Enjoy the benefits of yoga because yoga is for EVERYONE!
Yoga aims to develop endurance, balance, strength and align the body correctly. Not only does yoga help to improve your physical wellbeing..but also your mental well being. Please check with your doctor before starting any practice, especially if you have prior health issue.
Yoga: A Gem for Women - Yogasanas - Techniques and Effects
The next sections go through the various classifications of asanas - Geeta titles the sections as standing, forward bends, sitting and supine, inverted, abdominal and lumbar, twists, backbends, yoga kurunta, pregnancy and advanced.
Over the next few blogs I will pick a few asana from each section of Geeta's book and follow the instructions given and perform the asana. My asana and photos are still works in progress :).
In the first section on Standing Asanas Geeta writes that the "legs need to be trained to make them firm and steady. Without a firm foundation of strong legs and feet, the brain, which is the seat of intelligence, cannot be held in correct alignment with the spine. Hence the standing poses are introduced first."
To begin - Tadasana or Samasthiti
Geeta writes this is the simplest and the most basic postures for Yogasana practice. Tadasana means steady and erect like a mountain.
The intelligence and study of the structure of the body even before it was mainstream that Mr. Iyengar and the Iyengar's have brought to the body, breath and mind is amazing.
For effects Geeta writes that before attempting to balance on the head, it is essential to stand erect on one's feet. Most people do not know how to stand. Some stand with knees bent, others protrude the abdomen, while others throw the weight of the body on one foot or the other, or have the feet at an angle. All these standing defects tell upon the spinal column which in turn affects the mind. So for an alert body and alert mind and brain, Tadasana is very useful.
1. Stand erect with the feet together and the big toes and the heels touching. See that the weight of the body is neither on the heels nor on the toes but in the centre of the arches.
2. Do not tighten the toes, but stretch them from the bottom and keep them relaxed. (This is the position of the toes in all standing postures.)
3. Keep the ankles in line with each other.
4. Tighten the knees, pull the kneecaps upwards and tighten the quadriceps. Keep the shinbones in line with the thighbones. Breathe normally.
5. Compress the hips and tighten the buttocks.
6. Keep the spine erect, raise the sternum, expand the chest. Do not protrude the abdomen but lift it upwards.
7. Keep the neck erect and the head straight; do not tilt forwards or backwards. Look straight ahead.
8. Keep the arms by the sides of the body, extending downwards and keep the palms facing the thighs, in line with them. Do not lift the shoulders. keep the fingers together.
9. Stand still for 20 to 30 seconds and breathe normally.
I know 2016 ended a few months ago but having just finished up those taxes I was reminded of how busy the past year had been. So, I thought I'd share a few "fun" facts from this past year of teaching yoga, but also to show how seriously I take teaching yoga the best I can each and every class.
I really do love sharing the benefits of yoga not only in class but in writing this blog also. I spend many hours reading and writing for this blog, classes and workshops. This helps me investigate in my own personal yoga practice and to put what I have read(intellectual) into my body(theoretical).
For yoga teacher training I travelled 11,730 km in 2016, taking part in about 100 training hours.
This included trips to British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and within Saskatchewan. Yearly teacher training is an important aspect of my Iyengar Certification. Even after 14 years since I began teaching I am still amazed at how new and refreshing my practice can be and I learn new things about myself and hopefully how to share the teachings better.
For yoga classes that I taught I travelled 13,680 km in 2016, teaching about 160 classes - Mostly back and forth to Prince Albert for classes and workshops with a few classes in Saskatoon and other places.
I have been fortunate in the year to be able to teach classes and workshops at Yoga Sublime Studio in Prince Albert. The studio owner - Tammy Fulton is very open to new class ideas and workshops so I have been able to try out a few different class ideas.
Some classes I teach or have taught are Iyengar Flow, Basic/Beginner, Intermediate/All Levels, Gentle/Restorative, A.M. Eye Opener, Senior/Modified and Noon yoga.
Some workshops have included - Calm the Breath series, Women's Health series, Building a Home Yoga Practice and Timed Yoga Practice
I have also been able to teach noon yoga classes at the forest centre and some youth classes in Prince Albert.
I've travelled to Saskatoon to teach - Restore from the Core at JNS Yoga studio.
A great studio if you are in Saskatoon. The website is: http://www.jnsyoga.com/
I was also fortunate to be invited up to Elk Ridge resort in 2016 to teach a few sessions for the annual Indigo Yoga retreat. Indigo Yoga Co. owners Rhonda and Roxanne have been organizing this retreat for about 9 years now. Check out their website at: http://indigoyogaco.ca/
And in all these travels I am also grateful and fortunate to not always have to travel far as I taught youth and adult classes in Christopher Lake.
