By Kathi Duquette
In yoga, like most things, you need a healthy balance. Your yoga routine should include a variety of poses; avoid practicing the same ones and neglecting the rest of your body. Practicing a variety of different poses will provide the most benefit to your entire body. There are many poses that simply feel good. They are easy to sink into and they can relieve tension and stress. A ‘rag doll’ pose is a good example of a feel-good pose. Hanging around in such a comfortable inversion releases stress on many physical and mental levels.
Another example is the ‘legs up the wall’ pose. These are restorative and comfortable poses. Practicing something as simple as ‘easy seated pose’ (comfortable seated cross legged pose) can cause an imbalance. Consider if in your easy pose you always keep the same leg crossed in front. One hip will be more open than the other. Conversely, if one hip is more open than the other, it is easier to sit that way. If you can work the other leg gradually into the front position you can balance out the hips. You really need to focus on working on specific areas like these gradually, over time.
Allow your body to progress in its own time – never forcing into any pose. Instead of focusing on looking a certain way in the pose, focus on releasing a certain body part or muscle. Think inside the body rather than how it looks on the outside.
Challenging your body to move deeper into poses will bring even greater flexibility and stress relief. The deeper breathing associated with focusing on sinking deeper into a pose, while tuning in to how your body feels each step of the way, is stress relieving. On the physical level, different poses offer different strength building and flexibility. While some poses offer benefits to many parts of the body in a single pose, others are more specific to isolated muscle groups.
Inversions, twists, side stretches, forward bends and back bends should be included in each practice session. Your yoga training session should include some inversions such as the standing forward bend, which gives your brain a fresh dose of oxygenated blood. A side stretch, a twist, and a back bend will keep your spine lubricated and supple. By moving the spine in different directions with awareness you are improving flexibility and decreasing risk of injury. Back bends stretch the front side of your body; forward bends stretch the back side. Twists give your organs a gentle massage, while lubricating and increasing flexibility in the spine.
Including all parts of your body into your yoga routine will bring some balance to many imbalances that occur from repetitive motions or poor posture. Over time you will start to notice imbalances that your didn’t know you had. Keep practicing a variety of poses to bring balance to all of your different parts. Keep in mind that your spine is truly the backbone of your body. Many yoga poses focus on keeping the spine strong, flexible and agile while strengthening the supporting muscles around it. Mixing in the forward, backward and side flexions will help to keep your spine strong and supple.
Be sure to practice safely for your body and include the basic five types (inversions, forward bends, back bends, twists and side stretches) of poses in every practice. Create balance and infuse your body with fresh oxygenated blood. Add some balance poses to further balance out the two sides of your body and to build on your body and mind connection. Don’t forget your savasana (relaxation) to give your body a few minutes to absorb its work.
Getting to know your body and all of its magical parts can only be good. Be aware of any weaknesses, but generally acknowledge all of the wonderful aspects your body holds. You can always work on straightening out imbalances and strengthening weak muscles. Appreciate all that your body and your breath do for you and reward yourself with a consistent yoga routine.
By Kathi Duquette
Certified Yoga Instructor
Certified Personal Trainer
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Hatha Yoga in the 21st Century
By Gopi Rao
Hatha Yoga is one of the oldest yoga routines, and it is still practiced by a large number of people today. In western society, this is the most common type of yoga due to its easier physical nature and many overall benefits. Hatha Yoga is associated with a number of postural, breathing, and lifestyle techniques, all of which help to enhance the benefits of the exercise. Although this practice has been around for many centuries, there are many practical applications of Hatha Yoga in the twenty-first century.
The Foundation of Hatha Yoga
This yoga routine originated in India, long before Christ’s time period, but the name was not officially written as Hatha Yoga until around the eleventh century common era. The word hatha originates from the Sanskrit language and can be interpreted two ways. The first translates to mean force or strength, which signifies the power of the results seen or the power of the movements. The word can also be split into the syllables of “hat” and “ha,” which mean sun and moon respectively. In this translation, the exercise unifies the sun and the moon, giving the body and mind full understanding.
The ancient practice of Hatha Yoga places a large emphasis on meditation, postural and breathing techniques, muscle and movement control to create energy locks, and lifestyle choices that include diet. All of these are able to work together to allow the body and mind to access and activate internal energies, increase self-awareness, and reach enlightenment.
Hatha Yoga in the Twenty-First Century
Although this exercise originated thousands of years ago, the exercise is still widely practiced and the benefits can still be seen today. The physical act of Hatha Yoga places a large emphasis on postures and breathing, and these aspects can have great benefits on physical strength, balance, and relaxation.
Hatha Yoga classes are taught in many locations and by a variety of instructors, and they can be attended by a wide array of individuals. Hatha Yoga classes are often slow paced, and an emphasis is placed primarily on the postures, or asanas.
The difficulty can vary widely, and classes can be tailored towards beginners, advanced students, or older or younger individuals. Some classes and instructors may also place more emphasis on the meditation or breathing aspects of the exercise, so everyone will be able to select the type of class that works best for them.
Benefits of Steady Training
A Hatha Yoga routine can provide a large number of benefits, both physical and mental in nature. In the twenty-first century, this type of yoga is often used as a form of exercise. Practicing it can help to increase strength, balance, posture, and flexibility, all of which can reduce the chance of injury, decrease pain, increase mood, and others.
This exercise is also associated with a number of mental and emotional benefits as well, as it can help to relax the body and mind, easing stress levels and releasing tension that may be built up in the muscles. The practice of meditation during Hatha Yoga can also help to improve mental function and clarity, allowing for personal and spiritual growth and awareness. These benefits can also help to reduce feelings of depression and improve attitude, temperament, and overall quality of life.
Although not all modern-day classes address the points of consuming an appropriate diet, following these guidelines associated with the exercise can be very beneficial for overall health. Some of these guidelines include eating moderately, not acting on cravings, and consuming foods that are beneficial for the body. Individuals practicing these restrictions often consume vegetarian diets.
The Hatha Yoga routine has been practiced for thousands of years, but the benefits of this exercise are still widely seen today. Although practice in the twenty-first century is not identical to that of ancient times, the exercise can still evoke many positive physical, emotional, and spiritual effects, and it can be practiced by nearly an individual, regardless of age or gender.
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