POSES

  • AKARNA-DHANURA-ASANA – THE SHOOTING – BOW - POSE

    Translation

    The Sanskrit word karna means ear and the prefix "a" means near to or towards. Dhanur means bow-shaped, curved or bent. The "bow" here referred to is a bow as in "bow and arrow." Literally we could translate this as the near-the-ear bow posture but because of the obvious appearance of the posture we'll call it the shooting bow posture.

    Pronunciation: ah-car-nah da-noor ah-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   Sit on the floor with the legs together and extended straight out in front.
    2.   Keep the back straight, shoulders level and head straight. Place the hands, palms down, flat on top of the         thighs then inhale deeply.
    3.  Exhale and reach down and loop the fore finger of the right hand around the big toe of the right foot and             grasp the left foot with the left hand.
    4.  Inhale and pull the right foot back placing the big toe next to the right ear.
    5.  Straighten the back as much s possible and hold the posture for the duration of the inhale breath.
    6.  Exhale and return to the seated position of step #1 then repeat the posture on the opposite side.

    Comments

    While practicing this posture imagine yourself as an archer with the gaze focused on the target and the arrow firmly yet gracefully being pulled back in the bow. Hold the posture steady as an archer would hold the arrow aimed at its target. Return the foot to the floor gently. This simple technique will help cultivate a focused and unwavering attention.

    Variations

    Reverse the hands and feet so that that the right hand pulls the left foot to the left ear and vice versa. The foot gets pulled under the outstretched arm.

  • ARDHA-MATSYENDRA-ASANA – THE HALF SPINAL TWIST POSE

    Translation

    Ardha means half. Matsyendra is one of many Siddhas or masters who where accomplished Yogis mentioned in the medieval Yoga text the Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika. This posture posture is traditionally called the Spinal Twist because the spinal column is twisted gently.

    Pronunciation: ard-ha-mat-syen-drah-sa-na

    Instructions

    Sit in any comfortable cross-legged position.
    1.   Straighten the legs out in front. Bend the right knee and bring the heel of the right foot close to the left hip.
    2.   Inhale and bend the left knee upward and place the left foot flat on the floor to the right of the right leg with       the ankle touching the right thigh.
    3.   While turning the spine to the left straighten the right arm bringing it around to the outside of the left knee         and grasp the left foot with the right hand.
    4.   Turn your head as far as possible to the left and bend the left arm behind your back.
          Keep your spine, neck and head aligned and continue to exert effort at turning to the left.
    5.   Repeat the posture the other side by reversing directions 2-6.

    Comments

    The Half Spinal Twist is one of the best Yoga postures for cultivating flexibility and strength in the spine. It sooths stiff necks and upper back tension caused by stress, poor posture, or prolonged periods of sitting in one position. The alternating compression and release of the abdominal region flushes this area with blood and massages the internal organs. Muscles of the stomach and hips are also toned from repeated practice of the Half Spinal Twist.

    Duration/Repetitions

    The posture can be held for as long as you are comfortable. (One repetition consists of performing the posture on each side. Two to three full repetitions should be done at each session.

  • BADDHA-KONA-ASANA – THE RESTRAINED ANGLE POSE

    Translation

    The Sanskrit word baddha means a bond, chain, caught or restrained. The word pada means foot, and kona means corner or angle therefore this is the restrained-foot-angle posture.

    Pronunciation: ba-dah-cone-ah-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   Sit on the floor with the legs together and extended straight out in front.
          Keep the back straight, shoulders level and head straight. Place the hands, palms down, flat on top of the         thighs then inhale deeply.
    2.   Exhale and bend the knees drawing the feet toward the torso.
    3.   Place the soles of the feet together, clasp the hands over the feet interlocking the fingers pulling the feet           closer and placing the heels against the perineum. The outer edge and small toe of each foot should                 touch the floor.
    4.  Lower the knees to the floor and keep the back straight. Use the elbows to press down on the thighs if             necessary to bring the calves and knees to the floor. Hold the posture breathing gently through the nostrils.
    5.   Release the posture and sit with the legs extended out and hands on the thighs.

    Comments

    Regular practice of the baddhakona-asana stretches the knees and stimulates circulation in the legs. It should be practiced frequently until one is comfortable sitting in the padma-asana. The main areas of the body that are stimulated, besides the legs, are the stomach, pelvis and lower back. It is said to keep the kidneys, prostate and bladder healthy. The baddha-konasana is one of the few postures that can be practiced comfortably soon after eating.

    Duration/Repetitions

    Hold the posture for thirty seconds to two minutes depending on comfort. Repeat two or three times.

  • BALA-ASANA – THE CHILD POSE

    Translation

    The Sanskrit word bala means child. "As inumerable cups full of water, many reflections of the sun are seen, but the sun is the same; similarly individuals, like cups, are inumerable, but spirit, like the sun, is one." The Shiva-samhita I.35 II.42-43.

