Archives for posts with tag: surya namaskar

Long, gloomy, dry and cold winter is about to end. The north hemisphere is welcoming the spring. With the spring on the way, we can see some changes in our bodies as well as our sportive activites and yoga practice. Spring makes us feel more tired, heavier and as if we are carrying hundreds of kilograms of load and we do not know how to cope with this fatigue?

PhotoFunia-976a6dIn fact, it’s so simple. According to Ayurveda — the Indian science of living — the “kapha dosha” in our bodies increases when spring comes. For this reason, we feel ourselves heavier and tired and we do not even want to move. So, what type of yoga should we prefer in spring?
Before discussing about the type of yoga, it is better to talk about “doshas” in our bodies because every body consists of three doshas and one of the doshas prevail others and cause some phyical and spiritual changes from season to season. Ayurveda suggests that there be three doshas in bodies, namely “vata”, “pitta” and “kapha.” From person to person, one dosha prevails. Moreover, one dosha prevails over the other with seasonal changes. It is so natural that “vata dosha” increases in our bodies in long, cold, gloomy and dry winter. On the contrary, “kapha dosha” increases in our bodies as days get longer, flowers bloom and temperatures rises with spring. Kapha dosha balances elements water and earth in our bodies. Its duty is to stretch our joints, providing mucus to protect our sinuses, lungs and stomach and to regulate the amount and strength of our muscles.
When kapha dosha is in balance, we feel ourselves strong and solid. When it is out of balance, we may be exhausted, depressed and sleepy.
Therefore, it is important to balance the kapha dosha in our bodies when spring comes. Otherwise, we may have to cope with seasonal allergies and severe common cold.
For this reason, flow yoga is something I can recommend to yoga lovers to not only wake their heavy bodies up but also to feel themselves more dynamic. Particularly vinyasa and hatha classes, “surya namaskar” (sun salutations), many standing asanas, inversions, arm balancing poses and twists are sine qua non poses of springtime.
If you follow a flow like “garudasana”, “prasaritta padottanasana” variations, “sirsasana” (headstand), “bakasana” (crow), “chaturanga dandasana-bakasana”, “bakasana-adho mukha vrksasana (handstand)”, “salamba sarvangasana-halasana-karnapidasana-salamba sarvangasana-setu bandhasana” (supported shoulderstand, plow, ear pressure pose, supported shoulderstand, bridge), this will not only balance the kapha dosha in your bodies but also make you feel yourself stronger and more energetic.
Following such flows, you can go on working your core muscles, add some twists to your practice and do pranayama like “kapalabahti” or “agni sara” at the beginning or end of the class. You can also use “uddiyana bandha” throughout the class and wake your body up during springtime.
Moreover, liver and gall bladder is overworking during cold winter days since we consume more caffeine, alcohol and sugar and eat more oily and protein-strong food. In order to relieve the liver and gall bladder, we should focus on inner thighs, groins and the outer parts of the legs. If we give priority to yin yoga and work the meridians believed to pass through the inner thighs, groins and outer parts of the legs, wee may relieve the liver and gall bladder, clean them up and revive them. “Swan”, “sleeping swan”, “dragonfly”, “frog”, “shoelace” are some of yin yoga poses for liver and gall bladder. Also we may do some hatha yoga poses such as “garudasana” (eagle), “prasaritta padottanasana” (wide angle pose), and “gomukasana” (cow face pose).
As a result, spring is the time of the year when day and night are equalized, then days start to get longer after the equinox and nights start to shorten. Therefore, balance is so important. That is why we give priority to balancing the kapha dosha in our bodies in our yoga practice. We want to overcome fatigue and wake our bodies up and get more energetic in springtime and we focus on vinyasa yoga, i.e. flow yoga styles.
No matter what they say! Whether spring is a season that makes us feel ourselves heavy and tired, I feel happier as nature wakes up, flowers bloom, trees get greener, sun shines, days get longer and birds return to the north hemisphere. And I forget about the fatigue and heaviness as I feel happy. My body, soul and mind enlightens and shines with the sun rising up every day.
Yoga… Whether vinyasa, hatha or yin or any other type of yoga. I always think that what is important is the desire to do yoga irrespective of its style or the season. The type is not important. This is totally your choice and preference as long as you wake your body, soul and mind up, be in harmony with your body, mind and soul with the changing seasons, and just act in line with what they want.

