Tag Archives: Asana
Ancient people had two reliable ways of measuring time—the length of a day and the length of a lunar cycle. Figuring out the length of the solar year was more complicated and required close observation of natural events, such as the cycling of the seasons and the movement of the stars in the heavens. A lunar month is approximately 29.5 days, and twelve lunar months equals 354 days—approximating, but not equaling the length of a solar year, which is 365 days. The seers of ancient Egypt are credited with first accurately figuring out how long it takes the Earth to orbit around the Sun. They did this by observing the movements of the Dog Star, Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky (currently visible in the eastern sky a couple of hours after sunset—down and to the left from Orion’s Belt). In first century BC Rome it was discovered that the existing Lunar Calendar was three months off in relation to the seasons. This was due to the eleven-day discrepancy between the Lunar and Solar Calendars that had been playing out over time. On the advice of Sosigenes, a learned astronomer from Alexandria, Caesar added 90 days to the year 46 BC and started a new calendar on January 1st 45 BC. Sosigenes tells Caesar that the length of a year is actually 365 days 6 hours, and advises him to add a “leap year” every fourth year. We have been using this same calendar ever since. The ancient Romans developed a custom of setting aside the period of 11 days at the end of the year, which constitutes the difference between a Lunar Year and a Solar Year, and designating it as a period of holiday, when time stood still and people feasted, celebrated, and partied, and absolutely no work got done. This time period corresponds roughly to the Winter Solstice through New Year’s Day. It makes sense to devote our time at the end of the year to celebration rather than to work. At the Winter Solstice we have the least amount of Solar Energy to warm us and invigorate us, and many people suffer from SAD—seasonal affective disorder. During Christmas we spend time with our family and many emotions are evoked. The year has been long and we have worked very hard living our lives, because being a human being is not an easy thing. Certainly there were some things we could have done better during the course of the year, but we are imperfect beings, after all. The important thing is that we learned something during the year that will make us wiser and more compassionate and loving as we continue forward into 2015. The living of a year is something like a yoga practice, with all the different asanas serving as metaphors for all the different situations we encountered. Some of those asanas were better than others, but it was all sadhana, and sadhana is always worthwhile. In reference to keeping our sadhana in the proper perspective, Patanjali says: Abhyasa vairaghyabhyam tannirodah—“By practicing diligently, with devotion and no interruption over a long period of time, and with nonattachment to any particular outcome, we will have peace of mind.”
December 30th Post from Tim Miller’s Blog Tuesdays with Timji
Certified Ashtanga teacher David Garrigues discusses the nadi’s and how vital it is to understand the places where the nadis are closed in the body. As a practitioner discovering the most glorious nadi (Sushumna) in the Ashtanga practice is vital to inhabiting and lighting up the body.
Yoga can help improve your endurance because it can increase stamina on several different levels—physical, physiological, and mental—depending on your specific needs. For example, one of the keys to endurance is to better utilize your oxygen intake. The body relies on oxygen for producing energy while exercising, and so a person with good endurance has a greater capacity to deliver oxygen to the working muscles that make use of this oxygen during exercise.
Dean Karnazes, a regular competitor in ultra-marathons in physically demanding locations such as the South Pole and Death Valley, believes his yoga practice-especially the breathing aspect-allows him to use oxygen more efficiently and ultimately improves his overall performance. “My feeling is that yoga helps you to better utilize your oxygen intake, delivering it or transferring it to all the cells that need it for metabolism,” he says.
More specifically, Horton explains that yoga improves the respiratory system by creating more room for it to function. “It is hard to take a good breath when your body won’t let you,” he explains. Horton likens the body to a container in which we try to make more space. “If your rib cage, diaphragm, or spine is stiff, lung capacity is reduced by your physical constrictions and limitations,” he says. “Yoga breathing lengthens our bodies through deep inhalations and exhalations, as if we are making ourselves bigger from the inside out and therefore making more room in the internal container for a better breath.
“Being conscious of the breath allows our body to breathe better,” says Horton. “Conscious breath teaches you to pay attention to the quality of your breath, and you learn to observe and perhaps even manipulate your breathing during physical activities.” For improving endurance through better breathing, Horton suggests asanas that enhance both range of motion and lung capacity by opening the chest and rib cage. These include Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward-Facing Bow Pose),Ustrasana (Camel Pose), Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose), as well as Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One-Legged Pigeon Pose).
However, endurance is not only about breathing better. Developing the muscles so they are stronger and suppler so that they do not fatigue as quickly is equally as important. When it comes to using yoga to improve muscle endurance, Horton recommends focusing on any asanas that promote a lengthening of muscles in the body, such as Parsvakonasana (Side Angle Pose), as well as stabilizing and strengthening poses that develop core strength, such as Navasana (Boat Pose).
In addition Horton feels that yoga improves one’s endurance by helping athletes to relax, preserve energy, and better concentrate—especially in demanding circumstances. “Yoga gives you the mental strength to be still and to concentrate in the midst of a difficult pose or while your muscles are burning,” he explains. “With yoga, you learn the ability to observe the patterns of tension in the body that take away from efficiency.
“It is important for athletes not to be distracted. Yoga can help you to sit back and be the witness or to observe and be
a little clearer and make better decisions, like being able to pace yourself during a 10K run or a long workout.”
Excerpt from Yoga Journal Article Going The Distance by Nancy Coulter-Parker
This is a fun trick to learn how to shift more weight forward over the solid foundation of your arms and lift up into full handstand from Tittibhasana.
First, let’s acknowledge that different students may benefit from slightly different actions in any given posture. So, the most accurate way to answer this question is to suggest most students will benefit from engaging their glutes in most backbends. Here’s why:
The gluteal family is composed of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. When the glutes and hamstrings engage—particularly the lower fibers of the gluteal msucles near the hamstring insertion—they extend the hip-joint. This motion initiates all backbends and helps keep the pelvis and spine congruous. Gluteal engagement also helps fire the paraspinal muscles and stabilizes the sacro-illiac joint—both of which facilitate pelvic and spinal balance in backbends.
But, let’s answer the question with a little more nuance since some backbends are enhanced by gluteal engagement and others are not. Prone backbends like Locust Pose and Cobra Pose probably don’t benefit as much from gluteal contraction because the weight of the pelvis rests on the floor during these postures. This means that you don’t need gluteal strength to lift the pelvis because it’s not moving in the posture; you also don’t need the stabilization that the glutes provide because the pelvis is supported by the floor.
In kneeling backbends like Camel Pose and supine backbends like Bridge Pose and Upward Bow Pose, gluteal engagement is more helpful. These postures produce a greater degree of spinal extension so it’s even more important that the pelvis and spine move cohesively. Engaging the glutes, particularly the lower fibers of the gluteus maximus near the hamstring insertion, will help maintain this balance rotating the pelvis slightly back over the top of the legs. This will help reduce lumbar compression—the feeling of your lower-back “crunching.” Even more, the glutes help lift the weight of the pelvis in supine backbends. If you don’t use the glutes in these postures, it’s more likely that you will unnecessarily burden less efficient muscle groups.
Some teachers and students are concerned that using the glutes will make the knees splay too far apart. This is a legitimate concern, but it’s easily managed. All you have to do in this situation is co-contract the muscles that line the inside of your thighs, the adductors. Firing the adductors while you engage the glutes will keep your thighs nice and neutral.
Excerpt from YogaGlo Article Backbends: Why and When to Squeeze Your Glutes by Jason Crandell