Monday, April 29, 2013

Introducing the Concept of Agni to your Yoga Class


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By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

“Agni” is a Sanskrit term that means fire. It also refers to the Hindu God, Agni, who is one of the most important of all Hindu deities. In fact, Agni is actually the very first word of the first hymn of the ancient Indian scripture, the Rig Veda. This is one of the foundational texts of Yogic philosophy. Agni is said to be the messenger and transporter, if you will, of the sacrifices of human beings made to the Gods and Goddesses, particularly during fire ceremonies. He is the very essence and fire that enlivens and imbues the sacrifices we make with power, energy and “shakti.”

As Yoga practitioners and instructors, the term “agni” is loosely used to refer to a really challenging sequence of Yoga asanas that leave you drenched in sweat! A Yoga class that has a lot of agni or fire will leave you not only drenched in sweat, but also light, invigorated and sattvic. The Sanskrit term “sattvic” refers to one of the three underlying qualities of energy of all material existence known as the gunas. According to Hindu belief, it is said that the energetic field of possibility, known in Quantum Physics as the Zero Point Field, has no qualities prior to solidifying into physical existence. When the energy of Brahman, God or the Great Void manifests on the material plane, each object is comprised of various energetic qualities or gunas. These gunas are tamas, rajas and sattva. 

Tamas refers to the qualities of denseness, heaviness and inertia. Rajas refers to the qualities of fire, movement and energy; the quintessential elements of agni. The sattvic guna is illuminated with lightness, purity and goodness. Tamas is often experienced as low energy, lack of motivation, heaviness, tension, and even depression. Many Yoga students and teachers begin practicing Yoga in order to lighten and enliven their bodies and minds. This lightening or release of darkness and inertia is accomplished by stoking the inner fire or agni through a regular, challenging practice of Yoga poses, breathing exercises and meditation techniques. 



These ancient Yogic practices help to infuse the body and mind with clarity and expansive well-being. One of the most effective ways of moving from a state of inertia and heaviness towards a light, sattvic state, is by increasing the transforming energy of agni within our own beings. Yoga asanas that are strung together through the breath in a continuous dance-like flow are sure to dislodge tamas and increase agni through the energy and movement of the rajasic dosha. By engaging in a regular Yoga practice or teaching a challenging Yoga class that is filled with movement and heat, you will be offering your students the experience of a sattvic state, filled with lightness, peace and purity. 

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

To see find out more about yoga or to see our selection of affordable courses, including our online hatha yoga teacher training programs, please use the yoga resources on the right side of this page.

If you are a teacher, yoga studio manager, blogger, e-zine, or website publisher, and are in need of quality content, please feel free to use my blog entries (articles). Please be sure to reprint each article, as is. Namaste!

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Yoga Therapy for Insomnia


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By Faye Martins

In today's charged up, plugged in, needed-it-yesterday world, it's no wonder insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders, affecting, at least, half of all adults at some point in their lives. We need sleep for our bodies to repair themselves, and for our minds to sort out the details of the day in preparation for the next. 

Health Problems

The inability to sleep well, or sometimes even at all, can also lead to high blood pressure, weight gain, and heart disease among other conditions. Some people experience a variety of mental and emotional problems due to sleep deprivation. Needless to say, driving, working, and thinking are impaired by lack of sleep. Medications are often only a temporary solution for relieving symptoms, but not the underlying cause, and many can have some nasty repercussions. Treating insomnia with yoga, however, is not only effective, but has been shown to have pleasant and positive side effects.




Yoga Therapy's Approach

Yoga therapy focuses on a person's well-being at all levels: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. It alleviates stress by quieting the mind and relieves tension with gentle stretching and restorative poses, often increasing blood flow to the sleep center of the brain, helping to regulate the sleep cycle. 

Recent Studies About Yoga and Sleep Cycles

A 2004 study by Harvard Medical School in Boston found that daily asana practice actually improved the quality of sleep, including total sleep time, and onset latency (the time it takes to fall asleep. Another study, conducted between 2006 and 2009 by the University of Rochester Medical Center, linked yoga therapy to better sleep quality, lessened fatigue, and reduced use of sleep medications in cancer patients.

