Yoga Practices for Spinal Disc Herniation. Continuing with our series on back problems, in this article we will try to shed some light on another major setback to the spine, commonly known as bulging disc or herniated disc in the lumbar region. We will also take a look at the application of yoga practices for spinal disc herniation.
Spine is crucial part of human body, connecting brain with the rest of the body. It sets up a line of communication to and from the brain, delivering messages in the form of electrical impulses travelling at different speed and frequencies to let the brain talk to our body. This is achieved with the help of very sophisticated structures called Nerves. Nerves form a complex network as they travel through the distance to each and every tissue. They work as excitatory and inhibitory channels allowing any function to occur or to stop. These nerves branch out from Spinal cord, which is seen as an extension of brain, as it’s made up of the same tissues as of brain. It runs vertically through the Vertebral column, which is an arrangement of vertebrae stacked on top of each other and total 33 in number. Here the spine fans out in pairs at each intersection of the vertebral bodies through specially created holes called vertebral foramen. There are in total 31 pairs of spinal nerves branching out from spinal cord and supplying to different parts of the body in upper and lower extremities as well as the viscera.
In between these vertebras a soft cushion like structure is provided in order to ensure comfort in movements and a safe passage for nerve roots branching out from there. As shown in the picture, the disc acts like a buffer, absorbing shocks and thereby preventing damage to the spine. It also provides for flexibility of the movement to the vertebral column, giving it a wide range of motion from forward, backwards and sideways.
This disc is engineered by an arrangement of connective tissue on the outskirts, which form a shell. It is connected with the vertebrae on top and bottom as a fibro cartilaginous joint. It is called Annulus Fibrosus. This annulus provides for slight movement in the spine. It also acts as a ligament holding the vertebrae together. In side this shell there is the inner core called Pulposus Nucleus. This is a jelly like substance which is mainly water (mucoprotein gel or proteoglycan) with some loose collagen fibers. This pulposus is responsible for withstanding the forces of compression and weight being put on our spine constantly in almost all the postures we move into.
Any damage to this disc results in herniation of the exterior casing and as a result, the fluid inside is dispersed on the external surface of the vertebrae. When this happens, this fluid might interfere with adjacent nerves while irritating them. At the same time, as the spacing between two vertebrae is lessened due to the fluid moving out of its casing, they are tend to come more closer to each other which is termed as compression. This compression then might become another reason to irritate the corresponding nerve branching outward from between them.
Stages of Disc Herniation
This is a very difficult condition on part of the patient as it might lead one into intense pain and even immobility sometimes. There is huge amount of stress on psycho physiological level with decreased confidence and efficiency. Person feel restricted in common day to day action. Sitting becomes difficult, getting up from sitting becomes difficult, walking, climbing stairs, driving, cycling, and doing chores and almost all range of activities induce pain. In extreme conditions a complete bed rest is recommended unless the inflammation subsides and pain reduces. Even after that, there are very strong chances of the pain recurring on the slightest of disturbance of anatomical structures in the affected area.
What makes Spinal Disc Prone to Injuries
The causes for a lumbar disc bulging can be multiple, but we can count on certain factors which are responsible for it.
The foremost point to remember is that the discs have a very limited supply of blood for their nourishment and waste disposal. As both the portions of disc are avascular, which means they don’t have blood vessels directly supplying them, they depend almost entirely on the end plates of the vertebrae to supply them. At the time of birth the pulposus is hydrated nicely, but as we age, the water starts drying up. For exchange between the disc and vertebral end plate to happen properly, it has been observed that movement in the particular segment of spine is extremely essential. To put simply, the disc sucks the nutrition when we provide proper movement to the spine. As per the vertebral physiology, there are certain factors responsible for the nutrition to take place effectively. First of them is the arrangement of connective tissue fibers. The fibrous structures around the spine work efficiently under a particular amount of load. They are designed like that. That is why movement and weight bearing is equally important for them to stay healthy.
