Yoga poses or Asanas should be steady and comfortable, firm yet relaxed helping a practitioner to become more aware of their body, mind, and environment. Asana is one of the eight limbs of classical Yoga.The 12 basic poses or asanas are much more than just stretching. They open the energy channels, chakras of the body while increasing flexibility of the spine, strengthening bones and stimulating the circulatory and immune systems.
Along with proper breathing or pranayama, asanas also calm the mind and reduce stress. With regular and daily practice one can ensure overall physical and mental health and the possible prevention of diseases & disorders such as hypertension, diabetes, and arthritis. In time, while practicing the poses slowly and consciously, the level of mental exercise in concentration and meditation will increase, and practitioners will benefit from balance and harmony in body, mind and soul.
An asana in which you balance on your elbows, arms, and head.Known as the "King of Asanas" because of its many benefits. By practicing the headstand, the entire body lessens the strain on the heart,
To prepare to the Headstand, it’s always helpful to practice few rounds of Dolphin, to help you strengthen the upper body, to be able to build a strong base for your headstand.
SHOULDERSTAND – SARVANGASANA
An inverted pose, with your body resting on your shoulders. This Asana strengthens your entire body; it allows a plentiful supply of oxygen-rich blood to reach
-Lie flat on your back, with your feet together. Inhale while bringing your legs up to 90 Degree angle.
-While moving up, tuck your hands under your buttocks, with your fingers pointing toward your spine. Then, as you exhale, gently raise your body by letting your hands walk down your back and push you into position.
-Once you find your balance, Breathe normally, focusing on your abdomen, maintain the chin in, and don’t move your neck, keep your legs straight. Hold this posture for 30 seconds; and as the pose becomes easier, increase the time gradually up to 3 minutes.
-To come down, drop your feet halfway to the floor behind your head. Put your hands on the floor. Unroll your body vertebra by vertebra to the floor. Hand position: Put your hands on the small of your back, with your fingers toward your spine.
-There are VARIATION to this asana, while you inhale keep the hands on your back, and when exhale and bring one foot to the floor behind your head. Inhale. Raise your leg. Swap sides.
PLOUGH – HALASANA
In the Plough, we allow to stretch the spine entirely, particularly the cervical vertebrae and shoulders.
-Rest your toes on the floor, behind the head, keeping the toes in and heels out, then lay your arms down flat, interlocking the fingers. If you cannot lower your feet all the way, keep your hands on your back for support.
-Hold this posture for 30 seconds, and start building on, to hold it up to 3 minutes
- To come out, lift your feet off the floor, and slowly roll down on the floor.
-There are VARIATION to this asana, once in the Plough, lower your knees to the floor by your ears. Hook your arms over your legs, placing the palms on to the ears, for a deeper stretch- and to come out release the hands, straighten the legs, lift them gently off the floor, and slowly roll yourself down.
As a counter pose to the plough, we practice the Fish pose; we lay on the back arching the chest, to ease tension and improve spinal flexibility.
By lifting your chest and tucking your arms underneath your body, you will improve your posture, helping the shoulders to open up.
-Stay flat on your back, bring your feet together with your arms straight by your sides, than tuck your hands in underneath your buttocks
-As you inhale, press your forearms on to the ground to arch the spine, and point your toes forward, and as you exhale, tilt your head so that your crown rests on the ground- hold this posture for 30 seconds.
- To come out of the Fish, as you inhale lift the head up, and as you exhale lower your chest , shift your bod to each side to release the arms.
-There are VARIATIONS to this asana: Fish in Lotus , this is an advanced asana, it shouldn’t be practiced by beginners until the full Lotus position can be held comfortably for a long period of time.
SITTING FORWARD BEND – PASCHIMOTHANASANA
Stretching the spine forward is one of the most powerful and important Asanas, helping to ease the spinal compression caused by standing upright.
-Take a deep inhale, bringing both arms up by your ears. Stretch your spine up. Lean forward from your hips, keeping the belly in and try to catch hold of your toes. Keep your spine and legs straight. With each and every exhalation open the elbows to the side to allow the side muscles of the upper body to stretch.
-Hold this posture for 30 seconds, and start building on, to hold it gradually up to 3 minutes- If you are not able to reach your toes, clasp your ankles, shins, or knees, to hold the position comfortably .You can always use a belt, place it on the feet, keeping the heels down and toes up, reach forward as mentioned above.
-Come out slowly gradually, inhale lift the head up, and stretch upward again, and exhale release the arms down
As a counterpose to the Forward Bend we practice the Inclined Plane to complement the forward stretch that your body is given in the previous pose, and increase the strength and flexibility of your arms.
Sitting straight keeping the legs together, heels down and toes up, with the hands flat on the floor few inches behind the hips, with the fingers pointing back
Take a deep breath in push your hips upward, dig the toes on the ground and as you exhale tilt the head to the back
Come out gently as you inhale lift the head up, and as you exhale lower the hips down
Shake your wrists, clock wise, and anti-clock wise to release any tension
COBRA – BHUJANGASANA
This asana, is a heart opening pose: it stretches muscles in the shoulders, chest and abdominals. Decreases stiffness of the lower back. Strengthens the arms and shoulders.
Lie on your front, with forehead on the ground, place your hands flat on the floor so that they are directly underneath your shoulders. Keep the leg, toes and heels together.
As you Inhale, press the abdomen toward the ground, slowly rolling up and back. Move slowly, so that you feel each vertebra arching back- Make sure that you don’t press the palms firmly on the ground.