PhotoFunia-84ef86The most difficult thing for me once I started to give yoga lessons was to find an asana appropriate to the theme and goal of that lesson and to prepare the flow. During the one-year teacher training program, we focused on hatha and vinyasa classes. A class should have a theme and a goal. We should find an asana appropriate to that theme and goal, prepare our bodies for the peak pose in the first half of the class and neutralize and do the counter-pose after the peak pose and end the class with cooling asanas.
In fact, it was fairly difficult to prepare such a class. It was easier to prepare a circular type of class. In a circular type of class, you first call your students for an opening meditation and mentally prepare them for the rest of the class. You warm them up with sun salutations (surya namaskar). Then you do several standing poses, backbends, forward bends, twists, hip openers, arm balances and inversions. In the end, you make your students rest in the deep relaxation pose (savasana) and conclude the class with the closing meditation. There is no need to prepare a particular flow in a circular type of class as it has a certain flow.
After the training course ended and I started to give yoga classes, I prefered the peak-pose classes, which we called “apex” type classes. In these classes, we certainly have a peak pose and find an intention and theme for that pose. For instance, if the peak pose of the class is a backbend, then the theme can be “courage” and “freedom.” If the peak pose is a forward bend, we can set the theme as “serenity” and “surrender.” If the peak pose is an inversion, the theme can be “confidence” and “acceptance.” If the peak pose is an arm balancing pose, we can set the theme as “personal harmony” and “satisfaction.”
Once we pick up the theme, it is now time to set the intention. In a class with a backbend as the peak pose, our intention can be opening our hearts and spreading more energy of love to the universe. If the peak pose is a forward bend, our intention can be turning inside, accepting and loving ourselves and being happy. In a class we focus on an inversion, the intention can be looking at the world from a different perspective, whereas in a class we choose an arm balance as the apex pose, the intention can be to watch our balance that day and realize that the balance can change at any moment.
After picking up the theme and intention, we can choose music appropriate for that class. I wrote a post about yoga and music some time ago. (you can click https://burcuyircaliblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/yoga-should-we-use-music-in-our-classes/  to read the post.) In short, we can choose calmer music in a class focusing on a forward bend and use nature sounds or flute or reed flute sounds. In a class focusing on backbends, we can pick more lively mantras or songs.
Surely, it is also one of most important duties to make our students understand the point of the class by a brief talk during the opening and closing meditation. Why? As we always say, the yoga mat is a part of our life. We live almost the same way as how we live on our mat. We give similar reactions in life to the ones we give on our mat. Therefore, we should make our teacher fully understand the point of the class. After the class, all students should understand what the lesson is all about and what the philosophy of the lesson was. On which issues we focused and what kind of similarities there is between what we experience in the class and what we live in our daily lives. We should light such a light in the minds of our students that they should start asking them these questions. Our duty is to awake the awareness of our students. Make them find a parallelism between the yoga class and their daily lives, absorb the theme, intention and philosophy of the class and make a difference in their live. To say that I am free and I can be free even though I sometimes lose courage at the end of class focusing on “courage” and “freedom.” Or to say that I can still be calm under difficult circumstances, surrender to current conditions and get adjusted to them at the end of a class based on “serenity” and “surrender.” To say that I can trust people, environment and myself and as I learn to trust, I can more easily accept, be happy and life is simpler at the end of a class with “confidence” and “acceptance” as the theme. To say that I am in harmony with myself, I have accepted myself and I am happy this way at the end of a class focusing on “personal harmony” and “confidence.”
Yoga classes are a part of our lives. They are actually the life itself. Therefore, as instructors, we should base our classes on effective themes and intentions and make our students live the life itself on their yoga mat. To be a mirror to them and make a difference in their perspectives and lives this way. Everybody looks but everybody does not see. No, everybody can see once somebody acts like a mirror to him/her and shows the reflections to him/her. This is it.

Unity and integrity… Integrity of the body, mind and the spirit… Yoga.. Yoga means unity and integrity and being one and being a whole, so why do we face different types of yoga in our daily lives? Why does hatha yoga exist? Why do we name a certain style of yoga as vinyasa yoga? And then, what is yin yoga?

