Yoga - A medium to mental, physical and emotional well being
By Dr Suyogkumar Bhavare
Yoga is not just an art form or form of entertainment, it is more than that, it is the union of an individual with the universe, it is not an idea, rather it is a spiritual exercise to experience the strength and potential within you. In Vedic language yoga means “to add”, “to join”, “to unite”, or “to attach”. This spiritual practice originated from India about 5,000 years ago and has been very popular among Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism religions, however, the practice of yoga is compatible with any religion, as well as atheism.
It is believed that yoga is as old as civilization, however, there is no physical evidence to support this claim. It originated around the sixth and fifth centuries BCE, and one can notice its presence in the ancient age by looking at the stone seals which depict figures of yoga poses.
In this eBook we will explore the history of Yoga and how it can connect with your life to bring about positive changes to it.
Table of Contents
Yoga in Ancient Indian History
Let us first begin by exploring the origins of Yoga. It will give us an insight on how Yogabecame what it is today. Knowing its history also makes us realise how Yoga transcends cultural, religious and geographical boundaries.
We will also explore the true philosophy behind Yoga.
The sections covered in this chapter are:
Four periods that support the presence of Yoga in ancient Indian history:
This is the period where the oldest sacred texts or Vedas of Hinduism were being composed. The word yoga was first mentioned in the Rigveda which is known as the oldest sacred text of the Hindus. It was the rishis and yogis in the ancient time who taught people about yoga.
The pre-classical period involves the creation of Upanishads. These Upanishads explain the teachings of the Vedas. Apart from Hinduism, Buddhism also mentions the presence of yoga in its religion. Gautam Buddha started teaching Buddhism in the sixth century B.C which emphasizes the value of meditation and the practice of physical postures.
The creation of Yoga Sutra marks the Classical Period. This Sutra was written by Patanjali around the second century, to define and standardize Classical Yoga. It is composed of 195 aphorisms or sutras (thread) that describe the path of the Raja Yoga and its underlying principle, Patanjali’s Eightfold Path of Yoga (also called Eight Limbs of Classical Yoga). These are:
- Asanas or physical exercises
All these eight limbs of classical yoga help a person in obtaining Samadhi or enlightenment. Patanjali is often considered the father of yoga and his Yoga-Sutras have a strong impact on most modern styles of yoga.
This period of yoga differs from the first three since its focus is more on the present. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, yoga masters started travelling the West, attracting attention and followers. By the 1960s, a number of Indian teachers expounded on yoga and it became popular all over the world.
Yoga has a very long rich history and it is wonderful to see that it still continues to proliferate and spread its teachings, crossing the boundaries of culture and language. It is known for centuries that yoga has a unique power of healing and it is very beneficial in maintaining proper health. And due to its great benefits Yoga is popular among every generation worldwide.
Asanas and Philosophy
When we talk about Asana, we talk about the physical postures that involve the coordination of both mind and body. Asanas are one of the eight limbs of yoga and are considered important by yogis because it helps to keep the body healthy and mind calm. Asana is a Sanskrit term that means “posture” or “pose and can also be translated as “a steady, comfortable seat,” particularly for the purpose of meditation.
It is not difficult to learn the asana, all it requires is a regular practice and anyone of any level of experience can practice the asanas. Asanas help us bridge disconnections between the body, mind, and breath and can also be practised to increase strength and flexibility, improve balance and core strength. Scientific research is also suggesting that regular practice can provide many health benefits.
Yoga has a very vast and rich history and is an ancient and popular practice to remain healthy and de-stress yourself. As mentioned above it is not just a form of art, but it is a practice that goes beyond asanas and meditation. Today, it has become part of almost every person’s life and the philosophy of yoga has changed the lives of many people across the globe. Many people are moving towards yoga and meditation to rejuvenate their life.
Yoga provides an individual with the opportunity to train their minds to remain unaffected in every situation. Rumi ( a 13th-century Persian poet, faqih, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic originally from Greater Khorasan) had said it perfectly:
“Peaceful is the one who is not concerned with having more or less. Unbound by name and fame, he is free from sorrow from the world and mostly from himself.”
And yoga helps you attain the peace of mind, Rumi is talking about. Yoga poses communicate with your mind, body, and soul and it makes you feel more light and relaxed.
Yoga philosophy teaches us about controlling our minds and directing it towards a higher goal and purpose. By self-introspection our attitudes towards situations, people, the external environment, and even ourselves, we can cultivate a tranquil and strong mind which is also known as ‘Cittaprasadanam’. The person with such a mind will experience an abundance of joy and happiness.
Yoga is a complete science and often overlooked by people in a world that focuses mainly on physical postures and how to master them. There are many myths that are associated with this ancient technology but the truth is that it is the integration of the mind, body, and soul with the Divine.
Asanas and its types
Yoga Asanas have immense benefits for your body, mind, and soul. Asana is a body posture that is steady and comfortable and is believed to provide both spiritual and physical benefits and improve flexibility, strength, and balance to reduce stress and conditions related to it. It also helps to alleviate some diseases such as asthma and diabetes. Asanas have appeared in culture for many centuries and are gaining popularity day by day. Exercise, asanas, etc. are getting featured today in various novels and films, and sometimes also in advertising.
With some practice and balancing, one can become a pro at yoga poses and can enjoy various health benefits of this ancient technology.
Some of the best Yoga asanas are given ahead.
Tadasana or Mountain pose
Tadasana is one of the best yoga asanas and practising this yoga asana regularly every morning gives a good massage to our hands, back, spine and the whole body. And if you want to increase your height, then there’s nothing that can compare to this asana.
Trikonasana Yoga or The Triangle Pose
This yoga pose is the best way to increase strength, stamina, and stability. It is a great way to stretch several muscles in the body and improves many functions. This simple yet so beneficial yoga asana improves the functions of the blood through the entire body and also removes fats from the waist and thighs.
