Yoga Poses: The objective may be to gain flexibility, calm the mind, relieve back pain, overcome insomnia or anxiety. Any approach to yoga poses is valid if it allows you to know this discipline to gain your health.
Many people associate yoga poses with the image of an individual dressed in orange, with a turban, incense, and singing in Sanskrit However, yoga poses can also be something much closer, practical and real, which provides tremendous benefits both for the physical and mental health.
There are numerous types of yoga. Each one applies different methods to achieve the same goal: to facilitate a form of self-knowledge that allows living harmoniously with oneself, with others and with the world.
Yoga poses are a tool that makes it possible to connect with the essentials of the person. It is a way to introduce clarity where there is confusion, peace of mind where there is tension or unease, and relaxation where there is tension.
It is not an easy position, nor is it achieved overnight, but it does consolidate overtime when it is practised regularly.
1. The Visible Benefits of Yoga
The benefits of yoga poses are innumerable. On a physical level, most variants of this discipline provide good physical shape.
Through the postures (asanas), muscles are toned and stretched, bad postural habits are corrected, and endorphins are secreted, the so-called “happiness hormones,” which produce a feeling of well-being.
By achieving a healthy and vigorous body, indirectly strength, flexibility, and endurance are also increased, making it easier for tension and pain to disappear.
Continuous practise of yoga removes impurities from the body, increases defences, strengthens the different organs and improves the functioning of the immune, circulatory, digestive and hormonal systems.
2. Mental Benefits
On a mental level, yoga poses are an excellent tool to eliminate stress and its manifestations.
Practising conscious breathing or pranayama (Prana means vital energy and Ayama, control) automatically reduces anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and digestive disorders.
Today, we have very little awareness of how important it is to breathe; We breathe in and out automatically and ungenerously, resulting in tensions (stress, anxiety, poor concentration), a weak immune system, and other health problems.
Through deep breathing, the thoughts that roam the mind are silenced, the heart rate is regulated, the heart is stimulated, the abdominal organs are massaged, the lymphatic system is activated, and concentration and self-confidence are developed achieved silent mind.
Once learned, this breathing can be put into practice no matter what time of day, sitting, lying down, or standing.
Anyone, regardless of age, physical condition, elasticity, or stress level, can start practising yoga poses.
Its different branches and schools provide different intensity scales ranging from almost static practices to very dynamic ones. Depending on what each one is looking for, it is convenient to start in one style or another.
3. Choose Your Yoga Style
a. Stretching and Relaxation.
HATHA YOGA is the root of the majority of yoga poses styles imported to the West. Incorporate physical postures, breathing, and meditation.
Part of the material to reach a state of mental relaxation. It has great preventive and therapeutic efficacy and is very useful for the rehabilitation of injuries, as well as to control stress.
b. Good Physical Shape and Calm Mind
The VINYASA is born from the Hatha and focuses on the coordination of breath with movement.
It is a dynamic variant of yoga that, through fluid sequences of postures, accompanied by rhythmic and intense breathing, helps eliminate toxins from the body while toning the muscles, providing flexibility and calming the mind.
c. Commitment and Physical Demand
The ASHTANGA is also born from the Hatha. It is the most physically demanding style of yoga poses. It is a fixed series of postures with progressive difficulty, in which the practitioner advances according to the teacher’s instructions.
His breathing (ujjayi) is intense, causing heat and sweating. The sessions are very athletic and energetic, so it is not recommended for people with injuries.
d. Postural Precision
The IYENGAR style was developed more than 60 years ago from hatha yoga poses. Promotes strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance through coordinated breathing and body alignment in different postures.
He holds each position for about a minute (longer than other disciplines) and, after each one of them, allows him to rest for a few breaths. Due to its slow pace and its precision, it can be practised by everyone.
e. To Awaken the Energy of the Body
The practice of KUNDALINI focuses, above all, on awakening the body’s power from the base of the spine upwards. It is an energetic style based on repetitive movements, and each of them is directed towards the release of energy.
A typical kundalini class may also include chanting, meditation, and breathing exercises. Along with hatha yoga, it is the most widespread branch in the West.
SIVANANDA yoga is a very traditional practice that includes the execution of physical postures, breathing exercises, the study of Vedanta philosophy, recitation of mantras, chants, and meditation.
It is a spiritually-focused practice that incorporates techniques from different branches of yoga.
g. Elimination of Toxins
The BIKRAM YOGA consists of a series of 26 postures that are repeated, in each session, in a room at 40ºC. The purpose of the practice is to warm up the muscles fast to detoxify the body through sweating.
Its founder, Bikram Choudhury, was an Olympic medalist lifting weights and has made this type of yoga fashionable in the Western world through actors, models, and singers.
ANUSARA YOGA was created in 1997 and placed a strong emphasis on the alignment of postures. Through the practice of asanas, its objective is to open the heart to connect with the divine that is within each one, as well as others.
YIN YOGA focuses on stretching the tissues that connect the muscles with the bones since they are hard and have to be stimulated in a softer and more sustained way than the flesh, smooth and elastic by nature.
Each pose is carried for two to five minutes. Yin yoga practice provides deep relaxation.
4. What Style to Choose?
To find both the teacher and the most suitable yoga variant and class for each person, it is advisable to try different studios and teachers.
It is best to leave the choice to your instincts, taking into account the feeling experienced after each session. Listening to yourself, you know if the style, rhythm, and intensity are right for you.
