Saturday, August 21, 2010

Restorative Yoga

The word yoga comes from Sanskrit, the scriptural language of ancient India, and means "to yoke" or "to unite." Dating back to the Indus Valley civilization of 2000 to 4000 B.C.E., yoga practices are designed to help the individual feel whole. Ancient yoga texts present teachings that include the physical, mental, and spiritual dimensions of the practitioner. The physical aspects of yoga--poses (asana) and breathing techniques (pranayama) are the most popular in the West.

Restorative Yoga poses help relieve the effects of chronic stress in several ways.

1. The use of props as described in this book provides a completely supportive environment for total relaxation.

2. Each restorative sequence is designed to move the spine in all directions. These movements illustrate the age-old wisdom of yoga that teaches well-being is enhanced by a healthy spine. Some of the restorative poses are backbends, while others are forward bends. Additional poses gently twist the column both left and right.

3. A well-sequenced restorative practice also includes an inverted pose, which reverses the effects of gravity. This can be as simple as putting the legs on a bolster or pillow, but the effects are quite dramatic. Because we stand or sit most of the day, blood and lymph fluid accumulate in the lower extremities. By changing the relationship of the legs to gravity, fluids are returned to the upper body and heart function is enhanced.

Psychobiologist and yoga teacher Roger Cole, Ph.D., consultant to the University of California, San Diego, in sleep research and biological rhythms, has done preliminary research on the effects of inverted poses. He found that they dramatically alter hormone levels, thus reducing brain arousal, blood pressure, and fluid retention. He attributes these benefits to a slowing of the heart rate and dilation of the blood vessels in the upper body that comes from reversing the effects of gravity.

Fourth, restorative yoga alternately stimulates and soothes the organs. For example, by closing the abdomen with a forward bend and then opening it with a backbend, the abdominal organs are squeezed, forcing the blood out, and then opened, so that fresh blood returns to soak the organs. With this movement of blood comes the enhanced exchange of oxygen and waste products across the cell membrane.

Finally, yoga teaches that the body is permeated with energy. Prana, the masculine energy, resides above the diaphragm, moves upward, and controls respiration and heart rate. Apana, the feminine energy, resides below the diaphragm, moves downward, and controls the function of the abdominal organs. Restorative yoga balances these two aspects of energy so that the practitioner is neither over stimulated nor depleted.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Guidelines for Yoga practice

Yoga is a methodical System of physical and mental excellence which requires agreement to certain rules, principle and methodology in order to acquire adequate results. If these rules and principles are not followed correctly it may causes harm and injury to the body.  Some of the guidelines for practicing Yoga are as follows.  

  • There is no exact time for doing yoga. But is advised to Yoga in the morning hours, because is always better as you will be free for the rest of the day.
  • Whatever time you have selected, attach to the same time of practice every day.
  • Practice yoga regularly and you will not get good results with asymmetrical practice.
  • Practice only once per day.  
  • Do yoga at least 15 minutes per day, for 5 days a week.  You can increase workout time 15 minutes to a maximum of 1 hour.
  • You have to maintain the place of yoga practice neat, clean and airy. It will give motivation for you.
  • Practice Yoga with blank stomach in the morning.
  • Women should not practice yoga during their menstrual periods.
  • Pregnant women should take care to practice moderately.
  • If you have taken food, wait for two or more hours before practicing.
  • Avoid hot and spicy food and try to eat a balanced diet.
  • Relax in between asanas for 6 to 8 seconds. Take 2 or 3 normal breaths between asanas.
  • Rest at the end of the asana session. The general principle is to rest 1/4th of the time of actual practice. For example if you practice asanas for 20 minutes, your rest time is 5 minutes.
  • Wear clean and light cloth while practicing. 
  • Avoid excessive drinking of coffee, tea, alcohol and drugs.
  • Try to keep the mind free from anxiety, worries and any strenuous involvement while you are practicing Yoga.

Yoga Benefits

Yoga is a science that has been practiced for thousands of years. It is consists of Ancient Theories, observations and principles about the mind and body connection which is now being proven by modern medicine. Studies show that regular yoga regimen involving a variety of Yoga Postures (Asanas), Yoga Breathing (Pranayama), and Meditation can offer relief for patients suffering from asthma, chronic back pain, arthritis and obsessive compulsive disorder, among other problems.

