The Practice of Hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga is mainly practiced for health and vitality. Hatha Yoga was introduced in the 15th century by Yogi Swatmarama. Hatha yoga focuses on the purification of the physical being which leads to the purification of the mind or vital energy. The exploration of these physical-spiritual connections and body centered practices led to the creation of Hatha Yoga. Today In the West, hatha yoga has become wildly popular as a purely physical exercise regimen divorced of its original purpose.

Whatever the historical details, Krishnamacharya has become the undisputed father of modern-day hatha yoga. Krishnamacharya’s first lessons in yoga were from his father and his grandmother and passed on through generations of practice.

Hatha Yoga follows in that vein and thus successfully transcends being particularly grounded in any one religion. This exploration of these physical and spiritual connections and body centered practices led to the creation of Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga has been included in the life style of these traditions. Hatha Yoga classes tend, among other things, to emphasize physical mastery.

Hatha also means a force or determined effort, and yoga, of course, translates as yoke or joining together. The very name hatha yoga, a combination of “ha,” meaning sun, and “tha,” meaning moon, denotes the union of opposites. Through the practice of yoga an individual can gain information about physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well being.

Hatha Yoga represents opposing energies: hot and cold, fire and water following the theme of ying and yang, male and female, positive and negative. Hatha yoga attempts to balance the mind and body. The balancing of the mind and body is brought about via physical exercises (also known as asanas), controlled breathing (pranayama) and relaxation or meditiation.

Pranayama refers to breath control in yoga. In this yoga is defined as a means of binding or controlling the breath and the mind using the syllable Om. In this case yoga has extremes, practices of fasting, breath control, and postures to transcend the body, and not cultivate it. Asana body postures that are contemplative in nature and are designed to align the body and bring about the optimum situation for relaxation.

Traditional yoga is a holistic yogic path and is becoming wildly popular.

There’s help for Asthma in Yoga

Perhaps it was predestined that I should have had asthma as a kid, discover Yoga as an adult, correct my respiratory health with it and now be blessed to write about my experiences with using Yoga (amongst other things) to control my asthma symptoms.

If this is the case, then I am honored. Either way it goes, I can say with much confidence that based on my experiences, one helpful exercise for alleviating Asthma symptoms and dealing with its many inconveniences is Yoga.

Owing to its gentle poses and stretches and the deep breathing involved in Yoga, certain poses-when used correctly-can be very helpful for smoothening the chronic inflammation of the bronchial tubes (airways) that causes swelling and narrowing (constriction) of the airways as is the case in Asthma patients.

Furthermore, when using Yoga as an exercise for asthma control, one need not worry about the common exercise-induced asthma attacks that may come as a result of vigorous activity as these poses are very calm and involve very little motion…hey, it’s Yoga after all.

Now, friends, based on my experiences and several studies that support these facts, the following poses can be a powerful add-on therapy to reduce the frequency and intensity of asthma attacks as well as to decrease medication use.

The Shoulder Stand & It’s Counter Poses for Asthma.

Inversion poses in yoga drain excess mucus from the lungs and balance the immune system. Now, let me introduce you to perhaps the simplest of these poses, the shoulder stand pose.

Although the Shoulder-Stand has been coined by several Yoga sages as a near panacea or cure-all, as far as Asthma is concerned, it is indeed very helpful in regards to relieving excess encumbrances in the respiratory organs and owing to its deep breathing, it increases the lung’s airflow, capacity, stamina and efficiency.

Here comes the best part, its counter poses. You see, some yoga poses, owing to the execution of them that is, have to be offset by a pose in an opposite spinal direction (another subject, but hopefully you get the gist).

Now friends, this Shoulder-stand pose has 2 main counter-poses: the Bridge and the Fish Poses. (No worries they are very simple to perform.) Both of these poses are back bending postures that open up the chest improving both lung and heart functioning.

As a matter of fact, the very last pose (the fish pose) is one of the specific poses mentioned by Sri Swami Devananda and IBS Iyengar (two of the most authoritative figures in modern day yoga) as being specifically useful for removing spasms from the bronchial tubes and thus relieving Asthma.

Other Helpful Poses:

There are other poses such as the forward bends which you can practice specifically if it is more difficult to inhale. These include the Head-knee Pose (Passchimothanasa) and it basically involves grabbing your toes, ankles or feet with the head lowered as far as possible to touch the knees.

