bookmark_borderYoga for Men

A man’s greater level of physical strength is accepted by most committed yoga practices. This is why several of the poses recommended for men require additional muscle strength and endurance. Numerous male yoga practitioners have discovered that a mixture of yoga and weight training can equip them with the required levels of energy and positive thinking. In many cases, the balance between mind and body is broken by various harmful exterior factors such as stress, pressure, social problems and so on. The tight link between body and soul can be regularly seen in such cases: if the spirit is defeated, the body will often get ill and debilitated.

This is why the more physical aspects of yoga are greatly recommended for men. Society imposes certain standards – and keeping fit and looking good are just two of them. In order to possess self-confidence and respect for your own self you need to take care of your body correctly. Some of the yoga poses you will read about further on in this article are fabulous for keeping the body in perfect physical condition, particularly when a balanced and healthy diet is adhered to. Needless to say physical yoga training greatly reduces the likelihood of several illnesses such as lowered blood pressure, heart attacks and osteoporosis.

Yoga also favors meditation and relaxation as some of its most effective shields against stress. Half an hour of stretching your muscles and deep breathing can take any yoga practitioner into a condition of serenity and relaxation that gives both mind and body the opportunity to renew their vitality. Particular yoga poses such as the head stand are superb for assisting circulation and allowing the heart rate to drop. This type of position also “forces” you to breathe deeply, thereby improving brain oxygenation. Another comparable pose would be the shoulder stand, which enhances the positive effects of breathing by improving the lung’s capacity to process oxygen. Both these poses are beneficial to the spine as well, as they allow it to stretch and relax at the exact same time. The plough pose may also be tried in order to strengthen the abdominal and lower back muscles. Savasana, also known as the corpse pose, is excellent for relaxing the body between asanas.

The above-mentioned poses have to be accompanied by some specific breathing techniques. The Anuloma Viloma technique balances the prana levels in the organism and is recommended for use while doing physical exercises. The Ujjayi breathing method clears the nasal passages and throat of phlegm and allows for a superior air circulation. This technique also works well for improving the responses of the nervous system.

bookmark_borderYoga Sandbags

These are very useful in increasing your strength and to know your endurance level. Breathing can be maintained and by using it, the stretching of all the dormant muscles are done. It helps mainly in your hamstring stretch which can be very vital and important for your body.

It can be used under your feet, seat bones to enhance the level of practicing yoga. These come in different colors with high quality of pack cloth and a sturdy inner coating to prevent dust and sand from falling out of the bag. These are ten pound sandbags mainly used to lengthen your yoga poses. It is a very simple and easy device which can be used by most people. By adding the weight your level of yoga poses take a deeper and better turn. They come in different colors and can be chosen according to your needs and wants.

There are such kind of bags which are not filled with sand but with beans and can be used in the same manner and has the same benefits. They can also be also come in designs which can be customized and you can show off it to your friends. The sandbags are mainly made of Velcro, denim and other materials according to your needs. The materials used can be easily dry cleaned or hand wash depending upon your needs. The handles are for easy handling and performing the yoga.

bookmark_borderFind the Right Yoga Class

When choosing a class that’s right for you, you have to consider your personal preferences. It’s perfectly normal to try out a few yoga methods, until you find the system that you feel the most comfortable with.

Ashtanga is a very physically challenging practice, that is based on ethical principles.

Hatha yoga is a classical practice that is a little slower-paced, with more emphasis on held postures. It is well suited for seniors or for people who’d like a more relaxed class, with an emphasis on flexibility.

The popular Sivananda yoga system is derived from the classical hatha.

Iyengar yoga stresses precision and uses a lot of props in class. It’s excellent for people with injuries.

Bikram is hatha yoga, practiced in a heated room. Every Bikram class features the same sequence of poses (every pose held twice) and doesn’t include chanting om, which probably won’t be the most satisfying experience for those who are spiritually inclined. Excellent, if you love to sweat!

