Yoga - An Introduction to Asana, Pranayama & Meditation
Yoga found it’s way into my life while I was in high school. By the time I graduated I was waking up at 5:30 am to go to Meg’s morning Hatha Yoga before school started. During my university years, it became the balance to my life and a way of exploring parts of me the classroom didn’t. Since then I have been able to make my way to India and continue studies in Rishikesh.
It wasn’t until I was in India that I learned the philosophy and depth of practice that is yoga. To explain better I will use words from Dr. Ishvar V. Basavaraddi, Director of Morarju Desai National Institute of Yoga — "Yoga does not adhere to any particular religion, belief system or community; it has always been approached as a technology for inner wellbeing…The word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’, meaning ‘to join’ or ‘to yoke’ or ‘to unite’. As per Yogic scriptures the practice of Yoga leads to the union of individual consciousness with that of the Universal Consciousness, indicating a perfect harmony between the mind and body, Man, and Nature.”
Atha yoga-anushasanam is the first line of Patajali’s yoga sutras and says that Yoga is the here and now. We are continually breathing, continually in asana, or posture, and so it is through a commitment to oneself and discipline that we can choose to know ourselves. This is a challenge and it is a path that can bring depth into one’s life.
“The process begins with the body, then the breath, the mind, and the inner self.” It is through our physical practice that we can ready the body and mind for meditation.
Asana meaning pose or posture, is a continuing and ever-changing state. Yoga uses breath and asana as a physical practice to open, strengthen and connect the body to it’s mind. Many postures are well known as Downward Facing Dog, Cat, Cow, Happy Baby, etc.
Pranayama - is breath control, “prana,” meaning breath and “ayama” is control. There are many practices through which we can slow down our breath and tune into it. Breathing in and out evenly has shown to have more than just a calming affect, but can be the gateway to soothing interpersonal connection.
Meditation - and finally, meditation is the ultimate practice. Taking just a few minutes a day to meditate can have a profound impact on our daily lives and its balance, especially emotionally. There are many forms of meditation and many topics that one can focus on. If you find that you have too much going on and are overwhelmed or even bored in this type of stillness, I see this in myself when my “brain is buzzing,” the practice of asana and breath (moving flow of postures while aware of breathing) is a place to also bring back balance and may be all that we need.
*Habits are easiest formed when added on to an existing habit. If you have something that you do every morning and/or that you can add 10 minutes to then I challenge you to add asana, pranayama and meditation to your day. Meaning if you get up and immediately get dressed, or drink coffee, or brush your teeth, finding a space in your morning routine can help to making the habit stick.
For a total of 10 minutes here is pranyama, asana, meditation template:
Pranayama (2-3 minutes)
In a seated position, spine straight, crown of head extending up, bring your right thumb to your right nostril and inhale for 5 counts, hold for 5 counts, exhale for 5 counts, switch to forefinger on left nostril and inhale through right nostril for 5 counts, hold for 5 counts, exhale for 5 counts. That is one completed cycle, complete 5 cycles.
Asana (5 Minutes)
- Starting in stating position (Tedasana) with feet under your hips, hips neutral, shoulders over hips, hands open and faced forward, head level.
Inhale, bring your hands up and over, arms straight, to palms touching.
Exhale, bring palms to chest, and continue down until hands are on the floor or as far as they can go.
Exhale, grab opposite elbows and let your body sway side to side.
Give yourself a couple breaths in this posture.
Inhale and as you exhale, bring your hands to the ground, step both feet back to a high plank.
Inhale bring your knees to the floor, your hands should be under your shoulders and your knees should be under your hips. Breathe out in a flat, neutral spine.
Inhale, begin arching your back towards the ground starting from your tailbone all the way to your neck and end with your head looking up, with stomach relaxed and full of breath while abs hug your spine. (Cow)
Exhale, coming back to neutral spine and begin rounding your spine up chin to chest and belly button pulled into spine. (Cat)
Continue with a few Cat/Cows
Inhale bring yourself to a seated position by sitting your bottom back or bringing your knees to chest and finding a seat.
Lay feet straight in front of you, inhale and bend your right leg, grabbing the outside of your right foot with your right hand, exhale, straighten leg, inhale, bend leg and bring your knee towards or to your armpit, exhale, straighten, and repeat for 4 full inhalations and exhalations on each leg.
Then find a seated position.
Meditation (2-3 minutes)
Sit quietly, in a comfortable but balanced posture. Whether you sit crossed-legged on a cushion or conventionally on a chair, try to keep your back straight, yet without being tense. Rest your hands on you knees or thighs or in your lap, keep your eyes lightly gazing in the space in front of you, breath naturally. Watch your mind, the coming and going of thoughts. At first it might seem that instead of diminishing, thoughts rush through your mind like a waterfall. Just watch them rising and let them come and go, without trying to stop them but without adding to them either.
Take a moment at the end of the practice to savour the warmth and joy that results from a calmer mind.
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Basavaraddi, Dr. Ishvar V. “MEA: Search Result.” Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, 23 Apr. 2015, www.mea.gov.in/search-result.htm?25096%2FYoga%3A_su_origen%2C_historia_y_desarrollo.