February 9, 2010
How does Adho Mukha Svanasana get its name?
In Sanskrit, ‘Adho’ means ‘downward’, ‘mukha’ means ‘face’ and ‘svana’ means ‘dog’, while ‘asana’ refers to a yoga pose. Translated into English, it means Downward Facing Dog Yoga Pose.
It is a part of the sequence of the Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar). It is one of the most well-known yoga bending exercises, and is often recommended because it provides whole body stretching. It is not only a body and back strengthening yoga, it is also often used as a resting pose or a transitional pose for other yoga poses. Adho Mukha Svanasana is also one of the first poses taught to a beginner.
Step by Step:
- Come to the floor on your knees and hands. Your knees should be directly below your hips, and your hands should be underneath your shoulders, and a little forward.
- Tuck in your toes, raise your hips by pushing back and straighten your legs. Spread out your palms.
- Let your head hang down, but keep your shoulder blades open and away from your ears. Rest comfortably in this pose, with the weight on your quadriceps and not on your arms.
- Now exhale, and keeping your tailbone high, let your heels sink towards the floor. Lift the knees away from the floor.
- Gradually lengthen the tailbone backward, from behind your pelvis, and let it sink down, towards the pubis.
- With another exhalation, push the top of your thighs back, and stretch your heels until they come down toward the floor.
- Keep your arms straight with your hands spread out and pressed firmly on the floor. Keeping the wrists firm, widen your shoulder blades and press them against your back.
- Keep your head between the upper arms.
- Maintain this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. To release, inhale and go back to the starting pose.
- Repeat a few times.
Benefits of Downward Dog Pose Yoga:
- By stretching the muscles of the arms, shoulders, calves, hamstrings, ankles and the entire spine, it strengthens them and provides relief for back aches and fatigue.
- It helps to improve digestion, increases energy, and lowers high blood pressure.
- It has proved to be effective in curing flat feet and sciatica.
- It helps to calm the brain and provide relief from anxiety, insomnia, headaches and mild depression.
- It helps relieve menstrual discomfort, as well as symptoms of menopause.
Precautions: Do not practice it if you have:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- You are in late term pregnancy.
December 21, 2009
Garbha Pindasana is the Womb Embryo Posture and is supposed to be great for losing abdominal fat and for cutting down on total body fat. Pinda is the Sanskrit word for embryo and Garbha is the word for womb. When a person does this pose, then he looks like a baby in its mother’s womb – all curled up and tight. However, there are a few differences in the pose and the posture of a baby. But overall, the posture bears similarity to Pindasana. This yoga posture is a good back strengthening exercise. A complicated pose, it is best done under the guidance of a yoga teacher. However, here is a step by step guide to acquaint you with this posture.
- Sit on a yoga mat with your spine erect and head straight. Bring your legs forward, so that the heels and knees are together. Use your hands to put the right foot on your left thigh, and then the left foot on your right thigh. You must be able to do the Padmasana or Lotus Pose for this.
- Put your hands through the space between the thighs and calves and bring the arms forward to the elbows.
- Exhale and lift your thighs off the mat. You have to then bend the arms at the elbows before holding the ears with your hands. Then focus while you balance the weight of your body on the tail bone.
- Breathe and stay in this position for at least ten seconds or if you wish, till thirty seconds.
Benefits of Garbha Pindasana: Some of the health benefits of this back strengthening exercise are as following –
- The stomach remains slim and fat-free because of the nature of the posture.
- This yoga posture is supposed to be good for the digestive system and can cure stomach ailments.
- This yoga posture can exercise the lower and the upper body.
- This yoga posture can also improve muscle tone and is good for the spine.
Some of the other yoga exercises for strengthening the back muscles:
- Cat and Dog: This yoga asana is done by getting onto all fours and arching as well as hollowing the spine.
- Child Pose: After doing the Cat and Dog pose for some time, you can get into the Child pose, with your head on the mat, placed between the elbows. Do this pose for five minutes and you will feel the stretch in the back.
November 3, 2009
What is Urdhva Dhanurasana?
Urdhva Dhanurasana is an excellent exercise that helps to open up the shoulder and the chest, relieving all kinds of pain in those areas. This is one of the many yoga backbends in which the tissues of the chest muscles move apart and those of the back move closer in.
Step by step procedure:
- You can assume this back muscle strengthening pose from simply lying on your back.
- First, slowly move your hands to the back and place them just beneath your shoulders with your fingers pointing outwards.
- Let your elbows stick in towards your body. Bring in your feet towards your buttocks and gently lift your pelvis off the floor.
- When your first lift is completed, exhale and rest your hands so that they are more towards your feet.
- This will make you feel comfortable enough to hold on to the pose for a few minutes.
This is an extremely difficult pose to practice. If you are not an experienced practitioner, you may not be able to practice this pose without props. You can use wooden blocks or other support fixtures to come into this pose. With repeated practice, you will not have to use support again.
- The abs, hips, and back are all positively affected by this pose. Of all the back strengthening yoga poses, this pose is considered the best.
- While strengthening the muscles in the back, this pose also helps to open up the hips and strengthen the inner thighs, buttocks and the pelvic floor.
- All yoga backbend poses create a space in the spinal column and allow the chest and the lungs to expand. When the lungs thus expand, the larynx also opens up.
