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yoga

What is yoga?
Yoga is the ability to restrain the modifications of the mind-stuff.
Yoga Sutra 1.2

So, yoga is a state in which we are highly aware of our personal affairs and those of the world without being disturbed.

Yoga is a philosophy, a science and an art, which unites the body, mind, and spirit for health and harmony in everyday life. It does not belong to any religion, but it exemplifies some ideas which are common to all religions. Yoga is a spiritual practice, with no preference for religion. As you continue to practice this state called yoga, you will only deepen your understanding of what you truly believe. The only requirements are to act and be attentive to your actions. You will find that yoga not only provides physical benefits, but it can calm your mind, increase your concentration, and give you the ability to cope with stress. It promotes physical and spiritual well-being through a system of personal development.

Yoga has been practiced in India from as early as 6,000 BC. There is a great amount of information written about yoga. A brief list of some of the writings follows.

The Vedas which are the books of spiritual knowledge.
The Upanisads and commentaries which are the philosophical speculations.
The Puranas which tell of the ancient cosmologies.
The Ramayana and Mahabharata which are two epics.
The Bhagavad Gita which is contained in the Mahabharata.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali which are a set of instructions on how to achieve the state of Yoga.
Eight Limbs of Yoga
Yoga has eight clearly defined components which can be thought of as eight limbs of a tree. These limbs are essential components to the development of your yoga practice. They are:

Yama, ethical disciplines - our attitudes toward our environment.
Niyama, self observation - our attitudes toward ourselves.
Asana, posture - the practice of body exercises.
Pranayama, breath control - the practice of breathing exercises.
Pratyahara, sense withdrawal - the restraint of our senses.
Dhyana, meditation - the ability to develop interactions with what we seek to understand.
Dharana, concentration - the ability to direct our minds.
Samadhi, a state of joy and peace - complete integration with the object to be understood.


There are many different schools of yoga practicing different components of yoga; they all have a common union which we call yoga.
You must begin yoga where you are every day, for your point of departure will always be different:

Set your starting point based on your condition at the present moment.
Make your yoga practice sensible and well structured.
Construct a gradual and intelligent course for your practice.
Remember, there is no competition; there is only where you are, where you are going, and where you will be!


Yoga Tips and Techniques

Preparation

Clothing
Equipment
Food
Time & Place Precautions

Asana Transitions
Medical Advice
Pain


Breath & Movement

Alignment
Breath
Ujjayi Breathing
Vinyasa
Bandhas

What Are Bandhas?
Jalandhara Bandha
Mahabandha
Mula Bandha
Uddiyana Bandha
Modifications

Asana Modifications
Bend Your Knees


Preparation

Clothing
Wear comfortable clothing which is either loose fitting or made from a stretch fabric.

Equipment
We recommend using a sticky mat. You may also choose to use other props such as a block, strap, blanket or bolster. Use equipment that is designed specifically for yoga practice use.

Food
It is best to practice when you have an empty stomach. After you eat, we recommend you wait 3-4 hours before beginning your practice.

Time & Place
The best time to practice is either early in the morning or later in the evening. In the morning you are alert, but your body may be stiff. In the evening you may not be as alert, but your body may be more open. You decide what time is best for you and you will move more easily as you practice over time, no matter what time you practice! Remember to adjust your practice schedule for the occurrence of new and full moon phases - moon days.
Your practice environment should be quiet, pleasant, and warm. You will be using deep breathing during practice, so the air should be clear. Minimize drafts so that as you build your internal heat through practice you can retain it. Practicing outside can be quite enjoyable, however, be sure it is warm and there is little breeze.

Precautions
Asana Transitions
It is important to move in and out of poses gracefully as this transition period is often the time when injuries occur. Be aware of your alignment as you transition.

Medical Advice
You should seek advice from a qualified yoga instructor and your doctor before you begin your practice, especially if you have any known medical problems.

Pain
Do not overstretch or force yourself into a pose. There should be no pain of injury. Your face and eyes should be soft and not strained. You should be mindful of how deep you can go based on your own capacity at the moment. You may experience mild, temporary pain from growth in your practice, but this feels different from the pain of injury. Be comfortable.

Breath & Movement
Alignment
We recommend finding a qualified teacher as alignment instruction can be very detailed. Pictures and text should only be used for reference. Learn from a qualified teacher the important positioning of the body as there is no substitute for a good teacher.