Solutions

The next time you sleep eludes you, try some calming breathing techniques, or pranayama, and follow with a few gentle poses to help your body relax and prepare for rest. Suggested poses include Balasana, which is pictured in the upper-left section of this page. This extended variation releases tension in the arms shoulders, chest, stomach, and back.

Other postures to practice are Uttanasana, a deep forward bend in which you simply "hang" from your hips for several deep breaths, Viparita Karani, an "inversion" style asana in which you lie on your back with your legs supported by the wall, and perhaps the most calming pose of all, Shavasana, or the Corpse pose. You can perform this simple pose in bed to unwind from the day and help yourself drift off to sleep. Lie on your back, noticing, tensing, and relaxing each part of your body in turn, emptying your mind of competing thoughts, and eventually entering a state of deep relaxation.

Yoga therapy is certainly highly beneficial and can lead to a state of quality sleep, deeper and more restorative. Your mind, body, and soul will thank you for making Yoga techniques a regular part of your life.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

To see find out more about yoga or to see our selection of affordable courses, including our online 500 hour yoga teacher training intensive program, please use the yoga resources on the right side of this page.

If you are a teacher, yoga studio manager, blogger, e-zine, or website publisher, and are in need of quality content, please feel free to use my blog entries (articles). Please be sure to reprint each article, as is. Namaste!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Teaching Yoga to Students Recovering from Surgery or Living with Chronic Illness: Supported Inversions


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By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

If you are teaching Yoga to students who are struggling with a chronic illness, recovering from surgery or healing from an injury, you may feel intimidated as you try to figure out how to safely include and challenge these students. The very first step to teaching students who need special consideration is to make sure you are generally familiar with each student’s current level of health. 

For example, if one of your Yoga students is recovering from a head injury he or she sustained in a car accident a few months ago, this is a critically important piece of information for you to be aware of, especially when leading your class through the practice of inversions. Inversions increase pressure on delicate nerves and brain tissue that may just be healing, potentially further exacerbating a head injury. 

This is only one example of a vast array of physical challenges with which your students may be living with at any given time. By maintaining an awareness of the current status of your Yoga students’ health, your will be able to creatively sequence and modify traditional Yoga asanas, in order to better fit your students’ health needs. You will also be able to safely include them throughout the entirety of your Yoga class. 




* Supported Legs Up the Wall Pose

Inversions are wonderful poses for circulating fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the entire body. Practiced restoratively, inversions can also be profoundly relaxing and rejuvenating. The practice of supported inversions, such as Headstand, Handstand and Plow Pose, can be accomplished by practicing against a wall or with a number of blankets and possibly a Yoga chair.

Supported Legs Up the Wall Pose is a very simple but profoundly effective inversion that many of your students will be able to practice safely. Do remember to be very vigilant about recommending that any student recovering from a head injury may want to refrain from practicing this posture and rest instead in Shavasana with a Yoga bolster under their knees. 
           
To begin the practice of Supported Legs Up the Wall Pose, ask your Yoga students to place their mats perpendicular to the wall and sit with one hip flush up against the wall. When the class is ready, have them lie on their Yoga mats and gently swing their legs up the wall. The buttocks should be up against the wall and the feet gently flexed. 

Instruct your Yoga students to hold this pose for five to ten minutes. The relaxing and introspective aspect of the asana may be further enhanced by using an eye bag. When the students have completed their practice of Supported Legs Up the Wall Pose, ask them to roll to their right side and gently push themselves up and sit in Easy Seat.




© Copyright – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

To see find out more about yoga or see our selection of affordable online yoga teacher training courses, please use the yoga resources on the right side of this page.

If you are a teacher, yoga studio manager, blogger, e-zine, or website publisher, and are in need of quality content, please feel free to use my blog entries (articles). Please be sure to reprint each article, as is. Namaste!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

ABCs of Yoga


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By Shahid Mishra

Hatha yoga has been globally accepted and adapted to become one of the most popular methods for achieving physical and mental well-being. Its long lasting existence and the positive effects that are touted by yogis has led to curiosity in the scientific and medical community. Many studies have taken place and have only further solidified the claims that this physical discipline, possibly the oldest in the world, can transform your body and mind.

Asana is Part of the Pie

Asana (posture) is not everything, but many beginners start by focusing on asana first. Asana is the term for the poses through which a practitioner flows during a practice. Whichever method one decides to take (holding or flowing through postures) depends on what they wish to achieve.




