Instructions – Standing up right with the natural “S” shaped curve of the spine bring the hands together at the heart center. The feet may either be together or apart depending on what is comfortable in your own body.
Physical Benefit – This simple posture brings the body into its natural alignment, in preparation for the practice to follow. It helps to improve our posture as well. When most people stand, they put one leg out, lean to one side or are misaligned in some other way.
Usually this misalignment is consistent, always favoring one side or the other. In the long term this habitual misalignment can cause issues in the body. By practicing Prakshan we become reminded of the body’s natural symmetrical alignment, which can carry into our everyday life.
Spiritual Benefit – This posture, which is not physically strenuous, allows us to take moment to center ourselves and establish the rhythm of the mantra. Bringing our hands together in Prakshan, which is a pose of great respect, reminds us to demonstrate respect while we are performing the practice.
We are taking care of the body in such a way that we can worship God and perform Seva (selfless service) most effectively. We are taking care of our bodies in order to become Sadhus and not become a burden to others.
Bringing the hands together also represents total balance, the left hand represents Consciousness and the right hand indicates Energy. Bringing the two together in union is the goal of Yoga.
Instructions – From a standing position reach both arms upward in front of the body. For some it may be more comfortable to sweep the arms out to the sides and then up.
Let the hands meet and reach back as far as is comfortable. For those without any back problems this posture can be made it to a slight backbend by continuing to reach the arms further back rather than only extending up.
Physical Benefit – This posture helps to stretch the arms and the entire torso. It opens the area of the heart and stretches the shoulders. It allows the lungs to begin to open more fully and for breathing to become deeper.
Spiritual Benefit – This posture helps to wake up the entire body and our awareness. It is like a large wakeful stretching from head to toe. In that it also opens the region of the heart and causes it to shine out.
Many of us spend the day slouching forward and thus compressing the area of the heart. This creates a subtle feeling of being closed up emotionally and spiritually. This posture annihilates that feeling. In one moment we are reaching toward the sun, toward the universe and the energy in all, and at the same time we are opening the heart and all of our body to receive the light.
Instructions – From a standing posture make the spine straight. Keep the spine straight and begin folding forward from the hips. Do not allow the spine to curl/bend until you fold further then the point of the torso being parallel to the floor. This is important for protecting the back.
If you cannot fold far enough to go past being parallel with the floor it may be useful to then bend the knees slight and bring the chest all the way to the thighs. From here extend as far as you can without taking the chest off the thighs.
If you can fold past parallel with the floor then just continue folding allowing the spine to curl until you reach as far done as you are able. The hands can rest on the floor or they can pull on the calphs to help extend the stretch.
Physical Benefit – This posture is the best for stretching the hamstrings on the backs of the legs. Tight hamstrings can contribute to lower back problems as well as making folding forward and other daily life activities difficult. This posture also inverts the torso by putting the head below the region of the heart and then way is beneficial to all the organs of the body.
Spiritual Benefit – Uttanasana is a very inward going pose. The head is pressed toward the legs and the torso is upside down, since we are folding forward. It can be a posture of great intensity for many people who have tight hamstrings. The pose teaches us to overcome the external unpleasentaries and center ourselves within.
One Leg Lunge
Instructions – Keeping the hips facing forward step the right leg back and lower the torso towards the left thigh. This should be a deep lunge posture, often the torso will be touching the thigh of the leg in front. The hands can be planted on the floor to the left and right of the leg, the head looks up slightly.
The legs and torso are engaged so the whole body is engaged and lifting up rather than sinking down and just resting its weight on the legs.
Physical Benefit – Stretches and strengths the leg and groin area. When the torso is engaged properly it can also help strengthen the abdominal muscles. One leg pressing into the chest in this posture also helps to massage the digestive tract and keep it healthy.
Spiritual Benefit – This pose helps the practitioner to feel very firm and grounded. By engaging the body fully in this pose one finds a feeling of strength that dispels all previous ideas of weakness.