Padmasana or Lotus Pose
Padmasana is the best Asana for contemplation. It is suitable for lean persons and for youths as well. This asana is helpful in stimulating the pelvis, spine abdomen, and bladder. Practising this asana consistently until late into pregnancy is said to help ease childbirth.
Gomukhasan or The Cow Head Pose
This is an advanced yoga that helps in reducing stiffness and pain in the hip joints and lower extremities. This asana eases sexual problems and also helps to cure hernia. It has helped a lot of people who are fighting a variety of ailments such as diabetes, back and shoulder issues, and sexual disorders.
Balasana or Child’s Pose
It is a very simple and calming pose which we can easily be done in bed. Practising this yoga pose can help in relieving back pain as it stretches and relaxes the spine. It also stretches and strengthens the muscle of hips, thighs, and ankles.
Vajrasana or Diamond Pose
It is the simplest of all the asanas of yoga and can also be practised after having meals. It is the best asana for practising breathing exercises and meditation. Vajrasana calms the mind and cures constipation, stomach disorder, acidity, and increases the digestion process.
Bhujangasana or Cobra Pose
Bhujangasana offers an excellent result for those who want to lose weight and increase metabolism. This brilliant pose improves the function of the liver, kidney, pancreas and gallbladder. It cures insomnia, spine problems, indigestion, and constipation naturally.
Dhanurasana or Bow Pose
It is an excellent back bending yoga pose for improving spinal strength and flexibility. This asana helps in curing constipation and reduces excess weight around the abdominal areas. It also strengthens the leg muscles, relieves stiff shoulders and helps in curing diabetes and menstrual disorders.
Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation
It is an act to express gratitude to the sun that is considered to be the source of all forms of life on the planet. It is a set of 12 poses and consistently practising this asana enhances the solar plexus, which increases one’s creativity and intuitive abilities. It also improves flexibility, strength, balance, and overall health.
Kapalbhati Pranayama Yoga
The word Kapalbhati is a combination of two words where Kapal means skull and Bhati means lighting or illuminating. This yoga is one of the most recommended breathing exercises that help in curing stomach disorder and weight loss. Kapalbhati also cures constipation, acidity, diabetes, Asthma and all kinds of Respiratory troubles.
Shavasana or Corpse Pose
This asana is a favourite of the lazy people who are not willing to get out of their beds. Shavasana is all about lying down like a corpse and doing it before bed helps in emptying your thoughts so your mind can feel relaxed.
Hastapadasana or Standing Forward Bend Posture
It is a very easy yet effective yoga pose that helps to cure constipation, hair loss, back pain and also beneficial to increase height. This yoga gives strength to the muscles of your back and is also good for the nervous system.
Ustrasana or Camel Pose
When you perform this asana your body looks like the shape of a camel. This yoga is beneficial for the respiratory system, blood circulation, and also helps in relieving back pain and makes your mind feel relaxed.
Garudasana or Eagle Pose
This asana strengthens and stretches the ankles and calves. This may look a difficult exercise but it is not so. Consistently practising this yoga helps in reducing extra fats in the thighs and arms and improves the balance of our body.
Natrajasana or Lord Of The Dance Pose
Natrjasana is also known as Lord of the dance pose and it is an excellent asana to improve the balance and concentration of the mind and body. It also strengthens the muscles of the hip, thighs, and chest and aids in weight loss.
Sarvangasana or Shoulder Stand
Sarvangasana help strengthens and cures back pain, and improves the resistance power of the body. It is a beneficial asana for those who want glowing skin as it keeps our face bright and removes the dark circle. If practised regularly, it also helps with weight loss and is known to improve blood circulation, digestion, and controls the blood sugar level and correct the improper functioning of the pancreas.
There are more than 84 asanas and all of them offer numerous health benefits. We will discuss some of these asanas further in detail.
Today, most people are suffering from diabetes, obesity, cardiac diseases, hypertension, and other serious health conditions. In most of the cases, it is found that these health issues were related to the lifestyle of these individuals. If you are regularly reading blogs and articles on health and wellness then you might be aware of the word “Sedentary” which is coined from the Latin word “Sedere” which means “to sit” hence Sedentary lifestyle is a term used to characterize those behaviours that are associated with low energy expenditure.
A sedentary lifestyle is a serious issue that needs immediate attention because of its pernicious health implications in both the developed and developing countries.
Factors that have pushed us toward a sedentary lifestyle
Technological Advancement is the number one factor that has forced humans to become more physically inactive. A large number of machines, devices, software, have impacted humans tremendously. The technology and the internet today has made tedious tasks much easier, the household chores or office work that took long hours to get completed can now be done in a few minutes with just one click.
Demographic Factors (Age and Gender) have also a relationship with the sedentary lifestyle. It is believed that sedentary behaviour intensifies during childhood and from childhood into adolescence. During young age, both boys and girls spend long hours watching TV and using computers. But when they grow up, there is some evidence to suggest boys typically spend more time than girls watching TV or using a computer especially playing computer games.
Socio-economic status and ethnicity are closely associated with sedentary behaviour. Levels of TV viewing are typically higher in the people who are jobless and are less educated. Housewives and young people tend to watch more TV as compared to working people. Having all the facilities within the home, like having more television sets and computers, and having a TV in the bedroom are also associated with higher usage. If you have servants in your home then it is more likely that you become physically inactive as you don’t have to do work on your own.
The average working hours in most countries are between 8-10 hours. Most workers even spend more than 8-10 hours on their seats with no or little physical activity. Excess of workload, the pressure to complete working hours, and working overtime are some of the reasons that force people to sit for prolonged hours. In most workplaces, the health of the employees is undermined, which ultimately affects the overall health of the employees.