Vinyasa yoga class consists of multiple poses, connected by breath. This type of a flowing class is very energizing and physically challenging, so A-type personalities would probably find it the most attractive. The now popular OM and Jivamukti yoga methods feature a hatha-based vinyasa.

bookmark_borderPolarity Processing

So here’s how it works: When you notice yourself being “stuck” (e.g. in patterns of emotional reactivity, or in a physical illness you can’t quite shake, or in mental negativity, or in a life-situation (financial, relationship) which just seems to keep repeating itself, in a way that’s not useful or enjoyable), the first thing to do is stop and acknowledge your “stuck-ness.” Simply being willing to see it (to access that part of yourself that’s a neutral “witness” to whatever drama is unfolding) creates the space for this technique to work.

Next, take out a piece of paper and a pen, sit down, and write ~ for ten or fifteen minutes ~ about the situation. Let yourself describe it fully, with a focus on saying/writing how you’re feeling about the whole thing. You’ll probably generate a page or two of writing. (It should be no more than this.)

When you’ve completed this step, go back and underline (in what you’ve just written) all of the “emotionally-charged” words or phrases. (Words like: hopeless, sad, frustrated, shame, rage, …) This is any word or phrase which somehow points to how the situation is making you feel. If the situation is unpleasant to you, these words will probably be mostly “negative,” but don’t exclude, in this underlining part of the process, the “positive” ones.

Once you’ve done this, get a new piece of paper, and re-write these words/phrases you’ve just underlined in a column down the left-hand side of this new piece paper. And now for the most important step: for each word you’ve written down, ask yourself: “What would be, in this particular situation, the opposite of this word or phrase.” As you get these “opposites,” write them down in a column facing the first column … so each of your initial words or phrases is now directly across from its opposite word or phrase. For example: if one of your underlined words was “sadness,” you might choose “happiness” as its opposite; if one of your underlined words was “shame,” you might choose “blame” as your opposite, and so forth.

After you’ve written down an opposite for every one of your underlined words/phrases, go back and read the list of words/opposites again. And then (and here’s the yogic part!) acknowledge to yourself (and the universe) that all of these states of mind actually exist within you. That some have been conscious (the ones you initially wrote about), and others have been unconscious (their “opposites”), but now you’re choosing to become conscious of both pairs of opposites. When you do this, you “liberate” the energy that has been bound in the emotional or mental or physical pattern defined by these pairs of opposites … you allow unconscious “stuck-ness” to begin again to flow …

To end, sit quietly for a few minutes, and invoke the guidance of the invisible realms, in whatever way you’re comfortable doing this. Ask for the support of your angels or guides or God or Buddha or Whoever … in releasing this old pattern, and opening to receive the shifts of body, mind & spirit that will be forthcoming. Notice how you feel.

[If a pattern is a long-term one, you may have to repeat this process, again and again, for weeks or months or years … But each time you do it, the “stuck-ness” will be unraveled a bit, until finally you’re completely free of it. For less-entrenched patterns, you’ll notice a strong shift after just one or two rounds!]

bookmark_borderUniversal Principles of Yoga

Why is it so hard for people to forgive themselves or others? It is easier today than it has ever been for people to shut off the outside world and play with “electronic toys.” Why should today’s children try to develop social skills or bonds with their peers? They have all they need, or do they have everything?

Due to consumerism, today’s children are bored by all the toys, but they are stimulated by action with each other. Children, who sit in front of the television, often complain about boredom. When they play real games, go to a Yoga class, or participate in dance, music, or a sport, you see healthy and vibrant children.

The consumption of electronic gadgets has led adults and children to think about: “me, myself, and I,” more than ever. In this social climate, why should anyone forgive? Why should adults or children take a Yoga class, when there are so many more toys to play with?

Intolerance is a natural part of humanity, but consumerism has led to a self-centered path, where the world is wrong and I am right. It is easy to see how fundamentalism can weave its way into this social climate. Why forgive when you can get revenge? Why talk when you can sue?

This is why Yoga can help heal today’s world. Yoga teaches us about the law of Karma. Today, we may say, “What goes around comes around,” but “what we sow, we shall reap,” is a scarier thought. Karma is the law of cause and effect.

