Monday, August 25, 2008

Yoga: Can I Do the Asanas in Any Order I Like

Everything in life has an order. So is the case with yoga. Each asana augments or counterbalances the one before. Whether you are just starting yoga or are at an advanced stage, regard the sequence as a pattern on which to build.

Now let's take a look at the elements that make up the sequence.

Begin with Shavasana : Your session should begin with two or three minutes of relaxation in Shavasana (Corpse Pose). You should use this time to relax, breathing deeply and focusing your mind on your breath. Be sure to relax in this pose after every asana until your breathing and heartbeat have returned to normal.

Easy Pose: Next you sit up in the Easy Pose for pranayama, or the breathing exercises, which will recharge you with energy. It is a simple cross-legged position, often adopted naturally when sitting on the floor. In yoga, it is one of the basic positions used during meditation, breathing, and warm-ups. Sit upright and keep your spine straight so that it gives your body firm support. Place your hands so that they rest on your knees.

Neck and shoulder exercises: Remaining in the Easy Pose, relieve any stiffness in the upper body by practising neck and shoulder exercises. Also do eye exercises to strengthen these underused muscles.

Lion Pose: Now change to a kneeling position for the Lion Pose, which releases tension from the neck and throat.

Surya Namaskar : To perform the Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) you rise to your feet. The bending and stretching movements of this sequence of 12 asanas warm up and tone the whole body, bringing flexibility to the spine and making the subsequent asanas easy to accomplish.

Leg Raises : Now lie down to practise a series of Leg Raises. These strengthen the muscles of the abdomen and lower back, and so prepare the body for the next asana, the Head Stand.

The Head Stand : In the Head Stand, one of the most important asanas, only the head and forearms make contact with the floor and the body is completely inverted. Holding this position brings tremendous benefits.

Shoulder Stand and the Plough: Next comes a series of three postures . the Shoulder Stand and Bridge . all of them performed from the same neck and shoulder position. As a beginner you will need to relax in the Corpse Pose between these three asanas.

The Fish: The Fish acts as a counterpose to the previous three asanas, compressing instead of stretching the neck and upper spine, and relieving local stiffness.

The Forward Bend : Next comes the Forward Bend. This augments the Plough pose, but here it is the base rather than the top of the spine that receives the greatest stretch.

The Cobra, Locust and Bow: This series of three asanas bring flexibility to the whole back.

Half Spinal Twist: Having bent the body forward and backward, you now sit up for the Half Spinal Twist, which rotates the body to each side in turn, twisting the spine literally.

Lotus: Still sitting, you come to one of the most renowned meditative poses, the Lotus. In this asana, the head, neck and spine remain in a straight line while the legs are locked together to form a steady base, ideal for meditation.

Crow: Next comes the Crow . a good exercise for balance and for concentration in which only the hands remain on the floor, supporting the whole weight of the body.

Hands to Feet Pose and Triangle: The asanas end with two standing positions . the Hands to Feet Pose, which bends the body forward, inverting the torso; and finally the Triangle, which stretches the spine to each side in turn.

Final Relaxation /Corpse Pose: Every session ends with Final Relaxation. Lying down in the Corpse Pose for at least 10 minutes, you relax each part of the body in turn. It is vital that you integrate this relaxation time into your asana session right from the start. Otherwise the mind may find an excuse to leave it out and you will not absorb the full effects of the asanas.

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