Yoga 101

"When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all
your thoughts break their bonds; your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness
expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world                                                                                                                                                                                                                             where dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater
person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be."

The Indian sage Patanjali is believed to have collated the practice of yoga into the Yoga Sutra an estimated 1,700 years ago.  The Sutra is a collection of 195 statements that serves as a philosophical guidebook for most of the yoga that is practiced today. It also outlines the eight limbs of yoga: the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and samadhi (maintaining the concentration).  

These scriptures provide a framework for spiritual growth and mastery over the physical and mental body but yoga is not a religion. Some yoga teachers interweave other philosophies such as Hinduism or Buddhism, but it is not necessary to study those paths to practice or study yoga. 

The word Yoga means to yoke to the divine.  I choose to yoke to the Living God, Jesus, so my practice and my faith do not have to be separate.  I use the Holy Bible as my framework for spiritual growth.

The Asanas (postures) are secondary to the breath and focus of the mind.  Asanas are not just gymnastic poses but work to cleanse the organs of toxins, stimulate proper balance of our hormones, tone our body, sharpen our mind and make us fit in mind, body and spirit.   It is a meditative experience which promotes inner calmness and tranquility.  Simply doing postures creates a competitive atmosphere and is counterproductive to the true purpose of yoga.  Traditional exercises are goal oriented; yoga is a process.  Weight training makes you strong by breaking down the muscles and rebuilding them but yoga increases strength by toning the muscles. 

Every body is created differently and each posture will look different on every body.

Each movement is paired with nostril breath to not only help with focus and balance but also to bring increased oxygen rich blood into tight places within the body.   Drishti or Gaze may be cued throughout class to also assist with focus and balance.   An awareness of engaging Bandhas or Locks in the abdomen (Uddiyana), perineum (Mula) and chin (Jalandhara) is cued to help control energy and power.   

There is a scientific reason why people not only feel better physically but also mentally after a yoga class: the neurotransmitter in our nervous system called GABA which inhibits nerve transmission and has a calming effect on our brain is often low or missing in people with depression, anxiety disorders and other conditions including addiction.  Certain drugs and alcohol are known to increase GABA temporarily but they also come with side effects.   The faster and more sustainable solution to increasing GABA is deep breathing.  Christopher Bergland on Feb 02, 2013 in The Athlete's Way.

Many people think that they need to be flexible to begin yoga, but that’s a little bit like thinking that you need to be able to play tennis in order to take tennis lessons. Come as you are and you will find that the yoga practice will help you become more flexible and less prone to injury.  It is a good idea to come to class well hydrated and at least 2-3 hours after a meal.

Deep and complete breathing through the nostrils is not only the most efficient way to breathe but the nose also cleanses the air and warms it before it enters the lungs.   There are many types of breathing techniques but the most common is Sama Vritti; this is nostril breathing where the inhale originates from the belly and fills up the lungs and the exhale is released to the same count from the lungs first and then out the belly.  This breath serves to calm the mind and create vibrations in the diaphragm which massage the internal organs

Most classes start by setting a nonjudgmental and Sacred Space on our mats
•    Then we establish the breath and set a personal intention for our practice to Ignite the Spirit
•    Next we perform variations of Sun A and Sun B (postures or asanas) that build in intensity to move the body in all 6 planes to Light the Fire within
•    Next we use longer held yang postures to Stoke the Fire and increase strength
•    Next we Utilize the Fire by using longer held yin postures (grounded on the mat) that loosen and stretch the connective tissues around our joints
•    Finally, we Seal our Practice with Surrender in Savasana

There are 6 Fundamental Types of Poses
Forward Bends
Back Bends

Types of Yoga:
Hatha (Ha-Sun Tha-Moon) – slow and gentle postures
Vinyasa – flows that go from pose to pose with breathe in creative and changing sequences
Ashtanga – original yoga which synchronizes breath with a progressive set of postures that are held
         for 5 breaths and that do not change
Yin – grounded postures which are held for up to 5 minutes to work through deep tissue
Restorative – grounded postures aided by lots of props to enhance relaxation

Common Yoga Terms
Yoga - to yoke the  mind, body and spirit to the divine (your God).
Asana -  yoga posture.
Ujjay or victorious breath - is used to produce heat in the body during a vinyasa type class.  It is nostril breathing where the back of the throat is constricted to produce a sound that may sound like the ocean or Darth Vader.   
Namaste - “I bow to you”; a word used at the beginning and/or end of class is a common greeting in India that shows respect to another and is accompanied with the hands in anjali mudra (palms together at the heart).
Savasana -  corpse pose (death or end of the practice); final relaxation; typically performed at the end of practice.
Prana - life energy; chi.
Pranayama - breath control; breathing exercises.
Drishti - gazing point used during asana practice.
Bandha -  internal lock; used for controlling the energy within the body during yoga practice. Mula Bandha, contraction of the perineum. Uddiyana bandha, contraction of the abdomen into the rib cage. Jalandhara Bandha, tucking the chin close to the chest.
Intention - is a prayer, dedication, hope, or wish. By practicing intention in yoga, we learn to live a more intentional life, thus allowing us to live to our full potential.


Hanan Palz