English Name: Lotus Pose
Sanskrit Name: Padmasana
Yoga Level: 1
Benefits: Padmasana is a great pose for stimulating the pelvis, abdomen, bladder and spine. It has the ability to calm the brain, stretch the knees and ankles and can ease sciatica and menstrual discomfort. Consistent practice during pregnancy can also ease childbirth and some traditional texts say that doing Lotus Pose can destroy all disease and awaken kundalini (a shakti energy found in the base of the spine).
How to do it: Lotus pose can be quite difficult for beginners, don’t worry about looking like the picture, just do what you’re comfortable with. Start by sitting on your mat with your legs straight in front of you. Bend your right knee and bring the lower left up into a cradle. The outer edge of the foot is notched into the crook of the left elbow, the knee is wedged into the crook of the right elbow, and the hands are clasped (if possible) outside the shin. Lift the front torso toward the inner right leg so the spine lengthens (and the lower back does not round). Rock your leg back and forth a few times, exploring the full range of movement of the hip joint. Don’t push yourself too much, if you have hip pain then don’t go any further.
Next, bend the left knee and turn the leg out. Rock your right leg far out to the right, then lock the knee tight by pressing the back of the thigh to the calf. Next swing the leg across in front of your torso, swiveling from the hip and not the knee, and nestle the outside edge of the foot into the inner left groin. Make sure you bring the right knee as close to the left as possible, and press the right heel into the left lower belly.
Now lean back slightly, pick the right leg up off the floor, and lift the left leg in front of the right. To do this hold the underside of the left shin in your hands. Carefully slide the left leg over the right, snuggling the edge of the left foot deep into the right groin. Again swivel into position from the hip joint, pressing the heel against the lower belly, and arrange the sole perpendicular to the floor. Draw the knees as close together as possible. Use the edges of the feet to press the groins toward the floor and lift through the top of the sternum. If you wish, you can place the hands palms up in jnana mudra, with the thumbs and first fingers touching.
English Name: Mountain Pose
Sanskrit Name: Tadasana
Yoga Level: 1
Benefits: Tadasana is a standing pose, it can improve posture, strengthen thighs, knees and ankles, reduce flat feet, it can firm the abdomen and buttocks and can relieve sciatica.
How to do it: Mountain Pose seems like an easy pose but there is definitely more to it. Start by standing in the middle of your mat, or at the end, which ever you prefer. Stand with the bases of your big toes touching and have your heels apart slightly, so that your second toes are parallel. Spread your toes and the balls of your feet, place them softly on the mat.
Rock back and forth and side to side and gradually reduce the swaying until you are standing still. Make sure that your weight is evenly distrubuted through your feet. Firm your thigh muscles and lift the knee caps. Lift the inner ankles to strengthen the inner arches of the feet. Imagine a line of energy starting at your feet and going all the way up to the crown of your head. Breathe. Lengthen your tailbone towards the floor.
Press your shoulder blades into your back, widen them and release them down your back. Inhale deeply. Lift the top of your sternum towards the ceiling. Exhale deeply. Soften the throat, the jaw, the tongue, your eyes. Enjoy the pose. Feel the earth beneath your feet and stand strong. Hold this pose for thirty seconds to a minute and breathe easy. Tadasana is the starting position for all standing poses but it is useful to practice this pose on its own as it improves balance which is required for other asanas in yoga practice.
English Name: Cobra Pose
Sanskrit Name: Bhujangasana
Yoga Level: 1
Benefits: Cobra pose strengthens the spine, stretches the chest, lungs, shoulders and abdomen. It has the ability to stimulate abdominal organs and relieve stress and fatigue. It can soothe sciatica, can be therapeutic for asthmatics and some yoga texts claim that it can increase body heat, destroying disease and awakening kundalini.
How to do it: Lie on your stomach on your mat. Stretch your legs back and place the tops of the feet on the floor. Spread your hands wide under the shoulders. Hug the elbows into your sides and press the tops of the feet and thighs into the floor. Inhale, straighten the arms and lift the chest off the floor. Smile. Enjoy this pose.
Firm the shoulder blades against the back, puffing the side ribs forward. Lift through the top of the sternum but avoid pushing the front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back. Distribute the back bend evenly throughout the entire spine. Hold the pose for fifteen seconds and breathe. Release from the pose slowly with an exhalation.
Yoga Vocabularly: Kundalini, in yogic theory, is a primal energy, or shakti, located at the base of the spine. Different spiritual traditions teach methods of “awakening” kundalini for the purpose of reaching spiritual enlightenment.
English Name: Happy Baby Pose
Sanskrit Name: Ananda Balasana
Yoga Level: 1
Benefits: Happy Baby Pose gently stretches the back, the spine and inner groin. It calms the brain and can relieve fatigue and stress.
How to do it: Lie down on your back with your legs straight. Exhale deeply and bend your knees up to your stomach. Inhale and grip the outsides of your feet with your hands. If this is difficult then you can use a yoga strap and wrap it around the middle arches of your feet. Open your knees slightly wider than your torso and bring them up towards you.
Position each ankle directly over the knee, so your shins are perpendicular to the floor. Flex through the heels. Gently push your feet up into your hands as you pull your hands down to create a resistance. There you have it, happy baby pose.
Yoga Vocabulary: Yoga Strap – A popular prop used during yoga practice to help achieve poses that are a bit out of the reach for beginners. It is often used by those who haven’t quite achieved the flexibility necessary to perform a full pose.
