As we live in a fast-paced world, it is important to be able to find moments of peace and tranquility in our daily lives. One way to achieve this is through the practice of yoga, which has been shown to have numerous benefits for both physical and mental health. In this article, we will explore some yoga poses that can help to cultivate strength, focus, and deep relaxation, while also providing a great workout for your muscles.
One of the foundational principles of yoga is the importance of focusing on the breath. By bringing our attention to the breath, we can learn to quiet the mind and let go of distractions. This can be challenging at first, especially if you are used to living in a state of constant stimulation, but with practice, you will begin to notice a sense of calm and clarity that arises from this type of mindfulness.
Focus/Intention: The breath is the boss, listen to it, focus on it. When you are relaxed, your ability to listen increases. Your quality of listening alters, and you develop a quality of attention. Stability is power. That’s why we are going to practice slow, simple and deep movement. We will pay attention to our gaze, also call Drishti in Sanskrit. Gaze at one point; when you move your eyeball around, it is a sign than you are riding your thoughts instead of listening to the boss, the breath. Where our eyes are directed, our attention follows. The use of Drishti in asana serves both as a training technique and as a metaphor for focusing consciousness toward a vision of oneness.
As you continue to practice deep belly breathing, you can start to move your body in gentle ways. Windshield wiper the knees from side to side to help release tension in the hips and lower back. Lift your legs straight up, with your feet above your hips, or in a tabletop position with bent legs. Keep your legs together and press your feet, while relaxing your upper body. Make sure to properly digest any movement you do and integrate it into your body. You can go back to constructive rest between effort poses.
Next, try lifting your tailbone off the floor on an inhale, then relaxing on an exhale. Repeat this movement five to ten times. Then, try a hollow body pose by lifting one leg and hovering it above the ground while pressing against the opposite knee. On an inhale, lift your tailbone off the floor, then exhale and lift your head with your hands interlaced. Inhale again and lift higher. Alternate this movement with the upper body off the ground, with your head supported.
From an all-fours position, try hovering your knee off the floor for three to five breaths. Then, move into a downward dog to plank pose, waving your spine three to five times with your breath. Lift one leg to a downward dog, then bring your knee to your chest, hold for three to five breaths, and then place your foot down. From a low lunge, move into a half split five times, slowly lifting your back knee off the floor and shifting forward into a supported standing split, or Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana. Slowly bring your feet together, hover one foot off the ground before putting it down into a forward fold at the front of your mat. Bring the leg back into low lunge, then from there lift the front foot to a downward dog. Repeat this flow on the other side.
Once you are familiar with this sequence, try repeating it with your back knee off the floor with both legs. Move into a one-legged downward dog, then bring your knee to the outside and place your foot down, coming into a lizard lunge, or Utthan Prasthasana, with a quadriceps stretch.
Next, move against the wall and try some standing poses, such as Warrior II, Side Angle Pose, Triangle Pose, and Half Moon Pose. As you move through these poses, pay attention to your body and your breath.
Using a wall for some yoga poses can have several purposes, such as:
- Alignment: A wall can help you align your body in the correct position. For example, in a standing forward bend (Uttanasana), standing with your feet a few inches away from the wall can help you maintain a straight back and ensure your head is positioned in the correct alignment with your spine.
- Stability: In some poses, a wall can provide stability and support, especially for beginners. For example, in a handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana), you can use the wall to practice kicking up your legs while providing support to your back.
- Resistance: The wall can also provide resistance, helping you build strength in certain poses. For example, in a downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), you can push against the wall to deepen the stretch and strengthen your shoulders and arms.
- Awareness: The wall can also provide a reference point for your body, helping you become more aware of your alignment and position. For example, in a warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) pose, standing with your back against the wall can help you ensure your hips are squared and your shoulders are aligned.
Overall, using a wall can be a helpful tool to improve your practice, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced practitioner.
Exploring Triangle pose/ Utthita Trikonasana
How much can you support and how well can you resist pressure? Triangle is one of the strongest and most stable shapes in nature. It represents the many trinities in our world: Earth/Space/Heaven, Birth/Life/Death, Creation/Preservation/Destruction, Body/Mind/Spirit, Dependency/Interdependency/Interaction, Mother/Father/Child, Brahma/Vishnu/Shiva. It also represents the 3 qualities or gunas that compose our body and mind: Tamas, Rajas and Sattva. It’s helpful to meditate on the solid foundation that we need in order to live and leave the world of illusion behind. Find out how you are in relationship to the world around you and the worlds within you. Consider that this threefold process occurs each time you come into a pose, hold the pose, and release the pose. Do they give equal attention to all three processes? Do they enjoy one stage more than the others? Was it challenging to stay with the ending process and not rush on to the next thing?
Mantra: Om Mani Padme Hum
Try this yourself
Try this yourself. Any time the mind is agitated, just sit quietly, not moving at all. Let the mind be agitated as it wants. If your body is still, very soon the mind will calm down all by itself. Why? Because when there is no physical movement, the breath becomes slow; and the breath is the interconnection between mind and body. As the breath slows, the thought-making process slows down, and the mind becomes calm. The aim behind Hatha Yoga postures is to be able to sit in one steady, comfortable position for meditation. A body filled with toxins, weak muscles and jumpy nerves will not be able to stay quiet for any length of time. Yoga postures eliminate the toxins and give strength and steadiness. When the body is healthy and supple, you can easily sit with the mind still and peaceful. As you begin to control the body and its movements, that control will carry over to the mind. The asanas or postures help to train the mind. First be physically at ease, and mental peace will follow. Live in a way that makes your body light, healthy and suppler. Then when you sit for meditation, you won’t experience aches and pains and spend your time meditating on them.