1. Sit comfortably in Siddhasana(Perfect Pose) or stand in Tadasana(Mountain Pose). Inhale and bring your palms together. Rest the thumbs lightly on your sternum.
2. Press your hands firmly but evenly against each other. Make sure that one hand (usually your right hand if you are right-handed, your left if left-handed) doesn't dominate the other. If you find this imbalance, release the dominant hand slightly, but don't increase the pressure of the nondominant hand.
3. Bow your head slightly, drawing the crease of the neck toward the center of your head. Lift your sternum into your thumbs and lengthen down along the back of the armpits, making the back elbows heavy. No matter how careful you are to avoid putting yourself in taxing situations, as long as you're living on this earth, stress will hunt you down and wreak havoc on your day. More often than not, it will set up camp in your neck and shoulders, causing even more tension and discomfort. If you're stressed out today, breathe deeply as you try this easy neck release:
Stand in a strong but soft Tadasana (Mountain Pose), feet hip-width apart. Ground firmly into all four corners of each foot and create length in your spine, gently drawing your tailbone toward the floor and the top of your head toward the ceiling. Maintaining that sense of length, reach overhead with your left hand and hold under your right ear at the notch just behind your jaw; as your head tilts slightly to the left, make sure you don't tip it back and jut your chin toward the ceiling. Rest your right hand on your right shoulder, fingers pointing toward your neck. Take full, deep, but unforced breaths for a minute, letting your muscles relax and expand into that gentle rise and fall. Then deepen the stretch by gently pulling your head to the left and your right shoulder down, away from the ear. Pull right up to the edge of discomfort, then pause and relax into the stretch for another minute before repeating on the other side. We often think of the masculine principle as active and creative, while the feminine is passive and receptive. While in hatha yoga, these are reversed: The goddess Shakti (literally "power") creates and nourishes the world, while her spouse, the god Shiva (the "auspicious one") is her silent audience. Shakti and Shiva are the heroes of an old parable that epitomizes the practice and goal of hatha yoga. Briefly it goes: In a cave at the foot of mythic Mount Meru, the axis of the Hindu universe, the goddess rests after creating the world. She's pictured as a slumbering serpent wound three-and-a-half (sometimes eight) times around herself, and therefore called kundalini, or "coiled one." When the time is right, she awakens and laboriously ascends to Meru's summit, where she's reunited with the waiting Shiva.
What do serpents, mountains, and unhelpful husbands have to do with yoga? Each of us is a composite of Shiva/Shakti energies. While we refer to them as distinct, they are actually inseparable complements, like the north and south poles of a magnet. When they are in balance, our lives are harmonious and joyful; but when one is set over and above its mate, we suffer from heartrending feelings of fragmentation, alienation, and loss. Shakti's climb and ultimate reunion with Shiva represents, in the context of our practice, the gradual awakening to and realization of our authentic Self. In our case, kundalini is at the base of our spine, "asleep" to our infinite potential but coiled like a spring under pressure, eager to spring to life. Meru is compared to our spine, the "axis" of our body, a universe in miniature. In turn, our spine is an image of the "ladder" of consciousness, starting at the bottom of the spine, where kundalini nests, and extending to the transcendent abode of Shiva at the pinnacle of self-knowing.
Many traditional texts make the spiritual conquest of Meru seem akin to the scaling of Everest and discourage all but the most dedicated from attempting the climb. But all of us have, in our heart of hearts, the longing to be whole and—as sincere yoga practitioners — all the mountaineering equipment we'd ever need. If we can't march all the way to the top, at least we can get a good way up from base camp. Bathing, the daily chore or indulgence we've come to know as a way to wake up and scrub ourselves clean, is actually much more than a simple hygiene regimen. In many cultures, it's seen as the final step in a detoxifying process that can begin with circulation, digestion, breath, sleep, or even thoughts and emotions. Nowhere is this approach more evident than with Ayurveda. Ayurvedic bathing goes beyond soaking in a warm tub. It essentially consists of nurturing the body inside and out by balancing within ourselves the forces of the five elements: water, air, earth, fire, and space (which encompasses all of the others).
One way this is done is with several types of internal cleanings. For instance, an air bath consists of deep breathing and focused awareness of the breath. "Air bathes the lungs, while feeding oxygen to the whole body and purifying it," says Sudhakar Selote, a visiting consultant at The Raj, an Ayurvedic health center in Fairfield, Iowa.
A space bath uses deep meditation to extend purification to all areas of the mind and body, according to Pratima Raichur, author of Absolute Beauty. A fire bath involves consuming spicy, warm foods and beverages to stimulate the digestive system and increase circulation, while a water bath—drinking water and herbal teas—hydrates and detoxifies the body.
Another aspect of Ayurvedic bathing involves the three doshas—vata (air), pitta (fire), and kapha (earth)—which are said to govern all mental and physical aspects. Everyone has a predominant dosha, and keeping that force balanced means following a certain lifestyle, including diet and exercise. For traditional bathing, Melanie Sachs, author of Ayurvedic Beauty Care, suggests bathwater temperatures should be suited to one's dosha. For example, vata types fare better in warm to hot water; kaphas gravitate toward warmer temperatures, too, but the already fiery pittas might want to run a cooler bath. Doshas are also balanced by certain essential oils. In Ayurveda, oils are recognized for their ability to anoint the body and harmonize the mind. In fact, Ayurveda prescribes an oil massage before bathing, says Selote, as the warm water will allow the oil to penetrate skin tissues more deeply and help mobilize toxins in the body.
As for adding essential oils to bathwater, rose, rosewood, rose geranium, and neroli work well for exuding calm and warmth with vatas. For pitta types, calming and soothing oils for the skin and mind include jasmine (for women) and vetiver (for men), as well as mint and lemon. Kaphas can be stimulated and uplifted by rosemary, juniper, orange, and bergamot oils. However, soaps are generally discouraged in Ayurveda, says Sachs, "as they can be too scouring for dry types, causing dryness for vata and skin irritation for pitta." If you're developing a dedicated yoga practice, you have surely heard of the yamas and niyamas of Patanjali's classical yoga, which include such virtues as ahimsa (nonharming), satya (truthfulness), and samtosha (contentment). Lesser known are the "yoga vitamins," as B.K.S. Iyengar named them in The Tree of Yoga. These five partner virtues, set forth in the Yoga Sutra, reinforce the classical practice of yoga and generate an abundance of good karma for the practitioner.
The first vitamin is sraddha, usually translated as faith. But many interpreters of Patanjali have also translated it as many other things - 'trust and confidence'(in the rightness of what you're doing and in the sympathy of the divine), 'firm conviction'(which is free of doubt), 'positive attitude'(even in the face of momentary setbacks), 'acceptance'(of traditional teachings and the words of your teacher), and 'sweet hope' in the ultimate success of your practice. In Sanskrit, sraddha is a feminine word, suggesting that faith is gentle and supportive. Indeed, the sage Vyasa, who is credited with writing the oldest surviving commentary on the Yoga Sutra, said that faith is: "benevolent like a mother; she protects the yogi." When the practitioner holds to faith, the mind becomes tranquil and, as Vyasa concluded, "strength gathers in him."
Such strength is known as virya, the second vitamin. Virya is usually translated as 'energy' or 'vitality', the sort that comes from knowing you're doing the right thing. But it's also characterized as 'courage', 'strong will', 'enthusiasm', 'stamina', and 'dedication'. As virya gathers in the practitioner, said Vyasa, "intentness attends upon him."
'Intentness' is one interpretation of the Sanskrit word smrti, the third vitamin. Usually, smrti is simply translated as memory, but in this context, it's better understood as mindfulness. What are you supposed to be mindful of? Some commentators talk about the practice of constantly minding the more palpable aspects of your life experience: your body, the contents of your consciousness, your surroundings, your breath. Others interpret mindfulness as a diligent remembrance of and reflection on the true nature of the Self. Still others believe that memory also includes the recollection of what you've studied in yoga scripture. In any case, mindfulness focuses the energy of consciousness and so serves as a prelude to meditation. According to Vyasa, - "At the presence of intentness, the mind, free of disturbance, becomes harmonized and established in samadhi."
