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Prenatal Yoga: Poses for Each Trimester

Who said pregnancy doesn’t have its own beauty?

Although pregnancy may seem at times like a long and arduous process, it is a journey that goes beyond its challenges, and therein lies its beauty. Just as a baby is born into the world, a woman emerges from pregnancy as a mother… Every day, hormones and body changes create new needs for the mother-to-be, and prenatal yoga can be a great option to address those needs. It is also a good way to prepare the body for delivery, both physically and spiritually. Research has shown that prenatal yoga is very useful in dealing with the stress factors of daily life, and it can be a key component in ensuring maximum health for both mother and baby.

Why Should You Practice Prenatal Yoga

Prenatal yoga movements consist of soft, easy poses that open up space for you and your baby while rebuilding the relationship between your body and the breathing cycle. The main focus of prenatal yoga is not to practice poses perfectly or to prevent weight gain.  It’s about training the body and mind to deliver and feed the baby by focusing on mindful breathing while stretching the body.

Prenatal yoga is also a great practice for gently welcoming the physical changes of the pregnancy period. It allows you to adapt more easily to your physical, mental, hormonal, and spiritual changes, which start at the beginning of pregnancy and continue through delivery and into motherhood.

Is It Helpful For Labor? 

Whether you have a vaginal birth or a c-section, practicing yoga during pregnancy prepares your mind and body for labor.  It helps to eliminate abdominal fat and keep your core strong by building muscle strength. It also increases flexibility, which aids in getting back into shape post-delivery. The breathing techniques learned in yoga can prepare you physically for delivery and help you get through it in a more relaxed manner. Since it prepares the pelvic floor muscles for the birthing process, it also teaches you how to use these muscles during labor and encourages postpartum recovery. You not only learn how to breathe and relax your uterus but to act according to your intuition throughout labor as well.

What About Body Pains?

It is natural to have a number of challenges during pregnancy, such as back pain, digestion problems, and stress due to bodily changes. Prenatal yoga can help to ease body pains with some target-oriented asanas.

Mental Health During Pregnancy

Prenatal yoga builds the foundation for effective communication with your baby by reducing anxiety and stress about pregnancy and the birthing process.  Breathing techniques and simple meditations help you to focus on the present moment and be aware of the baby living inside. Prenatal yoga classes are also a meeting platform for women who share a similar journey. That’s why classes create a supportive environment for mothers, who can use this time not only to practice but also share their physical and psychological feelings.

Related: Need to Calm Yourself? Here Are 7 Ways

Here are some of the best prenatal yoga poses for each trimester of your pregnancy. These poses may assist in easing pregnancy-related issues and help you enjoy your journey to its fullest.

1)   Yoga Poses For The First Trimester ( 0-13 weeks)

You don’t need to have done yoga before to practice prenatal yoga, but it’s recommended that you delay practicing until your second trimester (14th week) without your doctor’s permission if you’ve never practiced yoga before.  

The first trimester of your pregnancy can be very challenging, both spiritual and physical, due to rapidly changing hormone levels, decreases in blood pressure, and the relaxation of muscles and joints. Morning sickness and nausea are also challenging factors of the first trimester. Although experts generally do not advise doing yoga during the first trimester, some doctors may okay the practice of gentle poses if you are an experienced practitioner. Gentle yoga poses may improve breath capacity and relaxation and can be really helpful in coping with these challenging issues.  On the other hand,  inversions closed twists, or backbend poses are not recommended because there might be some compression on the uterus due to overstretching the abdominal area.

Here are some gentle poses you can practice. Even though the baby is protected in your womb, there is a lot of growth during the first trimester. Be sure to listen to your body. If you don’t feel ok, please do not hesitate to quit the practice. Don’t forget to inhale while you are doing the pose and exhale gently from the mouth.