Do not be in a hurry and, above all, never force your body into any position. Yoga is neither “good” nor “bad.” The ultimate goal of this discipline is the well-being and balance of the practitioner. And there is no doubt that, with practice, these always come.
a. Sitting Position (Sukhasana)
- Before you start practising, sit comfortably cross-legged.
- Join your hands on your chest and breathe easily for a few minutes.
- Standing, stretch your arms straight over your head and bring your palms together.
- Breathing out, bend your knees without separating, as if you wanted to sit in a chair. Don’t lean your torso forward. Look at your hands and keep your shoulders relaxed.
- Stay in the pose for 5 breaths. You will stimulate the abdominal organs, the diaphragm, and the heart, and you will strengthen the legs.
c. Twist Chair Pose
In any twisting posture, the abdominal organs and muscles form the core of the movement, causing a “drip” effect that has traditionally been used to kickstart the digestive system.
By rotating the abdominal area, the pressure is created on the stomach and intestines that massages and helps cleanse the liver and other organs. In this position, also, the quadriceps and the knee joint are reinforced.
To start, standing with your feet and legs together, bring your palms together at chest level.
- Breathing out, bend your knees as if you were sitting in an imaginary chair. Keep your heels on the floor and your knees together.
- Bring your right elbow above your left knee to rotate your entire torso to the left, starting at the base of your spine.
- Look to the left and up, but without straining your neck. Try to hold the pose for 5 breaths, return to the starting position, and repeat it on the other side.
- Ensure your palms are level with your chest and your shoulders, knees, and feet are aligned.
d. Marichyasana I
- Sitting on the level with your legs straight, bend your left knee with the sole of your foot flat on the floor.
- Breathing in, raise the left arm, and on the exhale, bring the shoulder forward until the left armpit touches the left shin.
- Try to put the left arm around the left leg: bend the elbow and bring the forearm behind the back at the waist.
- Then bring the right hand behind the back and grasp the left side with it, by the wrist or fingers. Go as far as you can without forcing.
- Next, keeping the extended leg straight, look at the extended big toe. Take a few deep breaths and lean your body forward little by little, without forcing. Try to keep your shoulders parallel. It is not important to go down much, but it is important to breathe deeply.
- This pose is excellent for constipation and flatulence problems. It also helps open the hips. Hold the pose for five long breaths and repeat by bending the other leg.
e. Head to the Knee With a Twist (Marietta Janu Sirsasana)
- Sit on the floor with your limb open and bend your left, placing your heel at the level of your pelvis. The big toe of the left foot should be in contact with the inside of the right thigh.
- Turn your trunk to the left and stretch your right arm towards your straight leg, if possible, until you reach for the right foot.
- Bring your torso back and stretch your left arm over your head, diagonally, as if you were trying to grasp the right foot without lifting the ischium bone from the ground.
- Make sure your shoulders are relaxed. Take eight breaths, return to the starting position, and switch sides.
- It is an ideal posture to reduce anxiety and fatigue; helps with insomnia and headaches.
f. The Cat
Get on all fours, with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Spread your hands wide and evenly distribute the weight between your fingers and palms.
Inhale with your back straight and, as you exhale, bring your navel towards your spine, towards the ceiling, and your chin, towards the chest.
Hold the pose for five breaths. You will notice how the abdominal muscles and organs are toned, at the same time that the back and cervicals are relaxed.
Then return to the flat back starting position. Repeat the pose for five more breaths.
g. The Camel (Ustrasana)
Sit on top of your heels and raise your hips to be in a straight line with your shoulders and knees.
Inhale stretching your back, and rest your hands on your lower back. Make sure the coccyx is facing the ground.
With each inspiration, try to bring your chest towards the ceiling, stretching your back.
If you can, rest your hands on the soles of your feet, opening your chest a little more and bringing your head back. But if you feel like this is too intense, keep your hands on your lower back.
Breathe five times and, in the end, sit on your heels and support your abdomen on your thighs. Breathe ten times, bringing the air towards the lower back.
The camel is a very intense pose that tones the spine and helps reduce anxiety and fatigue.
h. The Candle (Sarvangasana)
- Inverted (head down) poses are great for calming the mind and reducing stress. “Sailing” can be practised as long as you do not suffer from cervical discomfort.
- From the ground, with your arms stretched out behind your back, exhale and bring your bent legs towards your torso, naturally raising your lower back.
- Rest your elbows on the floor and your hands on your back.
- With an inhale, bring your legs toward the ceiling, activating your feet up.
- Make sure the cervical area is relaxed, and never turn your head in this position. Stretch your legs and feet, and try to bring your elbows closer.
- If you are a beginner, do not hold the posture for more than 30 seconds and lengthen it for 5 seconds.
- Breathe, listening to the air you inhale and exhale.
- Gently lower your legs and back to the floor and take five deep breaths while lying on the floor.
i. The Clamp (Paschimottanasana)
- Sit with your legs stretched forward, your sitting bones well anchored on the floor, and your back straight.
- Inhale and bring your arms to the ceiling, exhale, lowering your back forward from your abdomen.
- When you can’t lower yourself anymore, relax your shoulders and arms, but not your legs. Hold ten long, deep breaths in this pose and listen to the sound of the air.
- Little by little, the mind will calm down, you will relax the anxiety levels and, when you finish, you will feel more relaxed.