Tag Archives: Restoritive Yoga

Yoga and Muscle Conductivity

Muscle conductivity is simply the ability to conduct impulses, either electrical or chemical, along the muscle membrane.

Muscles enable you to move. The muscles in your arms lift and pull. Muscles in your legs help you stand, walk and run. Thumb muscles help you to hold things. Muscles in your chest help you to breathe. You have more than 600 muscles and muscle groups in your body. Muscles help us to move if we don’t have muscles we can’t move of our own free will.

Muscles function in many aspects of the body. There are three basic types of muscles:

  1. 1. Skeletal muscles function to move your body during any activity such as walking, etc.
  2. 2. Smooth muscle is found in your blood vessels and can regulate blood flow.
  3. 3. Cardiac muscle is what your heart is made of and is necessary to pump blood to all of your body.

One purpose of the skeletal muscles is to allow movement of the limbs, whereas the smooth muscles keep the body functions going. Also, the heart is a four chambered cardiac muscle, whose sole purpose is to pump blood round our bodies and keep us alive.

Traditional yoga from the ancient East didn’t emphasize how yoga can sculpt one’s body, but it definitely was all about the mind-body connection. Much of the West has evolved yoga to its own purposes, adapting it to the modern world. Originally, yoga was a way of life and being, rather than a way to look better in clothes. Nonetheless, whenever we look at a typical “yoga-crafted body,” we can’t help but admire their limber physique.

Many now believe that yoga, however, is a more balanced approach to strengthening and toning than resistance training and weight lifting. For one, it trains conscious muscle conductivity and conditions your body to perform things you do every day: walking, sitting, bending, lifting. Your body moves in the way it was designed to move.

As our understanding of the human body as a matrix of electromagnetic and chemical energies deepens, we come to see that the fascia or connective tissue (structuring, sheathing and interconnecting our circulatory system, nervous system, muscular-skeletal system, digestive track, organs and cells) is actually an energetic communication system dependent on conductivity.

The collagen that most of the connective tissue in your body is comprised of is liquid crystalline in nature. Liquid crystals (known to be semi-conductors) are designed to conduct energy in similar way that wiring system in your house conducts electricity. They are also able to send, receive, store and amplify energy signals, almost like your high-speed internet connection.

Because our fascia interconnects every system in the body, it provides a basis for both information and energy transfer beyond purely chemical origins. That is to say; while we’ve traditionally thought of communication in the body as mechanical (where chemical molecules fit into receptors like a key into a lock), we now realize we can open the lock much faster with energy (like remote control devices).

Yoga seeks to open and release the tightest places in our bodies (connective tissue, joints, ligaments and tendons) which routinely become tight and restricted through injuries, repetitive stress, poor postural habits and even emotional trauma. The amount of neural conductivity it takes to do just one simple action is huge, and any movement of the body requires an intense amount of brain power. As we perfect a physical skill, such as yoga asana most of this happens subconsciously. However, yoga can also teach you to have finer control over these movements and you progressively become more skilled.

Yoga helps better tune mind-body connection through conscious conductivity. Ultimately, yoga enhances the way you create motion and move through life. With proper yoga instruction and practice you can train yourself to become more aware and in control of all the physical actions you perform.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Yoga Practice for Improved Lung Function

A recent study has shown yoga practice to be beneficial for patients with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), an incurable, often progressive lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe normally. COPD can include Chronic Bronchitis, Emphysema, or a combination of both.

The participants in this study showed improvement in lung function, reduced shortness of breath, and a decrease in inflammation after practicing yoga for 12 weeks; this according to the “GW Center for Integrative Medicine” and a press release from the “American College of Chest Physicians.”

Study presenter Prof. Randeep Guleria, M.D. said: “We found that yoga can be a simple, cost-effective method that can help improve quality of life in patients with COPD,”

For the study, 29 COPD patients practiced yoga twice a week for an hour. Their yoga routine included yoga asanas, pranayama, kriyas (cleansing techniques), and meditation.

COPD, affecting approximately 24 million Americans is most often caused by cigarette smoking, but controlling symptoms and slowing (or stopping) progression of the disease helps improve the quality of life for patients according to researchers.

Yoga practice is an excellent form of exercise for almost anyone with COPD. When done properly it is relatively low impact, and it helps to improve both emotional and physical health.

Yoga is described as a “mind-body practice,” by the National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and although yoga’s roots are found in Eastern philosophy, it’s not necessary to hold any particular spiritual or religious beliefs to take part in classes, so it is quite possible to find classes that just focus on yoga as a way to stay fit, flexible, and relaxed.

There are many classes, including those offered for people with diagnosed health conditions, that do not focus primarily on the spiritual aspects of yoga practice. However, for anyone who feels they would benefit from the spiritual elements of yoga, that’s also okay. The main thing is to find a class and/or instructor that works best for your particular needs.