    Pronunciation: balah-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   Sit on your knees with your feet together and buttocks resting on your heels. Separate your knees about           the width of your hips.
    2.   Place your hands on your thighs, palms down. (This is the vajra-asana or Thunderbolt Pose).
    3.   Inhale deeply, then exhale as you bring your chest between your knees while swinging your arms forward.
    4.   Rest your forehead on the floor, if possible, and then bring your arms around to your sides until the hands         on resting on either side of your feet, palms up.
    5.   Breath gently through your nostrils as you hold the posture. Hold for about one to two minutes. Then return       to upright kneeling position with your back straight and your hands on your thighs.
    6.   Repeat the posture at least one more time.

    Comments

    The bala-asana is one of the more relaxing Yoga postures and can easily be done by beginners. As part of your Yoga routine it is best used as a counter-pose to any posture that stretch the spine backward (such as the naga-asana, the dhanura-asana, the chakra-asana, the ushtra-asana, etc.) The bala-asana gently stretches and relaxes the shoulders, neck, back muscles and thighs.

    Duration/Repetitions

    The bala-asana can be held for as long as is comfortable. Repeat at least twice if it is held for less than a minute

  • GOMUKHA-ASANA - THE COW FACE POSE

    Translation

    The Sanskrit word garuda means eagle. In Hindu mythology Garuda is known as the king of birds. He transports the God Vishnu (shown with a bow and arrow in the illustration to the left) and is said to be eager to help humanity fight againt deamons. "Placing the right ankle on the left side and the left ankle on the right side, makes Gomukha-asana, having the appearance of a cow." Hatha-yoga-pradipika I.22

    Pronunciation: ga-roo-dah-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   Sit in a crossed-leg position, right leg over left.
    2.   Spread the legs as far apart as possible without bending the knees.
    3.   Bend the left knee and place the bottom of the left foot against the inner left thigh.
    4.   Bring the left heel as close to the perineum as possible. Keep the left knee on the floor.
    5.   Grasp the right foot with the left hand and keeping the foot on the floor.
    6.   Place the heel of the right foot against the front-left portion of the left buttock.
    7.   The right knee should be directly on top of the left knee.
    8.   Inhale slowly through the nostrils and raise the right hand over the head and bend the right elbow. Reach         behind the back with the left hand and clasp the fingers of both hands (forming an "s" shaped lock).
    9.   Hold the posture as long as you can comfortably hold the inhale breath. Exhale slowly and then repeat the         posture reversing the arms and legs.

    Comments

    This posture stretches the arms, upper back, chest and the sides of the chest and abdomen. As the shoulder blades are stretched backward the lungs are expanded and as the abdominal muscles are lifted the stomach is toned. It helps to relieve neck strain, backache and tight shoulders. The hands, fingers and wrists are strengthened.

    Duration/Repetitions

    You can either hold the posture while the breath is held or you can try holding the posture while breathing gently through the nostrils. If you choose to breath, then hold the posture for thirty seconds to a minute. Repeat the gomukha-asana two to three times on each side.

    Variations

    If you are unable to lock the fingers behind the back you may grasp one end of a small piece of cloth in the right hand and the other end of the cloth in the left hand.

  • PADMA-ASANA - THE LOTUS POSTURE

    Pronunciation: pud-mah-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   Sit on the floor with the legs stretched out straight in front.
    2.   Bend the right knee and grasp the right foot with both hands .
    3.   Place it on top of the left thigh bringing the heel as close to the navel as possible.
    4.   Bend the left knee and grasp the left foot with both hands.
    5.   place it on top of the right thigh bringing the heel as close to the navel as possible.
    6.   Both knees should be on the ground and the soles of the feet are pointed upward.
    7.   The spine is held straight but not rigid.
    8.   The position of the legs may be switched after a period of time if the posture becomes uncomfortable.

    Comments

    When in the padma-asana the hands can be placed in one of the following three positions: Place one hand on top of the other, both palms up, and rest the hands on the heels (this is known as the dhyana-mudra). This variation is recommended for meditation. Place the hands on the knees, palms down. With palms up, place the hands on the knees, form a circle with the thumb and forefinger and extend the remaining fingers straight ahead (this is known as the chin-mudra). Recommended for pranayama (Yogic breathing). The padma-asana facilitates relaxation, concentration and ultimately, meditation. The posture creates a natural balance throughout the body/mind. When the knees are stretched enough to remain in the padma-asana without discomfort the posture creates a feeling of effortlessness and ease that will soothe the nervous system, quiet the mind and bring about the condition of one-pointedness.

    Duration/Repetitions

    The length of time to sit in the padma-asana depends on your intention. In the course of a typical asana routine you might hold it for several minutes or until you experience discomfort in the legs. When used as a meditation posture you hold it for the duration of the meditation.

    Variations

    If you find the padma-asana difficult or painful, can try the ardha padma-asana variation or half lotus posture (ardha means half). Instead of placing both feet on the thighs, only one foot is place on top of the opposite thigh and the other is place under the opposite thigh. Periodically alternate positions to allow both knees to be stretched. Those who are unable to do either variation of this asana comfortably should practice the baddha kona-asana.

