Posts Tagged With: pranayama

Confessions of a yogini

2014-05-24 10.31.09

 

I am a stress chicken. I can create trouble, worries & anxiety in my mind, skilfully & abundantly and without much effort. At times it feels like my default nature. This is the main reason why I turned to Yoga in the first place, to ground myself, to create stability & ease in my body and life. One of the first things I can do is to bring my awareness back in my body, through asana (postures), through pranayama (breath), through dhyana (meditation).

Asana helps me to start the journey from my mind to my heart. To start to connect with my creativity and inner child, to move, to dance, being playful and going upside down. Asana while in nature is Divine. It brings me back to my childhood, playing & running outside, being adventurous, trying new things, feeling the wind in my hair & sun on my skin. I hear the birds singing a beautiful song, feel the sand or grass in between my toes. From here responsibilities & worries starting to slide of my shoulders, I start to connect more deeply with the world around me. I come back home in my body and in this moment. My breathe starts to deepen & my heart starts to speak; expressing her desires. Time Stops. Life Starts.

I am

2014-05-24 11.10.34

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Don’t forget to….

” The normal rate of breathing is 21,600 breaths inhaled & exhaled every 24 hours. The yogi measures his/her span of life not by the number of days, but of breaths. Since breathing is lengthened in pranayama, its practice leads to longevity.”

B.K.S. Iyengar

As simple as that

As simple as that

 

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The integration of Yoga in normal day life

The Sanskrit word ‘Purna’ means integrated, complete or ‘full’. Purna Yoga represents a holistic approach to yoga integrating all eight limbs of yoga the way it was originally taught in India. The focus is not just on the physical postures, but also on the other seven limbs including philosophy, meditation, pranayama and yogic personal and social code of ethics (yamas and niyamas). The postural instruction is based on Iyengar’s precision and alignment. Purna yoga is suitable for both beginners and advanced students, since the sequences range from gentle restorative to dynamic vinyasa. While yoga philosophies, such as ahimsa (non-violence) are threaded throughout Purna Yoga classes, students are encouraged to build flexibility, strength and stamina of body, mind and spirit. It creates the ultimate mind-body challenge and encourages you to adopt a yogic living: “The art of loving yourself by living from the heart.” 

Train your mind

Train your mind

I’m currently being trained to be a yoga teacher under the Purna Yoga umbrella by Byron Yoga Centre. For me, it brings yoga back to its origin and away from the fancy exercise focused yoga classes in the gyms. It brings me back to simplicity. For now, no fancy arm balances or inversions, but first of all learning the basic postures safely and correctly. The main aim of asana is to train and discipline the mind. I know for myself, it is often way more challenging to sit still or to do a pose very slowly then going to a fast-paced Vinyasa flow. Like most people nowadays, I’m used to rush through life as well as through my yoga practice. My challenge is to shorten my asana practice and lengthen my pranayama and meditation practice. The meaning of asana is not without reason ‘comfortable seat’, the preparation for meditation. Once again, I learn that yoga is not at all about flexibility and beauty, these are just two positive by-products.

The power of meditation

The power of meditation

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The Ajna Chakra

The sixth chakra is the Ajna chakra, but is also known as the ‘brow chakra’ or the ‘third eye’ and is located between the eyebrows. The Sanskrit meaning of Ajna is ‘command, knowledge or monitoring center’. It is the center of insight and also called ‘the eye of intuition’ and it is the place where you integrate all the information and intuition in your life. The qualities of the brow chakra are inspiration, intuition and inner vision. In the Indian philosophy the third eye is the symbol for enlightenment and also referred to as the ‘eye of wisdom’ or the ‘eye of knowledge’. The Ajna chakra has control over seeing, not only in the physical sense, but also in terms of intuitive seeing, clairvoyance and other paranormal forms of knowing. The symbolic representation and the mantra of the Ajna chakra is the syllable Ohm which represents the beginning and end of all things. The associated colour is the indigo which represents self-mastery, spiritual realization and the attainment of wisdom. Light is the element most associated with the sixth chakra, but some say it is time. The gland associated with this chakra is the pituitary and pineal gland. The pituitary gland is often referred to as the ‘master gland’, because it secretes a hormone that controls the activities of the other glands of the body. For example the pituitary gland controls your growth, skin coloring and the contraction of a woman’s uterus during childbirth.

