Quite often I come across (potential) new yoga students who say; “I am too tight for yoga”. In my opinion you are never too tight for yoga. Not every pose will be accessible for every body, but this doesn’t make you a better yogi or yogini. A regular yoga practice is highly likely to increase your range of motion. This is definitely beneficial and for some of us the main reason to practice yoga and I see it as a complementary side-effect. When admiring my mum’s flexibility as a child she always said: “Flexibility can’t buy anything”. In other words it is not serving a purpose or is beneficial in everyday life to be super flexible. You can consider flexibility even as a disadvantage within your asana practice, since a flexible body is more likely to get injured due to overstretching. And for the yogis and yoginis with less range of motion, good news; you don’t have to go so far to experience a stretch and your body will give you clear signals if you’re going too far. If you’re up for a challenge and/or an advanced yoga pose; lie down in savasana for 15 minutes with a calm mind. That is the real yoga challenge; slow down your thoughts and ease your mind. Welcome to this lifelong journey, called Yoga.
Posts Tagged With: savasana
Often during a yoga class, the instructor tells you to roll to your right-hand side after relaxation or savasana. Most asanas are also performed from the right to the left and not the other way around. Have you ever wondered why?
First of all, rolling to the right or the right side has a symbolic reason. In India, it is considered more auspicious to enter a holy place with the right foot and in many parts of the world we extend our right hand in greeting. The right side also represents the east or the rising sun. Therefore rolling toward the east can symbolize asking for blessings, grace and bliss.
The right side rolling can also be explained by using the yogic subtle anatomy teachings. According to yoga teachings you also have a subtle or energy body, besides the physical body. This energy body comprises of chakras and nadis, making up many thousands of energy lines or channels. The main energy line runs along the length of your spine and is called shusumna. Spiralling either side of shusumna are pingala and ida, which end at the tip of the right and left nostrils respectively. Pingala on the right side represents the masculine forces of heat, activity and alertness or the sympathetic nervous system. Ida on the left is more feminine, cooling, passive and restful, referring to the parasympathetic nervous system. Rolling to the right side after savasana can help us to wake up by stimulating pingala nadi. In this way, we prepare ourselves to become more active again after a deep relaxation state.
There is also a physical explanation (from the perspective of the Western anatomical model) to roll to the right side rather than the left. Since the heart is on the left, rolling to the right brings the heart on top and therefore puts less pressure on the heart and helps allow the blood pressure reach homeostasis.
So right it is? It depends really. For example, pregnant women should lie on their left because it makes the heart’s job easier as it keeps the baby’s weight from applying pressure to the large vein (inferior vena cava) that carries blood from the lower part of the body back to the heart. Lying on the left improves circulation to the heart and allows for the best blood flow to the fetus, uterus and kidneys. Since the liver is on the right side of your abdomen, lying on the left side, will keep the uterus off that large organ.
A state of ease
Personally, I don’t think it matters so much to which side you roll from relaxation. If you do a strong yoga practice in the evening rolling to the left side, could for example assist with preparing you for a good night sleep. It is good to know the reasoning behind right or left rolling, so you can make an informed decision yourself based on your personal constitution and your plans after your yoga practice. Most importantly, take your time to come out of savasana, since your nervous system has ideally shifted to a state of ease (lower heart rate and blood pressure, stimulation of digestive processes, lower body temperature and release of endorphins). Therefore savasana can be considered as the most important pose of your practice. And above all, don’t overthink, but feel. Good luck!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m so happy to share my latest news: I have registered myself for a Yoga Teacher’s Training!!!!! I’m so excited to have made this decision. It is a part time training; one weekend per month for six months and will start in February 2013 in Auckland in New Zealand.
Last night while I was lying down in savasana (corpse pose) to end a great yoga class, I realized how good it feels to follow my heart & dreams. All the decisions I have made using my heart, resulted in beautiful life changing experiences. For example, I remembered the one day I just felt I had to register myself for The Journey Practitioner’s Programme of Brandon Bays. My mind worried a bit about how I was going to pay for costs as a student, but my heart just screamed for it. So I did and it caused a breakthrough in my life.
When I moved to another city in The Netherlands without a clear purpose or reason, I felt lonely in the beginning and blamed myself to have made this crazy move without job or a social network in a new environment. Hindsight has taught me how I have grown personally and developed myself because of this spontaneous move. In addition, I met amazing people, including my perfect partner.
And then the BIG move to New Zealand to live with my partner. A lot of people say I’m brave and strong to move to the other side of the world far away from my family and friends and again without work. Though, I have never made a decision so quick and easy. My heart almost begged me to do this. Even though, we had only been together for a couple of months. Here I am, living in New Zealand for about 14 months already. Of course, I have my difficult and emotional moments at times, but in general I can say I feel really grateful & happy to live in this beautiful country together with my lovely partner. My new life in New Zealand has provided me with time, energy and space to develop and deepen my yoga practice and to finally make the decision to start a Yoga Teacher’s Training. It feels so right.
Now and then my mind disturbs me with doubts and worries; ‘It is a lot of money and your temporary agreement is almost ending!’, ‘You’re way to insecure to be a Teacher’, ‘Your English is not perfect enough’, ‘You’re not flexible enough’ and so on. Then I remind myself, it is not about the destination, but about the goal. So maybe my journey to become a yoga teacher will take a lifetime, so be it. At least, I have dreams and goals to live for and from.