  • SIDDHA – ASANA – THE ADEPT POSE

    Translation

    The Sanskrit word siddha means accomplished or adept, one who has attained the highest. The name implies the attainment of a perfectly stilled mind and the experience of peace that results from meditation. The siddha-asana is a recommended pose for meditation.

    Pronunciation: sid-dhah-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   Begin in a seated posture. Bend the left knee and grasp the left foot with both hands.
    2.   place the heel against the perineum and the sole of the foot against the inside of the right thigh.
    3.   Exhale and reach down and loop the forefinger of the right hand around the big toe of the right foot.
    4.   Grasp the left foot with the left hand.
    5.   Bend the right knee, grasp the right foot with both hands and place the outside edge of the right foot.
    6.   Where the calf and thigh of the left leg meet, right ankle over left ankle.
    7.   The heel of the right foot should line up approximately with the navel and be as close to the pubic area as
          possible.
    8.   With palms up, place the hands on the knees, form a circle with the thumb and forefinger and extend the
          remaining fingers straight ahead.

    Comments

    The siddha-asana is complicated to describe but is actually one of the simpler sitting postures. It requires less flexibility of the legs than the padma-asana yet it facilitates relaxation, concentration and ultimately, meditation. Siddha-asana helps to establish an equilibrium throughout the body/mind. It will also help stretch the legs and pelvic area to the point where the padma-asana can be held effortlessly. Either posture, by creating a firm foundation with the legs locked in a crossed position and the spine held straight and motionless, awakens the attention and helps cultivate concentration. When concentration is highly focused and undistracted, meditation follows.

    Duration/Repetitions

    Sit in the siddha-asana for a minimum of 1 minute and extended the time up to ten minutes or more.

  • USHTRA-ASANA - THE CAMEL POSE

    Translation

    The Sanskrit word ushtra means camel.

    Pronunciation: oosh-trah-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   Sit up on the knees with the heels of the feet pressed against the buttocks and the calves of the legs flat
          on the floor.
    2.   Reaching backward, grasp the left ankle with the left hand and right ankle with the right hand.
    3.   Inhale through the nostrils and lift the buttocks off the legs arching the back and thrusting the abdomen
          forward and tilt the head as far back as possible.
    4.   Either hold the posture for the duration of the inhale breath or breath gently through the nostrils while
          holding the posture.
    5.   Exhale and return to the kneeling position.

    Comments

    The ushtra-asana is a powerful posture for streatching the spine, back muscles, shoulders and arms. It is best to practice it later in your asana routine after most of the muscles are limber and and you have worked the back and shoulders.

    Duration/Repetitions

    Hold the posture for the duration of the inhaled breath. If you choose to breath while holding the ushtra- asana, hold it for between thirty seconds to one minute. Repeat the posture three times.

  • VAJRA – ASANA – THE THUNDERBOLT POSE

    Translation

    The Sanskrit word vajra means thunderbolt or diamond

    Pronunciation: vuh-drah-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   The vajra-asana is a seated posture. Begin by sitting back on your heels and placing your knees, legs and
          feet together.
    2.   Keeping the back straight place the palms of your hands down on top of your thights.
    3.   Breath gently thorugh your nostrils and sit in this position for at least three minutes.

    Comments

    The vajra-asana is a versatile posture well suited for meditation, rest in between other seated postures, or as an aid to digestion. The vajra-asana is the position in various other yoga postures such as the anjaneya-asana (salutation posture) and the ushtra-asana (the camel).

    Duration/Repetitions

    The vajra-asana can be held for as long as is comfortable(and depending on the reason for doing the posture).

  • VIRA – ASANA – THE HERO POSE

    Translation

    The Sanskrit word vira means hero, brave or eminent man, or warrior

    Pronunciation: veer-ah-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   Kneel on the floor with the calves and tops of the feet flat on the floor and the thighs touching.
    2.   Slowly spread the feet, about shoulder distance apart, while keeping the knees together.
    3.   Place the buttocks flat on the floor. The outer sides of the thighs are touching the inner sides of the calves
          and the soles of the feet are exposed facing up.
    4.   Place the hands palms downs, on the knees and form a circle with the thumb and forefinger (in the
          chin-mudra) while pointing the other fingers straight ahead.
    5.   Breath slowly and deeply through the nostrils and remain motionless for six complete breaths (an inhale
          and exhale is one complete breath).
    6.   Inhale slowly and stretch the arms straight up over the head and interlock the fingers with the palms
          pushed upward. Remain in this position for six complete breaths.
    7.   Exhale slowly, release the fingers and slowly bend forward at the waist while placing the palms of the
          hands flat on the soles of the feet. Place the chin between the knees.
    8.   Hold this position for the duration of six complete breaths.Inhale, raise the chest up, stretch the legs
          straight ahead and place the hands, palms down, on top of the thighs.

    Comments

    The vira-asana is an alternative to the padma-asana, siddha-asana, as well as other seated postures, for mediation and pranayama.

    Duration/Repetitions

    Hold the posture from several minutes as part of an asana session or for the duration of your meditation or pranyama.