The price of not moving much
According to some research, only 21 percent of adults are meeting the physical activity guidelines, while less than 5 percent perform 30 minutes of physical activity per day. By not moving much you are causing yourself a lot of trouble. Leading a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of:
Obesity means having an excess of body fat that increases the risk of many health problems. When you eat a lot and move very less, you are increasing the risk of obesity and other deleterious diseases.
Heart diseases are one of the major causes of death today. When the blood is not circulated properly, it fails to reach the extremities in sufficient quantities due to which a person may also have a sensation of pins and needles in his heart. Improper drinking and eating habits are also related to heart diseases.
High Blood Pressure
It can cause damage to your blood vessels that can result in a range of complications, some of which can be life-threatening. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 75 million people in the US have high blood pressure.
A sedentary lifestyle lowers good (HDL) cholesterol which means there’s less good cholesterol to remove bad (LDL) cholesterol from your arteries. This is why physical activity is vital as just 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week is enough to lower high BP as well as low BP.
Stroke is a serious health condition in which improper blood flow to the brain results in cell death. Nowadays, people experience the symptoms of a stroke only in their 30s. In a study, 18% of all stroke patients were below 40 years of age. All this is a result of a sedentary lifestyle.
Type 2 diabetes
We all know that physical activities play a major role in reducing the risks of obesity and diabetes. Watching prolonged TV and reckless eating increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome, certain cancers, including colon, breast, and uterine cancers, osteoporosis and Increased feelings of depression and anxiety are some other serious health conditions that occur due to a sedentary lifestyle.
However, there is nothing that can’t be changed, by changing your habits and lifestyle you can get rid of these sedentary lifestyle diseases. Every person should make collective efforts to engage in physical activities, improve their dietary habits and avoid other risky behaviours that affect their health negatively.
Understanding the relationship between sedentary behaviour and health outcome and changing this behaviour is essential to reduce the morbidity and mortality rates caused by these health complications.
How Yoga can help you avoid sedentary life habits?
By now we all are aware of the fact that indulging ourselves in physical activity is essential to decrease the chance of an untimely death. Whether this lifestyle is led by choice or by necessity it is important to incorporate physical activity into your life and yoga postures are a great way to begin a life full of health and happiness.
Yoga postures can be an effective antidote to many desk-job ailments and practising them regularly can also destress your mind. There are various types of yoga postures that can help you reduce the damage caused by prolonged sitting.
Tadasana or Mountain Pose
Tadasana is an excellent way to get rid of the excess fatigue and this powerful back and chest-opening posture free up tight chest muscles. Stand straight on the ground with feet hip-width apart, breathe deeply and raise your both arms. Keep your arms upward by interlocking your fingers and then come on the toes by raising your heels simultaneously.
Marjaryasana and Bitilasana Cat and Cow Pose
These postures can be an effective headache reliever and are a powerful pose for the mind. They also help relieve stress from menstrual cramps, lower back pain, and sciatica. Get in a tabletop position and make sure your knees are under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders. Then start with a neutral spine position, with your back flat and your abs engaged. Let your belly soften, arch your back, and lift your head and tailbone while inhaling. This part of the stretch is called Cow. Exhale and round your spine up to the ceiling, pulling your abs toward your spine, and simultaneously tuck your tailbone and chin in. This part is the cat pose. Repeat it for 5-10 times and relax.
Matsyasana or Fish Pose
Matsyasana is an excellent yoga for reducing tension, fatigue, and anxiety. To start with, sit up on your hips with legs stretched out together in front of you and toes pointed. Bend the left leg and place it on the right thigh and then with the help of your elbows lift the back, arch the back maximum. Then rest the crown on the ground and hold the big toes with the hands. Breathe deeply and rest in the position for 15-30 seconds.
Bhujanagasana or Cobra Pose
Bhujangasana is a great de-stressor and lengthens the spine, opens up the chest and helps in improving blood flow. To get in this pose, place your hands’ palms down on the ground beneath your shoulders and lift your chest up off the ground by straightening your arms. Then gaze upwards and keep your abdominals engaged. Rest in the pose for 15-30 seconds.
Balasana or Child Pose
It is one of the simplest and effective mind relaxing yoga poses. It stretches the lower back, hips, and legs and can help with relief from discomfort and prevents strain. Sit in a tabletop position and release the tops of your feet to the floor and bring your knees wider than your hips, big toes touching. Slowly lower your hips towards your heels and extend your hands forward and rest your head on the floor or a prop. Take slow deep breaths and rest in the pose for as long as desired.
Baddha Konasana or Bound Angle Pose
Baddha Konasana strengthens the hips, legs, lower back, and abdomen and stretches knees, thighs, groin. Sit in the staff pose with the soles of the feet touching. Now Bend your knees and join the soles of your feet. Then hold your feet with your hands and flap the knees up and down several times like butterfly wings. Rest in this pose for up to 2 minutes.
Ananda Balasana, Sitali Breathing, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, etc. are some other examples to combat the damage caused by a sedentary lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle is a serious issue but the risks associated with it are preventable. You can avoid these risks by regularly practising yoga exercises and can achieve a healthy mind, body, and soul.
The name Vajrasana is a combination of the two Sanskrit words, Vajra and Asana, where vajra stands for a weapon whose name means thunderbolt or diamond and asana means seat or posture. Medieval texts describe a variety of pose under this name. It denotes a medieval meditation seat, but its usage varied and it first originated in the 15th century.
Steps to perform Vajrasana
- Kneel down on the ground with a straight posture and upright spine. Make sure that your big toes perfectly cross each other.
- Then lower your body in such a manner that your buttocks rest on the heels.
- Now place both hands on the knees and keep your head perfectly straight.
- Focus on your breathing and hold the pose for at least 5-10 minutes.