Ajna Chakra

Ajna Chakra

Balance

When it’s open and clear, you feel deeply connected to your inner wisdom, trust and intuition and it guides you in your choices. You’re able to see yourself and others as energetic and spiritual beings and you can create your own reality by using your imagination, freedom of choice and enhanced insight. You can rely on your self-reflection, perception, interpretation, telepathy and past life experiences. An open Ajna chakra results in compassion and forgiveness. This energy center is directly related to mind. If you awaken this chakra, your mind is able to gain information by subtle means, rather than by the experiences felt by the sense organs. In general, you gain knowledge through the information that senses conducts to the brain. Though, the Ajna chakra has the power to gain knowledge directly without the help of sense organs and thereby the mind becomes purified and evolved. This requires discipline, firm belief and persistent effort. It is about understanding how training can change your behaviour to always be open and loving to everyone, not just close friends and family. There is no ego involved, instead our conditioning, habits, false ideas and misidentifications are dissolved as a result of a healthy active Ajna chakra. Notice really extraordinary people and become aware of their humble character. A great way to open and balance the third chakra is through meditation and visualisation. The sixth chakra is all about reconnecting to the wisdom that is available to all of us from within.

Cherish the humble things in life

Cherish the humble things in life

Blocked Ajna chakra

However in most of us, this ‘inner eye’ remains closed. You have a sense of self-doubt and you don’t trust your inner voice. You are convinced that there is not something like a non-material world, since this is beyond your capacity to reach. A blocked Ajna chakra can result in the following physical symptoms; migraine headaches, eye strain, blindness, brain tumors, strokes, learning disabilities, spinal dysfunctions, nightmares, panic attacks, deafness, insomnia, high blood pressure and seizures. Difficulty concentrating, memory problems, fear of truth, confusion, judgment issues, lack of concentration or discipline are also connected to a sixth chakra imbalance. If the energy in your sixth chakra is not flowing freely, you can become quite superstitious and afraid of your own thoughts and everything you can’t explain with logic. You have difficulties making decisions, procrastinate a lot about any plans made and you don’t know what you want. You strive for routine and are vulnerable to developing depression. If you third eye chakra is overactive, you may be unable to be practical in your daily life and irresponsible. You’re not connected or aware of the world and yourself, everything seems to be external and not part of you. There can be a victim mentality; you will blame everything that happens of a negative nature on someone or something outside yourself. Just as the pituitary gland is the ‘master gland’, the Ajna chakra governs all other energy centres. If the sixth chakra is out of balance, all others chakra won’t be perfectly aligned either.

The power of intuition

The power of intuition

Yoga

Postures that support the opening and balancing of the sixth chakra are Balasana (Child’s Pose) or any other posture in which the forehead touches the ground. Other helpful postures are those in which the gazing point or drishti calls for movement of the eyes such as Marichyasana (Sage Twist). Alternate nostril breathing is a supporting pranayama exercise to activate the Ajna chakra. If you are practicing your asana, pranayama or meditation, notice when your mind becomes quiet. This quiet, clear and peaceful space will allow you to experience a glimpse of the possibilities of the Ajna chakra. This chakra can shine an insightful light on your life that you were previously not aware of. You can concentrate and focus and imagine something and bring that idea into reality.

Turn inwards for stillness, peace and clarity

Turn inwards for stillness, peace and clarity

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The Svadhisthana Chakra

The second chakra is the Svadhisthana or sacral/pelvic chakra. ‘Swa’ means vital force or soul and ‘adhisthana’ means seat or abode. This chakra is located at the tailbone, about two finger widths above the root or first chakra and about an inch below the navel. This chakra is associated with the emotion, passion and it represents desire, pleasure, sexuality and procreation. The element for the pelvic chakra is water, referring to change, fluctuation and movement. The location in the body can be related to movement as well, since the sacral plexus is a collection of nerves located in the lower spine which control movement in the legs and pelvis. The colour for the second chakra is orange and the sense is taste, especially a sweet taste. The organs, glands and body parts associated with this chakra are the reproductive organs, all liquids in the body (blood, urine, menstruation, tears), hips, sacrum, low back, adrenal glands, kidneys, spleen and lower bowel. The symbol for the sacral chakra is a six petal lotus flower.

