Yoga: Firm Your Quads and Release Your Hamstrings

Those yoga practitioners with tense hamstrings are the ones most likely to tense up in poses meant to release the hams and they then lose the benefit of the pose. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) is a pose where to experience a relaxing stretch in your back, neck and legs, you must release the hamstrings.

Uttanasana is often used as a relaxing break after standing poses or as a rest during an intense vinyasa sequence. When performing the Standing Forward Bend, it is best to stretch the hamstrings on the back of your thighs and contract the quadriceps on the front of your thighs. In Uttanasana, positioning is important to allow the hamstrings to lengthen and relax into the stretch as opposed to holding on tightly and contracting.


To appreciate how your hamstrings work in Uttanasana, it is important to understand the three distinct forms of muscle contraction. In an isometric contraction, the muscle does not change length; a concentric contraction makes the muscle shorter; and an eccentric contraction lengthens the muscle.

Yoga: Firm Your Quads and Release Your Hamstrings

If you start in Uttanasana with your knees straight and your pelvis tilted forward so that your head and spine are moving towards the floor, as you come up out of the pose, the hamstrings contract and pull down the sitting bones. The pelvis will then move upright and the upper body aligns with the legs. The hamstrings have performed a concentric, or shortening, contraction.

However, when standing and tilting the pelvis forward the hamstrings perform a lengthening, or eccentric contraction. If you stop halfway, the hamstrings will perform an isometric contraction. They are still working hard, but are neither shortening nor lengthening. Here is the problem for students with tight hamstrings: they cannot reach their fingers to the floor so when they bend over they end up sort of "stuck" halfway - and in an isometric contraction.

It is not recommended that Uttanasana be practiced with the fingers dangling towards the ground. This puts undue pressure on the muscles as well as the lower back. The hamstrings will not benefit and become more flexible, but remain rigid.

A simple solution is to put a yoga block or a folded blanket under your hands to support the weight of your body through your arms. The hamstrings will then no longer be required to support the torso and can lengthen and relax.

For proper alignment in this pose, ensure that the hips are over your ankles, not behind them. The knees should be straight. To offset the tendency to bend the knees, the quadriceps should be contracted. Since they are "antagonistic" muscle groups, the hamstrings will automatically relax when you flex your quads. This will allow for a fuller stretch of the hamstrings.

The Standing Forward Bend is also excellent work for the erector spinae, the group of small muscles that run up and down the spine. Just as with the hamstrings, the erector spinae will only benefit from this pose if the weight of the upper body is supported by placing the hands on the floor or a prop.

Remember to keep the quads working. With time and practice, the hamstrings will lengthen and release, allowing further release in the lower back and pelvic region.

Yoga: Firm Your Quads and Release Your Hamstrings

Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Yoga

Yoga - Origin and Background

Yoga is an age-old science made up of different disciplines of mind and body. It has originated in India 2500 years ago and is still effective in bringing overall health and well being to any person who does it regularly. The word yoga is based upon a Sanskrit verb Yuja. It means to connect, to culminate or to concur. It's the culmination of mind and body or the culmination of Jiva and Shiva (soul and the universal spirit). It's also a culmination of Purush and Prakriti (Yin and Yang).

The term Yoga has a very broad scope. There are several schools or systems of Yoga. Dnyanayoga (Yoga through knowledge), Bhaktiyoga (Yoga through devotion), Karmayoga (Yoga through action), Rajayoga (Royal or supreme Yoga) and Hathayoga (Yoga by balancing opposite principles of body). All of these schools of Yoga are not necessarily very different from each other. They are rather like threads of the same cloth, entangled into each other. For thousands of years, Yoga has been looked upon as an effective way of self-improvement and spiritual enlightenment. All these systems essentially have this same purpose; only the ways of achieving it are little different for each of them. In its most popular form, the term Yoga has come to associate with the last of these systems which is Hathayoga. For the purpose of this article too, the term Yoga is used with the same meaning. Although, when it comes to Philosophy of Yoga, which is at the end of this article, the term Yoga will have a broader scope.


Asana and Pranayama

Yoga - Origin and Background

Let's take a detailed look at the main two components of Hathayoga i.e. Asana and Pranayama.

a) Asana:
Asana means acquiring a body posture and maintaining it as long as one's body allows. Asana, when done rightly according to the rules discussed above, render enormous physical and psychological benefits. Asana are looked upon as the preliminary step to Pranayama. With the practice of Asana there is a balancing of opposite principles in the body and psyche. It also helps to get rid of inertia. Benefits of Asana are enhanced with longer maintenance of it. Asana should be stable, steady and pleasant. Here is the summary of general rules to be followed for doing Asana.

Summary of rules:

1. Normal breathing
2. Focused stretching
3. Stable and pleasant postures (sthiram sukham asanam)
4. Minimal efforts (Prayatnay shaithilyam)
5. No comparisons or competition with others
6. No jerks or rapid actions. Maintain a slow and steady tempo.

Each asana has its own benefits and a few common benefits such as stability, flexibility, better hormonal secretion, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. It's a misconception that an Asana (Yoga stretch) has to be difficult to do in order to be beneficial. Many of the easiest Asana render most of the common benefits of Yoga to their fullest. Besides, the beauty of Yoga is in the fact that at a not-so-perfect level most of the benefits are still available. That means even a beginner benefits from Yoga as much as an expert.

In their quest to find a solution to the miseries of human body and mind, the founders of Yoga found part of their answers in the nature. They watched the birds and animals stretching their bodies in particular fashion to get rid of the inertia and malaise. Based upon these observations, they created Yoga stretches and named them after the birds or animals or fish that inspired these stretches. For example, matsyasana (fish pose), makarasana (crocodile pose), shalabhasana (grasshopper pose), bhujangasana (cobra pose), marjarasana (cat pose), mayurasana (peacock pose), vrischikasana (scorpion pose), gomukhasana (cow's mouth pose), parvatasana (mountain pose), vrikshasana (tree pose) etc.

Many of the Asana can be broadly categorized based upon the type of pressure on the abdomen. Most of the forward bending Asana are positive pressure Asana as they put positive pressure on the stomach by crunching it e.g. Pashchimatanasana, Yogamudra (Yoga symbol pose), Hastapadasana (hand and feet pose), Pavanmuktasana (wind free pose) etc. The backward bending Asana are the negative pressure Asana as they take pressure away from the abdomen e.g. Dhanurasana (bow pose), Bhujangasana (cobra pose), Naukasana (boat pose) etc. Both types of Asana give excellent stretch to the back and abdomen and strengthen both these organs. Alternating between positive and negative pressure on the same area of the body intensifies and enhances blood circulation in that area. The muscle group in use gets more supply of oxygen and blood due to the pressure on that spot. E.g. in Yogamudra (symbol of Yoga), the lower abdomen gets positive pressure due to which Kundalini is awakened. Hastapadasana refreshes all nerves in the back of the legs and also in the back. As a result you feel fresh and rejuvenated. Vakrasana gives a good massage to the pancreas and liver and hence is recommended for diabetic patients.

2. Pranayama
Practicing Pranayama is one of the ways of getting rid of mental disturbances and physical ill health. Pranayama means controlled and prolonged span of breath. Prana means breath. It also means life force. Ayama means controlling or elongation. Just like a pendulum requires twice long to come back to its original position, the exhalations in Pranayama are twice longer than the inhalations. The main purpose of Pranayama is to bring mental stability and restrain desires by controlling breathing. Breathing is a function of autonomous nervous system. By bringing the involuntary process of breathing under control of mind, the scope of volition is broadened. Pranayama is a bridge between Bahiranga (exoteric) Yoga and Antaranga (introspective or esoteric) Yoga. A body that has become stable by Asana and has been cleansed by Kriya (cleansing processes) is ready for Pranayama. On the other hand Pranayama prepares the mind and body for meditational and spiritual practice of Yoga such as Dhyana, Dharana and Samadhi. On physical level, practice of Pranayama increases blood in oxygen, subsequently refreshing and rejuvenating the brain and the nerves. Here are a few physical benefits of Pranayama.
a. Lungs, chest, diaphragm become stronger and healthier.
b. Capacity of lungs is increased.
c. Slow changing pressure creates a form of massage to all organs in the stomach cavity.
d. Purifies blood by increasing blood's capacity to absorb more oxygen.
e. Brain functions better with more oxygen in the blood.
f. Neuromuscular coordination improves.
g. Body becomes lean and the skin glows.

There are 8 main Pranayama namely, Ujjayi, Suryabhedan, Sitkari, Shitali, Bhastrika, Bhramari, Murchha, Plavini. Among these, Ujjayi is the most popular Pranayama. Pranayama consists of 4 parts in the following order:
1) Puraka (Controlled inhalation)
2) Abhyantara Kumbhaka (Holding breath in)
3) Rechaka (Controlled exhalation)
4) Bahya Kumbhaka (Holding breath out).

