Community on Yoga, Meditation, Ayurveda and Spirituality
Your mental and physical wellbeing provides the core of your life quality. Your physical wellbeing dictates the health of your body and will determine your life span as well as how you perceive events in your everyday life. This affects not only how you feel physically, but also how you feel mentally, affecting your self-confidence and hence how you interact with those around you. You can make use of numerous yoga postures and meditation techniques to allow yourself to strengthen your mind and body, a few of which are discussed below. Taking part at a yoga teacher training, made me more aware of the positive and beneficial properties of yoga.
Yoga is union. When you are practicing yoga, it is not just an hour of physical practice to participate in on a semi-regular basis, but rather a permanent state of mind and being. Yoga is your union with the world around you, both physical and spiritual. It is a condition of consciousness and unconditional love that unites you with the world and the people around you, leading to a happier, healthier self and society.
During my yoga teacher training, I came to notice that yoga is a rewarding and life-changing practice. Yoga makes use of asanas, or postures, to improve one’s strength and flexibility so as to enable one to remove focus of the mind on menial things. This enables you to then focus on becoming truly conscious. Three examples of such asanas, allowing for development of strength, flexibility, and mental one pointedness, are Padahastasana (hand to foot pose), Bhujangasana (cobra pose), and Parvatasana (mountain pose). These three asanas are performed in any basic hatha yoga sequence during the sun and/or moon salutations, each having a profound effect on the condition of the body and mind.
I learnt to practise all hatha yoga asanas at my yoga teacher training, so I would like to share the most relevant poses with you. Firstly, Padahastasana is performed by starting in a standing position, with your feet together, spine straight and hands relaxed beside your body. It is important to ensure the even distribution of your weight between both feet. To move into the pose, one slowly bends forward without placing strain on the body, placing palms on the mat beside your feet with your fingers on the floor in-line with your toes. You must then hold the position, relaxing the whole back, letting gravity pull you down, with your focus on your naval. This asana may be practised as part of a sun/moon salutation, or on its own, possibly as a counter pose to any back-bending exercises performed. The posture helps with physical and mental wellbeing by increasing vitality, improving metabolism, and assisting with concentration. When used as a dynamic posture, it helps remove excess weight. Caution should be exercised if the practitioner has high blood pressure, heart disease, back problems, or abdominal hernia.
Secondly, you may start with performing Bhujangasana by lying flat on your stomach with your legs straight and feet together. You should then place your hands to either side of your shoulders with your palms down, fingers together and pointing forward, and your elbows pointing backward, tucked close to your body. You should then gently tilt your head backwards, straightening your elbows. It is essential to use your back muscles first to lift your chest off the floor, followed by your arm muscles to raise your trunk further and arch your back. Your naval should remain no more than 3cm off the floor. Your focus should be on your breath. The posture improves and deepens breathing allowing for intensification of the flow of oxygen to your vital organs and mind. It helps keep the spine supple and healthy which is important as this is the path along which your central nervous system runs. The posture is also beneficial for all abdominal organs. The posture should not be performed by those suffering from hyperthyroidism, intestinal tuberculosis, hernia or peptic ulcer without the guidance of a competent teacher.
Thirdly, Parvatasana also forms part of any basic hatha yoga sequence, and should be perfomed keeping focus on the stretch induced at the back of ones legs, with your drishti on your naval. The pose is performed by coming onto your hands and feet, raising the buttocks and lowering the head between the arms so that your legs and back form two sides of a triangle. Feet should be together and hands should be shoulder width apart. The distance between your feet and hands should be roughly equal to the distance between your shoulders and feet if your body is in a straight line. It is important to keep your back and arms straight, bending at the hip. You may then attempt to straighten your legs, bringing your heels onto the floor. This pose assists with strengthening the nerves and muscles in the limbs and back, while stimulating circulation.
Making use of practices such as Pranayama and meditation is essential to fully incorporate yoga into your day-to-day state of being. Each pranayama session should incorporate the breathing technique known as NadiShodhana, which creates balance and purifies the body. This technique not only opens air passages to improve the flow of oxygen into your body, but also has calming effects. It provides relief of anxiety and improves concentration. Nadi Shodan was my favorite pranayama practice during my yoga teacher training and continues to be very suitable for me until now.
Your physical and mental wellbeing is the key to providing yourself with a healthy and happy life where you are capable of enriching the lives of those around you. Yoga is your union with your world, both spiritual and physical, allowing us to coexist as one, happy and healthy.
Melissa loves to travel, learn and grow. She has been practising yoga since many years and finally to decided to complete a yoga teacher training in 2018. She chose the Yoga India Foundation in Rishikesh for her first ever yoga teacher training. She describes this experience as eye-opening, magical and blissful and would recommend the school to anyone who is looking for a professional and enriching yoga teacher training.