Six petal lotus flower

Six petal lotus flower

A blocked second chakra

This chakra is primarily associated with creativity and sexuality. When energy is not flowing freely from this chakra it can lead to loss of creativity, low sexual energy, a feeling of dullness, loss of emotion, low negotiation skills and depression. You can be stuck in routine and sameness and you don’t feel good about who you are. On the other hand, signs of an excessive second chakra could be overly emotional behavior, sexual addiction or poor boundaries. It may be the result from a family environment where there’s a constant need for pleasurable stimulation, such as entertaining or partying or frequent emotional drama. Besides overindulging in pleasurable things such as food, drugs, alcohol or sex, you could also denying yourself pleasurable activities resulting in blockages in the second chakra. If you grew up in an environment where emotions were repressed or denied, you are susceptible to have deficiencies in this chakra, resulting in signs such as fear of pleasure, being out of touch with one’s feelings and resistance to change. Suppressing your emotions is another way to create blockages in the pelvic chakra. When this energy center is weak you are susceptible to lower back and hip pain and prostate, emotional and sexual problems. If this chakra is blocked, you can become over-sensitive, develop feelings of guilt (for no apparent reason), become extremely hard on yourself and ultimately become sexually frigid or impotent.

The seat of life

A key to open up the second chakra is to maintain balance when it comes to pleasurable, worldly things. This means don’t deny it, but do not overindulge either. In addition, feed your creative side and take care of your body. You could for example find a hobby or activity that provides you with pleasure; paint, draw, sing, act, dance or exercise to express yourself. If you are not sure what you could do, then go back to your childhood. What did you love doing and what made you happy and fulfilled? Our passions take birth in our second chakra – in fact any kind of birth takes place in this chakra: whether the physical conception of a baby, the birth of a new idea or the birth for a new song or book. Since the Svadhisthana is such a life giving chakra, some refer to it as the seat of life.

Relationships and the pelvic chakra

Relationships and the pelvic chakra

Relationships, boundaries and responsibility

This chakra is also the place where you connect and respond to others and build relationships. It includes reproduction and self-indulgence and relates to issues such as blame, guilt, money, sex, power, control, creativity and morality. It is the place where you can experience your sexual energy. If this chakra is balanced you will experience an enormous capacity for creativity and partnerships with others. If you have a strong second chakra, you have no problem saying no, since you are aware of and listen to your boundaries. You can balance this chakra by developing support systems and taking responsibility for what is happening in your life. Optimism, self-confidence, enthusiasm and courage are qualities which can arise from a balanced second chakra.

Ever changing water

Ever changing water

Constant Change

This second energy center is the chakra of emotion, sexuality, pleasure and nurture and all of these things are fluid and ever-changing, like water. This constant change is both the source of pleasure and the source of pain. A lot of people fear change – including myself – and therefore try to grip the present moment. Though, without change there is no pleasure, since if nothing ever change what would you have to be excited for? Meditation can be a perfect method to work through emotions and allow them to rise to the surface and go again. This chakra encourages us to open to life just as it is and if you allow yourself to accept what is, you taste the sweetness of life. If you let go of your resistance to life, your hips will let go, you reproductive organs become less tense and you’re open to experience your sensuality and sexuality.

Towards freedom, passion and growth

Foods associated with these chakra are orange foods, sweet foods (such as carrots, oranges and squash) and liquids. Drinking lots of liquid and using herbs as cinnamon and ginger can help to balance this energy center. The practice of pranayama can also be very helpful in creating balance in this chakra, especially alternate nostril breathing. Ideally, this should be done in quiet space and twice a day. In terms of yoga asanas, backward and forward bends and squatting strengthen this chakra. As well as any hip and groin openers, since they provide freedom of movement in the pelvis, such as Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose), Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon Pose), Pavistha Konasana (Open Angle Pose) or Dhanurasana (Bow Pose). These hip and groin openers should never be forced, since they require the subtle feminine tough of sensitivity and surrender. This second chakra helps you to let go of control as it guides you to see life from a different perspective. From your first primary grounding chakra, you have the possibility to move forward into a world of freedom, passion and growth through a balanced second chakra.

