EXERCISES

From Swami Atmachaithanya's book "The Art and Science of Ayurveda" (Appendix - Yoga Vidya):

"Yogasana is a supreme system of exercise which has been propounded for the upliftment of man's physical and mental abilities. There is no system of exercise which is as easily practicable and effective for both the internal and external organs of the body as Yogasana … It should be understood that while Yogasana contributes to the health of body and mind, it is also an efficient method that provides relief from different illnesses."

Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Chapter 3, verse 17b

"Asanas are spoken of first, being the first stage of hatha yoga. So one should practice the asanas, which give (the yogi) strength, keep him in good health, and make his limbs supple."

Yoga postures (asanas) have a positive effect on all body systems. Asana translates into a position which is comfortable and steady. The asana should be held for some time, generally between 1 to 3 minutes. The longer the posture is held the more benefits are reaped. For novices the posture has to be learned correctly and maybe held for just 5 or 10 seconds - relaxing into the position and focussing while breathing slowly is important. After getting familiar with the asanas the practitioner may want to hold a yoga posture for 5 or 10 minutes or longer.

There are many asanas but ancient scriptures - the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Yoga Shastras and Gheranda Samhita - state that there are a few which are very important. Some of these are: Headstand (Shirshasana), Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana), Cobra (Bhujangasana), Bow (Dhanurasana), Fish (Matsyasana), Twist (Matsyendrasana), Seated Forward Bend (Paschimothanasana), Corpse (Shavasana), Triangle (Trikonasana), Mayurasana (Peacock), Lotus (Padmasana).

It is advisable to learn the yoga poses from a qualified yoga teacher. The asanas in the photos below can be practised by healthy people. The body should be warmed up before practising asanas, and a relaxation period in the corpse position for at least 5 minutes should conclude the yoga session (photo of corpse position on info page "pranayama").

People who suffer from various illnesses need to consult a yoga teacher regarding the sequence of yoga poses, as some asanas may not be suitable for their physical/mental condition. The teacher will choose specific asanas or modified asanas for the sick person in order to aid their healing.

Below are some of the yoga postures mentioned in the classical yoga scriptures. Depending on the physical condition of a person there are easier versions of these poses for beginners and rusty people as well as more challenging poses for the advanced practitioners.

A balanced asana practice (see photos) should incorporate at least one (or more) of the following: inversion, forward bend, backbend, spinal twist, sidebend and balancing pose.

 

     Forward Bend

 Shoulder Stand

 

Forward Bend


Bow (Backbend)






 

 

       

 The Triangle (Sidebend)


The Spinal Twist


   The Eagle (Balancing Pose)