Discover 6 yoga asanas that can be practiced in a restorative way to bring calm and tranquility to the body and mind.
Our practice is like a daily anchor of life. We step on the mat and we know it will be a journey in which we are supported, safe and never judged. At least this is how it should be. We must always step on the mat in a humble way, giving the ego a break and not allow it to come along. There is no space for it in our practice. As I always tell my students, have no expectations and forget about yesterday's practice. Show up everyday with an open and willing mental attitude, ready to learn, evolve and grow.
I believe one of the greatest aspects of a restorative practice is that it teaches us to become humble and to soften. When we practice in a more gentle way, we somehow have to surrender and realise there is nothing to prove. Strength shows up in a different; in our ability to be present and to melt the body gently into the bolster without having to create extra heat in the body or any sense of achievement. We simply let our limbs heavy on the mat and in a physically effortless state, we witness. We are just observers of the physical self in the present moment, steady, calm and gentle. We learn that in stillness, a lot goes on of we observe it all with patience. This is why in my opinion, a weekly restorative practice is much needed and beneficial for all.
Here are 6 amazing asanas which can be practiced in a restorative way to teach us that there is power in silence and softness.
EKA PADA RAJAKAPOTASANA
How to practice Hanumanasana and different variations of the posture.
Hanumanasana translating as Hanuman's pose or monkey pose/side splits pose is a beautiful hip opening asana that energises the body and mind. It is quite anatomically complex because a lot is happening with the physical body in this posture. There is hip flexion and hip extension at the same time, which requires both flexibility and strength. The flexibility needed is for the back leg in the hip flexors and the front leg of the hip extensors. The front leg quadriceps need to be active and contracted so that the leg can remain in line with the hips and grounded. At the same time, the hips and pelvis need to be facing forward/squared and this requires flexibility of the spine as well as strength to maintain the spine upright.
Hanumanasana should be practiced with care so we don't overwhelm the body. A gradual process into this posture is necessary, especially for those who are new to it.
HOW TO PRACTICE IT GRADUALLY
It is important that the body is warmed up. It is useful to first practice Anjaneyasana (low lunge) and also Ardha Hanumanasana (half Hanuman's posture) to prepare the body.
We can start using yoga blocks to ensure the body is supported, especially the front leg which requires great flexibility in the inner thighs, hamstrings and glutes. Therefore we can place a block under that thigh when we reach our edge, and this is different for everybody. Doing so, we minimise any extra stress on these muscles and can maintain the posture without putting pressure on the hip extensors. Two extra blocks are useful to have, on either side of the body to be placed under the hands so that we can maintain the balance and steadiness.
Stretches and strengthens the leg muscles;
Opens the hips/increases flexibility in the hips;
Increases strength and flexibility of the spine;
Stimulates the digestive organs and the reproductive organs also.
EFFECTS ON THE MIND:
Can relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety;
Grounds the mind but gives an energising, cleansing effect.
It activates Swadisthana, the sacral chakra, which is out energy centre of pleasure and experiencing joy, creativity, sensuality and the connection with the feminine energy.
It also has a grounding and balancing effect which can stimulate apana prana also and Muladhara, the root chakra.
Using yoga blocks
Arms extended above the head
With forward fold
Learn all about Utthan Pristhasana with different variations and alignment tips.
Utthan Pristhasana known as lizard pose in English is a beautiful asana that focuses primarily on the hips. What I love about this asana is that is can be modified in different ways to suit the body so that the hip opening can happen in a more gentle way. It is also an asana used often in the Yin yoga practice, known there as dragon pose.
Utthan Pristhasana is quite dynamic in the sense that it works on both the hip flexors and the hip extensors. The back leg, which is extended, means that it offers a gentle stretch to the hip flexors on that side. And the front leg, which is in the position of a knee flexion/bent knee, offer the glutes, hamstrings and thighs a nice and gentle stretch.
Having the hands placed on the mat and the shoulders in their neutral position, helps also to open the chest. For those who are not reaching the mat comfortably with their hands, yoga blocks can be used under the hands to avoid slouching the shoulders inwards and closing the chest.
There are several variations which can be explored in Lizard pose. The below are just some. Aside from the variation with the yoga blocks under the hands, another one which is not included below is done by keeping the back leg off the mat, which makes it even more dynamic by activating the leg muscles.
HELPFUL ALIGNMENT TIPS:
UTTHAN PRISTHASANA VARIATIONS
VARIATION 1: helps to stretch a little further.