    Variations

    The Supta-vira-asana variation (supta is the Sanskrit word for "lying down") stretches the abdominal muscles and relieves pain and discomfort in the legs. Begin the posture as detailed above then incline backwards and lean the back on the floor. The arms are stretch straight above the shoulders and kept flat on the floor.

  • SIMHA – ASANA – THE LION POSE

    Translation

    The Sanskrit word simha which literally means "the powerful one" is the word for "lion." This, therefore is known as the lion posture, and one performing it can be said to resemble a roaring lion about to attack.

    Pronunciation: sin-gha-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   Sit up on the knees with the heels of the feet pressed against the buttocks and the calves of the legs flat
         on the floor.
    2.   Place the balls of the hands on the knees, straighten the arms and keep the back erect and the head
          straight (not tilted forward, back, to the left or the right).
    3.   Inhale while leaning forward slightly, stretching the mouth the jaws as wide as possible, extend the tongue
          out and downward as much as possible.
    4.   Fix your gaze either at the tip of the nose or between the eyebrows and stretch the fingers straight out
         from the knees.
    5.   Hold the posture for the duration of the inhaled breath then exhale, relaxing the forward stretch, dropping
          the fingers to the knees and closing the mouth and eyes.

    Comments

    The simha-asana benefits parts of the body that most other asanas do not: the face, jaw, mouth, throat and tongue. Those who experience tightness or discomfort in the jaws such as teeth grinding, clenched jaws, a misaligned bite, etc. will benefit from both the jaw and tongue stretching of the simha-asana. This asana is also known to help prevent or cure sore throats. The muscles and tissues of the face are rejuvenated from the alternating stretching and release, an exercise they rarely get in the course of our everyday lives. The fixed gaze relieves tense or burning eyes and the stretched fingers benefits the hands and wrists.

    Duration/Repetitions

    Hold the simha-asana for thirty to sixty seconds and repeat three to five times.

    Variations

    Try roaring loadly like a lion as you enter into the Lion Pose while sticking your tongue out. This stimulates the throat and cultivates courage and fearlessness. Kids love to do it, shouldn't adults as well?

  • SIRSHA – ASANA – THE HEAD STAND

    Translation

    The Sanskrit word sirsha means head. This posture is the well- known headstand posture, and perhaps second only to the padma-asana or lotus posture, is widely identified with the practice of Yoga.

    Pronunciation: sir-shah-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   Sit in a kneeling position with the buttocks resting on the heels of the feet.
    2.   Lean forward and place the forearms on the floor in front.
    3.   While keeping the elbows about shoulder distance apart. Interlock the fingers of both hands.
    4.   Place the top of the head flat on the floor with the back of the head pressed against the inside of the
          interlocked fingers.
    5.   Placing the tips of the toes firmly on the floor while lifting the heels, raise the knees off the floor.
    6.   Hold for the duration of the held inhaled breath. When you can't hold the breath comfortable any longer,
    7.   Slowly exhale and return the back to the floor, slide the legs out straight returning to the shava-asana.

    Comments

    The siddha-asana is complicated to describe but is actually one of the simpler sitting postures. It requires less flexibility of the legs than the padma-asana yet it facilitates relaxation, concentration and ultimately, meditation. Siddha-asana helps to establish an equilibrium throughout the body/mind. It will also help stretch the legs and pelvic area to the point where the padma-asana can be held effortlessly. Either posture, by creating a firm foundation with the legs locked in a crossed position and the spine held straight and motionless, awakens the attention and helps cultivate concentration. When concentration is highly focused and undistracted, meditation follows.

    Duration/Repetitions

    Hold the sirsha-asana for 15-30 seconds when you first attempt it and increase the duration gradually over a period of a few weeks. As you skill increases you should hold it for as long as you feel comfortable.\

    Cautions/Restrictions

    If you are new to Yoga we recommend that you find a qualified instructor to teach you this posture and monitor you performance. If you attempting this alone position yourself in front of a wall as mentioned above. If you are suffering from high or low blood pressure you should not attempt this posture. The sirsha-asana should not be performed by woman who are menstruating, as is the case with all inverted postures (where the legs are raise over the head)

    Variations

    There are several variations to the sirsha-asana that you can try when you are comfortable with the standard variation. First try spreading your legs wide apart, carefully separating them very slowly, while maintaining your balance, until they are as far apart as is comfortable. Bring your legs together before returning from the posture. Next you can try placing the soles of your feet together while steadily holding the pose.

  • STANDING ASANAS

  • ARDHA-CHANDRA-ASANA – THE HALF – MOON POSE

    Translation

    The Sanskrit word ardha means "half," and the word Chandra means "moon," thus, this is the "half moon" posture.

    Pronunciation: ard-ha-chun-drah-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   Stand in the tada-asana Stand with both feet touching from the heel to the big toe,
    2.   Keeping the back straight and the arms pressed slightly against the sides with palms facing inward.
    3.   Bring the hands together at the chest with palms lightly pressed against each other (the Anjali-mudra).
    4.   Inhale and raise the arms straight up keeping the palms pressed lightly together.
    5.   Arch your body backwards keeping your arms alongside your neck and head,
    6.   Tilt the head backward and hold. Keep your knees straight while holding posture.
    7.   Slowly return to the tada-asana

    Comments

    The ardha-chandra-asana is a basic stretching and balancing pose that benefits principly the lower back, abdomen and chest. It is equally suitable for use in your stretching routine as well as formal asana practice. This pose is also one of the postures that are are sequenced in surya-namaskar (the Sun Salutation).

