One Two Three and Breath Out: Basic 101 On the Practice of Yoga

The 21st century is a fast century, a century where the human entity though highly educated and materially sound and living in abundance with all the technological gadgets has no time for the self development. The lifestyle options many choose are imbalanced with both the eating and the sleeping habits. Modern day word is “STRESSED”. Today’s individual has all the amenities, better medical facilities, ease of living and working, better means of transport and communication but in spite of all this the modern man is isolated and lonely. They have access to the global community but is far away from the microcosm and affection of the family. The basis of yoga is on the holistic principles of harmony of the mind and the body. For this, the exercises and techniques learned in the practice of Yoga can be applied to relieve patients suffering from asthma, cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, bowel movement troubles, diabetes, breathlessness, blood pressure and other ailments. All the above afflictions have been on a rise over the last twenty to thirty years due to the drastic change in lifestyle options Living the modern life has been instrumental in the rise to many such chronic constitutional ailments which need immediate attention. The techniques in Yoga directly impact the functioning of the nervous and the endocrine system, thus creating a balance to decrease the risk of catching any diseases. These systems are directly concerned with the overall coordination of the other body organs.

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Sage Patanjali is the proponent of the Yoga Sutras. He has given a livid description of the Asanas one of the eight practices of Yoga. Asanas means body postures. Asanas are the first part of the Hatha Yoga. Doing Asanas one can attain steady body and mind, besides freedom from disease and flexibility and lightness of limbs. There is an absolute lightness and litheness in the body.

Asanas actually can bring in a state of being in which one can remain physically and mentally steady, quiet, calm and be comfortable. It helps us to have a good posture, and increases the muscle stamina and flexibility to be able to sit in one position with comfort for long periods of time especially during meditation.

Asanas and involve every position from standing to sitting, laying down, one and both feet balancing, stretching, twisting, contracting and relaxing muscles and kneeling just to name a few.  Regularly practicing these movements can aid in opening the energy channels present in our body to allow the proper in and outflow of energy for a healthier functioning of the body.  Asanas lead the path towards progress and transgress us towards higher awareness provide us with firm and stable foundation. Our body starts speaking to us. Asanas help us in exploring and experiencing our body, feel our breath, reach our mind and beyond.  Once the control on the body is there, the mind is also controlled.  It is stated, in our scriptures that Asanas represent a progressive evolution from the simplest form of life to the most complex. The practice of Asanas integrates and harmonizes the body and the mind. Yogasanas do not consider body and mind as separate entities. The practice of yoga has been observed to work on the whole person as a gross entity.  These knots are a result of muscle tension due to our lifestyle choices and are to be handled more so at the physical level. Many complain that these knots and tension in various areas of their body cause an uncomfortable stiffness. This leads to improper functioning of the body as the stiffness can manifest itself in the form of severe diseases or disorders or also hamper the important bodily functions necessary to maintain homeostasis.

In these modern times, for both men and women it is important to look good rather than be healthy. Many have tried diet and enrolled in gyms or hired personal physical trainers to increase muscle tone, flexibility and stamina- but all in vain. These days increasing populations of younger people complain of not having enough time to look after their body due to the time consuming sitting and non motile jobs. For this reason, the practice of Yoga has picked up pace with its popularity as it an excellent way to maintain health and well being. The exercises learned in yoga not only help to remove the physical pains associated with one’s job profile but also the relaxation and breathing techniques enhance one’s focus. As a result, the one practicing Yoga is able to fulfill the basic needs of the body functions efficiently and without any distress.

The pawan mukta  asanas form the first and the most essential series of practices for a new yoga practitioner, or even for the one who has to begin again. The pawan mukta asanas are useful for the open up all the joints and relaxes the the muscles of the body.

These are very simple comfortable practices and need to be done to avail full benefit.

Pawan means ‘wind’ and mukta means ‘release’ i.e. a group of asanas that help or benefit to remove the blockages which prevent the free flow of energy in the body and the mind. Many a times due to bad posture, disturbed bodily functions, psychological or emotional problems or imbalanced lifestyle, the energy becomes blocked. This results in the stiffness, muscular tensions lack of proper blood flow and other functional defects. These blockages if they become chronic, will lead to the malfunction of any organ or manifest in the form of a disease. Pawan mukta asanas help to remove energy blockages from the body and help to prevent new ones from forming. The following pawanmukta asanas are beneficial for patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and other disorders.

PADANGULINNAMAN and GOOLF NAMAN: Begin by sitting in the base position with both the legs stretched out. Now, place both your palms on the floor on each side behind your back. Remember to keep you body posture relaxed yet upright with your back and neck in one straight line, also straighten your elbows. Next, start moving your feet front and back keeping awareness of your toes and both your ankles and toes remain motionless. Each time your feet move front and back, hold this position for 10 seconds with repetitions for each cycle. It is also important to synchronize your breathing pattern with the feet movement, thus, take a deep breath in as toes move towards you and exhale when they move away. If the movement pattern is executed correctly, one feels the sensation of stretch in the lower leg muscles (calves, gastroc complex)

Another variation of the ankle stretch is known as Goolf Chakras or Ankle Rotation. To perform this asana, start in the base position and with your heels grounded, keeping your legs outstretched, separate your legs a little. Now begin by rotating your foot clockwise from the ankle joint with 10 repetitions and repeat the same with your other foot. Now, rotate your ankle anticlockwise and likewise repeat it for the other foot. Once you are comfortable with this movement, to get up one level, place both your feet together and slowly begin to rotate from the ankle joint clockwise or anticlockwise (Choose one). Remember to keep the knees motionless. Repeat this movement ten times each side and then switch. As for the breathing pattern, take deep breath during the upward phase and exhale during the downward phase of the movement.