Secondly, the endplates of the vertebrae to which the discs are connected, need to maintain sufficient thickness in order to effectively allow the capillaries to transfuse between the two structures. This is made possible only when they are exposed to particular amount of loads which is neither too much nor too less.
Thirdly the blood vessels themselves should be in a healthy state.
Fourthly the composition of proteoglycan in the disc must be maintained in order to ensure the proper absorption hydration within the disc. This is also achieved when disc undergo the permissible amount of load.
Studies have shown that spinal disc can retain their normal character and well being, if we intelligently choose to put them under a constant workout with the desired quantity of weight along with the movements executed in the right direction.
Any movements that put excessive weight on the spine and are channelized in the wrong directions can induce structural as well as compositional deterioration.
As we know that the muscles in the lower back are very well complimented by the muscles in the abdominal region. Hence if the abdominal area shows any significant weakness, the additional load over the spinal muscles leads to deterioration in the disc due to overload. That is why it is often seen that a sedentary lifestyle comes out to be a common reason for lower back issues. Disc rupture in particular.
The diagnosis is usually prescribed at the onset of pain in the region. Radiological tests include
MRI scans : Magnetic resonance Imaging
CT scans: Computer Tomographic scans
Physical examination might also be considered by the examiner to determine the condition. It includes
Muscle Strength Test : The examiner will test the strength of certain muscles in legs and feet to see for any signs of a pinched nerve.
Knee Jerk : Tapping the patellar tendon just under the bone. If there is any compression in the nerve, there will be very less or no reflex in the knee.
Raised Leg Test : The doctor will test you by raising your right leg up towards the head in a lying position. If there is any compression at the nerve root, there will be a pain near the back of the leg.
Apart from these there are a variety of other tests which can be used by the doctor to reach to a conclusion along with the above mentioned radiological scans.
How Yoga Works Here
One of the most common methods recommended and used in such disorders is Traction. But this term must not be confused with stretching. Traction employs the force acting in two opposite directions, thereby pulling apart two vertebrae from each other with a particular weight load. Clinically, tractioning is performed mechanically with the help of machines. Studies have revealed traction can be useful for rearrangement of pulposus if done carefully. But when the disc is sequestered, i.e. when the fluid pieced out on the outer surface, traction is not helpful.
Yogasanas are a natural method of tractioning the spine without using any external mechanical device. Body is worked against the force of gravity pulling it away from the same. There are plenty of asanas, which if done carefully with expert guidance, can actually prove to be helpful in relieving off the pain and also ensuring the recuperation of the disc. Also they reinforce the vertebral ligaments and muscles which are crucial to spinal health. Along with that pranayama also helps in realigning the energy pathways for healing to take place as well by establishing harmony at the level of mechanoreceptors in the spine to speed up the process of repair and regeneration.
We are compiling some of the techniques which can be used. However the practitioner must remember that the load on the spine must be carefully controlled. Also range of movement should also be regulated so as to not aggrevate the condition. Deep flexion and extensions must be avoided. They should be replaced with gentle and supported movements which are at least halfway to the range.
Trikonasana with a support of brick : Use a brick to place by the side of front leg and rest the arm on it while bringing the trunk in partial flexion. Important : Make sure that the spine itself do not flex laterally. It is the trunk that needs to be moved from its base in the pelvis.( See figure 1).
If seems difficult to do, you can also rest against the wall to evenly distribute the body weight. (See figure 2)
It must however be remembered that the legs must be strongly attached to the floor and trunk must be pulled altogether away from the legs, thus bringing about the traction of the vertebrae. The effectiveness of the asanas depends upon how intelligently one can use gravity in relation to the body as well the specific part of the body that in intended to be worked upon. Stay in this position for 1 minute at least on each side. Repeat twice or as per the requirement.