Yoga Poses For The First Trimester

Open-Seated Twist Poses

  •   Parivritta Janu Sirsana
  •   Marichi’s Pose
  •   Baddha Konasana
  •   Supported Upavistha Konasana

prenatal yoga

Standing Poses 

Most of the standing poses can be practiced safely during the first trimester as long as you take care not to stretch too much.

  •   Trikonasa
  •   Parsvakonasana
  •   Warrior I-II-III

Standing Poses 

 Balancing Poses

  •   Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
  •   Garudasana Arms (Do not practice legs as it may increase intra-abdominal pressure.)

prenatal yoga

Relaxing Poses

  •   Child’s Pose
  •   Viparita Karani (Legs up to wall)
  •   Savasana on your back

2)   Yoga Poses For Second Trimester ( 14th-26th weeks)

 The second trimester is generally called the “honeymoon of pregnancy”. Hormone levels stabilize, and energy levels increase. You feel more energetic and most of the unpleasant symptoms from the first trimester decrease at this time. The belly grows but isn’t yet uncomfortable, and many women find this to be the most enjoyable time of pregnancy. For this reason, it can be used not only to prepare the body for delivery and the postpartum period but also to make space for the baby. Poses that strengthen the arm and leg muscles are also very effective. Although it seems irrelevant to strengthen the arm muscles, strong arms will be very useful after delivery when you need to carry and hold the baby. It’s important to increase breath capacity and learn how to extend exhalations as well.

Here are some gentle poses you can practice in the second trimester. Keep in mind that if you have problems such as pubic and pelvic pain, reflux, hemorrhoids, or varicosis, some of the poses may not be useful and could even increase your pains. That’s why it’s essential to practice with an experienced instructor if you suffer from these conditions.

Yoga Poses For Second Trimester

Standing Poses

  •   Trikonasana
  •   Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle)
  •   Warrior I-II-III
  •   Horse Pose
  •   Reversed Warrior
  •   Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)
  •   Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
  •   Tadasana with Viparita Namaskar

prenatal yoga

Poses on Mat

  •   Supta Padangusthasana
  •   Baddha Konasana
  •   Supported Supta Virasana
  •   Vasisthasana on all fours
  •   Gate Pose
  •   Pawanmuktasana
  •   Bridge Pose
  •   Happy Baby Pose

All of the poses from the first trimester can be practiced in the second trimester as well.

3)   Yoga Poses For Third Trimester ( 26th– 40th weeks)

The last trimester of pregnancy is considered to be the most spiritual. It’s ideal to use as a preparation time for labor, both spiritually and physically. Because of this, yoga poses that improve the mobility of hip joints are recommended. Breathing may be difficult due to pressure on the diaphragm by the growing baby so poses that widen the chest area might be helpful.  It will also be very useful to relax as much as possible and experience the poses that will prepare the baby to pass through the birth canal. Meditation practices with breathing exercises can aid in relaxation and are helpful for labor as well.

Yoga Poses For Third Trimester

Here are some poses you can practice in the third trimester:

  •   Horse Pose
  •   Shiva Tandava Dance
  •   Supported Malasana Pose
  •   Cat and Cow
  •   Balasana
  •   Viparita Karani
  •   Pigeon Pose
  •   Baddha Konasana

prenatal yoga

Poses to Avoid

While prenatal yoga is generally safe and beneficial, there are some poses that should be avoided during pregnancy to stay in the safety zone for both mother and baby.

Closed Twists: Twisting poses may increase intra-abdominal pressure and directly affects your blood circulation.

Deep Backbends: As you can guess, deep backbends open the front of the body and create over-stretching in the abdominal area as well.

Inversions: Practicing inversions can also be dangerous because of the pressure on the spine and the possibility of falling.

Practicing prenatal yoga can be very helpful during the pregnancy journey, both physically and spiritually. It can help women feel the connection between their minds, bodies, and the baby months before birth takes place and help them make the most of this joyous time.