In each journey I take time to prepare for each class in hopes to share the light of yoga to the best of my understanding with those that attend classes. I am always open to feedback and suggestions as yoga is for everyone and making yoga accessible to all is something I strive to do.
I also know that in each journey and preparation time I need to thank my family for their support of my endeavors as well as friends and students that come to classes.
I am sending out much gratitude to you all.
Yoga: A Gem for Women: Classification, Table and Course of Study
Geeta now gives a very "practical method of training oneself in asana, pranayama, and dhyana where one learns to discipline the body and the mind to acquire control over oneself."
She writes, "the learning and practicing of any subject require a method; so also with Yoga. The physical body, the sense organs, the emotions, the mind, and the consciousness are trained slowly and gradually in Astanga Yoga."
Geeta has laid out very concisely a classification of asana that is based on the anatomical structure of the body the effects they will have on the body and mind.
She writes, "In each section, as one progresses, one gains physical firmness, the patience to persevere and sustain the practice; one disciplines the mind, develops endurance, will power, and pin-pointed attention to experience divinity within."
Geeta has broken the asana and pranayama into XI sections and then also given a course study that should take at a minimum three years, working through the elementary, intermediate and advanced courses. Each course is even broken down into daily practices.
The different groups of asanas develop firmness, fitness, pliability, strength, poise, balance, alertness, and mental ease. Geeta also gives a section for pregnant women. It is very well laid out and perfect for someone at any level to use as the practice of yoga cannot be bound by time, but based on the practitioners approach on the subject and intensity of efforts.
The next section moves into technical details of each of the asanas. It may take time and repeated effort to master the asana, but Geeta tells us that, "gradually the body will become habituated to carry them out naturally."
Yoga: A Gem for Women - Hints and Suggestions for the Practice of Asanas
Geeta has given many tips and suggestions on the practice of yoga. She now is giving more information regarding the practice of asana, the 3rd limb in Patanjali's yoga sutras.
Some general hints regarding time to practice, age, hygiene, food, place, clothing, etc. are given in part 1.
A few tips include:
-find a place that is airy and free of insects and noise.
-clothing should not be to tight or too loose
-practice on an empty stomach and eat a balanced diet, in moderation
-early morning is the ideal time but asana can be practiced at other times.
-practice savasana at the end. It can be practiced alone during the day for relaxation.
-pause between asana may vary but don't allow pause to be too great or body/mind may become dull
-keep facial muscles relaxed
-do not hold the breath
Geeta gives information regarding some medical conditions also.
Part II - Special Hints
In this section more information and some postures to help is given regarding practice not just during menstruation, but for different menstrual disorders. Geeta also advises on some helpful asana and pranayama during pregnancy and delivery - and for later in life menopause.
I would just be copying the book to give all the information, so I hope you will read this section. If you incorporate some of the sequences into your cycle spend time to really notice subtle changes to mind, body and breath.
Yoga: A Gem for Women - Yoga Sadhana - Method of Practice and Prerequisites
In this next chapter Geeta gives many helpful prerequisites before your practice begins.
She begins with Mental Attitude.
One must understand that Yama and Niyama (universal and individual codes of conduct) come first. Geeta writes, "the practice of asana and pranayama without these two prerequisites becomes merely a physical exercise and not a psychosomatic subject." and that, "Without ethical discipline practice becomes meaningless, according to yoga texts."
Geeta writes how yama-niyama and asana-pranayama are like a railway track, running parallel.
Geeta advises us that we need not be afraid of this discipline as being impossible.
With the cultivation of good habits and practice it comes. No knowledge is gained instantly.
Geeta also reminds us that yoga is not a hobby, not mere entertainment, but should be approached "seriously, with faith, enthusiasm, determination, keenness, courage, will and dedication."
This chapter, as all the others is full of helpful tips and hints and worth reading over.
Geeta writes about intelligence, ego and the mind. One needs some humility in practice as an inflated ego can be a downfall in Yoga.
Geeta highlights about 30 tips or prerequisites in this chapter - here are just a few:
- learn to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy pain.
- do not move with an aggressive mind or by hardening the muscles
-aim at the quality of the asana, not the quantity
-be alert and watchful in every limb, as the entire body should be responsive to the asana
So through repetition comes understanding of the meaning and from there comes realization.
Geeta describes this as Karma, Jnana and Bhakti all merging into One.
As we move into "Part Two - Practice" of A Gem for Women, the next chapter is called Know Your Body. It is surprizing how little we often do know about our own bodies, often taking for granted that it will just do it's thing as we go about our day to day lives. We are fortunate that for the most part it does do this. But, like any machine with many systems it needs to be maintained and tuned. This requires knowledge of not only each part, but how the parts interact with others and how each system interacts as a whole.
