Yoga poses - sun salutations and yoga breathing
An activity which I find is really good for me is yoga, and I am now a bit addicted to my daily sun salutations.
More than anything I find yoga to be very calming and it focuses my mind, and I feel really strong after completing my morning sun salutations.
Yoga is a great exercise as it increases flexibility, strengthens your muscles, allows you to focus your thoughts and can be very calming.
Lots have been written about yoga so I thought I would just explain the history of yoga very briefly before explaining more about breathing techniques and some basic poses.
A brief history of yoga
The word yoga comes from the word yuj which means to join together. The original purpose of yoga was to silence the mind, however there is also a lot of evidence yoga was practised as a strength exercise by Indian warriors.
Yoga originated in India more than 5000 years ago and has today spread across the world and has a strong following in every apart of the world.
Yoga uses various postures to strengthen the body and the postures are called asanas. Breathing correctly is also a vital part of yoga, and the breathing techniques practised in yoga are called pranayama. There are thousand of different poses but they can be split into actions (kriyas), seals (mudras) and locks (bandhas)
The health benefits of yoga
There are many reason why you should consider including yoga in your daily healthy routine.
First of all it is a great way to increase strength and flexibility. When we increase strength we also increase muscle mass and become less prone to various type of injuries.
Flexibility is really important for our joints and we should try to keep our joints in good working order as this reduces the risk of arthritis.
Yoga is also a great work out for our cardiovascular system when we use the breathing correctly. Our cardiovascular system works harder without any high impact exercise when we do yoga. Less stress on the joints but extra cardio efficiency.
Yoga is great when trying to control and deal with stress. It has been proven to reduce blood pressure which a common problem when suffering from stress.
Try practicing yoga for ten minutes every day for a week and you will not only start feeling calmer. Remember it is important to concentrate on your poses.
As yoga is a concentration exercise it takes your mind of any other problems you might be experiencing.
Many people who practice yoga on a daily basis find they sleep better. Relaxation and sleeping better are the best of bed buddies. Learning to control your breathing and listening to your breath can be very relaxing and is an excellent tool for other situations in life.
You may also find yoga helps you to concentrate better and increase your attention. You definitely have to think when placing your body in a pose and pay attention to what your body is doing once you are in a posture.
As with other exercise practices yoga also helps to lower cholesterol, elevate good cholesterol and decrease glucose levels.
More than anything you will soon notice you will start feeling better about yourself – both physically and mentally.
Breathing correctly in yoga is important as this lets you maximise the benefits of a posture.
Once you master your yoga breathing you will realize how important it is to breath right not only when doing yoga but also in your daily life.
For instance the Bunny Breath is great if you have a cold and the Snake Breath can really calm you down. If someone is having a panic attack or is stressed give them a hug and try the Snake Breath together with them. Just say “ Breath with me”
Learn how to listen to your breath and appreciate how important breathing the right way is for your body. We actually use very little of our actual lung capacity and even more seldom use our respiratory system to its full extent.
Let's take a look at some of the different yoga breaths.
Snake Breath – Sit up as tall as you can. Take a deep breath – just like you would like to fill up your entire body with air.
Pause for a moment and then breathe out slowly making a hissing sound for as long as you can. Repeat several times and you will soon start feeling to calmer.
Bear Breath – Sit up tall, close your eyes and go inside yourself. Breathe in through your nose for account of five and hold for a count to three. Breathe out for a count of five, and hold for a count of three. Pretend you’re a bear in your winter cave sleeping and hibernating peacefully. Repeat at least seven times and notice how you feel. You should be feeling more balanced.
Bunny Breath – get in touch with your inner bunny. Keep your self alert and ready to go with this energizing breath.
Try to sit on your shins with your back straight for this breath, shoulders wide and chest lifted.
Lowering your chin to your chest try taking three big breaths through your nose (ok bunny sniffs) one immediately after the other. Release your breath (exhale) in one long breath through your nose. Repeat several times. This is a great exercise if you suffer with your sinuses or have a cold. You can even alternate nostrils by holding a finger to one nostril and breathing through the other one.
Bumble Bee Breath – this is a great breath because you can do it at work, on the bus or in the car.
Try to keep your face and your lips as soft as possible – you feel the vibration much better.
All you need to do is to breathe in fully through your nose and when you breathe out you need to hum like a happy bumblebee. You might even want to hum high and low making a mental note of how your respiratory system feels. Great exercise for asthma sufferers, and people living in polluted inner urban areas.
Elephant Breath- lets wake up and energize our system.
I love elephants – they can shower themselves with their own trunks and they must have great respiratory control t be able to shower themselves.
Stand strong with your feet wide apart. Think about the elephant and dangle your arms in front of your like a trunk. Inhale through your nose raising your arms above your head and lean back. A big exhale as you swing your arms down and through your legs.
Repeat five times and after the fifth time you should feel energized.
Remember the Jungle Book and the Elephants going on dawn patrol trumpeting and swinging their trunks. Be a happy elephant and go on your own dawn patrol.
Step 1 sun salutations
Start with the mountain pose (Tadasana) Stand tall, bring your arms together firmly and exhale.
Step 2 sun salutations
Step two of sun salutations
When you inhale, raise your arms over your head making sure you keep your palms together
Step 3 sun salutations
Step 3 of sun salutations
Exhale as you step forward until yours hands touch your feet.
Step 4 sun salutations
Step 4 of sun salutations
When you inhale step right back and lift your chin up.
Step 5 sun salutations
Step 5 of sun salutations
Exhale and at the same time step the left leg back into plank position. Concentrate on keeping your back and legs straight. You should now feel that your are supporting your weight on your hands and feet.
Step 6 sun salutations
Step 6 of sun salutations
Holding on to your breath, lower your knees, chest and forehead keeping your hips up and toes curled under.
Step 7 sun salutations
Step 7 of sun salutations
As you inhale, stretch forward and bend your back making sure you keep your arms straight
Step 8 sun salutations
Step 8 of sun salutations
Exhaling, curl your toes under, and press firmly down into your heels and lift your hips.
Step 9 sun salutations
Step 9 of sun salutations
As you inhale, bring your right leg forward with the top of the foot directed out flat on firmly on the floor between your arms. Complete the same exercise with the left leg and then stand up making sure you bend your knees and hold your arms out for balance.
Step 10 sun salutations
Step 10 of sun salutations
Now exhale and bend forward until your hands touch your feet
Step 11 and 12 sun salutations
Step 11 and 12 of sun salutations
Inhaling stretch your arms forward and reach over your head. Slowly bend backwards from the waist. Now exhale and gently came back to the pose you started with Mountain pose.