The ratio of these parts to each other is generally 1:4:2:4 with a few exceptions. Patanjali's Yogasutra agrees with this ratio along with many other scriptures. For the purpose of overall well-being, practicing the first three parts is sufficient. A spiritual practitioner generally practices all four parts including the last one i.e. Bahya Kumbhaka. Such a practitioner also does many more repetitions than someone who does it for general health and well-being. Out of the four parts of Pranayama, it's the Abhyantara Kumbhaka that is essentially identified with Pranayama. There is one more Kumbhaka that happens spontaneously and is called Keval Kumbhaka.

Bandha (Locks) are very crucial to the practice of Pranayama. Mulabandha (locking the anus), Jalandharbandha (locking the throat area or jugular notch), Udiyanabandha (locking the abdomen or diaphragm) and Jivhabandha (locking the tongue) are the four locks that are performed during Pranayama. Depending upon the purpose of Pranayama (spiritual or general health), locks are performed. Mulabandha, Jalandharbandha and Udiyanabandha are the common Bandha performed by everyone. Jivhabandha is mandatory only if done for spiritual purposes.

Characteristics of Yoga

Let's take a look at some of the chief characteristics of Yoga.

1) Yoga is not an exercise.

To understand the concept of Yoga one must keep in mind that the positions in Yoga are not exercises but bodily stretches and maintenance of stretches. You may describe Yoga in terms of Yogic stretches or Yogic practices. Acquiring a body position by stretching the muscles and then maintaining this position as long as one's body allows, that is what Yogic stretches are. Yoga requires very smooth and controlled motions and a slow steady tempo. To achieve this one needs to have total concentration of mind while doing Yoga. The movements in Yoga are smooth, slow and controlled. Comparison with others is greatly discouraged. Doing something beyond one's capacity just out of competition generally results in hurting one's body and hence is greatly discouraged. Breathing in Yoga remains steady unlike many aerobic exercises. Yoga is also Isotonic unlike bodybuilding exercises, which are isometric in nature. In isotonic stretches, length of the muscles increases while tone stays the same as opposed to the isometric exercises in which length of the muscles stays the same while the tone changes. In Isotonic stretches, body is stretched in a particular manner and maintained that way for some time.

2) Longer maintenance and fewer repetitions (as per the body's capacity).

Benefits of Yoga are enhanced with the maintenance of a body stretch. Longer the maintenance better will be the effect. However one cannot force oneself into maintaining the stretch longer than the body can bear. Each and every position is pleasant and stable (Sthiram Sukham Asanam). Sthiram means steady. Sukham means pleasant and Asanam means a body posture or position. The right position for you is that in which your body remains steady (sthiram) and which is pleasant and comfortable to you (sukham). The moment a stretch becomes unbearable and uncomfortable and the body starts shaking, one needs to come out of that position in a very slow, smooth and controlled manner. There will be more repetitions and shorter maintenance for a beginner. With more practice, the repetitions will be fewer and maintenance will be longer. After doing Yoga one should only feel pleasant and fresh and nothing else. If you feel tired or fatigued or any part of your body aches, it only means that you have tried beyond your capacity.

3) Trust your body. Apply minimum efforts:

With the practice of Yoga, you also learn to trust your body's capacity to progress in terms of flexibility without conscious efforts. As long as the aim is in mind and the body is stretched only to its current capacity, the flexibility develops on its own. One needs to just focus on breath, focus on the present state of the body pose and enjoy that pose as long as it feels comfortable. 'Prayatnay Shaithilyam' means minimum efforts. Although there is an ideal position described and desired for each asana, no one is forced into attaining the ideal position. Yoga is done with the trust that flexibility is acquired after a continuous and regular practice. There is a message here and that is to have faith in the unknown. This message along with the improved endocrine function, better muscle tone, calmer mind and increased positive outlook can be enormously beneficial for recovery from any illness.

4) Focused stretching:
The ability to stretch or pressure one muscle group while relaxing the rest of the body is called focused stretching. For example if a particular Asana is based upon stretching the stomach as the main muscle group (the pivotal muscles), then the rest of the body is relaxed while the stomach is stretched or pressured. One has to watch for unnecessary straining of those muscles that are supposed to be relaxed. Initially this is hard to follow nevertheless it becomes easier with some practice. This habit of differentiating between different muscles for the pressure becomes very useful in other areas of life too. It enables you to relax better while driving during rush hour. While doing normal daily tasks it makes you aware of the unnecessary tension on different parts of your body. You are watchful even while talking to someone or while brushing your teeth or when stuck in a traffic jam. You learn to ask yourself, 'Am I holding my breath, are my shoulders tense, is my neck stiff, are my fingers curled?' etc. etc. These acts are unnecessary and they dissipate energy. Yoga teaches you how to relax and gives you time free of worries and regrets, impatience and anxieties.

5) Breathing:
Monitoring your breathing is an integral part of Yoga. Common mistakes such as holding of breath or breathing deliberately occur during Yoga. Both these mistakes must be avoided. Holding back on breath gives headaches, fatigue and thus the benefits of Yoga are lost by improper or inadequate breathing.

6) Anantha Samapatti (Merging with the Infinite):

Ultimate goal of Yoga is the amalgamation of self into the greater self. Yuja means to combine or to connect. A connection of Atma and Parmatma is the merging of the body and the spirit. Yoga is a way of life. It's a total integration. According to Patanjali (founder of Yoga), two things define Yoga postures; a stable and comfortable body posture and Anantha Samapatti. Therefore you cannot separate bodily postures from meditation. In fact a body that has become flexible and steady through practice of various positions becomes a good basis for the ultimate transcendental state of mind (Samadhi). The kriya (cleansing processes) purify the body. Mudra and bandha bring the necessary stability of mind and concentration, initially on one's breathing (pranadharana) and then on God (Ishwarpranidhana). Initially the mind wanders a lot and that's o.k. One should let it wander. Later one should count his breaths and should observe the inner and outer flow of air through the air passages. (pranadharna). This will enable him to concentrate better on himself (sakshibhavana). In the beginning it will be difficult to concentrate since the body postures are not that steady. But with practice it becomes better and better. For this one must purposely take away his mind from body posture and focus it on to the breathing process (pranadharana).

Benefits of Yoga

If you follow the basic rules, several benefits can be reaped. Maintenance of body stretches makes the body supple, lean, flexible and stable. Breathing techniques purify the blood and cleanse nasal passages and sinuses. Stress relief is the greatest of all the benefits. Relaxing positions in Yoga teach you to relax your muscles and let the gravity work on your body. The ability to differentiate between tension on different parts of the body, i.e. to stretch one muscle group while relaxing all the others teaches you to relax and not waste energy during your daily routine. The part about concentration is important in providing relief to your mind from worry and stress of everyday activities. Here is a detailed look at some of the major benefits of Yoga.

1. Stress relief

Stress, tension, anxiety are the inevitable features of modern day life. Yoga offers many techniques to cope up with the stress and anxiety. A stress free mind reduces the chances of catching a disease to half, this has been widely known by now. Yoga teaches very effective breathing and relaxing techniques to achieve this. Yoga also helps you to feel relaxed quicker and raise your energy reserve by teaching you how to let the gravity work on your body. Half of the fatigue in any activity comes from improper and inadequate breathing and by holding breath unnecessarily. Yoga teaches you how to breathe adequately and how not to make your body tense and stiff while doing other daily tasks too. The principle of focused stretching teaches you how to not waste energy during your daily routine. It makes you aware of the unnecessary tension on different parts of your body. Yoga teaches you to relax fully and gives you time free of worries and regrets and impatience and anxieties. People having busy schedules who are used to being in action all the time, must understand that relaxing is not a crime or not a waste of time. On the contrary it gives you new energy to do your tasks better.

2. Feeling energized and refreshed

Adequate breathing plays a great role in rejuvenating and refreshing mind and body. Breathing techniques in Yoga provide abundant supply of oxygen to the lungs, cleanse nasal passages and sinuses and thus help feel refreshed. A body that has become lean and flexible with stretches and maintenance of the stretches gets purified by breathing techniques and becomes energized. Various Yoga stretches induce a balanced secretion of hormones, which subsequently rejuvenates the whole body and one feels refreshed and energized as a result.

3. Flexibility of mind and body

Apart from the relaxing effect, yoga also consists of many body stretches which when maintained for a few minutes give a wonderful flexibility to our muscles. One starts wondering, 'Am I the same person who used to be so stiff?' In many chronic disorders of the spine, Yoga has helped many people to reduce the frequency and intensity of the disorder such as spondylitis, arthritis etc. Maintenance of body stretches makes the body supple, lean, flexible and stable. In the process, not only your body but also your mind becomes flexible. The mind acquires faith that things can change favorably given enough time.

4. Relief from chronic disorders

Yoga is particularly good for having control over breath and spine. Breath and spine are like wild animals. You force them to do something they pounce on you. You coax them, be patient with them, they can be tamed to any extent. Many Yoga stretches make the spine strong and flexible. Time and again Yoga has proved to be a blessing for all kinds of disorders of the back. The technique of exhaling twice longer than inhaling (Pranayama) gives abundant supply of oxygen to blood and many impurities of blood are cured. The deliberate exhaling technique (Shwasanmargshuddhi) cleanse the nasal passage and the sinuses. They help get rid of chronic sinus trouble or clogging of nasal passage for many people. That makes the lungs and respiratory organs stronger. The abdominal breathing technique (Kapalbhati) helps people with asthma or weak diaphragm to breathe easily.