Now, friends, remember I mentioned counter-poses right? Well, for this particular pose, its counter-poses basically are backward bending poses that include the Incline Pose and Bow Pose.

Both of these (especially the latter) open up the chest and should be practiced to aid with exhaling during asthma attacks.

Last, but not least is the simple, yet extremely effective Relaxation Pose.

Yes, you guessed it right, just simply lie flat on your back and breathe in a controlled and rhythmic pattern. By practicing rhythmic, controlled breathing techniques daily, the respiratory muscles and lungs develop the ability to breathe more slowly all the time, meaning less stress on the airways in general.

In addition to these poses, let me briefly mention the ‘Bellow’s breath exercise’ (a yoga breathing exercise) as this helps tremendously. As the name may suggest, it involves purposely pumping the stomach in an inward motion and exhaling through the nose simultaneously in controlled movements. This removes spasms and tones up the respiratory system significantly.

At this point, it must be mentioned that Yoga does call for a healthy diet in its use and
as a physical and spiritual system; it does call for a mostly vegetarian diet.

Friends, for asthma problems, you may want to strongly consider this as giving up all processed foods and animal products such as meat, milk, eggs and the like from your diet is a must and a fact that has been in effect in several programs aimed at correcting respiratory health such as the “Breath Retaining Program For Asthmatics” developed by the Russian, Dr. Buteyko. Within weeks of adhering to this advice, many a chronic asthmatic has been able to give up the use of ventolin inhalers.

So the next time asthma sends you to the doctor, you may do well to ask for a new prescription for asthma treatment-Yoga. I believe it won’t hurt and possibly could help you immensely.

Using Yoga For Weight Loss

Yoga can be put to good use for taking off excess pounds through the power of creating a state of mental and physical well being. The basic tenets of Yoga promotes a healthy lifestyle and when combined with a calorie reduction can help to speed up your weight loss. It will increase your metabolism by increasing the caloric burning process. All weight loss is based on using more calories than you take in. It will also allow you to increase your ability to concentrate and focus.

Your thyroid regulates your metabolism and is responsible for the chemical processes that transform food into energy. Yoga uses a series of twisting poses that will help to stimulate the work flow of the internal organs. This will cause your metabolism to increase and burn more calories which will eventually cause you to have a lower body weight. Another side effect is that it will help to improve your circulation and increase your energy level.

The various back bends combined with the forward bends will help to stimulate the metabolism. The poses that affect the neck region can be helpful in stimulating the thyroid if the weight problem is caused by a hormonal imbalance. Poses that will help the most for this include the camel, rabbit, plow, bridge and head stand. Going quickly between the various poses can help to accelerate the weght loss. Beware though that those seriously overweight may find some of these poses extremely difficult and should start slowly with the easier poses and add others as they become more confident in the easier ones.

You can use standing poses to increase muscle strengthening such as the warrior. These will help to create higher endurance and increase your caloric usage.

Remember that a gradual approach is best with all Yoga practices. The long term effects on your weight loss regime will become evident and even more so the inner peace and general well feeling that Yoga will promote within you.

Tips For Doing Inversion Yoga Poses

Headstand (salamba shirshasana) is one of the yoga poses that are considered inversion poses. Inversion poses involve any asanas that lift the feet above the head. Other inversion poses that are well known include shoulderstand (salamba sarvangasana) and half shoulderstand (viparita karani). But even lying on the floor with your legs on a chair is an inversion pose.

The concept behind inversion poses is expressed in yoga texts as viparita karani. Viparita karani is translated as meaning ‘opposite process’. This simply means facilitating a different perspective. From the purely physical point of view, this different perspective in inversion poses is literal – in terms of looking at the world from a different physical viewpoint – as well as involving the body being supported in a different way.

But as yoga is more than simply physical exercises, there are other processes that are assisted. A lot of yoga is designed to help us change mental habits as well as physical habits. Through increasing our ability to adapt to change, instead of being stuck in old habitual responses, we increase our capacity for growth and transformation. This applies in all areas of our lives.

There is a theoretical concept in yoga about why inversion postures help. Ayurveda considers that many of the body’s impurities are in the lower abdomen. When we raise our feet above the head, gravity is assisting us to move these impurities towards what the Ayurvedic system calls agni, or ‘fire’. Agni particularly relates to our ‘digestive fire’, and is thus located above our lower abdomen.

So, by being upside down, and by using the deep and slow breathing typical of yoga, we help ‘burn off’ the impurities that were previously stuck.