 

Related: Nutrition in Pregnancy

 

Yoga for Beginners: 6 Yoga Practices for the Beginner Yogi

Yoga is an extremely popular form of exercise, chosen for its impressive impact on both the mind and body, but it is clear that some people still shy away from trying it. We get it! Starting something new can be a bit daunting! Someone might feel they aren’t in the right physical shape to do yoga, or that they aren’t flexible enough (you are, and you are). Everyone begins somewhere!

There can be a misconception that yoga is simply meditating with your legs crossed. Yoga, in reality, can be challenging for any beginner, and not just physically. There is a mental and psychological component, as well. Choosing a style, an instructor, or a studio that satisfies our needs physically, spiritually, and mentally is very important.

The good news is that you are in the right place to begin your exploration into yoga. Here are six basic yoga tips for beginners!

1. Choose your style of yoga.

There are different styles of yoga, and choosing one that will keep you motivated is important. If you find the right style, you’ll find that the practice benefits your overall physical and mental wellbeing. 

One of the first things you should consider is what, exactly, you want from your yoga practice. Do you want to sweat a lot and really push yourself to become stronger? Is yoga going to be something you practice to reduce stress and increase flexibility through calming exercises? These questions are your first essential step into yoga. 

Vinyasa Yoga, Bikram Yoga, and Ashtanga Yoga are yoga practices that will make you sweat. Don’t dive in quite yet, let’s see what that means for those who practice them.

Vinyasa Yoga

This yoga is a type of Hatha Yoga, and is mainly focused on breath-motion synchronization. This yoga has movements that change with the breath cycle, meaning one pose will be held during inhalation, and during exhalation, that pose will change again. The poses are lined up one after the other to form a beautiful dance-like choreography. Each pose has a meaning that brings your body to a peak pose during the choreographed pose sequence. Since each pose is linked to each breath, this can become quite fast-paced, and can be considered a cardio class.

Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga, aka Hot Yoga, has 26 basic poses that are performed one after another in a room heated to 104F (40C). The heated environment helps the body to relax and stretch, opening up the body better. If you like your workouts hot and routine-based, then this practice may be right for you.

Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga is similar to Vinyasa Yoga in that it is practiced based on the breath cycle, however Ashtanga Yoga poses are specifically sequenced. Again, we see the poses moving from one to another like a choreographed dance. This is a stricter practice that involves increasing stretching and breath control.

On the other end of the yoga spectrum, we have slower-paced and less intense yoga practices. These practices allow you to stay in a position for a longer period of time, stretching slowly in each pose without increasing their heart rate. If sweating isn’t your thing, try one of these two styles.

yoga practices

Yin Yoga

Yin Yoga has fewer poses than other practices, but those poses help for between 5 and 10 minutes. Modifications can be made to each pose to help increase the stretch level of the poses. Another attribute that separates Yin Yoga from other practices is that there are no standing poses. All poses are performed on the ground. This very slow practice is very calming on the nervous system and increases the relaxation of the mind.

Hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga strengthens your body while also not causing you to sweat a lot. The poses are the same as Vinyasa and Ashtanga Yoga, however, you remain in each pose for 3-5 breath cycles, and the focus is on the large muscle groups.

2. Find your instructor or studio.

There are many ways you can practice yoga. You may choose to hire a private instructor, go to classes, or watch YouTube videos. Take the time to explore different options so you choose the instructor that is right for you. The right instructor can feed your motivation to continue, just like a bad instructor can suck any inspiration you have out of you. Eddie Modestini, a student of K. Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S. Lyengar, said that it is very important to find a teacher to lead a beginner yogi down a path that will help us to discover ourselves.

yoga practices with instructor

If you choose to enroll in a class, make sure the class is at a beginner level with a style you are comfortable trying. Don’t hesitate to try different studios and instructors within your chosen style to find the right fit for you. Be patient, it may take a few tries. 

