The Sun Salutation

 The Sun Salutation Images

 

The Sun Salutation is a flowing sequence of postures which gets your heart pumping, increases blood circulation, assists and improves the lymphatic and immune system. It provides the body with a complete thorough work out. The postures flow from one into another with use of the breath (See the diagram above). This generates heat in the body which acts as a detox to cleanse the entire body system. The focus on breath awareness also helps to detox the mind. This sequence can also be slowed down and turned into a moving meditation by holding each pose e.g. for a count of three breaths in and out. Performed first thing in the morning it can really help set you up for the day.

Benefits of the Sun Salutation:

  • (Diagram 1) Tadasana helps to ground you, allowing you to build correct core and body alignment, increases body awareness and allows you to find your inner strength thereby centering you.
  • (Diagram 2) Back bends increase flexibility in the spine works the abdomen, opens the chest and improves lung capacity. Back bends also help to lift your mood and can help with mild depression.
  • (Diagram 3) Forward bends brings length into your spine, stretches the hamstrings, calves and hips, allows inner focus and soothes the mind.
  • (Diagram 4) Lunges can improve your athletic performance by working into the glutes, building strength in the quadriceps and also works into the hips, creating greater flexibility, strength and stamina.
  • (Diagram 5) Plank works the muscles in your arms, shoulders, chest and abdomen. It is a weight bearing exercise which helps to prevent osteopenia or osteoporosis.
  • (Diagram 6) Knee, chest and chin or Chaturanga Dandasana . For beginners’ knee, chest and chin to the floor is a more gentle approach. This pose increases flexibility in the spine and neck and opens the chest by stretching the pectoralis muscles. It is also weight bearing and helps to strengthen the arms, shoulders, legs, abdomen and back.
  • (Diagram 7) Cobra stretches your upper body, chest, lungs, abdomen, shoulders and it works into the glutes. As it a back bend it can lift your spirit and overall mood. As it opens the chest area it helps to improve breathing.
  • (Diagram 8) Downward-facing dog is an inversion. Inversions help to calm the mind and helps relieve stress and mild depression. It stretches the entire body – hands, shoulders, spine, hamstrings, calves and feet. As it is also weight bearing it helps to prevent osteopenia or osteoporosis. It also helps to relieve headache, insomnia, back ache and fatigue.

Practice:
Sun salutations can also be adapted with the added challenge of lunges, side angle stretch, warrior sequence, side plank etc. , being included. All these poses stretch the body, strengthen and bring it back into balance. It also helps to expand a personal yoga practice as you can add and take from the sequence to suit your own personal time and needs.

Relaxation Techniques – Flight of an Eagle

Eagle_flight

This is one of my own personal favorite relaxations.  The Eagle Spirit Symbolizes: Strength, Courage, Wisdom, Prestige, Spirit, Balance, Healing, Faith, Meditation, and Connection with Higher Power, Freedom, Awareness, Perspective, and Insight.  If caught in bad weather he will chose to fly above it.  The eagle represents endurance and strength for me, qualities we as humans possess but often lack the belief in ourselves and our ability to use them.  So for this relaxation focus on the qualities you wish to strengthen within yourself.

Setting up:

  • Find a warm comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed.
  • Light some candles.
  • Light some incense.
  • Play some soft gentle music.
  • Lie down, wrap yourself in a blanket make yourself as comfortable as possible and place an eye bag upon your eyes.

Lead into relaxation: (this is important as it eases tension from your body)

  • Allow your legs to be hip distance apart with ankles in and toes plopping out to the side.
  • Become aware of your right leg, from the hip right down to the tips of your toes, raise it about an inch or two off the floor, tense all the muscles before gently allowing the leg to drop back down and relax.  Repeat for the left side.
  • Bring your awareness into your buttocks, squeeze tightly together, lift your hips a little and hold, before gently releasing and allowing them back down onto the mat and relaxing.
  • Consciously relax your lower back, belly, upper back, upper chest, relax your shoulders move them down and away from your ears and RELAX.  Allow these areas to grow heavy towards the earth and just release any tension or tightness.
  • Become aware of your right arm, raise it an inch or so off the floor, make a fist, and tense your whole arm before gently letting the tension go and releasing your arm back to the floor.  Repeat for the left side.  Allow your hands and fingers to relax.
  • Squeeze all the muscles in your face up tight, then release, relax and let go.  Allow your eyes to soften, relax your temples and forehead.  Become aware of any gripping in your jaw and relax by moving your jaw from side to side.  Allow your tongue to rest on your lower palate and relax your entire face, ears and head.
  • Allow gravity embrace you.  Feel your weight pulling you deeper and deeper into relaxation.  Give yourself permission to travel deeper into relaxation and allow your body to melt towards the floor.
  • Allow your mind to settle and become still.  Then gently bring your awareness to your breath.  Become aware of your own natural rhythm as you gentle breathe in and out.  Allow your mind to become still and calm as you gently come back into harmony with yourself.  BREATHE….. 