5. Focus of mind

Practice of Yoga helps in getting better focus of mind. Meditation, being part of Yoga, teaches you how to focus better and achieve more from any activity. Dharana, which means narrowed focus on a subject by restricting Chitta (mind) is one of the 8 limbs of Ashtangayoga. It teaches you to get rid of all other thoughts from the mind and focus on the target. People have benefited enormously in terms of focus of mind by doing meditation (Dhyana) and Dharana throughout all ages.

6. Benefits at not-so-perfect level

Even if one cannot achieve perfection in an Asana, the benefits of an Asana are still available at a not-so-perfect level such as calmer mind, better flexibility, better blood pressure, lower pulse rate and better endocrine function. Whatever state of Asana one is in, if one maintains the pose comfortably, body gets the necessary massage and stretch. There is a better secretion of endocrine glands as a result of the steady and sufficient stretch. The brain cells get the necessary signals and mind becomes calmer. Breath is more controlled and as a result feels refreshed. All of this happens regardless of the level of perfection. It's the steadiness and level of comfort that's more important than perfection.

Origin and philosophy of Yoga:


Among the many proponents of Yoga, Patanjali (2nd century B.C) is the most well known and most revered of all and is well accepted as the founder of Yoga. His book Shripatanjali Darshan which is a collection of hymns (also called as Patanjali's Yoga Sutras) is held in high esteem by the experts and practitioners and is known as one of the most revered reference book (a workbook for actual practice) on Yoga. Patanjali's Yoga is called Patanjala (that of Patanjali) and is also considered as Rajayoga, which means the royal Yoga or the supreme, sublime Yoga since it consists of practices that lead to spiritual liberation (Moksha). Rajayoga is a part of Sankhya philosophy and is known to awaken Kundalini (Complete opening of Chakra when reached in transcendental state of meditation) and results into complete spiritual enlightenment if practiced regularly.

Patanjalayoga is also called Ashtangayoga since it has 8 dimensions or 8 limbs. Ashta means 8 and Anga means dimension or a limb in Sanskrit. Yama (Rules for the social life), Niyama (Rules for personal development), Asana (Yoga Posture), Pranayama (Prolonged and controlled breathing), Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), Dharana (narrowed focusing on a subject), Dhyana (continued experience of meditation), Samadhi (transcendental state in which there is only an essence of pure existence) are the 8 limbs of Ashtangayoga. The first four dimensions make up the exoteric (Bahiranga) part of Ashtangayoga while the last four dimensions make up the esoteric (Antaranga) part of Ashtangayoga. Out of the 8 limbs of Ashtangayoga, Asana and Pranayama are the only two limbs that generally stand for the term Yoga in its most popular form.


In the 15th century A.D. Yogi Swatmaram founded one of the six systems of Yoga called Hathayoga. Although the term Hatha in Sanskrit means being forceful, Hathayoga is not about Hatha but is about the balance between the two principles of the body. Ha and Tha are essentially symbols. Ha means surya (sun). Tha means chandra (moon). Right nostril (Pingala) is the Surya nadi while the left nostril (Ida) is the Chandra nadi. Just the way the sun and the moon balance the life cycle of the world; the two nostrils balance the life cycle of the body. Nadi is a channel through which the life force flows. Hathayoga helps to maintain this balance by correcting the functional disorders of the body and bringing mental peace. Hathayogapradipika is the standard textbook on Hathayoga written by Yogi Swatmaram. Hathayoga accepts Patanjala Yoga as standard. Although it's a completely independent school of philosophy in its own right, it's essentially based upon the philosophy of Rajayoga expounded in Patanjali's Yogasutra.

In fact, every school of philosophy culminates into Rajayoga since the aim of every school is the same as Rajayoga i.e. to attain ever-lasting peace and happiness.

Hathayoga consists of
a. Asana (body positions or stretches e.g. mountain pose, cobra pose)
b. Pranayama (controlled breathing techniques e.g. Ujjayi, Anuloma Viloma)
c. Kriya (cleansing processes e.g. Kapalbhati)
d. Bandha and Mudra (Locks and symbol poses e.g. Udiyana bandha, Jivha bandha, Simhamudra)

As per Hathayoga, Asana, Pranayama, Kriya, Bandha and Mudra are stepping stones to achieve the ultimate psycho spiritual effect of Rajayoga. They create the necessary foundation of stable and calm mind and body for Rajayoga. There are however subtle differences between Patanjala Yoga and Hathayoga. Patanjali emphasizes more on the psycho spiritual effect of Yoga rather than the physical aspects and actual techniques of Asana and Pranayama. His Asana and Pranayama are also much simpler and easier to do than the ones in Hathayoga. For this he recommends least amount of efforts (Prayatnay Shaithilyam) and maintaining a steady, rhythmic tempo and a stable, comfortable body position. Patanjali's Yogasutra discuss Asana and Pranayama only in the chapter of Kriyayoga (part of Sadhana pada) as the tool to achieve physical and mental health. On the other hand, the emphasis of Hathayoga is more on the techniques of Asana and Pranayama, Kriya, Bandha and Mudra.

Philosophy of Yogasutra:

Patanjali's Yogasutra consists of 195 sutra and 4 Pada (sections or chapters): Samadhi pada, Sadhana Pada, Vibhuti Pada and Kaivalya pada. Kriyayoga, the chapter on the actual practice of Yoga is a part of Sadhana Pada (section about the means of study and practice of Yoga). Kriyayoga discusses Asana and Pranayama viz. the physical part of Yoga. Just to give a glimpse of Patanjali's philosophy, here are a few thoughts from the Samadhi Pada and Sadhana Pada of Yogasutra:

According to Patanjali, meaning and purpose of Yoga is to attain Samadhi (ultimate transcendental state in which there is sense of pure existence and nothing else). Yoga is a union of mind and body. It's compared with a calm river, which flows down towards its inclined bed without efforts. Thus Yoga is more than a physical exercise. To be able to concentrate your mind is the greatest benefit of Yoga. Yoga is nothing but self-study. Purpose of Yoga is to be self-aware. Yoga teaches you to be nearer to nature and lead a healthy life. For this you need determination and faith in Yoga.

Tapaswadhyayeshwarpranidhanani Kriyayogah

Tapa (austerities), Swadhyaya (reading of scriptures), Ishwarpranidhana. Tapa is to make body alert and active glowing with health. Swadhyaya is the continuous study to sharpen the intellect. These sadhanas are to be used to wipe out faults of human nature. There are five kleshas (bad tendencies) such as avidya (ignorance), asmita (ego), Rag (attraction-affection), dwesh (hatred) and abhinivesh (self insistence, stubbornness). These five vrittis disappear by Dhyana.

Yogaschittavrittinirodhah. By practice of Yoga, all the functional modifications of the mind completely cease.

Control of your mind is what Yoga is about. You have to involve your mind in the Asana. Asana is an instrument to Yoga. Body postures, maintenance and rounds of an asana are to be done according to one's own capacity. Retention is more desirable than repetition. Meditation cannot be separated from Yoga.

Prayatne Shaithilyam anantha samapatti. While doing Yogasana (Yogic postures), two things need to be observed. One is to be relaxed mentally and physically. The second one is Anantha samapatti. It means to merge with something infinite. Patanjali says that all good things happen when you stop trying hard. You become one with Ishwara, you let go your control and forget that you are in particular body posture. Yoga should be the way of life.

Yoga chitasya malam apakarot, Padena vachanam malam, sharirasya cha vaidyaken yo apakarot. The speech is improved by reading loud a Pada (stanza of a poem) and a physician cures the diseases of body. Similarly, Yoga cures and cleanses an ill mind.

According to Samadhipada, all kinds of mental and physical problems such as disease, laziness, doubts and suspicions, disobedience, misunderstandings, temptations, unhealthy thoughts are the modifications of Chitta (mind). Consequences of these modifications are unease, instability, shakiness and disturbances of inhalations and exhalations. Patanjali says that through total concentration and steadfastness and a regular practice of Yoga, one can get rid of all these problems.

Ishwarpranidhanadva However if that is very difficult for someone, there is another way to achieve total health and peace and that is to surrender to God (Ishwarpranidhanadva). According to Samadhi pada, when you have no knowledge whatsoever, surrender to God completely and you will gain knowledge.

Yoga - Origin and Background

Hopefully, you have found this article useful in understanding the origin, background and the true nature of Yoga. If you are interested in reading more, please click on my blog and my website

ADHD Natural Treatment - Yoga

Most children take stimulant medication like Ritalin to manage their attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But just because prescription drugs are the most widely-used treatment option for ADHD, this does not necessarily mean it is the best treatment. In previous articles, we have talked about how ADHD medication benefits only a small percentage of children, and how these improvements last only a short period of time. Instead of depending on medication as a quick fix to this complex disorder, your child might recover from ADHD completely through natural mind/body approaches.