3. Recognize your limitations, and do not compare.

Being honest with yourself and accepting your limitations is an important part of your yoga journey. Since yoga is not purely physical practice, acceptance of yourself as you are is one of the first steps for yoga. Yoga poses are called “asana”. Asana is one of the eight limbs of Yoga. Another limb is called “yamas”, and this refers to abstinence. That practice of abstinence is about learning restraint and respecting the limitations that come with the restraint. Within yamas is another term, satya. “Satya” refers to truth, and learning to be truthful in one’s thoughts, speech, and action.  The principle of compassion and nonviolence toward all living things, including oneself, is known as “ahimsa”. 

We can very easily see many yogis doing advanced poses (asana) on social media, and this can make us impatient to advance as quickly as possible. Some people in a beginner class may have a bit more practice with poses than we do, and practice more intermediate moves. Don’t let this push you beyond what you are ready for. Being honest with ourselves is one of the important tenets of practicing yoga. Comparing our journey to someone else’s journey is fruitless. Let’s keep our focus on ourselves and our own growth.

4. Modify poses, and use variations.

As we said before, there are a lot of asanas (poses) in yoga. Determining which poses are suitable for your level may be difficult for a beginner yogi. If you decide you want to try a pose to see if you are ready for it, remember that there are probably modifications for it to smooth your transition into it. You can use different equipment (books, chairs, yoga blocks or belts, etc) around you to help modify your workouts and transition into more difficult poses.

Yoga for Beginners: 6 Yoga Practices for the Beginner Yogi

5. Practice daily.

The idea of practicing every day may seem like a lot, and since yoga can be more difficult for beginners, practicing daily may seem like an ordeal. Yoga helps to strengthen your muscles while stretching them and increasing their flexibility. That means that regular practice will take you to the next level with your strength and flexibility. This doesn’t mean practicing for hours on end. It could mean that you do as little as 5-6 sun salutations.

6. Select your clothes and mat.

You actually don’t need specific clothes or a mat to practice yoga, but a sticky mat can make your practice more comfortable. Sticky mats can help provide the support you need and prevent injuries from sweaty hands and feet. And for clothes…well, we all know we feel a bit more motivated when we have some fresh clothes or equipment.

You are now ready to go forth and begin your yoga journey! Roll out your mat, respect your body, be patient, just practice, and you’ll feel great.

Related: Yoga and Menstruation: Poses to Avoid and Poses that Help

Yoga and Menstruation: Poses to Avoid and Poses that Help

Practicing yoga while on your period is still a controversial issue in the yoga world. Many practitioners believe that practicing yoga should be minimized. The poses practiced should be selected carefully during this time. Others feel that it is time to just rest. Menstruation is, of course, not a reason to avoid practicing yoga. But many women prefer to rest during those days of the month and spend time looking within. Each woman should decide which practice is appropriate for her body. It is important to listen to your body during this time. Each woman looks at menstruation and the need for her body and soul differently.

 

On the other hand, practicing yoga can have a positive effect on hormonal, mental, and physical health during this time. Despite the fact that there are some asanas that should be avoided during the menstruation period. There are also many beneficial asanas that help reduce its unwelcome effects.

Doing Yoga in Nature

Benefits of Yoga during Menstruation

The menstrual cycle of a woman can vary depending on the weather conditions, her diet, her stress level, and other factors. Women can become more sensitive, increasing their level of awareness…

Mood swings due to hormonal changes may be an unfortunate side effect. Practicing yoga can help to minimize these hormonal imbalances. Meditation and breathing or yoga nidra are good choices for those who prefer to rest during this time. The yin poses of yoga, which can be described as gentle poses, can be practiced longer. This type of practice helps women to become more grounded and tap into their inner strength.

Practicing yoga may also improve the quality of sleep by prolonging a deep sleep state, which helps women allocate some time for themselves.  Yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, may also be practiced by women who prefer to take things easy during her period.