Samadhi, the fourth vitamin, is a highly technical term in classical yoga that literally means 'putting together'. It ultimately allows the practitioner, said Vyasa, to "perceive things as they really are."
This perception of things as they really are leads to the fifth and final vitamin, prajna , which is actually the goal of yoga practice. It roughly means 'knowledge', but Patanjali wasn't talking about knowledge in a worldly sense, of course. The great 20th-century sage Sri Aurobindo defined the term prajna as the 'knowledge that unites' all the loose ends of one’s self in the Self... In US downing a hearty grain dish would not be called fasting. But in India kitchari — a soupy porridge made from rice and mung beans, lightly spiced with ginger, cilantro, and other spices—is considered a fasting food and is used to purify digestion and cleanse systemic toxins.
Ayurvedic physicians often prescribe a kitchari diet before, during, and after panchakarma, a rejuvenative treatment that cleanses toxins stored in bodily tissues as it restores systemic balance. Kitchari provides solid nourishment while allowing the body to devote energy to healing. You can safely subsist on kitchari anytime in order to build vitality and strength as it helps balance all three doshas. For restless vata, the warm soup is grounding; for fiery pitta, its spices are calming; and for chilly kapha, it provides healing warmth. Ayurveda believes that all healing begins with the digestive tract, and kitchari can give it a much-needed rest from constantly processing different foods while providing essential nutrients. The blend of rice and split mung beans offers an array of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Its mixture of spices is believed to kindle the digestive fire, the Ayurvedic description for your innate digestive power, which can be weakened by poor food combinations.
Kitchari tastes like a cross between a creamy rice cereal and a light dal, or lentil soup. If it is a cold, blustery day or you are feeling under the weather, a steaming bowl of this classic Indian comfort food can both warm up your bones and restore sagging energy. Here's the basic recipe(serves 3):
1 cup basmati rice
1/2 cup mung beans (whole, soaked overnight)
6 cups boiling water
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 pinch asafoetida (a spice also called hing—available at Indian groceries)
1 cup chopped vegetables, such as zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, or anything you choose (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin, coriander, or any other spices you choose (optional
1. Combine the rice with the mung beans and wash twice.
2. Place rice and beans into boiling water, adding the turmeric and asafoetida.
3. Cook over medium heat until the water is mostly absorbed.
4. Add one more cup of lukewarm water, vegetables, and optional spices if you're using them. The final dish should be a stew with a very moist and soft consistency.
Preparation: 30 minutes If you've ever experienced knee pain or a chronic knee problem — you know how frustrating and limiting it can be. Unfortunately, it's not unusual for yoga students to practice asanas with small misalignments in the knee. Repeated over months and years, these small misalignments can contribute to pain and long-term joint problems. On the other hand, yoga poses practiced with conscious good alignment of the leg bones and joints can be a wonderful tool for building strong, healthy knees.
The knee is so vulnerable and sensitive to alignment because it is a shallow, basically unstable joint. Imagine two long columns stacked atop each other, and you've got the thigh bone (femur) and the shin bone (tibia). The flat surfaces of the bones make the knee dependent on ligaments (which join bone to bone) and tendons (which join muscle to bone) to hold it together. Any side-bending or twisting forces endanger these supporting tendons and ligaments. For example, standing poses done with improper alignment can put great strain on the knee. The best indicators of knee alignment in standing poses are the relative positions of the foot and kneecap. The foot acts like a pointer showing the rotation of the shin and lower leg, while the kneecap shows the rotation of the femur. In Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), for example, the front leg kneecap should point over the center of the foot. If the kneecap points toward or even inside the big toe, you know that the columns are twisting. In Trikonasana, all yogis need a strong outward rotation of the femur bone in the hip socket to align the femur with the shin and foot.
Bent-leg standing poses can also stress the knee. As the knee bends, it should function like a hinge, with no sideways movement. In Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II), a common misalignment is for the front knee to point inside the big toe. In this position, the columns of the leg are not only twisting, they are also bent to the side at their junction. This widens the gap between the bones at the inner knee, straining the ligaments there, and compresses the outer knee, which abrades the joint surface and contributes to arthritis. As in Triangle, a strong outward rotation of the front leg femur is needed.
Seated poses may also put strain on the knee. In Virasana (Hero Pose), if your toes angle out to the sides instead of pointing straight back, you're twisting and straining your knees. The foot and lower leg are rotating out while the femur is, relatively speaking, rotating in. While Virasana does require the femur to rotate in slightly and while the knee can safely allow some twist in a bent, nonweightbearing position, Virasana with the feet turning out is an excessive twist which will damage the knee ligaments.
Cross-legged sitting poses such as Padmasana (Lotus Pose) can also be problematic for the knees. To sit well in Padmasana, the femurs must be able to deeply externally rotate within the hip sockets. When this rotation is limited, the knees will stick up in the air. If you then attempt to place the foot on top of the opposite thigh, the outer knee ligaments will be stretched and the inner knee surfaces compressed, causing pain, and if the pose is forced, injury. Before students attempt Full Lotus, they should increase their hip flexibility so the knees come near the floor when they sit cross-legged. To help improve external rotation, try this variation of Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose). Sitting tall with your back to a wall, place the soles of the feet together and draw the heels in toward the hips. Either allow gravity to pull the knees down or very gently press the hands on the thighs, lengthening the thigh bones out of the hip sockets and down toward the floor. Sit in this position for two or three minutes, so the muscles and connective tissue around the hip joint can soften and release.
Hip joint flexibility can also be helped by lying on your back and crossing the right ankle over the left knee. Hold your hands behind the left knee and gently pull the legs toward the chest. You should feel a stretch in the back of the right hip, not at the knee. Because the muscles and fascia (connective tissue) of the hip joints are so strong, it may take months of work to improve hip flexibility enough to do Padmasana without knee strain. If your hip flexibility is adequate and you still experience knee pain in sitting poses, it may be due to previous knee injuries or strains. If that is the case, it can help to create a long thin roll with a washcloth or small towel. Holding each end of the roll, pull it deep into the back of your partially bent knee; hold the roll in place as you continue to bend the knee fully. Then try Virasana, Padmasana, or some other bent-leg sitting pose. The roll helps to keep the bones in their natural alignment, without twisting or side bending, and keeps a little space open inside the joint, avoiding compression.
All these cautions may sound alarming, but you really only need to keep a few simple principles in mind: always check your alignment, and if you ever feel strain in your knees, back out of the pose and experiment until you feel the stretch in your hips or groins instead. Practiced with care, asanas can contribute to the long-term health of your knees by strengthening your quadriceps, opening your stiff hips, and teaching your body improved alignment and movement patterns that transfer into your everyday activities. Even if this is not your first yoga vacation, choosing among the vast number of offerings can be a challenge. How do you select the experience that's right for you? With a bit of common sense and the right resources, it's not as hard as it might seem. Ask yourself the right questions, and you'll soon determine the type of yoga vacation that best suits your needs.
You'll want to start by looking for ways to narrow down the field of options. For instance, if you've already found a teacher and yoga technique you like, you're in good shape. Even if your teacher doesn't offer yoga vacations, he or she should be able to recommend retreats with other teachers of the same style. If not, begin to narrow it down by location. Determine what makes the most sense for your practice—and your budget. There are a seemingly endless number of options, both in the United States and abroad. What makes most sense for you? Would you be more comfortable booking a prepackaged deal that includes flight and hotel reservations, or are you willing to arrange your own accommodations to save yourself a buck or two? Will you enjoy a tropical hideaway or a mountain setting? Once you've got an idea of where you'd like to go, your search truly begins. Wherever you end up, just make sure you schedule plenty of time for yourself and your yoga... Most religious traditions place high value on apology, forgiveness, and making amends. Yoga teaching, too, speaks to the importance of dealing ethically with others. The concept of karma tells us, in part, that our actions will come back to us. Karma yoga is the practice of selflessly putting ourselves in service to others, and part of this is trying to right the wrongs we have done. But how do we make amends if our apologies are rejected? In the sacred Hindu text the Bhagavad Gita, the god Krishna tells the yogi Arjuna that it is a mistake to focus on the results of our efforts instead of on the efforts themselves: "The man who is devoted and not attached to the fruit of his actions obtains tranquility." Put simply, the crucial point in apology is not that you're successful but that you make the effort.