    Duration/Repetitions

    Repeat ardha-chandra-asana two to three times

  • TRIKONA – ASANA – THE TRIANGLE POSE

    Translation

    The Sanskrit word tri means three and kona means corner or angle. Thus "three corner or three angle posture" is often called the triangle posture. This posture is also known as the utthita trikona-asana. Utthita means stretched or extended thus this is the Extended Triangle Pose.

    Pronunciation: tri-cone-ah-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   Stand with the feet together and the arms by your sides (see the tada-asana).
    2.   Separate the feet slightly further than shoulder distance apart.
    3.   Inhale and raise both arms straight out from the shoulders parallel to the floor with the palms facing down.
    4.   Exhale slowly while turning the torso to the left,
    5.   Bend at the waist and bring the right hand down to the left ankle.
    6.   The palm of the right hand is placed along the outside of the left ankle.
    7.   The left arm should be extended upward. Both legs and arms are kept straight without bending the knees
          and elbows.
    8.   Turn the head upward to the left and gaze up at the fingertips of the left hand.
    9.   Inhale and return to a standing position with the arms outstretched.
    10.   Hold this position for the duration of the exhaled breath.
    11.   Exhale and repeat steps 4 - 6 on the opposite side.

    Comments

    The trikona-asana is an excellent posture to do early in your routine. The forward bending and lifting stimulates blood flow and helps to stretch and relax the back, shoulders, legs and arms as well as increases the flow of blood to the head. The muscles of the thighs and calves as well as the hamstrings are stretched. The slight twist of the spine creates suppleness in the spinal discs and relieves lower back discomforts. The posture can be held longer by breathing gently through the nostrils rather than holding the breath. Another variation is to perform the trikona-asana rapidly thereby giving it a slightly aerobic effect

    Duration/Repetitions

    Remain in the forward bending position for the duration of the exhale breath. Do two or three repetitions (one repetition consists of bending forward on both sides).

  • GARUDA-ASANA - THE EAGLE POSE

    Translation

    The Sanskrit word garuda means eagle. In Hindu mythology Garuda is known as the king of birds. He transports the God Vishnu (shown with a bow and arrow in the illustration to the left) and is said to be eager to help humanity fight againt deamons.

    Pronunciation: ga-roo-dah-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   Lie flat on the back in the shava-asana (corpse pose).
    2.   Stand with the feet together and the arms by your sides (see the tad-asana).
    3.   Draw the left foot upward bending the knee and wrap the left foot around your right leg.
    4.   As you rest the back of your left thigh on the right thigh.
    5.   Cross your arms at the elbows, left over right.
    6.   Join the palms of your hands together keeping the fingers pointed upward.
    7.   Inhale and hold the posture for the duration of the inhaled breath.
    8.   Exhale and return to the tada-asana. Repeat the posture on the opposite side,
    9.   Wrapping the right leg over the left and the right arm over left.

    Comments

    The Garuda-asana will strengthen the legs, knees and ankles. It stretches and tones muscles of the leg and can help relieve cramps of the legs.

    Duration/Repetitions

    Hold the hala-asana for as long as you are comfortable. 20-30 seconds is fine for early attempts, increase the time gradually as you become more comfortable. You can also try holding the posture for as long as you can hold the inhaled breath. Repeat 2 or 3 times on each leg.

  • VRIKSHA-ASANA - THE TREE POSE

    Translation

    The Sanskrit word vriksha means tree, thus this is the Tree Posture. "Standing straight on the left leg, bend the right leg and place the right foot on the root of the left thigh. Stand thus like a tree on the ground. This is called vriksha-asana."Gheranda-samhita II.36.

    Pronunciation: vrik-shah-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   Stand with the feet together and the arms by your sides (see the tad-asana).
    2.   Bend the right leg at the knee, raise the right thigh and bring the sole of the right foot as high up the inside
          of the left thigh as possible.
    3.   Balancing on the left foot, raise both arms over the head keeping the elbows unbent and joining the palms
          together.
    4.   Hold the posture while breathing gently through the nostrils for about 10 complete breaths.
    5.   Lower the arms and right leg and return to the tad-asana, standing position with feet together and arms at
          the sides.
    6.   Pause for a few moments and repeat on the opposite leg.