It is believed in yoga that energy flows to a chosen point by focusing the attention on a specific area of the body (dharana).  Sending deep breaths to a cramping area may relieve specific pains. Using this concentrated breathing during practicing yoga poses could also minimize the cramps in the abdominal area.

Yoga Poses to Practice during Menstruation

If you decide to practice yoga while menstruating, you should be sure to listen carefully to your body’s cues. The following poses can help you reduce the side effects of menstruation.

1) Forward Fold Poses

Practicing gentle forward bend asanas ensures that the blood flows towards the uterus by gently increasing intra-abdominal pressure. This creates a massage effect on the abdominal and pelvic areas and eliminates cramping and heavy bleeding. Combining the poses with concentrated breathing can help to calm the mind.

Forward Fold Poses

The following three forward fold poses can be practiced during menstruation with the support of cushions or a bolster. Be sure to fold forward gently while doing yoga during your period and do not force yourself…

Here are some basic forward fold poses that you can try:

  • Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Forward Bend Pose)
  • Seated Forward Bend (Place a bolster on your quadriceps.)
  • Head-to-Knee Forward Bend (Place a bolster on your leg.)

2) Gentle Twisting Poses

Gentle twisting asanas with an accurate exhalation can help your lower back pain, cramping, and congestion. It is important to take a deep breath before getting into position and twist when you exhale. However, some of the specific twistings pose in yoga can be overstimulating for your pelvic and abdominal areas so it is recommended that they are practiced with caution during menstruation…

Gentle Twisting Poses

Practicing the following twisting yoga poses gently can massage the pelvic area and minimize lower back pain. Remember to use blankets or a bolster under your knees, and don’t forget to breathe.

  • Parivrtta Sukhasana (Easy Twist Pose)
  • Supta Matsyendrasana (Reclining Spine Twist)

3)  Gentle Backbend Poses

Supported gentle backbends could also be very efficient in reducing menstrual pain and pelvic discomfort. Backbend poses to open the front of the body and allow the breath to reach the pelvic area more comfortably. Strong backbends should not be practiced as they may cause undue pressure to the pelvic ligaments.

Yoga and Menstruation: Poses that Help

The following backbends not only help to relieve menstrual cramps but also are good for pains in the shoulders and back…

  • Supported Supta Vajrasana (Supported Reclined Thunderbolt Pose – Place a bolster or pillow under your back.)
  • Cobra Pose
  • Supported Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose – Place a yoga block under the sacrum.)

Yoga Poses to Avoid during Menstruation 

Some yoga poses are described as ‘contraindicated,’ which means that they are inadvisable for the practitioners. The more known yoga schools forbid some of the yoga poses during menstruation and encourage women to take a break during that time of the month.

Backbends and Inversions

Although some poses help to reduce the side effects of the menstrual flow. Poses like inversions should not be practiced as they may affect the expulsion of the menstrual blood.

It is believed that gravity helps the downward flow during menstruation and practicing inversions causes the direction of the blood flow to change due to gravity. But researchers have proved that gravity has no effect on this downward flow by observing the menstruation of women astronauts in the zero-gravity of space.

In the yoga world, the reason why inversions are inadvisable during a woman’s period is that the energy flows downward in the body at this time. This energy, called apana-vayu, naturally helps to move the urine and blood safely out of our bodies. Therefore, practicing inversions may negatively affect this energy flow.

Yoga and Menstruation: Poses to Avoid

Furthermore, you should not be practice deep backbends because they may create undue pressure and stress on the pelvic area. You should also avoid deep twisting for the same reason. Practicing these types of deep poses may cause an increase in contractions if there is still pain and spasms in the pelvic area.

Here are some yoga poses you should avoid while menstruating:

  • Adho Mukha Vrksasana – Handstand
  • Salamba Sirsasana – Headstand
  • Salamba Sarvangasana – Shoulder Stand
  • Urdhva Dhanurasana – Full Wheel Pose
  • Navasana – Boat pose

There are many asanas to choose from when practicing yoga during your period and some to avoid. But you should choose for yourself the ones that are most comfortable for you during this time. You know your body best., Remember these useful tips to help you listen to your body and follow your feelings while practicing yoga.