Bow pose

Bow pose

 

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Viniyoga – Personalized Gentle Yoga Style

Personalized Yoga

Personalized Yoga

Viniyoga is an individual approach to yoga which is all about adaptation. Viniyoga is an ancient Sanskrit word with multiple meanings including ‘separation’, ‘use’ and ‘application’. This yoga style is based on a teacher-student relationship and is designed to meet the specific needs of the individual by giving tools to individualize and actualize the process of self-discovery and personal transformation. The goal is to enhance wellness, healing, flexibility and strength of joints. Viniyoga includes asana, pranayama, bandha, chanting, meditation, personal rituals and study of texts. The emphasis of viniyoga is on coordinating breath and movement, in fact each movement is led by the breath. Viniyoga is usually taught privately, one on one or in small groups, since poses and flows are chosen to suit the student’s abilities.

Origin

Viniyoga is created by T.K.V. Desikachar, the son of Sri T. Krishnamacharya in the 1970s. Krishnamacharya prominent students include Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the most prominent figures in yoga’s dissemination to the West. His son Desikachar carries on the guru’s legacy as the world’s foremost Viniyoga authority. His conviction is that yoga practice should be adapted to fit the individuality and particular situation of each practitioner. He later distanced himself from the term.

What to Expect

The yoga poses are synchronized with the breath in sequences determined by the individual needs of the practitioner. Since Viniyoga is so adaptable, it makes yoga available to those with physical limitations, whether through injury, illness or age. The postures are modified to meet the needs of the individual student. It can be very gentle, but not necessarily or exclusively so. If a student is more adept, then so will the yoga practice. This adaptable approach requires an understanding of a person’s present condition, personal potential, appropriate goals and the means available. Because of this personal and adaptable approach, viniyoga teachers have had extensive training to create a personal practice for every student based on factors as health, age, physical condition and past or current injuries. Therefore teachers tend to be experts on anatomy and yoga therapy. In addition, they are well trained in creating a practice which addresses every level of your being – not just the body – but also on a spiritual or religious level through for example praying, music, chanting, rituals and intentions. This may also include emotional challenges managed by for example breathing practices.

Compared to other styles of yoga

The flowing movement seen in Viniyoga is similar to Ashtanga Vinyasa’s dynamic series, but it has a much less vigorous pace. There is a strong focus on alignment and poses are held for a consistent number of breaths with rest in between. Though compared to Iyengar Yoga, Viniyoga has a more relaxed approach to placement of the body, the emphasis is placed on lengthening the spine. A standardized program as seen in Bikram or Sivananda Yoga is not used, since the yoga practice is made suitable for the individual. The teacher will usually inquire about your condition, injuries and needs and then create your yoga practice based on your information. For the same reason, a viniyoga teacher will never push you into a posture nor encourage you to use force. The overall aim is to feel energized, strengthened and relaxed after your yoga practice. A yoga practice which is perfectly designed for you and includes the right challenges. How wonderful is that?

Vini Yoga Therapy

Vini Yoga Therapy

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Balance you life and yoga practice with Sthira and Sukha

Patanjali described yoga asana as “Sthira Sukham Asanam” or ‘a steady, comfortable posture.’ Sthira refers to steadiness and firmness in your yoga practise and sukha involves gentleness, softness and ease. Cultivating steadiness and ease in each pose requires a combination of effort and release. These two Sanskrit words are opposite, but equally important. It are qualities to nurture on and off the mat. Sthira and sukha are complimentary poles, like Yin and Yang and they teach us the wisdom of balance. If you find balance, you will find inner harmony, both in your practice and in your life. The way you practice yoga mirrors the way you live your daily life. Therefore, yoga can be a great tool for developing greater insight into ourselves and the world around us.

Sukha

Sukha can also be translated as pleasurable, joyful, agreeable, easy, comfortable, light, happy, prosperous or relaxed. It is the opposite of discomfort, suffering or pain. By cultivating sukha, you incorporate a light, mindful approach to the asanas. Your pose is joyful and soft.