Parsvkonasana with support of a brick : Similar to above parsvkonasana also acts as a strong tractioning asana. Please refer to the picture below to see how to place brick. The alignment of shoulder and arm resting must be correct. Also the leg which is at the back should be hooked strongly into the ground to act against the pull exerted on the trunk. (See figure 3).
Again it must be remembered that the trunk as a whole should be pulled. It needs some engagement of your Vigyanmay kosha, the intellect, on how to engage the entire length of the spinal column. Stay in this position for 1 minute at least on each side.
Adhomukha swanasana with wall : This indeed is a convenient asana to prevent extra load from the disc and giving them a chance to heal and rejuvenate. It must however be done with assistance while somebody is there to support you in and out of the asana. To do this, a belt must be tied to a bar or on a hook on the wall, at the height of your pelvic rim. Place the belt across the pelvis, on top of the groins. Gradually shifting the weight on the belt, place your arms in front raising the buttocks upwards. If needed, the heels can be attached to the wall for support.(See figure 4 & 5).
The distance between the legs must be well observed, the arms must be extended as much as possible. Neck must be in a relaxed position. The attachment of the belt to the wall acts as the other side of the load pulling the legs in the opposite direction to that of the trunk and bringing about the traction due to the effect of gravity. Stay in this position for 1 to 3 minutes.
Shashankasanamodification : Another effective method for tractioning is a variation of classical Shashankasana or Rabbit pose. Sitting in vajrasana place two bricks in front of you approximately 3 feet away from the knees. Now very gently bending forward, try and reach for the brick and place your palms on top of them. Now inhaling, raise the pelvis up from the heels and start gripping the bricks with your hands. Then exhaling, gently push the pelvis down towards heels while maintaining the grip on the bricks. (see figure 6).This action helps in stretching the spine between sacral and thoracic region. Stay in this position for 2 to 3 minutes. Repeat twice.
Shalabhasana : This asanas helps in strengthening and toning the structures around the spine. It particularly works on reinforcing the ligaments and contracting the erector spine. Also it helps in reinstating the harmony in the sensory apparatus situated all along the lower section of the spine.
To do it, lie down flat in a prone position with hands closer to the body and legs together. Palms must be facing to the floor.Now inhaling hold the breath and raise the right leg slowly up from the floor to a comfortable height. The movements must be slower. Hold the position and continue to breathe naturally. Then exhaling bring the leg into original position. Repeat on the other leg. (See figure 7)At least 8 to 10 rounds can be performed at one time.
When the leg is raised up, it must be kept stiff like staff in order to keep all the muscles engaged and activate the muscle chain the lower region of the body.
Sphinx position : Can be used as a restorative pose to relax the muscles and ligaments of the lower back and let them get rid of the stress accumulated.
To do this, lie down in prone position and place your hands straight up on the floor.Inhaling raise the head up and bending the elbows, place them just perpendicular to the shoulder, bringing the upper arm in a vertical position to the floor.Keep the lower back, buttocks and legs loose and relaxed. (See figure 8)Breathe naturally and stay in this for 1 to 3 minutes.
This posture can be performed whenever it feels necessary to rest and relax.
Following a holistic approach towards the problem involves the practice of pranayam as they are crucial in strengthening the pranic connections and nervous pathways.
Nadi Shodhan pranayama for 10 minutes every day is very beneficial in handling stress and managing painful condition. In addition it also helps in redefining the brain and body communication towards a more positive side. To get details on nadi shodhan refer to our article here.
It must be remembered that yoga is more a preventive medicine. The practices and techniques mentioned in the classical system of Hatha and Raj yoga helps us to stay away from any Dukha (diseases). Prevention of dukha depends upon Ek Tattwa Abhyas (continuous practice in particular direction). But at the same time, these practices also prove to have remarkable curative effects if performed under guidance while all the fundamental rules are followed.
The purpose of this article is to provide insight and assistance in understanding the problem. If you have any such problem persisting, we recommend consulting an experienced teacher before commencing any yoga routine for yourselves.