Instructions – From the lunge posture bring the torso up right keeping the legs in a similar or slightly shorter stance. The back heel may remain up or you can shorten the stance to bring the foot flat. The hips should remain facing forward. Bring both arms up toward the ceiling and gaze slightly up. If this hurts the back, bring the arms out to the side in a goal post shape instead.
Physical Benefit – Virabhadrasana stretch and tones the legs. It gives strength to the body as well as stretching the shoulders and the back. It opens the heart and chest. It also strengths subtle areas of the body like the ankles and helps to increase ones walking stride so that steps are more effective.
Spiritual Benefit – Virabhadra means the excellent warrior or the excellent hero. It is the name of a very powerful servant of Lord Shiva. Practicing this posture gives rise to a feeling of strength and heroism within. It is a powerful posture that helps one to feel a sensation of empoweredness rather than powerlessness.
Instructions – From Virabhadrasana 1 slide the back foot further back and turn the hips and torso so they now open to the side. The gaze remains forward and the arms extend parallel to the floor.
Physical Benefit – Overtime Virabhadrasana 2 can be excellent pose for strengthening the back, legs, thighs and arms. The pose is very safe, even for people with lower back issues. It helps people with back issues build strengthen in the back without risks.
This posture also opens the hips and can help to strengthen the knees.
Spiritual Benefits – the spiritual benefits of this posture are much like the first Virabhadrasana. However this second posture, with arms floating parallel above the floor, gives rise to a feeling of equilibrium. Both arms are extended, yet the body is neither reaching forward or back. Everything is brought into a center of balance and equilibrium.
Instructions – Step both legs back so that the body stretches out as if entering a Push-up position. From there extend the arms and push the hips back and up toward the ceiling. It may be necessary to lengthen or shorten the distance between the arms and legs for your body.
Physical Benefit – This pose is the simplest of the inverted postures where the head is placed below the heart. This is excellent for the health of the organ and the circulatory system. The arms and legs are also strengthened in this posture, and the backs of the legs are stretched fully.
Spiritual Benefit – This posture is extremely grounding. Both hands are placed firmly griping the earth as well as both the feet. This pose helps us to bring the mind to the present and root ourselves in our spiritual nature. The hanging downward of the head also brings a certain relaxation to the mind.
Instructions – From lying on the stomach bring the hands alongside the rips or slightly further back, palms planted on the floor. Press down into the palms and lift the front of the body keeping the hips down toward the floor. As an alternative posture you can allow the hips to lift slightly so that only the hands and feet make contact with the floor.
To enter this pose from Parvatasana you can simply shift your hips toward the floor keeping your arms straight. This should allow you to seamlessly enter the asana.
Physical Benefit – This posture helps to maintain the flexibility and health of the back. In bending backward it also opens the chest and creates space for the organs. All movements that affect the spine end up having a positive effect on the organs which are contained in the torso. This posture also helps in opening the lungs.
Spiritual Benefit – Bhujangasana opens the heart and the centers of energy along the spine. After performing it one usually finds a great energy within. It is perfect for waking up the body and the mind. This posture automatically makes one hold one’s self high with lifted head and open shoulders and chest. Just this posture alone makes one feel strong and confident.
Instructions – Simply come to a position flying flat on the stomach with the head turned to one side.
Physical Benefit – This pose is place directly after a vigorous back bending posture, Bhujangasana, as such it naturally allows the spine to come back to a neutral position. It also gives a moments rest to allowing breathing to become more stabilized, so the repetition of the mantra remains steady and constant.
Spiritual Benefit – This posture gives rise to a feeling of complete rest. If one is feeling fatigue or tiredness this posture helps them to rest and feel renewed. It is also good for calming mental tensions and stresses, as well as for learning how to breathe using the diaphragm rather than just lifting the chest alone.
Locust and Half Locust
Instructions – From lying on your stomach lift one leg behind you completely off the ground, keeping it straight. If possible the thigh of the leg should not be touching the floor. For the full locust posture simply lift both legs at the same time as well as the head and shoulders.