English Name: Corpse Pose
Sanskrit Name: Savasana
Yoga Level: 1
Benefits: Savasana is a resting pose but has the ability to relax the body and the mind. It can help relieve stress and mild depression, it can help lower blood pressure, reduce headaches, fatigue and insomnia.
How to do it: Savasana is a difficult pose for many people. It appears that you are just lying down on the mat and having a rest but the corpse pose is much more than that. It’s essential that your body should be placed in a neutral position. First, sit on your mat with your knees bent, feet on the floor and lean back onto your forearms, take your time. Life your pelvis slightly and with your hands, push the back of the pelvis towards the tail bone. Return the pelvis to the floor. Inhale. Slowly extend the right leg and then the left leg, pushing through the heels. Release both of your legs, soften the groin and see that your legs are angled evenly. Soften but don’t flatten the lower back.
If you need to, support the back of the head and neck with a folded blanket. Using your hands, lift the base of the skull away from the back of the neck and release the back of the neck down towards the tail bone. Reach your arms toward the ceiling, perpendicular to the floor. Rock slightly from side to side and broaden the back, ribs and shoulder blades away from the spine. Release the arms to the floor and turn them outwards, stretch them away from the space between the shoulder blades.
Relax. Take some deep breaths and close your eyes. It’s important to be aware in Savasana, soften the root of the tongue, the jaw, the nose, the skin of the forehead, let the eyes sink to the back of the head. Stay in the pose for at least five minutes. To get out of the pose, simply roll gently with an exhalation onto one side. Take two or three breaths before pressing your hands against the floor and lifting your torso, dragging your head slowly after. The head should always come up last.
English Name: Downward-Facing Dog
Sanskrit Name: Adho Mukha Svanasana
Yoga Level: 1
Benefits: Downward-Facing dog has many benefits, it’s a great pose to energize the body, calm the brain and relieve stress and mild depression. It can improve digestion, help prevent osteoporosis, stretch the shoulders, calves, hamstrings, arches and hands. It can also help relieve symptoms of menopause, it can also relieve menstrual discomfort when the head is supported. Downward-Facing dog can also relieve headaches, insomnia, back pain, fatigue, it is therapeutic for asthmatics and can help people with high blood pressure, flat feet, sciatica and sinusitis.
How to do it: Sit on your mat on your hands and knees. Make sure your knees are directly below your hips and your hands are slightly in front of your shoulders. Spread your palms wide, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under.
Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first keep the knees slightly bent, if this is enough for you then stop there. Downward-Facing Dog is a beginner’s pose but can be difficult for those with stiff legs. If you are ready to improve on the pose then lift the heels away from your mat. Lengthen your tail bone away from the back of your pelvis. Lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling, and from your inner ankles draw the inner legs up into the groins.
Once you have achieved this, exhale. Push the top of the thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them, keep a slight bend or you will overstretch the muscles in the legs. Keep the head between the upper arms; don’t let it hang.
Adho Mukha Svanasana/Downward-Facing Dog is one of the poses in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. It’s also an excellent yoga asana all on its own. Stay in this pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. Then bend your knees to the floor with an exhalation and rest in Child’s Pose (see previous yoga of the day pose).
Yoga Vocabulary: Sun Salutation Sequence – A dynamic asana sequence, also known as Surya Namaskar means to bow to or to adore. Each sun salutation begins and ends with joined hands (Mudra) touched to the heart. The placement means that only the heart can know the truth.
English Name: Child’s Pose
Sanskrit Name: Balasana
Yoga Level: 1
Benefits: Child’s pose gently stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles. We don’t usually breathe into the back of the torso, so this pose allows you to do just that. Child’s pose calms the brain and helps relieve stress and fatigue, it can also relieve back and neck pain.
How to do it: Sit on your mat, get comfortable. Kneel on your mat, touch your big toes together and sit on your heels. Slowly separate your knees as wide as your mat and exhale. Lay down your torso between your thights. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of the pelvis, life the base of your skull away from the back of your neck.
Lay your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up, and release the fronts of your shoulders toward the floor. You should be able to feel the weight of your shoulders, pull the shoulder blades wide across your back.
Even though Child’s pose/Balasana is a resting pose it still has many benefits and can me nice when followed by any asana. Stay in child’s pose for thirty seconds, or a few minutes if you wish. Beginners should be able to do this pose but if you have a difficulty sitting your heels, you can fold a blanket and place it between your thighs and calves. To come out of the pose, lengthen the front torso, and then with an inhalation lift from the tailbone as it presses down and into the pelvis.
Yoga Vocabularly: Asana – a posture adopted in performing hatha yoga.
Variation: Extended Child’s Pose – Same pose but with extended arms in front rather than at your side.
English Name: Cow Pose
Sanskrit Name: Bitilasana
Yoga Level: 1
Benefits: Stretches the front torso and neck and provides a gentle massage to the stomach and spine.
How to do it: Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Remember, you previously started Cat Pose this way. Again, make sure your knees are set directly below your hips and your wrists, elbows and shoulders are in line and perpendicular to the floor. Relax your head and look at the floor.
Ready? Okay, as you inhale, lift your sitting bones and chest towards the ceiling, allow your belly to sink toward the floor. Lift your head to look straight forward. Smile. Cow pose is great for opening up the chest and releasing all of the tension that might be there. Okay, now exhale. Come back to the neutral, tabletop position on your hands and knees. Repeat this ten to twenty times, you can do it!
This pose is often paired with Cat Pose (the previous yoga pose of the day).