A gentle duo asana practice to stretch and let go of stress together.
When it comes to asana practice, we should never feel pressured to accomplish anything. It is ultimately a personal sadhana (spiritual practice) that when done with devotion, love and commitment, it can help us to realise our true self, beyond the body and mind. Although this is a personal journey, yoga stands for union, accepting others as the same Divine essence we are. Therefore, understanding that we are all connected.
Duo asana practice or partner yoga can be useful for so many reasons. One of the main ones, being of course connecting with others through the practice. Another benefit of it is that we can receive support from our yoga peers, not only to help us physically in the asana, but emotionally as well. Sharing the practice is also about learning to trust, accept and be patient with your peer/others which are all qualities of Anahata, the heart chakra. Therefore, this practice may be helpful to activate and connect with this energy channel, opening our heart to life, to others, to trust and to love.
This asana sequence is a gentle practice to stretch and let go of stress. Try to synchronise your breathing with one another and hold the asanas for a bit longer (time mentioned below, although hold for as long as it feels good for you). Finish the practice with relaxation in Savasana.
Hold for 5-7 breaths each.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (variation)
Hold for 1.5 minutes.
Hold for 1 minute on each side.
Practice together with Marjaryasana 10 times in slow movement.
Bitilasana on inhalation
Marjaryasana on exhalation.
Hold for 1 minute on each side.
Hold for 3 minutes each.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (variation) with Balasana
Hold for 2.5 minutes each.
Practicing with @kalliovi
Asana practice for monthly cycle
A gentle asana practice for monthly cycle.
During our monthly cycle, a lot is happening in the body. Our system is cleansing itself, therefore during this time, according to Ayurveda (the sister science of yoga), we can focus on doing less/more gentle physical or external effort in general so that we don’t disrupt the flow of apana prana.
WHAT IS APANA PRANA?
Apana prana is responsible for the waste or excretion of the bodily fluids. During our cycle, apana prana is more active as it is removing toxins from the body. This is why in Ayurveda, it is not advised to practice inversions during the monthly cycle time as it can interfere with the flow of this prana, which moves downwards.
The asanas most suited for this period of the month are hip opening, gentle twists and some other seated or reclined asanas. Hip opening yoga postures stimulate Swadisthana (the sacral chakra) which is around the area of apana prana. This can help to support the apana prana activity. Gentle twists can also be practiced because they are known for their detoxifying and cleansing benefits. Some seated asanas are also supportive, particularly as they help us become more grounded and balanced. The lower part of the body is governed by Muladhara the root chakra, so any asanas that focus on activating this energy channel can help us to feel more stable and steady. This is also the main area of apana prana.
The sequence below focuses on all the above areas. It is a gentle asana practice yet effective and supportive for the period of the monthly cycle. Yoga props can be used to assist the body into each asana.
*If you are pregnant, have any injuries, past/recent surgery, check with your GP first.
English name: Lizard pose
Focuses on: both the hip flexors and hip extensors
Hold for: 3 minutes on each side
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana variation 1
English name: One legged king pigeon pose
Focuses on: both the hip flexors and hip extensors
Hold for: 4 minutes on each side
English name: Seated wide legged forward fold
Focuses on: inner thighs/groin area
Hold for: 2 minutes
English name: Reclined hero
Focuses on: lower back and quadriceps
Hold for: 3 minutes
English name: Reclined spinal twist
Focuses on: spine mobility
Hold for: 2 minutes on each side
Banana pose (yin yoga)
English name: Banana pose (it is a yin yoga asana)
Focuses on: intercostal muscles and spine mobility
Hold for: 2 minutes on each side
English name: Corpse pose
Focuses on: relaxation
Hold for: 10 minutes or longer
Relax with these 4 beautiful yoga asanas to practice before sleep.
Sleeping well is so important for our overall wellbeing. When we get a good night quality sleep, we naturally wake up feeling more calm, balanced and ready for the day. Practicing some gentle or restorative yoga asanas can help to calm the mind and create a harmonious state between body, breath and mind.
It is important that before we sleep we let go of any mental and physical tension accumulated through the day. Doing so, means that we free ourselves from what we hold onto and take our sleep journey in a tranquil way. This can be done in different ways, asana is one of them. The following four asanas can be practiced in bed using pillows instead of the bolster. Putting on some calming music can help with setting a peaceful atmosphere. Candles or lavender incense sticks can also create a serene experience of tranquility and beautiful scent.
Frog pose known as Mandukasa is a wonderful asana to release any physical tension from the inner thighs and let go of any emotions that we might be holding onto. It is part of Swadisthana, the sacral chakra, which is the energy channel of pleasure of all kinds, particularly feeling joyfulness for life and activating our creativity amongst many other benefits. Practicing Mandukasana before sleep allows us to free our body and mind of stagnant emotions and rest joyfully during the night. Practice this with a pillow or two under your chest and hold for up to 5 minutes or as it feels good for you. Melt the heart space into the pillows and allow the asana to gently unfold.
SUPTA HASTA PADANGUSTHASANA
Practicing reclined hand to foot pose releases tension from the hamstrings and calves, both being part of Muladhara, the root chakra. This is the energy channel of the root chakra, our centre of stability, grounding and feeling safe in the world. This asana helps to relax the mind and boosts blood and prana circulation in the legs which is usually helpful before sleep. It is beat to practice it with a strap and keeping the foot slightly active, but not forcefully so that it is more gentle. If you have any back pain or discomfort, bend the knee slightly. Practice on each leg for 2-3 minutes each.