VARIATION 2: introduces a spinal twist and also stretches
the back leg quadriceps.
VARIATION 3: includes all benefits of the above variation but with a deeper stretch and twist.
VARIATION 4: stretches the back leg quadriceps and also provides a deeper overall opening and stretch of the hips. This asana requires flexibility of the spine and hips to be able to bring the shoulder under the knee.
VARIATION 5: involves a side open twist, which stretches side of the body, as well as the inner thighs and also keeps the chest open.
VARIATION 6: includes all the same benefits as the above variation just requires a little bit more flexibility of the spine and inner thighs.
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Find your yoga inspiration for complete body and mind relaxation. Use this FREE guide to learn more about gentle asana practices and Yin Yoga, including the benefits and effects experienced on the body and mind. You will find different asanas which you can practice with or without using yoga props to relax your body and mind and release tension.
As a bonus, there are some inspirational words to empower you in your gentle asana practice journey and some affirmations you can practice when feeling stressed out and overwhelmed.
As a yoga teacher trainer and also as a student of the yoga practice, I truly believe in the importance of gentle asana practices such as Yin and Restorative yoga. They can help us to soften, relax and retreat within so that we can cleanse the body and mind from tension and impurities of thoughts and what we hold onto. These practices can also be quite therapeutic, particularly as we hold the asanas for a longer duration of time, which means we have to learn to surrender.
This is completely free, no sign up or anything is required. Tap on the image below to download your free copy.
What is included:
6 yoga asanas for lumbar lordosis
Learn about 6 yoga asanas that may help with lumbar lordosis.
Lumbar lordosis is an incorrect posture of the spine in which there is an exaggerated extension of the lumbar spine/lower back. This area naturally has a slight curvature, so adding to this, will not only create an imbalance in the whole physical body posture & spine but it also weakens that area.
WHAT HAPPENS IN LUMBAR LORDOSIS
When there is lumbar lordosis, the pelvis is in an anterior tilt, which causes the extra arching of the lower back. This creates a further imbalance by bringing the glutes backwards more. The core is therefore not used, which means that these very important muscles become weaker, affecting the whole body posture. Over time and if not corrected, lumbar lordosis may cause a lot of physical discomfort & lower back pain.
HOW WE MAY CORRECT IT
To help correct this, we can focus on developing strength in the core, glutes and hamstrings to support the lower back in its correct position. Some key asanas that may help us with this are those which benefit these areas by creating strength and balance. Asanas which strengthen the back muscles are also helpful to practice for lumbar lordosis as well as those which stretch the whole spine.
THE CHAKRAS AND LUMBAR LORDOSIS
On a subtle body aspect and considering the chakras/energy channels, the main chakras which are located around the lumbar spine in the energy body are the root chakra, Muladhara and the sacral chakra, Swadisthana.
The root chakra is our centre of grounding, security and stability in life. It also represents many aspects of our conditioned behaviours and beliefs which we develop in life. If this very important energy channel is out of balance, this can also reflect in our life.
Swadisthana is the energy channel of joy, creativity and pleasure. Imbalances in this channel can result in different ways such as loss of joy or confusion as to what we enjoy/how we experience pleasure as well as creating stagnation in our mind.
I'm not saying that lumbar lordosis will present these aspect, but from an energy aspect of the body, each area is connected with one of these main chakras and these two are in that area.
YOGA ASANAS THAT MAY HELP
Strengthens the whole body, particularly the core and it brings the body in its alignment when practiced correctly.
It is the key foundational asana for most of the seated asanas which means it sets the guidance and structure. It keeps the body in the correct alignment when seated, using the core muscles and the body is active overall, resulting in strength as well as mental focus.
ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA
Keeps the whole body active and strong whilst stretching the spine, opens the chest and shoulders and developing strength in the quads.
A key standing asana which strengthens the legs, glutes and core muscles. It also lengthens the spine and opens the shoulders and chest.
Focuses primarily on core strength development.
Helps to develop strength and stability in the legs and glutes, as well as the core. It helps with the pelvic alignment and the hips and opens the chest and shoulders. Virabhadrasana III is also helpful to practice.
How to practice Buujangasana cobra pose in yoga with different variations to try.
Bhujangasana or cobra pose, is a beautiful asana from the backbends category. And whilst it might not seem as complex or “glamorous” as other more dynamic back-bending postures, Bhujangasana is both and much more.