You can see the path humankind is on, but what can you do about it? It starts with each of us. Open your heart and bond with your children. Make time for family and friends. Shut the electronics off and work on your spiritual, mental, and physical health. Yoga is about good health in many different aspects.

We live in an electronic world, but we know it is not entirely healthy. We cannot run and hide from electronics, consumerism, and materialism when we are surrounded by it, but we can make wiser choices about our free time.

Yoga offers adults and children insight. This allows all of us to better ourselves and put past mistakes behind. We all make mistakes because we are human.

Forgiveness allows us to leave hate behind and spend our energy on more constructive pursuits, such as enjoying time with our friends or family.

bookmark_borderFlying Lessons

By the third time (all week-day matinees: cheaper & less crowded), the theatre clerks & I exchanged amused glances of recognition. By about the fifth time I was definitely feeling sheepish, if not downright embarrassed, by what I imagined was being perceived as clearly-addictive behavior. But I didn’t care! I saw the film, over the course of about a month, no fewer than seven times. Each viewing revealed some new wonder, some previously-unnoticed level of meaning, or just an exquisite detail, that my eyes, ears & heart hungrily consumed.

And what was the cause, in this film (and later also in the re-made Hero) for my tears & rapture? For drawing someone who doesn’t even really watch many movies, back like this, again & again, almost magnetically? It’s a bit hard to articulate, though what I can say is that there was something being portrayed ~ in both of these films ~ with which I resonated so deeply, that at a soul- & cell-level I recognized, which so rarely, in this culture, is portrayed. It felt like coming home. Particularly powerful for me were the fight scenes: not for the conflict that was being enacted (I actually have an aversion to violence, per se), but rather for the fluidity & lightness ~ the Mastery of physical movement ~ that was being so beautifully demonstrated. Some who I spoke to about the film considered these scenes merely fanciful, a kind of science fiction that perhaps had been taken to an extreme … but for me those scenes were ~ at long last ~ portraying a reality, something the very fibers of my being understood to be not only a possible, but also in many ways a preferable way of being-in-a-human-body. There was and is a knowing that: Yes ~ Flying is possible!

Now this love affair with movement-as-flight, with enlightenment expressed as human form & movement, has been with me for a while: As a child I adored the graceful connections between Terry Bradshaw & Lynn Swann; Later, Michael Jordan became my all-time hero. Then it was Bruce Lee. On a number of occasions I’ve felt my life to be transformed by the performance of dancers: Mikhail Baryshnikov (who I saw in person for the first time when he was in his fifties, and stunning!), David Parsons (whose magical piece “Caught” still resonates inside of me), Diego Pinon (a Butoh Master, whose sensual & organic explorations of human movement opened within me whole new realms of possibility re: intimacy & empowered vulnerability). Each year that I’ve lived in Boulder I’ve watched the world-class runners in the “Bolder Boulder” 10k race, and noticed how the winners (in recent years, Kenyans) most often have broken through their intense effort into a level of ease, of rapture, of something clearly beyond the physical … In the realm of yoga asana, Richard Freeman has expressed this same level of power, grace & fluidity. Among the Tibetan Lamas that I’ve encountered, it has been Mingyur Rinpoche whose light-filled physical presence has inspired this same level of appreciation for the kind of intelligence (genius, really) that can be manifest through & as a human body. To all of these beings (and countless others who’ve accomplished something similar): a deep bow of gratitude.

So how does this happen? This appearance and/or experience of “flight”? This transformation of a seemingly-dense human body into something capable of such magical displays?

As a starting-point for this exploration, it might be useful to learn a bit about the principles of fluid mechanics which create the aerodynamic force of “lift” in an airplane … for perhaps the key to our own “flight” as yoga or qigong practitioners lies in the emulation of these physical characteristics. First, know that air, just like water, is ~ in terms of the (Newtonian) physical & mathematical principles to which it adheres ~ considered to be a “fluid.” Know also that “lift” can only be generated when a fluid is in motion. So, for instance, a wing must be passing through the air or the air must be moving around a stationary wing (or both) in order for lift to happen.