Yoga practiced as a secular exercise is made up of two essential parts. Physical postures, known as asanas, and breathing techniques, known as pranayama.

Yoga asanas are performed to help improve your balance, flexibility, range of motion and general fitness levels. They also work well to raise your energy levels, reduce stress and clear the mind from worry.

Breathing techniques (pranayama) are a vital part of yoga practice. They help you to control your breath and teach you how to use your lungs more efficiently and effectively. Pranayama can be performed while holding the asanas and/or separately as stand-alone Practice.

According to The University of Maryland Medical Center’s web-site, “Yoga improves fitness, lowers blood pressure, promotes relaxation and self-confidence, and reduces stress and anxiety. People who practice yoga tend to have good coordination, posture, flexibility, range of motion, concentration, sleep habits, and digestion. Yoga is a complementary therapy that has been used with conventional medicine to help treat a wide range of health problems.”

Specific Benefits of Yoga Practice for People With COPD

Yoga classes designed specifically for people with COPD generally offer modified forms of yoga, so there’s no need for concern that you’ll be expected to contort your body into complicated poses. They can be tailored to meet the health needs of people with COPD and should provide a gentle, easy and effective way to manage both overall physical health and emotional well-being.

Yoga asana practice can provide a variety of gentle stretching and bending exercises help to improve fitness and flexibility, improve the range of motion in the shoulders and open the chest, thus increasing overall lung capacity, while familiarizing yourself with different breathing techniques (pranayama) will give you the tools to confidently manage any attacks of Dyspnea (breathlessness). These learned techniques should be taught in a way that they’re  easy enough so that they can also be practiced at home.

Of related interest, click on: Stories the Breath Can Tell

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – Yoga Eases the Weariness

Although Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) can be debilitating, people who suffer from it report, first and foremost, that they experience profound fatigue that no amount of sleep or rest can relieve. It causes an assortment of non-specific symptoms including weakness, impaired memory, and fatigue (for no apparent reason), often accompanied by loss of concentration, varied muscle pains, headaches, sore throat, insomnia and apathy. The list of symptoms is also sometimes diagnosed as fibromyalgia because it’s often difficult to distinguish between fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Researchers and specialists are still trying to determine the differences. Some experts believe they are two completely separate illnesses sharing many similar symptoms and others feel they are different aspects of the same disorder. To complicate matters even further, a significant number of people with fibromyalgia also have CFS and vise versa.

Possibly the simplest explanation of the difference between fibromyalgia and CFS is that with the former, pain is the most predominant symptom, while with CFS, extreme fatigue is the most predominant.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - Yoga Eases the WearinessDoctors often think people with this mysterious disorder are lazy, or have some form of hypochondria, but that doesn’t help relieve the symptoms of extreme tiredness and low energy. Most doctors do agree however that CFS sufferers need to move away from a sedentary lifestyle and they generally prescribe different types of exercise. The problem here is that those with CFS have little motive to engage most traditional exercise regimes, and some are downright resistant to giving them a try, due to the discomfort they experience. Subsequently their lowered physical status often results in mental sluggishness, further complicating things.

The science of yoga may be able to offer a cure, or at least substantial relief for those with CFS, filling the gap where conventional medicine falls short. Yoga tends to address the root of the problem, instead of exhausting the body further, as traditional exercise techniques might. Yoga restores the energy in the body that is necessary for it to heal itself. Yoga does this primarily through gentle, restorative asana, pranayama, and meditation for effective relaxation, all of which, when combined, provide a much needed balance of stimuli and rest.

Doctors, scientists and many other researchers don’t really know why yoga helps people with CFS, but some yoga students and instructors believe they do and they cite the following reasons…

  • Yoga helps without causing pain. Research shows that yoga can help people with CFS recover their strength. Yoga’s gentle, restorative asanas increase blood circulation and oxygenation which are key to healing, and this is done without hurting the body and/or aggravating the condition. Whereas more rigorous forms of exercise trigger a worsening of CFS symptoms by raising blood pressure and creating excessive lactic acid.
  • Yoga balances the mind and body. Most often, people with CFS have lost touch with their mental and physical connections to natural human rhythms. They either tend to move too fast, or do too much and their bodies have run down and they find themselves mentally depleted. Yoga shows them a slower, more natural pace. It becomes a discipline of peace with themselves and a non-obsessive daily practice. Rather than a discipline of “more and more,” it can be a discipline of “less and less.” leading composed self-acceptance.
  • Yoga will energize. All those with CFS struggle with the feeling of exhaustion, and yoga helps restore vital energy to their fatigued body, signaling the parasympathetic nervous system to start calming things down.

