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Roaring Lion

Simhagarjanasana

Benefits

  • Alleviates TMJ disorders
  • Relaxes and tones the nervous system
  • Strengthens the voice
  • Opens the chest and diaphragm
  • Heals conditions of the thyroid, throat, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth
  • Said to keep the face young and beautiful by relaxing the facial muscles

Effects

To Practice:

Locust

Shalabhasana

Benefits

  • Strengthens the low back and pelvic organs and tones the sciatic nerves, which may help to alleviate backache or mild sciatica
  • Strengthens the heart and the circulatory system
  • Regular practice may help to lower blood pressure
  • Stimulates the autonomic nervous system, especially the parasympathetic (calming) response
  • Massages and tones the liver and other abdominal organs, including the kidneys and adrenal glands
  • Alleviates conditions of the stomach and intestines, and stimulates the appetite

Effects

To Practice:

Contraindications

  • Contraindicated during pregnancy, or after abdominal surgery
  • Those with high blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke should avoid this practice and/or practice only under expert guidance
  • For those with low back pain or sciatica, begin with modifications

Cow’s Head

Gomukhasana

Benefits

  • Alleviates backache, sciatica, rheumatism, and general stiffness in the shoulders and neck, and improves posture through opening the chest
  • Opens the hips and buttocks, alleviating leg cramps and toning the lower body
  • Massages the digestive organs and stimulates the kidneys, which may help in cases of diabetes
  • Enhances the immune system by massaging and purifying the lymph nodes of the groin and underarms
  • Helpful for preventing and healing shoulder problems, including bursitis and rotator cuff injuries
  • Induces a state of relaxation, and when practiced for a minimum of 10 minutes, this posture will relieve tiredness, tension, and anxiety

Effects

To Practice:

  1. Begin in Table with the Right knee crossed in front of the Left, knees pressing firmly together and the feet spreading wide.
  2. Sit the hips back between the heels, resting both sits bones on the earth (or, if both sits bones do not touch, rest them on a folded blanket).
  3. Lengthen the spine, engaging the bandhas and drawing the lower ribcage up and back.
  4. Inhale to stretch the left arm up, and as you exhale, bend the left elbow, reaching the hand between the shoulder blades.
  5. Inhale to bring the right arm behind the back, reaching it up between the shoulder blades, with the back of the hand towards the body, to clasp the left fingers (if the fingers don’t touch, use a strap to create the bind).
  6. Draw the sternum toward the spine while lengthening the vertebrae, to prevent the ribcage from popping forward and arching the spine.
  7. Draw the elbows toward the midline of the body, while reaching them in opposite directions.
  8. Keep the ribcage directly above the pelvis and the space between the shoulder blades widening.
  9. Continue breathing deeply and steadily, grounding through the sits bones and lengthening through the crown of the head.
  10. After a few minutes, slowly and gently release the posture, and repeat to the other side.
Contraindications
  • Those with knee, hip, shoulder, elbow, wrist, or low back pain may need to begin with modifications
Modifications
  • If the hands don’t touch, use a strap to create the bind behind the back, or simply grab opposite elbows behind the body for chest opening
  • Place a folded blanket or bolster under the sits bones
  • Practice this posture lying on your back, holding the feet (pictured below)

Variations
  • Practice holding the feet and folding the torso forward

Pigeon

Kapotasana

Benefits

  • Improves range of motion in the hip joint by opening the hip flexors and outer hip area
  • Stretches the buttocks and the piriformis muscle, which may help to alleviate sciatica
  • Massages and tones the digestive and reproductive organs

Effects

To Practice:

  1. Begin in Runner Pose with the right leg forward, engaging the bandhas and reaching through the back heel.
  2. Lower the left knee and top of the foot to the ground.
  3. Open the right knee out, and bring the right foot forward, aligning the shin as close to parallel to the front of your mat as possible.
  4. Square the pelvis by drawing the right hip back, and left hip forward.
  5. Press the hips toward the floor. If the hips cannot rest on the floor and remain square, you may want to place a block or bolster under the right sits bone (see modifications).
  6. Reach back through the left toes while lengthening the torso upward, relaxing in the shoulders and creating space in the vertebrae.
  7. Breathe deeply and steadily, inhaling into the pelvic region, and softening in the hip joints with each exhale.
  8. After a few minutes, slowly and gently release the posture.
  9. Repeat to the other side.
Contraindications
  • Those with knee, hip, or low back pain may need to begin with modifications.
Modifications
  • Place a folded blanket or block under the sits bone of the front leg to support and maintain alignment of the hips.
Variations
  • Fold the torso forward and rest on the forearms or forehead.
  • Bend the back knee and hold onto the ankle to increase the stretch in the thigh.

 


Sun Salutation

Surya Namaskar

Benefits

  • A complete sadhana, or spiritual practice, that is an excellent flow for beginning a morning practice
  • Prepares one for spiritual awakening and expanded awareness
  • Vitalizes the solar energy of the body and regulates pingala nadi
  • Stimulates and balances all of the systems of the body, including the endocrine, circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems

Effects

Contraindications

  • Those with very high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, or history of stroke should avoid this practice
  • Those suffering from back conditions should begin gently, or with the aid of a qualified yoga teacher