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In eastern philosophy, yoga is just yoga. It does not have different names and styles. Only the time during which you stay in poses can change, duration of your stay in a pose can be long or short. However, yoga is not divided into styles and types according to the duration of your stay in poses in the eastern world. In eastern culture, yoga is simply “yoga.”
Yoga has started to be named differently according to different styles after it was introduced to the west. More rapid, dynamic and flowing yoga classes are called “vinyasa yoga.” We can also define these classes as “yang” classes. Calmer, more static classes with long-awaited poses are named “yin yoga.” Actually, “yin” and “yang” represent female and male energies, i.e. everything in nature and life are either “yin” or “yang.” “Yin” and “yang” refer to opposite poles like dark and light, female and male, cold and hot. Moreover, “hatha yoga” can be defined as a style of yoga in order to be performed to harmonize female and male energies in our bodies.
It is so natural for us not to have so much time for ourselves in the daily life in the western world. Therefore, we find ourselves in gym halls after we spend a tiring day at work. When we go to gym, our aim is to “achieve the most in the shortest time.” Sometimes we feel ourselves strong, more active and join dynamic classes. Sometimes we feel tired and we wish to have peace in calmer classes.
This is exactly why the western world divided yoga into styles and addressed the working people of metropolises. If we feel ourselves strong, energetic, active and ready to sweat that day, “vinyasa yoga” can be the ideal choice for us. “Vinyasa” means flow. In vinyasa yoga classes, we flow from one pose into another with our breath like a river. Non-interruptedly, we change from one pose into another with the help of breath, and like flowing water. And as if we are dancing. Instructors can add “surya namaskar” (sun salutation series) at the beginning, middle and end of these classes. And also they can ask us to perform a set of “surya namaskar” between some sitting poses, thus we can overcome and eliminate any stiffness in our bodies if there are some at that time.
“Ashtanga yoga” is one of the most well-known of vinyasa classes. It is a style of flow yoga developed by Pattabhi Jois. It has an unchangeable flow, and it is not performed during new or full moon because we do not want to hurt our bodies with moon’s effects. This style of yoga uses “ujjayi” (hero) breath, “mula” (root) and “uddiyana” (abdominal) “bandha”s (locks) and we always have a “drishti” (a perspective) in the poses.
On some days, we may feel something different in our bodies but we cannot even define what it is. This may result because of a change in our male and female energies. One day, our male energy may prevail and the other day we may be under the influence of our femal energy. Hatha yoga can be the best thing to do under such a circumstance. In simple, hatha yoga is the yoga of sun and moon, i.e. the unification of male and female energies. We try to balance these two energies when doing hatha yoga. A bit female, a bit male… After doing “purvottanasana” (reverse plank), we do “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend) in order to regulate and balance the two energies in our bodies. “Purvottanasana” means looking towards the east, which is a male asana. However, “paschimottanasana” means the posture heading towards the west, which is a female asana. For this reason, we do poses affecting sun and moon, male and female energies, in hatha yoga. Thus, we balance the energies in our bodies and we try to harmonize our mind, body and spirit– which is the final target of yoga.
One day, we may feel ourselves tired and exhausted. Such a day may be a good opportunity to experience yin yoga and spoil ourselves. Yin yoga is a style of yoga that has come out as a synthesis of hatha yoga and Chinese Taoist tradition. In fact, what we should do is to stay longer in asanas, and feel the relaxation and stretch in our connective tissues.
Yin yoga aims at relaxation and stretch. Finding peace in our bodies and mind. Since we aim to relax and stretch up to our connective tissues in yin yoga, we enter into poses and we give ourselves in. We loosen our muscles. However, it is out of question for us to loosen our muscles in hatha and vinyasa yoga. We tighten our muscles all the time when doing hatha and vinyasa yoga, and we try to warm our bodies up by using “ujjayi” (hero) breathing and thus, aim to eliminate the risk of injuries. However in yin yoga, we aim to give ourselves in, and accept the situation we are in. Under such a circumstances, relaxation and peace prevail. Sometimes, our mood and bodies let us do yin yoga but sometimes the instructors asks us to do such a pose that we cannot stay even a single moment in that pose. We should not forget that the philosophy of yoga is associated with flexibility and acceptance. In that case, we can accept this situation and we can try another pose that has the same affect. What does this mean? We are not depended on a single pose in yin yoga. If our aim is to work a certain part of our body and affect our internal organs, then we can achieve this goal with many different asanas, not just one asana. This is what differs yin yoga from others. If our aim is to work the hip external rotator muscles, i.e. the gluteal muscles and iliotibial band, then we can achieve this goal with many poses like “shoelace”, “square” or “sleeping swan” and we can stimulate our gall bladder.
Yoga is such a flexible and wide world. The western world has adopted classical yoga to its own habits, and turned it into a system and philosophy acceptable to everyone.
In fact, yoga is just “yoga”. Yoga asanas are all the same irrespective of what type of yoga we are performing. Only the duration of our stay in the poses change. We can sometimes use props and try to modify the poses for our bodies.
Whatever it is named, yoga is the art of being a whole in the past or today’s world, in the west or the east. It is a mental and bodily relaxation and stretch, finding peace, and acceptance.
The only matter is to stay yin, calm ourselves, accept and give ourselves in, under a yang pose or circumstance whenever doing yoga or in real life. Similarly, we should become yang, get more energized, strong and active in a ying pose or situation if we are supposed to do so.
We should not forget that yin and yang is an indispensable whole. Every yin element can also be yang, and every yang element can be yin at the same time. What we should do is to balance our yin and yang energies, listen to our inner voice and insights, and meet our instant needs. This can sometimes be running or jogging, dancing, meditating, jumping, a yang style yoga, or a yin style yoga. What can we expect and hope more if we balance our yin and yang energies and if one does not dominate the other?