A majority of population today suffers from different issues pertaining to lower back, hips and buttocks. In this blog series we will try to explore the administration of asanas in various such ailments.
One of such disorders is called the piriformis syndrome. It is characterized by an acute pain in the hip region which radiates down towards the back of legs and finally into the feet. This pain can be precipitated by any rigorous activity including long distance running, any activity involving long duration sitting or by simplest action of climbing up the stairs. To say the reasons can be any, but the pain inflicted is sometimes unbearable and lends a person unable to perform physical actions with ease. At the same time such pain also irritates the nervous system thereby generating a lot of stress in the personality.
Piriformis is an all important muscle in the hip region which is responsible for lifting and rotating the leg away from the body, thereby bringing movement. It also maintains the posture while shifting the body weight from one leg to the other and helps in stabilizing the sacroiliac joint. In lot of sports involving skillful utilization of hip joint to lift and rotate the legs, piriformis plays a very important role is defining the efficiency and output.
Piriformis is a pyramid shaped muscle with its origin in the anterior portion of both the sacrum and ileum, and also from the joint capsule of the sacroiliac joint. It inserts on the upper medial (towards the midline) portion of the greater trochanter (head of femur)
Externally rotates the hip joint
Stabilizes the sacroiliac joint
Abduction of femur when hip joint is flexed.
It has to be noted however, that when hip is in a neutral position piriformis acts as external rotator. Whereas when the hip joint is flexed to or beyond 90 degrees, this muscle acts as an internal rotator.
To conclude, it’s a muscle which is directly or indirectly involved in almost all the action at the level of hips and thighs.
Sciatica nerve is one of the longest nerves in the human body. It is a cluster of many different nerves branching out from vertebral foramina in the lumbar spine and then merging as one single nerve, as thick as thumb. This nerve passes through the greater sciatic foramen in the pelvis and runs down at the back of the thighs before branching into two different nerves at the level of the knee, called Tibial Nerve and Common Peroneal Nerve. These two nerves supplies to the lower leg and foot. To conclude Sciatica nerve connects the regions of lower extremities with the spine.
Now to connect the above two descriptions, Piriformis is situated at the site where sciatica nerve exit the sciatic foramen. It is arranged diagonally to the sciatic nerve which runs vertically just underneath this muscle. This arrangement can be different in different individuals as classified below on a scale of 100.
Mostly it’s passing from below the piriformis. (70-85)
In some cases it can split into two with one branch passing through the piriformis. (11%)
Or it can split in two and wraps around the muscle. (0.86%)
It can also entirely pass through the belly of piriformis.(0.13%)
Also it can exit above the muscle. (0.8%)
It should be noted that the penetration of sciatic nerve through the muscle can exist without any painful conditions. However such a variation might be predisposed to piriformis syndrome due to any injury.
Piriformis syndrome is characterized by an acute pain running from the hip joint down all the way in the back of the leg to the foot. It is believed to be caused by a spasm of piriformis muscle which irritates the sciatic nerve passing through or adjacent to it. This spasm can be an outcome of any athletic injury or traumatic condition caused by that. The treatment includes stretching the piriformis as well the associated surrounding hip rotator muscles to get rid of spasmodic state of the muscle. Surgery is also considered to be a line of treatment, however, not accepted unanimously.
Piriformis syndrome is diagnosed through certain physical examinations, one of them being FAIR TEST. It stands for Flexion Adduction and Internal Rotation. This test allows us to locate any spasmodic conditions in the muscle. While testing for piriformis syndrome, we try and detect for any painful conditions while the muscle is used while internally and externally rotating the hip joint. Also it is examined that how muscle is behaving while being stretched in an adduction. Also radiological scan like MRI can be useful to have clarity on the issue. It should be noted that there can be other reasons for sciatica pain as like the hernia of spinal disc or any pathological conditions of hip joint, which should be ruled out to determine the possibility of piriformis syndrome, through proper diagnosis.