Kelly McGonigal (yoga teacher/research psychologist,Stanford University) offers a four-step practice rooted in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy that can take us through the process of making amends. "First," she says, "recognize that you've done something that caused suffering or harm. Second, sit with the feeling of remorse and regret. Feel it in your body, and experience the emotions. Don't push them away or wallow in them." The third step is moving into a place of compassion for yourself as well as the person you harmed. Fueled by those compassionate feelings, we can move to the final step of setting an intention toward positive action. One of the highlights of an early morning practice usually refers to the aroma of homemade yogi tea wafting from the kitchen. Sure, you can purchase Yogi Tea bags at any health food store, but why not put some love into making it from scratch?
It’s well worth a bit of chopping and measuring for the multitude of benefits you’ll receive. Black pepper is a blood purifier; and cardamon, a digestive aid. Cloves help support the nervous system, cinnamon helps the bones, and ginger is for digestion and the immune system. Both cardamon and ginger help reduce mucus, relieve gas, stimulate agni (digestive fire), and eliminate ama (toxins). Black tea is optional. Add some soy, rice, or almond milk to assimilate the spices. You may add a touch of agave nectar, as well. Try to brew up a homemade pot of yogi tea to stash in your fridge and enjoy—warm or cool—after your practice. Also try some Tulsi tea to increase your sattvic energy. After all, the tea you drink even counts toward your overall water intake, while bringing a moment of calm to your day. With its long leafy branches and lotuslike flowers, the neem tree has long enjoyed a prominent place in the Ayurvedic tradition. Centuries ago, Sanskrit writings made mention of its medicinal applications, and healers in India continue to call neem the "village pharmacy" in acknowledgment of its versatile range of uses. Today, the benefits harbored in the leaves, fruits, oil, and bark of this plant are gaining recognition in the US, and we now find the ingredient in everything from toothpaste and skin cream to natural insecticides.
But do you know how exactly neem works? According to Ayurvedic medicine, the tree possesses powerful cooling energies that act as an anti-inflammatory and antiseptic in cases of excess heat. "Neem can be used to treat imbalances involving fire. It's therefore most often applied in cases of excess pitta," says Mary Jo Cravatta, a chiropractor and Ayurvedic practitioner in Northern California. In Ayurvedic medicine, an imbalance in one of the three constitutions—vata, pitta, or kapha—can cause discomfort and, ultimately, disease. By putting out the excess heat of pitta, the fire element, neem prevents problems down the road.
Skin eruptions are a classic pitta problem, and in India, neem has long come to the rescue against topical fungi, viruses, and other infections. "Conditions like eczema and hives always have a heat and toxic ama [bodily waste] component," Cravatta explains. But neem can counter more serious skin problems as well, says Ellen Norten, author of 'Neem: India's Miraculous Healing Plant'. "Because neem contains antibacterial properties, it is effective in treating epidermal conditions such as septic sores, infected burns, scrofula, and ringworm." Stubborn warts even clear up with neem, she adds. A powerful blood purifier, neem is often used in Ayurvedic detoxification programs. David Frawley, author of 'Yoga and Ayurveda', explains that neem serves to clean the blood and liver at profound levels, even to the point of ridding the body of heavy metals, and should be used with discretion. "Neem would be useful for anyone about to embark on a yogic spiritual path to counter the ill-effects of old diets and toxins." Before committing to a program of internal cleansing, consult an Ayurvedic physician. Whether we're standing tall in Tadasana (Mountain Pose)or flexing our toes in Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose) , yoga gives us many opportunities to focus on feet. Alas, it's often the only time we do. Foot care is not something many of us find time for, and when a yoga instructor directs our attention toward our feet, we're often unpleasantly surprised. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, 80% of American adults will suffer from some kind of foot problem in their lives, and yogis are no exception. For the regular practitioner, foot problems often go unnoticed until a callus thwarts our stance in Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) or foot odor becomes a source of embarrassment in class. But here's the solution - simple home remedies both treat and prevent common pediatric problems:
1. If you've ever surveyed the feet that walk through the doors of your local studio, you know that certain problems are common among yogis. Perspiration can be one of them, and it's no wonder. With 250,000 sweat glands, your feet can produce as much as eight ounces of sweat daily. To avoid slipping around on your mat, brew two black tea bags in one pint of boiled water for 15 minutes. Add two quarts of cool water and soak your feet for 20 to 30 minutes. The tannic acid in the brewed tea will change your skin's pH level and help prevent unwanted odor-causing bacteria.
2. Athlete's foot presents another big challenge. This itchy condition around the toes ranks as the most common fungal infection in the US. You can pick up the organism that causes athlete's foot almost anywhere—including shared sticky mats—so consider bringing your own to class. Geranium oil and tea tree oil both have germ- and bacteria- killing properties, making them excellent treatments. Add these oils to your own creams and powders, or look for products containing them as a key ingredient. Athlete's foot germs thrive in damp environments, so also be sure to keep your feet clean and dry, especially between the toes where moisture can get trapped.
3. While not contagious, corns and calluses cause discomfort as well. Your body produces these growths as protection against daily friction and pressure, but if they get too large, it's time to smooth and reduce them. Use a wet pumice stone to slough off extra skin, or purchase foot creams that contain ground pumice for smooth, soft feet. Also, try adding fresh or canned pineapple juice to your footbath. This tropical fruit contains bromelain, a natural enzyme that will help soften calluses and rough heels. During this summer, it's easy to get overloaded and miss out on the most important part of the season — connecting with others. To be loving toward your friends and family, you need to slow down. Try the meditation below, from spiritual teacher Sally Kempton, for a few minutes each day. By imagining a flame in your heart, you'll radiate loving energy from the inside out.
Sit in a comfortable upright posture. With your eyes closed, let your awareness drop into the center of your chest.
Breathe naturally and imagine your breath coming in and out through your heart. Let each inhalation caress and soften your inner heart space.
Become aware of a golden flame in the center of your chest. Your might visualize it or simply feel its warm, glowing presence.
With each inhalation, the flame glows. With each exhalation, it radiates light through the heart—front, sides, and back.
Rest your awareness gently in the flame; inhale and it glows, exhale and it radiates. Keep softening and relaxing the inner heart, spreading the glow of your inner flame throughout your body and out into the room. Raga: in Indian music, a series of five or more notes upon which a melody is based; a particular melody. Ragas evoke particular moods in the listener and are often performed to resonate with a season or time of day.
Raja: meaning royal; a king.
Raja Yoga: royal yoga. The Yoga path of meditation. Hatha Yoga is actually a branch of Raja Yoga.
Rajas Ajas: one of the three Gunas which generates passion and restlessness.
Rakta: one of the seven bodily constituents, mainly the red blood cells.
Rama: very popular hero god who is an avatar of Vishnu, whose story is told in one of the most famous in India - The Ramayana. His wife is Sita.
Ramayana: for the past two thousand years the Ramayana has been among the most important literary and oral texts of South Asia. Telling the story of the banishment, wandering and eventual return of Prince Rama, this epic poem continues to influence the politics, religion and art of modern India.
Rasa: one of the seven bodily constituents, mainly the plasma (clear part of the blood).
Rasa Vaha Srotas: those channels or blood vessels, that carry the plasma throughout the body; includes the coronary arteries in the heart.
Rasayana: herbs, foods, or behaviors that support immunity, good health, and long life; that which causes ojas to be produced.
Restorative Yoga: designed to relieve stress; this is a very slow and relaxing kind of Yoga.
Rig Veda: the oldest of the four sections of the Vedas.
Rishi/Rishikesha: literally "seer"; refers to one who sees the reality of life as described in the Veda and Vedic literature.
Roopam: outer beauty. During pregnancy it is most important to listen closely to your intuition whenever something in the practice doesn't feel right. But an experienced practitioner can do a pretty normal practice for the first three months. In the vinyasa sequence, some women prefer stepping instead of jumping back into Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) to reduce the risk of miscarriage. Since nausea is common during the first trimester, it may be helpful to practice in a well-ventilated room.
