Learning to execute basic postures (asanas) is the third basic principle for a beginner yoga practitioner. The primary purpose is to help restore and maintain a practitioner's well-being.
More than just stretching, yoga poses (asanas) open the energy channels, chakras and psychic centers of the body. Asanas purify and strengthen the body and control and focus the mind. Asana is one of the eight limbs of classical Yoga, which states that asana should be steady and comfortable, firm yet relaxed.
As a rule there are a few considerations to take before a yoga session: The stomach should be empty; force or pressure should not be used, and the body should not tremble; lower the head and other parts of the body slowly; in particular, raised heels should be lowered slowly; and the breathing should be controlled.
When holding a yoga posture, make sure you can breathe slowly and deeply. Go to your edge in the posture, holding where you feel a good stretch and/or your body working, but don't feel pain, strain or fatigue.
Remember the four important elements of yoga practice. Breathing, meditation, basic postures and relaxation. Here I present four of the most important postures, as a follow up on correct breathing and your initiation with meditation with the Easy Pose as described in the article, Yoga Intro.
- From a standing position, bring the feet together or keep them hip width apart, but parallel. Lift up the toes, spread them wide and place them back on the floor. Feel your weight evenly balanced through the bottom of each foot, not leaning forward or back.
- Feel the hips aligned directly over the ankles. The legs are straight, but the knees are not locked back. Lift your arms and your heels, stretch up and gaze at the sky. If you can't hold the balance on the balls of your feet for too long, lower your heels accordingly and try again without interrupting the other aspects of the pose.
- Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute, breathing easily.
- From Mountain pose exhale forward hinging at the hips. Bend the knees enough to bring the palms flat to the floor and the head pressed against the knees, if possible.
- Feel the spine stretching in opposite directions as you pull the head down and in and press the hips up. Work on straightening the legs to deepen the stretch in the backs of the legs.
- Let your head hang from the root of the neck, which is deep in the upper back, between the shoulder blades.
- Don't roll the spine to come up. Instead bring your hands back onto your hips and reaffirm the length of the front torso. Then press your tailbone down and into the pelvis and come up on an inhalation with a long front torso.
- Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute, and practice holding your breath for a few seconds in between.
- Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under.
- Using straight (but not locked) arms, press the hips up and back reaching the chest towards the thighs. Lift up through the tailbone to keep the spine straight and long.
- Let the head and neck hang freely from the shoulders or look up at the belly button.
- Adho Mukha Svanasana is one of the poses in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. It's also an excellent yoga asana all on its own. Stay in this pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes.
- Spread the fingers wide apart with the middle finger pointing forward, press into the palms with the straight but not locked. Tuck the tailbone under so the legs, hips and torso are one straight line.
- This pose is one of the positions in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. You can also perform this pose by itself and stay anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Other articles in this series:
- Yoga introduction
- Yoga poses II
- Yoga basics; Timothy Burgin.
- The yoga journal; Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc.
- Yoga; The holistic Care.
- The Health Benefits of Yoga; WebMD.
- Acrocore yoga and fitness; Andreas Fetz.
- The Practical Sanskrit Dictionary; Apte, Vaman Shivram.
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