When dealing with CFS the thought of any movement at all might seem excruciating, but gentle, restorative asana can help direct energy into parts of the body that are lacking life force. Begin by using bolsters and pillows, yoga blocks and any supports you deem helpful to guide you through the asanas. This will make you practice feel more like nurturing than the abrupt movement associated with “exercise” that will drain the body. Balasana (Happy Baby Pose), Shavasana (Corpse Pose), and Viparit Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose) are wonderful asanas to start with if you don’t feel like moving at all. Over time, and as you start to feel improvement, you can slowly add more challenging asanas, but always practice them in small doses to prevent overly fatiguing an already tired body and mind.

Note: Forward bend poses soothe the nervous system by allowing energy to flow into the spinal column while increasing blood flow and oxygenation to the heart, head and muscles. Remember, a gentle approach (supported when necessary) is the most effective when practicing the following asanas.

Two simple, gentle forward bend asanas known to help relieve CFS symptoms.

1. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) promotes blood flow to the head, neck, and heart.

 2. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) soothes the nervous system, gradually increases blood flow to the brain, and releases the tension of the respiratory muscles of the neck, trunk and shoulders.

Additionally, lying over cross-bolsters in varying positions helps to stimulate the nervous system in a subdued way and increases blood circulation to the adrenals, thyroid, and kidneys, which are a storehouse of energy.

With the science of yoga, dedicated practice, and self-love, CFS can turn from an unpleasant daily experience to slowly vanishing thing of the past.

Of related interest, click on: Combating Fibromyalgia

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500

Restorative Yoga Practice and Its Many Benefits

In addition to regular (active) yoga poses, restorative yoga has its own unique benefits and is quite useful for establishing an overall well balanced yoga practice. There are a variety of static restorative asanas (poses); each one has its own benefits and energizing qualities. Generally speaking, restorative poses relieve anxiety and stress by transporting students to a space where they can experience a deep state of relaxation. They also stimulate and soothe organs, plus they improve concentration. A restorative yoga practice is commonly recommended for calming and grounding.

With the hectic pace of daily life, it is commonplace for our sympathetic nervous systems to be in overdrive, prompting our bodies to remain in a constant state of heightened alert. Our bodies can’t distinguish the difference between the stresses created from work and actual danger such as the threat of a pit-bull attack. In order to restore it normal composure, our body needs to be able to relax and return to its natural dependence on the parasympathetic nervous system. Restorative yoga asanas support our muscles, bones and connective tissues with props so that they can relax and release built up tension. As a result of this release of tension, our nervous system sends fewer demands to our brain, our mind quiets down and our body leaves everything to the parasympathetic nervous system. When we encourage this to happen through restorative yoga our heart rate is lowered, blood pressure is reduced and our breath slows down.

Restorative poses can be used to target specific areas and each has its own unique benefits. Forward bends will tend to have a particularly calming effect. An example of a restorative forward bend is supported Child’s Pose (Balasana). The easiest way to feel the calming effects of this pose is simply to try it – all you need is a standard yoga bolster or you can use a large pillow. Position the bolster or pillow length-wise on the floor. Then, beginning with a kneeling position, you place the bolster or pillow directly in front of you between your knees, which are set at hip width apart. Lengthen yourself over the bolster and turn your head to one side and rest it on the bolster or pillow. Remain in the pose for 10-15 minutes switching sides midway through. When you come out of the asana, take note the effects it had on your energy level.

Another effective restorative pose, Reclined Bound Angle (Supta Baddha Konasana), opens the front of the body. To prepare for the pose, you’ll need to prop up the bolster on a 4 in. x 6 in. x 9 in. yoga block (set on the 6” height). Position the block about 1/3 down from the top of your bolster, which should create a gentle angle. Sit directly in front of the bolster and slowly lower down to recline, gently arching your back. Place the soles of your feet together and if your knees don’t quite reach the floor, prop them up with blankets or blocks. Some students prefer placing another blanket over their body and/or using an eye pillow to totally relax and fully experience the comfort of the pose. Allow your arms to rest along your sides, palms facing up. This is a pose of surrender, and although you might feel a bit exposed at first, after staying in the pose for just a few minutes you will develop an open and receptive disposition. Hold the pose for 10-15 minutes, then slowly and carefully roll onto your right side and assume a fetal position (if you are pregnant, roll to the left side), and then slowly push yourself up into a comfortable seated position. Again, take note of how this pose has affected your overall energy and your whole body.

Restorative yoga is a good countermeasure to offset the stressful, busy lifestyles that we all lead. Just like you always take time each day to eat and sleep, so you should arrange a 15 minute break to take time to relax with these and other restorative asanas. If you do, you’ll find your muscles will become less tight, your mind calmer and more focused, and the stress and anxiety in your life will be relieved. This is a great compliment to regular (static or dynamic) yoga asana practice.

The Anti-Aging Benefits of Yoga

Anyone who has been practicing yoga for a time will agree; there’s a strong connection between your body and your mind. So, whenever your mind is under stress, your body reflects it in numerous ways; poor posture, low back pain and tense muscles, are just a few examples. It should then be no surprise, that people who are under a undue amounts of stress seem to age faster than those who have learned to manage it properly. Stress, along with gravity, of course, is what makes us age.