Sthira

You can translate sthira as stable, firm, resolute, steady, alert, motionless or changeless. The pose must be strong and active, if you would like to embody sthira. It also refers to the ability to pay attention and to be present. It is the opposite of agitation. It includes both physical and mental stillness: a controlled, fully engaged body and a focused mind.

The breath

Finding sthira and sukha in your yoga practice can truly take it to the next level. These qualities are accessible in every asana, but it’s up to you cultivate them. The breath naturally embodies sthira and sukha. You can inhale sthira with each breath and channel this new energy into strength and steadiness. There is a firmness to the inhale, since there is an element of strength to the diaphragm filling and pressing downward. With each exhale sukha or release is possible, since the volume of the diaphragm decreases and the pressure moves up and air is pushed out from the lungs. The breath ultimately represents the quality of each asana and is therefore the best place to begin. If you cultivate steadiness and ease of the breath, your yoga asanas will blossom.

In your asana practice

According to Patanjali, an asana is properly performed when – in the muscles and the mind – there is stability and alertness without tension as well as relaxation without heaviness. If you practice yoga with strength and in a relaxed manner it gives rise to harmony with the physical body. You can look for example at warrior II pose. You keep the hips squared forward with proper placement of the feet which requires balance and grounding. The holding of straight arms further increases the intensity of this pose. Sthira is found with the proper foot position and in the ground of the outer back foot, in sinking down into the pose with strong legs and in the breath. Ease can be found with relaxed shoulders, with a gaze upward, a soft forehead and with each exhale.

Integrating in your daily life

The next challenge is to find this delicate balance between the effort of sthira with the comfort of sukha in the rest of your life as well. A lot of people struggle to find balance in their lives. We feel exhausted, depleted, drained and find it hard to unwind during our free time. The first step is self-study or Svadhyaya (the fourth of the five niyamas). If you learn to recognize when you are out of balance, you can start to change this imbalance. If you bring a balance of sthira and sukha into your life you cultivate a habit of facing difficult moments in your life with a soft heart.

Too much sthira

In our busy society we usually have too much sthira or effort. We’re working too hard and we would like to do too many things after work and as a result we feel tired and exhausted. That is why burn-out is such a common phenomenon nowadays. So how do we incorporate more sukha or ease or lightness into our lives? One important thing is the breath, make sure you breathe deeply. Take time to nourish and nurture yourself, rest and be still through for example meditation and/or pranayama. You will drain yourself if you keep on living a faced paced life. It seems like we lost our patience in this society; everything needs to be done quick and easy; eating, cooking, sleeping, driving and so on. Ready made meals and magnetrons are apparent in almost every household and our children need to be joining at least one sport club and an art class. By giving yourself permission to relax, you will give people around you permission to relax as well. Here are a couple of things you could do to incorporate more sukha in your life: 

  • Practice restorative yoga poses (for sure you will develop more patience)
  • Go on a nature walk
  • Read a book
  • Meditate
  • Enjoy the process of slow cooking

You could also try to bring attentiveness to the action you’re doing and at the same time find a way to relax and be comfortable as well, for example while you’re driving in heavy traffic. In regards to relationships, you could focus on being grounded as well as kind, open and receptive to others.

The next level

If you learn to relax your muscles in the yoga asanas, you will be able to achieve greater comfort. As a result this will allow your mind to calm and makes it easier to focus inwards. Through meditation you can access the higher states of your mind. It is not without reason that the meaning of asana is ‘a comfortable steady seat’. The development of sthira and sukha in your asana practice is a great way to guide the physical body toward becoming more open and receptive to the effects of meditation. Your balanced practice of yoga asanas will prepare you for the next stages: pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. So you can focus on the ultimate goal of yoga; a non-physical uniting with the Self or God and reaching ultimate freedom.

 

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Yoga Inversions and Menstruation: Yes or No?