- Vajrasana is a highly effective yoga posture that helps in improving the functioning of the digestive process. If practised regularly it can cure constipation and stomach disorders.
- It also ensures enhanced blood circulation throughout the body and can also help in improving the functions of the liver.
- It can strengthen the back effectively and help to treat sciatica and lower back problems. It also aids in weight loss.
- It improves the efficiency of the pelvic muscles and can ease out the labour pains during pregnancy and minimize menstrual cramps.
- It strengthens the sexual organs, cures joint pains, tones body muscles in the thighs, hips, and calves and removes urinary problems and can ensure the optimal functioning of all body organs.
- Vajrasana can also help an individual to attain a calm and relaxed state of mind.
- It can make the ankle and knee joints flexible and remove the pain associated with arthritis.
- Individuals who have recently undergone some kind of surgery in the knees or have got knee pains or other knee problems, should not perform this asana.
- People who have spinal column ailments or slip disc conditions should also avoid performing this asana.
- Pregnant women should keep their knees at a distance from each other so that the abdomen doesn’t feel pressurized.
- Patients of a hernia, intestinal ulcers, joint pains, foot problems, ankle problems or issues related to the small or large intestine should also refrain practising Vajrasana under all circumstances.
Natrajasana is derived from a pose in classical Hindu dance form, Bharatnatyam and it is a posture that requires balance and concentration. The pose is depicted in the 13th – 18th century Bharatnatyam dance statues of the Eastern Gopuram, Nataraja Temple, and Chidambaram but a few people believe that this asana was originated in the early 20th century. The term “Nata” in Natrajasana means dance, “Raja” means king and “asana” means posture, hence Natrajasana. Natraja is another name given to Hindu Lord Shiva and this pose is his dance incarnation, through which his love for music, dance, and art are depicted.
Steps to perform Natrajasana
- Stand straight and focus your gaze at a fixed point
- Now, raise your left foot, turn it over the knees, and hold the ankle with the left hand and take it as far back as possible.
- Raise your right hand up to 45 degrees from the front and straighten it.
- Keep your head fixed and focused in the forward direction.
- Hold on to this position for 20-30 seconds and then slowly come to the starting position.
- Now repeat the same steps with your right leg. Practice this asana 2-6 times.
- This asana gives strength to your chest region, legs, ankles, and hip and stretches your shoulders, abdomen, groin, thorax, thighs.
- It helps to reduce extra fat from your body and increases your metabolism.
- It helps in improving balance and concentration and is a great stress buster.
- Natrajasana increases flexibility in your body.and prevent calcium deposition.
- Avoid practising Natrajasana if you suffer from severe back pain, heart problems, peptic ulcers, hernia, high blood pressure, colitis or vertigo.
- Practice this asana within a range of your strength and flexibility and avoid overstretching your body.
Dhanursana is one of the 12 basic Hatha yoga poses and the term Dhanurasana comes from the Sanskrit words Dhanur and Asana, where Dhanur means bow and asana means posture. Dhanurasana is very similar to Nyubjasana, which was a pose that originated in the 19th century Sritattvanidhi.
Steps to perform Dhanurasana
- Lie flat on your stomach with your feet slightly apart and place your arms on the side of your body.
- Now fold your knees and hold your ankles with your hands. Inhale and lift your chest off the ground and pull your legs up and stretch them out.
- Hold the pose for 12-15 seconds, as you concentrate on breathing. After getting comfortable in the pose, breathe long and deep.
- Exhale and release the pose after 12-15 seconds. Repeat for a few sets.
- It helps to strengthen the back as well as the abdominal muscles, neck, shoulder, arms, and leg muscles.
- This asana helps to stimulate the reproductive organs and adds flexibility to the back.
- Dhanurasana is also a great stress buster and it provides relief to the mind.
- If practised regularly it can relieve menstrual disorder and also helps people with renal disorders.
- It is an excellent yoga exercise for people with chest or breathing ailments like asthma, as it expands the chest and increases the breathing capacity of the lung.
- You should avoid doing this asana if you suffer from a hernia, high or low blood pressure, pain in the lower back, migraines, headaches, neck injuries, or if you have undergone an abdominal surgery recently.
- Pregnant women should refrain from performing this asana.
It is a seated asana in Hatha yoga and is an ancient yoga pose as it is mentioned in the Darshana Upanishad, which was written around the 4th century. The name Gomukhasana comes from the Sanskrit word Gau meaning cow, Mukh meaning face and asana meaning posture. The word Go also means light and hence this asana can also be understood as an asana that represents the divine light in the head.
Steps to perform Gomukhasana
- Relax the body and take 3 deep breaths. Now sit down on the ground with legs stretched and forward.
- Fold the left leg at the knee and sit on the left thigh with the help of your hands.
- Now lift your buttocks and bring your heels of both feet together and fold your left arm behind your back over the shoulder.
- Then fold the right arm behind the back under the right shoulder and bend your fingers of both the hands and clasp each other.
- Keep your head and back straight. Then repeat the procedure in the reverse position.
- This asana makes the leg muscles strong and elastic.
- If practiced daily, it can help in the treatment of sciatica.
- It helps in keeping the shoulder joints healthy, flexible and strong.
- It also reduces stress and anxiety and helps in remaining strong and healthy.
- Gomukhasana improves the function of kidneys by stimulating it, thus acting as a cure to diabetes.
- Individuals suffering from shoulder, knees or back pain should refrain from this asana.
- Avoid this asana in case of recent knee or hip injury or inflammation.
- Avoid this asana during pregnancy.
It is a reclining back-bending asana in Hatha yoga. It is composed of two words- Bhujanga and Asana, where the term Bhujanaga means snake or Cobra and “Asana” means posture or seat. It was first described in the 17th century in the text Gherand Samhita 2.42.43. In the 19th century Sritattvanidhi, the pose is called Sarpasana which also means Serpent pose. In this asana, the shape of the body resembles that of the snake, hence named the Cobra pose.