There are some basic attributes that characterize someone who’s vibrant and healthy; someone who appears to:

  • ■ Supple, radiant skin.
  • ■ Strong, lustrous, shiny healthy hair.
  • ■ Well defined muscles.
  • ■ Good posture and bone structure.
  • ■ Boundless energy.
  • ■ A light but firm and confident gait.
  • ■ A balanced attitude toward self, life and others
  • ■ A calm and peaceful demeanor

Believe it or not, you too can feel this way, and it has nothing to do with how old you are. Although not exactly magic or Ponce de Leon’s famed fountain of youth, yoga is a great age-defying stress reducer. If you practice yoga on a regular basis, you just may start to notice some awesome and welcome benefits. To begin your own personal anti-aging campaign, try practicing the following a few times per week:

*Keep Your Spine Flexible

Think of your spine like the foundational frame of a house that holds everything together. If that frame becomes dysfunctional, all sorts of problems will begin to manifest themselves.  A healthy spine assures your body maintains its structure, supports your head, your arms and legs, and provides a shock absorption system for all of your activities. In addition, it houses your central nervous system (spinal cord), the superhighway that connects your brain to the rest of your body. Considering all of the work it does, it’s no wonder your spine often gets tired on a daily basis. Even those who seem to have the best posture may find themselves slouching a bit at the end of a particularly stressful day. Become familiar with basic spinal anatomy, structure and function and that will help empower you to take control of your health. Give your spine some loving attention with asanas (yoga poses) that elongate, strengthen and stretch your spine and counteract any bad postural habits too. Alternating cat and cow pose is a great start. A spine that’s flexible will promote good balance and strength which will affect your overall health in a positive way, putting that youthful bounce back in your step.

*Relax and Release Your Muscle Tension

Common bodily aches and pains are often the result of tight or stressed muscles. Ranging from headaches to back problems and incorrect alignment, tight muscles can slowly leave you slouched or hunched over and limit your ability to perform activities that you love or need to do. Given enough time, range of motion will diminish and many of the daily activities you once performed with ease can become quite challenging. The three poses of Yoga for complete relaxation are Dradhasana (firm pose), Shavasana (corpse pose) and Adhvasana (relaxation pose).

Self-massage is another method you can use to improve circulation and warm up your muscles, this may encouraging them to release toxins that that may be at the root of your aches and pains. A general rule of thumb is to use light circular motion over joints and areas of pain and sweep with long strokes over areas such as the front of the thigh and arms always massaging towards the heart. Self-massage is especially useful to help you relax during the day, either at work or at home; even if you can only afford to spend a couple of minutes massaging your neck and shoulders. Your morning shower is a great time for self-massage because your skin and senses come alive in the steam of the warm water and self-massage relaxes your muscles, getting you ready to tackle the stresses of the day ahead.

*Breathe in Life’s Energy (Prana)

Breathing correctly oxygenates your body through your bloodstream, nourishing every single cell in your body. Breathing also functions as a purifier to help you cleanse your body of toxins acquired throughout the day. The breath (as prana) is life. Pranayama is both the extension and the control of breath, and indeed the most subtle energy of the body. Although there are many different schools and techniques for learning pranayama, the most basic approach is simple awareness of the breath. You will find that lying or sitting in a comfortable position and just watching your breath for a set period of time will reap powerful benefits. You’ll become more focused and relaxed. You can simply notice your breath dispassionately and without judgment or you can focus your breath on a particular area of your body and with each inhale you send the breath to that spot, extending love and compassion to that area that’s been “aching” for attention. With each exhale, you release, allowing the tension and pain to leave your body with each breath. Pranayama is a gift you give to yourself and it too keeps on giving.

*Meditate, Meditate And Meditate!

The Anti-Aging Benefits of YogaIf you’re looking for inner calm and a peaceful, more positive outlook on life, take a minute (or two – or ten) to bring your body, mind and senses into balance. Once you achieve this balance through meditation, your nervous system will find its sense of equilibrium and calm down, you’ll be less anxious and more open to gaining some powerful insights into your true nature (which is ageless). There are plenty of ways to meditate, so don’t be afraid to try, just find what works best for you and stick with it for a while. The process itself will show you the way. If you’re a beginner, just focus on your breath with no critique or judgment, and notice how it flows in and out of your lungs. If your mind begins to wander away from your breath, gently bring it back, remembering that the breath is the beginning and end of all life.

Conclusion: Yoga is rapidly catching on as one of the most efficient and effective forms of exercise for older people. Even when it’s compared to other Eastern forms of exercise, yoga is still regarded as the best by many who have practiced a variety of disciplines. Since antiquity many yogis have lived well into their nineties with full retention of all their functions and faculties and have even managed to astound the world over with their physical prowess, even at such an advanced age.