As part of a holistic treatment plan, yoga is known to help children with ADHD overcome their inattentive and hyperactive tendencies. Yoga makes use of physical postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayamas), and deep relaxation exercises to calm the minds of children and strengthen their nervous systems. Yoga's spiritual component also promotes greater internal awareness, which helps the child control impulses and learn to focus - two things that children with ADHD have difficulty doing.


A number of researchers have devoted their time to studying how yoga can help reduce ADHD symptoms in children. When the whole body is involved in physical activity, brain functioning drastically improves, because it receives neuronal stimulation from the postural muscles. Certain routines like the Sun Salutation are designed to stimulate both sides of the brain, to facilitate efficient learning and assist brain integration. The physical demands of the practice also serve as an excellent outlet for pent-up energy, especially for children with ADHD Hyperactive Type. At the same time, the slow pace teaches children how to exert control and focus on the task at hand.

ADHD Natural Treatment - Yoga

Aside from the exercise, the structure of the yoga class itself instills discipline and focus in a calm, non-competitive environment. A typical yoga class for ADHD children begins with arranging the mat space and performing breathing exercises to warm up. Afterwards, children perform asanas designed to improve coordination and balance, which helps them control their thoughts and direct their attention to relevant stimuli. The calming atmosphere of the yoga studio also decreases the number of stress hormones, which are known to aggravate ADHD.

What makes yoga a particularly helpful treatment is that the qualities learned can be used in practical, everyday situations. Learning to control impulse and attention alone will increase your child's academic performance and enable them to harness their potentials. Yoga will also teach your child to listen to the instructor and follow directions instead of running off before instructions are given. In other words, yoga can correct certain behaviors characteristic of ADHD as it rehabilitates the body and mind.

Although the benefits of yoga will not show up immediately, the changes that will occur are profound and will last forever. Of course, yoga alone cannot treat ADHD. For your child to benefit from yoga, it should be part of a comprehensive treatment program that includes healthy meals, a toxin-free environment, and other therapeutic approaches designed to treat ADHD naturally.

ADHD Natural Treatment - Yoga

Dr. Yannick Pauli is an expert on natural approaches to ADHD and the author of the popular self-help home-program The Unritalin Solution. He is Director of the Centre Neurofit in Lausanne, Switzerland and has a passion taking care of children with ADHD. Click on the link for more great information about adhd natural treatments.

Yoga: General Principles in Yogic Practice

Yoga is the name given to the science or method of training, which is followed by spiritual aspirants. It has existed for thousands of years and is still revered in India and in Indian culture where the knowledge has been carefully preserved through a sacred traditional, unbroken channel between teacher and pupil. The system offers both health and spiritual understanding through the rewards of self-discipline and through the individual's direct inner experiences or realizations.

The practitioner of Yoga is known as a "yogi" or sometimes in the feminine case, "yogini" and is a term of reverence for one who not only follows the practical techniques and embraces the yogic philosophy but is a title bestowed upon one who represents the spiritual quality essential in the ideal human character.


Yoga was once always practised in the traditional manner either within the home or ashram or in a place of natural beauty near water or stream, to enjoy quietude and shelter and to allow the student to feel in touch with nature. Earnest pupils had few or no possessions, or placed little value on material goods and were expected to follow the traditional austerities and the prevailing attitude of self-sacrifice. Renunciation was a part of their training. Serious aspirants were prepared to leave family, friends, material comforts and to accept the simple life in order to find answers to their spiritual needs.

Yoga: General Principles in Yogic Practice

However, in a different process, the general knowledge of Yoga has now become common knowledge throughout in the more materialistic western world where it is proving to be used as a popular aid in several areas of self culture - physical, psychological and spiritual.

The most well known and popular yogic path in modern times is Hatha Yoga. This demands self control over the body, physical cultivation of strength and flexibility through exercise and development of a fine degree of health and stamina through personal efforts in self discipline. In the process of applying the traditional physical disciplines involving nutrition, exercise, breathing exercises, postural controls and relaxation the yogi comes to better health and to understand his body.

The same may be said with Bhakta Yoga, which demands self-control over the emotions, the cultivation of contentment, love and peace and the rejection of emotional habits that produce stress. In the process of applying the entailing disciplines involved in gaining emotional control and cultivating positive moods, the yogi not only comes to better understand his feelings, but begins to find increased happiness and well-being.

Through Raja Yoga, disciplines centre upon the individual's thoughts as he learns to assume greater awareness and conscious control over his thoughts, to cultivate his mental faculties and natural talents and to still the turbulence of transitory thoughts and impressions. This last provides the appropriate state of calm in which he can find inner peace and enjoy the climate in which creative thought can flourish. And even more importantly, then his mind is capable of reflecting thoughts beyond his usual limitations to experience what we call inspiration.

Throughout the training of a yogi, the factor, which is all-important, is that he holds his personal self image clear and strong so that he can direct his personal growth towards his own concept of the human ideal. He aspires to perfect himself in all ways and knows that this undertaking is difficult, long but extremely rewarding as he realises his personal responsibility in directing his life and his future.

By the teachings of Karma Yoga, the path of right action, all that is acquired by the yogi becomes integrated in his nature and directed towards positive outcomes in his life of action. towards better health, loving relationships, greater knowledge and skills. His capacity to help others increases accordingly. No reward, whether of better health, joy, knowledge or inspirational thought is for his own possession alone but is seen as an energy over which he has responsibility to utilize in the practical world and in his association with others around him,

The over-riding general realization which is experienced by those who practise yoga is that behind all life's diversity is an integral unit and brotherhood of being in which all living creatures and kingdoms, although seemingly separate, are in essence interdependent not only in order to be life-sustaining but in order that life on our beautiful planet may progress towards the 'better world' of which mankind dreams.

So the practice of meditation assumes a prominent role in allowing conscious experiencing of the subtler worlds beyond the obvious material one - the world of emotions, abstract thought and the soul and spirit worlds beyond. Meditation, brings the yogi ever nearer to that higher consciousness, that illuminates his being and in stages allows his expansion of consciousness to comprehend something of the vast cosmic life of which we are a part.

The ultimate experience of Yoga equates with what is called 'the mystical marriage' of the Christian - or the ecstatic blending of individual with the supernal in an uplifted state evidencing beyond all doubt, the fact that in essence all life is one.

Yoga: General Principles in Yogic Practice

Michael Russell

Your Independent guide to Yoga

Yoga, Hernia and Madonna

Energizing Yoga, the oldest system of personal development needs no introduction nowadays and is becoming popular all over the world because of its tremendous physical and medical benefits. People are practicing yoga exercises in millions all over the world, thanks to the media which is highlighting the benefits of yoga for general public.

However, like every other science, yoga is also a precise science. The question is: 'Are all yoga exercises safe to be practiced by all people with various health conditions?'
"This is the question which requires deeper digging into the subject of yoga itself, otherwise the consequences of doing yoga practice could be more dangerous than beneficial" said Subodh Gupta, the Yoga expert from India.


"While some of the yoga exercises can be taught easily without much complication and have various benefits, others can be very dangerous for people who are having problem of Hernia. For example, the yoga exercises like Sun Salutation, Cobra pose, Locust pose, Bow pose, Standing Forward Bend and Kapalabhati few to name are strictly not recommended if somebody is diagnosed with hernia as these exercises may make the hernia problem worse" said Subodh Gupta, the Yoga expert based in London.

Yoga, Hernia and Madonna

Considering the fact that over half a million hernia operations were performed in the United States last year and more than 2 percent of British people are affected by hernia, the question to ask is if all yoga practitioners are aware of their health condition and precautions before beginning the Yoga exercise. Madonna, the famous singer who practices Ashtanga yoga regularly recently had an operation for hernia ( Ashtanga yoga exercise series is a system developed by Mysore based famous Indian Yoga guru Shri K Pattabhi Jois ). In fact, the famous Ashtanga yoga series which involves jumping can be very dangerous for people who are having problem of Hernia" according to Subodh Gupta. Hernia develops when the outer layers of the abdominal wall weakens, bulge or actually rip. Among many reasons for hernia the most common is straining due to: jumping, defecation, coughing, lifting heavy objects, etc.

'Are precautions for various yoga exercises safely delivered by yoga Gurus?' 'Are yoga practitioners listening precautions before starting their yoga practice?'
"Well, this is a serious point to consider by all who are teaching yoga and also for people who are practicing yoga. The practitioners need to understand that their ignorance and lack of yoga knowledge may lead them straight into an operation room".

A noble effort has been done by some of the renowned yoga gurus from India and the teachers from the West to spread the awareness of yoga but unless Yoga exercises are done with precautions, more and more people will get injured without realizing.

Issued in public interest by Subodh Gupta, Yoga Expert from India, for all those who are learning yoga without taking precautions.