Steps to perform Bhujangasana
- To start this pose, lie down on the belly on the ground and keep your hands near the shoulders.
- Keep your legs close together and straighten up your arms slowly.
- Then raise your chest and keep your shoulders relaxed. Your head should be backward.
- Hold this position for some time and then come to the former position slowly.
- Practice this asana for at least 3-4 times for better results.
- Bhujangasana is a great asana to alleviate obesity.
- It provides relief from the disorders of the urinary bladder.
- It offers strength and agility to the body.
- It improves blood circulation and also cures the diseases of the liver.
- It also cures stomach disorders such as gas disorders, constipation, and indigestion.
- It strengthens the muscles of hands and makes the vertebral column flexible and thin.
- People suffering from hernia, headaches, back injuries, and recent abdominal surgeries should not perform this asana.
- Pregnant women should not perform this asana.
- Individuals with severe back problems relating to the spine should avoid this asana.
It is a combination of three Sanskrit words, Paschima, Uttana, and Asana, where Paschima stands for West or back of the body, Uttana means intense stretch and asana means posture or seat. The pose was first described in the 15th-century Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Chapter 1, Verses 30-31. It is a Seated Forward Bend pose that is beneficial for various abdominal disorders.
Steps to perform Paschimottansana
- In order to perform this asana, sit on the ground with legs forward.
- Then, hold the toes of your feet with the fingers of both hands.
- Breathe out slowly and try to touch your knees with your forehead.
- Then, breathe in slowly and raise your head upwards and come to the former position.
- For better results, perform this asana 10-12 times.
- It helps to cure all abdominal disorders.
- It is helpful in treating the gas problem and constipation.
- It helps to overcome menstrual disorders.
- It reduces obesity and helps in making vertebra flexible and healthy.
- It gives relief in backache, sciatica, and asthma.
- It is helpful in removing skin diseases and prevents the early ossification of bones.
- If an individual is suffering from asthma or any respiratory diseases should avoid performing this asana.
- People suffering from an enlarged liver or spleen should refrain from performing this asana.
- If you suffer from back or spinal problem then you should perform this asana under expert guidance.
- If you are suffering from hernia then also you should not perform this asana.
- Pregnant women should not perform this asana.
It is a seated twisting asana in Hatha Yoga. The name Ardhmatseyendrasana is a combination of three Sanskrit words, Ardh, Matsyendra, and Asana. Ardh means half, Matsyendra is one of the founders of hatha yoga, whose name, in turn, means “lord of the fishes”; and Asana means, posture or seat. This asana was first described in the 15th century Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā 1.26-7, and the 17th-century Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā 2.22-23.
Steps to perform Ardhmatseyendrasana
- Keep the left heel under the right thigh and cross the right leg over the left thigh.
- After that, hold the right toe with the left hand and turn your head and back to the right side. Maintain the final position with normal breathing.
- In this position move the trunk sideways and perform the same asana in the reverse position.
- Ardhmatseyendrasana is recommended in the yogic management of diabetes as it regulates the secretion of adrenaline and bile.
- It is a great asana for curing sinusitis, menstrual disorders, bronchitis, constipation, cervical spondylitis, and urinary tract disorders.
- It improves the stretchability of back muscles and keeps the gall bladder and prostate gland healthy.
- One should not perform this asana during pregnancy and menstruation.
- People who suffer from peptic ulcer, hernia, slipped disc, and sciatica should perform this asana under expert guidance.
- If you have severe spinal injuries then you should avoid performing this asana.
Padmasana, also known as Lotus Position is a cross-legged sitting asana that originated in meditative practices of ancient India. The name Padmasana comes from the Sanskrit words the Padma, which means lotus and asana, which means posture or seat. Padmasana is said to resemble a lotus, to encourage proper breathing and to foster physical stability. It is one of the oldest yoga poses and the 15th century Hatha Yoga Pradipika states that it destroys all diseases.
Steps to perform Padmasana
- Sit on the floor while keeping your spine perfectly erect and the legs stretched out.
- Now bend your right knee gently and place it over the left thigh. Make sure that your soles point upward while your heels remain close to the abdomen.
- Repeat the same using the other leg.
- After you have both your legs crossed perfectly and feet placed comfortably on the opposite thighs, place both your hands on the respective knees and sit straight while inhaling and exhaling.
- Hold this position for at least a few minutes before you release the body to the normal position.
- Padmasana helps in increasing the focus of mind and concentration.
- It prevents abdominal diseases and menstrual and urinary tract disorders.
- It increases the stretchability of the ankle and knees and strengthens the hip and knee joints of the female.
- It also aids in weight loss and helps attain a good posture.
- One should avoid performing this asana in case of the ankle and knee injury.
- If you have severe back pain then also you should not perform this asana.
- Avoid this asana if you are suffering from sciatica infections or weakness in the sciatic nerves.
Surya Namaskar or Sun salutation has a long history and the term Surya Namaskar comes from the Sanskrit words, Surya and Namaskar, where Surya stands for the Sun and the word Namaskar stand for greetings or salute. It first originated in the 17th century but the movements involved in the asana were not described clearly. In the 1920s, Raja Bhawanrao Shriniwasrao Pant Pratinidhi, of Aundh, popularized and named the yoga pose and described it in his 1928 book The Ten-Point Way to Health: Surya Namaskars.
Click here to know the complete history of Surya Namaskar.
Steps to perform Surya Namaskar
Surya Namaskar is a set of 12 yoga poses and in order to complete this asana, you need to follow these steps or asanas.