The most important benefit of yoga is physical and mental therapy. According to medical scientists, yoga therapy is successful because of the balance created in the nervous and endocrine systems which directly influences all the other systems and organs of the body. Yoga acts both as a curative and precautionary therapy. The regular practice yoga helps in getting mental peace, improved concentration powers, a relaxed state of living.

Benefits of Yoga:

  • It  increase Muscle  flexibility and joint range of motion increase
  • Breath-holding time increases
  • Eye-hand coordination improves
  • It improves the dexterity skills
  • Posture improves
  • Strength and resiliency increase
  • Yoga increases Endurance and energy levels
  • Yoga regularizes the weight of our body
  • Yoga decreases insomnia and increases Immunity
  • Yoga improves blood circulation in our body and it provides healthier organs, skin, and brain.
  • Daily Yoga practice decreases blood pressure through better circulation and oxygenation of the body.
  • Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) increases
  • EEG - alpha waves increase (theta, delta, and beta waves also increase during various stages of meditation)
  • EMG activity decreases
  • Cardiovascular efficiency increases
  • Respiratory efficiency increases
  • Gastrointestinal function normalizes
  • It normalizes the endocrine function
  • Yoga reduces spinal density and helps overall body alignment to reduce back pain.
  • Integrated functioning of body parts improves
  • Yoga has been used for disorders such as addictions, Asthma, Backache, Bronchitis, Cancer, Cold, Constipation, Depression, Emphysema, Eye strain, Flatulence, Headache, Heart Disorders,            Hypertension (High Blood Pressure), Indigestion, Insomnia, Menstrual disorders, Migraines, Neurasthenia, Obesity, Premenstrual Tension, Prostate troubles, Rheumatism, Sciatica, Sexual debility etc.

Mental Benefits of Yoga

  • Yoga has a positive effect on learning efficiency and a better memory.
  • Through yoga self-acceptance and self-actualization increases
  • Social adjustment increases
  • Anxiety and Depression decreases
  • Regular practice of Yoga can result in better concentration and more motivation.
  • Well-being increases with yoga practice. The combination of creating a strong mind-body connection, creating a healthy body, and focusing inward can all lead to improvement in your mood.
  • Yoga reduces anxiety and depression
  • Somatic and kinesthetic awareness increase
  • Depth perception improves
  • Through Yoga meditation techniques calmness increases

Biochemical Benefits of Yoga

  • Yoga reduces the Glucose levels in the body
  • It reduces sodium levels in your body
  • Yoga promotes a strong lymphatic system and reduces toxins in your body
  • Yoga reduces cholesterol through increased blood circulation and burning extra fat. It is a great tool to fight against harmful cholesterol levels.
  • Triglycerides decrease
  • Yoga helps to regulate and control hormone secretion. An improved endocrine system keeps hormones in balance and promotes better health for you.
  • Cholinesterase increases
  • Catecholamine decrease
  • Hemoglobin increases
  • Lymphocyte count increases
  • Yoga increases the level of red blood cells in the body. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen through the blood. It decreases white blood cell count
  • Thyroxin increases
  • Vitamin C increases
  • Total serum protein increases. Yoga routine increases the vitamin C in your body. Vitamin C helps boost immunity, helps produce collagen, and is a powerful antioxidant.

Siddha Yoga

Siddha Yoga is a religious path of discipline, of mastering the mind and senses with teachings and practices instilled with grace. The Siddha Yoga was founded by Gurumayi's ancestor and Guru, Swami Muktananda in 1970’s.

Siddha Yoga was previously used as a Sanskrit term. The term ‘siddha yoga’ is documented in 1948 by Swami Vishnu Tirtha.  The yoga of Kundalini is known as ‘Mahayoga’. It is also sometimes called ‘Siddha Yoga’ because it can be acquired only through the favor of a perfect master (Siddha Guru) without any effort on the part of the initiated.