    Comments

    The challenge of the vriksha-asana is maintaining balance on one leg. Poor balance is often the result of a restless mind or distracted attention. Regular practice of this posture will help focus the mind and cultivate concentration (dharana). When practicing vriksha-asana it may help to imagine or picture a tree in the mind and apply the following technique: Imagine that the foot you are balanced on is the root of the tree and the leg is the trunk. Continue by imagining the head and outstretched arms as the branches and leaves of the tree. You may be unsteady for a while and find the body swaying back and forth, but don't break the concentration. Like a tree bending in the wind and yet remaining upright, the body can maintain balance. Aim to achieve the "rootedness" and firmness of a tree. Regular practice of the vriksha-asana improves concentration, balance and coordination. Because the weight of the entire body is balanced on one foot, the muscles of that leg are strengthened and toned as well. As you advance in this posture and are able to remain standing for more than a few moments, try closing the eyes and maintaining your balance.

    Duration/Repetitions

    Hold the vriksha-asana as long as your comfortably can. Repeat it two or three times on each leg.

  • NATARAJA-ASANA THE KING OF THE DANCE POSE

    Translation

    The Sanskrit word nata means dancer and raja means king. Nataraja is another name for Shiva, the Lord of the Dance, whose cosmic dance is the creation and destruction of the world.

    Pronunciation: nah-tah-raj-ah-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   Stand with the feet together and the arms by your sides (see the tad-asana).
    2.   Inhale and bend the right leg backward grasping the left foot with your left hand.
    3.   While simultaneously extending the right arm straight out in front.
    4.   Continue raising the right arm upward until it is about 45 degrees from the floor.
    5.   While lifting the left leg as high as possible with the left arm.
    6.   Hold the posture while breathing gently through the nostrils.
    7.   Keep your gaze fixed slightly above the horizon.
    8.   Remain in the nataraja-asana for about one minute then return slowly to a standing position.
    9.   Repeat by reversing directions 2-4.

    Comments

    Perform the nataraja-asana gracefully as if dancing, yet firmly with focused attention. This posture helps to strengthen your sense of balance and concentration. The arch formed by the back and stretched leg gently aligns the vertebrae of the spine restoring suppleness and easing strain causedby poor posture or long periods of sitting. It tones the muscles of the hips and legs as well as stimulates the chest muscles.

    Duration/Repetitions

    Begin by holding the nataraja-asana for about a minute and gradually increase the time as you become more comfortable with this posture. Repeat it three times on each side, alternately from right to left.

  • SLEEPING ASANAS

  • CHAKRA ASANA THE WHEEL POSE

    Translation

    Chakra, from the root cak ("to move") means wheel and therefore this is the Wheel Posture. The cakra-asana is also known as the urdhva-dhanurasana. Urdhva means raised, elevated or upright and dhanur means bow. Both "wheel posture" and "raised bow posture" describe the appearance of this asana.

    Pronunciation: chu-krah-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   Lie flat on the back in the shava-asana (corpse pose).
    2.   While exhaling bend the knees and bring the feet as close to the buttocks as possible with the soles of the 3.   Bend the arms at the elbows and place the palms of the hands flat on the floor directly
          under each shoulder with the fingers pointing toward the back.
    4.   While inhaling slowly, begin to raise the head, back and buttocks off the floor while arching the spine.
    5.   Continue to press downward on the hands and feet while raising the hips and stomach as high as
          possible.
    6.   Hold for the duration of the held inhaled breath.
    7.   When you can't hold the breath comfortable any longer, slowly exhale and return the back to the floor, slide
          the legs out straight returning to the shava-asana.

    Comments

    The chakra-asana is more challenging than most other yoga postures. Don't be discouraged if your unable to accomplish it right away. Even attempting this posture without successful completion holds great benefits. First and foremost is the strength and suppleness it restores to the spine. It strengthens the arms, shoulders and upper back as well and stimulates the cardiovascular system. The chakra- asana has an overall tonic effect for the entire body.

  • DHANURA-ASANA - THE BOW POSE

    Translation

    The Sanskrit word dhanur means bow-shaped, curved or bent. The bow referred is a bow as in "bow and arrow." This asana is so named because the body mimics the shape of a bow with its string stretched back ready to shoot an arrow.

    Pronunciation: dha-noor-ah-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   Lie flat on the back in the shava-asana (corpse pose).
    2.   Lie on the stomach with the head turned to one side and the arms alongside the body with palms facing
          upward.
    3.   Turn the head and place the chin on the floor. Exhale, bend the knees, reach back with the arms.
    4.   Grasp the right ankle with the right hand and the left ankle with the left hand.
    5.   While inhaling, slowly raise the legs by pulling the ankles up and raising the knees off the floor.
    6.   While simultaneously lifting the chest off the floor. Hold the inhale breath.
    7.   The weight of the body should be resting on the abdomen.
    8.   Tilt the head as far back as possible. Hold the posture as long as you can comfortably hold the inhale
          breath.
    9.   Slowly exhale bringing the knees to the floor, release the ankles,
    10.   Slowly bring the legs and arms straight down on the floor and turn the head to one side, assuming the
          prone posture you began with.

    Comments

    The most obvious benefit of the dhanur-asana is that it restores flexibility to the spine. Regular practice will relieve lower back pain and release tension and strain in the upper back and neck area. The alternating stretching and releasing of the abdominal muscles increases blood flow to this area and aids all sorts of digestive disorders and discomforts. Strain or fatigue in the legs is also released after a few repetitions. Extended practice will help develop upper-body strength.

