Halfbridge : is a counter position for pavanamuktasana. Strengthens the knees, reverses the blood flow towards head supplying fresh blood to thyroid and brings awareness and flexibility to spine. It’s especially beneficial for women because it regulates period. Contraindications: peptic or duodenal ulcers, abdominal hernia
1. Lie flat on back and draw heels towards trunk. Spread feet at the hip width. Arms are alive, palms facing the floor.
2. On inhalation, start raising the hips until knees and shoulders are in one straight line and lungs are full.
3. Without a pause go back with exhalation. Feel each vertebra coming down. Draw navel towards spine. This movement will rotate pelvis and enable better separation of vertebrae in the lower spine. Repeat 5-6 times.
4. Go up for the last time and stay there for a few breaths.
Pavanamuktasana – Freeing of the wind massages the whole back and abdominal area. It improves digestion and elimination and is a great relief for those suffering of constipation. Knees are flexed in controlled way which aids to knee function. It also prepares the lower back and gluteus muscles for forward bends. Contraindications: high blood pressure, serious back conditions as slipped disc
1. Lie flat on back and draw feet half way to the trunk, knees pointing up.
2. Inhaling raise the right knee and get hold of it with both hands.
3. Start exhaling and bring the knee towards trunk. Feel where the stretch is.
4. Inhaling let the knee, release the grip and with exhalation bring the foot all the way to the floor. Alternate legs 3 times.
5. Finally, bring both knees together for 4-5 deep breaths. This will massage the abdominal area as well as back.
When finished, stay calm for few breaths feeling elongated muscles contracting and vice versa.
Rowing prepares for the forward bends. Gently stretches back while strengthening abdominals. Contraindications: sciatica, slipped disc
Sit with legs stretched in front and raise the knees a bit, soles keeping contact with the floor. With inhalation, reach towards feet mimicking the rowing movement. Grab rowing pads and with exhalation pull back. Repeat 10-15 times.
Preparation for Pascimottanasana is essential for healthy spine. It rejuvenates body and increases gastric fire. Immune system is boosted. Contraindications: sciatica, slipped disc
1. Sit with legs spread. Draw left heel towards trunk, place foot along right thigh.
2. Inhale, and when lungs are full start exhaling bending from waist towards the floor. Place arms in front of you.
3. Keep exhaling and start moving arms towards the straight leg. Don’t push head towards knee, head and trunk should stay in a straight line.
4. Place arms on the leg. If head is close to knee, relax it there. If not, bend leg at the knee until it supports torso.
Repeat 3 times on each side.
Vajrasana – Diamond Posture is one of the basic meditative postures. Keeping the blood in lower extremities, it supplies extra blood to brain. Improves the knee function and promotes breath awareness. Contraindications: knee problems (sit on the folded blanket or skip it alltogether)
1. Sit on both heels, place hands on knees.
2. Keep spine erect. Be aware of breathing, circulation and pressure felt in legs.
3. Stay like that for 1-2 minutes or while comfortable.
Camel Posture at the same time exercises balance, strengthens knees, lower back and abdominals, stretches trunk in the frontal plane. It introduces back bends which follow in the sequence. Contraindications: lumbago, enlarget thyroid
1. Inhaling kneel and place balls of feet on the ground. Spread knees to hip width.
2. Turn to right, look at the heel and exhaling place right hand around ankle. Push hips back to where they were before you reached down.
3. Inhale raising right arm towards ceiling. Look up.
Repeat to other side.
When done, try twisting variation – left arm holds right ankle and vice versa.
Cat – dog: Unique exercise for pelvis mobility. It teaches the connection between breath and movement. Spine mobility is improved along with lung capacity. In sequence, serves as transition towards back bends.
Contraindications: recent abdominal/spinal surgery
1. Kneel with knees straight under hips. Palms are on the floor, straight under shoulders. Spine is in neutral position. Inhale.
2. Exhaling look between knees, at the same time pushing upper back towards ceiling and palms into the floor. Finish exhalation actively, from abdomen. You should now resemble a stretching cat. Pelvis is in a forward tilt.
3. Start inhaling, come back to starting position and continue to the other side – look up, jaw relaxed, abdomen is pulling the air and coming towards floor, while back forms a saddle. You should now resemble a yawning dog. Pelvis is in a backward tilt.
Continue moving with breath, repeat 8-10 times.
Cobra Posture : This exercise gently introduces backbends. Blood supply to lower back and pelvis is increased. Abdominal area is gently stretched while back is contracting and getting stronger. Discomfort coming from bad posture and long sitting hours is relieved.
Contraindications: serious back injuries, recent abdominal surgery
1. Lie flat on belly. Turn palms towards floor and stretch hands forward.
2. Inhaling come up. Use arms to support trunk. Move in 2-3 small phases, placing weight on arms alternately.
3. Keep navel on the floor. Find a comfortable pose and divide weight between lower back and hands. Breathe easy.
4. After few breaths, with exhalation go down using the hands.
Repeat 3 times.
Grasshoper: This asana strengthens the whole back and gives trunk stronger frontal stretch. In cobra posture, back was strengthened by raising trunk, while here legs are raised.