The teachings of Siddha Yoga are stated in the scriptures like ‘Bhagavad Gita’, ‘Yoga Sutras’ of Patanjali, ‘Bhakti Sutras’, the ‘Mahabharata’, ‘the Ramayana’ etc. The main practices of Siddha Yoga include meditation, chanting, seva, dakshina, satsang and intensives. The form of meditation practiced is the silent focusing on a mantra and on the flow of breath. The mantra used for meditation is ‘Om Namah Shivaya’.

Siddha Yoga is a new religious movement that is based in part on the Hindu spiritual traditions of Vedanta and Kashmir Shaivism. It has ashrams and meditation centers in several countries like India, the United States, Australia, Great Britain and Japan.

Purna Yoga or Integral Yoga

The word Purna means ‘complete’ or ‘full’ in Sanskrit and sometimes it is also called ‘Supramental yoga’. Purna Yoga was initiated by Bengali philosopher and sage Sri Aurobindo in 1990’s. Integral Yoga is the process of the union of all the parts of one's being with the Divine, and the change of all of their harsh elements into a harmonious state of higher divine consciousness and existence.

Sri Aurobindo describes the nature and practice of integral yoga in his work ‘The Synthesis of Yoga’. The integral yoga is yoga of synthesis, proposed to tone the paths of karma, jnana, and bhakti yoga as described in the ‘Bhagavad Gita’. It regarded as an amalgamation between Vedanta and Tantra, and even between Eastern and Western approaches to spirituality.

Purna Yoga offers wisdom and techniques for the union of the body and the mind with the spirit. Using awareness, precision, and concentration, Purna Yoga inspires the evolution from our lower nature to our Divine. It is the art of loving yourself by living from the heart. Purna Yoga or integral yoga is said to be an improvisation over the traditional Yoga systems of India. Purna Yoga is a world-assenting and body-positive spirituality that joins self-transcendence with love, compassion, and worship for all life.

According to the Integral Yoga the ultimate goal of life is complete self-incorporation. This self-integration involves other important elements like action, love, wisdom and peace.

Tantra Yoga

The word ‘tantra’ means ‘expansion’ and Tantra focuses on the dynamic aspect of divinity called ‘Shakti’. Tantra yoga is one of the several types of yoga; it is a holistic approach to the study of the universe from the point of view of the individual. Tantra is a living system which is designed to promote rapid growth towards enlightenment.

There are many sciences which are included in Tantric Yoga, such as astronomy, astrology, numerology, physiognomy, physics, chemistry, alchemy, Ayurveda, psychology, mathematics, geometry, and more.

The goal of tantra yoga is to awaken and harmonize the male and female aspects within each person in order to spiritually awaken and realize the whole universe as an expression of the divine life force, or Spirit.

The Tantras are not books of sorcery, witchcraft, magic spells, and mysterious formulae. They are wonderful scriptures ‘Mahanirvana’ and ‘Kularnava Tantras’ are the important books in Tantra Sastra. Yoga Kundalini, Upanishad of Krishna Yajurveda, Jabala Darsana, Trisikha Brahmana, and Varaha Upanishad are useful for getting knowledge of Kundalini Sakti and the methods to awaken it and take it to Sahasrara Chakra at the crown of the head.

Tantra Yoga helps to cross the obstacles to our development, particularly those cropping up from ignorance, intolerance, attachment to our rudeness, and selfishness. By following the Tantra Yoga techniques we can learn to create peace, harmony, and order within ourselves.

Mantra Yoga

Mantra-Yoga is an important aspect of Tantra Yoga but it also be practiced as a separate path. It is considered the easiest in all forms of Yoga because it involves no complex practices. The essence of Mantra-Yoga is the regular and extensive recitation (japa) of one or more potent sounds (mantra), which awaken the chakras in our body.

The word mantra is related to manas (the mind) and is a sound or word. It is generally used to help focus the mind on a single thought until selfish. Mantra Yoga means to unite using the utensil of mantra. This process is called concentration and Meditation.

There are many mantras which can be used and are mainly in Sanskrit. The most common and used worldwide is the ‘Ohm’ mantra which helps in creating that feeling of ease and calmness. The chanting Mantra is the only thing that remains in your mind, which increases your concentration and self-awareness level.