How Asanas Work here
As we are well aware that asanas provides us with all sort of movement and range for the joints to be covered while practicing them. Here we are putting up a small list of asanas that can be used to stretch & improve the function of piriformis. Please be advised to do them under an expert guidance.
1. Garudasana (Eagle Pose) & Virasana (Hero Pose) : Internally rotates and adducts the hip joint which proves to be a counterposture for the natural actions of piriformis i.e. external rotation and abduction.
2. Gomukhasana (Cow-Face Pose) & Raja Kapotasana (King Pigeon Pose) are beneficial as the piriformis functions changes to internal rotation at a hip flexion of 90 degree and beyond, these asanas work as perfect couterpostures in such a condition.
3. Parivritta Trikonasana : looking at the anatomy of the posture, we can see that the hip joint is being internally rotated and adducted, while being flexed. The muscle is stretched effectively in this counteraction.
4. Supt Padangushthasana : The internal rotation variation of supt padangushthasana also helps in stretching the muscle in a horizontal adduction.
6. Marichyasana III : works by adducting and flexing the hip joint and stretching the muscle eventually.
Further to balance the muscle on both side and to neutralize the tension and distress the sacroiliac joint, Setubandhasana (bridge pose) can be used.
How you incorporate these postures into your practise depends upon several factors, but over the period of time, with perseverance and patience, they will help you out to bring back the lost harmony and efficiency in your hip joint action as a whole.
Muscles are an integral part of functioning of human body. They are the providers of movement at more than 180 joints of our physical body. There have been a lot of discussion and research on the effects of yoga on muscular functions. We will try to assemble some of the facts on the topic, in this article, so as to bring to our readers a qualitative viewpoint towards the benefits of yoga.
Muscles are a collection of very small straps called fibers. Fibers are the contractile unit of a muscle, which is irritated through a nerve impulse from brain, and in response to that they respond as a whole, bringing about the contraction of the muscle. How many fibers are stimulated in a given activity determines the efficiency of performance.
Muscles are to be used constantly in order to keep them strong and fine tuned with the requirements of an individual. Active muscles allow the blood to be transfused through them deeper and maintain the level of nutrition of fibers, which are essentially made up of protein.
When we talk about training the muscles, there are generally two popular methods in the modern regime of workout, Endurance and Resistance training. First let’s try and get a quick glimpse of what these are.
Endurance Training : This method employs the workout which is primarily used for increasing the endurance and stamina. Activities like jogging, swimming, treadmill are some examples. These actions, when performed, engage the slow twitch fibers of muscles, which are generally meant for prolonged output in an aerobic environment, when enough oxygen is available for energy production in the muscles. It helps in increasing the efficiency level of fibers and makes them more resistance to fatigue.
Resistance Training : Resistance training develops muscular strength and anaerobic endurance and increases the bulk of muscles. It employs fast twitch fibers which brings about a burst of quick action in a relatively anaerobic environment. This type of training is helps in improving the strength of muscles and ligaments, improves bone density, ensures cardiovascular health and manages the blood cholesterol. The training is done with the help of increased weight load on the muscles which improves the force production in the muscles and ability to sustain tension. Weight training is a popular method of resistance training. Sprinting is another effective method.
How Yoga Develops Endurance :
First and foremost point is breathing. Practice of asanas is not complete without synchronizing the breathing patterns. This ensures a constant supply of oxygen for the body’s requirement, thus activating the aerobic system. Yoga teaches us how to breathe appropriately in various physical movements in coordination with diaphragmatic and costal muscle involvement. Along with that we are encouraged to breathe slowly and deeply, which helps in the utilization of maximum lung capacity and also increases it overtime.
