Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutation, is a series of postures that warms, strengthens, and aligns the entire body. Read this post to learn how to make the postures!
Benefits of Yoga
Movement is a crucial part of our daily life. Our lives have become more and more sedentary, so planned and purposed exercise has become a necessity. Life used to be much more active, and incidental exercise was sufficient, as people worked on farms and walked long distances to work.
Our bodies are designed for movement and movement is a crucial element to our vitality. Listen to your body and honor how you feel. Regular movement can increase your strength, stamina and resistance to disease. The more you move, the more energy you will generate!
Nowadays the mysticism of yoga has been removed and the stigma that was attached to it as some cult-like practice has disappeared, every third person walking down the street has a yoga mat, and there are yoga studios popping up in cities everywhere. It’s a phenomenon!
However, as a yogi (male) or yogini (female), you should know that the practice of yoga extends far beyond the practice of asanas. When your mind, body and spirit are truly in union, you are really practicing yoga.
In the ‘Yoga Sutras‘, Patanjali focuses on ashtanga yoga – literally meaning ‘eight limbs’ – to reach enlightenment. Starting with ethical living and self-discipline (yama and niyama), then performing asanas to connect with yourself, creating freedom through your breath (pranayama), freedom from sensory engagement (pratyahara), practice of focused concentration on one point (dharana), uninterrupted contemplative meditation (dhyana) and finally a pure blissful state (samadhi).
This post will be focussed on asanas. Your practice should be to move with mindfulness and bring focus to your breath in each pose, this is the essence of yoga. Yoga directs and channels prana, your life force energy, as you engage your body.
Yoga postures are designed to help stretch, massage and tone the body muscles and organs. With regular practice, you can build strength, stamina, flexibility and awareness. Yoga is now widely recognized for its health benefits, such as bringing down high blood pressure and high blood sugar, reducing the risk of heart disease alleviating depression and anxiety. My simple yoga practice really enables me to connect with my body and keeps me grounded and stable so that I can face challenges that come my way.
So maybe it’s time to get in on the action!
Popular Yoga Asanas (Poses)
Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog pose)
Vrksasana (tree pose)
Malasana (garland pose)
Dandasana (staff pose)
Uttanasana (standing forward bend pose)
Virabhadrasana I (warrior I pose)
Virabhadrasana II (warrior II pose)
Marjaryasana (cat pose)
Bitilasana (cow pose)
Balasana (child pose)
Bhujangasana (cobra pose)
Dhanurasana (bow pose)
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose)
Parivrtta Utkatasana (revolved chair pose)
Ustrasana (camel pose)
Viparita Virabhadrasana (reverse warrior pose)
Utkatasana (chair pose)
Savasana (corpse pose)
Sun Salutation – Surya Namaskar
This ingenious twelve-posture yoga sequence know as Surya Namaskar can be tailored to suit your constitution by adapting the pace. It is a fluid warm-up sequence that is performed at the beginning of the day. Unlike aerobic exercise, this sequence is done slowly, purposefully and gently with a focus on your breath. This sequence helps stimulate blood circulation, regulate the nervous system, clear the brain and bring shine to the eyes. You will simply glow!
Tantra yoga is focused on stress relief and is less physical than Hatha yoga. It is good to learn how to control our emotions and rediscover oneself!
Where Do I Practice Tantra Yoga?
In October I decided to start doing yoga. My friend Delite recommended me this place called Ananda Marga Yoga & Meditation Malta. He said that the teacher was very nice and that the classes were not ‘gym yoga’ style, they were more spiritual and mixed with meditation, which is what I was looking for.
Ananda Marga Yoga Center is located in Gzira. The classes take place in a house with a super cozy room. It makes us feel at home right away. The energy in this place is magical and you always leave yoga a big smile on your face.
I like the fact that the schedule is super flexible and we can just stop by whenever we want – Dada, the teacher, is always there. Sometimes I go at 5.30pm after work, other times I go later. The classes usually last about 1h, but if you get there in the middle, Dada always lets you in anyway.
Dada Shubhacetanananda, our teacher, is truly an amazing human being. Learning meditation and yoga from someone who truly believes and lives by what he says was truly the best experience. Dada not only teaches yoga… he takes care of people and gives a lot of teachings, advice, and suggestions about life and helps us to have a good lifestyle.
Dada comes from India. He has a calm and good-tempered personality and through his yoga and meditation makes you see life in a really different and positive way. He cares about each person individually and shares experiences and guides you in a healthier way of living. Sometimes I go to his classes and he gives me vegetables for free, to make sure I’m eating healthy, and he always asks about how I feel and offers me water to make sure I keep hydrated. He is a very kind human being.
Tantra Yoga, as interpreted by Shrii Shrii Anandamurti, is the practical philosophy that serves as the foundation of Ananda Marga. Tantra controls the mind through mental exercises (meditation) with the help of the body (postures and massage). This type of yoga is focused on stress relief and health (physical and mental) with relaxation sessions, guided visualization (short meditation) and good advice for your health mostly based on naturopathy.
Tantra Yoga is less physical than Hatha yoga. It is very suitable for aged persons. It is good to learn how to control our emotions and rediscover oneself. However, this type of yoga is not different from Astaunga yoga. We technically practice Astaunga yoga, but only a part of it is presented in these classes.