- Pranamasana or Prayer pose
Hastauttanasana or Raised arms pose
Hasta Padasana or Hand to foot pose
shwa Sanchalanasana or Equestrian pose
Dandasana or Stick pose
Ashtanga Namaskara or Salute with eight parts
Bhujangasana or Cobra Pose
Parvatasana or Mountain pose
Ashwa Sanchalanasana or Equestrian pose
Hasta Padasana or Hand to foot pose
Hastauttanasana or Raised Arms Pose
Tadasana or Standing Mountain pose
- All the asanas in Surya Namaskar help in improving muscle flexibility.
- Surya Namaskar improves digestion and aids in weight loss.
- It improves blood circulation to all parts of the body and increases energy and vitality.
- Surya Namaskar helps to keep you disease-free and healthy.
- Regular practice promotes balance in the body and strengthens the heart.
- This asana tones the digestive tract, spine, neck, shoulder, arms, hands, wrist, back and leg muscles, thereby promoting overall flexibility.
- It stimulates abdominal muscles, respiratory system, lymphatic system, and other internal organs.
- Surya Namaskar is also beneficial for skincare and hair care.
- Heart patients should perform this asana after consultation with their doctors.
- If you are suffering from back problems then you must practice this asana under your yoga teacher’s guidance.
- People having high blood pressure can avoid performing this asana.
- If you are an arthritis patient then you must perform it with caution.
- People suffering from hernia must refrain from practising Surya Namskar.
- If you have a severe wrist injury, you can avoid this yoga sequence.
- This asana should be avoided during pregnancy and menstruation.
Sarvangasana is also known as the “queen” or “mother” of all the asanas. It is described in the 14th century Śiva Saṃhitā 4.45-47, the 15th-century Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā 3.78-81, the 17th-century Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā 3.33-35, and other texts. The name Sarvangasana is a Sanskrit word which means the whole body asana.
Steps to perform Saravangasa
- Lie flat on your back and raise your legs slowly upward and bring it to a 90° angle.
- Bring the legs towards the head by raising the buttocks up and raise the legs, abdomen, and chest try to form a straight line.
- Place the palms on your back for support and place the chin against the chest.
- Try to maintain the pose up for 20-30 seconds or more.
- Slowly return back to the original position and perform this asana twice or thrice.
- This asana helps relieve lower back pain and strengthens the shoulders.
- Sarvangasana alleviates digestive disorders and boosts blood circulation.
- It is an excellent asana for eyesight and it also improves concentration.
- This asana nourishes the body muscles and improves body balance.
- It is also beneficial for asthma and treats insomnia and hypertension.
- It provides relief from varicose vein and stomach ulcers.
- People suffering from heart issues and high blood pressure should avoid this pose.
- Women must not perform this asana during pregnancy and menstruation.
- People who have weak internal organs like liver, kidney, etc. should not perform this asana.
- If you are suffering from spondylitis, throat or ear Infection then you should not perform this asana.
Balasana or Child’s pose is one of the simplest yet effective yoga poses and a similar pose appears in Niels Bukh‘s 1924 Primary Gymnastics. The term Bala in Balasana means a child and asana stands for seat or posture.
Steps to perform Balasana
- Kneel down on the floor with your knees, ankles, and toes touching the ground.
- Now, breathe out gently and lower your body in a forward direction towards your thighs.
- Then touch the floor by your forehead. Place your arms alongside your body with hands on the floor, palms facing up.
- Then gently press your chest on the thighs and relax your elbows completely.
- Remain in this position for some time and slowly come back to the normal position.
- This asana improves your digestion and opens up the posterior.
- It enhances blood circulation and energizes the body.
- Balasana strengthens the ligaments in the knees.
- It helps fight insomnia and effectively relaxes your mind.
- It stretches your ankles, shoulders, and arms.
- Women should perform this asana under expert guidance during pregnancy.
- Individuals suffering from knee and ankle injury should refrain from performing this asana.
Yoga for health complications
In this chapter we will cover how Yoga can be helpful in relieving major health complications. The major diseases we have covered are:
Obesity is a fatal health issue that involves the accumulation of body fat to an extent that it may have an adverse effect on health. It increases your risk of other diseases and health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain cancers. This problem is affecting the health of people all around the world and according to some studies, one out of three adults and one out of five children and teenagers are facing the problem of obesity.
Obesity is diagnosed when your body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher and there are a large number of factors that contribute to this serious medical condition.
There are a number of factors including genetic, behavioural, metabolic and hormonal that influence body weight. A person becomes obese if he takes in more calories than he burns through exercise and normal daily activities.
A sedentary lifestyle is one of the most common reasons for obesity. When you are outside your home you are more likely to consume diets that are too high in calories. And not doing any physical activity will lead to the storage of these calories as excess fat in your body. Lack of sleep, stress, and smoking, etc. are other common causes of obesity.
Yoga in treating Obesity
Yoga plays an important role in the treatment of obesity as it affects the body, internal organs, endocrine glands, mind, etc. Yoga postures are helpful in weight loss and can help improve the strength of the muscles. Obesity can be prevented as well as treated if you perform the following asanas regularly:
- Pada Hastasana
- Saral Hasta Bhujangasana
Along with Yogasanas Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation is a very effective remedy for obesity. You can see minor changes or improvements after 4 weeks of the Yogasanas but after 3 months you will see a major impact of yoga on your body.
You can avoid obesity by:
Exercising regularly- You need to get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity including running and walking a week to prevent weight gain.
Avoiding junk food- Focus on a healthy diet plant and eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and avoid foods that are high in calories.
Monitoring your weight- Keep a check on your weight gain. Monitoring your weight can help you detect small weight gains before they become big problems.
Sticking to your plan- Remaining consistent with your healthy-weight plan as much as possible increases your chances of long-term success.
