Think And Do

Yoga Asana

Yoga is a system of:
  • Health
  • Fitness
  • Right Living
  • Higher Consciousness
  • Increased Awareness
Full Posture List

Sitting Healthy
One of the limbs of Yoga is Asana, or the practice of postures. Here weíll discuss exactly what we are doing in these postures, how to practice them to maximize their effectiveness, and how to apply this practice in your everyday life. We will not focus on any particular posture, but an attitude and diligence regarding their practice.

The postures themselves evolved over time, and are still evolving. The original intent was to place yourself in a position in order to focus your concentration, thereby facilitating meditation. With the passing of time, people learned that the postures themselves had superb therapeutic effects on the physical body, the mind, and the spirit. We can now benefit tremendously from what has been learned over hundreds of years.

The foundation of true Yoga practice is the doing of nothing.
Everything begins there.
And, as we sit or stand and doing nothing, we canít help but notice the smallest things.
Itches, fidgets, bits of dust, boredom, mind wandering, aches in the arms, sore legs.
Keep on doing the posture!

Whatever Asana you assume, for whatever your degree of ability, noticing is the key.
We want to be thin, supple, young looking, strong, healthy.
We want everything!
But the really terrific news is that there are sure-fire steps that we can take to achieve those things that we really want.
If weíd just Slow Down, Pay Attention, and Release our Judgments and Expectations.
Thatís where the real challenge of Yoga practice is.

Physical Awareness
Above all, donít push yourself. Yoga is the practice of gentleness and softness. Sure, the Asanas are challenging.
But the practice is to release and relax in whatever position you are in, not to strain yourself to go deeper and deeper.
Your body will benefit far more if you do less and relax more.
Use props if you need to. You donít even need to run to the store or online to find them; youíve probably got something right there at home that you can use.

Take a tie, belt, or scarf.
Hold the tie in your hands, in the crease between the thumb and hand Ė this spot is called the Tiger Mouth in Chinese martial art practice.
Hold your arms out ahead of you at full length Ė keep the tie taught without pulling and adjust it so that you are maintaining your arms at shoulder width distance.
This means that you should hold out your arms straight ahead.
Your Legs
If you practiced standing up, youíve probably noticed that your legs are getting tired. Think about the times that you are standing still.
Do you know where your body weight is when you are standing still? Is one hip protruding slightly as you ďsit intoĒ that leg?
As you stand, notice where your body weight is.
The feet should be flat on the floor; notice if you tend to ďrollĒ the feet either inward or outward.
Your shoes will help you with that. Notice if one side is more worn than the other. The knees should be soft and flexible, not locked. What about sitting? What position are your legs in?

Posture, whether it is seated, standing, or lying down, is critical for the development and maintenance of good health.
While standing, if you allow one hip to protrude as you sit into that leg, you are throwing your lower back and hip out of proper alignment.
If youíve been doing this for years, you may not even know that it is happening.
But, once again, at the end of the day, you notice, as many of us do, that thereís tension, soreness, or tiredness down one leg or the other.
Once again, notice that. Because as soon as you do, you can take the steps to make the changes that need to be made.

Posture Awareness: Ears Above Shoulders, Shoulders Above Hips
Sounds simple enough, doesnít it?
Take a moment right now to become aware of your posture.
Is your chin jutting forward? This happens to us all, especially when we are sitting.
We strain forward during the workday as we sit at our computers. We strain forward in the car as we drive.
If your chin is jutting forward, you are hyper-extending your neck, thereby tightening the muscles along your shoulders.
Gently allow your chin and jaw to relax backward toward your spine.
Keep breathing!