During the second trimester your growing belly will require modifying some poses. Use common sense and avoid putting undue pressure on the abdomen in poses like Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana, Janu Sirsasana C, Marichyasana B and D, and Kurmasana (Tortoise Pose). You may also choose to reduce the amount of vinyasa if generating heat in the body makes you uncomfortable. When practicing Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), separate the legs to accommodate the belly. In a twist like Prasarita Padottanasana (Intense Spread Leg Stretch), Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), and Upavistha Konasana (Seated Wide Angle Pose) to open the groins in preparation for delivery. Standing poses like Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose), and Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose) can help relieve back pain. And a simple inversion such as Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall-Pose) can help to relieve swollen ankles.
Exist women who did hour-long Headstands into their ninth month of pregnancy as well as those who were doing Viparita Chakrasana (Handstand to Backbend and back again) up until the end, but they are the exception to the rule. For most women the last trimester is a time to take it easy. So you may want to join a prenatal class for that very reason, even if you feel physically capable of doing more. Through each trimester the most important thing is to tune in to what your body is telling you and alter your practice accordingly. During and after your pregnancy, try not to be attached to your previous abilities. Don't forget that your body will go through enormous changes, positive changes... Traditionally, the word "depression" refers to a state of melancholia, unhappiness or sadness, or to a relatively minor downturn in mood that may last only a few hours or days. This is generally seen as quite distinct from the diagnosis of clinical depression. However, if the depressed mood lasts at least two weeks, and is accompanied by other symptoms that interfere with daily living, it may be seen as a symptom of clinical depression, dysthymia or some other diagnosable mental illness, or alternatively as sub-syndromal depression. On the other hand, in the field of psychiatry, the word depression can also have this meaning of low mood but more specifically refers to a mental health condition when it has reached a severity and duration to warrant a diagnosis, whether there is an obvious situational cause or not. A typical psychiatric description of depressed mood is "... depressed, sad, hopeless, discouraged, or 'down in the dumps'." In a clinical setting, a depressed mood can be something a patient reports (a symptom), or something a clinician observes (a sign), or both. A depressed mood is generally situational and reactive, and associated with grief, loss, or a major social transition. A change of residence, marriage, divorce, the break-up of a significant relationship, the death of a loved one, graduation, or job loss are all examples of instances that might trigger a depressed mood.
Many different therapies are available for depression, including anti-depressants and psychotherapy. Studies indicate that regular exercise too, including yoga asanas and breathing, can help some people ease the symptoms of mild to moderate forms of depression. Of course, one major hurdle in using exercise to alleviate depression is motivation, or lack of it. Most depressed people don't really feel much like getting out of bed in the morning, much less exercising. Then too, failure to see the exercise program through can make a depressed person feel even worse. So start off slowly, and be sure to choose an exercise or a sequence that you really enjoy. If possible, exercise with a supportive partner or group. Try to exercise at least three times a week.
Asana sequence for depressed people(40-70 min):
1 - Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose): with your back torso supported on a rolled blanket positioned below and parallel to your spine. (Total time 3-5 min.)
2 - Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose): use a strap to hold the raised leg in place. Hold each side for 1 to 2 minutes; total time 2 to 4 minutes.
3 - Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog): use a bolster or block to support the head. (Total time 1-2 min.)
4 - Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend): support your head and crossed forearms supported on a padded chair seat. (Total time 1-3 min.)
5 - Sirsasana (Headstand): intermediate students should perform the full pose for a total time of 3 to 5 minutes. Bring your feet back to the floor slowly together if possible, either with straight knees or bent, with an exhalation, and stand in Standing Forward Bend for 30 seconds before coming up. (Total time 3 min.)
6 - Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose): supported on a chair; pad the chair seat either with a sticky mat or folded blanket. Then slide your legs through the space between the chair back and seat, and sit on the back edge of the seat facing the chair back. Grip the chair legs just below the chair back and, with an exhalation, lean into a backbend. The front edge of the seat should cross your back torso just under your shoulder blades. Keep your knees bent and feet on the floor. Support the back of your head, either on a bolster or a block. You can continue to hold the chair legs, stretch your arms overhead, or slip your arms underneath the seat between the chair legs and grip the back rung. Be sure to breathe smoothly. To come up, grip the chair legs just below the chair back, and pull yourself up with an exhalation. Try to lead to movement of your torso with your chest, not your head. (Total time 3-5 min.)
7 - Seated twist: continue to sit reversed through the chair, twist to the right with an exhalation, hold for 30 seconds, then twist to the left for 30 seconds. Repeat three times to each side, each time holding for 30 seconds. (Total time 3 min.)
8 - Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose): place a blank under the shoulders for support. Repeat three times, each time for 30 seconds to 1 minute. (Total time 2-3 min.)
9 - Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand): follow Shoulderstand with Halasana (Plow Pose). Intermediate students should do full Plow with their feet on the floor, beginners can do Plow with their feet resting on a chair seat. (Total time 3 -5 min.)
10 - Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Forward Bend): support the head either on a bolster laid across your extended leg, or if you're less flexible, on the front edge of a padded chair seat. Hold each side for 1 to 3 minutes. ( Total time 2-6 min.)
11 - Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Supported Bridge Pose): allow the torso supported on a bolster, and shoulders and head resting lightly on the floor. Keep your knees bent and feet on the floor. (Total time 3-5 min.)
12 - Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose): pelvis is supported on a bolster or rolled blanket. Be sure to slide off the support before your turn to your side. (Total time 3-5 min.)
13 - Ujjayi Pranayama (Reclining Conqueror): lie on a blanket support to open your chest, with long, smooth, full inhalations and exhalations. (Total time 3-5 min.)
14 - Savasana (Corpse Pose): come off your blanket support and lay your back torso flat on the floor. Support your bent knees on a bolster. (Total time 8-10 min.) Padma: Lotus, lotus flower. Another name for the chakras, because sometimes they are visualized as spoked wheels, and at other times as lotus flowers.
Padukhas: The Guru's sandals, objects of the highest veneration and a figurative term for the Guru's teachings.
Panchakarma: A series of traditional cleansing and balancing treatments.
Panir: A type of soft, fresh cheese.
Paramahansa: Parama meaning 'supreme', hansa - 'soul'. This was the name give to Yogananda by his guru. Who wrote the famous "Autobiography of a Yogi"
Patanjali: The author of Yoga Sutras, the foremost scripture on Raja Yoga, The Yoga of meditation and mind control. He lived around the time of Christ and brilliantly summarized and synthesized the yoga practices of his time.
Phalam: The fruit of Karma, the results, outcome or consequences of our actions.
Pitta: The dosha governing all digestion, metabolism, and transformation in the body.
Pradakshina: The act of worshipful walking around a holy temple, shrine or place. Always done clockwise.
Prajapati: A name for the father of creation and protector of life.
Prana: Prana is the energy that animates everything and is a fundamental concept of Hatha Yoga. Prana is also breath, the life force sustaining the body.
Pranayama: Breath control, consisting of conscious inhalation, retention and exhalation. Breathing is the essential element of all yoga.
Prana Vata: The chief subdivision of vata, it governs the mind, the heart, respiration, and life itself.
Prem: Prem is Love, the highest form of Love.
Puja: Hindu Worship; flower offerings. The original yogis didn't practice with foam blocks, D-ring straps, or purple sticky mats. But as yoga evolved, many practitioners discovered that props could help deepen their explorations. Among modern yogis, attitudes toward props range from the Zen-like minimalism of those who shun all but a sticky mat to the abundance of those who travel with an extra suitcase filled with yoga accessories. Regardless of where you fall in this spectrum, a few guidelines can help you make the most of your props:
1. Be clear about why you're using them - mindlessly using a block to support your hand in a standing pose just because your teacher told you to won't deepen your practice. Ask yourself what purpose the extra support is serving and let that answer guide the way you use it. Are you using the block to move into a posture you aren't yet supple enough to manage on your own? If so, consider ways to lessen your reliance on that aid over time.
2. Be your own teacher - use your body's signals to devise new and effective ways of using props to enhance your practice. When you sense a certain part of your body crying out for extra support in a resting pose, for example, wedge a towel or shirt beneath that area and observe what happens. Or if you're struggling to master a new pose, ask yourself whether any props within arm's reach might help. You might be surprised by the ingenious solutions you unearth.