The Anti-Aging Benefits of Yoga

Boost Your Immunity with Yoga Practice

There’s a good chance that you (like most people) spend a lot of your time around large groups of people; in the office, in class, shopping, etc. And, we all know that along with shared experiences and shared conversation come shared colds, viruses and flues. Perhaps you already do a lot of things to avoid catching them, e.g.; taking vitamin C, eating foods rich in immunity-boosting phyto-nutrients, trying to get enough sleep and washing your hands regularly. But, one approach to preventative health that you might not be taking full advantage of is regular yoga practice. Studies have shown excessive stress to be a key factor in lowering your resistance to any disease, from the common cold to life-threatening afflictions like cancer, heart disease and diabetes, to name a few. Yoga practice will tackle stress head-on by moving your mind and body away from a state of dis-ease into one of balance, ease and invigoration.

If you are a student of yoga or have even taken one class, you know from experience how much it can help you release tension and calm down. And, the feeling of peace that yoga produces does a lot more for your overall health than just to help you unwind. When your body is fully relaxed, your immune system can focus on fighting off only the particular infections and intruders that it needs to, rather than overreacting to your entire environment. Whenever you’re stressed out, your immune system will tend to lash out even at harmless irritants, making it more difficult to fight the actual bugs and germs that you’re exposed to.

A great example of just how powerful your body can be if it’s left to its own resources can be integrated into your practice by meditating on your body’s reaction to its environment. Inquire as to whether you feel hot or cold for instance, and make a mental note of how you’re registering those sensations. Do they seem pleasant, painful or are you able to simply observe them without judgment?

The next step would be to consider how to change that. Reactivity is major cause of stress, prompting you to feel as if things are happening to you, and that you’re just a helpless victim. You can change this by starting to practice thought patterns that move your mind away from a reactive position. For instance, if you feel cold, notice how consciously drawing breath fully into your body creates the sensation of warmth spreading throughout your cells. If you’re feeling too hot, curl you tongue and exhale through your mouth, feeling the heat dissipate as the warm air leaves your body. Each moment of your practice offers a new choice. By cultivating insightful understanding, rather than just reacting or judging, you’ll begin to learn to choose the most efficient, effective ways to fill that asana with precisely what is available to you in that given moment. So, instead of reacting and stressing out, you can then relax into each asana; opening new spaces in your body, encouraging better circulation and the absorption of prana, which aids your body in coming to its own defense, without interference.

Try the following asanas to ward off the sniffles and sneezes, build your immune system and improve your overall health:

  • *Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose): This asana releases tension from the shoulders and opens the chest to facilitate deep breathing, relieving congestion and helping to make you less vulnerable to germs. It is recommended you stay in this pose for one minute, then release slowly and repeat on the other side.
  • *Balasana (Child’s Pose): This is a basic restorative asana that is very effective at helping your body to relax, which powers up your immune system. Remain in this pose for at least 30 seconds up to a few minutes.
  • *Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose): This gentle backward bend helps bring oxygen into your body, delivering it all the way down to the cellular level which greatly helps you fight off illness.  It’s best to stay in the asana for 15 to 30 seconds, then release.

Additional tips…

Practice regularly and stay on schedule. This may be easier if you join a yoga class where you have an encouraging instructor and the support of others. Working with your body’s biological clock (re-setting it as necessary) will help your immune system function optimally.

Cleanse your sinuses and nasal passages. Nasal irrigation using a saline wash (Neti pot) can help reduce your vulnerability to infections, colds and other upper respiratory problems. See this post for more, click on: Jala Neti – De-mystified…(Video).

Remember that your physical health is quite often a reflection of your mental state. Do your best not to get distracted by pressure. Resist overreacting to sensations or situations. And, don’t worry about anything you can’t fix! Most things you might view as “problems” are really challenges and/or suggestions; meant to help you discover new directions in your life.

Yoga Asana, Emotions & Our Internal Organs…

Are you, like many other people, under the impression that the benefits of yoga asana are limited to affecting mostly the muscles and joints? If so, you need to realize also that each and every pose has a specific effect on one or more of the internal organs. Yoga, like in traditional Chinese medicine, recognizes that emotions and physical health are intimately connected. And, most emotions have a specific attraction to particular organs.

Examples include:

  • *Fear can damage the kidneys and bladder.
  • *Anger can injure the liver and gall bladder.
  • *Grief and depression can harm the lungs.
  • *Worry and anxiety can afflict the spleen and stomach.
  • *Sadness negatively affects the brain.
  • *Joy (although positive), when in excess may wound the heart.

On the other hand, yoga recognizes that balanced feelings and equilibrium in the emotions will cause the body and its organ systems to work more efficiently.