Yoga, Hernia and Madonna

Mr Subodh Gupta,is consultant with The Times of India group.He has been Interviewed by various TV channel channels in India and London. Mr Gupta has organized more than 500 workshops on Yoga and Stress Management.

Please click here for reaching to Subodh Gupta website and for blog

Yoga - The Psychological Benefits

Yoga is often credited with physical benefits such as better flexibility, stable heart rate, toned muscle and increased stamina. In yoga sessions and class, people are taught to stretch their muscles so that they can be agile and flexible. But for new observers, the benefits of yoga only seem to be physical. Yoga offers more than the benefits to the body. Studies have shown that Yoga also provides key benefits to the mind.

Interestingly, the psychological benefits are related to the physical benefits. One could say "with sound body, come sound mind". If you consider physical activities such as steadying the heart rate, stabilize the nervous system, increase joint flexibility, all of these activities allow us to mentally transform ourselves. When one gets physically better, you can argue that the person gets better mentally. Studies have shown that people who practice yoga share a better optimism, better awareness and alertness and even appreciation for one's surroundings. It ultimately begs the question does body and mind go hand and hand?


One of the most profound benefits of yoga is stress management. Imagine a stressful day at work or at home. The fast-paced environment requires you to be constantly worrying about the next thing. With yoga, you can benefit from relaxed breathing with a reasonable degree of control. Such activity allows your body and muscles to relax and think about peaceful thoughts, diverting your focus on stress. Even flexing activities could help a stressed person by loosening the tight muscles. Often when someone is stressed, the muscles are as well.

Yoga - The Psychological Benefits

Like stress, yoga can help with confronting anxiety. Anxiety often leads individuals to think about their fears or concerns. Since Yoga helps you to focus, individuals can learn to turn their minds away from the anxiety and focus their thoughts on more tranquil images.

One practice of Yoga, called Anuloma Viloma, is breathing through one nostril to calm the mind and the nervous system. Studies have shown that alternating between nostrils help the connection from one side to the opposite side of the brain, allowing neurons to freely move. It's said to balance the creative side and the logical side of our brains and help us to freely think.

Yoga is a form of exercise and it's this form of activity provides great benefits psychologically. In studies done in Finland in 2000, participants were asked to partake in exercises. Based on this study, scientists discovered a connection between mood and recreational exercise. Those who participated in exercise at least two times a week had some positive effects on mood. There were fewer signs of depression and anger found among these individuals. Moreover, the ones who participated in these exercises more than twice a week were prone to be sociable, allowing one to be less stressful.

John Locke aptly pointed out "A sound mind in a sound body is a short but full description of a happy state in this world". Yoga fits this description very well. The psychological benefits of yoga provide individuals a more balanced approach to our individual well-being. Yoga can indeed be food for the mind.

Yoga - The Psychological Benefits

Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Yoga []

Yoga - Contraindications For Inversions

As we practice yoga poses we want to do also inversions. Most common inversions are the Headstand and the Shoulderstand. But there are not only those two poses which are the inverted asanas. Any posture in which the head is below the heart is called an inversion. Whether you stand on your head, bend forward or bend back, if your head is below your heart, you are performing an inversion. This also means that Downward Facing Dog, Standing Forward Bend and Fish pose are also inversions; although those poses are mild in comparison to a Headstand. The Camel pose can also be an inversion if you bend back far enough. Remember - inversions are not for everyone! Your intentions should be clear when you perform any yoga posture. If the risks may outweigh the benefits there is no logical reason why you should practice any pose which can harm you.

Contraindications for practicing inversions:


If you have any of the following conditions, please omit inversions or work with a qualified and experienced teacher who will never put you at risk and tried to modify your practice. Anyone who has high blood pressure, heart related problems, eye issues, neck problems, epilepsy, previous stroke or sinus problems should never practice Headstand or Shoulderstand, and omit other mild inversions or be adjusted by the yoga teacher.

Yoga - Contraindications For Inversions

During any stage of pregnancy yoga should be practiced in a prenatal yoga classes specifically designed for that purpose or privately with a qualified pregnancy yoga teacher. During menstruation Headstand and Shoulderstand preferably should be omitted and other milder inversions should not be hold for long, but because of the controversy about the inversions during menstruation it is your personal choice. Let your body guide you.

If you are a yoga teacher explain to your students why the inversions can be dangerous for them if they have any of the condition mentioned earlier. Why not stand on your head when you have pain in your neck or neck injury? What first thing will come to your mind as you there? Ouch ... my neck! Can my small neck carry my whole weight as I am inverted?

Most students put lots of weight on their head and neck instead of shoulders. Use your common sense and listen to your body. Intuition will never let you down. Why omit headstand if I have high blood pressure? Because the danger is when your blood pressure increase from 100/60 mm Hg while standing on your feet to 150/110 mm Hg or even higher when you go for headstand.

Yoga - Contraindications For Inversions

Ms Barbara is a Certified Yoga trainer and also a Teacher in Physical Education. She is a member of REPs as Advance Instructor level 3.

She has been learning, practicing and teaching many styles of yoga for around 10 years. Her classes vary in dynamics and strength, depending on the level of students. Some classes may be very gentle and meditative, while other very powerful and strong.

For more information about the author check

Yoga, Anatomy, and the Human Machine

Understanding Yoga anatomy is critical to understanding the benefits and risks, of practicing and teaching, Yoga asanas or pranayama techniques. The study of human anatomy will teach you about the organization and intricate functioning of the human skeleton, muscles, internal organs, ligaments, tendons, and cartilage. A good Yoga instructor will have a firm foundation in the anatomy of Yoga, so that he or she is aware of the correct alignment of Yoga poses and the safest way to move in and out of the asanas. A firm understanding of the anatomy of the respiratory system is also very helpful for teaching Yoga students correct breathing techniques, which will leave them with a feeling of energized calmness.

If you are an aspiring Yoga instructor, a course in Yoga anatomy, with an emphasis on comparative anatomy, is a great foundation for your personal practice, or the sequencing of asanas in your Yoga classes. An understanding of comparative anatomy will also help you to ascertain the difference in your students' musculature systems. Although human anatomy is remarkably similar from human machine to human machine, the anatomy of individuals can differ. A competent Yoga instructor will be able to see these differences and adjust a student's alignment in the Yoga poses accordingly.


A thorough understanding of Yoga anatomy, as it relates to the human machine, will also teach you about the functioning of the nervous, circulatory, and digestive systems. Yoga teachers, who study anatomy, will learn how students are affected by a regular practice of Yoga asanas and pranayama techniques. This knowledge will benefit you, both on a personal level and a professional level, as a Yoga instructor. You will gain the knowledge of how to move in and out of the asanas safely. As time goes on, you will view the asanas and pranayama practices as therapeutic tools for creating health and balance amongst all of the systems of the human body.

Yoga, Anatomy, and the Human Machine

If you are well-versed in Yoga anatomy, you will understand the different angles, capabilities, and limitations of the various joints, muscles, bones, and ligaments of the human body. Of course, different Yoga asanas require that the body move in a variety of ways. Pushing too hard in a Yoga asana, or pranayama exercise, will create muscular pain, strained joints, and a general feeling of anxiety or unease.

A thorough study of Yoga anatomy will teach you about the optimum alignment in Yoga asanas and how to avoid injury. Understanding Yoga anatomy, thoroughly, will also give you great respect for the miraculous design of the human machine.

© Copyright 2011 - Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

Yoga, Anatomy, and the Human Machine

Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, has written many books on the subject of Yoga. He is a co-owner and the Director of Yoga Teacher Training at: Aura Wellness Center, in Attleboro, MA. He has been a certified Master Yoga Teacher since 1995. To receive Free Yoga videos, Podcasts, e-Books, reports, and articles about Yoga, please visit:

How Much Do Yoga Classes Cost?

There a number of things that determine how much yoga studios and wellness centers charge for yoga classes. Across the United States, on average, yoga classes cost about per drop-in session. Each of these sessions may cost anywhere from to , depending on your location.

But if you're living in metropolitan or coastal areas it is not unusual to be charged as much as for a drop-in, or maybe more. Rates go significantly higher, pretty much like everything else, as the cost of living increases.


Buying in Bulk

How Much Do Yoga Classes Cost?

These are only drop-in fees. Of course you can get it for less when you buy in bulk. Again on average, you will save about 15% per session if you buy multiple sessions. That's like paying 0 when you sign in for 10 sessions, instead of spending 0 for dropping in on the same number of sessions.

In some studios you will find a variety of packages offered at fixed rates. A typical monthly plan entitles you to one class everyday for 30 days, but for only half the price of what you would otherwise pay based on drop-in prices. A package may offer specific classes only-under a particular instructor and during certain schedules. Be sure it is right for you before paying up.

Saving on Bundles?

With gyms, meanwhile, unlimited yoga classes are frequently bundled with membership. Such offers of total access are a good idea if you have the time to use the equipment and attend the classes. If you only have time for one, then that's the only thing you should pay for. When something is bundled, it doesn't necessarily mean it's free. You may be paying for it, too, albeit at a lower price.