Improved circulation is a more readily apparent and less ‘esoteric’ benefit of inversion yoga poses.

Whilst inversion postures have many health benefits, the ability of an individual to receive those benefits depends as much on their capacity to comfortably hold these sometimes difficult postures. For example, headstand and shoulderstand should simply not be done if people are pregnant, have neck pain, high or low blood pressure, neck injuries, or are menstruating. And neither of these postures should be attempted without the appropriate preparatory postures. Otherwise the risk is there that an injury, or stiffness, particularly to the neck area, will result.

Likewise, if doing these postures is very uncomfortable and difficult, more benefit will be derived from doing either the modified versions, or simply working on other yoga poses that strengthen these areas.

There are several important prerequisites for getting the most benefit fro inversions. The first one, a strong neck, I’ve mentioned. The others are a strong back and abdominal muscles, and the capacity to breathe well whilst in the posture. The latter is going to get better with practice, both of yoga itself and the inversions. It is also somewhat tied into having a strong back. Our back and stomach muscles will provide the support to hold the legs straight, which inturn opens up the thoracic cavity, and increases our ability to breathe well whilst upside down!

Tips for Doing the Inverted Postures

For Half Shoulderstand:

* Lengthen the exhale
* Don’t lock the chin
* Keep your weight not on the head but on the wrists and elbows
* Don’t try to pull your torso (and legs) into the vertical like in full shoulderstand if you have difficulties with your neck. By doing so, you’re placing more pressure on your neck.
* Make sure you do the appropriate balancing postures afterwards. These include shalabhasana and bhujangasana

For Shoulderstand:

* Don’t worry so much about keeping your elbows and arms parallel. This will create more tension in your neck if you’re not proficient in this posture.
* Do the appropriate balancing postures. These are the same as for half shoulderstand.

For Headstand:

* Don’t ever make adjustments whilst in headstand. If you feel your alignment is not quite right, come down and do it again.
* Never do this posture first up, or without the prerequisite postures. It will lead to stiffness in the neck at best, and injury at worst. And the negative effects can build up over time. This posture is never done traditionally without preparation, and there is reason for this.
* Use a wall for support as a learning stage
* Support your head with all of your fingers, including the little fingers and thumbs
* Finding the right position for your head will make sure weight is distributed evenly, and ensure you don’t have to overly press down with your elbows to compensate
* Think of the support for the whole body as being distributed evenly across both elbows and the head
* Don’t hold your weight too much on the back of your body. It will place too much pressure on your neck.
* Don’t use props that allow the neck to be free.

The Top 5 Yoga Positions

Often times the right information can change a person’s life. This happened with me and yoga.

There are a lot of yoga positions and poses that is built to enhance posture.

All things considered, yoga positions possess a lot of advantage such that it aims to improve our condition and give us a straight figure.

Occasionally, we might not take notice our selves in a crooked figure. If we practice that for a long period and not do anything about it, await to have a crooked bone in the future.

Although it is true, yoga positions are good to strengthen our
body giving focus to the thighs, knees and the ankles. If you get uses to practicing yoga positions everyday, it is expected that your bones react immediately.

Under certain circumstances, the belly and the backside is considered a important turn on for both genders. For the male, it is ideal to retain up a passable abdomen of the abs. This makes it more appealing to the women.

Having a good butt matters to several women too, a lot of them are practicing in order to acquire a lot of figure and shape in their body.

Yoga positions amazingly relieve sciatica. These are some pain that cannot be prevented. If you do yoga once in a while and even regularly, perhaps you will not see any back or muscle pain.

Here are some techniques on how to maintain a good yoga position.

Just follow these steps in order for you to entirely comprehend yoga positions and be capable to execute it in the proper way.

Yoga Position Number One:

You have to stand with the bases of your big toes touching and the heels have to be slightly apart.

You must lift and spread your toes slowly and the balls of your feet too. Then after, you want to lay them softly down on the floor. Rock yourself back and forth and even side to side.

You may gradually reduce this swaying to maintain a halt, with your weight balanced evenly on your feet.

Yoga Position Number 2:
Flex your thigh muscles and then lifting the knee caps is next. Do it without hardening your lower belly. Lift the inside ankles to make stronger the internal arches, then picture a line of energy all the way up along your inner thighs up to your groins. From there through the core of your neck, torso, and head, and out through the crown of your head. You should turn the upper thighs slowly inward. Make your tailbone longer toward the floor and raise the pubis in the direction of the navel.

