Category: Yoga Postures
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When beginning my meditation practice, should I do hatha yoga before or after energization exercises, or does it matter?
Thank you for your question. I believe it depends upon you and whether Energization Exercises leave you feeling more inward and ready for meditation - or yoga postures do.
Do the one that feels most inward right before you start your meditation. Either way, doing both Energization Exercises and Hatha Yoga before your meditation is incredibly beneficial! Great work!
Is the objective to straighten out the spine completely?
I ask only because again there are diagrams of the spine in yoga books with the centers where the spine has the characteristic elongated "stretched out S" shape.
Thanks for your clarification.
I'm very glad that you asked this question, because it's quite possible to go seriously wrong in pursuit of a straight spine - in asana practice, or in life generally.
When yogis say "straight spine" (synonym: neutral spine) they mean a spine in its natural curves: inward curve in the lumbar spine (around waist level), outward curve in the back of the chest, and inward curve in the neck. We want to have such a straight spine at all times - in asana practice, in meditation, in life generally - unless we are deliberately bending the spine one way or another.
However, a geometrically straight spine could be a nightmare. It would eliminate the "springy" cushioning effect that the S-shape provides, and would be very likely to lead to injury. Don't seek that. Rather, keep your natural curves.
That said, some people have developed unnatural curves in their spines from injuries, or years of poor posture, or jobs that reinforce poor posture. So sometimes it is advisable to correct an unnatural curve in the spine, but that should be done only under the guidance of a qualified health care provider (such as a chiropractor or physical therapist, perhaps supplemented by private work with a qualified yoga teacher).
When in an Asana and my breath is under no strain but the muscle seems to be burning up should I just hold it as along as I can maintain the even breath?
This seems to be more obvious in poses like the bridge for e.g.
Thanks for your advice.
Ananda Yoga practice is about raising awareness, and for that, working inwardly with the life-force is key. If a muscle is "burning," you will be preoccupied with the physical (regardless of whether the breath is smooth). This will diminish your awareness of the life-force - and hence your ability to work with it. Consequently you will be less able to raise your awareness through the practice.
That is not to say that you should never take the muscles to their safe limits. Indeed, working the muscles will enhance their ability to support your bodily movements and positions - not just in asana practice, but throughout your life. You'll be able to hold asanas longer, and thus make deeper inroads into the states of consciousness that each asana promotes. But if "going for the burn" is your regular focus, the benefits of the practice will be primarily physical, not spiritual.
So yes, give your muscles a test now and then, keeping the breath moving smoothly as you do so. But don't mistake that for the deeper practice of Ananda Yoga. It is simply a conditioning exercise that can support your true practice. Make that true practice your regular practice.
Recently I have been having success (I feel and think) in the double breath technique as prescribed by Yogananda. I got the sensation of energy gently pulsing up back side of head and in face which was very enjoyable (like a sprinkling of refreshing rain on a burning desert!) Are there guidelines for how long we should do this for. i,e min and max time, to avoid too much energy being aroused in body with nowhere for it to go.
Yes, it is indeed an enjoyable technique. The exact nature of the experience can vary from person to person, and even from time to time with the same person. So don't be surprised if yours changes at some point.
There's no minimum length of practice (even just one breath is good). As for the maximum length, it's more about monitoring the effects than the time. Some people hyperventilate with too much double breathing; don't continue the technique if you begin to feel light-headed. Also, because the technique moves a lot of energy, there can be times when too much double breathing makes you feel agitated, irritable, or anxious; that's a sign to stop.
So be watchful of the effects, because it's definitely possible to overdo double breathing. It should always feel good and calming-yet-energizing. If it doesn't feel that way, don't continue with that session.
Sometimes coming up out of postures like the standing forward stretch with clasped fingers outstretched behind I get a little dizzy ( occassionally have needed to rest against something for support ). Sometimes it feels like I am swaying gently side to side aswell. What is the dizziness/ light headed ness symptomatic of? Is this more to do with increased energy or blood pressure. GP always says my bp is fine. Am I trying to fly too high too quickly?.
Thanks for your advice.
