Yoga is a practice of mind and body, with a 5,000-year history in ancient Indian philosophy. Yoga is all about harmonizing the body with the mind and breath through the means of various breathing exercises, yoga poses (asanas) and meditation. Various styles of yoga combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. In more recent years, it has become popular as a form of physical exercise based upon poses that promote improved control of the mind and body and enhance well-being.
Derived from the Sankrit word ‘yuj’ which means ‘to unite or integrate’, yoga is a 5,000-year-old Indian body of knowledge. There is no written record of the inventor of yoga. Male and female yoga practitioners known as yogis, and yoginis respectively, both practiced and taught yoga long before any written account of yoga came into existence. Over the next five millennia, yogis passed the discipline down to their students, and many different schools of yoga developed as the practice expanded its global reach and popularity. The tradition began to gain popularity in the West at the end of the 19th century. An explosion of interest in postural yoga occurred in the 1920s and 1930s, first in India and later in the West.
Here are a few basic Yoga asanas that can help you get started:
Vrikshasana (Tree Pose): This pose gives you a sense of grounding. It improves your balance and strengthens your legs and back. It replicates the steady stance of a tree. Place your right foot high up on your left thigh. The sole of the foot should be flat and placed firmly. Keep your left leg straight and find your balance. While inhaling, raise your arms over your head and bring your palms together. Ensure that yourspine is straight and take a few deep breaths. Slowly exhale, bring your hands down and release your right leg. Back in the standing position repeat the same with the other leg. This pose gives you asense of grounding
Adho Mukho Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)This pose stretches hamstrings, chest and lengthens the spine, providing additional blood flow to the head. It is will leave you feeling energized. Sit on your heels, stretch your arms forward on the mat and lower your head. Form a table, like pushing your hands, strengthening your legs and slowly raising your hips. Press your heels down, let your head hand freely and tighten your waist. This pose stretches hamstrings, chest and lengthens the spine
Kursiasana (Chair Pose) An intensely powerful pose, this one strengthens the muscles of the legs and arms. It builds your willpower and has an energizing effect on the body and mind. Stand straight with your feet slightly apart. Stretch your arms but don’t bend your elbow. Inhale and bend your knees, pushing your pelvis down like you are sitting on chair. Keep your hands parallel to the ground and back straight. Take deep breaths. Bend gradually but make sure your knees don’t go beyond your toes. An intensely powerful pose, this one strengthens the muscles of the legs and arms
Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) This one will strengthen the lower back muscles while cushioning the spine, triceps and opens the chest to promote the inhalations. It also makes the spine flexible. Lie on your stomach with your feet together and toes flat. Place your hands downwards below your shoulders on the mat, lift your waist and raise your head while inhaling in. Pull your torso back with the support of your hands. Keep your elbows straight and make sure you put equal pressure on both palms. Tilt your head back and make sure your shoulders are away from your ears. Exhale while coming back to the ground. This one will strengthen the lower back muscles while cushioning the spine
Sukhasna Sukhasna is a comfortable position for pranayama and meditation. It gives the practitioner a centering effect. All the other asanas are done to eventually make the body feel comfortable to be able to sit in this position for meditation. This asana takes the yoga practice beyond its physical dimension and helps you get in touch with your spiritual side. Sit comfortably on the mat with crossed legs (left leg tugged inside the right thigh and right leg tugged inside the left thigh). Keep spine straight. Place your hands on your knees. You can use the Jnana mudra or Chin mudra. Relax your body and breathe gently.