- The pose improves blood circulation because of the increase of oxygen in the lungs. The endocrine system is also revitalized, especially benefiting the pituitary and the thyroid gland.
- This pose helps to open up and energize all the chakras. The wrists, arms, legs, abdomen, buttocks and spine, all are rejuvenated and strengthened.
- This pose is considered one of the most rewarding in yoga. The pose is considered therapeutic for those who are suffering from back pain, osteoporosis, respiratory disorders, and infertility.
Though there are many benefits of this pose, it may be harmful for some people. Those who have a degenerative disc disease or women who are pregnant should not practice this pose. In addition, those who have heart troubles, blood pressure, or any other kind of infirmity should also refrain from trying out this pose.
September 18, 2009
What is Parvatasana or Yoga Mountain Pose?
‘Parvata’ means mountain in Sanskrit, while ‘asana’ denotes a yoga pose. Hence the literal translation of Parvatasana is Mountain Yoga Pose. This is a sitting pose with the arms stretched and raised upwards. It gets its name from the fact that the fingers of the raised arms meet in a peak, resembling a mountain peak.
Step-by-step sequence: You may use a yoga mat or a thick blanket to sit on.
- Sit on the floor in the Padmasana (Lotus Yoga Pose). This means that your spine is erect and your legs are crossed, with each foot placed on the opposite thigh. The soles of both feet should face upwards and both the knees must touch the ground. You might need to take the help of your hands to gently press your knees and feet, and get into this posture.
- Now bring your palms together in front of you, as if in prayer. Start from the level of the chest and raise your arms gradually upwards, following the central vertical axis of your body. Keep raising them higher, until the arms are fully extended. Your arms must touch the ears, your elbows must not be bent, and the tip of your fingers must meet at a point exactly above the centre of your head.
- Close your eyes and maintain this posture for as long as you can, breathing uniformly and deeply. In the beginning you may be able to hold it for only 30 seconds, but with practice, you will be able to extend the time gradually.
- Exhale and release the posture. Repeat again, but this time place the other foot on top.
- In the beginning you may find it difficult to get into or maintain the pose, or you may have pain in the knees. While regular practice will make it easier, you may start with the Half Lotus Yoga Pose.
- Some practitioners prefer to focus on the tip of their nose or between the eyebrows, instead of closing their eyes.
- This back strengthening yoga pose gives a total stretch to the vertebral region, thus straightening the spine. This is supposed to cause height gain in children and adolescents.
- It expands the lungs and chest to their full capacity. It strengthens the muscles of the diaphragm and helps correct breathing, thus benefiting those with respiratory problems like asthma.
- This is a good arm stretching yoga pose, which helps to strengthen the various muscles of the arm, like the biceps and the triceps.
- It stretches the muscles of the abdomen and pelvis, thus toning them and reducing flab and fat in the waist and abdominal region.
September 10, 2009
What is Supta Vajrasana?
Vajra means thunder and asana in yoga means pose or posture. Vajrasana therefore means the Thunderbolt Yoga Pose. This is considered to be an easy pose which can be performed even by beginners.
Supta means reclining, so Supta Vajrasana means Reclining or Sleeping Thunderbolt Pose. This is a little more difficult than the Vajrasana. Attempt it only after you have had some experience.
Step by Step technique:
- First sit in Vajrasana. This means sitting on your knees, keeping your knees together, with the toes pointing outward behind you. Now, sit back on the heels. With the heels apart, touch the big toes together. Place the hands palms facing downwards on your thighs. Keep your spine straight, your head erect and look straight ahead. Maintain this posture for a few seconds.
- Now lean backwards slowly from your waist, taking the support of your elbows, until the top of your head and then your shoulders and back touch the floor. Be careful that you do not raise your knees or change the position of your legs. Keep your knees together.
- Cross your arms behind your head, placing each palm under the opposite shoulder. The crossed wrists will form a cushion for your head.
- Close your eyes, relax and maintain this position for some time, breathing calmly and evenly. In the beginning you may not be hold the pose for more than a few seconds. Gradually increase the time.
- To release the posture, follow the reverse process. Using your elbows to help you get up, hold your ankles and gently return to your starting position. Straighten your legs.
- Relax and then repeat the pose a few times.
Benefits: This yoga pose has many benefits.
- This pose is especially beneficial for stretching and strengthening the back muscles. It thus helps those with sciatica or low back pain, as well as those with stiffness of the shoulder and neck.
- It strengthens and increase flexibility of the calf muscles, knees, ankle joints, hips and thighs. It tones these muscles and increases lubrication of the joints.
- It increases circulation of blood to the feet and legs and thus helps to reduce fatigue. It is beneficial to those suffering from varicose veins, gout or rheumatism.
- Since it applies pressure on the genito-urinary and utero-abdominal organs, it strengthens them and leads to increase supply of blood to these regions, particularly to the liver, kidneys, pancreas and bowels. It helps in better digestion and to relieve constipation.
- By stimulating the adrenaline glands it results in greater vitality and energy levels in the body.
- Along with greater energy levels, it also leads to better function of the brain and aids higher levels of creativity.
- It helps to expand and strengthen the thorax, thus improving the function of the lungs and thereby the respiratory system.
Precautions: There are some precautions which you must follow while practicing this pose. Do not perform it if you are suffering from injuries of the knees or hip. Do not use jerky movements while performing the pose.