your body can appropriately use and no more.

If you pay close attention, the breath will tell you what you need and when you've gone too far. The breath is constant, but at the same time, it's ever-changing. It reflects the state of the body and mind in the most honest and direct way. Overeffort, strain, pain, anxiety, striving, frustration—all of these are revealed by the breath, and you can know your own mind better, and learn to work within your limits, if you learn how to interpret the sensation and sound of the breath.

The breath can also be used to connect your intention more fully with your physical body. In backbending, the connection is absolute. To set the tone for a skillful, compassionate backbending practice, start by giving yourself the space and freedom to observe the movement of the breath separately from the actions of backbending. To do this, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Place your right hand on your upper chest and your left hand on your lower abdomen. Rest each elbow on a blanket so your arms can relax. As you inhale, feel the right hand move first as the lungs fill and the rib cage lifts and broadens.

Gradually move the breath downward until the diaphragm moves down and the belly expands, lifting the left hand with it. Then exhale in reverse, beginning with a gentle contraction of the abdominal muscles under the left hand and then relaxing and releasing progressively upward until the diaphragm and muscles of the rib cage relax and the right hand settles.

Maintain the gentle contraction of the abdomen initiated during the exhalation throughout subsequent inhalations, first filling the upper lungs and lifting the rib cage. Maintain the lift of the rib cage in subsequent exhalations while reaffirming the contraction of your abdominal muscles. This subtle work of using the abdomen to stabilize the lower back and pelvis while reaching the chest forward lengthens the spine. Working backbends this way has a similar feel to opening an extension ladder: The base remains grounded, and the front spine becomes progressively longer. If the back of the ladder were becoming shorter, like the muscles of the back, extending the ladder would create a long and graceful arch. This action becomes the mechanism by which you control how deeply you arch backward and where you locate the apex of your curve.
The breath can be a constant reminder of these actions, which you can work with in every backbend, from the most simple to the most complex. It can also serve as the ground for your intention—on the inhalation, you can extend compassionate care to yourself; on the exhalation, you can revel in pure sensation.

The attitude of compassion can start with choosing the poses that are most appropriate for your body. It's very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that simply because a pose exists, everyone should work toward being able to do it. Not every pose is appropriate for every body. If you're in pain while practicing a pose and cannot find adjustments that enable you to be in the pose comfortably, even with the advice and assistance of a trained instructor, then you must skillfully accept that the pose is not appropriate for your body at this time.

Most people with a healthy spine and normal flexibility will find variations of Salabhasana (Locust Pose), Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose), and Utkatasana (Chair Pose) to be comfortably challenging and invigorating backbends. (If these poses leave you feeling unopened or unchallenged, however, your body is likely ready for deeper work and more challenging poses, and it would be unskillful for you to leave this more challenging work out of your yoga practice. Remember, you're looking for what is appropriate for you individually.)

Turn the Volume Up or Down to Tune In Your Practice

By Claudia Cummins
Tune in to two kinds of energy. One single instruction can guide you through just about every choice you make in your own yoga practice: Take whatever action will move you closer to a state of balance. Unfortunately, cultivating balance isn't as easy as it sounds, and knowing just what action will move you in the right direction at any given moment of the day requires a considerable dose of both wisdom and clarity.

The Viniyoga tradition offers a useful framework that can serve as a starting point in the search for a more contented state, one of ease and well-being. In this tradition, yoga sequences and practices are often characterized as creating one of two energetic qualities: brahmana (expansion) and langhana (reduction). Practices that promote brahmana increase vitality and build energy in the body; those that foster langhana are grounding and calming. Certain postures, like backbends, intrinsically build the energy of brahmana. Others, such as long and quiet forward bends, tend to foster langhana. And still others can develop either quality, depending on your focus, pace, breathing pattern, and intention.

Adjust the volume. Being mindful of these two energies during yoga practice can be like controlling the volume on a radio. When you settle onto your mat at the beginning of each class, two main possibilities lie before you: You can either turn up the energetic volume in your body or you can turn it down—that is, you can focus on either brahmana or langhana. By asking yourself which direction you need to move in to find balance, you will have a useful starting point for tailoring your daily practice.

Did you wake up feeling dull and sluggish? Have you been battling feelings of laziness or inertia? Turn up the heat with a brahmana practice of vigorous standing poses, backbends, or Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation). Move quickly from posture to posture. Keep your eyes open as you practice. Invite your inhalations to be vigorous and enthusiastic.

Alternatively, you may have awoken with the feeling that every muscle in your body is clenched as tightly as a fist. If so, consider incorporating a few soothing forward bends or toning twists into your practice. Move slowly from posture to posture. Hold each one for a long period of time.

Close your eyes as you practice. And let your exhalations feel as settled and soothing as one sigh of relief after another.

Make your practice uniquely yours. Keep in mind that balance is dynamic: It varies from person to person, from day to day, from year to year. That means the instructions that guide you through your practice and your life can't easily be scripted by someone else. The perfect practice for you is likely to be different from the one best suited for me. And the most balancing practice for you today will likely be very different from the one that will most suit you next month or next year.

Finding balance from moment to moment requires not just clarity and intelligence but flexibility and resilience as well. Let your practice be an exploration that moves you ever closer to that lovely state of balance, in which you feel alert, at ease, energized, and relaxed all in the very same moment.

Back in Balance

By Debra Rubin

We live in a society that promotes busyness: Work to get to the top of your field! Cook gourmet meals from scratch! Stay fit! Volunteer! It's often a struggle to find just a moment of downtime. And as we become busier and busier, even the activities that bring us joy can feel like just one more thing to do.

So, how do we bring balance into our hectic lives? Often, we look for some external solution that can make us better, stronger, more spiritual, or happier. But the search itself can leave us feeling busier, more stressed, and ultimately, less fulfilled. The real key to finding balance is to focus internally and listen to what's inside.

"We equate our self-worth with doing, producing," says James Baraz, meditation teacher and cofounder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California. "But being so busy, we miss out on our true nature, on being who we really are."

Achieving balance can be as simple as taking regular moments to connect with yourself. "Do something that turns your awareness inward," Baraz suggests. Whether that means a walk in nature, a nap, or a two-minute meditation, your inner cue will be unique from that of others—the essential part is to honor your body's messages. "Feeling my body, my breath, sitting in meditation, being in nature, all of these things reconnect me with the natural world and help bring me back into harmony," Baraz says. "It's a continual check-in. It's a practice."

For Kari Hamerschlag of Berkeley, California, adding a little creativity to her daily tasks has become a way to keep her life in balance. "I strive to do less, and I sleep more," she says. "Walking my dog has become a major source of stress reduction. And I am getting two things done at once—it's good for me and for her."

We all have the power to come back to center if we look within. By taking a moment to slow down and reconnect to our own inner wisdom each day, we can feel grounded, rejuvenated, and ready to bring our balanced, best selves to all aspects of our lives.