The Art of Yoga

The Art of Yoga – overall health and a naturally supple spine – at any age.   

ManasaYoga is a gentle yet powerful form of yoga that teaches you how to work with the natural flow of the body.
Health and well being are your greatest assets. Tension, poor breathing and incorrect posture lead to lethargy, illness and stress.

We learn to work with, not against, the body and the mind. To elongate and extend rather than pull and push. We learn to listen to our breath to guide us into movement and from there the body naturally unfolds.

Each month we will progressively advance through a series of asanas that will promote healing and rejuvenation as you build a healthy body and a calm mind.
The practice of Yoga is not an isolated experience rather it is something we are able to integrate into our lives –an expression of grace and beauty.

Observe your breath without judgment; a yoga breath is a deep internal cleansing breath, imperceptible to the eye. The inhalation comes as a natural result of a full exhalation. Breathing in and out softly through the nose, concentrate your attention on allowing the inhalation to arise spontaneously at the very end of your exhalation. Allowing the diaphragm to initiate the inhalation it will feel like a gentle ‘bounce’ up through the center of your body. The incoming breath will be effortless.
(small photograph showing sitting breathing to the right side)

1.    Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

This is the most important pose – do it well and all the others will follow.
Standing on the back of your heels let your weight slowly sink down. By activating the hips at the base of your back the weight of your body will sink – let it drop. From the waist upwards the movement is the opposite giving freedom to the upper part of the body. Pull the knee caps upwards as the buttocks contract nicely. Check your weight is evenly distributed on both feet. Feel the upper body becoming light, free and straight as the lower body gravitates downwards. Gently release holding onto your head (there is no need) and let the chin release forward as you release the tension from the cervical vertebrae.

•    This starting position can help to correct and adjust spinal problems such as scoliosis, arthritis and lordosis. Strengthens and tones abdominal muscles. Strengthens feet, ankles and thighs. Develops correct posture.

In Tadasana you will experience perfect stillness.
You can practice Tadasana whenever you ‘stand still’ for example at the shopping center, bus stop. It is like a ‘pause’ a moment of silence and stillness in both the body and mind providing space and tranquility in your day.

A simple physical truth, there is a division in the center of our back, where the spine moves simultaneously in two opposite directions(5th lumbar vertebrae), from the waist down towards the legs and the feet, which are pulled by gravity, and from the waist upwards, through the top of the head lifting us up freely. This knowledge is the revolution, where during the process of the exhalation the spine can stretch and elongate producing a powerful wave of extension, followed by an opening from within us, giving life to the spine.
(Picture of close up of spine elongating)

2.    Tadasana Urdhva Hastasana (Mountain Pose with arms extended)

Observe your breath. Inhale, exhale.
Inhale, draw your arms up around your body and reach up, exhale downwards from the waist – release the lower spine to lengthen and ground down through the back of the heels.  Inhale; lengthen upwards from the waist, draw your arms up until they are parallel lengthening through the armpits, elbows, wrists, palms of the hands and fingers.
Feel your rib cage gently expanding as the upper body opens, the lower body grounds into the earth.

•    Tones and stimulates the abdomen, pelvis, torso and back. Helps to relieve depression and boosts self confidence. Reduces sciatic pain, arthritis, strengthens the knees joints and hamstring muscles.

3.    Transition Pose

a)    Begin to bend your knees, draw your navel to the spine allowing the pelvis to tilt, reach and lengthen the spine forward keeping your head positioned between your arms. Hold, breathing evenly, observe your breath. Continue to draw down through your feet, grounding into the earth, feel the counter effect of gravity providing a lift for the upper body elongating the spine.
b)    Maintaining your stance draw arms downwards to rest lightly on your thighs fingers drawing inwards. Allow the breath to move actively through the spine, energising.
c)    Exhale, release to the floor to hands and knees.

•    Opens the sternum, heart and lungs. Improves lung function and circulation. Tones organs and strengthens spine. Improves inner core strength and stability.

4.    Marjariasana – (The Cat )

  1. Begin on all fours, placing the heel of your hand directly beneath your shoulders and your knees hip width apart directly beneath your hips, tops of your feet on the floor. Position your fingers fully spread with the middle fingers pointing straight ahead. Gently draw you navel towards your spine. This is your ‘neutral’ position.
  2. Bring your awareness to your breath establishing a smooth flowing breath, the foundation of this asana.

  1. When you are ready to begin, breath in deeply, as you exhale, begin to release your chin towards your chest and draw your navel in towards your spine, arch your spine upwards all the way to the tailbone as you feel the contraction through the pelvic floor and buttocks.

Inhale, rotate through the scapula releasing the tailbone first, slowly unrolling the spine the last thing to come up is the head. Repeat rhythmically with the breath guiding the movements.
•    Increases mobility of vertebrae and releases tension in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine.

Strengthens and tones the arms and abdominal muscles. Stretches back muscles and abdominal muscles as well as the neck. Increases circulation of spinal fluid and massages digestive organs.

5.    Shavasana – (Complete Relaxation)

Lying on your back let the arms and legs release openly, with the arms about 45 degrees from the side of your body. Make sure you are warm and comfortable, if you need to place folded blankets or cushions under your knees to relieve any discomfort.
Close your eyes and bring your awareness to the breath. Allow your whole body to become soft and heavy, letting it relax into the floor. As the body relaxes, feel the whole body rising and falling with each breath. A gentle wave of movement.
Scan the body from the toes to the fingers to the crown of the head, looking for tension, tightness and contracted muscles. Consciously release and relax any areas that you find.
Release all control of the breath, the mind, and the body. Let your body move deeper and deeper into a state of total relaxation.
Stay in Shavasana for 5 to 10 minutes.
To release: slowly deepen the breath, wiggle the fingers and toes, reach the arms over your     head and stretch the whole body, inhale, exhale bend the knees into the chest and roll over to one side coming into a fetal position. When you are ready, slowly inhale up to a seated position.
•    Shavasana is essential to practice at the end of every yoga practice. It rejuvenates the body, removing fatigue and soothes the mind. It helps to alleviate nervous tension and enhances recovery from illnesses.

Om Shanti

© Copyright 2010 Megan Ward