Hatha yoga is perhaps the most common style, offering a plethora of asanas to provide a complete fitness and mental boosting routine. Ashtanga and power yoga are more vigorous, for those ready to move on to more challenging practices. These are only a few of the options available; basically, there is something for everyone.

It doesn’t take much to develop an asana practice; a good mat to prevent slipping, snug but comfortable clothes, and perhaps some blocks and straps to aid certain poses. Just leave the shoes at the door and your mind wide open.




Breathing and Books

Yoga is for people who think, read, study, practice and do it all over again. The term yoga derives from Sanskrit and it means “to join”, “merge”, or “unite”, as in the merging of the movements of the body and the pranayama. Pranayama is also Sanskrit, meaning “extension of the breath or life force”. This breathing technique is a vital part of yogic methodology, keeping one’s body calm during the strenuous flow of the poses. To do this, one breathes deeply through the nose; extending and matching each inhale and exhale to each asana.

With all that said, a person who doesn’t enjoy the learning process, will leave yoga quickly, as he or she will be required to learn more than stretching. Yogic methodology and philosophy are vast subjects with many rewards, but these subjects may be boring to a person who just want to show off a few challenging poses.

Careful

Nearly anyone is capable of doing some form of yoga, but be careful not to push through pain. It can help alleviate pain, lower the heart rate and reduce blood pressure, improve flexibility, and lessen inflammation. It can also improve posture, coordination, and balance, as well as boost neurotransmitters in the brain that aid in mental clarity and that general sense of well-being.

Before one begins a practice, they should assure they are not healing from injuries nor have any other spine or muscle problems that might be worsened. Most postures can be modified, or skipped all together, to adjust to each individual. Don’t push yourself; this is not about ego. It is about harmony. Do what feels right. 




© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

To see find out more about yoga or see our selection of affordable yoga teacher training intensives, please use the yoga resources on the right side of this page.

If you are a teacher, yoga studio manager, blogger, e-zine, or website publisher, and are in need of quality content, please feel free to use my blog entries (articles). Please be sure to reprint each article, as is. Namaste!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Yoga Breathing For Anxious Moments

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By Sangeetha Saran

There are people who will tell you the best way to get through an anxious situation is to do some deep breathing. This isn't just an "old wives" tale, or some cliché way of thinking, the truth is that there is medical fact that backs up this advice. The more stressed a body gets, the less it takes in oxygen. Someone who is panicking is apt to not take deep breaths, meaning that they are not getting all of the oxygen they need for their body. By deep breathing, a body doesn't just get the oxygen that it needs; it also is a therapeutic act that gives the body, and the brain, something to focus on instead of the stress that they are feeling. With this in mind, one of the best ways to help lower one's anxiety level is to learn basic breathing techniques, and to also learn yoga techniques for breathing.




A lot of people have the wrong idea when it comes to yoga training. They think that it is all about putting themselves into weird poses, and totally clearing their mind so that they can reach "Nirvana." The thing is, while someone will eventually learn how to clear their mind in order to meditate, yoga is as much about learning how to properly live as much anything else. Living a Yogic lifestyle allows one to enjoy all of the small details in life. Most people do not know how to properly breathe, especially when it comes to stressful situations. Yoga will teach a person different breathing techniques, from simply getting the most out of a single breath to learning how to breathe to reduce anxiety levels.

Where Should I Start?

Of course, not everyone is going to be able to walk into any yoga school and just learn how to properly breathe, meditate, and stretch. In fact, most people are not going to be able to learn how to tackle anxiety, either through action or breathing, the first month that they take lessons. What they can do, though, is slowly ease into learning. Yoga is not something that you master overnight; it is about training your mind and body how to properly act. When it comes to breathing in stressful situations, you will be surprised just how much you can learn as time goes on.





The key to finding the right yoga teacher is to trust your intuition. There is a level of comfort that needs to be present in order to get to the place where one can focus on their breathing and use it to help their anxiety. If you meet a teacher who displays compassion, patience, and ethics, you are off to a good start.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

To see find out more about yoga or see our selection of online yoga teacher training programs, please use the yoga resources on the right side of this page.

If you are a teacher, yoga studio manager, blogger, e-zine, or website publisher, and are in need of quality content, please feel free to use my blog entries (articles). Please be sure to reprint each article, as is. Namaste!