 

Namaste.

 

Related: What You Should Eat While on Your Period

 

 

Yoga: Beyond Aesthetic Instagram Asana Posts

In the Western world thanks to social media, yoga is mostly recognized by asana (yoga posture). In many countries, yoga does not exceed the boundaries of the physical body practices. Are yoga’s essence, philosophy, and intention limited by the posture? What is yoga? Why do people do yoga, go to yoga lessons, or become yoga instructors?

For thousands of years sages, hermits, and seekers of knowledge in the East. They reached different levels of consciousness by way of deep meditation and contemplation. Vedic knowledge (Vedas), inner visions, and myths that contain the knowledge of existence in itself. Such as the Bhagavad Gita, slowly began to feed society and become part of collective consciousness. Patanjali collected all the known information about yoga in the Yoga Sutras around the years 200-300 BC.

Yoga means “yuj” or “unity”

It is a system that aims to unify the individual with other humans and with all life forms of the world. With the inner space, with the invisible, and with the infinite and inexperienced formless one. It is a lifestyle, an attitude, a perspective, and a way of understanding which stands high upon eight great limbs. In the Yoga Sutras, these eight limbs brought thousands of years of work together for the first time.

Let’s take a look at them.

yoga: asana posts

 1. Yamas: Ethical and Universal Standards

Ahimsa (Non-Violence)

Ahimsa means non-violence in words, thoughts, deeds, and intentions. This non-violence is an area that begins with the person and extends through all of existence. From social interactions to your inner relationship with yourself, it is a very valuable point of view. It includes many choices from being a vegetarian to holding no grudges. When practicing Asana, it can be interpreted as embracing your body, your mind, and your feelings with compassion and avoiding compulsions that might hurt you.

Satya (Truth)

Satya means truth. It teaches speaking the truth and avoiding lies. It teaches finding your own truth, mission, and purpose for life and living according to them. In the practice of asana, Satya means knowing the limits of your anatomy, psychology, emotions, and many other things and practicing according to your truths.

Asteya (Non-Stealing)

Asteya means not stealing any property, money, or ideas. Not taking anything that is not given and not forcing others to take anything. Swami Sivananda says, “Desire or want is the root cause for stealing.” When we steal anything, including time, energy, happiness, property, promotions, money, ideas, love, or dreams, that means we actually lack what we steal.

Having no trust for the natural system or the perfection and authenticity of existence; not feeling any excitement for the path which the soul is meant to discover may reveal the jealous mask of ego and generate feelings of injustice. In asana practice, asteya involves not stealing breath or effort from others while practicing a pose and not comparing yourself with others and thus stealing value from your own pose. It also means not separating yourself from the moment of practice with your mind by projecting yourself to other times and places and instead of being able to experience the moment of practice to the fullest.

Brahmacharya (Using Energy for Unity)

Brahmacharya is working for unification. It’s being able to live for everyone in society, taking your worldviews outside your home to the world, and focusing on a certain subject to expand your creative energy. It means not being a slave to your emotions and instincts, especially lust, and keeping the level of focus you want. It is the use of sexual energy with love rather than judgment or negative emotions. When practicing asana, brahmacharya is being able to value all parts of the flow equally and see it as a whole.

Aparigraha (Non-Grasping)

Aparigraha means non-grasping. Grasping for a person, a dogma, a look, or anything else in this world that is centered around change and temporariness keeps us away from new things that will make our lives more colorful. It blocks learning by causing us to become stuck in certain parts of our lives. Aparigraha includes staying away from ambition, greed, and excessiveness. In the practice of asana, aparigraha is approaching your practice with respect, sparing some time and space for yourself, not obsessing over asanas, and not making strict habits.

yoga niyamas

2. Niyamas: Reference Points for Self Discipline and Spiritual Enlightenment

Saucha (Cleanliness)

Saucha teaches being clean in body, mind, emotions, and energy, purifying yourself in these four areas with intentions and practices for living a better life. It is the practice of asana as a clean and pure whole, creating a zone of clarity reaching from your yoga mat to your heart.

