Yoga - Benefits and Precautions
Yoga is GREAT! It is bursting with benefits and can help people in so many different ways.
It is relaxing, it strengthens the mind and body, it calms our nerves, it gives us focus and it gives us energy. I could go on and on! It is is being embraced all around the world by millions of people for a reason.
I am studying to be a yoga teacher at the moment and have my first asana exam at the end of the month. I need to know how to teach a variety of level 1asanas to my classmates who will be posing as a beginners class. So I need to give nice, clear instructions and demonstrations. I also have to know the benefits of each pose and just as importantly I need to know the contra-indications of them as well. I think this is something that gets a bit lost in a lot of classes.
I have decided to create a post that gives the basic outline of who and what each group of asanas are good for.
I will also state what injuries and conditions each asana group is not recommended for. This way you can reduce your chances of injury when you go to class, and I can study for my exam. It's a win-win situation for everybody!
I will not discuss each asana individually, but will focus on the group of asanas as a whole instead. Poses that belong to the same group will generally have the same or similar benefits and precautions. Individual asanas however, may also have added contraindications so you should always inform your teacher of any health issues you have before class so that they can give you alternatives if needed.
Current imbalance both mentally and physically, as well as operations and past injuries all need to be taken into consideration. Something such a torn ligament that may have happen years ago could still over time create problems. Asanas and their effects on the body should always be considered as prolonged and continual practice can create problems over time if you are not aware and mindful.
This group of poses are great for creating energy.
They teach somatic awareness. This means when we do these asanas we become more aware of/in tune with our bodies.
stimulates digestion and improves circulation
Great for grounding both physically and mentally
They strengthen our knees, legs and hips.
They also strengthen our abdominal muscles especially when we have correct alignment.
They are good for our nervous system as they have a close relationship with our spinal cord.
Energetically they strengthen and stimulate the chakras
Build emotional strength
Knee, hip and ankle injuries, (yes I know I said they get strengthened and they do, but that is because they are doing a lot of work so if they are weak or injured you will need to be careful)
Bulged disc in back
Pregnancy - 1st trimester
High blood pressure
Always make sure your feet are firmly grounded and that your weight is evenly distributed across each foot. Both feet should have the same amount of weight and pressure during all poses. Try to remember these few basic points and your well on your way.
Stretch lower back, hamstrings hips and pelvis
Tones and massages internal organs - kidneys and digestive
Highly recommended for diabetes as they work to balance the pancreas
Stretches the whole spine and relieves sciatica
Can slow the enlargement of the liver and spleen
Engages the 2nd chakra
Calms the mind and nervous system. Good for anybody suffering from anxiety. (Great for vata)
Has a cooling effect (Great for pitta)
Emotionally they are seen as a way to go inside and to help us to surrender.
Pregnancy - 2nd and 3rd trimester
Lower back issues especially sacral lumber
Menstruation (during the first few days, if heavy or difficult)
The nature of the poses, folding forward creates an inward focus so are not recommended for people suffering from depression
As always be careful with your spine and move into and out of each pose mindfully. If standing always ground yourself and have even pressure across both feet.
Stimulation of the internal organs aids digestion
Creates more mobility in the spine, hips and pelvis
Relieves backache, headaches and menstrual pain (towards end)
By twisting the body the internal organs are squeezed and massaged allowing for the elimination of toxins.
Assimilation of nutrients increases
Postnatal - Great for toning and strengthening
Can be either calming or stimulating depending on the individuals needs at the time
3rd chakra is stimulated
Pregnancy - especially 1st trimester
Lower back issues especially disc problems
Recent surgery on torso
Seated twists are more intense than laying twists and standing twists are the easiest. Always make sure you extend and elongate the spine and never force. Use your abdominal muscles to create and control the twist and not your neck.
Strengthens lumber spine, shoulders and shoulder blades, glutes and hamstrings
Activates the chakras. Primarily the 4th but also the 3rd and 5th
Improves posture as they help to realign the spine
Good for vata as they help to eliminate air
Opens the heart
Shifts and stimulates emotions
Stimulates prana and the respiratory system (great for kapha)
Good for the movement of blood that tends to collect around our backs
Releases negative emotions
Sympathetic nervous system
Diaphragm is stretched, stimulated and strengthened
Full compression of organs
Kidneys and adrenals are stimulated
Serious back injuries or issues
Pregnancy - later stages
High blood pressure
Spondylolisthesis and spondylolysis
Be very careful with your spine. Don't push your self beyond your limits. Things take time, be patient and accepting.
Mental stability and focus
Improves concentration, self-confidence and coordination
Synchronisation of body
Stimulates the respiratory system and circulatory system (great for kapha)
Bring you out of your comfort zone (great for kapha)
1st chakra stimulation
Be very careful with past injuries of ligaments and tendons
Injuries to the joints
Knee, hip and ankle injuries
These poses become easier the more you practice. Strengthening your legs and core will greatly improves your ability to balance. Your mind is another issue. Yoga calms the mind and over time you will find your balances becoming easier the more you are able to calm the chatter in your mind.
Inversions are the kings and queens of asanas. Their lists of benefits are quite outstanding and truly deserve such praise. try to include one in all your practices or even better in your daily routine.
Improves posture - helps with the realignment of the spine
Because you are upside down the blood flows naturally to the heart giving it a well deserved rest
The internal organs are given a good massage which helps to improve digestion and related issues such as constipation
Deeper abdominal breathing gives the heart and lungs a nice massage
Circulation is improved allowing for greater assimilation of nutrients into the bloodstream and organs
Calms the nervous system (great for vata)
Stimulates the thymus, thyroid and parathyroid (shoulder stand)
Clarifies mind, helps with concentration and improves memory (great for vata)
Reproductive and menstrual issues are alleviated (shoulder stand)
Relieves insomnia, depression
Great for varicose veins
Eye issues - detached retina, glaucoma
Neck issues (Shoulder stand)
Back issues (talk to your teacher for variations)
Pregnancy (check with your teacher)
High blood pressure
Stop if there is any pressure behind your eyes, ringing in the ears or breathing becomes difficult.
Inversions are not easy at first. They take strength and focus. Yoga practice will give you both.
If there are any specific poses or conditions you would like to know about send me a message or better still write in the comment box so everyone can benefit and learn.