One of the great benefits of Yoga asana is that it brings prana, or life force, to the body. When prana flows, life is easy and you understand your purpose.
However, you don’t need to master natarajasana or bakasana to feel the flow of prana throughout your body. A simple sequence, such as in the video below for Prana Namaskar, will build strength and move energy throughout your body.
This three-minute sequence may seem simple, but it will provide great mental and physical challenge. As you build pelvic floor strength, you will get in touch with your body and create connection within.
Each morning is a new opportunity to greet the day with breath and movement.
After you wake up, your body needs a safe and gentle transition from long, peaceful rest into a day of movement. A sattvic asana sequence in the morning awakens your body from its slumber so it can serve you calmly all day long.
Your asana practice doesn’t need to take hours to be effective. Just 10 minutes on your mat, guided by conscious breath, will make a significant difference in how you feel all day long. If you want a simple way to say hello to the new day and honor the sun, try surya namaskar, sun salutations.
How many times have you been in an asana class and found yourself faking your way through a pose that you did not know how to do? This is very common in fast-paced studio classes, and it is the cause of injury in many yogis.
Long before Yoga studios began to appear in every town, learning the asanas took years of dedicated study. A student would work with one teacher over many years, combining formal education with self-study. Ultimately, the student owned and was responsible for their own practice.
Fear can drive your asana practice, or your asana practice can drive fear from your life.
Sometimes people avoid certain poses, ones in which they don’t look their best or are afraid of hurting themselves in. They focus instead on the poses they know well and never look beyond them. But staying within your comfort zone is a sure way to limit progression.
Yoga asana is training for life. Use this time to overcome fear on your mat and it will pay off in the rest of your life. Focus on aligning your breath with your movements and lining up your muscles and bones the way they are naturally designed. Begin with this foundation regularly and a pose that once seemed very difficult will soon be part of your daily practice.
It is profoundly healing to allow your body to just be.
Tadasana, or mountain pose, is often overlooked. But its stillness builds strength that is unlike anything that comes from movement. Rather than rushing through it, come to the front of your mat, pause and notice how powerful it feels to stand tall like a mountain.
Tadasana forms the foundation for all the other poses. When you set up this pose properly, you’ll understand how your muscles and bones are designed to function. Bring intention to tadasana regularly and you won’t question what hip-width distance is, or what it means to have your head directly above your shoulders -- you’ll just know what your natural design is by feeling it.
It’s no fun to practice Yoga out of habit. Each time you unroll your mat is an opportunity to find freshness and joy. When you find yourself in a rut, give birth to a new experience with a fun pose like garbhapindasana, or embryo in the womb pose.
Garbhapindasana is great for bringing in a childlike sense of joy. As you rock back and forth around your mat (one time for each month of gestation), you can't help but smile, let go and enjoy the twists and turns of life. As you come out of the pose and into kukutasana, or rooster pose, you are reborn into a new experience of yourself.
Your Yoga asana practice doesn’t have to be complex to have an impact. Some of the most powerful poses are the ones that challenge your body and mind in the simplest ways.
Utkatasana, or chair pose, is one of these. It may look easy, but the simplicity of this pose is its true power. This pose engages muscles from your feet through your arms, all the while allowing you to practice mastering your mind. As you hold still for 15 to 20 breaths, you calm the mind’s desire to move, the urge to walk away from the challenge, or the chatter that tells you that you should be doing a pose that is more flamboyant. Who knew that the process of sitting down could make you so strong?
Life offers many choices. Some of them move you along your path, others are just distractions. Be open to anything, but don’t feel pulled to follow every left turn that appears before you. You’ll end up moving in circles.
Sometimes, you reach a crossroads where it’s unclear which direction you should follow. Before you take a step in any direction, seek clarity. Go within, practice matsyasana, or fish pose, and find the trusted guide of your higher self.
When people think of strength, they often think of the big muscles: biceps, quadriceps and trapezius. It’s true that these large muscles play a big role, but they’re often not the key players. There is something more subtle at play in the true source of your strength, and it comes from deep inside. This is the power of the pelvic floor.
The pelvic floor is two bands of muscle located just above the pubic bone. They span the base of the pelvis and hold the organs in place, somewhat like a hammock. They provide support for your torso and connect your upper and lower body. Even though the pelvic floor is neither large nor visible, these two small bands of tissue are one of your greatest sources of strength.
The world exists in a balance of the subtle and physical; it’s up to us to notice all parts. It’s easy to be in awe of the powerful energy of the sun, but don’t forget how much the silver glow of the moon can teach you about the softer side of light.
Just like on the outside, it’s easy to focus on the heaviness of your body and forget about the lightness of the energy within it. Ardha chandrasana, or half moon, is a great pose to get in touch with all aspects of being. As you ground into the earth on your standing foot, notice how prana flows into parts of your body you may have been ignoring. If you struggle to extend your leg, notice the way your ujjayi breath makes it effortless. As you hold this pose, you are working with gravity, yet you can enjoy a lightness in your body and the full experience of living.