Special promos and incentives affect the rates, as well. For instance, some fitness centers charge less for first timers even if they're just dropping in. Some even throw in a massage therapy or a Pilates training along with the yoga classes. Others offer seasonal discounts. Loyalty reward and referral programs are common schemes.

Additional Costs

There are inclusions that increase the costs. Studios may have reasonable rates per session, but also charge you for the lockers, sauna, mats and towels. Know beforehand whether you actually need such facilities. As for the mat and towel, which you do need, you may want to compare prices first. Yoga mats are priced at to ; microfiber towels are about apiece.

All that said, how much your yoga classes should cost will really depend on you. How often can you go? How much are you willing to spend?

My advice: find the time and you will find the class that fits your budget. Just find the time. 

How Much Do Yoga Classes Cost?

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Yoga, Flexibility

A comprehensive flexibility program can be used as a stand alone exercise program. But if you are going to pursue other forms of exercise, Flexibility exercises should be considered a prerequisite to all forms of exercise.

This means that before undertaking any rigorous workout routine (this includes yoga), you need a bottom-line level of flexibility and body awareness which a good flexibility routine provides. This routine allows for continued improvement in any activity by keeping you loose and insures against commonly occurring injuries.


The above stated should be obvious. Anyone who has participated in any type of strenuous workout knows the pain often related to the exercise itself and also the following tightening up or stiffening of the body soon afterward. This is because exercises made up of repetitive movements tend to bulk and shorten muscles.

Yoga, Flexibility

This means that the joints and diaphragm / pelvic hinges these muscles cross like rubber bands, will begin to distort. This action causes acute and chronic pain, possibly temporarily relieved by the workout but unless specifically and rightly addressed, ends in injury to the joints, the soft tissue (including muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia) or both.

As muscles shorten, compensations begin occurring throughout the structural body (skeleton) resulting in loss of mobility and flexibility and destroying any chance the body has of moving in a geometrically precise, fluid manner. This loss of mobility snowballs, again ending in injury (or too much discomfort to continue exercising) if the shortening exercises (running, cycling, etc.) are kept up.

As for yoga, generally speaking, one fault lies in its ignorance of, or neglect in, addressing the diaphragm hinge and the pelvic hinge and the ways in which they were meant to interact with each other. This results in a hyper-erect body capable of contorting itself into many postures but in movement non-fluid and stiff looking due to the immobility of the two above-mentioned hinges which leads to all manner of back, neck, and shoulder problems.

Too many yoga practitioners are stuck in what resembles the classic military posture. Also, most forms of yoga tend to be extremely linear in nature, utilizing joints in rather limited ranges of motions and overstretching some soft tissue (the tendons and ligaments across the joints) while ignoring rest. Joints need circular movements for optimal health.

Chinese Energetic Medicine confirms this by teaching that physical strength can be increased by circular movement energy. Linear, back and forth movements decrease your strength.

Beginners with inflexible bodies are at special risk of injury because, in my opinion, yoga is an advanced method of physical therapy and should be participated in only by individuals having achieved a certain level of flexibility and possessing at least a fundamental understanding of body mechanics; and this is where Flexibility comes in.

It's said that yoga asanas, or postures, exercise every muscle, nerve, and gland in the body. Practiced properly, a good flexibility routine does all that, and aligns the skeleton, lengthens and organizes the musculature, decompresses the joints, flushes out and fluffs up the cartilage in and around the joints, and opens up blocked pathways for fluid and energy flows throughout the body. It calms the breath, mind, and body, synchronizes all aspects of our being and allows healing on every level to take place effortlessly.

Now, once more just so I'm not misunderstood, I'm not against yoga. Yoga to me is an advanced form of movement, and if you can't perform basic flexibility movements (which is the foundation of all movement) properly, then you have no business trying to do yoga, if you don't want to risk hurting yourself or become discouraged. If, after having mastered a comprehensive flexibility routine and you have an excess of time on your hands to devote to your flexibility, then by all means find a yoga modality and go to it.

While Flexibility work does not completely eliminate the need for bodywork, it does give the practitioner the concepts and abilities to dramatically and efficiently transform and reorganize their own body. In time, most if not all, chronic pain can be diminished and eliminated by the practice of flexibility movements. The Fascial Web can be altered drastically and to such an extent that many visits to therapists and doctors of all kinds, as well as many medications and drugs, can be avoided.

Yoga, Flexibility

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Yoga: Opening the Hips with the Pigeon Pose

A common request in any yoga class is for hip openers like the Pigeon Pose. Although hip openers can be challenging, they are popular because they can also be very satisfying, both physically and emotionally.

Our hips tend to be extremely tight. Most people spend much of their day sitting which renders their hips joints immobile and reduces their agility. Also, everyday activities like walking and common sports such as cycling and running involve hip strength but not hip flexibility. Most of us lead very busy lives and this leads to stress. This stress in turn creates tension in our bodies and often results in further locking up our already tight hip sockets.


Incorporating Pigeon Pose into your daily routine will help you to unlock your hips, move with greater ease and relieve a considerable amount of tension.

Yoga: Opening the Hips with the Pigeon Pose

This pose stretches the hip flexors and the hip rotators, providing a terrific solution to problems arising from hip tightness. Since it also requires internal rotation in the back leg and external rotation in the front leg, it will have a positive effect on your whole body, perhaps even allowing you to move more freely after consistent practice.

The Pigeon Pose isolates various muscles in the hips, reducing stiffness and increasing flexibility. It is this isolation of muscles that can make this pose so challenging. Be aware that there is definitely some physical work involved with the practice of this asana. The key is to bring your attention to and observe the sensations created in your body during your practice.

On your mat, go on all fours with your knees below your hips and your hands underneath your shoulders. Bring the right knee forward until it touches the right wrist while maintaining a straight line between the right thigh and the sides of the mat. Slowly move your right foot and shin toward the middle of your body until your foot is directly below your left hip. Straighten the left leg toward the back of the mat.

Don't lean forward but walk your hands back and lower both sides of the pelvis toward the mat. Keeps your hips straight and level as the pelvis releases. You can use a block or a folded blanket if you have trouble lowering the hips evenly.

Press the fingertips firmly into your mat and lengthen the sides of your waist as your hips continue to settle. This will help keep your lower back long and free from strain.

Inhale deeply and walk the hands forward as you lengthen in the midsection. Exhale as you fold forward and lower the elbows to the floor. The weight that is released in the hips can be adjusted by using the arms. Using the arms to support the body can ease any discomfort felt in the hips.

Pay attention to the sensations in your hips and buttock. If it feels extremely uncomfortable, a shift in alignment may be required. Remember, the idea is to relieve tension, not to create additional tension in your joints.

Keeping the hips level is vital in the practice of the Pigeon Pose. If the hips are uneven, an imbalance will result when you fold forward. To offset this, a folded blanket may be placed under the right buttock (if you are extending the right knee).

Keep the thigh of your front leg lined up parallel to the sides of the mat. Your front foot should be directly beneath your back hip. Bring your breath into your hips and observe the sensations running through them. Relax the muscles in your face and let go of thoughts appearing in your mind. Allow your body to melt to the floor as you continue to breathe into your hips.

Stay in the forward fold for 5 - 10 breaths. Then inhale and come back up. Lift your hips away from the floor as you press into your fingertips. Transition to downward dog and take 5 deep breaths, observing how you feel in your hips. Then switch to the other side.

Yoga: Opening the Hips with the Pigeon Pose

Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Yoga

Facts on Yoga

Yoga has become an increasingly popular form of exercise and meditation the last several years. Many people look at yoga as just that, though. But yoga encompasses more than simply exercise and meditation. This article will "enlighten" you to some facts about yoga.

Yoga started out in the East as a spiritual practice focusing on meditation, but in the West it is normally seen as a physical practice, for the benefit of staying healthy and in shape. Hatha yoga is the variation of yoga that describes exercise. It is estimated that around sixteen million North Americans practice this form of yoga. These yoga classes focus on breathing exercises, physical exercises and meditation, which are especially beneficial for people with back, heart, or breathing problems.


In studies, yoga has helped young and old people alike who have heart problems. The studies have shown that yoga helped to lower blood pressure and increase resistance to psychological stresses. Yoga aids to improve physical flexibility, strength and endurance, which is particularly beneficial to people with back problems. The yogic breathing and meditation assists those people to better manage their back pain.

Facts on Yoga

A male who practices yoga is referred to as a yogi or yogin, whereas a female who practices yoga is called a yogini. The word yoga means to yoke and it can loosely be translated as "to join" or "unite". It can also be taken to mean as "union" or a method of discipline. Yoga is believed to be made up of eight limbs: the asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), yamas (restraints), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), niyamas (observances) and samadhi (absorption). The goal of traditional yoga is to achieve samadhi, which is a state of inward enlightenment.