Hold the posture for 10 seconds, and gradually increase it up to 60 seconds.
While you exhale relax your abdomen, slowly roll down and relax the forehead back on the ground, and you may repeat for few rounds
Make sure you are not overextending the lower back. No pain should be felt in the lower back.
For ADVANCED COBRA VARIATIONS, once you master the above steps, you can always try more challenging variations:
· From the starting position, lift your hands off the ground and roll your body up using only your back muscles
· While in the Cobra, turn your head to look over your right shoulder, trying to see your left heel. Hold for about 10 seconds, exhale your head to the center and inhale while looking over the left shoulder, and exhale back to the center
· King Cobra is a very advanced asana which will be achieved with lots of practice- while in cobra, you bend the knees, pointing the toes upward, for the feet to touch the head
LOCUST – SHALABHASANA
Lying face down with lifted legs.
STEP 1 - FACE DOWN
Lie on your front. Rest your chin on the ground, then move it forward as much as you can, so that your throat lies almost flat.
STEP 2 - HALF LOCUST
As you Inhale lift one leg. Hold this position for at least 10 seconds, then exhale while lowering your leg and repeat the pose with your other leg.
STEP 3 - FULL LOCUST
Lie with your chin out, as in the Half Locust, then take 3 deep breaths. On the third, lift both legs off the ground.
And as you exhale, release the legs than relax.
It is a challenging asana for me, but with daily practice, I will hopefully be able to lift my legs much higher, maybe be even be able to lift the body vertically.
THE ADVANCED LOCUST
From Full Locust, you can start lowering the legs toward the head- it is a very intense backward bend which compresses the vertebrae while stretching the front of the body to the maximum. To attempt this asana you must be an advanced and experienced yoga students.
BOW – DHANURASANA
Another heart opener pose, The Bow works all parts of your back simultaneously. In this asana, your head, chest, and legs are lifted, while your body rests on your abdomen.
STEP 1 -
To begin, lie on your front with your forehead on the ground. Now bend your knees and catch hold of your ankles. Make sure that you do get a good grip to your ankles rather than the top of your feet or your toes. Keep your feet relaxed.
STEP 2 -
As you Inhale, raise your head, chest, and legs. Straighten your knees. Hold for 10 seconds, aiming to increase to 30. Breathe as you hold the pose. Exhale, and lower your body. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
For this VARIATION, come into the Bow, arching as high as you can. Keep your head back and gently rock, using your breath to push your body. Exhale as you rock forward, and inhale as you rock back. Hold your ankles firmly as you rock.
Relax into Corpse after you completed few rounds.
HALF SPINAL TWIST - ARDHA MATSYENDRASANA
To help stretch the entire body, after bending forward and back, the spine requires a side twist to maintain its mobility. This asana is s the only posture that twists the spine from top to bottom, which increases circulation to all the spinal nerves, veins, and tissues, and improves the elasticity of the spine.
Spine Twisting relieves lower back pain and helps prevent slipped discs, rheumatism of the spine, scoliosis, and arthritis. It also calms the nervous system.
STEP 1 -
Sit up straight keep the left leg extended, with the heal down and toes up
STEP 2 -
Bend your right leg. Cross your right foot over your left leg, and place it on the floor by the outside of your left knee. Keeping your arm straight, put your right hand flat on the floor few inches behind your back.
STEP 3 -
As you inhale reach your left arm up, and as you exhale Lower your left arm, bringing it outside your bent knee, then grasp your right ankle. With each and every exhalation twist to from the lower abdomen, than the chest and the shoulder, keep you gaze toward the right shoulder. Hold for at least 30 seconds
-inhale back to the center, and exhale repeat, twisting the other way
CROW POSE (KAKASANA)
When I first started practicing Yoga, I found Balancing in a squatting position very challenging, and I kept on practicing it afterward at home, aiming to master it- and here I am today, is one of my favourite asanas.
To prepare yourself for the Crow, squat with your feet and knees wide apart. Position your arms between your knees, with your hands directly under your shoulders, then put your hands flat on the floor in front of you. Stretch your fingers wide and turn your hands inward slightly
STEP 2 -
Bend your elbows, and turn them outward. As you inhale Lift your heels & buttocks high up, look at one straight point infront of you and as you exhale rest your knees against your upper arms. Deep inhale again, and rock forward until you feel your weight on your wrists. Stay in this position if you are unable to proceed further
STEP 3 -
And as you exhale slowly raise each foot, then balance on your hands for at least 10 seconds.
-Come out slowly gradually by lowering the feet to the ground, sit up, and share your wrists, clock wise, and anti-clockwise.
STANDING FORWARD BEND - PADA HASTHASANA
In standing poses we develop strength and flexibility in our legs, and hips and balance in our body tremendous benefits to Bending forward in a standing position.
-Stand with your feet together. Inhale, while lifting your arms straight above your head. Exhale as you bend forward from the hip joints rather than the waist. Draw your belly slightly in and focus on lengthening your front torso as you go deeper Breathe normally while you are in the pose
Hold for at least 30 seconds: as you gain experience, increase the time to several minutes.
TRIANGLE – TRIKONASANA
The Triangle is a lateral stretch for your trunk muscles and spine, and makes your hips, legs, and shoulders more flexible.
-As you inhale stretch your right arm up, then bend to your left as you exhale, sliding your left hand down your thigh. Do not twist your body.and keep the right palm facing the ground, pointing all the fingers straights. Hold for 30 seconds, working up to 2 minutes with practice. Inhale as you straighten up again. Repeat the pose on the other side.