Contraindications: serious back injuries, recent abdominal surgery
1. Lie flat on your belly. Put forehead to the floor. Arms are by the sides, small finger touching leg.
2. Inhaling raise left leg. Push arms into floor and use them as a lever. Hip should stay in the contact with the floor at all times.
3. Exhaling come back. Control the movement and synchronize it completely with breathing.
Repeat 8-10 times. Pause and rest for few breaths, then continue to the other side.
Basic sitting twist After bending spine both forwards and backwards, it is ready for torsion. It’s essential for healthy spine and free vertebrae. If done properly, twisting will massage both liver and kidneys.
1. Sit with legs together and stretched in front of you. Keep the legs alive during this exercise.
2. Draw right foot towards trunk and let the ankle pass the knee. Stretch right leg from hip forwards and keep a light pressure towards floor.
3. Embrace right leg with left arm and draw knee close to armpit. Stay perpendicular to the floor at all times. Put right hand where spine would be if you were on the floor. Inhale, look to your right, turn the whole trunk and extend the spine upwards.
4. Exhaling and keeping the knee close to armpit, look over your right shoulder. Don’t engage just the neck, torsion should be felt throughout the whole spine.
Repeat to the other side.
Shavasana – Corpse It is the crown of your practice. All the positions are becoming integrated in your system and subtle effects can be experienced. Body is completely motionless and the mind follows. If it doesn’t happen naturally, don’t force it. Just acknowledge the thoughts and let them pass without opposition. Once you become aware of them, they dissolve.
1. Lie on your back. Push from hips towards heels and relax.
2. Check lower back. If it’s arching too far from the floor, try rotating sitting bones towards heels. If you can’t do it, draw feet towards trunk. This movement will bring down lower back and let you relax deeper.
3. Bring shoulders towards waist, imitating the standing position.
4. Release the chin from neck letting the air pass free.
5. Slightly rotate legs and arms left and right few times.
6. Rotate head with neck, then let it stop in the center.
7. Relax the whole body. Feel everything from toes to head. Do it several times. Make last adjustments to the pose.
8. Be completely motionless for some time. Stay in the body.
9. After few minutes, roll to left side and raise to a sitting position.
Sit in a relaxed manner. Doesn’t matter if you’re on the floor or chair as long as spine feels free and abdomen soft and expanded. Close your eyes.
1. Start by observing the breath. Do not change breathing pattern at this time, just pay attention. Notice which parts of respiratory system are more active. Feel how much lung volume is actually used. Hear the sound of breathing. Notice spine extension with each breath.
2. Proceed by gradually deepening the breath. Do so until you reach your comfortable maximum. Do not introduce force.
3. Continue drawing deep breaths for few minutes and try to slow down. Be aware of each breath coming in and going out. If you feel a bit dizzy, maybe you.re starting to hyperventilate. As you.re inhaling more, breathing should be a bit slower.
4. Relax the breath and return to observing. Notice the difference.
Posture, Legs What the legs are doing is the least important and causes the most pain and fear for many people. Seated meditation can be done in a chair or on the floor – either cross legged or kneeling. There is no mystical value of one position over another, although some positions provide greater stability and long-term ease. What really matters is that the thighs slope down from the pelvis to the knees enough to tilt the pelvis forward. This provides support for the low back.
Full Lotus Posture
Benefits: Provides the classical sitting position for meditation during longer periods of time without bodily movement
Promotes very great elasticity of the ankles, knees, and legs because of the position which is required.
Note: The full lotus position is an advanced yoga position that requires considerable amount of practice to master. If you cannot do half lotus position, you will not be able to do full lotus position.
The Full Lotus
The classic position is full lotus, which requires significant hip and leg flexibility. In full lotus, the legs are crossed, and each ankle is lifted up and placed over the top of the opposite thigh. In half lotus, only one leg is up. Either lotus posture is recommended only when they are easy to maintain; the purpose of the posture is to be comfortable and balanced, so forcing oneself into an awkward position is not helpful.
Half Lotus Posture
Benefits: Relaxes the entire nervous system, Lessens the tension and stiffness in the ankles, knees and thighs and Provides a comfortable sitting position for resting the mind for meditation. Half Lotus sitting position had been used for meditation from time immemorial.
How To Do It?
- In a sitting position, stretch your legs straight out before you.
- Bend your left leg at the knee and bring it toward you so that you can take hold of your left foot with both hands.
- Place your left foot so that the sole rests against the inside of the right thigh. The heel of your left foot should be drawn in as far as possible.
- Bend your right leg at the knee so that you can take hold of your right foot with both hands.
- Place your right foot in the fold of your left leg. Drop the right knee as far as possible toward the floor. Rest your hands on your knees. Sit in this position as long as needed.
- When your legs grow tired, stretch them straight out before you and gently massage your knees. Then repeat the position by reversing the legs so that the right leg is drawn in first and the left leg is on top.
Sit like that for some time and you.ll enter dharana or concentration. It’s not exercise in breathing any more, but in concentration. Whatever thoughts might come, let them go and return to breath. Stay like that for a few minutes. If you have trouble concentrating on breath, try listening to the sound of it, observe the entry and exit of air, feel movements of the skin. Use anything connected to breathing to allow thoughts constant flow towards it.
Congratulations, you’ve just finished your first yoga class!