This beautiful reclined spinal twist provides a gentle stretch to the spine and helps to boost the samana prana (prana of digestion) and the prana in the chest and shoulders area. It stimulates the digestive organs which can help the digestive organs process our food so that bowel movement is regular in the morning. The spine is the main pathway of communication between the brain and the body, so clearing away any physical tension and stagnant energy from it will free the mind of too much chatter. Practice on each leg for 2-3 minutes each keeping both shoulders on the mat or the bed.
This restorative variation of reclined hero pose opens the chest and shoulders, both areas of the heart chakra. Focusing on Anahata, we open our heart to what is in the present moment, surrendering to a peaceful state and embracing the feeling of love, always part of us. Supta Virasana provides a gentle stretch to the quadriceps, the front upper thighs muscles which, like the hamstrings, can accumulate plenty of tension through the day. Practice for 5 minutes or as it feels good for you and focus on deep breathing and melting the body onto the bolster or pillows.
In Raja yoga, the 8 limbs of yoga are the steps Sri Patanjali suggests to take for those longing for Moksha/liberation from the ego and attachment to the physical self. The second limb, known as the Nyamas refers to the personal behaviours that we should practice according to Patanjali on the spiritual yogic path.
The 5 Nyamas are:
Saucca - cleanliness
Santosha - contentment
Tapas - austerities
Ishwara Pranidhana - surrendering the ego
Whilst I will explain each of these in later blogs, I wanted to focus on Santosha as this in my opinion is something that can be practiced by everyone, not only those who aspire to take on a yogic path.
What is Santosha?
Santosha refers to contentment, being content with life. But what is contentment? What does it actually mean to be content? Some might say it is to be happy and this makes sense right? But with happiness, sadness will follow at some point, so will this still be a state of contentment?
The way I can explain Santosha is the neutral ground between happiness and sadness. When we search for happiness, we are not exactly practicing Santosha. It means that we see happiness as an external concept outside of ourselves, so we seek it through the physical life experiences and for some, through things. If we have something we want, then we feel happy. If we don't, then most of the time we are sad because we don't have it. Whenever we seek happiness, we can learn that with it will always come sadness too. Both are connected, one cannot be without the other. We are happy because we don't feel sad, and we feel sad because we don't feel happy.
Santosha comes in between and in my opinion it is the concept of being in contentment and satisfied with what is in this moment. It is neither happiness, nor sadness; it is not dependant on either of those. It is a state of joyful, acceptance and surrender.
In my opinion, we cannot always be happy. There are moments in life when sadness needs to be experienced. And there are also times of complete happiness. But if we learn to practice Santosha, we can experience both without being too attached to either. We can always be in a state of being, simply being.
Finding gratitude for life and all that we are gifted with is one way of practicing Santosha. Even some unpleasant experiences for which we might hold cold feelings such as pain, sadness, guilt, shame, regret etc later on we can maybe understand the lessons that came with that experience because we cannot change what has happened. Being present in the moment, without the mind wondering in the past or rushing towards the future is also a way of practicing Santosha. This is perhaps one of the most important parts of it. When we are present we are here and now. There is nothing else. This does not leave room for any other desires of wanting to change something or wishing for something different. It is what it is and if we can change something, the inspiration for this comes only when we are clear in the mind and open with our heart.
Surrender and acceptance relate beautifully with Santosha. Whilst we might think we can control life, we are more often than not proven differently. It is not about being in control, but learning to surrender to the flow of life without forcing for things to happen. We can try with patience, strength and self-belief to open a door of opportunity, but if that door does not open regardless what we try, perhaps we need to wait for a different time or open another door before that one opens. Everything is in synchronicity with the Divine essence and trusting this requires strength and unshakeable faith.
Yoga is not an easy path. It is not all calm and peachy. It is like a mirror through which we can see every layer of our existence, every part of our being and finally, one day maybe, we can see ourselves, our true self. But this requires so much commitment, dedication, belief and continuous practice. Yet it is the practice itself that can bring us into Santosha. The practice teaches us to be disciplined yet adaptable. We learn to be wise but open with our heart; to express ourselves freely yet to listen more; to free our body from all kinds of tension yet lovingly; to sit in silence and calm yet not to be afraid of the crowds and chaos. All of these, and more are the lessons we get from our sadhana (spiritual practice) which all are to be practiced in our life, throughout our physical existence.
Santosha can happen in every moment. It is a walk by the sea and listening to the sounds of the waves; it is the feeling of allowing raindrops to touch our skin without rushing out of the rain; it is the perseverance we keep when we fall; and the humbleness developed when being of service; it is a quick beautiful connection with a stranger without rushing into the future or analysing where it leads; it is the moment we find steadiness of body and mind through the connection of our breath. Santosha is also in the times when we fall and we recognise the power in rising again. It is in the tough periods of mourning and grief yet we fill our heart with gratitude and joy for having had special moments together, regardless how long they lasted. It is in the experiences of darkness yet we acknowledge the depth of light, the true power of illumination.
Santosha is the moment we open our eyes in the morning and no matter what we say "Thank you for giving another opportunity to be of service, to be useful, to love, to feel loved, to experience whatever comes because I trust and I am open to learn".
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