3. Explore new territory - if a rolled-up blanket is supporting your back during a restorative pose, you might like to explore how varying the size and position of it alters your experience. Or if you're using a strap to help you understand a particular action or direction in a posture you know well, you may choose to repeat that same pose without props from time to time to explore the differences.
4. Be creative - yoga basics include mats, blankets, straps, and blocks. But if you consider a prop to be any aid that helps you access a posture more fully, your world will widen considerably. Walls, tables, balls, books, socks, neckties, even the helping hands of a friend can all be used to deepen your exploration.
5. Try to practice nonattachment - because yoga leads us toward greater flexibility and adaptability. So don't grow so attached to your chest of yoga toys that you can't practice without them. If you use props regularly, challenge yourself every once in a while to stow them away and practice without any aids at all (that's right, not even a sticky mat). On the other hand, if you're a yoga minimalist, incorporate a few props into your practice every now and then just to explore how they might be helpful. You might be surprised by what you learn. Remember, the best yoga prop is always an open mind. Actually, henna tattoos have their roots in ancient India, the Middle East, and Africa, where Egyptian emperors went to their royal graves with henna-adorned nails. Today, Indian women continue the tradition of mehendi, or henna design, decorating their hands and feet before weddings and other special occasions. In Niger, as in other African countries, henna artists (called tchinaden) use the paste to ward off evil spirits.
While it is a practiced art form, creating your own henna body designs is not as hard as you might think. Henna paste comes from dried leaves of a hedgelike tree, cultivated for centuries for its ability to produce a natural brown-red color or stain. You may purchase a kit such as 'The Art of Henna' (Healthy Planet Products) or create your own paste by buying fine-quality green henna powder at a natural foods store and mixing it with an equal part black tea or coffee. Let the mixture sit for several hours or even overnight to achieve a consistency similar to toothpaste—smooth and lump-free. If too thick, add more liquid. If too thin, add more henna powder.
Henna works best on clean, smooth skin, so first wash the area with soap and water and pat dry. Some artists like to apply a small amount of eucalyptus oil to open skin pores, allowing for darker designs. Draw out your design on paper and practice applying the henna paste. Different cultures and artists have their own application techniques. The two most common tools are flat toothpicks and small, plastic bags with a hole cut into one corner (like a pastry bag). Apply your henna paste wherever you wish the design to appear. It will stain, so be careful. Let the henna paste dry on your skin, wetting it occasionally with a slice of lemon.
The longer it sits on your skin, the darker the design will be (30 min - 3 hours). When you are ready to remove the paste, apply light oil over the design and gently remove the hardened mixture. Avoid washing the design for several hours, as it will continue to darken a bit more as it dries. Your artwork should last for several weeks, depending upon where it is on your body and how often the area is washed. Nada: Inner sounds that may be heard during advanced stages of meditation; nada may take the form of sounds such as bells, the blowing of a conch, and thunder.
Nadi: A channel in the subtle body through which prana and kundalini flow. The channels loosely correspond to the central, sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Nadi also refers to the normal veins and arteries of the physical body.
Namaste: A tradtional Indian greeting. Two hands pressed together and held near the heart with the head gently bowed. Namaste means - 'I bow and honor the divine presence in you'. Namaskar is another variation of Namaste.
Nirvana: Characterized by bliss and freedom. Letting go of ego, passion and desire. Liberation.
Niyama: The second step in Raja Yoga, observance, purity and contentment.
Ojas: The subtle, health-promoting substance through which consciousness and Nature's intelligence are connected the body.
Om: also written as 'Aum' according the Yogi's and Rishi's OM is considered to be the sound that represents the Ultimate Reality, the primordial vibration, which is prefixed to many mantras. Om shares many of the same meanings with its Semitic counterparts: the Hebrew "Amen" and the Arabic "Amin." All three are used to open or close prayers.
Om Yoga: A practice that combines Buddhist meditation with an emphasis on alignment and fluidity. At the beginning of the 20th century, a number of inspired and influential teachers of Hatha Yoga emerged in India. They adapted the ancient asanas to the West using different combinations of poses and breathing techniques and emphasizing different aspects of the tradition. In the process, they transformed yoga from the domain of an elite few, to a practical regimen used by millions all over the world. The process continues today as teachers and disciples of teachers develop new combinations of the classic elements of yoga. The diversity of modern styles is given here:
Ananda yoga: focuses on gentle postures designed to move the body's energy to different organs and muscles, and in particular to the brain as a preparation for meditation. Based on the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, one of its distinguishing features is the affirmations associated with postures. The headquarter of Ananda are at the Ananda World Brotherhood Village situated in Nevada City, California.
Ashtanga yoga: was originated in the 1940's by by K. Pattabhi Jois at his school in Mysore India. Refer to as 'power yoga', ashtanga is a flowing practice that utilizes challenging postures synchronized with breathing techniques. The poses are linked together and taught in set sequences. Each series of poses must be mastered before the student embarks on the next. Ashtanga is a strength-oriented practice, with intense stretching in most of the poses. It produces internal heat and external sweating that detoxifies the body, improves circulation, flexibility and stamina.
Bikram yoga: Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram yoga, worked for five years with Western doctors to develop his own system of 26 classic postures. They are practiced in the exact same order in a room heated to 95-105 degrees. The heat promotes more flexibility, detoxification and realignment of the body. Bikram yoga is rigorous, but each posture in the sequence, is designed to safely stretch and open the body in preparation for the next posture. When he came here in 1972, at the invitation of the Diabetes Association, the common belief was that Western society wouldn't and couldn't do yoga. However, Bikram believed that the US, laden with chronic disease and stress, was the perfect place for yoga. His vision has proved correct and there are now over 500 affiliated Bikram yoga schools.
Integral yoga: brought to the USA in 1969 by Swami Satchidananda, Integral yoga, as the name suggests, aims to integrate the various aspects of the body-mind through a combination of postures, breathing techniques, deep relaxation, and meditation. Function is given preeminence over form. Integral Yoga is taught at Integral Yoga International, headquartered in Buckingham, Virginia, and over forty branches worldwide.
Ishta yoga: integrated Science of Hatha Tantra and Ayurveda, which is a physical and spiritual form of yoga that addresses the individual needs of each student who practices it. Developed by Alan Finger Ishta is a modern distillation of 15 different forms of yoga blended into a versatile mix of postures, meditation, teachings and chanting that can be adapted to the skills and abilities of each student.
Jivamukti yoga: is one of nine internationally recognized styles of Hatha . Developed in 1986 by Sharon Gannon and David Life, its distinct style integrates chanting, asanas, music, meditation and practices of devotion into a vigorous physical practice with a foundation in the ancient mystic philosophies of the East. Jivamukti incorporates these yoga practices into the modern lifestyle, without losing sight of the universal goal of the practices - liberation. It is a blueprint for incorporating the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga into our modern lives and awakens in the practitioner a need to protect the earth, the environment and all the animals and plants that share the planet with us.
Jivamukti features five tenets, which are incorporated into every class:
Scripture - study of the ancient yogic teachings, including Sanskrit chanting.
Bhakti - acknowledgment that God realization is the goal of all yoga practices.
Ahimsa - a non-violent, compassionate lifestyle which emphasizes ethical vegetarianism and animal rights.
Nada Yoga - the development of a sound body and mind through deep listening.
Meditation - connecting to that eternal unchanging reality within.
Iyengar yoga: Founded by B.K.S. Iyengar of Pune, India, this is probably the best known and widely practiced system of hatha yoga today. Iyengar created his own method of yoga grounded in precision of body alignment and coordinated breathing. The postures are moved into slowly and held longer than in most other styles of yoga. Iyengar is also unique for its use of cushions, straps, blankets and blocks to assist in doing the postures, enabling the less flexible, elderly and disabled to participate. Because of its slow pace, attention to detail and use of props, Iyengar yoga is especially appropriate for those recovering from injuries.