Asanas increases the endurance in that they require the use of body’s strength in attaining several positions which are not falling under the normal ranges of movement in daily life. Slow paced practice while trying to cover the maximum range of our joints engages the muscles in a way that helps in improving their abilities to explore their inner potential and abilities. Flexor muscles are actively trained to sustain increased level of activity by holding the postures for long duration and the ex tensors at the same time are trained to avoid sending panic signals too quickly in an activity by lengthening them slowly and steadily over a long range of time. Asanas performed for a long duration of time with a steady rate of breath and maximum holding time and meditation sessions which are an integral part of yoga practice, not only improves physical but mental endurance as well. The dedication required for the practice, holding postures and letting go of fears of pain, helps clearing unnecessary Vrittis from the mind, and brings clarity and concentration due to channelization of efforts. Mediation at the same time centralizes the mental energies and help controlling the bizarre tendencies of mind to fluctuate. This strength of mind is essential in facing challenges and avoids stress in life.
How Yoga Develops Resistance :
Resistance training in yoga is about using your own body weight to develop muscles. Instead of external weights and equipment, a yogi employs the body weight and gravity to bring about different types of muscular contraction and engaging various muscle groups in a variety of dynamic actions. This helps achieve muscular strength, healthier tendons and ligament attachments, increased bone density. Different types of muscle contraction also improve the venous return to the heart thereby adding up to the cardiovascular efficiency. The anaerobic endurance is improved and overall muscle tone adds up to the quality of life.
To conclude we can say that as per its meaning, which is to combine or join, yoga provides us the dual benefits of endurance as well as resistance training at the same time. If practiced under the classical guidelines and traditions, yoga actually comes out as a very positive form of workout with no scope for injuries.
Please remember, if we get injured, the fault lies at our end and is not to be ascribed to the yogic practices.
Its difficult to put up the amazing benefits of yoga into articles and words. Rather we would like you to incorporate yoga into your life to experience these benefits by yourself. Patanjali in his Yoga Sturas says that key to siddhi or perfection is Abhyas and Vairagya. Abhyas here means a constant line of practise and Vairagya in this context refers to a refined intellect which can see and discriminate with clarity. Adding up yoga in your routine can actually provide you with the above mentioned effects and you can improve your quality of live and well being phenomenally. After all it’s worth trying as there is everything to be gained here.
Hatha yoga is an art and science of mind body alignment. It is testified over the ages to bring about fundamental changes in our lives. This branch of yoga aims at creating a harmony between the active and passive forces of an individual through various methods of asanas, pranayam and purification. The principle of hatha yoga extends along the lines of intense purification of the body targeting a more calm and focused mind. A body free of toxins and hyper stimulative tendencies is supposed to be the abode of a calm and serene mind which can be put to use efficiently in walks of life.
Hatha yoga enables the students to use of certain methods and pursuing some conducts in life in order to achieve this balance. A disciplined life is a prosperous life and a healthy body leads us to healthy and happy experiences which are not distorted by physical or psychic toxins. This philosophy of hatha yoga makes it unique and a comprehensive system of health and wellness conducive to all those with an inclination towards natural ways of attaining health and vitality.
Hatha yoga is one of the primary branches of Yoga which was established in its present format by one of the most commendable yogis of his times, Swatmaram. In his classical text on Hatha yoga, named Hatha Yoga Pradeepika (Light on Hatha Yoga) Swatmaram describes Hatha yoga as a means to reach the highest states of Raj Yoga as is clear from the following statement:
pranayam shreegurum naatham swatmaramen yogina |
kevalam rajyogaay hathvidyapadhishyate ||
“only for the sole purpose of Raj Yoga, swatmaram instructs the knowledge of Hatha yoga.” He made it clear in the very beginning of the text that this whole system is only a means to the end which is the ultimate state of union.”
The word HATHA is comprised of two root words viz. ‘HA’ & ‘THA’. Ha represents the Solar principle of the universe and Tha represent the Lunar. Sun is the active or the energizing principle of universe which is responsible for activity and action and is related to Prana Shakti or the cosmic force of life. Lunar or Moon is more passive force which is related to mental concepts of thought and emotions and is called Chitta Shakti.
