All you need to know about Yoga Poses.
Updated: Oct 31, 2019
When I say the word Yoga, what do you think of? The physical poses, of course! Most people know yoga to be the postures and poses with maybe some meditation and breathing thrown in there as well. Yoga is so much more than just the physical, but the physical practice is a huge part of the teachings and often is the main element that gets people interested. Asana, or the physical poses, is the third limb on Patanjali’s path. If you’re keen on getting more flexible, strengthening your body and developing a yoga bum, read on…
Yoga provides amazing benefits to introduce flexibility and strength to the body and to help calm the mind. These include the lessen of chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis and headaches. A definite increase in tone and improved posture. Practicing certain poses helps to protect your spine and build strength in the muscles alongside the spine. Because the yoga poses work on all systems in the body including the endocrine and the lymphatic systems, they boost immunity and regulate the adrenals, which helps manage stress. Certain poses help to relax the body which releases tension from your muscles. The physical practices lowers blood pressure and blood sugar levels. They help to maintain the nervous system which contributes to better sleep patterns and reduces insomnia. The teachings of Yoga in the physical practices helps you focus, relaxes the mind, centers attention and relieves chronic stress patterns. The deep breathing practices strengthens your lungs and force freshly oxygenated blood to all your muscles and organs. When talking about sun salutations and the cardio side of Yoga, it increases your circulatory health and increases heart rate and blood flow. Along with more oxygen in your body gives you more energy and vitality. Because the endocrine system is stimulated and regulated, yoga helps to maintain a balanced metabolism. Regular practice contributes to weight reduction and helps to strengthen your muscles to protect yourself from injury. Regular yoga practice, along with meditation, creates mental clarity, sharpens concentration and brings calmness. And that’s just for starters!!
There are so many different types of poses and with each comes a vast range of benefits. Let’s dive deeper into each group, starting with...
...Sun salutations. These are a fantastic way to warm up your body before you go into the more difficult poses. They work into every muscle, bringing movement and fluidity to the body. As you start your sun salutations, you start to control your breathing with Ujjayi breathing. This helps to focus your mind and starts to warm you up from the inside out. Starting your practise with sun salutations helps to get your body going and connect you with the present moment. Then you can start to add to your sun salutation. This is where sun salutations move into vinyasa flow sequences. Adding some standing poses in there, as well as some backbends and balancing poses (with a twist here and there) will give you a well-rounded, full-body workout.
Standing Poses are really beneficial in building strength and toning your legs and back. They also help lengthen the lower back, working on those super tight hamstrings and bringing movement and space into the hips and pelvis. Standing poses help to stretch into the backs of the legs and strengthen the ankles. They also help to build that famous yoga bum! They bring a sense of groundedness to you, bringing your attention to grounding into your feet and growing tall through the crown of your head. This helps you lengthen the whole body and engaging those core muscle. Standing poses also help to correct your posture by bringing your awareness to your shoulders. Make sure you are constantly drawing your shoulders away from your ears, lengthening your neck and relaxing tension in your upper back.
Balancing poses are important in the physical practice because they literally teach you how to find balance in your body, which then overflows into your life. These poses, depending on the type of balance, work at strengthening ankles, knees and legs for a standing balance or increasing shoulder and core strength in arm balances. The poses start to teach you how to trust yourself and your body, increasing your body awareness.
Backbends, or heart openers, are an essential part of the practice. They help to strengthen the lower back and reduce lower back pain (which 80% of humans suffer from!). They train the body to relax the shoulders and release the pent-up tension there. They open and lengthen the front side of the body. When you think of your everyday life in front of a computer, driving your car, commuting or on your phone, it's likely you are constantly hunching forward, engaging the front side of your body, rounding your spine. Backbends remind us that there are other ways in which our bodies need to move. They open into the chest and heart and help you to stand proud and tall, without having to round over your heart to protect yourself. Backbends teach us how to confidently and graceful step into our futures without fear.