    Duration/Repetitions

    The dhanur-asana is either held for the duration of the inhaled or between one and three minutes while breathing gently through the nostrils. Repeat it two or three times.

    Variations

    The two variations of the dhanur-asana have to do with the method of breathing and the amount of arch of the back. As one progresses with this asana and is able to hold the posture for a longer period of time, the posture can be held while slow, rhythmic breathing is maintained through the nostrils. As the spine becomes more flexible try drawing the feet closer to the head. Some are able to join the top of the head to the soles of the feet although this is certainly not necessary to accomplish the dhanur-asana.

  • HALA-ASANA - THE PLOW POSE

    Translation

    : The The Sanskrit word Hala means plow, as in a traditional plow that is drawn by a horse or oxen. When performing this posture your body resembles a plow.

    Pronunciation: hull-ah-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   Flat on the back in the shava-asana (the corpse pose).
    2.   Inhale through the nostrils. Place the palms face-down on the floor.
    3.   Keeping the hips on the floor, bend the knees and bring them up toward the stomach while exhaling.
    4.   Inhale, then while exhaling, raise the legs straight up perpendicular to the floor.
    5.   You may support your hips with your hands or leave the arms flat on the floor, whichever is most
          comfortable.
    6.   Exhale and continue to raise the legs over the head, bending at the waist, lifting the back and buttocks .
    7.   Until the toes touch the floor directly in back of the head. Keep the feet together.
    8.   If the lower back is supported by the hands try returning the arms flat to the floor with the palms facing
          down.
    9.   If you are unable to comfortably place the arms on the floor continue to support the lower back with the
          hands.
    10.   Keep the knees straight. Breath slowly through the nostrils and hold the posture for several minutes.
    11.   If you cannot touch the floor with your toes hold them as close to the floor as possible and continue to
          exert effort to lower them.
    12.   Reverse the steps to return to the shava-asana.

    Comments

    The benefits of this posture, like the sarvanga-asana, are numerous. All of the muscles and ligaments in the calves and thighs are stretched resulting in greater leg flexibility. People suffering from leg cramps will find great relief from the hala-asana. Since the abdominal area is contracted, blood compressed out of this area releases toxins and when the contraction is released the area is flooded with richly oxygenated blood. The contraction also helps to relieve gas and stimulates a sluggish digestive system. Similar effects take place as the neck and chest area is compressed effecting the throat, thyroid, hyperthyroid and lungs. Upper and lower back pain or discomfort is relieved due to the forward stretching of the spine. It is highly recommended that this posture be accompanied by the sarvanga-asana. In fact, many of the benefits of the sarvanga-asana apply to the hala-asana as well with the added benefits detailed above. The hala-asana is an excellent morning posture although some might find it more difficult then. During sleep the spine can become somewhat compressed resulting in the experience of tightness or stiffness in the back. A few repetitions of the hala-asana will quickly restore flexibility to the spine as well as promote alertness.

    Duration/Repetitions

    Hold the hala-asana for as long as you are comfortable. 20-30 seconds is fine for early attempts, increase the time gradually as you become more comfortable.

    Variations

    There are several variations of the basic hala-asana each of which require greater flexibility in the spine. and legs. Once one is adept at performing this asana these variations may be tried. The first entails swinging the arms around and either touching or grasping the toes with the hands (1). The posture is then held in this position. (illustrated above) Another variation calls for dropping the knees to the ground and placing them close the ears and keeping the arms extended on the floor (2). And finally from this variation the arms are swung around and placed over the legs behind the knees and the hands are clasped and pressed down on the knees to hold them firmly on the floor (3). All three variations are held while breathing gently gently through the nostrils.

    Cautions/Restrictions

    The hala-asana should not be performed by woman who are menstruating, as is the case with all inverted postures (where the legs are raise over the head). No other restrictions apply.

  • MATSYA-ASANA - THE FISH POSE

    Translation

    The Sanskrit word matsya means fish, therefore this is the fish posture. Matsya (depicted to the left) is a divine being, found in Hindu mythology, that saved mankind from a universal flood.

    Pronunciation: maht-see-yah-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   Lie flat on the back in the shava-asana.
    2.   Keeping the buttocks on the floor, inhale and raise the head, shoulders, back and upper arms off the floor
          arching the back and raising the chest up.
    3.   Tilt the head back and place the top of the head flat on the floor.
    4.   Raise the elbows off the floor bring your hands up just below the chest and join them at the palms with the
          fingers pointing straight up (form the anjali-mudra or salutation hand gesture).
    5.   Hold for the duration of the inhale breath or breath gently through the nostrils to remain in the posture
          longer.
    6.   Return to the shava-asana..

    Comments

    The matsya-asana creates a great expansion and stretching of the chest which helps relieve upper respiratory congestion as well as benefits the heart. Additionally, the sinus are drained and opened from the inversion of the head, stretching of the neck and pressure placed on the top of the head. The thyroid and parathyroid glands are stimulated as well.

