Yoga is a family of ancient spiritual practices originating in India. It is one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy. In India and across the World, Yoga is seen as a means to both physical health and spiritual mastery. Outside India, Yoga has become primarily associated with the practice of asanas or postures of Hatha Yoga.
Like many things in life, yoga poses are cumulative. Beginner poses provide a foundation for later yoga poses. Though the only way to adequately learn a pose is from an instructor, although some can be described as examples.
The base for all standing poses is the “Mountain Pose, " which strengthens your thighs and improves your posture. Stand with your big toes touching and evenly distribute your weight throughout your feet. Press your feet into the floor, while tightening your thighs to raise them. Draw in your belly, tuck in your tailbone, stack the shoulders above the pelvis, and widen your collarbones. You might want to practice against a wall to feel how the pose aligns.
The “Staff Pose" is the foundation for all seated poses and can be thought of as a seated version of the Mountain Pose. This pose strengthens legs and improves bodily alignment. Sit with your legs straight in front of you, engage the thighs, and flex your feet (your heels might leave the floor). Lengthen your spine and stack your shoulders over your hips. You might want to start while sitting on padding, and if your hamstrings are too tight, you'll have to bend your knees some.
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Buddha, who is estimated to have lived 563 to 483 BC, is believed to have studied what was known of yoga at that time as part of an extensive education in Hindu philosophy. It is also very likely, given the rapid growth of Buddhism after his death and before the Bhagavad Gita was composed, that Buddhism had some influence on that work. There is a considerable overlap between the Hindu yoga tradition and Buddhism.
Besides these two base poses, a common intermediate pose to transfer you into another pose is the “Downward Facing Dog. " This pose strengthens and stretches your entire body, and it's also used as both a resting and standing pose. (It's a mild inversion, so it should be avoided during pregnancy or menstruation. ) From a crawling position (wrists beneath the shoulders and knees beneath the hips), curl your toes under and push back while raising the hips and strengthening your legs. Spread your fingers and press from the forearms into the floor, with your upper arms rotated outwards to widen your collarbones. Shoulder blades should be geared downwards, and you should engage your quadriceps to take pressure off the arms. Rotate your thighs inwards to keep the tail high and let your heels to the floor; though if you're not yet flexible enough for your heels to touch the floor, don't step forward so they do.
Most if not all yoga routines end with the “Corpse Pose, " the traditional pose of resting and rejuvenation. With your eyes closed, lie flat on your back, with feet and arms falling out to either side, slightly separated from your body, with your palms up. Relax your entire body, face included, and breathe naturally (you should feel heavy). When leaving the pose, begin by deepening your breathing. Move your outer extremities and draw the movement inwards, bringing the knees to the chest and rolling over. Slowly sit up before opening your eyes.
Michael Saunders edits a site on Yoga and Health and maintains a Website on all elements of prosperity and abundance .