Most people who practice yoga today are involved with the limb asana. They use these physical postures to increase physical strength and flexibility, while purifying the body at the same time. These asanas or postures are known as the increasingly popular hatha yoga. The word hatha can mean forceful or willful and can be translated into "ha", which means "sun" and "tha" meaning "moon". Hatha yoga is the physical exercises and postures of yoga that allows the free-flow of energy throughout the body, as well as creating balance and inner peace and harmony.

When some people picture someone doing yoga, they have an image of a person sitting cross-legged with their eyes closed, thumb and fore finger pressed together, chanting the word "Om". What is Om and what does it mean? Repeating the word Om is a mantra; it is a vibration of the universe around us. Everything has a pulse and ancient yogis created Om to represent that universal pulse. Chanting Om at the beginning and end of a yoga session brings the person a sense of connection to the entire universe and is meant to be soothing and uplifting.

Yoga is beneficial no matter how much or how little of it you can fit into your weekly schedule. It is recommended to start practicing yoga two or three times a week for an hour each time and work your way up from there if possible. However, any time that you can find for a yoga session will work too. Nothing special is required to begin a yoga session. The only things that are needed for a yoga session are your body, mind and comfortable, well-fitting workout clothes. Then you are ready for your first yoga experience!

Facts on Yoga

Michael Russell

Your independent guide to Yoga


Yoga is a group of ancient practices which were first developed in India. It is still popular in the country today, and is considered to be a spiritual exercise. Many Indians see it as a way of attaining enlightenment. Yoga is broken down into four primary categories, and these are Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Raja Yoga. However, these are only a few of the many variations of this exercise. Yoga has become popular in the West, and is well known because of its many postures.

While yoga is commonly seen as just being an exercise in the West, it is an important part of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. For those who are followers of these religions, yoga is not only seen as being an exercise, but is also a method that can be used to attain enlightenment. This practice has existed for thousands of years, and has been mentioned in a number of important Indian texts such as the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. Contemporary yoga is comprised of a number of different principles, and many of these are taken from Indian religions.


The purpose of the postures is to keep the body healthy and fit. Practitioners will often chant, and may perform breathing techniques as well. Meditation plays an important role in yoga, and many western yoga establishments present the practice in a way that can help those who don't practice Hinduism. Many people in the West are attracted to yoga because of its ability to relax both the body and the mind. In addition to this, it is a great way to stay physically fit. Many people who practice yoga view it as being a great way to improve their health or enhance the function of their minds.


The goal of some yoga practitioners is to achieve what is called samadhi. Samadhi is a complex mental state where a person can achieve ecstasy. The goals of those who practice yoga will vary based on their religion and background. Those who practice Hinduism believe that yoga is away of getting close to God. Buddhists believe that yoga can help individuals achieve a deeper level of wisdom. Western nations place an importance on individualism, so many people in the West will use yoga as a method for self improvement.

Yoga is a very ancient practice that places an emphasis on having full control over the body and the mind. Many people who use it believe that they will be able to gain insight into the underlying structure of reality. The Yogi is a person who will attain an state of enlightenment where their thoughts will cease, and they will achieve a type of union. Yoga is a very complex subject which can mean different things for different people. Even if one does not wish to attain enligtenment, this practice can allow them to enhance their own insight. Even though yoga has strong connections to Indian religions, it is not a religion itself. Even though the exact age of this practice is not known, it is estimated that it has existed for at least 6,000.


Michael Colucci is a writer for Yoga which is part of the Knowledge Search network

Understanding the Different Types of Yoga

Yoga is becoming a more and more popular activity in the Western world today. The number of places holding Yoga classes is on the increase and there is a plethora of different types of Yoga. With a choice of Hatha Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Power Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga and many more it can be easy to get confused

The article will help you to understand the difference between the most popular types of Yoga so you can choose which type is right for you.


Hatha Yoga - in Sanskrit (an ancient classical language of India) "Ha" means "sun" and "tha" means "moon". This type of Yoga is relatively slow paced, gentle type of Yoga and is a good place to start if you are completely new to Yoga and don't know any of the asanas (poses). Like all types of Yoga, Hatha Yoga aims to unite the mind, body and spirit.

Understanding the Different Types of Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga - this is the type of Yoga that I practice on a regular basis and means "eight limbs" in Sanskrit. It's a fast moving, intense style of Yoga practice and is based on a progressive set sequence of asanas, synchronized with the breath. Ashtanga Yoga can be quite physically demanding as you constantly move from one asana in the sequence to the next, so you'll find that it will improve your stamina as well as your flexibility and strength..

Power Yoga - this is a western interpretation of Yoga and is based on Ashtanga Yoga. A Power Yoga class may not necessarily stick to the exact sequence of poses like Ashtanga Yoga does, but it does involve practicing a series of poses without stopping and starting.

Iyengar Yoga - This type of Yoga is based on teachings by B.K.S Igengar and concentrates on the correct alignment and form of the body. Unlike Ashtanga Yoga, there is an emphasis on holding each pose for a long period of time rather than moving constantly from one pose to the next. Iyengar Yoga uses props such as blocks and straps to help align the body into the different poses.

Vinyasa Yoga - Vinyasa means breath synchronized movement and is another fast paced type of Yoga, with an emphasis on breathing. A practice typically starts with sun salutations and moves on to more intense stretching. Throughout the practice each pose is balanced with a counter pose.

Bikram Yoga - otherwise known as "Hot Yoga", is practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees, with a humidity of around 40%. Generally a sequence of 26 different poses is practiced during a Bikram Yoga class and the hot temperature helps to loosen muscles. Due to the high temperature most people sweat a lot during the class and this helps to cleanse the body of toxins.

If you're just starting out or have never done any Yoga before, I recommend trying a few different types of yoga to find out what you like best.

Remember, there's no rule that says you have to stick to one type of Yoga. I like Ashtanga Yoga best, but I also go to occasional Iyengar and Hatha Yoga classes for a bit of variety.

Understanding the Different Types of Yoga

To find out more about the different types of Yoga visit the Free online Yoga Guide

Sciatica Exercises That Work

While sciatica exercises are definitely important to both short and long-term recovery, not all exercises promoted for sciatica are actually appropriate during acute symptoms and may actually make things worse.

For example, while commonly recommended to people with sciatica, exercises such as hamstring stretches and the yoga position, "downward facing dog" can be beneficial as part of managing one's condition once the pain is reduced, these exercises can place tension on the sciatic nerve and aggravate an already inflamed and sensitive condition. In general, any exercise that causes pain to increase in the leg and/or extend further down the leg should be completely avoided during the acute phase of sciatica.

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During the acute phase of sciatica pain, McKenzie exercises provide one of the best and safest treatment approaches available - more effective than medication and epidural steroid injections in many people. Though often associated with spinal extension and mistakenly called the "McKenzie Extension Exercises", McKenzie method may involve any number of spinal positions/movements. The underlying principle of the McKenzie technique is to test various positions and exercises to determine what will create the most "centralization" of the pain and other symptoms.

McKenzie practitioners use the word "centralization" when the pain and other symptoms are relieved in the areas the greatest distance away from the spine. To give an example, in a person with sciatica all the way down the leg to the foot, centralization might occur in which the pain left the foot and lower leg and then only extended down to the knee. If the pain extended to the knee at first, an example of centralization would be a situation in which the pain would leave the thigh and only extends far as the hip.

A position or exercise that results in symptom centralization is one that will be beneficial, even in situations where symptoms increase for a time in areas closer to the spine. For example, if you had sciatica and low back pain and tried one of of the McKenzie exercises and the sciatica completely went away but the back pain got worse, the exercise would still be considered beneficial and it would be recommended to continue using it. In the long run, a sciatica exercise that produces centralization will usually eventually result in improvement in all symptoms, even if more central (closer to the spine) symptoms get worse at first.

The simplest of the McKenzie exercises for alleviating sciatica is done by simply lying on one's stomach on the floor or a firm surface and propping one's chest up on the elbows. This position puts the lumbar spine into an extended position, which may reduce sciatica by squeezing bulging disc material further forward and away from the spinal nerves that compose the sciatica nerve, thereby resulting in reduced compression and inflammation. Although you can maintain this position for relatively long periods of time, I recommend doing it for short periods of one or two minutes with a rest break of at least a few minutes in between. Taking short, frequent breaks keeps the lumbar musculature from getting tight, but still allows enough time to get good results in the majority of cases. For more complex sciatica exercises, getting detailed instructions either through an illustrated guide or an experienced health care practitioner is advised.

Sciatica Exercises That Work

Dr. George Best has been treating sciatica patients for over 15 years. For a free e-book on sciatica exercises and to access his informational online video series on sciatica and the treatment options for it, visit his website on sciatica self care.

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Discover the 3 Most Popular Forms of Yoga

Everyday life can be hectic with all that there is to deal with, such as jobs, families, and relationships. Therefore, it is important to find a way to get rid of the built up tension and stress within the body; it is not healthy for you. Yoga is known to help to relieve body stress, but it also provides other benefits.