Most of the lift in an airplane is generated by its wings, and specifically by the way air flows around wings of a particular shape. What we notice about most airplane wings is that, when viewed edge-on, their upper surfaces are curved (convex) and their lower surfaces are flatter. As air moves around a wing of this shape, the air that goes over the curved upper surface undergoes two important changes: (1) it is reduced in pressure (by the centrifugal force of flowing across the curved surface); and (2) it is accelerated downward (as it leaves the trailing edge of the wing). The wing is then forced into the region of reduced air pressure above the upper surface of the wing by the higher air pressure beneath the wing; and the downward acceleration of the air at the trailing edge also forces the wing upward. Since lift is dependent on the motion of the air, it increases as the speed of the air increases. Lift also increases, to a point, as the angle that the wing makes with the airflow increases (past a certain point, however, an increased angle will cause the wing to suddenly lose its lifting ability).

So how, in the context of a physical practice such as yoga asana or qigong, might we emulate the qualities that give lift to an airplane? Let’s explore … Creating or energizing physical structures which have the same shape as an airplane wing is something we certainly can play with: If I extend my arms out from my shoulders, like wings, I can cup my palms slightly, away from the floor, and at the same time deepen my armpits, while allowing my shoulders, biceps & the top part of my hands to feel “puffed” upward. In this way I’ve created a shape similar to the shape of an airplane wing. And as it turns out, there are many other places in my body where I’m able to create suction-cup-like structures, which will act to generate lift in this same way, when met with flow: the soles of my feet; my pelvic floor, my thoracic diaphragm, & the roof of my mouth, to name just a few.

Now that I’ve created these structures which have the potential to give me “lift” when met with a flow of air, the next question becomes: how do I create a flow of air? I could, of course, go outside in a high wind, and see what happens … But as yoga practitioners we like at least at times to practice indoors, and at all times for the practice to be moving in the direction of being “internal,” of being something that doesn’t depend too heavily on external conditions. Luckily, our pranic bodies, like air and water, operate in many ways like fluids. What’s even more fortunate is that we can utilize the basic yoga/qigong principle “prana follows citta” (qi follows mind/intention) to create the “high wind” (high vibration) conditions that will ~ in combination with our wing-like structures ~ give us “lift” (transform matter into “light,” structure into flow). To do this, I simply imagine that I’m facing a high wind (or standing waist-high in a fast-moving creek, facing up-stream) … It’s as simple as that. Then tilt your wings (and all those little suction-cups) slightly upward (into the on-coming wind or water), feel the upper surfaces of your body being drawn into the low-pressure areas above you, and feel yourself becoming lighter: little by little (or perhaps all at once) taking flight! (At this level of practice, what you’ll also discover is that remaining “heavy” in your heels, sitting-bones & coccyx actually supports the feeling of lightness of the body as a whole, particularly along its central axis … It’s kind of a paradox!)

So that’s a way of working in the direction of “flying” which takes as starting-points: (1) our conventionally-perceived bodies (a collection of muscles, bones, organs, etc.); as well as (2) our habitual identification with our bodies (I am my body so what it means for “me” to fly is for this physical body to do more-or-less what an airplane does). And this can be an interesting and useful exploration.

What can also be interesting is to begin by challenging these basic assumptions, for instance by thinking: To the extent that I’m currently perceiving my body as something solid, to this extent I’m still caught in wrong views, in delusion. (And creating my yoga practice on the foundation of these wrong views is the equivalent, say, of building a philosophical argument upon a set of faulty axioms/assumptions.) What might happen if I begin instead with the assumption (adopt the view) that my body is of the nature of light, color & sound (like a rainbow)? Or that my body is of the nature of space, like the sky itself (am I then always already flying)? That instead of being continuous through time, my body is being created anew in each second (pulsing in & out of “existence”)? Or wondering: If the belief that “I am this body” is the basis of all suffering, and I somehow now let go of or at least soften around that belief … If “I” am no longer identified with this physical body, then what might it mean for “me” to fly? (Who or what is it that’s flying, if not this physical body?) I don’t have the answers to any of these questions, but do feel very curious …