The other day I had a discussion on whether to invert or not while having your period. Opinions about this subject vary widely. On the extreme ends you have people who say you don’t need to change your yoga practice at all while menstruating and others say you should not do any yoga except for some gentle restorative yoga poses while menstruating. If I’ve my period I usually practice inversions like headstand and shoulder stand. I think your body should be your guide, since every woman has different experiences. For sure it is a controversial issue. Most yoga teachers always offer other options, if you don’t feel like doing inversions, because you’re having your period or for any other reason. A lot of women choose not to invert while menstruating, because the blood flow can be interrupted or disturbed. I think it is important to honour your body, for example you should give yourself permission to take it easy if you are experiencing  discomfort such as low energy level, pain, mood swings, fatigue, bloating and irritability.

Turning inward

Naturally, menstruation is a time to look within and explore. Women have an increased awareness and sensitivity during this period. Therefore, existing problems and issues in your life can affect you more strongly. Your period is a time to nurture and heal your body and mind. The menstrual cycle is also very delicate and easily affected by stress, travel, diet changes and emotional issues. My menstrual period started irregular, but when I was living in Senegal for three months my period became regular to my surprise. During my stay in Senegal, I felt relaxed, enjoyed the lovely weather and was eating fish regularly. The state of your menstrual cycle is a reflection of the state of your physical and mental health. Your mind can have a great impact on your cycle as well. Therefore it can be helpful to include meditation and reflection into your practice.

Inversions

Certain asanas are said to be avoided during menstruation, especially inversions or any asana that makes the uterus upside down. Once again, my opinion is that every woman needs to decide for herself, since we all have such different experiences. The reasoning is that if you practice inversions one type of prana, known as apana, which normally flows in the downward direction from the manipur chakra (navel centre) to mooladhar chakra (cervix) is reversed. This can be useful to increase the prana in the body and to help awaken the kundalini energy. Though, if you’re menstruating it goes against the natural flow and in some women this can stop or disturb the menstruation. Another reason for not practicing inversions during your period is that the uterus is pulled towards the head and causes the broad ligaments to be over stretched. This can cause partial collapse of the veins and leaving open arteries to continue pumping blood. This can lead to vascular congestion and increased menstrual bleeding.

Powerful asanas

Besides inversions, strong asanas in particular strong backbends, twists, arm balances and standing positions that put a lot of stress on the abdominal and pelvic region should be avoided. Also, because these positions need more physical strength and exertion which can be lacking during your period and can be depleted further by intense practice. Bandhas should be avoided for similar reasons. In the end, it is all about listening to your body and accepting that menstruation is a time of introversion, acceptance and balance. If you decide to practice yoga while on your period, do not push or strain and instead do some more gentle poses, but hold them a little longer.

Yoga for menstrual discomfort

Gentle yoga poses can actually alleviate the painful symptoms of your period. The following asanas are great choices if you’re experiencing menstrual cramps and bloating:

  • Bhadrasana or butterfly pose
  • (Ardha) Paschimottanasana or (half) seated forward bend
  • Marjariasana or cat pose
  • Pavanamuktasana or the wind relieving pose
  • Viparita Karani or legs-up-the-wall pose
  • Vajrasana or diamond pose
  • Savasana or corpse pose

A gentle restorative yoga practice can ease away any period or back pain, balance the emotions – mood swings, anxiety, anger, depression, irritability and gentle open the pelvic region, relieving any congestion. Other techniques such as pranayama, yoga nidra and meditation can be very beneficial. In general, it is recommended to practice positions that allow one to become more grounded, to alleviate any emotional disturbances and to gain inner strength. Or any poses that relax and lengthen the abdomen, since they are great for menstrual cramps. It is not the best idea to spend a long time in child’s pose, contrary to most women’s urge to curl up into fetal position while experiencing cramps. Since the already tense muscles tend to stay tight in child’s pose.

 

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Human ‘beings’

Anyone who  has received a ‘thumbs up’ gesture or made the ‘peace sign’ knows the power of gestures. You might have come across less supporting gestures during rush hour. These hand gestures are mudras which can be used to emphasise a physical, mental or emotional attitude. Mostly, mudras are hand or finger gestures, but mudras can be performed with the whole body as well. They create subtle changes within the body that affect our mental, emotional and physical states.