Shoulders
Are they hunched? I see this more than any other posture difficulty.
The upper back is rounded as the shoulders are rounded forward.
How do you fix this? Look down at your torso as your shoulders hunch. Think about the organs in there. Not much room for them is there?
Maintain the shoulders slightly back and apart.
How? First, donít think of pushing your shoulders back Ė think of expanding your chest muscles to allow the shoulders to open naturally.
Start with your navel. As you inhale, lift the navel upward, allowing your lower torso to expand. Then lift the breastbone, or sternum.
Inhaling, open the chest and roll the shoulders back. Keep breathing!
Now think about the organs in your body. Youíve just made plenty of room for them. Now they can begin to function optimally.
Exhale first!
Stretch your arms away from you and allow the muscles between your shoulder blades to relax and expand.
This will help your shoulders relax and your arms really stretch. You want to feel this stretch from your spine to your fingers.
Relax your arms a bit and inhale. Deeply fill your torso with the breath.
Exhale again and see how it feels to stretch your arms more. If it doesnít feel great, donít do it.
Now, on your next inhale, raise your arms over your head. Youíll feel the muscles in your shoulders begin to strain and become tense.
As soon as you feel that, stop. Relax the arms. Breathe. Go slowly, at your comfortable pace, until your arms go directly above your head.
Allow your shoulders to drop and when you are ready, on your exhale, stretch your arms away from the center of your body, in this case, upward.
Keep the forehead and jaw relaxed.

As you practice this simple technique, take the time to be aware of your physical response.
Notice the tension that is created in your upper back, or perhaps your chest and torso.
Donít allow this tension to intimidate you Ė Yoga practice is relaxation Ė allow this tension to inform you and make you aware of where your body needs to relax.
It all sounds so simple, and it in fact is.
But we stop what we are doing when discomfort presents itself, rather than learn that we have the resources and the power to subdue that discomfort.
We hold tension in our upper backs and necks, and by the end of the day, we are tired and run-down.
This practice helps you notice that the tension is building, and allows you to let it go.

This practice with the tie can be done standing, sitting, or even lying down. It feels wonderful regardless of the position that you choose!
Posture Awareness: Use Your Muscles, Not Your Joints, To Support the Weight of your Body
The physical awareness is quite precise and time-consuming. At first, itís all-consuming.
However, as you practice, and, more significantly, as you begin to feel better and more energized, the correct posture will become more natural.
Your body, without your mental control, will assume the correct posture simply because it has learned to, and because it is functioning more correctly.

What about the Other Components of Practice - The Ones that Aren't Physical?
This is where Yoga IS Yoga.
We can all take an exercise class. We can use a treadmill and read or watch television.
But one of the differences between ďregularĒ exercise and Yoga practice is that Yoga requires our full attention.
We donít read and do Yoga. We donít watch television and do Yoga, unless we are learning and practicing with an instructional video or watching a Yoga program.
Yoga is about knowing everything that is going on within us.
It is about getting out of our own way, being still and calm, being non-judgmental, being Happy.

Your Thoughts
Theyíll do lots of things. Theyíll race, theyíll tell you that you are too fat, or too old, or too tired.
Theyíll tell you that youíre bored, that you are doing nothing, that this is a waste.
They'll tell you that your body cannot handle it. That you should do something easier. On and on and on.

What should we do? We should do the practice. Let a thought come, acknowledge it, and let it move on.
This is much harder than it sounds. We will now strive to think about nothing, and weíll get aggravated because we canít do that. Health begins to improve when we really begin to change and feel and think differently.

For me, the emptying of my thoughts was one of the most difficult to learn. So I found a method that has helped me tremendously, and I share it with my classes and it helps them as well. Get ready, itís pretty simple-sounding.
Replace One Thought With Another
As you stand, sit or bend in whatever posture you are in, and as the thought presents itself, notice that you are thinking it and think something else.
Hold on. Not just a random something. A very specific something.

Example
Iím practicing Vrikshana - the Tree Posture.
I cannot get my leg high enough. I canít balance for more than 2 seconds.
I keep on wobbling. Iím nervous. My legs hurt. Iím frowning. Iíve been practicing for a while and I should be better at this.
Iím the worst one in the class. On and on and on.

I replace the thought with something specific to the posture that Iím doing. Very specific.

Iím standing. Iím balancing on my left leg. My calf is weak and my knee is locked. Strengthen the calf and relax the knee.
I must exhale and relax my chest and shoulders. I must inhale and align my spine.