Hatha yoga, as a discipline, is a method of harmonizing and balancing these two forces in the individuals where they are correspondingly represented by Actions and Thoughts. Hatha yoga which is often known as Yoga today almost all over the world, must be understood correctly in order to receive the benefits which it is supposed to bestow on the practitioner. Swatmaram in Hatha Yoga Pradeepika says:
Asheshtaaptaptaanam samaashraymatho hathah l
Asheshyogyuktaanamaadharakmatho hathah ||
“For those continually tempered by the heat of taap or pain (the three types of pain – spiritual, environmental and physical) Hatha is like the hermitage giving protection from the heat. For those always united in yoga, hatha is the basis acting like a tortoise.”
Hatha yoga has been prescribed as a unique medicine for the three kinds of sufferings that human beings has to borne in their journey of life. The practices of hatha yoga makes us fit and strong to withstand the unfavourable circumstances in life and also for those who are balanced on all the levels of personality, hatha yoga acts like a foundation of such a balance. we also planing to provide free 200 hour hatha yoga teacher training india classes online to promote yoga worldwide.
One of the most popular practices of hatha yoga, surya namaskar has been adopted throughout the yoga circuits unanimously as a method to activate the sympathetic channels, increase blood flow, toning the nerves, activating the motor circuits in skeletal as well smooth muscles and to maintain the cardiac health. Although not found much in details in ancient yogic texts like Hatha Yoga Pradeepika, Gherand Samhita or Goraksh Samhita, it has been there for ages and still is one of the favorite things every yogi would like to add on to their practice routine.
Surya or Sun, being the focal point of existence on earth, has been granted supreme status, across the world cultures. In Vedic culture, it has been highly decorated as a supreme being (Devtaa) which provides the very base for sustaining life, and thus is considered to be vital. It is strongly suggested that all the phenomena of nature that makes life possible on this planet are holy in themselves, which provides us the grounds, on which we can connect with them on a more psychic plane.
Following the same principle, Surya namaskar was devised as a method of paying our tributes to the Sun. The energy of Surya is experienced on various physical and mental planes by all of us. The flow of blood in our arteries and veins is correlated with the solar cycles. The process of digestion, is also relying upon the amount of Agni (fire) in the abdominal region, may it be the secretion of digestive juices, acids and bile or the peristalsis in the smooth muscles of the visceral organs, it’s all related to the amount of energy that is prevalent in the region. Low Agni results in sluggish digestion and an overall lack of nutrition. Our intelligence on the other hand is also related to the energy and is termed as one of the manifestation of solar principles. Hence the practice of sun salutation is a method of acknowledging the greatness of Surya, as the epicenter of energy, and at the same time trying to harness this energy which has been localized in the micro cosmos known as the human body.
We are going to share the steps for classical Surya Namaskar here with some explanations along with pictures so that all of you can get a basic idea about the practice. It’s not very difficult to begin with it and if you are a beginner in yoga, this will be the most suitable practise to start with. Also being a regular practitioner, you will not ignore the benefits that it can provide. Surya Namaskar, can be used to introduce our body into the new dimensions of movement and postures, while we are trying to step onto the path of Yoga, and at the same it can also prove to be a magnificent energy booster for already practicing yogis. If you have that thing called scarcity of time and are not able to spend a considerable amount of time on your mat, 8 to 12 rounds of Sun salutations are enough to reap those energy levels for the whole day.
There are a couple of things to be kept in mind before the practice:
You must be on an empty stomach before beginning the practice.
Try and empty the bowels before starting the practice.
Its always preferred to practice surya namaskar at the time of sunrise.
Your position while practice must be so that you are facing east while standing on your mat.
You can use Mantras as well so as to bring more focus and depth to the practice. Mantras that are used represent the 12 names of Sun.