Breath
When we refer to breath we are referring to one complete inhale and exhale cycle. You should breathe through you nostrils and not your mouth. Sometimes, when you are trying to do something new or extending beyond your comfort zone, you may have a tendency to hold your breath during an asana. Be mindful and do not hold your breath.

Ujjayi Breathing
Ujjayi breathing is victorious breathing. It is a very important aspect of Ashtanga Yoga. The rhythmic dance of Ujjayi breath and movement creates a moving meditation that lights your internal fire and aids the cleansing of your body. It calms the mind and helps you to focus on the present moment of your practice by bringing awareness to your breath.

You can accomplish Ujjayi breathing by placing your tongue on the soft palate, drawing a slow breath in through your nose and exhaling slowly through your nose. You should work towards your inhale and exhale being the same count in and out. This will create a hissing sound at the back of your throat. You may sound a little bit like Darth Vader!

Vinyasa
Vinyasa is the union of breath and movement. It is the transition when you exit one asana and start another. This transition allows your body to clear the energy from the asana you are exiting and prepare for the asana you are going to start.

In the Ashtanga Primary series, transitioning between asanas with vinyasa begins after Paschimottasana D. A vinyasa traditionally occurs after every seated asana and after each side of an asana. Our transition indicated is after the asana. You may choose to practice vinyasa traditionally. We have also provided vinyasa options in the Ashtanga Reference yoga type. There are various options for vinyasa which can help you build strength. The options shown are: lolasana, utpluthih, and vinyasa. You may also choose to do a "sit it out" asana by sitting in any cross-legged position with your spine straight.

Bandhas
What Are Bandhas?
The bandhas are the internal energy locks. When we engage our bandhas we lock certain areas of our body in a specific way to prevent our energy from "leaking" (flowing outward or dissipating). This is a redirection of energy which activates healing energy centers within our body and mind. Bandhas help hold our core energy, which gives us strength and helps prevent injury.
Mula Bandha
Uddiyana Bandha
Jalandhara Bandha
Mahabandha
Mula Bandha
This is the root lock. It is located at the base of your spinal column in the perineal muscle. This is a deep muscle in the region between your anus and genitals. If you are familiar with the Keigal exercise recommended for women in preparation for childbirth, then you are familiar with contracting the perineal muscle. Another way to think about it is by imagining you have to stop the flow of urine mid-stream while going to the toilet. The contracting of the perineal muscle is subtle, you do not need to contract your buttocks, but rather focus on contracting only the perineal muscle.

Mula Bandha is a key lock in stabilizing the pelvic region during your practice.

Uddiyana Bandha
This lock is located in the area two inches below your navel to your diaphragm and it means flying upward. To engage Uddiyana Bandha, exhale fully and pull your belly inward and upward while lifting your diaphragm. During practice this intensity will not be maintainable, because to inhale fully, Uddiyana Bandha cannot be completely engaged. Imagine keeping the area between your navel and two inches below your navel still while drawing your navel upward towards your spine. This is a more subtle contraction than fully engaging Uddiyana Bandha.

Perform fully engaging Uddiyana Bandha to get in touch with the muscles involved and working your diaphragm. Then, while you are practicing asanas, work at developing the more subtle engagement.

Jalandhara Bandha
This is the throat lock. To engage Jalandhara Bandha, lengthen the back of your neck as if the crown of your head were being pulled by a string and bring your chin back and down towards the space between where your two clavicle bones meet (this is the area just below your Adam's apple). This lock is not engaged throughout the practice but is used on specific asanas as indicated.

Mahabandha
When you have Mula Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha and Jalandhara Bandha engaged it is referred to as Mahabandha, the great lock.

Modifications
Asana Modifications
We have provided you with many variations for each asana. There are many more ways to adjust each asana based on your physical capacity. We recommend you work with your teacher to create the practice that suits you and to make a path for personal progress.

Bend Your Knees
Do not compromise alignment because of tight hamstrings, bend your knees.


Glossary of TermsAsana
Yoga poses or postures

Asana
The practice of body exercises, posture

Ashtanga Yoga
Historically, Ashtanga yoga refers to the eight limbed system of practice which was presented by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras about ...
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