The word mudra means ‘to seal, close or lock up’ in Sanskrit. In yoga, mudras are used in conjunction with pranayama, generally while in a seated pose to stimulate different parts of the body. They work by using different finger positions or positions of the body to direct your energy in a way that cultivates specific thought patterns or qualities of mind. For example, there are mudras to create courage, compassion, wisdom, strength of mind or joy.

Mudras can help you to step out of our busy world of action into a world of pure being. Even while practicing yoga, action is required; movements, breath control, even visualisations require mental action. However, we are human ‘beings’, not human ‘doings’. If you practice a mudra, all movement ceases. You create a break from the world of action and an opportunity arise to reconnect with your state of pure being within.

Within the yoga world and in India one of the most used and known mudras is Namaste or the Anjali Mudra. It is a simple action made by bringing together both palms of the hands before the heart and lightly bowing the head. It is used as a sign of respect and greeting in India and is incorporated into many yoga asanas. In Sanskrit the word namah means ‘to bow or to bend’ and te means you. So Namaste means ‘I bow to you’ in Sanskrit. Namaste has a deeper spiritual significance, since it recognizes the belief that the life force, the divinity or the Self is the same in all. If you acknowledge this oneness with the meeting of the palms, you honour the God in the person you meet. This recognition will help you to see the true divine spirit in everyone, including yourself and look beyond the surface into the true nature of every being. 

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Yoga of the Props

Iyengar yoga is created by B.K.S. Iyengar and characterized by great attention to detail and precise focus on body alignment. He has developed an innovative and inspired approach to classical Hatha yoga. Iyengar yoga teachers have completed at least two years of rigorous training through a world-wide standardized system of instruction. The Iyengar yoga style is known for its use of props such as; straps, blocks, blankets, cushions or chairs to help one adjust or support oneself in the different postures. The props, invented by Iyengar during his lifetime of study, make the postures accessible to both the less flexible and the fit and advanced students. Props maximise the opening and awareness of the body and enable students to perform the asanas correctly and minimising the risk of injury or strain. They can also be helpful for sick or disabled people who highly benefit from the asanas.

In terms of asana and pranayama practice, the Iyengar method focuses particularly on three aspects: body alignment or technique, sequencing and timing. Correct body alignment allows the body to develop harmoniously in an anatomically correct way to prevent injury or pain. The precise and careful attention promotes the development of strength, endurance and suppleness – physically, mentally and emotionally. Hence an Iyengar yoga teacher will correct misalignment actively.

Correct sequencing refers to a powerful cumulative effect achieved by practicing asanas and pranayama in particular sequences. There are few more or less strict rules within the topic of sequencing asanas. For example, standing poses are a good preparation for forward bends and after a deep forward bend a few twists are recommended to balance and release your spinal muscles.

Timing refers to the length of time spent in asanas or pranayama. If the postures are held for considerable length of time the effects of the poses pierce deeper within you while the alignment is perfected. Therefore you will find very little flow in Iyengar style yoga and you will rest in child’s pose in between poses. It is not so much a cardiovascular experience as for example a Vinyasa yoga class. Though, holding poses requires strength and is excellent for increasing flexibility. Iyengar yoga is a great style for ill people or elderly, because of the absence of flow or cardiovascular exercise. In addition, Iyengar yoga can also be very appealing to more advanced yoga practitioners who would like to work on their alignment. From my own experience, I can say an Iyengar yoga class is definitely not easy. It requires perseverance to hold a pose for a reasonable amount of time. In addition, Iyengar yoga is very precise, technical and focused on anatomy and subtle movements. The use of props creates a whole range of creative and innovative poses and allows me to practice intense poses safely and without pain.

Nowadays, Iyengar yoga is one of the most practised styles of yoga worldwide. The influence of Iyengar yoga is prevalent in almost every yoga style by the way poses are taught and props are used. Iyengar’s book: ‘Light on Yoga’ has become a yoga classic and the gold standard for its illustration and explanation of hundreds of yoga poses. So Iyengar yoga is definitely worth a try.

“When I practice, I am a philosopher,

When I teach, I am a scientist,

When I demonstrate, I am an artist.”

 – B.K.S. Iyengar –

 

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