Most of the times, the rhythm and speed of the practice must be kept real slow, so you can experience the movement patterns and muscular usage in different positions and also in transition from one to another.
Surya namaskar is a practice of flow. Try and be more fluid in movements rather than dragging the body parts.
Precision of positioning the body in each of the postures is a must. Doing it slowly will give you enough control over your muscles, that eventually will increase precision.
In the first position stand on top of the mat with hands folded in a Namaste position. This is called Samsthiti (neutral position). Feet will be together and body to be held firmly while balancing the weight equally on right and left sides. Align the head and neck in a comfortable position avoiding any kind of strain in neck muscles.
From the above, inhaling raise your arms up over the head, while arching the back gently halfway backwards. Avoid a deep fall in the initial stages of practice so as to avoid any imbalance. Keep your head aligned with the trunk and don’t let it fall further than that. It might cause some dizziness otherwise. Arms should be held firmly straight in line with the ears. This is called Hastuttanasana (raised arm position).
From the above position, exhaling gently initiate movement at the hip joint to bring the trunk in a forward fold while trying to place the palms by the side of the feet. If you cannot reach down to ground or if you feel discomfort in the lower back, rest your hands on the knees to support the back. Advanced practitioners can lengthen the trunk as far as possible. Just remember this is about bending from the hip joint and not in the lower back. This is called Padhastasana (hands to feet position).
Now inhaling take a lunge from the right leg and place the feet firmly on the ground while lowering the upper body in a horse riding position. This is called Ashwasanchalana (horse riding position). If you cannot hold your trunk upwards without support as shown in the image, then place your palms on the floor by the side of the foot. Also make sure that the left knee which is in front should not be shifting further than the left ankle position.
Now exhale and take the left leg back and place it next to right and by bearing the weight on your hands gently shift the body backwards into Parvatasana (mountain pose). Make sure the tail bone is tucked upwards and knees are as straight as possible. Both the feet must be kept together in this posture.
Then holding the breath, roll the body from the shoulders lowering it towards the floor and placing knees, chest and chin on the ground. See the curved position of the lower back which will raise the hips away from the floor. Palms must be close to chest and elbows tucked in to the body. Also the toes will be tucked inwards towards the body. This position is called Ashtang Namaskar.
Inhaling, now scoot the body forwards while rolling from the shoulders into a mild backward arch called Bhujangasana (cobra position). Try to keep the bend in the back gently initially so as to avoid any painful conditions, while in the advanced practise you can try to rise up as high as possible in the posture. Shoulders must not be squeezed while lifting up and elbows must be tucked inside to the body. Keep the pelvic bones at the waist in contact with floor so as to get the perfect arch.
Exhaling move into parvatasana again from here. Remember the position to retained as mentioned earlier.
From here, inhaling, bring the right leg stepping forward in between both the feet and resting the left knee down on the floor to lunge into ashwasanchalana (position no. 4).
Now exhaling bring the left leg forward while straightening both the legs at the knees to stand up into padhastasana (position no. 3)
From there inhaling raise the trunk up while keeping it erect in the spine and the arms coming up simultaneously with the trunk. Raise up into hastuttanasana (position no. 2)
From that position, exhaling, bring the hand back into namaskar position in front of the chest as in position no. 1.
This completes a half round of the practise. Perform the same on the left side to complete the full round of the Surya Namaskar. Ideally one should perform 12 rounds like these in one session to receive the benefits. Given below are the mantras that can be chanted loudly before beginning each round of practice.
Om Mitraay Namah
Om Ravaye Namah
Om Suryaay Namah
Om Bhaanave Namah
Om Khagaay Namah
Om Pooshne Namah
Om Hiranyagarbhaay Namah
Om Marichaye Namah
Om Aadityaay Namah
Om Savitre Namah
Om Arkaay Namah
Om Bhaaskaraay Namah
Manatra adds up holistic value to the practise to any of the techniques of Hatha yoga and hence they are used vividly before, during and after the practise.
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