>About Yoga: Postures, Breath, Relaxation

>The word yoga means unity, derived from the Sanskirit word “yuj” which means to join. The goal of yoga is to join, in balance and harmony, the body mind and spirit. When you practice yoga you can develop an awareness of your emotional, mental, spiritual and phyiscal being.
You can begin to listen to your body through new movements of grace as you follow your mindful path toward wellness. Once you are in touch with yourself, you can honor your skills, capabilities, fears and feelings.
There are energizing and relaxing poses. They can awaken and calm. The main focus on postures is learning about harmony and equilibrium.
Yoga is different from other exercise programs because it is about mindfulness. Getting in touch with you mind, body and soul. You pay attention when you do the postures- you are  “in” the posture, not doing it.
Principles of posture
Every posture in yoga helps to recondition your system. You will gain steady skeletal posture, balance and alignment along with core strength and lightness of mind.
Surrender and letting go
Learning how to soften and let go of the external body is the main principle of effective yoga practice.
This principle teaches us to allow the movement to come from our own natural strength and use of our breath as a guide
Exploring the art of surrender is to observe your breath. Then gracefully allow your weight to release down toward the ground, your muscles falling as if they have no bones.
Feel your entire body sink down and feel the release of harbored tension as you let go.

Breathing is important to yoga
Breath is your life force and it can nourish your body.
Deep and slow breathing can stimulate a calm state of mind, body and spirit.
There is evidence of longevity and the quality of life being connected to learning deep breathing.
As we age, we tend to breath from the chest rather than the abdomen.
This may occur from stress, injury, improper posture, or emotional distress.
To explore a deep breath:
Lie flat on your back and place your hands on your belly and inhale. Draw the breath to the deepest part of your lungs, and feel your belly rise. Notice how your ribcage expands and your chest lifts when you fill your lungs into their depths.
When you breathe out, exhale in a smooth continuous movement, observing the belly lowering under your hands.
Full natural breathing occurs when we balance effort and ease in our postures. When we surrender, ground and align, we can discover freedom in the postures and breathing.
Grounding means connection with the earth
Reconnecting with nature is essential to yoga.
You become aware of your foundations in all your postures. Mountain posture explores the grounding principle. You press your feet and toes into the Earth’s energy, and you can feel the Earth push back.
Alignment creates a flow of energy and produces a clear pathway through the body. Muscles become more supple and strong.
To practice alignment start with Mountain posture. Notice the direction of your feet: place your feet facing forward from the knees, torso rises upward, shoulders, neck and head lift as if a string is attached to the top of your head- lifting. Proper alignment can aid in ease of breath.

The pace at which many of us live can cause stress on the mind and body.
Learning how to relax can not only lower your stress and  blood pressure, but slowing down allows us to create a space of kindness, understanding and compassion for others.

Taken in part from: Kenny, G. ( 2008). The Gift of Yoga. Heartherton, Australia. Hinkler Press.