Asanas: Restorative Poses
Child's Pose | Balasana / Garbbasana
Description: The name comes from the Sanskrit words bala (child) and asana (pose). Balasana is also known as Child's Resting Pose.
In this pose, the body faces the floor in a fetal position. The knees and hips are bent with the shins on the floor. The chest can rest either on the knees or the knees can be spread to about the width of a yoga mat, allowing the chest to go between the knees. The head is stretched forward towards the ground - the forehead may touch the ground. The arms may be stretched forward in front of the head or backwards towards the feet.
Balasana is a simple relaxation position in yoga. The pose can become active through breath. Many yoga instructors recommend using this pose if a rest is needed and allow students to substitute this pose for Downward Dog during a sun salutation. It is usually practiced before and after Sirsasana/Headstand.
Lotus Pose | Padmāsana
Description: Padmāsana means "Lotus throne" and is also a term for actual thrones, often decorated with lotus foliage motifs, on which figures in art sit. In Balinese Hinduism, a prominent feature of temples is a special form of padmasana shrine, with empty thrones mounted on a column, for deities, especially Acintya.
From a seated posture, one foot is placed on top of the opposite thigh with sole facing upward and heel close to the abdomen. The other foot is then placed on the opposite thigh in a symmetrical way.
The knees are in contact with the ground. The torso is placed in balance and alignment such that the spinal column supports it with minimal muscular effort. The torso is centered above the hips. To relax the head and neck, the jaw is allowed to fall towards the neck and the back of the neck to lengthen. The shoulders move backwards and the ribcage lifts. The tongue rests on the roof of the mouth. The hands may rest on the knees in chin or jnana mudra. The arms are relaxed with the elbows slightly bent.
The eyes may be closed, the body relaxed, with awareness of the overall posture. Adjustments are made until balance and alignment are experienced. Alignment that creates relaxation is indicative of a suitable posture for the asana. The posture should be natural and comfortable, without any sharp pains.
In most cases, a cushion (zafu) or mat (zabuton) is necessary in order to achieve this balance. One sits on the forward edge of the cushion or mat in order to incline one's pelvis forward, making it possible to center the spine and provide the necessary support. Only the most flexible people can achieve this asana without a support under their pelvis (and The Dalai Lama has explicitly advised against doing so).
Those without sufficient flexibility to place both knees on the ground when in full lotus position should not use it, as it strains the knees and lower back of such people. Other meditation asanas are indicated until sufficient flexibility has been developed to sit comfortably in the Lotus. Sciatica, sacral infections and weak or injured knees are contra-indications to attempting the posture.
The Lotus position is adopted to allow the body to be held completely steady for long periods of time. As the body is steadied the mind becomes calm, the first step towards meditation. The flow of prana from muladhara chakra in the perineum is directed to sahasrara chakra in the head, heightening the experience of meditation. The posture applies pressure to the lower spine which may facilitate relaxation. The breath can slow down, muscular tension decrease and blood pressure subside. The coccygeal and sacral nerves are toned as the normally large blood flow to the legs is redirected to the abdominal region. Digestion may also be improved.
Corpse Pose | Savasana
Description: Alternately spelled shavasana, and also known as mrta-asana, savasana is a yoga asana often used to begin and conclude a yoga session. It is a relaxing posture intended to rejuvenate body, mind and spirit. While savasana is a good way to reduce stress and tension, it is not recommended for meditation as it has a tendency to induce sleepiness. Drowsiness or restlessness of the mind while in savasana may be counteracted by increasing the rate and depth of breathing.
As a relaxation posture which may involve cooling after exertion, extra clothing or covering may be necessary. Lying on the back, the arms and legs are spread at about 45 degrees, the eyes are closed and the breath deep, using dirga pranayama. The whole body is relaxed onto the floor with an awareness of the chest and abdomen rising and falling with each breath. All parts of the body are scanned for muscular tension of any kind, which is consciously released as it is found, optionally with a small repetitive movement of the area. All control of the breath, the mind, and the body is then released for the duration of the posture, typically 20-30 minutes.
The posture is released by slowly deepening the breath, flexing the fingers and toes, reaching the arms above the head, stretching the whole body, exhaling, bringing the knees to the chest and rolling over to the side in a fetal position. After a short time and a slow inhalation, the practitioner takes a seated position.
Following an asana practice ending in savasana, the body may be in the anabolic state of metabolism during which organ and muscle repair and development is occurring. Activities requiring the body to switch back to the highly active catabolic state of metabolism are therefore reintroduced sensitively, as the two states do not coexist well.
Hero Pose | Vīrāsana (Supta Vīrāsana)
Description: Vīrāsana -Translation: In Sanskrit, Vira means hero. Asana means pose or posture.
Virasana is one of the basic seated yoga poses, that is a Hatha yoga posture. It is the starting pose for several forward and backwards bends and certain twists. The Virasana may also be used as an alternative to other seated poses such as the Padmāsana (Lotus Pose).
Variations: As is common with most yoga poses, there are many variations to the Virasana, depending on the school of yoga that is followed. Some of the more popular variations include Downward Facing Hero Pose (Adho Mukha Virasana) and Reclining Hero Pose (Supta Virasana), shown in the photo.
Control of Force (Breath) | Pranayama
Description: Pranayama (Sanskrit: प्राणायाम prāṇāyāma) is a Sanskrit word meaning "restraint of the prana or breath" or more accurately, "control of force". The word is composed of two Sanskrit words, Prāna, life force, or vital energy, particularly, the breath, and "āyāma", to suspend or restrain. It is often translated as control of the life force (prana). When used as a technical term in yoga, it is often translated more specifically as "breath control". Literal translations include A. A. Macdonell's "suspension of breath" and I. K. Taimni's "regulation of breath".
Some scholars distinguish between hatha and raja yoga varieties of pranayama, with the former variety usually prescribed for the beginner. According to Taimni, hatha yogic pranayama involves manipulation of pranic currents through breath regulation for bringing about the control of chitta-vrittis and changes in consciousness, whereas raja yogic pranayama involves the control of chitta-vrittis by consciousness directly through the will of the mind. Students qualified to practice pranayama are therefore always initiated first in the techniques of hatha pranayama.
Praanaayaama can also be interpreted as Pra+Ana+ayama=Praanaayaama. Ana means breath or Animation--According to Monnier Williams the lexicographers have to say that prefix "Pra" increases the meaning of the noun it qualifies more than an ordinary adjective--as in "Pra"siddhi,"Pra"meyam,"Pra"katanam etc--In the Interpretation of Gaayatri Mantram--Praana is said to be one of the 5 "Gayas"=Vital Energies---"Gayas Traayathethi Gaayatri"and in the Poorvaangam of Gayatri japam the mantram "Praanopaana Vyaanodhaana Samaana Sahpraanaha"=Praana-Apaana--Vyaana--Udhaana-Samaana comes
Many yoga teachers recommend that pranayama techniques be practiced with care, and that advanced pranayama techniques should be practiced under the guidance of a teacher. These cautions are also made in traditional Hindu literature.