Kripalu yoga: Developed by Kripalvananda and his disciple Yogi Amrit Desai, Kripalu is a gentle, introspective practice that urges practitioners to hold poses in order to explore and release emotional and spiritiual conflicts. Kripalu yoga has three stages. In the first stage, postural alignment and coordination of breath and movement are emphasized, and the postures are held for a short duration only. In the second stage, meditation is included into the practice and postures are held for prolonged periods. In the final stage, the practice of postures becomes a spontaneous 'meditation in motion'. The Kripalu Center in Lenox, Massachusetts, hosts almost 12,000 students and attendees each year.
Kungalini yoga:Was brought to the US by a Sikh master, Yoga Bhajan in 1969. Before that, it was a secret, sacred teaching which was passed down only to certain chosen people in India The word 'kundalini' means awareness and its purpose is to awaken the life force which resides at the base of the spine and allow the energy to flow through the body. Kundalini Yoga combines classic postures with breathing, chanting and meditation. Kundalini postures are characterized by movement instead of poses and it is known for its frequent use of Breath of Fire, a breathing exercise where you inhale and exhale rapidly through the nose without pausing, while using the abdomen as a bellows. Bhajan believes that the body has a natural euphoric state that can be reached without the use of any drugs.
Power yoga: essentially is an American version of Ashtanga, which combines stretching, strength training and meditative breathing. The american version introduces two important changes: it has a number of postures that closely resemble calisthenics such as pushups and handstands and it does away with the pauses found in traditional yoga, which combine to make it an intense aerobic workout.
Sivananda yoga: is the creation of the late Swami Vishnudevananda, who established his First Western center in Montreal, in 1959. In the Sivananda centers, Hatha Yoga is taught in its pure traditional form as it has been done for centuries in the Himalayas. This includes a series of 12 postures, breathing, diet, chanting, scriptural study and meditation. Sivananda has trained over 6,000 teachers, and there are numerous Sivananda centers around the world.
Viniyoga: created by T. Krishnamacharya and his son T.K.V. Desikachar, it adapts yoga practices to individual characteristics and needs. As the teacher of well-known Yoga masters B.K.S. Iyengar, K. Pattabhi Jois, and Indra Devi, Krishnamacharya can be viewed as the father of the Hatha Yoga renaissance in modern times. Viniyoga works with what is called "sequential process," or vinyasa-krama. The emphasis is not on achieving an external ideal form, but on practicing a posture according to one's individual needs and capacity. The emphasis on precise breathing and the introduction of sound into asana practice are also unique features of viniyoga. Krishnamacharya's development of yoga therapy, a major component of viniyoga, came from his knowledge of India's ancient school of medicine, Ayurveda, which he integrated with yoga practice. Learning simple asanas is easy enough, when you look at your yoga teacher and follow along. When you're ready for more complex postures, however, this Simon Says strategy may need to give way to a more methodical approach. So just how do you master a new pose? While every practitioner develops his own secrets of success, these tried-and-true principles can get you started. Break the pose into smaller bites instead of attempting to swallow it whole. Just as a pianist might practice the fingering of each hand alone before performing an entire piece of music, you can divide any pose into discrete movements and practice them one at a time.
For instance, divide a standing pose in half. First, focus on the proper action of the legs and feet while keeping your spine in neutral and your hands on your hips. Then explore just the top half. Once you feel comfortable with each half, combine them to practice the whole masterpiece. Warm up with some simpler actions first. A handful of fundamental movement principles crop up again and again in both elementary and advanced poses. Exploring them first in a familiar posture can help you move toward a more complicated pose with both integrity and clarity. The principles of forward bending that you learn in a basic pose like Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), for example, carry over to the more complex Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Angle Standing Forward Bend). Practice Uttanasana first, keeping the hips even and the spine long, folding at the tops of the thighs rather than from the waist. Then integrate these concepts into the more advanced pose.
Use props creatively. Props can help less-expert practitioners move toward challenging postures without compromising integrity and alignment. With a little creativity, you can discover innovative ways of using them to help you experience the essence of a pose without risking injury. If your fingers don't reach the floor in a standing pose, place a block between your hand and the floor. If you can't reach your big toe in Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose), use a strap. If you have difficulty sitting with a long and neutral spine, support your pelvis on a blanket. Props are like training wheels--they can help you find your way in the beginning, even if you eventually want to wean yourself from them.
Practice, practice. With perseverance, postures that once seemed impossible will be within your grasp. Pulling off a new pose can be both gratifying and exhilarating, but remember that your spiritual evolution doesn't depend on your ability to stand on your hands or wrap your foot behind your head. In yoga, the journey never ends. When you master a new pose, an even more challenging one always awaits. Best known as the classic text for yogis, the Bhagavad Gita also dispensed a bit of ancient hair-care wisdom: you should know that long, luxuriant hair reflected a control of the senses. Today, this traditional association between healthy tresses and overall well-being is still the basis for Ayurvedic hair and scalp treatments. Experts in this ancient health science advise that in nurturing the hair, we can also improve the nerves, brain functioning, and even our meditation practice. For instance, Rama Kant Mishra, an Ayurvedic expert who specializes in dermatology, recommends nourishing your locks from the inside out with herbs and foods rich in hair-strengthening nutrients.
The Ayurvedic herb bhringaraj (Eclipta alba), known as the "king of hair," promotes hair growth and helps relieve stress. Bhringaraj also calms down pitta dosha, the fiery element that can cause premature graying and hair loss. As well as Brahmi, or gotu kola - another powerful rejuvenating herb that calms the mind and nourishes the hair. You can take bhringaraj (250mg - 1g) and brahmi (250 - 500mg) in the form of daily capsules, or brew the dried plant into an herbal tea. Applied topically, hair oils infused with these two botanicals feed the scalp, and when used before bedtime, help calm your mind to promote sound sleep. Also be sure to eat plenty of foods high in calcium and iron, such as leafy greens, carrots, beets, tahini, soy, yogurt, milk, and fresh, homemade cheese. Fresh coconut and sweet seasonal fruits will also help your hair thrive, as will black pepper, turmeric, cumin, and fenugreek.
Shampoos containing harsh chemicals can strip your hair of its protective oils and cause an imbalance of the dry, airy vata dosha. You can avoid this using a milder cleanser, coupled with a daily to weekly Ayurvedic oil massage. Mishra recommends almond oil if you have thin, dry, easily split vata hair, coconut oil for quick-to-gray pitta hair, and olive oil if your hair is of the kapha type: dark, thick, shiny, and prone to oiliness. Apply oil to your hair and gently massage into your scalp. Allow it to penetrate for at least one hour, or leave on overnight. Then wash it out... Let's face it: some yoga asanas taste a little bit sweeter than others. And if yoga were a smorgasbord, restorative poses would most definitely be at the dessert table. These soothing and well-supported poses offer us the opportunity to linger quietly for a few moments and savor the simple sweetness of life.
In an ideal world every asana would feel restorative. But those that fall into the special category of restorative poses have a particular ability to leave us nourished and well rested. These postures are usually deeply supported by blankets, blocks, or other props and are held for several minutes at a time. Restorative practice can be intimidating to beginners--all those props! But just a few guiding tips will help you start a regular restorative practice of your own.
Start out with a few minutes of gentle movement before settling into a restorative pose or practice. A little stretching will warm the muscles and create space in the body to prepare it for relaxation. Movement will also give your body a chance to shed its restlessness and busy-ness before settling into a place of stillness. Don't skimp on the props. Blocks, straps, blankets, balls, towels, chairs, walls, sandbags, eye bags, and pillows are all considered fair game when supporting yourself in these poses. The more fully your body is supported, the deeper your sense of relaxation and surrender will be. So go ahead: Raid the linen closet--your body will thank you with profound sighs of relief.
Take the time to get comfortable on your props and make any necessary adjustments before you settle in. In restoratives the distance between heaven and hell can be as little as half an inch. A small adjustment to a blanket or a minor shift in the body's position can transform a moment of exasperated agony into pure rapture. Be creative and use your inner wisdom to guide you toward greater comfort, making any modifications you need. Incorporate restoratives into your yoga practice in a balanced way. Peruse several yoga books. You might be inspired to include just one or two restorative postures in your daily practice. Or you may choose to devote one entire practice each week to restoratives. Although they look peaceful, restoratives can be challenging for beginners. Just because the body rests quietly doesn't mean the mind will settle into stillness too. Be patient, and be prepared for days when every inch of you rebels.