Physical Benefit – The muscles of the back are almost always weak in our society. The advent of chairs and sitting all day long leaves our backs with little flexibility and ultimately back pain. This posture is excellent for strengthening the muscles of the back. It is also a minor back binding posture which aids in the flexibility of the back as well. In many ways it is the perfect fix or preventer for many of the modern pains that come from weak back muscles.
Spiritual Benefit – This posture helps to create an integrated feeling in the whole body. By performing this posture we can feel a firmness and strength in our being. In spiritual life we have to have an inner strength and this pose can help us get in touch with it.
Instructions – From lying on your stomach bend both legs so the feet point toward the ceiling. Try to reach your hands back and see if you can grab you toes, feet or ankles. Once you have a grip on both legs lift the thighs off the floor and engage the legs to the extent that is possible.
If you cannot get a grip on both legs at once then grab hold one leg at a time. In this way one leg will remain on the floor while you hold and lift the other. You can use your free arm in front you as a support for your upper body.
Physical Benefit – Dhanurasana may be a very involved and difficult posture but it is a very important pose for the modern day. This pose has an amazing affect on the entire digestive tract and stimulates the organs of the body. It is a very powerful posture that also stretches and strengthens the back. It can also serve to stretch the shoulders as well as the hips.
Spiritual Benefit – This pose creates a great energy throughout the body and opens many of the subtle channels called Nadis. The solar plexus of nerves, which is associated with Manipura Chakra, is especially enlivened by this posture.
Instructions – Depending on flexibility there are two main ways to perform this posture. Fold your legs under you and sit with your thighs on top of your calphs, or alternatively bring the lower legs on the outsides of the thighs such that the thighs touch the floor. The feet will be on either side of the rear. This second posture is much more difficult for the knees, if you feel any sharp pain please stop practicing it immediately.
Physical Benefit – Virasasana is excellent for stretching the quadriceps on the fronts of the upper leg. It is also beneficial for the knees and the arches of the feet. Sitting in Virasana after eating is also said to be an optimal posture for digesting food.
Spiritual Benefit – Virasana means the Heroic Posture. It is the posture which Heros like Hanuman sit in. Indeed sitting in this posture we can visualize and feel that we are God’s Servants and Heroes, waiting for his command.
Instructions – Start from either of the variations of Virasana, i.e. folding your legs under you, thighs sitting on the calfs or thighs on the floor and lower legs to the outside. From there take your hands behind you and begin to move them back, and as you do lower the back towards the floor. Stop wherever your body tells you to or if possible come all the way back to a reclined position.
Physical Benefit – The benefits of Supta Virasana are very similar to those of Virasana but the reclined position adds intensity to the stretch of the front of the legs. It also helps in extending and smoothing the stomach area. For those who cannot lie all the way flat, it becomes a back bending posture which also possess many benefits.
Spiritual Benefit – This series of asana involves a lot of motion and vigor. When this asana is performed completely it becomes a posture of great rest and peace, one can feel the energy flowing easily. When performed more as a backbend, being unable to come completely to the floor, it opens the lungs and the spine.
Instructions – Start from either of the variations of Virasana, i.e. folding your legs under you, thighs sitting on the calphs or thighs on the floor and lower legs to the outside. From there fold the upper body forward so the chest comes toward the thighs. The arms can extend in front of you or back along the sides of the legs.
Physical Benefit – Child’s Pose is again similar to Virasana but with much less intensity of stretch on the tops of the legs. However, it has a great added benefit in the compression of the torso which stimulates the organs and aids in digestion. Breathing in this position may seem unconformable at first but it is also beneficial for the lungs.
Spiritual Benefit – Resting the head of the floor and curling the body into this simple position brings a feeling of piece over the mind. If someone is frustrated or otherwise stressed out this posture helps bring about a peaceful sensation in the mind.
It represents a sort of resting our head on the lap of the Divine Mother and lettings all things go. Hence it is called the Child’s Pose.