32 yoga tips from Swami Sivananda!

Swami Sivananda


Tip # 32: Inverted V – Sun Salutation, posture #8

Exhale, tucking your toes under and raising your hips to come into the inverted V. Do not move your hands or feet as you come into the position.

Tip # 31: Arch your chest – Sun Salutation, posture #7

Inhale as you slide your body forward and bring your hips down to the floor. Arch your chest forward and tilt your head back. Slightly bend your elbows into your body.

Tip # 30: Lower Chest to the floor – Sun Salutation, posture #6

Exhale. Lower your knees to the floor and your chest straight down between your hands, without rocking your body. Bring your forehead to the floor (a beginner may need to lower the chin instead).

Tip # 29: Push-up Pose – Sun Salutation, posture #5

Retain the breath. Bring your left foot back, next to your right foot. Keep your spine straight and do not let your head or hips drop.

Tip # 28: Leg Back – Sun Salutation, posture #4

Inhale as you stretch your right leg back as far as possible and bend your right knee, lowering it to the floor. Stretch your head and look upward. Your hands should stay in the same position throughout the movement.

Tip # 27: Bend Over – Sun Salutation, posture #3

Exhale as you stretch forward and bend down into the third Sun Salutation position. Bring your hands down to the floor, and place them next to your feet, with the palms downward. Your hips should be kept as high as possible. If necessary, bend your knees so you can touch the ground. Tuck your forehead in toward your knees.

Tip # 26: Arch Back – Sun Salutation, posture #2

Inhale and stretch your arms up over your head. Arch your back so your hips come forward, and stretch as far is comfortable.

Tip # 25: Prayer pose – Sun Salutation, posture #1

Stand up straight with your feet together and your arms by your sides. Take a deep breath, and then exhale while bringing your palms together at chest level.

Tip # 24: Purpose of the Sun Salutation

The Sun Salutation is a 12-part warm-up exercise. It limbers up the body and mind in preparation for the ensuing yoga session. Each of the 12 positions brings a different vertebral movement to the spinal column and is tuned to the inhalation or exhalation of the breath, thereby instilling a feeling of balance and harmony. The positions follow one after the other, making this Salutation graceful to perform. Attempt to do at least six sequences at the start of every session.

Tip # 23: Neck Exercises

Relax your neck by combining these four exercises. Sit cross-legged and practice each set of neck exercises at least three times.
1. Back and forth. Drop your head back gently and then slowly drop it forward
2. Side to side. Tilt your head to the right shoulder, to the center, and to the left.
3. Turn your head. Turn your head to look over each shoulder in turn.
4. Circling. Inhale as you rotate your head to one side, exhale to the other.

Tip # 22: Eye Exercises

Exercising the eyes releasing any buildup of tension and aids relaxation. When practicing, keep your head still and move only your eyes.
a. Stare at your thumb in front of you, then look into the distance, Relax and repeat
b. With eyes wide, look from side to side 10 times, then up and down 10 times and then diagonally 10 times.
c. Finally, after rolling your eyes in circles in both directions, cup your hands over your eyes for 30 seconds and relax.

Tip # 21: Kapalabhati

This exercise, using rapid breathing, is believed to be such a powerful cleanser that the face literally “glows” with good health. Before beginning the exercise, relax by taking a few deep breaths. Perform 25 rapid “pumpings” in each round. Relax between rounds by breathing deeply. Try to do three rounds.

Tip # 20: Alternate Nostril Breathing

When you are comfortable with single nostril breathing (tip #19), begin alternate nostril breathing, where you practice retaining the breath for a count of 16. The action of alternate nostril breathing is physical, but the greatest benefit is the calmness and lucidity of mind that results. Try to perform at least 10 rounds daily for best results.
The steps to be observed are:
1. Inhale through the left nostril to a count of four
2. Close nostrils and hold breath to a count of 16
3. Exhale through the right nostril to a count of eight
4. Inhale through the right nostril to a count of four
5. Close nostrils and hold breath to a count of 16
6. Exhale through the left nostril to a count of eight

Tip # 19: Single Nostril Breathing

The object of practicing Yogic breath discipline, or “Pranayama”, is to increase physical and mental health. You can practice the breathing exercises on their own or integrate them into your program of Yoga Asanas. Sit comfortably in a cross-legged position, with your spine and neck straight, but not tense.
Hold your head erect and gently close your eyes. Use the fingers of the right hand to close off each nostril in turn. Hold them in a position called “Vishnu Mudra”. For “Vishnu Mudra”, extend the thumb, ring finger, and little finger of your right hand and fold down your other two fingers into your palm. Rest the left hand on your left knee.
Breathe through the left nostril. Close right nostril with thumb, and inhale through left nostril to a count of four. Exhale to a count of eight. Repeat 10 times. Breathe through the right nostril. Close left nostril with the two end fingers, and inhale through right nostril to a count of four. Exhale to a count of eight. Repeat 10 times.

Tip # 18: Full Yogic Breath

Place one hand on your lower ribcage and one on your abdomen. Breathe in, trying to fill the lowest part of your lungs, then the middle, and then the top. Feel your chest and abdomen expand.