There are asanas (poses) which affect the emotions in yoga, just as much as they affect the muscles and joints. For example, when practicing Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog), the shoulders, the spine, hamstrings, feet, and the Achilles tendons are deeply stretched, but this asana can also be used to decrease feelings of depression and anxiety. Simple postures such as cat-cow stretch with synchronized breathing can reduce fear. Suptaikapadaparivrttasana (supine twist) is an excellent posture for relieving back pain, but it is also an excellent pose for increasing our acceptance of life’s stresses plus it can eliminate feelings of being worried or overwhelmed.

One of the basic precepts in yoga is the need to approach our practice from where we are at, which means we can’t expect to jump right into an advanced asana. Some students come to yoga with chronically tight muscles, and the purpose of a sustained and regular yoga practice is to gradually and systematically relax the built up tension in the body, and at the same time release the emotions that are “bound up” within the body and that are responsible for this tension. As soon as we begin to let go of the stress “locked” within our bodies, emotions will likely arise. Ideally, we will simply observe these emotions without any judgment. Chances are, we may not even remember what prompted us to start holding these stresses within our bodies in the first place. This is why letting go of any further analysis of these feelings is of utmost importance. By just allowing the emotions to arise, they will pass naturally, like clouds in the sky.

Since each of us will probably have our own individual experience of asana practice, we can easily see how each of us may be affected differently, depending on what part of our bodies we store stress. According to yogic science, we have the ability to see the emotional body as its own kosha (sheath or layer). The Manomaya kosha (aka; the astral or the mind/emotional body) houses all our emotions. Whenever the emotions get stuck in this sheath they can cause energy to become trapped in the physical body, and oftentimes in the internal organs. While some people may manifest anxiety in the lungs (e.g., narrowing of the bronchial passages or shortness of breath) others might experience that same stress in their digestive organs (e.g., have a hard time digesting their feelings as in “I can’t stomach this” which may result in ulcers or IBS).

It is common for a feeling which was once previously unconscious (or subconscious) to the student to be triggered while practicing asana. Asanas function as a means to open energy gateways in much the same manner that reflexology or acupuncture points would. Quite often, a student will feel that their asana practice is affected by something that is currently happening in their life, when actually they are releasing emotions that were stored a long time ago. It is not necessary for us to intellectually “figure them out.” We can let the intelligence of the body do what it was meant to do to release our samskaras (impressions).

Although every student’s experience of yoga asana is different, some of the common emotions that may arise in varying poses are:

  • *Forward bends – These poses can unleash a host of egocentric feelings and attitudes. They may force us to face our fears as we turn our attention inward. Our tendency may be to turn around in the world, to look back at what is behind us. For some there may be a constant fear of attack from behind and this leads to tightness in the back which a forward bend works well to loosen. We have to surrender these fears if we are to relax in these asanas.
  • *Backward bends – These poses are useful when dealing with our attitudes of embracing all of life; of being completely open to receive “the good, bad and the ugly,” rising up to meet life’s various challenges. When practicing backward bends, we may have to deal with the possible emotions of feeling like a doormat to others (literally bending over backward to please them), we may be confronted with letting go of co-dependent patterns and improving our own self-esteem without unnecessarily relying on others to provide us with a positive self image. Backbends commonly bring up fears associated to these emotional patterns. On another level, one who has repeatedly had their heart broken or is very shy may typically hunch their shoulders, sometimes even covering their heart, particularly those who may have been teased in school or at an early age. Backward bends can be very confronting, but they can also help to change and remold the personality along with the conditionings of the mind.
  • *Balancing asanas – These poses are extremely powerful indicators of a student’s emotional state. Someone who feels un-easy emotionally, or whose mind is preoccupied with too many emotions, will find balancing poses very difficult. As they find a sense of balance in these poses, those emotions that are causing the mind to become agitated may temporarily increase before subsiding to a more peaceful place. With proper instruction and practice balancing poses will help to build a calm, resilient, steady mind.
  • *Twisting asanas – As you may have guessed, these poses have to do with untangling the “knots” of life. All twisting asanas initiate feelings of dealing with obstacles we face, and can enable us to develop the necessary strength to face whatever comes our way. Twists, along with backbends give us more confidence through regular, sustained practice, and help develop courage for those with overly introverted personalities.
  • *Inverted asanas – When we practice these poses, we are literally turning our world on its head; changing our perspective totally by turning our behavioral patterns upside down. Inversions help us to see ourselves and our world from a different point of view. It’s easy to imagine all the emotions that can arise from turning your whole perspective around. Inversions help to purify the mind when our worldview feels shaken, bringing greater peace and calmness.