Cervical spondylosis or cervical osteoarthritis is a medical condition caused by the wear and tear of bones and cartilage in the neck or cervical spine. In this condition, a person experiences chronic neck pain and this can also lead to disruption in normal day-to-day activities.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, cervical spondylosis is a common health problem that affects more than 85% of people above the age of 60.
Age and genetics are a major factor behind the cervical pain, however, it can be caused by other factors too. Due to a sedentary lifestyle, most youngsters fell prey to this serious health condition. Long working hours, lack of physical exercise and excessive stress leads to cervical pain in the long term. Obesity, slip-disk, the stress in the neck, sitting in an uncomfortable posture for longer periods, and spinal or neck injuries, are also some of the major reasons behind cervical pain.
Yoga in treating Cervical Pain
If you’re experiencing serious neck pain, consult a physician. For minor pain in the neck try the following yoga poses to relieve muscle tension.
- Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
- Ardha Matsyendrasana (Sitting Half-Spinal Twist)
- Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
- Marjariasana (Cat Pose)
- Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)
- Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
These yoga poses are a powerful remedy to the cervical pain and one can see the results after 5-6 weeks.
You can avoid cervical by:
- Always stand or sit in a good posture. Keep your shoulders in a straight line over your hips and your ears should remain directly over your shoulders.
- If you spend more time on the computer then you should take frequent breaks. Get up, move around and stretch your neck and shoulders.
- Do not tuck the phone between your ear and shoulder when you talk, rather use a headset or speakerphone.
- Quit smoking and sleep in a good position.
- Avoid carrying heavy bags with straps over your shoulder to prevent strain in the neck.
Back pain is a very common health problem that is affecting almost every individual today. It can be in the cervical, thoracic or lumbar region and is most common in the older adults aged 60 years or older. This problem is prevalent all around the world and as people get older, the chance of developing lower back pain increases, due to factors such as previous occupation and degenerative disk disease.
The major factors that contribute to low back pain (lumbar backache) include lumbar strain, nerve irritation, lumbar radiculopathy, bony encroachment, and conditions of the bone and joints.
Apart from that, sitting in one position for long hours, sitting in a wrong posture, lack of physical activities, smoking, bad personal health habits, and personal risk factors such as being overweight, lack of flexibility or undue stress on the back are some other causes of low back pain.
Yoga for Lower Back Pain
According to research published in July 2017 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, yoga may even help reduce the need for pain medication. Yoga poses that are beneficial in reducing lower back pain are as follows:
- Adho mukha svanasana
- Urdhva Uttanasana
A 10-year study with 700 participants found that just 12 minutes of yoga per day is enough to see improvements, at least when it comes to preventing osteoporosis and strengthening bones. Thus it can be said that yoga is an effective way to treat back pain and other related problems.
- Performing physical activity regularly can help ease inflammation and muscle tension.
- Quit smoking to lead a happy and healthy life.
- Sleep in a proper position to avoid back pain.
- Regular monitoring of your weight can also help you stay fit and healthy.
- Sit and stand in a correct posture and avoid wearing high heels.
- Be careful while lifting any heavyweight.
Migraine is an intense debilitating headache that often happens with nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. It can affect all age groups and can last from 4 to 72 hours. This type of headache generally involves only one side of the head, but in some cases, patients may have pain on both sides.
However, the specific cause of migraines is not known, but they seem to be related to changes in the brain as well as to genes that run in families. Various foods including red wines, aged cheeses, preservatives used in smoked meats, artificial sweeteners, chocolate, dairy products, alcoholic beverages, etc. can also trigger migraine headaches. Stress, Oversleeping, and exposure to strong stimuli such as bright lights, loud noises, or strong smells are also some other known causes of migraine.
Yoga for Migraine Relief
Apart from providing numerous health benefits, yoga can also help relieve migraine headaches. A 2014 study revealed that headache frequency and intensity was reduced in people who practised yoga in addition to their regular treatment regimen.
Specific yoga poses can target tension and stress, can help boost circulation and improve blood flow to your brain. This may reduce any pain or throbbing sensations that you might experience.
You can try these yoga poses to relieve your symptoms and balance your physical, mental, and emotional states.
- Balasana or Child’s Pose
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana or Bridge Pose
- Shavasana or Corpse Pose
- Adho mukha svanasana or Downward Facing Dog
You can try these poses during a migraine headache and can get better results if you add yoga to your daily routine.
There are other ways through which you can reduce your risk of migraines. These are as follows:
- Keep a watch on your diet. Avoid taking foods that trigger your symptoms.
- Avoid excessive exposure to the sun. Bright lights and sunshine can irritate your symptoms.
- Follow a good daily schedule. Sleep on time, eat proper foods and exercise daily.
Heavy physical activity, injury to a ligament, chronic condition like tendonitis, injuries such as sprains or strains, sitting in a constrained area or sitting on knees for a prolonged period, are some major causes of knee pain.
Yoga for Knee Pain Relief
In 2013 a research was carried out with 30 women who had knee osteoarthritis. Half of them were assigned to an 8-week yoga program and by the end of the study, they noticed a reduction in pain and symptoms and they had a better overall quality of life.
Here are some of the yoga poses that can help you relieve your knee pain:
- Utkatasana or Chair Pose
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana or Bridge Pose
- Padmasana or Lotus Pose
- Tadasana or Mountain Pose
- Virasana or Hero Pose
Various studies show that people with knee pain can get some relief by practising yoga a few times a week.
However, one must be careful while performing some of the asanas as you can get injuries if you overstretch your legs or arms. If you’re in a yoga studio, let your teacher know about any injuries or concerns before class starts, says Steven Cheng, a certified yoga instructor.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Do not kneel on hard surfaces without knee pads or a cushion
- Wear comfortable, well-fitted, and stable shoes
- Exercise regularly and carefully
Diabetes is a serious life-long condition in which pancreas fails to make insulin, or the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces. When the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin or use it effectively the glucose levels in the blood increase (known as hyperglycaemia). This results in damage to the body and failure of various organs and tissues.
