The following are a few guidelines to follow:
- Firstly, if you have any serious condition or are in doubt about your fitness to engage in Yoga, please seek advice from your medical practitioner or doctor.
- Before you commence your session, you are advised to please warm up and stretch from head to toe. This prepares you for the exercises to follow and reduces the risk of injury.
- Follow what our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda says, "use one's common sense and judgement and one should be fine". That implies, go about the exercises gradually and listen to your body. Gradually increase the intensity.
- We shall now commence with a few simple but important demonstrations and explanations.
A. Surya Namaskar (Salutations to the Sun)
This is a combination of 12 Yoga Asanas in succession with breathing.
Surya Namaskar has the following benefits:
- It reduces abdominal fat.
- It gives flexibility to the spine and limbs.
- It increases the breathing capacity and improves/corrects the pattern of breathing.
- It tones up the entire body.
- The Prayer Pose – stand upright with feet close to each other and hands together in front of your chest. Gently inhale and exhale.
- Gradually inhale and raise your hands above your head and bend backwards as far as is comfortable.
- Hands to feet – gently exhale and bend forwards till the hands are in line with the feet or close to it.
- Equestrian Pose – inhale and take a big step backwards with your right leg. The knee should touch the ground and the hands should be in line with the left foot. Bend the head backwards.
- Stick pose – hold the breath while simultaneously taking the left foot backwards next to the right. The feet are together and the knees are off the ground. Rest on the hands and feet, keeping the arms straight with the body in one straight line from head to feet.
- Limb pose – exhale and lower the body to the ground with 8 points touching the ground – 2 hands, forehead, chest, 2 knees and both feet/toes.
- Cobra pose – inhale and raise the body slowly from the head downwards – neck, upper back, mid-back and lower back, bending the spine up and back as far as possible without lifting the hips. The legs and pelvis remain on the ground.
- Mountain pose – gradually exhale and without moving the hands and feet, lift the hips as high as possible, forming an upside-down V. Create a slight hollow of the lower back. Feet and hands are flat.
- Equestrian Pose – same as pose 4 but bringing the right foot forwards in line with the hands, keeping the left foot and knee backwards on the ground. Look up, bending the spine backwards and breathe in.
- Hands to feet – same as pose 3. Exhale and bring the left foot and legs forwards next to the right. Straighten the knees. Draw the head towards the knees as in pose 3.
- Inhale and raise the arms above the head and bend backwards as in position 2.
- Exhale and assume the prayer pose – feet together and elbows out. Gradually inhale and exhale a few times.
You can start with 3-4 rounds of Surya Namaskar and gradually increase it to 6, aiming to eventually doing 12 rounds.
B. Trikonasana (triangle pose)
This pose gives the appearance of a triangle.
Technique: Stand with the feet about 2-3 feet apart. Raise the arms to shoulder height, palms facing downwards. Bend sideways to the left aiming to touch the left hand to the toes of the left foot and point the right hand vertically upwards. The left and right hands should form a straight line. Rotate the head and look at the palm of the right hand pointing upwards. Hold for 5 seconds. Return to vertical. Now perform the same action to the opposite side. Repeat the cycle 4 x.
- Tones up spinal nerves and abdominal organs.
- Increases peristalsis of the bowels. Helps a lot with constipation.
- Invigorates the appetite.
- Makes the body feel light and the spine becomes more elastic.
C.Paschimotanasana (Pincers Pose)
Technique: Lie supine and gradually inhale and move your arms outwards in an arc and raise your body to a sitting position with your hands pointing vertically upwards. Now slowly exhale and simultaneously bend your body forwards engaging your spine from your head downwards, one segment at a time moving your head towards your knees. Remain there for 5 seconds and then slowly raise your body back to the sitting position, gradually inhaling and focusing on slowly reversing the spinal motion and then return to the supine position.
Various abdominal muscles are contracted vigorously. This is a powerful abdominal exercise. It stimulates the kidneys, liver and pancreas.
It is excellent for diabetics and people suffering from piles. It stretches the rectal muscles and the hamstring muscles.
It establishes perennial youth by making the spine elastic.
D.Danurasana (Bow pose)
When this Asana is performed, it gives the appearance of a bow.
Technique : Lie prone on your mat. Bend your knees and catch hold of your ankles with both hands. Now pull the feet away from the body while holding the ankles firmly with the hands. This will result in the thighs and chest lifting of the ground with the whole body resting on the abdomen, giving the impression of a strung-up bow. Maintain this position for a few seconds and then relax. Repeat 3-4 times.
The back muscles are well massaged.
Constipation is removed.
Rheumatism, gastro-intestinal disorders and heartburn are cured.
Fat is reduced.
It energises digestion and invigorates the appetite.
It reduces congestion of blood in the abdominal viscera. It is a good asana for women.
E.Ardha-Matsyendrasana (Spinal Twist)
Technique: Sit with the legs stretched forwards and bend the right knee and place the heel against the perineum and keep it in this place. Now bend the left knee and with one's hands, take the foot over the right thigh and place the foot on the ground on the outside of the thigh. Now hug this knee (left) with your right hand and twist your spine to your left. Place the left hand behind your back as far as possible. Now also twist the head/neck towards the left. Note to keep the spine erect with the chest upright and forward. Stay in this position for 5 seconds and then release the hands and repeat to the other side.
The spine is kept elastic in a rotatory direction. All the vertebrae are well rotated to each side and the ligaments receive a rich supply of blood.
It helps towards curing lumbago and muscular rheumatism.
The spinal nerve roots and the sympathetic system are toned up.
This pose helps a lot towards curing constipation and heartburn.
F. Savasana (corpse pose)
This asana is for relaxation of the nerves, muscles, organs and mind and should be performed at the end of the session. Lie flat on your back with your hands at your sides and palms facing upwards and heels close together.
Now starting with your toes and feet, subtly instruct each area to relax and then suggest that it/they are relaxed. Like so – "toes and feet relax. Toes and feet are relaxed." Move upwards to the legs, thighs, hips. Then the lower back, mid back, upper back and neck/shoulders. Then the organs and glands of the abdomen, then the chest. Then the upper extremity from the shoulders, arms, forearms, hands. Then the head area – listing each sense organ, facial muscles and mouth. Then instruct the breathing to relax, then the mind to relax and suggest that it is relaxed.
You are now completely relaxed. Allow your breath to gently enter through the nostrils and gently leave. Remain in this position of relaxation for at least a few minutes.
G. SIVANANDA PRANAYAMA
We will now engage in a simple but very powerful pranayama, the Sivananda Pranayama.
Sit in a comfortable sitting posture with the spine erect. Gently inhale through the nostrils. Hold the breath for a moment. And gently exhale through the nostrils. As you breathe in gently chant Sri Ram. As you hold the breath, again gently say Sri Ram. And as you slowly and silently exhale, again you may mentally chant Sri Ram. The key is silent, relaxed, rhythmical breathing. Repeat this as many times as you may wish aiming for at least 8-10 repetitions.
These are just a few exercises to inspire you to take up this wonderful discipline of Hatha Yoga. Our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, says that Yoga is a perfect system of physical culture and is indeed the king of all systems of physical culture. The practice of Yoga exercises will help one tremendously to enjoy good health and longevity. Our Master says that it's no use theorizing. What is required is regular, sustained practice and this will give one the desired benefit.