I call myself a yogini, a practitioner of Yoga. Technically, I also am a certified Yoga teacher. Starting with this post, I will try and dispel the myths around Yoga and help people connect with this ancient Indian philosophy. I will share my own impressions and understanding without any claim whatsoever. This post is meant for people who are not familiar with the concept of Yoga, who want to try but are hesitant, or for those who practice Yoga in its physical form and want to know about its holistic approach. To know more about this aspect of my identity, see Yogini Sandhu Bhamra.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is one of the systems of the ancient Indian philosophies.
It is a discipline that has to be learnt and practiced in all aspects of life.
The word Yoga means union. As an Indian Philosophy, Yoga is a discipline through which body and mind are brought together in union, in complete harmony.
It offers a holistic approach to life: through body poses, breathing, self-control of senses, diet, meditation, selfless actions, devotion and knowledge, to name a few.
So you are saying Yoga is not about stretching in a studio or on a beach?
The way Yoga has evolved in the west, it has come to be associated with only one aspect -- the physical body poses, called the asanas. The word Yoga is interchangeably used for asanas, which is not correct. Though very important to the discipline of Yoga, the asanas themselves don't define Yoga; they find their meaning within the complete philosophy of Yoga.
I don't want to associate with any other aspect of Yoga, does that mean I can't do the asanas?
To answer the latter part of the question: yes you can. As for the first part: if you think you can disassociate your mind from your body and just do the asanas, your assumption is wrong. Tell me, if you are concentrating on getting into an asana, how is your mind disassociated from the physical process?
Which is the highest aspect of Yoga?
All. Yoga teaches you to bring every aspect of life in complete harmony.
Which aspect of Yoga I need to start with?
Breathing. First and foremost, breathing. You will be surprised to know there are many Yoga practitioners who breathe incorrectly despite a regular practice. I once did a class with a middle-aged woman who had been doing Yoga for about five years. She was very restless and unhappy that she had been unable to connect with Yoga. We worked on her breathing and soon enough, she "connected". It is nothing to marvel at; it is a simple technique. The key to remember is Yoga is a complete philosophy, a system in itself -- a way of life. If you take just one part, and ignore the others, you don't get the complete results.
Why should I do Yoga?
The benefits are tremendous and cannot be written down for a single post. I'll try to say it in brief: Yoga heals completely: from a healthy physical body to a calm mind, Yoga is the only approach that does not separate the physical self from the mind. It is intended to liberate you. It is about self-discovery through your own actions.
Try Yoga, because it is a direct experience -- it comes through you, not someone else.
Full disclaimer: Please understand Yoga is not a substitute for medical attention, examination, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult a physician prior to beginning any activity program, including yoga. Anupreet Sandhu Bhamra, SandhuBhamra.com blog's author and/or owner are not liable for any injury, physical or otherwise through any teachings given under the category Yoga through this blog site. Yoga should be started and practiced with a certified Yoga teacher or an established Yoga guru/master. Always listen to your body when attempting a Yoga pose; respect the limits of your body and mind.
This post was originally published on my blog here.
The calming child's pose is a resting posture that can help quiet the mind, easing stress and anxiety while gently stretching the back. It's also good for the nervous system and lymphatic system, Kennedy notes. "It's one of the key poses that you can come to in the middle of a class whenever you want to to relieve stress," she says. "It's very restorative ... it's child-like and allows us to come inward to ourselves."
Not to be confused with the full wheel, the bridge pose provides gentle stretching of the back and legs while alleviating stress and tension. The pose can reduce anxiety, fatigue, backaches, headaches and insomnia, and is even thought to be therapeutic for high blood pressure. Eva Norlyk Smith, Ph.D., yoga teacher and Managing Editor at YogaUOnline, recommends a supported bridge pose with a block underneath the sacrum as a gentler and more de-stressing way to enjoy the stretch.
Often used as a transition between poses, uttanasana has many benefits when practiced as a pose in itself. The posture stretches the hamstrings, thighs, hips, and is thought to relieve stress, fatigue and mild depression. If your goal is to de-stress in the pose, it's best done with the knees slightly bent, Kennedy says. "It's great for the legs and a lot of different physical things, and it also allows us to calm the mind. You're reversing the blood flow and just hanging out," she says.
The active and empowering eagle pose can help ward off stress by improving concentration and balance, and also by opening up the shoulders, upper back and hips. "Eagle is an empowerment pose because it releases tension in the shoulders, legs and back, and it does require focus for you to remain balanced in it," says Kennedy. "You're literally squeezing the tension out of the body. It's a very active de-stress move"
Most yoga practices end with several minutes spent in savasana, and it can easily be the most calming part of the whole thing. The pose puts the body completely at ease and emphasizes total relaxation. Savasana can trigger the body's "relaxation response," a state of deep rest that slows the breathing and lowers the blood pressure while quieting the nervous system. "[Savasana] is the relaxation pose," Kennedy says. "It's actually difficult for many people because we're so not used to being still ... But it encourages the body to come to a more restful state."
One of the foundational postures, the triangle pose is an excellent stress-reliever and full-body stretch, according to Yoga Journal. It can also help to improve digestion, and potentially mitigate the symptoms of conditions like anxiety, osteoporosis and sciata.
Norlyk Smith recommends the resting legs up the wall pose for stress reduction. The pose is traditionally thought to slow the aging process. "It helps renew blood and lymph drainage back into the heart area," she says.
A variation of child's pose with a heart-opening effect, this mild inversion pose can help to counter our tendency to crouch and slouch the shoulders when stressed, according to Norlyk Smith.
The cat pose soothes and stretches the lower back, relieving stress while gently massaging the spine. Try arching and rounding the back 10 times in a row while focusing on deep inhaling and exhaling. "[In the cat pose], you're releasing stress in the spine ... If you're in a class, it allows students to begin to slow down and focus on the breath," Kennedy says. "It's one of those transition poses that takes us from the outside world in."
Similar to the downward-facing dog position, except with the forearms on the floor, his standing inversion pose can help to quiet the mind, alleviate stress and reduce anxiety, according to Yoga Journal. The posture stretches the shoulders, neck and spine.
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