What I do know is that many of us have had dreams of flying. In my own dreams of this sort, I’m almost always “flying” in/as a body which looks “just like” my waking-state body. (There are Tibetan dream yoga practices in which we train in transforming our body into many different shapes … so, for instance, we might choose to assume the form of a bird, or an airplane, to do our flying … or might transform our body into the body of a particular deity, and simply hover in space in that form, or fly around with our consorts …) What I notice in these flying dreams is that it is my intention (mind, will) that is the “pilot,” i.e. it’s via my thoughts (or mental body) that I choose the course of my flight. And how this takes a certain relaxed focus, which at times is quite precise & effective, and at other times less so. (Sometimes I crash-land.) And then I wake, and think: I’ve just been dreaming of flying!

bookmark_borderYoga and Pregnancy

Yoga poses help you breathe and relax, which can help you adjust to the physical demands of labor, birth, and motherhood.Learning how to do ujayi breathing primes you for labor and childbirth by training you to stay calm when you need it most. If you are afraid during labor, the body produces adrenalin and shuts down the production of oxytocin, a hormone that makes labor progress. Yoga practice will help you fight the urge to tighten up when you feel the pain, and show you how to breathe instead.

The practice of meditation is extremely beneficial for you and your baby. It has been proven to slow down your heart rate, relax and focus your mind – all great for the baby.

As a general rule, avoid backbending poses, as well as extreme forward bending. Place your legs apart for seated paschimottanasana (forward bend.)

If you never practiced inverted poses before, now is not the time to start. However, if you have a practice of inversions, you may carefully continue for the first two trimesters. Don’t hold the poses for too long.

You may want to skip any movements that require you to lie flat on your back for longer than a few minutes, especially after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Lying on your back can put pressure on your inferior vena cava, the vein that returns blood from the legs to the heart, and can cause dizziness, shortness of breath, and nausea. But many women are comfortable lying in this position well into their pregnancies, so watch your body and your instincts.

  • First trimester. You don’t have many restrictions this early in your pregnancy. If you’re a regular yoga practitioner, accept that your routine will require modifications as time goes on. Listen to your body.
  • Second trimester. Don’t try to hold poses for a long time, and remember to sink into yoga positions slowly and carefully to avoid injury, because of your loosening joints. Your expanding belly will effect your sense of balance.
  • Third trimester. You’re probably feeling less graceful now that your belly is bigger, so perform standing poses with your heel to the wall to avoid losing your balance and risking injury to you or your baby. Props such as blocks and straps can also help you move through different poses with greater stability.

bookmark_borderYoga Straps

It makes your pose very much easy and everyone can practice that without any hassle. In olden times there may not be such straps or balls but they use to improvise it by using some other material which can be used in the place of the actual brick and strap.

By having yoga strap by your side you can attain the flexibility factor which may be missing in your body structure. Or due to some medical condition some asanas cannot be performed, but with this strap and other accessories yoga have become very easy. Thus it has made itself very easy and popular which is the main factor of spreading the knowledge about yoga to everyone in the world.

The straps used come in different sizes and can be modified according to the person’s usage. This helps in holding the pose for a longer period which is the main essence of doing any kind of yoga. It helps in increasing flexibility and your concentration level. These are very sturdy and come in two buckle style on cotton webbing. These buckles are either D-ring buckles or plastic cinch buckles. The buckles are adjustable and are very useful for getting your yoga positions right.

These yoga straps can be used in all levels of yoga. The harder the level the more is the use of the straps. Some of the most challenging yoga poses can be achieved by the straps provided and by holding them longer. The straps help you in achieving some of the hardest level of yoga asanas which makes all the stretch worthwhile and helpful.

bookmark_borderBeauty and Youthfulness

Body is just like a burning flame. A flame exists and gives light so long as oil or wax burns. Fresh oil is drawn up into the flame and burnt out oil leaves the flame into the atmosphere. Similarly food, water and air enters into the body and used up and toxic materials leaves the body in the form of sweating, urine and stool. The body remains as burning flame giving beauty and youthfulness.