Santosha (Contentment)

 Santosha is knowing that the condition you are in is the best combination for you and acting according to the knowledge that something is “for you” rather than “to you”. Knowing what is in your way, what is good for you, and having a calm inner world are all parts of it. In asana practice, it is accepting the limitations of your body with love and celebrating your current state in the practice.

Tapas (Fire)

Tapas derives from the Sanskrit word “tap” or “fire”. It means work, discipline, and burning everything which keeps us away from real yoga. It’s the the state of being one with the universe. In asana practice, it means working with the Agni of the body (the energy of the fire element), going beyond Agni, and keeping the passion of regular practice alive.

Svadhyaya (Introspection)

Svadhyaya is the heart of yoga and its deepest stand. It is the knowledge of one’s self by way of introspection. It requires knowing the reasons behind your reactions and the meanings behind your words, your emotions, your judgments, and your mental patterns. Real freedom is freeing the self from the past and the webs of the mind. In yoga asana practice, it is accepting the movements as reference points and therefore recognizing the person who makes and applies those forms. Recognizing who that person is, what that person is, what mental or psychological state that person is in, and what the condition of that person’s self-relationship is through these movements.

Ishvara Pranidhana (The Power to Surrender)

“Ishvara” means “God” in Sanskrit, “Pranidhana” means “devotion and surrendering”. This is the walk of a person on the path of yoga into the unity, the universe, the God, or the truth. In yoga asana practice, it is the practice of the pose for reaching beyond the perception of self, rather than practicing the pose for the pose itself.

 

yoga: asana posture

3. Asana (Posture)

Asana refers to the yoga postures. Today, yoga is best known for its asana practice. As told in Hatha Yoga Pradipika, asanas are movements that are taken from nature itself or from the movements of other living beings and practiced by yogis.

Asanas have effects on all four bodies: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

There are many uses of asanas for the physical body such as softening the muscles that regulate blood flow, improving joint capacity by relieving the spinal cord through opening the vertebrae and improving lung capacity through weight control. The association of asanas with the hormonal system comes from the ability to regulate the nervous system. In regular breathing and movement, the body reduces levels of adrenaline and cortisol and increases serotonin, oxytocin, and melatonin secretions.

“Yoga Chitta vritti nirodha” or “Yoga relaxes the fluctuations on the waters of the mind” is the most meaningful sentence that comes to us from the Sutras and shows the effects of yoga on the mental body (mind). During a yoga lesson, and especially at the end of the lesson and afterward, the mind is very calm, and you can enjoy hours of deep relaxation. Yoga improves healing, health, and feelings in all bodies; cleans blockages in the meridians, nadis, and energy lines; and balances the flow overall.

Flexibility

Today, thanks to the influence of the capitalist system and the search for eternal love in the practice of asana. Both instructors and students are trying to achieve the “necessary” flexibility, strength, mobility, and balance by practicing, but in a very human way. Causing them to sometimes miss the real purpose: a deeper contact with the inner world. If we remain attached to aesthetic concerns, such as being able to achieve a posture or not being able to do so, the mind becomes solid, and the practice becomes a boring routine. The mind finds something to fight and lose again. And the invisible part remains secondary and forgotten.

We know the saying “Sthira-sukham asanam” from the Sutras, which means that asanas are patience and comfort. It describes both the state of our inner being and the experience of the body in a posture or in a variation based on our own limits and the level of our practice. It means to be rooted in our innermost area, where both the body is pleased with the mind and the mind is pleased with the body. In this way, the body is there to support a clean, clear, open, and free mind.