In addition to the asanas outlined above, here are some specific poses that can be helpful in the release and removal of negative feelings and/or emotions…

  • *To increase your energy and give the courage to face life’s challenges – Surya namaskar (sun salutation), Bhujangasan (cobra), Dhanurasan (bow), and Veerasan (warrior).
  • *For calming the mind, releasing anger and surrendering the ego – Vajrasan yogamudra (childs pose), Paschimottanasan (forward bend), Karnapeedanasan (folding leg plough), Viparit karni (inverted pose).
  • *To release pent up emotions (when you feel like screaming) – Simhasan (roaring lions pose)
  • *To bring calmness, acceptance and relief from anxiety – Restorative poses such as Uttanpadasan (legs up the wall), Tadagasan (pond pose), Supta vajrasan (sleeping thunderbolt) Sputa baddha konasan (sleeping bound angle pose) and Koormasan (tortoise).

In conclusion, not all students of yoga will have emotions coming up and for many practitioners, they experience primarily positive emotions when practicing asanas, and this is both natural and normal. It doesn’t signify that one isn’t progressing or dealing with the self. We all have different ways of managing the mind, so we should continually remind ourselves that yoga is the practice of balancing the body, mind, emotions and spirit to bring unity, harmony, contentment and finally, bliss.

Yoga, Emotions & Our Internal Organs...

standing forward fold (Uttanasana)

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 8 – Samadhi)

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 8 – Samadhi)Samadhi is a Sanskrit word which is the state of consciousness induced by complete meditation, derived from the verbal roots “samā” (the state of total equilibrium) and “dhi” (of a detached intellect).

Samadhi is the eighth and final of Patanjali’s “Eight Limbs” of Raja Yoga (or classical yoga). Patanjali’s commentary on Samadhi (Yoga-Sutras 1.41): “Just as the naturally pure crystal assumes shapes and colors of objects placed near it, so the Yogi’s mind, with its totally weakened modifications, becomes clear and balanced and attains the state devoid of differentiation between knower, knowable and knowledge. This culmination of meditation is Samadhi.”

Samādhi is the primary focus of part one (Samādhi-pada) of the Yoga Sūtras. Patanjali intended for the last three steps in his eightfold path (Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi) to be studied and practiced together because there is no clear dividing line between any of these three stages. Collectively they are called “Samyama” (Control). When practiced progressively, concentration (Dharana) merges into meditation (Dhyana) and then into non-dual union with the Divine (Samadhi).

A general definition of Samadhi is a super conscious state in which an individual experiences his identity with the ultimate Divine Reality (Brahman).  However, there are a number of technical variations (stages or states) of Samadhi depending upon whether it is in Vedanta philosophy or in Yoga philosophy. Some of the most commonly recognized variations are…

  • Savikalpa Samadhi: In Vedanta philosophy this is the first stage of transcendental consciousness and is where the distinction between subject and object persists.  The spiritual aspirant in this state may have mystic visions, either with or without form.
  • Nirvikalpa Samadhi: Literally means, “changeless Samadhi,” and in Vedanta philosophy refers to the transcendental state of consciousness where the spiritual aspirant becomes completely absorbed in union with the Divine, so that all sense of duality is erased.
  • Savichara Samadhi: According to Yoga philosophy this Samadhi refers to the state in which the mind achieves identity with an object of concentration (either internal or external), this object will have a name, a quality, and can be known as such.
  • Nirvichara Samadhi: This is a term in Yoga philosophy referring to the state in which the mind achieves identity with a subtle object of concentration; something beyond name, quality, and knowledge, where knowledge, knower and the known become one.
  • Nirbija Samadhi: Translated literally as, “Seedless Samadhi.” In Yoga philosophy this is the non-dual state of consciousness which is unconditional because all projected conditions have been transcended. Nirbija-Samadhi has no conditioning cause since all causes have all been transcended, and all conditional activity has been surrendered. The mind is now a radiant formlessness empty of both specific and generalized impressions, including the seer and the seen.

In conclusion: The mind is a bundle of mental “patterns” of awareness. When all these patterns of awareness have been rejected and annihilated, what remains is an ultimate form of consciousness – Samadhi.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 8 – Samadhi)

Mental “patterns” of awareness

Related article, click on: The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 7 – Dhyana)

Check back soon for an elaboration on each of the five “Yamas”.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 7 – Dhyana, W/Video)

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 7 – Dhyana)Dhyana is a Sanskrit word which means to meditate, derived from the verbal root dhyai, Dhyana  it is the most common designation for both the meditative state of consciousness and the yogic techniques by which it is attained.

Dhyana is the seventh of Patanjali’s “Eight Limbs” of Raja Yoga (or classical yoga). Patanjali describes Dhyana as the repeated continuation, or uninterrupted stream of that one point of focus (Dharana) is called absorption in meditation (dhyana), and is the seventh of the eight steps (Yoga-Sutras 3.2).

There are two distinct stages that precede the practice of Dhyana. The first leads to sense withdrawal (Pratyahara), the second to concentration (Dharana), and finally, after these first two stages have been achieved, the yogi or student is prepared for the practice of true meditation (Dhyana).