According to the Mantra-Mahodadhi (Ocean of Mantras), Mantra Yoga has fifteen limbs:

  1. Devotion
  2. Purification
  3. Posture
  4. Serving the five limbs, the daily ritual of reading the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Sahasra-Nama, and declaiming songs of praise, protection, and heart-opening. These five are thought of as the "limbs" of the Divine.
  5. Conduct
  6. Concentration
  7. Serving the divine space
  8. Breath ritual
  9. Gesture or seal
  10. Satisfaction
  11. Invocation
  12. Offering
  13. Sacrifice
  14. Recitation
  15. Meditation

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Jnana yoga

The word ‘Jnana’ in Sanskrit means ‘knowledge’, ‘insight, or ‘wisdom’. Jnana yoga is one of the types of yoga mentioned in Hindu philosophies. According to ancient Greeks, the word gnosis means a special kind of liberating knowledge or intuition. Actually, both the terms ‘jnana’ and ‘gnosis’ are related through the Indo-European root ‘gno’, which means ‘to know’.

The path of Jnana-Yoga, which has been described as a straight but steep course, is outlined with elegant conciseness by Sadananda in his ‘Vedanta-Sara’, a fifteenth-century manuscript. Sadananda lists four principal means for attaining liberation.

1. Viveka - Discrimination: This is the capability to differentiate between what is real/eternal and what is unreal/ temporal (everything else in the universe.)

2. Vairagya-Dispassion: After practice one should be able to separate her/himself from everything that is temporary.

3. Shad-sampat - The 6 Virtues: Tranquility (control of the mind), Dama (control of the senses), Uparati (renunciation of activities that are not duties), Titiksha (endurance), Shraddha (faith), and Samadhana (perfect concentration).

4. Mumukshutva – the cultivation of the spiritual impulse

Bhakti Yoga

In Hinduism Bhakti Yoga is a term which indicates the spiritual practice of nurturing loving devotion to God, called ‘bhakti’. Traditionally there are nine forms of bhakti-yoga. Bhakti yoga is generally considered the easiest of the four general paths to liberation, or moksha. The other paths include Karma, Raja and Jnana Yoga. In Bhagavata Purana, bhakti is portrayed as a perfection stage in itself which surpasses even moksha as a level of spiritual realization. Hindu movements in which bhakti yoga is the main practice are called bhakti movements.

Bhakti Yoga is the system in which love and devotion are highlighted. Bhakti Yoga traditions do not teach about main aspects of yoga like asana, pranayama, mudra or meditation. Love of God, love of God in man, and surrender to God's will are the major points in Bhakti Yoga approach.

There are no certain ways to execute Bhakti yoga. Some people find that external abets can contribute to a devotional attitude. For instance an altar used during prayer and meditation; using of pictures of Gods to serve as inspiration; chanting or singing of mantras to help in creating a mood as preparation for meditation.

Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga is also known as ‘Hot Yoga’ because it is practiced in a hot room between the temperatures of 36-37 degrees Celsius/ 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat produced is said to encourage purification of toxins through perspiration and loosens up the muscles. Hot Yoga comprises a set of 26 poses done repeatedly. The various styles of yoga consequently present various challenges. Whichever form of Yoga you opt for, it depends on how much you wish to confront yourself.

Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar Yoga, generated by B.K.S. Iyengar, is a form of yoga known for its use of supports, such as belts and blocks, which helps in performing asanas (postures). It is strongly based on the traditional Astanga yoga as explained by Patanjali in his ‘Yoga Sutras’. The yoga sutras accentuate the development of strength, stamina, flexibility and balance, as well as concentration (Dharana) and meditation (Dhyana). Iyengar has regulated over 200 classical yoga Asanas and 14 different types of Pranayamas from the simple level to the incredibly difficult.

Iyengar Yoga is a form of Hatha Yoga and it focuses on the structural alignment of the physical body through the development of asanas. Through the practice of a system of asanas, it aims to unite the body, mind and spirit for health and well-being. Iyengar founded the use of struts such as cushions, benches, blocks, straps, and even sand bags, which assists in allowing novice to experience asanas more easily.

The regular practice of Iyengar Yoga controls various ailments like chronic backache, immunodeficiency, high blood pressure, insomnia, depression and menopause. The Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute located in Pune, India.