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the most common forms of the disease that affect most people today. Gestational diabetes is another form of the disease which occurs during pregnancy, as well as other forms. Genes and family history, overweight, obesity, physical inactivity, insulin resistance, certain medicines, and hormonal diseases trigger diabetes.
Yoga for Diabetes
Yoga poses are a promising option in the treatment and prevention of diabetes, with data from several studies suggesting that yoga and other mind-body therapies can reduce stress-related hyperglycemia and have a positive effect on blood glucose control.
A study performed by Dr Venugopal Vijayakumar in India showed that there were visible changes seen in people with diabetes after just 10 days of regular yoga practice. His research also found that yoga helped to reduce stress hormones and inflammation, which reduces insulin resistance. He found that people with diabetes who practice yoga regularly would find it extremely beneficial.
Some of the yoga poses that can help in the treatment and prevention of diabetes are as mentioned below:
- Paschimottanasana or Seated Forward Bend
- Viparita Karani or legs up the wall pose
- Supta Baddha Konasana or Reclining bound angle pose
- Sarvangasana or Shoulderstand
- Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana or Upward-Facing Dog Pose
- Dhanurasana or Bow Pose
- Balasana or Child’s Pose
Experts suggest that as little as 10 minutes of the yoga intervention combined with standard medical care could improve metabolic health significantly.
- Add plenty of fiber to your diet
- Consume whole grains
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol
- Exercise regularly
Heart disease or problems refers to conditions that involve the heart, its vessels, muscles, valves, or internal electric pathways responsible for muscular contraction. Some of the common heart disease conditions include:
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart failure
- Heart valve disease
- Damage to all or part of the heart, damage to the coronary arteries, or a poor supply of nutrients and oxygen to the organ are some of the major causes of heart problems.
- Heart disease, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, is genetic.
- Congenital heart defects are a type of birth defect that can occur before a person is born.
- Other factors that increase the risk of heart problems are high blood pressure and cholesterol, smoking, overweight and obesity, diabetes, family history, a diet of junk food, age, etc.
Yoga for Heart Problems
A review of yoga and cardiovascular disease published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology dictates that yoga may aid in reducing the risk of heart disease as much as conventional exercises, such as brisk walking. (28)
Yoga poses you can try to tackle heart problems are as follows:
Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Vrikshasana (Tree pose)
Utthita Hastapadasana (Extended hands and feet pose)
Trikonasana (Triangle pose)
Marjariasana (Cat pose)
Adho Mukho Svanasana (Downward facing dog pose)
Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose)
Bhujangasana (Cobra pose)
Dhanurasana (Bow pose)
Ardha Matsyendrasana (Sitting half spinal twist pose)
Paschimottanasana (Two-legged forward bend pose)
Salamba Sarvangasana (Half shoulder stand pose)
Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose) and many others
Practising yoga regularly gently stretches and exercises muscles. Deep breathing can help with lowering blood pressure. Meditation can keep the mind calm and quiet the nervous system and ease stress.
- Control your blood pressure
- Keep your cholesterol and triglyceride levels under control
- Stay at a healthy weight.
- Eat a healthy diet
- Get regular exercise
- Don’t smoke
- Manage stress
- Make sure that you get enough sleep
- Manage diabetes
It is a rare type of inflammatory arthritis that affects an individual’s back or spine. The condition results in inflammation of the vertebrae and can lead to severe and chronic pain and discomfort. Ankylosing spondylitis also impacts other joints such as the hips, shoulders, ribs, feet and knees.
However, no specific cause is known for ankylosing spondylitis but genes and hereditary factors play a role in the development of the condition.
Yoga for Spondylitis
Yoga poses that can help you deal with the pain are:
- Balasana ( Child’s Pose)
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
- Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
- Tadasana ( Mountain Pose)
- Marjariasana (Cat Pose)
- Bitilasana ( Cow Pose)
- Dandasana (Staff Pose)
Performing a single yoga pose just for one or two days probably won’t do much to relieve your pain. Doing a series of yoga poses daily may provide you with relief.
Avoid alcohol to help keep bones strong
Get plenty of Calcium and Vitamin D
Remain active to prevent stiffness
Wear comfortable, stable, and well-fitted shoes.
Practice good posture to keep your spine flexible
Quit smoking to help reduce the risk of syndesmophytes
Get proper sleep to reduce inflammation
Lack of concentration
Difficulty in concentration is a common issue that most people face today. Our fast-paced lives and the pressure to remain ahead has obliterated our health and happiness. Lack of concentration is a problem that needs to be identified and dealt with.
Tiredness, stress, emotional stress, brain injury, pregnancy, menopause, anxiety, ADHD, hypothyroidism, bipolar disorder, genetics, hormonal changes, poor diet, smoking, etc. are some of the reasons that make it difficult for a person to concentrate.
Yoga for ADHD
Many studies have shown the benefits of yoga in improving memory, IQ, and concentration. Yoga is all about linking breath with motion and the practice itself is centered on concentration. It allows us to focus on the breath, the alignment, and the movement.
Here are some of the yoga poses that can help you improve concentration:
- Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
- Vrikshasana (Tree Pose)
- Garudasana (Eagle Pose)
- Natarajasana (Dancer Pose)
- Bakasana (Crane Pose)
- Ustrasana (Camel Pose)
- Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
If you practice these asanas regularly you can see results within 20 days of the practice.
- Doing regular brain exercises including Puzzles, Intelligence Games, etc. has a very strong impact on concentration enhancement.
- Healthy eating habits aids in improving concentration.
- Having a sound sleep reduces the attention deficit factors.
- Sports and other forms of physical activities improve an individual’s ability to focus.
- Doing only one thing at a time also makes it easy to concentrate.