Tip # 17: Sitting Properly

Adopt this posture for the breathing exercises in Tips 18 to 21. Sit cross-legged, aligning your head, neck, and spine. Keep your shoulders straight but relaxed. If you are a beginner, sit on a cushion. This lifts the hips and makes it easier to keep the back erect.

Tip # 16: Abdominal Breathing

Learn to breathe efficiently. Lie flat on your back, placing one hand on your abdomen. Start to inhale deeply, feeling your abdomen rise; then feel it fall as you exhale. Breathing slowly and deeply brings air to the lowest part of your lungs and exercises your diaphragm.

Tip # 15: How The Lungs Work

On an inhalation, your diaphragm (situated below the lungs) moves downwards. Air you breathe in through the nose is drawn down the trachea to the lungs, which are protected by the ribcage. If you are breathing properly, the abdomen and ribcage will expand as you inhale. On an exhalation, your diaphragm moves upwards, compressing the lungs and pushing air out of them. The air passes back up through the trachea and out through the nostrils.

Tip # 14: The Importance Of Proper Breathing

Breathing gives life. Without oxygen no human cell can live for more than a few minutes. Many people use only part of thier full breathing capacity, taking in about one third of the oxygen that thier lungs could use. This leads to stress and fatigue. The yogic breathe discipline teaches you to breathe through the nose, to accentuate exhalation rather than inhalation, to cleanse the lungs and eliminate toxins. These techniques increase your physical and mental health.

Tip # 13: Balancing Both Sides Of The Body

Many of our regular daily habits tend to emphasize the use of one part or side of the body. To achieve a healthy and harmonious balance, it is important to keep all parts of the body equally strong and flexible. Yoga exercises make each group of muscles work equally on the left and right sides of the body to achieve equilibrium.

Tip # 12: Know Your Body’s Capablities

Before you begin your yoga asanas, it is important to recognize your body’s capabilities. Never force your body into a posture or try to go beyond your limit. Remember, yoga is not a competitive sport. Progress may be slow, but with time your body will become flexible. Ease yourself gently into each position and when you are holding a pose, check the body to see if you can feel tension building up anywhere. If you do, consciously try to relax that tension using the breath.

Tip # 11: Each Session: How Long?

For maximum benefit, you should set aside about 90 minutes. When you are busy, try a shorter session with fewer asanas. It is very important not to feel rushed, and to allow time for relaxation between poses. You can always perform the breathing exercises at a later stage.

Tip # 10: When & Where To Practice

Try to practice yoga everyday. At the same time, be gentle. Do not force yourself. A yoga session should be a joy. Set aside a time when you will not be disturbed and you will not have to rush. Morning practice helps loosen up stiff joints after sleep. Evening practice releases the tensions of the day. Whenever you practice yoga, avoid eating for at least two hours beforehand.

Tip # 9: What You Need

You do not need special equipment to practice yoga. Although you can buy foam yoga mats, a towel on a carpeted floor will do just as well. For practicing indoors, you will need an open space, clear of furniture. The room should be comfortably heated and free of disturbances.

Tip # 8: The Importance Of A Teacher

Whether you are learning yoga singly or in a group, it is always best to be supervised by a qualified teacher. A teacher will demonstrate how to ease your body gently into and out of the yoga postures and, most importantly, how to breathe correctly when holding a balance. He or she will ensure that you do not strain your limbs, and will help you to align your body in the asanas.

Tip # 7: Positive Thinking & Meditation

Meditation is a state of consciousness. When practicing meditation, you must first learn how to calm the mind, and focus your mental energy inwards. Meditation can help to relieve stress and replenish your energy. If it is practiced on a daily basis, you will also find it will enable you you to think more clearly and positively, and to be at peace with yourself.

Tip # 6: Proper Diet

The recommended diet for a student of yoga is a simple and wholesome vegetarian one, made up of natural foods that are easily digested. It keeps the body vital and healthy, and the mind calm and free from restless thoughts. Processed and tinned foods are to be avoided when possible.

Tip # 5: Proper Relaxation

The release of tension through relaxation is vital to keep the body healthy. Begin and end each session of yoga asanas with relaxation, and relax between postures. This allows the released energy to flow freely.

Tip # 4: Proper Breathing

Most people use only a fraction of thier breathing capacity. Proper breathing focuses on nasal breathing techniques to unlock energy and vitality. Breathing exercises concentrate on exhalation rather than inhalation, to cleanse the lungs of stale air and to eliminate toxins from your body.

Tip # 3: Proper Exercise: Yoga Asanas

The aim of proper exercise is to improve suppleness and strength. Each posture is performed slowly in fluid movements. Violent movements are avoided as they produce a build-up of lactic acid, causing fatigue.

Tip # 2: Check With Your Doctor

Yoga asanas can be practiced by young and old alike. While there is no one who should be excluded, check with your doctor before you begin a course if you suffer from a medical condition or have any doubts.

Tip # 1: What Is Yoga?

The word “yoga” means “union”. Yoga is a form of exercise based on the belief that the body and breath are intimately connected with the mind. By controlling the breath and holding the body in steady poses or “asanas”, yoga creates harmony.
Yoga practice consists of five key elements: proper breathing, proper exercise, proper relaxation, proper diet, and positive thinking and meditation. The exercises, or asanas, are designed to ease tense muscles, to tone up the internal organs, and to improve the flexibility of the body’s joints and ligaments.

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