To understand cobra pose, we must first learn the foundation of it, which we can translate as the advised body alignment. Sometimes it is confused with Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dog). The difference between the two is that in Bhujangasana the top of the feet, shins, knees, thighs and the pubic bone area are on the mat, whilst in Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, only the palms and top of the feet are on the mat.
Bhujangasana helpful alignment guidance:
Bhujangasana helps us to develop strength in the arms and the back muscles and it teaches us to open our heart space. This is a “yoga” term we use as teachers for the shoulders and chest which are part of Anahata, the heart chakra. In order to be able to open the chest, as a general practice for all backbends, we must first work on the lower body and on opening the hips area.
In Bhujangasana, we keep the legs and the glutes active which supports the lower back/takes pressure off it and it creates the solid foundation for the upper body to begin to open; the hips are in extension and if there is any stiffness in the psoas area, this will make it difficult to expand the rib cage and stretch to the point of the shoulders and chest opening. Whilst the solar plexus area is also stretching to assist the opening of the chest, the core is kept slightly active to support the lumbar spine from overextension.
The name Bhujangasana comes from “Bhujanga” which means serpent/snake and asana which is physical yoga posture. So Bhujangasana resembles the shape/form of a snake.
A snake is flexible and fluid in its movement and has a long and flexible spine which allows it to move in all directions. This level of flexibility and lengthening of the spine creates the rising of the hood. Whilst it does not necessarily reflect our upper body structure, what we can learn is to work on the flexibility of our spine. And Bhujangasana can help us with this.
Why do we practice Bhujangasana?
Useful tips for practicing Bhujangasana
VARIATIONS OF BHUJANGASANA:
The elbows can be bent or the arms can be straight.
Variation 1: Salamba Bhujangasana
Variation 2: Seal pose which is used in Yin Yoga.
Variation 3: Parivrtta Bhujangasana
Variation 4: Restorative yoga gentle option
An asana sequence to focus on the shoulders and chest and release tension from these areas.
The shoulders and chest are very important areas to focus on during our asana practice. Both can hold plenty of physical tension, as well as mental and emotional. When we experience too much worry and stress, these can often manifest as tightness in the shoulders and the neck area. This also affects our overall body posture. The shoulders may hunch the inward from feeling too much pressure which also closes the chest area. This will affect the breathing and out mood, experiencing sensations of being closed off emotionally, feeling tired and lower energy levels.
Energetically, the two areas mentioned are part of Anahata, the heart chakra. This energy channels is the space of unconditional love, acceptance, compassion and trust. When the heart space is open, we are also open to experience life with a sense of love, kindness and joyfulness. We become more accepting of our physical self and of others, without judgement or any cold feelings such as hatred, anger and frustration.
This yoga practice sequence focuses primarily on asana variations which open the chest and shoulders. Start the practice with some joint mobilisation and some rounds of Surya Namaskar (sun salutations). Hold each of the asanas for 3-5 breaths and focus the mind on the chest area to expand and open with each inhalation. End the practice with Savasana and relax the body and mind.
Learn more about Prasarita Padottanasana with the variations A, B, C & D.
Prasaritta Padottanasana known in English as standing wide-legged forward fold, is a beautiful asana that helps us to develop grounding and stability. As a standing posture, it activates Muladhara, the root chakra which represents the foundation of our practice on the mat, and also in life. When we are steady on our feet, grounded and strong, we can maintain balance not only physically but also mentally/emotionally.
Prasarita Padottanasana gives us the perfect combination between the earth and air elements, steadiness and seeing the world upside down, as we bring the crown of the head on the mat. In my interpretation and from personal experience with Prasarita Padottanasana, this is a beautiful metaphor which we can apply in life. To be strong, still and have a solid foundation, then we can explore life from different angles.
Physically, the benefits of this asana are:
Stretching the hamstrings and releasing tension from this area.
Inversion-boosts blood circulation and prana flow to the brain.
Stretches and lengthens the spine.
Opens the shoulders.
Grounds the body.
Mentally, it helps us to develop focus and concentration and gain a sense of clarity in the mind.
The four main variations of Prasarita Padottanasana are practiced in the standing/starting sequence of the Ashtanga Vinyasa practice. Creating the ideal space between the legs, we can start on the wide side of the mat and open our arms wide, with the palms facing downwards. Then we can align the ankles to be on the same line as the wrists.
PRASARITA PADOTTANASANA A
PRASARITA PADOTTANASANA B
PRASARITA PADOTTANASANA C
PRASARITA PADOTTANASANA D
How to develop compassion according to yoga philosophy.