 

yoga mat

4. Pranayama (Energy / Breath Control)

Prana is the Sanskrit word that refers to chi, the vital energy. According to yogis, there are two large energy channels starting from the tail. And, it ends reaching the two nostrils: Ida and Pingala. If these two channels, as well as the right and left hemispheres of the brain, the masculine, and feminine energies, and all other things, are in balance; then energy rises along the Sushumna channel up and down the middle line.

Prayanama involves taking high amounts of energy into the body in different forms and intentions through breathing practices. Such as cleaning, purifying, and focusing. For this, three diaphragm locks, as well as certain body shapes, certain breathing speeds, and certain breathing techniques are applied.

5. Pratyahara (Withdrawal)

Pratyahara is being able to examine the inner world with a distance from the external world by turning all the senses inwards. It’s the controlling ahara (food / external factors) or, in other words, gaining control over the external factors.

Yogis turn themselves inwards to gain a stable power, rather than taking their power from ever-changing external factors, looks, and pleasures. Afterward, all that introspection turns into a garden of happiness and inner peace. The external factors no longer affect the yogi.

There are 3 levels of aharas in the yogic system.

The first one is our food in physical terms. We feed our bodies on 5 elements – earth, water, fire, air, and ether.

There are “impressions”  which feed the mind on the second level. Such as sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell perceptions. And they match with the subtle presence of each other; sound matches with ether, touch matches with air, sight matches with fire, taste matches with water, and smell matches with the earth. On the third level of ahara, there are “ties”. The people we keep in our lives and in our hearts feed the soul and affect us with 3 basic gunas. They are – sattva (harmony), rajas (distraction), and tamas (laziness).

Pratyahara has two faces simultaneously

Avoiding bad or inappropriate food and impressions and eating the right foods and having the right impressions and ties. We cannot provide ourselves with mental impressions without having a proper diet, proper friendships, and properties. But, pratyahara’s primary emphasis comes from being able to stay away from sensory impressions and pleasures or being able to control them; this allows the mind to leave them outside and turn inside.

As we stay away from negative and low vibrational impressions, pratyahara increases the immunity level of mind. A healthy body resists all toxins and pathogens. It wants to throw them back out when they try to invade. Likely, a healthy mind is actually strengthened against negative thoughts and external influences around it. Therefore, if you feel that you are stressed by external construction sounds, crying children, or car horns, practicing pratyahara could be the right step for you.

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Going Beyond With Control

Patanjali suggests that the last three steps of yoga should be grouped together since they are tightly bound together. These are Dharana, Dyana, and Samadhi. This is the part of the road map that emphasizes control and shows the path to nirvana.

6. Dharana

Dharana, or concentration of mind, is the unity of the mind with the object through intense focus on one object. It can be an external object such as a flower or a candle. Or it can be something internal such as chakra or an organ. Usually, this is practiced in yoga when instructors tell their students to “focus on the breath” or “follow the flow of the breath.”

7. Dyana 

Dyana is turning the concentration from the single object towards the whole existence, the whole perceived area. Therefore, the concentration becomes one that is unlimited and all-embracing. This removes the limits of the physical area in which one can express the self. In this step we experience our true selves in a way that is beyond human.

8. Samadhi 

Samadhi is a state of complete unity with existence, the creator, and everything.

In a Nutshell

These are the precious steps that yoga stands on. Both progressing in order and open at the same time to the practitioner. It is not easy to share all of this in a yoga lesson while simultaneously respecting the limits, sensitivities, and well-being of many bodies since there are many thoughts, perspectives, and volumes of books behind them. As yoga instructors, we actually pass through different steps in every lesson by sharing questions and thoughts with our students.

My suggestion to anyone who has been doing yoga or is just starting out is to take some quiet time for yourself every day. We do not have two ears and one mouth for nothing: Listen.

Stay silent and listen to what is beyond.

If you wish to join, let’s listen together with shapes, ideas, utterances, and feelings.

 

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