Twists are super important because they maintain the health of your spine, work into the muscles alongside the spine that may not get much attention and they are really beneficial to your internal organs. Remember to always twist to the right first (look over right shoulder first) to follow the path of your large intestines responsible for digestion. When we twist and breath deeply at the same time, we are wringing out our internal organs. When we come out of the twist, freshly oxygenated blood flushes the organs detoxifying and revitalising them. Twisting is lubrication for your spinal cord, vertebrae and muscles alongside the spine.
Forward bending, with a lengthening spine, is so beneficial to lengthen you back and hamstrings. When engaging in these poses, you learn to relax the tension in your shoulders, lengthen your neck and improve your posture. You are working at stretching the whole of the backside of your body while keeping your chest open and core muscle engaged. Lengthening the backside of your body also starts to relieve tension in the hips and psoas (stress) muscles. Forward folds bring your awareness inwards and help you look into yourself. They help you get to know yourself a bit better.
Ooooh, those most delicious hip openers. These are by far my favourite group of poses. Opening into your hips can start out feeling a bit painful and scary. You may approach them with resentment and hesitation but once you start to work with these poses and get to the juiciness of them, that’s when the magic happens. Physically, hips openers work on releasing the psoas muscles, which are known as our "stress" muscles. They are the muscles that are activated when our sympathetic nervous system is triggered resulting in our "fight or flight" response. Because of our super stressful lifestyles, the muscles are constantly engaged and we are never afforded the opportunity to relax them to calm the nervous system. Working with hip opening poses gives us the perfect tools to start to let go of the tension in those muscles and take control of the damaging effects stress causes in the body. Emotionally, opening into the hips helps to release past, unresolved stress related to certain relationships we hold. We store a lot of our emotions in our bodies, especially in our hips. Working with the breath and hip opening Yoga poses will help you to release and resolve those emotions.
Inversions are a very important part of the physical practice. Going upside down strengthens your arms and shoulders and your core muscles. It stimulates your endocrine system, tones the muscles of your heart and drains stagnant lymph and blood from your legs. Being upside-down gives your internal organs a big shock. They totally freak out with gravity working against them but when you come right way up again they return to homeostasis and balance. Practicing inversions every day will literally reverse the ageing process by not only sending freshly oxygenated blood to the face and brain but by giving you a new perspective and the ability to see things in your life differently. Freshly oxygenated blood flushing into your pituitary gland or master gland makes sure that all your hormones are well-balanced and functioning at their optimum. There is a real fear of death when we start to play with inversions. Facing that fear by safely practising these poses helps you overcome fear and attain a confident strength in your body and in yourself.
Savasana is the most important and most difficult pose. It is our final relaxation pose. Translated as Corpse Pose, in no morbid way, we are practising how to die. How to completely surrender and let go. It’s the most difficult pose because you don’t have your breath or the sensations in your body to keep you present. You have to take control of your mind in the pose to stay present and keep yourself from drifting off, falling asleep or daydreaming. In Savasana you lie on your back, feet flopping out to the side, hands away from the body, palms facing up. This is a gesture of complete surrender and acceptance. When you take the pose your job is to not let your thoughts drag you away from the present moment. This pose assimilates the benefits of all the poses that you practised throughout your class. It gives you the opportunity to relax completely, to totally let go of any tension and rest your body.
There are so many benefits to practising Yoga, even more than are stated here. Do yourself a favour and give Yoga a try. Your body and mind will thank you. You will feel calmer, more present and more focused. You will learn yourself physically, emotionally and mentally on a different and deeper level. Come for the Yoga bum, stay for the life-changing experience.
Next month we will be launching our Yoga for Beginners program on our member’s platform. Sign up now to get 40% off your first month’s membership fee and I will gently, safely and confidently introduce you to all these poses and re-introduce you to yourself and your body. It’s a life-long relationship that needs a lot of care and attention. Let’s start the journey, together.
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