In time and with practice, you will be rewarded with the ability to drop with ease into a place of deep contentment. This is what yoga is all about, after all: stilling our fidgety bodies and calming our rambling minds so that we may rest quietly in the present moment and see clearly the peace that resides within. Some of us want to know if yoga is something that can help with weight loss, and it's an essential question nowadays... Although, the field of weight loss is so complex, hatha yoga has the potential to be very transformative on many levels for you, with the physical body being a doorway to the more profound gifts of the practice.
The most obvious physical benefits of yoga practice include loosening of muscles that have been tightened by inactivity, tension, and stress. Asana practice also increases the range of motion of joints, enhances flexibility, and can help correct postural problems that may have resulted from weight gain. Any style of yoga helps tone, lengthen, and strengthen the muscles, which can contribute to the sculpting of the body, but not necessarily to weight loss. Remember that muscle is, after all, denser and therefore heavier than an equivalent volume of fat tissue. According to yogic tradition, asana practice also gets the prana of the body moving, which can be helpful for you if weight gain, decreased energy, and sluggishness have appeared together.
Yoga also offers psychological benefits. Weight gain often brings with it a great deal of harsh self-judgment. Through yoga, we can counteract this by creating a safe, positive environment to reconnect with our bodies and quiet the counterproductive messages that often arise in our minds. Reengaging in physical activity through asana practice can also foster a renewed sense of control over our lives, a quality that sometimes diminishes as one's weight refuses to budge!
On a physiological level, certain styles of yoga could be more appropriate for students who have weight loss as a primary intention. Vinyasa-style class, where movement and breath link poses together, can build heat and potentially result in greater calorie burn. This style of practice could supplement other aerobic exercise that you're involved in, such as walking, running, biking, or swimming. Take it slowly, though. Something as intense as the Primary Ashtanga series may not be the place to start if you haven't been physically active for a while. Begin with a good introductory vinyasa class.
Moreover, there are more and more yoga resources promoting the practice for weight loss. In the September/December 2002 'Yoga Research and Educational Centernewsletter', editor and yoga instructor Richard Rosen reviews a recent book, Yoga Burns Fat, by Jan Maddern. He states, "The premise of the present book is that yoga practice has two prime benefits for people wanting to lose weight: one, it improves digestion and so eliminates constipation, water retention, and bloating; and two, it improves blood circulation to major endocrine glands (such as the thyroid and pancreas) that 'control your appetite, moods and sleep patterns'... as well as improved self-image." Rosen warns that, as is often the case, these premises are not supported by any scientific research, and he notes that the photos in the book, in his opinion, could be better. So, will hatha yoga practice help you lose weight? Maybe. Will it change your relationship with your body? Most likely, and probably for the better.
New studies show that adding about an ounce of walnuts to your diet each day can reduce your LDL cholesterol (that's the bad kind) by as much as 10 percent. Maybe the Romans were on to something after all: Omega-3 oils are crucial for healthy brain functioning.
Fresh walnuts usually hit the market in early fall, but dried ones are available year-round. To restore their fresh flavor, soak them in milk. Once you walk down the organic road, it's hard to stop. And why should you? If you eat organic food, wear organic clothes, and sleep on organic sheets, you're probably ready to use organic health and beauty products. Unfortunately, finding lotions and shampoos that are truly organic—and not just labeled organic—isn't so simple.
Unlike the world of organic foods, the body care industry isn't regulated by a set of federal standards under which products are certified. That means synthetic preservatives and other agents can make their way into products labeled organic. So, what's an organic-lover to do? Read the labels, says Kathryn DiMatteo, executive director of the Organic Trade Association (OTA). “If the label on the back lists ingredients you don't recognize, that's a clue that it contains something not found in nature," she says. Whether you recognize them or not, ingredients to avoid, according to Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association, include synthetic colors or fragrances, petroleum derivatives, paraben derivatives, or “anything that ends in '-eth' " such as sodium laureth sulfate.
Here are some organic brands - Pangea Organics, Aubrey Organics, and Terressentials. DO arrive early. Getting to class about 10 minutes early can help you settle in and align your attitude with the purpose of the class. While you're waiting you can practice a pose, do a few stretches, or just sit or lie quietly, breathe, and get centered.
DON'T eat for two or three hours before class. If you practice yoga on a full stomach, you might experience cramps, nausea, or vomiting, especially in twists, deep forward bends, and inversions. Digesting food also takes energy that can make you lethargic.
DO let your teacher know about injuries or conditions that might affect your practice. If you are injured or tired, skip poses you can't or shouldn't do, or try a modified version.
DO create an intention. To help you focus, you might find it helpful to dedicate your practice to a certain intention. This might be to become more aware and understanding, more loving and compassionate, or healthier, stronger, and more skillful. Or it might be for the benefit of a friend, a cause—or even yourself.
DON'T bring pagers or cell phones to class. Leave socializing and business outside the studio, so the peace of the practice is not disturbed.
DO be quiet. It's great to share a class with people you know, but it can be distracting to yourself and others to have an extended or loud conversation.
DO bring a towel or your own mat if you sweat a lot, and arrive clean and free of scents that might distract or offend others.
DON'T push it. Instead of trying to go as deeply or completely into a pose as others might be able to do, do what you can without straining or injuring yourself. You'll go farther faster if you take a loving attitude toward yourself and work from where you are, not from where you think you should be.
DO pick up and neatly put away any props you use.
DON'T enter class late or leave early; it's disruptive to others.
DO take time afterwards to think about what you did in class, so you can retain what you learned. Review the poses you practiced, and note any instructions that particularly made sense. Even if you remember just one thing from each class, you'll soon have a lot of information that can deepen your own personal practice.Maybe you don't even think about it, but before the invention of the sticky mat, doing yoga was a slippery proposition =) Those of you who can remember the days before color television will also remember what it was like to do yoga without a sticky mat... slippery. "My feet would slide apart and I had to tense my legs to keep from falling," yoga teacher Angela Farmer says. "I was desperate to find something that would give me traction." So Farmer tried doing yoga on blankets, bulky foam mattresses, and even spat on her dry footsoles to keep from slipping, but nothing really worked.
One day while traveling in Germany, Farmer spotted a roll of matting at a local market. She squeezed the material between her fingers. It was thin, dense, and sticky. It was carpet padding. She bought a length of it and took it to yoga class. "It was heaven," Farmer recalls. She was able to grip the floor without straining. Farmer took this miraculous mat home to London, where other yogis took interest. Soon Farmer began toting rolls of carpet padding home every time she traveled to Germany. Richard Farmer, Angela's father, saw an opportunity. He contacted the padding manufacturer and soon became the first retailer of "sticky" mats, calling his new product "The Original Molivos Mat" in honor of his daughter, who led yoga workshops in Molivos, Greece. Export duties and international shipping costs made these European mats expensive in North America. Enter Sara Chambers, of Hugger Mugger, who decided to manufacture her own. With a chemist's help, she designed the first sticky mat specifically for yoga. Her "Tapas Mat" was more durable, less expensive, and available in colors.
But the German manufacturers wouldn't give up. They developed a new line of high-quality mats in three different colors and varied levels of thickness. Their latest import is a thick rubber mat called "The Black Mat," favored by flow-style yogis for its length, durability, and crumple resistance.
When you thumb through a yoga catalog, you might be surprised or confused by the array of available mats. Ruth Steiger, of Yoga Props, fields mat questions daily. "The first thing I ask people is what style of yoga they do. If they say Ashtanga, I recommend a 4-millimeter mat. If not, I ask what kind of surface they work on," Steiger says. For those who practice on carpet she recommends a dense mat of medium thickness. This mat also works well on wood floors, giving a solid, grounded feel. "But some people need extra cushioning," Steiger observes. For them, she recommends the same mat she suggests for Ashtangis because it "pads and cradles the bony places." But when traveling, an ultra-thin mat might be your best companion. "It folds into the space of a pair of socks," Steiger explains. As longer and warmer days beckon, it's tempting to plunge into full-on sun worship. But instead of engaging in the intensity of the season, Ayurvedic wisdom suggests easing yourself into the sweltering days ahead. As summer transforms your world, your body's adjusting, too.