Yoga Position Number 3:
Drive your shoulder blades backwards, then broaden them crossways and discharge them down your back. Without roughly pushing your lower front ribs forward, lift the top of your sternum straight toward the ceiling. Broaden your collarbones. Suspend your arms alongside the torso.

Yoga Position Number 4:
You should balance the crown of your head unswervingly over the middle of your pelvis, with the base of your chin analogous to the floor, throat soft, and the tongue broad and plane on the floor of your mouth. Make your eyes look softer.

Yoga Position Number 5:
Tadasana is usually the primary yoga position for all the standing poses. Applying the Tansana is beneficial especially in applying the poses. Staying in the pose for 30 seconds up to 1 minute, then breathing easily keeps it acceptable.

Just follow these clear figures and you are sure that you are doing the right yoga positions.

Trying Yoga for Back Pain? Then pick the RIGHT poses

Studies have shown that Yoga may be one of the most effective exercises for back pain relief. In fact Health-First reporter Leslie LoBue says twisting your body into those sometimes awkward positions may actually be just the thing for lower back pain.

However, as effective as Yoga may be to reduce the pain of back problems, knowing exactly what poses to use, for how long, what to offset the poses with and in what sequence to execute them, are other factors that should be taken into consideration before using it as a therapeutic relief from back pain.

I can see a reader go “Wait a minute…if I have to go through all that, then maybe I should just take some painkillers and call it a day.”

If that applies, it is hardly my intention to scare you away from Yoga for back pain, in fact I’d rather you embraced its use as an alternative to drugs-prescribed or otherwise-for your problems, however, for your success with its use, a little bit of awareness of the correct poses to use for back pain is required and will come in handy for a lasting use of this drug-free alternative.

I will go over the common, simple yet very effective poses for back pain and also give you instructions on the proper poses to offset the spinal motions when applicable. Moreover, I will discuss the factors of the duration of time needed when executing these poses as well.

Though some of these poses may best be learned under the supervision of a certified Yoga Instructor or avid expert, with the descriptions given below-and if need be, the use of image searches on related Yoga sites and search engines-
I believe you should be able to get a good concept to at least be able to practice these poses at home.
Here are some of the best poses for back ache and since the aim here is more so back pain relief versus exercising, it is not mandatory that you hold them more than 5-15 seconds, depending on your level of comfort. Moreover, a use of a yoga mat or any other soft surface is highly recommended in the execution of these asanas.

The Shoulder-stand (Savangasana)

This, folks, is a noted panacea for near any human ailment.
Don’t panic, it is extremely easy to execute, however, depending on the severity of your case, use discretion in its use.

-Spread a thick blanket on the floor and place your yoga mat on it. Lie on the back.
-Slowly raise the legs. Lift the trunk, hips and legs to a vertical position.
-Rest the elbows firmly on the floor and support the back with both hands.
-Raise the legs till they become vertical. Press the chin against the chest..
-While performing this pose, the back of the neck, the posterior part of the head and the shoulders should touch the floor. (I can assure you that you will say “Hey, I’ve done this before as a kid…this is yoga?”)
-Breathe in counts of 5-5-5 (inhalation, retention and exhalation).
-Don’t allow the body to shake.

Now for the counter poses to the Shoulder-Stand, try to incorporate the following:

Bridge Pose (Sethu Bhandasana):

From the Shoulder Stand position, stretch the legs and slowly touch the floor with the feet. It is done to bend the spine in the opposite direction.

Fish Pose (Matsyasana):

Lie on your back. Stretch the legs and keeps the hands palm down under the thighs. Raise the chest with the help of the elbows and, bending the neck as much as possible backwards, rest on the top of the head.

Suggested Duration:
Try to use the ratio below to time the execution of these three poses.
6:1:2 (meaning the fish pose is held for a third of the time spent in the shoulder stand and the bridge pose held for half the time spent in the fish pose (or a sixth of the time spent in the shoulder-stand)

Or as an alternative, you could simply forego the bridge pose and apply a 2:1 ratio (shoulder-stand to fish pose) but this is only advised if you intend to do the parent pose (the shoulder-stand) for only a few seconds.

Obviously a lot of detail has gone into the description of these poses, however, that is because my intention is for you to be well informed, but for the sake of time and space. I will briefly go over the other poses you could do well to include AFTER you try the sequence above. This is if you decide to use it by the way.