Visualization:

  • Now I invite you to visualize yourself as an Eagle perched high up on the side of a mountain.  Visualize yourself in great detail, the colours of your wings, the mountain you are perched upon, the area around you and beneath you.
  • Give yourself permission to experience the strength, confidence, grace and poise of the Eagle and feel yourself growing more and more in confidence.
  • Call to mind anything that causes you stress or anxiety.  Know that you too possess the strength and courage of the eagle and you have the ability to deal with these stresses and anxieties.
  • Then gently, extend your wings, spread them wide and observe the beauty of them.  Feel the strength and power within them as they gently carry you off your perch and out into the freedom of the sky.
  • Give yourself permission to experience this freedom.  Feel the air around you.  See the valleys and forest below.  Feel yourself floating and soaring through the sky free of all constraints, anxieties and ties.
  • Allow your mind to drift and go where it needs to go, trust in yourself, you have the power, you have the strength, and you will cope.
  • Notice the sense of peace and calm you feel whilst soaring.
  • Allow yourself time to find perspective and clarity.
  • Then gently see yourself returning once more to your perch.  Gently re-extend your wings once more before nestling them back in around you.
  • Keeping this sense of lightness, peace and calm with you allow yourself to become aware once more of the ground beneath you.
  • Bring your awareness once more to your breath and with each breath in that you take allow your awareness to travel deeper and deeper back into the room.  Becoming aware of sounds both inside and outside of your room.
  • Then gently wriggle fingers, twiggle toes, stretch, yawn do whatever you may feel you need to do to bring your awareness fully back to the present moment.

Om shanti. 

Breath Work – Straw Breathing

In lung disorders such as emphysema and asthma the ability to exhale fully has greatly diminished. Fear and habitual behaviours which builds up as a result of the disorder often mean that a person shortens the exhalation of the breath and uses accessory respiratory muscles rather than using the diaphragm. Over a period of time this habit can lead to more serious lung and heart problems. This breath work helps to counteract this and induces a sense of peace and calm to the body.  This breath work is also very beneficial to people suffering from insomnia.

Technique

  1. Find a warm cosy area where you won’t be disturbed, light a candle, you may wish to play some soft gentle music (optional) and sit in a comfortable meditative asana (pose). Keep your spine erect with your shoulders releasing down your spine.
  2. Close your eyes and gently note the natural rhythm of your breath. Don’t alter or change your breath just simply observe the fact that you are breathing in and out.
  3. Breathing normally, gently count your breath cycle in a full minute. Inhaling and exhaling is one round.
  4. Once you have registered the number of breaths, gently place a straw in your mouth. Support the straw with your hand so that you are not unnecessarily contracting your facial muscles and jaw. Relax.
  5. Breathe in through your nose and exhale through the straw, do not force the breath simply let it flow.
  6. At the end of the exhalation gently place your tongue on the tip of the straw and breathe in again through your nose and once more exhale through the straw.
  7. Continue this process for 3 to 4 minutes. Allow the inhalation to happen naturally, do not force it to happen.
  8. At the end of each exhalation place your awareness on your diaphragm and feel the gentle bounce/spring back up motion of the diaphragmatic muscle in the centre of your body. This allows the incoming breath to be effortless.
  9. When the 3 to 4 minutes are up count your breathing cycle again. Has it changed? Are you feeling more relaxed and calm?

Benefits

  1. When you breathe through a straw it takes longer to exhale. This slows down the nervous system and soothes and calms your body.
  2. Increases lung capacity by increasing both the inhalation and exhalation.
  3. Practising this breath work helps to lower blood pressure and is useful prior to sleep especially if you suffer from insomnia and / or stress.
  4. Induces a very peaceful state of mind.
  5. This exercise is very beneficial for children / young adults who suffer from asthma. As maintaining concentration maybe difficult in smaller children I often encourage them to use a straw to blow a feather up and down the yoga mat this introduces a fun element, use of a hollow liquorice whip also makes for another fun alternative and treat!

Note
If at any time you feel uncomfortable or sense panic, just stop and take a few normal breaths before resuming again. Sometimes our fear of not taking in enough air can have an adverse effect, but with practise this can be over written.

Breath Work – Bhramari Pranayama – The Humming Bee

This is one of my favourite breath works as it always conquers up images of a lazy hazy warm sunny day, with bees buzzing in the meadows. This is a great introduction to meditation as it also helps to centre and focus the mind.

Technique

  1. Find a warm cosy area where you won’t be disturbed, light a candle, you may wish to play some soft gentle music (optional) and sit in a comfortable meditative asana (pose).
  2. Close your eyes and gently note the natural rhythm of your breath. Don’t alter or change your breath just simply observe the fact that you are breathing in and out.
  3. Then gently use your index fingers to plug both your ears. Continue to breathe normally.
  4. Inhale slowly through both nostrils. Exhale slowly, but as you do so produce a long continuous humming sound like a bee. Keep your exhalation slow, steady and smooth. Do not strain your lungs or force your breath in anyway.
  5. Feel the sound vibration in your brain, throat and chest area and be conscious only of the sound. This is one round of breath.
  6. Repeat 4 & 5 a number of times gradually increasing the number of breaths you take.

Benefits

  1. This is a very relaxing and soothing breath work as you breathing slows and deepens.
  2. This breath work helps to strengthen the diaphragm.
  3. The sound penetrates deep into your mind and body, drawing attention inwards which brings with it a sense of calm both mentally and physically.
  4. This breath work is useful prior to sleep especially if you suffer from insomnia and / or stress.
  5. It helps to relieve cerebral tension, anxiety, anger, frustration and helps lower blood pressure.