This requires spending time with ourselves, looking inward and becoming more and more aware of even the most subtle changes. Foods that do or don't agree with us, sounds, shows, people...
It is something I wish I had started doing in my teens. I realize now many things I put off and didn't listen to have manifested in imbalances in the body and mind that I am now learning how to deal with.
Geeta writes about how, according to Samkhya Yoga Philosophy the human body is made up of 25 components. These 25 components are affected by the action of the gunas (sattva, rajas and tamas) - light, action and inertia. The 25 components include the individual soul (purusa), nature (prakrti), intellect (buddhi), ego (ahamkara), mind (manas), 5 subtle elements (smell, touch, sound, taste, sight), 5 gross elements (earth, water, fire, air, ether), 5 sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin), 5 organs of action (feet, hands, speech, organs of generation and excretion).
Geeta writes also about the body in terms of Ayurveda in balancing the body. The main idea I took away from the ancient systems was that equilibrium must be maintained or disease sets in. The whole being from physical to spiritual must be balanced.
This chapter gives so much information regarding the workings of the body from the gross body to the internal body that it is important to read. It is not so in depth that one won't understand, but makes clear how important the health of each cell is.
Geeta ends the chapter with, "When the body has been so magnificently and artistically created by God, it is only fitting that we should maintain it in good health and harmony by the most excellent and artistic science of Yoga."
Yoga: A Gem for Women - Three Milestones in a Women's Life
This last chapter before Part Two on Practice discusses the three important stages in a women's life.
Youth, middle age and old age - with youth is the beginning of menstruation, then pregnancy and delivery and lastly menopause as a woman reaches old age. It is another wonderful chapter to read as gives many helpful clues for women at every stage of her life.
Geeta writes, each milestone can have trying periods in a woman's life affecting her body and mind.
Many physical changes occur in a woman as they reach puberty so one needs to maintain a healthy body so the organs and glands can all function properly.
There is also an emotional shift during this time so yoga can help not just physically, but also to maintain a calm and balanced mind.
Geeta gives information about the many menstrual disorders that a woman may suffer from throughout her life. Yogic practice is a great help here and from other works I know Geeta has many recommendations to help women experiencing disruptions or problems with their menstrual cycles.
Pregnancy is a natural stage in many women's lives. Geeta writes that it is essential for a pregnant woman to maintain her physical and mental well-being both for her sake and the sake of the child within. Although caution must be practiced Geeta gives much great information on the benefits of yoga pre, during and post pregnancy.
Menopause is the last stage, occurring anywhere from 40-50 years old. As the ovaries stop functioning there is many changes again to a woman's life as menstruation ends. Once again this is both physical and physiological.
Geeta gives us hope - she writes, "Yoga is a gift for old age. One who takes to Yoga when old gains not only health and happiness but also freshness of mind, since yoga gives one a bright outlook on life.."
"How useful Yoga is can only be understood by practicing it."
In Chapter VI, Geeta entitles the chapter as, "Is Yoga Ideal for Women?"
You may wonder how this chapter differs from when she asked in Chapter IV "if women were eligible for yoga? "
Let's find out...:)
But I'm sure you've already guessed the answer!
'Yoga", Geeta writes, "helps woman to fulfil her tasks as well as to maintain her completion, lustre, and femininity. She no longer needs cosmetics, as proper circulation makes her skin glow. It is no exaggeration to say that yogic practices are ideally designed to help her in all conditions and circumstances of her daily life."
Geeta describes how yoga is an ideal exercise because it exercises the entire body and brings lightness to the body, ability to work and resistance from disease.
Yoga improves respiratory, circulatory, digestive, nervous, glandular, genito-urinary and eliminatory systems.
Geeta writes about the 5 sheaths or layers, which are Annamaya kosa (outer sheath), Pranamaya kosa (physiological body), Manomaya kosa(psychological body), Vijnanamaya kosa (intellectual sheath) and Anandamaya kosa (spiritual body and innermost sheath).
The sheath, like the 8 petals of yoga are all interdependent and interpenetrating. Asana and Pranayama brings total attention to all the sheaths from the physical to the spiritual - and vice versa.
Geeta writes much more very interesting and inspiring things about yoga in this chapter.
I love how she describes it as a special gift. I think sometimes we don't always remember this, but it is a gift that I feel very lucky to have found and incorporated into my life.
I hope you will give yourself the gift of yoga today!
Try a few poses like sirsasana, sarvangasana, halasana or setubandha sarvangasana - Geeta writes these poses supply fresh blood to the brain and keeps it alert, active and at the same time in a restful state.