However the difference is that oil in the body is inexhaustible. It is the life-force(prana) pervading all parts and all cells in the body. The source of this life-force is the soul(atman) within each living being. Soul and its life-force is eternal, unending and uncontaminated. Hence so long as this life-force exists in the body, the body should be beautiful, youthful and uncontaminated with disease and death.

Again if we view the body scientifically, the cells in the body are being regenerated continuously. After every seven years all old cells are replaced by newly created cells. So after every seven years we get a new body and never remain the same. Hence the body should always remain beautiful and youthful.

So long as we don’t realise our life-force(prana) and source of this life-force i.e. soul(atman) or true self, we cannot remain youthful. In order to realise true self one has to practice Yoga. Yoga is a method to control body and mind and finally the mind. We are nothing but a mind. What our mind thinks up it materialises. When we practice Yoga to remain youthful and beautiful it really happens. We rule over the body and mind and overcome disease and death. This is liberation and this may come right in this birth.

Contrary to this, religious leaders would declare that disease and death is truth. So pray for the mercy of God and after death one may enter into heaven. Hell, heaven and God are imaginary things which have remained as ignorance and prejudice for thousands of years. They have no real existence; they exists in the mind only. These things have been created by a few in order to rule over the majority. The real truth, the real divinity and the real bliss lies in soul, life and consciousness only.

bookmark_borderStanding Yoga Poses

The mountain pose (known as the Tadasana) got its name from a number of defining properties that share the symbols of the mountain. The pose benefits from a high level of relaxed strength and a sense of invulnerability. Very like a mountain, the person practicing this pose will be surrounded by tranquillity and will feel a heightened impression of balance. The clarity and profound vision offered by this pose permit you to go deeper in your inner emotions and unite with your inner self on a very deep level.

The mountain pose is achieved by placing the heels slightly apart, so that toes are parallel. Carry out a back and forth rocking movement on your toes and slowly come to a complete stop. Raise the ankles in order to consolidate the pose while also tightening the leg muscles. Thrust your tailbone towards the floor while lifting your pelvic area towards the navel. Your arms should be resting near your body while you are pushing your shoulder blades backwards.

The clear-cut positive effects of the mountain pose made it the basis of many other poses. Tadasana implies that the practicing yogi has to discover the meaning of balance and stillness before progressing further. For this reason, the mountain pose is one of the best ways to connect with your inner emotions while uncovering the subtle ways of yoga. The energy channels of the mountain pose traverse your whole body, following the spine, from the back of the neck and on towards the legs.

The next significant standing pose is the Triangle pose, or the Trikonasana. This comparatively easy pose has a satisfactory stretching effect on the spine, giving it a good lateral motion that complements the stretching of alternate forward poses. The straightness of the knees is essential while performing this pose, as this will allow your movements to be fluent and to stretch all the targeted muscles and organs. Bending to the left and right needs to be done gradually and fluently. This is one of the yoga poses that is good for providing the foundation for the next levels of postures, which are more advanced and harder to perform. The stimulation of the spinal nerves is also useful and it improves complete body flexibility.

In order to enjoy the full advantage of the triangle pose you have to position your body properly. Your feet have to be spread apart while you are pointing to your toes. Try to alternate the pointing motion from your left foot to your right one while keeping a constant rhythm and perfect balance. After you extend your arms parallel to the floor you should breathe in deeply, allowing the energy to reinforce your movements. While exhaling aim to execute a slight bend to either left or right while sliding your hand down your foot. This motion requires a lot of flexibility in the lower back muscles area, so a good warm up session is completely essential before attempting the triangle. Yogis who try this pose often notice the sensation of a lighter body, joined with a feeling of mild warmth in the stretched muscles.