What's happening to you is quite common, and it is usually related to blood pressure. People with low blood pressure are especially susceptible, but it can happen to anyone. A sudden reversion to the upright position can cause a significant lowering of blood pressure in the chest and head, a shift that's more than the body's circulatory system can compensate for gracefully.
Try either or both of these remedies:
- Come out of the forward bend very slowly, using several breaths to exit.
- As you come out of the pose, keep chin to chest. Even once you're upright, keep chin to chest for several breaths before straightening your neck.
For most people, either or both these of remedies are all that's needed. If the sensation continues, it may be prudent to stay in the forward bend for a shorter length of time.
Blessings on your practice,
Swamiji in his Art and Science of Raja yoga, says that women during menstrual cycle should avoid stomach poses. What are the other poses to be avoided? What about Mahamudra and Kriya? Has Master talked about these things?
The reason for this caution is to avoid putting excessive pressure on the lower abdominal region during menstruation. For some women it might make no difference, but for others there can be discomfort. So poses such as Dhanurasana (Bow), Salabhasana (easy version of Locust), and Mayurasana (Peacock) should be avoided. Uddiyana Bandha (stomach lock) should be done gently, if at all.
Yogis also often say to avoid significant inversion of the body during menstruation (e.g., Sarvangasana and Sirshasana, the Shoulderstand and Headstand). Some women experience discomfort or excessive or prolonged flow if they invert significantly during that time. Also, inversion counters the natural direction of energy movement in the body at that time - that's a subtler reason, but no less real.
Maha Mudra and Kriya are fine during menstruation.
I am not aware of Paramhansa Yogananda having said anything on the subject of asanas to do or not do during menstruation, perhaps in part because he didn't emphasize Hatha Yoga for his female disciples.
Can the Energization Exercises be practised effectively by people who have balance problems or other physical mobility difficulties?
The answer is, "Absolutely!" In fact, if practiced correctly and regularly, the Energization Exercises can improve physical functionality of many kinds, because they help one cultivate bodily awareness and control.
I've known people to gain significant benefits from practicing the exercises while confined to a hospital bed or wheelchair. Energization offers many more possibilities for the physically impaired than any other form of exercise I know, because they emphasize working with energy, not just the physical body.
One must, of course, do only what is appropriate for one's own body. That means not inducing pain through the practice, for example, or creating higher levels of tension or movement than are appropriate for one's physical condition.
But with that caveat, go for it - they can be very helpful. At the very least, they will boost your energy level. But they might also be remedial in some way. And beyond either of those lie the extensive spiritual benefits of Energization. It really is a marvelous system.
Brian M Dotson
I teach yoga out in the community. I am a firefighter, and truly believe that my brothers and sisters could use yoga both physically and spiritually. They are a very "fit" group, but the rates of pulled muscles and back problems is astounding.
Has anyone worked with someone or have some insight to how I can best translate the benefits of yoga on a level they might understand?
We put your question out to members of the Ananda Yoga Teacher Association who are teaching in many different settings. Due to space limitations I cannot include all their answers here, but I will summarize.
All agreed that the best approach is to share your experience of how yoga helps meet needs that are important to your students. So don't start with esoteric aspects. Instead emphasize the practical, tangible benefits such as:
- Learn body mechanics to optimize the body's natural alignment and power.
- Increase flexibility to complement strength in activites required by work and everyday movement. The balance between strength and flexibility will help prevent injury.
- Learn breathing and recharging techniques that can help connect with and calmly focus energy needed to handle stressful situations.
- Practice conscious relaxation to relieve stress and rejuvenate body, mind and spirit. Those with problems of insomnia will find yoga helps them to sleep better.
- Meditate to decrease anxiety and negative emotional reactions. Find peace and clarity of thought in the midst of trying circumstances.
You might also consider compiling quotes from research on benefits of yoga and meditation and make a hand out that would appeal to those with a more scientific way of thinking.
Once people find a practical outward reason to practice yoga then you can look for an opening to offer them an experience of more subtle realities if they are ready for it.
Hope this gives you some useful suggestions. Thank you for the good work that you are doing.
Maitri Jones for Ananda Yoga
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