Cool water - When you're flushed and sweaty from an intense yoga class or just a walk around the block on a particularly humid day, you're ready for a rejuvenating and cleansing shower. However, before you jump into your usual hot and steamy shower, adjust the temperature dial. Excess heat and steam can irritate or inflame naturally glowing skin. According to Ayurveda, the pitta dosha gives skin its glow, but too much pitta can turn that glow to a puffy red. Since summer delivers plenty of pitta already, you're better off stepping under a cool shower to restore balance and revitalize your inner chill.
Cool foods - The beginning of summer is the perfect time to shift from a steady diet of mostly cooked foods to one that includes more salads and raw fruits. As summer's fiery pitta dosha starts to dominate, you might notice your digestive fire overheating, sparking symptoms like acid indigestion. To maintain a serene stomach, cut back on spicy, sour, and salty foods—nix the nachos, pickles, and chips. Nourish yourself with fresh, pitta-calming astringent foods (apples, buckwheat, and quinoa) and bitters (like artichokes, cucumbers, and dandelion greens). In recipes and drinks, replace (sour) lemon juice with (bitter) lime to quell excess heat in your system.
Cool brew - When was the last time you got through summer without drinking at least one glass of iced tea? The season doesn't feel the same without it. With pitta-harmonizing herbs, you can make your tea tastier and healthier. Try a mix of dried, organic peppermint, fennel, and gotu kola. Strain the mixture, then stir in some stevia powder (a natural sweetener) or raw sugar—not honey, which can heat you up—and serve lightly chilled. With a little care and attention, your transition from the exuberance of spring into the ease of summer will be smooth and balanced. Ever wonder what you're chanting during a yoga class? Nervous about chanting the wrong thing? This article provides translations and historical information for common chants.
1. Aum - The Primal Shabda
Om, actually pronounced "Aum," is an affirmation of the Divine Presence that is the universe and is similar to the Hebrew "Amen." There are many ways of chanting Aum, but this is an approach that will initiate you as a Shabda Yogi, one who pursues the path of sound toward wholeness and higher states of consciousness.
2. Lokah Samastha - A Chant for Wholeness
Lokah samastha sukhino bhavanthu.
May this world be established with a sense of well-being and happiness.
3. Gayatri - Being Illuminated by Sacred Sound
Om bhur bhuvas svaha
Thath savithur varaynyam
Bhargo dheyvasya dhimahih
We worship the word (shabda) that is present in the earth, the heavens, and that which is beyond. By meditating on this glorious power that gives us life, we ask that our minds and hearts be illuminated.
4. Om Namah Shivaaya
Om Namah Shivaaya, Namah Shivaaya, Nama Shiva
I bow to Lord Shiva, the peaceful one who is the embodiment of all that is cause by the universe.
5. Bija Mantras - Seed Mantras
In the “seed” (bija) mantras each seed is conceived of as the sound-form of a particular Hindu deity, and each deity is in turn a particular aspect of the Absolute (Brahman). It’s said that just as a great tree resides in within the seed, so does a god or goddess reside in each bija. When we chant the bijas, we identify each syllable with the divine energy they represent.
Lam - Curve the tip of your tongue up and back, and place it on the rear section of the upper palate to pronounce a sound like the word alum without the initial a. (Base of the spine)
Vam - Place the upper set of teeth on the inner section of your lower lip and begin with a breathy consonant to imitate the sound of a fast car. Pronounce the mantra like "fvam." (Genitals)
Ram - Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of the front section of the upper palate, roll the r as in Spanish, and pronounce the mantra like the first part of the word rumble. (Abdomen)
Yam - Inhale audibly through your mouth, and pronounce the word hum (as in humming); allow the breath to extend beyond the resolution of the consonant. (Solar Plexus and Heart Area)
Ham - Inhale noiselessly through your mouth, and pronounce the sound like the word yum (as in yummy); allow the sound along with your breath to fill your mouth and throat cavity. (Throat)
Om - Inhale audibly through your nostrils, and direct the stream of air to the point between your eyebrows. Pronounce the sound along with your exhalation as a subtly audible whisper, allowing the sound and breath to resonate in the cranial area. (Point between the eyebrows)
The next time you throw on your favorite T-shirt, consider this: Approximately one-third of a pound, or 17 teaspoons, of chemicals—many of them known carcinogens—were used to grow the cotton to produce it. Fortunately, designers are now making clothes from eco-friendly materials like organic cotton, hemp, and soy, so you can wear your environmental beliefs on your sleeve.
What's more, you don't have to don frumpy floor-length tunics or oversize tie-dyes to be eco-conscious. Designers like Stewart&Brown, an organic-apparel company based in California, have created clothes so stylish that celebs like Cameron Diaz and Liv Tyler have been spotted wearing them. "Our goal was to prove that it is possible for organic clothing to be fashionable and sophisticated," says Howard Brown, the company's cofounder.
One of the latest additions is clothing made from soy. Of the Earth, a clothing designer and manufacturer in Bend, Oregon, started making soy-based clothes three years ago with names like Tofu T, Miso Cute Top, and Edamame Wrap. The advantage of soy fiber is that it's soft and durable like cotton, but wicks away moisture like polyester does, so it's ideal for yoga or active lifestyle gear. It's also from non-genetically modified crops, though they're not yet certified organic.
Forward-thinking designers have helped organic clothing gain popularity. According to the Organic Trade Association, the demand for organic fibers grew more than 20 percent from 2002 to 2003, and retailers like Patagonia and Nike have begun incorporating organic cotton into their clothing lines. "There's no doubt that sustainable fashions are making headlines," Brown says. "The clothes are better for us and better for the environment, and those are benefits that cannot be ignored."As hard as you try, you can't always keep the colds and flus of winter from stuffing up your head and slowing down your body. Before you know it, you're wondering if you should attempt your regular yoga practice or give up and go to bed. Here's what I suggest.
LISTEN CLOSE - Check in with your body before practice. If you're wiped out, you could make things worse by pushing through your normal routine, so try a gentle or restorative practice instead and skip strong breathing techniques. Once your energy improves, you can gradually return to a more vigorous practice even if you still have a cough or your nose is stuffy. If you feel worse after practicing, it's a sign that you've probably done too much.
TREAT YOURSELF - If you feel you need to take something for your symptoms, avoid antibiotics; they are worthless for colds, and even over-the-counter cold remedies aren't very practical, since many contain five drugs when all you need is one or two. It makes more sense to take individual remedies, like slippery elm lozenges for a sore throat or acetaminophen for pain. For nasal congestion, add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to boiling water and inhale the vapors. Although it's still not clear how effective echinacea, zinc lozenges, vitamin C, and homeopathic preparations can be, you can still try them, since they are all generally very safe.
CLEAR YOUR HEAD - A stuffy nose, while not serious, can really put a crimp in your practice, especially if you do a lot of Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath). To unstuff yourself, use jala neti, a yogic nasal cleansing technique: Put a quarter teaspoon of noniodized salt and eight ounces of warm water in a neti pot. Standing over a sink, tip your head to one side and insert the spout into the upper nostril, allowing the water to flow into your nose and drain from the other nostril. Repeat on the other side. You can try this several times a day if you've got a cold. Jala neti can be helpful right before pranayama or meditation practice, or even asana.
SOUND OUT YOUR SINUSES - Vibrations from humming have been shown to open the sinuses and let phlegm drain, which can relieve pressure and may even help stave off a bacterial infection of the sinuses. Try chanting Om, or, for nasal congestion, experiment with the pranayama practice of Bhramari: Press your lips together and make the sound of a buzzing bee.
STAY UPRIGHT - If your head is stuffed up or you're feeling tired, modify or skip inversions like Headstand and Handstand. Even Shoulderstand can worsen nasal congestion and head pressure.
SUPPORT YOURSELF - Even restful poses like Savasana (Corpse Pose) aren't easy when you're congested, so instead of lying flat, support your back on a bolster running lengthwise from your lower spine to your head, with a folded blanket under the head and neck if needed. This makes breathing easier, and it's more energizing. Supta Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) can also be done with back support.