Socrates once wrote that "The people who are the hardest to love, need it the most". At times, when we come across a person who is more "difficult to interact" with, there is judgement created. Often people who seem the toughest on the outside, are indeed the ones who feel the most on the inside. This in my opinion can be a positive quality which creates a balance between dualities. But when this toughness is created as a protective shield, then over time, it can create internal and external conflict.
At times, we pull away from those who seem to be "made of stone". It seems that no matter what, they don't show any emotion and tend to hide in their cocoon to lick their own wounds. Yet we do not see this. We don't see their behind the scenes, but the mask they show to the world, for which they are judged.
The yoga philosophy teaches us about different principles to be followed for a moral life. All come with significant importance, and I will present two main ones in this post. In my opinion, one is needed to be understood and practiced at the start of the yogic journey and throghout, whilst the other is the unfolding and progression on the yoga path.
Ahimsa (non-harm) is the first of the social moral code (yamas) in the eight limbs of yoga by Sri Patanjali. Here, the yoga journey begins. One who is able to think, speak and act with no harm towards others, the environment and all that is living, is a good example of those who are taking on this quest for truthfulness/true knowledge.
The other is Karuna which is compassion. The meaning of compassion in my opinion is understanding the pain and sadness of others. When one begins to open their heart to the true knowledge that we are all made of the same essence, another person's suffering is not only understood, but also felt. Because only when there is no sense of separation and comparison, true compassion is experienced.
Perhaps you have experienced Karuna in times of sadness. Both sadness and compassion can be called Karuna in Sanskrit, so they are closely related. When we face difficult times, and lose hope, we may realise that the only option we have is to open our heart; to surrender and let ourselves feel without judgement and allow this experience to occur with acceptance; and this is compassion towards ourselves
If you've ever been through deep suffering, maybe you can relate to this. And when we finally come out of this darkness and rise, when we meet somebody who is facing the same experience that we have overcome, we understand. We feel it as if it were our own because we have been down that road. So we support, we listen, we hold that person with love and acceptance, knowing that all they need is somebody to be there, to give them hope and to listen. And this is compassion.
One is said to be a "yogi" when they devote themselves to Sadhana (spiritual practice) and all sense of separation begins to fade; when the ego is no longer the truth they know of themselves and their identity, therefore union is experienced. When this occurs, compassion is felt not only for others; but also for the environment, for all the animals, for plants and flowers, for the turbulence of the sea and all that is living and non-living.
A yogi therefore does not judge others, nor do they judge themselves. Because if they do so, they know they are doing it on a collective consciousness level.
We can become more mindful in the ways we speak to ourselves; how we respond to our own suffering; how we hold ourselves in time of need and learn to accept everything as it is.
So let yourself be as you are and do the same for others. Accept everyone for who they show themselves to be not who we want them to be or think they are. We cannot know the struggles another person faces, or the battles they are fighting within even if they share these. But if we learn to look beyond their actions, their words of toughness, we can realise that this is not their highest self, that if one portrays such behaviours, then they are lost and far away from their True nature. And whilst we don't have to agree with or accept their actions or unkind words, we can develop wisdom and understand that beneath all of this, there is a soul that has lost its way.
"May we always remember the darkness we have overcome
And be the light to shine for others
When they are faced with suffering and struggles".
Yoga asanas variations using the chair .
Using the chair as a prop for our practice can be super useful. The chair is often used and part of the Iyengar practice style, which always focuses on alignment and steadiness in an asana. This is actually what asana practice is about, finding our steadiness of posture and mind, and steady, regular breathing. Then we can remain focused, present, strong and flexible.
When the chair is used, it can provide support in developing strength of the muscles and helping with flexibility range of movement.
It can be a therapeutic way of approaching our practice, both physically and mentally. Having the support of the chair means we have something to lean on and this can open our hearts to receive support and help both on the mat and in life. It can also help us create more stability in an asana whilst maintaining the correct alignment.
These can be particularly helpful if you have an office job and you sit at a desk for long periods of time. Practicing the modifications using the chair can help to improve blood circulation, release tension & stiffness from sitting down and uplift the mood/energise the mind.
Always make sure that the chair is steady and does not have wheels. A blanket can be used to provide some cushioning for the body. Remember to focus on the breath because it is the fuel of our physical existence. When we focus on the breath, the body becomes more steady because the mind becomes more calm and focused.
These asanas focus on opening the shoulders, chest and side of the body. Using the chair can help us in opening these areas deeper with support and patience.
*If you are pregnant, have any injuries, past/recent surgery, check with your GP first.
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