For beginners to yoga, here is a short and quick overview of the 3 most popular Yoga types that many people choose as a starting point:

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1) Hatha Yoga - This is the most popular and commonly practiced form of Yoga, and it's a combination of asanas synced with a balanced breathing. It combines meditation, pranayama (lengthening of the breath), and relaxation techniques. This make Hatha Yoga perfect for de-stressing the body and bringing a sense of peace of mind.

2) Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga - This form of Yoga helps to build strength and power; it is widely practiced among athletes and those looking to get more from their physical workouts. The focus here is to build a strong level of stamina from within and internally improve the body's health. Ashtanga Yoga is comprised of many different postures where bandas (seals) and ujjayi (victory) are used as a means of raising the body heat to cleanse to the body of toxins.

3) Kundalini Yoga - This type of Yoga is commonly known as the "Yoga of Awareness" because it helps to awaken blocked energy. It is a combination of physical and meditative balance, which improves the mind-body connection; it helps a person to become one body, mind, and spirit as it helps an individual awaken the unused or blocked energy. This deep state of relaxation results from a carefully structured combination of asanas, mantra chanting and pranyama.

You might want to spend a week practicing Yoga at a retreat center to make your experience more fulfilling. You need to be somewhere peaceful so that the calmness around you can surround you, and take your mind and body to a new higher level.

Discover the 3 Most Popular Forms of Yoga

Hopefully, you have learned something new about yoga in this article as yoga is a great way to get in shape, get a stronger body, lose weight and get your mind and body in balance. Check out: [] to find more exclusive yoga tips and yoga related products!

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The History of Yoga - Where Did Yoga Come From?

No one knows exactly how old yoga is. It originated as long as 10,000 to 5000 years ago. It was passed down orally and has gone through much evolution. The earliest reference to Yoga was found when archeological excavations were made in the Indus valley - an amazing powerful and influential civilization in the early antique period. This sophisticated culture developed around the Indus river and the long gone Sarasvati river in northern India, on the border towards Pakistan and had sewage systems, baths as early as 2,600 BC.

While many religions continue to want to make yoga their own creation, it belongs to all of us. It has many facets that can be found in the Hindu and Buddhist faith, but the basic principals are universal and based on "the eight limbs of yoga", which can be found in all religions.

\"what Is Yoga\"

The History of Yoga is defined as four periods:

Vedic Period, Pre-Classical Period, Classical Period, Post Classical Period and the Modern Period

History of Yoga

Yoga is said to be as old as civilization itself but the oral transmission of the practice, has left several gaps in its history. Earliest archeological evidence relating to yoga's existence is found in Mohenjodaro seals excavated from the Indus valley, depicting a figure seated in a traditional yoga pose. The stone seals place Yoga's existence around 3000 B.C.

The Vedic Period

The next reference to yoga is found in the Rig Veda, the oldest sacred text in the world. The Vedas, dating back to 1500 and 1200 BC, are a collection of hymns, mantras and brahmanical rituals that praised a greater being. Yoga is referred to in the book as yoking or discipline without any mention of a practice or a method to achieve this discipline. The Atharva Veda too mentions yoga with a reference to controlling the breath.

Pre-Classical Period

The creation of the Upanishads, between 800 to 500 BC, marks the period called Pre-Classical Yoga. The word Upanishad means to sit near and implies that the only way a student could learn the truths inscribed in the texts was by sitting close to a guru.

The Maitrayaniya Upanishad outlined a six-fold path to liberation. This six-fold yoga path included controlling the breath (pranayama), withdrawing the senses (pratyahara), meditation (dhyana), concentration (dharana), contemplation (tarka), and absorption (samadhi). Patanjali's Yoga Sutra was later to mirror these paths with greater elucidation and a few additions.

Two yoga disciplines gained prominence at this time: karma yoga (path of action or ritual) and jnana yoga (path of knowledge or study of the scriptures). Both paths led to liberation or enlightenment. The Bhagavad-Gita, composed around 500 BC later added the bhakti yoga (the path of devotion) to this path.

It was at the time of the Upanishads that the idea of ritual sacrifice was internalized and became the idea of sacrifice of the ego through self-knowledge, action and wisdom. This remains an important part of yoga's philosophy today. As with the Vedas, the Upanishads contained nothing of what we would term as yoga asana practice today. The first and probably most important presentation of yoga came in the next period.

Classical Period

Written some time in the second century, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras created a milestone in the history of yoga, defining what is now known as the Classical Period. This set of 195 sutras (aphorisms) is considered to be the first systematic presentation of yoga, and Patanjali is revered as the father of yoga.

Patanjali defined the eight-limbed path of yoga (ashtanga yoga), which described a practical treatise on living and laid out a path for attaining harmony of the mind, body and soul. Strict adherence to which would lead one to enlightenment. The sutras still serve as a guideline for living in the world, although modern yoga no longer sees the need to master the eight limbs in succession.

Post-Classical Period

It was in this period that the belief of the body as a temple was rekindled and yogis designed a practice to rejuvenate the body and to prolong life. It was no longer necessary to escape from reality; instead the focus was more living in the moment and on the correct path. The exploration of the spiritual and the physical halves and the need to harmonize the mind, body and spirit led to the creation of Tantra yoga, to cleanse the body and mind, and to Hatha yoga in the ninth or tenth century.

Modern Period

Yoga in its present avatar owes a lot to learned gurus who traveled west to spread the benefits of yoga, or researched and created different schools of yoga. In 1893 Swami Vivekanada addressed the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago and spoke about Raja yoga. Swami Sivanada wrote several books on yoga and philosophy and introduced the five principles of yoga. J.Krishnamurti, the prolific Indian philosopher, influenced thousands with his writings and teachings on Jnana yoga.

The defining epicenter of modern day yoga, as practiced in the west, began with Krishnamacharya, Mysore India in 1931.

T Krishnamacharya opened the first Hatha yoga school in the 1920s. Three of Krishnamacharya's most famous pupils were-Pattabhi Jois, who developed the school of Ashtanga vinyasa yoga, Indra Devi who introduced yoga to Hollywood, and B.K.S. Iyengar, who created Iyengar yoga known for its attention to body alignment and for its use of props.

Since then, many more yoga gurus have become pioneers, popularizing yoga and finding new styles in keeping with the changing times. Today there are limitless styles of yoga, all based on ingredients from the different paths of yoga (see: The Paths of Yoga).

Yoga in America has been more focused on the Asana side of the practice, but a true yogi knows there is much more to the experience. I always advise students to try different styles and you will find one that gives you the most enrichment.

Enjoy you spiritual journey...

The History of Yoga - Where Did Yoga Come From?

David Yglesias RYT is yoga teacher and made this page for his personal study on the subject and to share with his students. This page is made up of the work of many, so if you have information to add, please email me:

David Yglesias, RYT

Thanks for the many people that helped put this history together.

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5 Easy Ways To Meditate

There are many different ways to meditate. Each one is a different method with broadly the same end result. Check out these different meditation methods to see which suits you best.

Walking meditation


This is one of the easiest ways to meditate, although obviously it isn't as separate from the rest of the world as you need to be aware of your surroundings. With a walking meditation you pay attention to your feelings and your surroundings. Allow yourself 20 minutes or so and if possible choose a place where you're away from traffic. A local park is good. Then go for a gentle walk and take in the area. Notice the smells and sounds and pay attention to what you see.

Breathing meditation

At its simplest, you find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed and start to take deeper breaths than you'd normally take. Breathe in a long, slow, deep breath. If possible hold it for a second or two before releasing it, again slowly. Repeat this over again, at least 5 times and ideally more. You'll find that this is a quick way to bring about a more relaxed state in your body.

Binaural beats meditation

This is the "modern" way to meditate and is the method I personally use regularly. You can purchase this kind of meditation and then play it on your CD or MP3 player. You need to find a place where you won't be disturbed for the length of the track, which is typically 30 to 60 minutes. The track will play a background noise - usually rainfall or music - as well as binaural beats. These beats play two slightly different tones, one into each ear. Your brain then tries to resolve the small difference between the tones and it is this which brings out a meditative state with next to no effort on your part. This kind of meditation is very powerful - don't get taken in by its simplicity!

Cosmic meditation

Quite similar to the binaural beats meditation, this is usually linked to Cosmic Ordering which is a structured form of Napoleon Hill's ideas from Think and Grow Rich. A cosmic meditation usually takes the form of a guided meditation which will get you relaxed and then allow you to send your current wish or goals list on to the cosmos.

Guided meditation

There are many of these available on the internet. They usually last between 20 and 60 minutes. Typically a guided meditation will start with a relaxation procedure so that you're relaxed and receptive for the main part of the meditation. It will then move on to the actual aim of the meditation, whether this is deep relaxation, healing your body, contacting your higher self or any other goal you have chosen. You can choose a single guided meditation or they are often sold in bundles of several guided meditations.

Whichever way of meditation you decide to use, you'll find that it helps to relax you and relieve the stresses and strains that seem to accompany our modern lifestyle.

5 Easy Ways To Meditate

Discover more ways to meditate and decide which is the best meditation method for you.

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