In the West, we have come to equate the term “yoga” with yoga postures, but in fact, they form only a small part of the whole system. The term “yoga” in fact implies a whole way of life which includes yoga postures as one of its many facets.
In Sanskrit, yoga postures are called ‘asanas’. Asana means ‘a posture giving physical comfort and mental composure’. Asanas affect the glands, nerves, muscles and all the organs of the body. Yoga asanas were developed over a period of thousands of years. At first, yogis watched the postures of different animals and then imitated them – hence the existence of several asanas with animal names.
Doing asanas brings many physical benefits, but the most important effect is on the mind. The practice of asanas places pressure on the endocrine glands, and this results in the regulation of hormones secreted from those glands. The hormones affect the emotions, and the resultant emotional balance facilitates concentration and meditation. So asanas help prepare the mind for meditation.
Benefits of Asanas
Balance the hormone secretions from the glands;
Give flexibility to the body;
Improve respiration, as well as blood and lymph circulation;
Massage the internal organs;
Detoxify the joints;
Relax the nerves and muscles;
While practicing asanas the body should be cool and calm. The stomach should not be full. The room should be clean and warm, and there should be no smoke in the air. Except for the meditation postures, asanas should not be practiced during menstruation or pregnancy.
Different Asanas & Benefits
Shoulder stand: regulates the thyroid gland, as it puts pressure on it. When the posture is released, the flow of blood rushing into the throat ‘massages’ the gland and helps it to achieve the right amount of secretion.
Yogamudra: Sit cross-legged. Hold your left wrist with your right hand behind your back. Slowly lower your chin, then your neck, bend down as far as you can go, breathing out as you go down. Stay there for 8 seconds with your breath held out, then rise up breathing in. Practice eight times.
Cobra: Lie on your stomach. Place your hands facing down on the floor beside your ears. Supporting your weight on your palms, push up and raise the chest, looking up towards the ceiling. Breathe in while rising, and hold your breath in that position for 8 seconds. Come down to the original position while breathing out. Practice eight times.
Long Salutation: Kneel down with your buttocks resting on your heels and your toes pointing forward. With your palms together, extend your arms up vertically next to your ears. Slowly bring your arms and head down as one, first bending your neck, then the whole upper body, until your fingers hit the floor, keeping your buttocks as close to your heels as possible. Now stretch out with your forehead and nose resting on the floor. Breathe out as you go down, and stay there with your breath held out for 8 seconds. Then rise up breathing in. Practice eight times.
Other asanas include:
Kaoshikii Dance: at the end of our asana routine, we do this dance while we sing ‘Babanam Kevalam’, which means ‘I am surrounded by the infinite consciousness and I merge into it thus experiencing infinite bliss and happiness’. The kaos’ikii dance is a psycho-physical exercise that benefits the mind by developing mental stamina and strength. The name Kaoshikii comes from the Sanskrit word kosha, meaning “layer of mind”. Kaoshikii develops the subtler layers of mind, cultivating the feeling of mysticism – the endeavor to establish a link between the finite and the infinite – in one’s consciousness.
After the asanas, we always do a skin massage and then lie down in deep relaxation for at least two minutes. The skin massage helps in the absorption of sebaceous oils which are naturally secreted onto the skin surface. Deep relaxation gives the body a chance to assimilate the positive energy gained from the asanas.
Benefits of the Skin Massage
Increases the luster and suppleness of the skin;
Relaxes and revitalizes the nerves;
Increases the blood and lymph circulation;
Harmonizes the vital energy (prana) of the body.
First, rub your palms together a few times to warm them up. Start at the head and face and work down, rubbing the entire surface area of the skin. Pay particular attention to the throat, under the chin, the armpits, groin, and behind the knees. In these regions, there are collections of lymph glands that also benefit from the massage.
After the skin massage, we lie on our back with the arms by your side, making sure that your breathing is calm and relaxed. Now go through your whole body, starting at your feet, consciously making sure that each part is completely relaxed – with no muscular tension at all.
Go from the feet up the legs, consciously checking each part, into the groin area, into the abdomen (also feeling that your internal organs are relaxed), into the chest and shoulders, from the fingers and hands up the arms, then into the neck and up into the face, relaxing the facial muscles, including the eyes, and finally to the top of the head, feeling that your brain is also relaxed. Check once more that you are breathing calmly, and stay like that – fully relaxed – for a few more minutes.
Benefits of Deep Relaxation
Induces the “relaxation response,” similar to hibernation;
It lowers the blood pressure;
Strengthens the heart;
Relaxes the nerves and muscles;
It decreases the need for sleep.
After the self-massage, we do some more meditation, where we connect with ‘supreme consciousness’. At the end Dada always repeats ‘you are happy, you are peaceful…bring your mind back… open your eyes… Namaskar!’.
‘Namaskar’ is a traditional Indian greeting or gesture of respect, made by bringing the palms together before the face or chest and bowing. The difference between ‘Namaste’ and ‘Namaskar’ is that the first one means ‘I bow to you’ while ‘Namaskar‘ means ‘I bow towards your existence’. The word ‘Namaskar’ is used to show more love and respect towards a person.
My Experience with Tantra Yoga
Tantra Yoga and meditation have been helping me a lot lately to calm down my busy mind and to appreciate life the way it is. Doing it correctly is very important, that’s why I definitely recommend this place. Dada through meditation and yoga helped me to understand what is important in my life. Thank you!