Without such prior preparation, the efforts to concentrate the mind, often leads only to an inner and frustrating battle. The vrittis of chitta (fluctuations of the “mind stuff” or constant chatter of the mind) leads people to say they cannot meditate, and they intend to learn to meditate later. But the key is not to merely put off meditation practice until some future time, which never seems to come. Rather, the truth of the matter is that preparation is needed. With preparation, concentration and meditation arise naturally. Without the preparation, little or nothing of value happens.

The student is instructed to always to begin with concentration (Dharana), and then proceed to meditation (Dhyana), which finds fruition in Samadhi. This triple process is called samyama. During this process the yogi (or student) may become aware of higher powers (Siddhis) and become captivated by them, but Patanjali warns they are obstacles to the full or higher samādhi. Only by non-attachment to even these things, however great they may seem, may the seeds of bondage be destroyed, and independence or freedom attained.

In summary: Dhyana is the unbroken stream of concentration, where little to no “sense of self” remains. At this stage, it becomes increasingly more difficult to use words and reasoning (thoughts), or the conscious mind to describe these inner experiences of yoga. After all, the state of meditation, by its very nature transcends our material human experience and everything that is related to it. Meditation (Dhyana), is concentration (Dharana) taken to “perfection”; in other words, the meditative state is the natural consequence of “perfect concentration”. So it is by prolonged concentration, that produces this “spontaneous”, “free-flowing” meditative state, where nothing except the object of concentration fills the mind’s space; and where the observer and the observed merge into one.

If you are unfamiliar with meditation the following video (Andy Puddicombe: All it takes is 10 mindful minutes) may be helpful…

Related article, click on: The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 6 – Dharana)

Check back soon for “The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 8 – Samadhi)”

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 6 –Dharana)

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 6 –Dharana)Dharana is a Sanskrit word which means immovable concentration of the mind (or that which gives stability”) from the root Dhar, which means to “bind together”, “to make stable”. Dharanais  the willful act of concentration of the mind.

Dharana is the sixth of Patanjali’s “Eight Limbs” of Raja Yoga (or classical yoga). Patanjali describes Dharana thusly: “When the pure mind is kept focused in the desired desa (region) by the seeker, it is called Dharana.”

Patanjali considered Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi to be the last three steps in his eightfold path and that all three aspects considered together are collectively termed “Samyama” (Control). We should also keep in mind, that Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi are progressively advancing stages of concentration. The highest stage of mental concentration described by the Western psychologists is similar to the description of Dharana which Patanjali designated as the initial or primary stage of concentration, with Dhyana as the intermediate and Samadhi as the final or highest stage.

Characteristically there is no dividing line in between any of these three stages. When certain progress is made in the practice of Dharana, Dhyana stage is automatically entered into and so on with the progress through Dharana stage, the student or yogi automatically enters in the Samadhi stage. The three stages are said to mingle into each other as easily as three colors are mixed together on an artists palate.

In this article we will consider only the first stage; Dharana, (Dhyana and Samadhi to be considered in upcoming articles).

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 6 –Dharana)

In practicing Dharana, the student creates a condition conducive for the mind to focus its attention in one direction or on one object rather than of radiating out in a multitude of different directions. As concentration deepens, the focus on a single chosen point becomes more intense and the other preoccupations of the mind cease to exist.

The objective in Dharana is to steady the mind by focusing its attention efficiently on one subject or point of experience. Concentrate on any object (within the body or outside) that is appealing, selecting any object that’s pleasant and brings in concentration of the mind easily. Now if the student chooses to focus on their inner energy flow, they can directly experience the physical and mental blocks and imbalances that remain in their system, in other words, the obstacles to their progress becomes obvious.

Once established, this ability to withdraw the mind from all its “fluctuations” (or modifications), and concentrate on a single point produces psychological health and personal integration and should not be considered an escape from reality, but instead, a positive movement towards the realization of the true nature of the Self. This prepares the student for the next stage (Dhyana), where concentration becomes meditation and the one meditating becomes one with the object of meditation.

In summary: The practice of Pratyahara creates the setting for Dharana or concentration. When one is relieved of outside distractions, they can now deal with the distractions of the mind itself. In the practice of concentration, which precedes meditation, a student can learn how to slow down the thinking process by concentrating on a single mental object. The goal is to become aware of nothing except the object of concentration, it can be a candle flame, a flower, a mantra you repeat to yourself, a specific energetic center in the body, a picture of a guru or an image of a deity, any of the chakras can also be used as a focal point for concentration. The ultimate purpose of Dharana is to train the mind over time by eliminating all the extra, unnecessary superfluous thought. Extended periods of concentration will naturally lead to meditation (Dhyana).

The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 6 –Dharana)

Related article, click on: The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 5 – Pratyahara)

Check back soon for “The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 7 –Dhyana)”