    Duration/Repetitions

    Since this is not a difficult posture, it is recommended that you breath while holding it for between two and four minutes. If you are uncomfortable breathing, hold the posture for the duration of the inhaled breath. Repeat two or three times.

    Variations

    There is one major variation in the matsya-asana and it is a bit more challenging than the one described above (illustrated above). It calls for beginning the posture in padma-asana or the full lotus seated posture and then lying flat on the back while the legs are still locked. From there on the posture is done the same way as described above.

  • SARVANGA-ASANA THE SHOULDER-STAND POSE

    Translation

    The Sanskrit word sarvaanga means limb or body. sarvanga therefore translates as either "all-limb" or "whole-body posture". It is so named because of the benefit it provides to the entire body. It is commonly referred to as the "shoulder- stand" because one is essentially standing on one's shoulders.

    Pronunciation: sar-vong-ah-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   Lie flat on the back in the shava-asana.
    2.   Inhale through the nostrils. Place the palms face-down on the floor.
    3.   Keeping the hips on the floor, bend the knees and bring them up toward the stomach while exhaling.
    4.   Inhale slowly through the nostrils, press down on the hands and lift the torso from the waist up off the floor,
    5.   arching the spine backwards and straightening the arms. Keep the hips on the floor.
    6.   Inhale, then while exhaling, raise the legs straight up perpendicular to the floor.
    7.   You may support your hips with your hands or leave the arms flat on the floor, whichever is most
          comfortable.
    8.   The legs should be together with the knees straight and toes pointed straight up.
    9.   Keep the head straight without turning it to either side. The chin should be pressed against the chest.
    10.   Breath gently through the nostrils while the posture is held.
    11.   Reverse the steps to return to the shava-asana.

    Comments

    The sarvanga-asana is considered by many to be the most beneficial of all yoga postures. Because of its many benefits, if you find that your time is limited in the course of Yoga practice at home, it is recommended to place special emphasis on the sarvanga-asana. When performed in the morning the sarvanga-asana relieves fatigue caused by sleeping too much or too little and when practiced in the evening it helps to promote deep, restful sleep. It strengthens the back and helps to relieve lower back pain. The increased blood flow to the head and upper body helps to heal many disorders such as headaches, nasal congestion and sore throats. The entire endocrine, digestive, nervous, and venous systems of the body are stimulated in ways that no form of diet or conventional exercise can perform. Because the body is inverted a rich supply of oxygenated blood is sent to the organs and glands in the upper part of the body, such as the brain, thyroid and pituitary, and heart thereby stimulating them. Pressure is relieved from the lower body extremities relieving pain and/or swelling of the feet and legs. The sarvanga-asana also provides great benefit to the abdominal organs helping to relieve gas and constipation and stimulate digestion. Regular practice of this posture invigorates the mind and helps to calm the nervous system.

    Duration/Repetitions

    Hold the sarvanga-asana anywhere from one to five minutes depending on comfort. Repeat the posture two or three times.

    Variations

    There are two common variations to this posture. One is called the shalamba-sarvanga-asana. Sa means with and alamba means prop or support and refers to the use of the arms to support the legs and torso as they are inverted. The other variation is called the niralamba-sarvanga-sana. Nir means without and thus this variation is done without the support of the arms.

  • SHALABHA – ASANA – THE LOCUST POSE

    Translation

    The Sanskrit word Shalabha means locust or grasshopper. There is a variation of this posture called the viparita-shalabha- asana. The Sanskrit word viparita means "reverse." This is an advanced variation not covered here.

    Pronunciation: sha-la-bhah-sa-na

    Instructions

    1.   Lie on the stomach with the head turned to one side and the arms alongside the body with palms
          facing upward.
    2.   Turn the head and place your chin on the floor.
    3.   Slide your hands under your thighs, with the palms pressed gently against the top of your thighs
    4.   Inhale slowly and then raise the head, chest, and legs off the floor as high as possible.
    5.   Tilt your head as far back as possible. Keep your feet, knees, and thighs pressed together.
    6.   Starting at the top of the head and working your way down to the feet,
    7.   Bring your attention to each part of your body, consciously relaxing it before proceeding on to the next.
    8.   Remain in the posture while holding the breath.
    9.   You can support your legs by pressing the hands upward against your thighs.
    10.   Hold the posture for as long as you can hold the inhaled breath .
    11.   Slowly return the legs, chest, and head to the floor while exhaling.
    12.   Remove your hands from under your thighs and place the arms alongside your body.
    13.   Turn your head to the side and rest.

    Comments

    The shalabha-asana has many benefits. Besides strengthening the muscles of the upper legs and lower back, it stimulates the stomach and intestines helping to relieve gastrointestinal gas, strengthens the bladder, and stretches the spine. To assist raising the legs as high as possible keep the back of the hands resting against the floor while pushing the legs upward with the fingers. As you get better at this posture and increase the strength of you legs you can raise the hands completely off the floor so your legs are raised unsupported. This increases the benefits of the shalabha-asana.

    Duration/Repetitions

    Hold this posture for as long as you can hold the inhaled breath. Repeat the shalabha-asana three times.