Hello wonderful Yogi's!
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. As promised I am creating a little guide here of what you need to know on your yoga journey.
A little what's what in Sanskrit (yes, that's where those random words come from that us Yoga teachers throw into our classes sometimes that have you looking at your friend wondering if we just spoke gibberish!)
The all important breath work explained - and a bit on how you can practice this at home.
And also a lovely set of Sun Salutations you can practice at home when you aren't attending a class to help keep your joints mobile and muscles working!
Let's start with the Sanskrit!
Sanskrit is a classical Indian language used in yoga to describe poses, breath work and other yoga practices.
Ujjayi Breath = A specific Yoga breathing technique (explained later in this blog).
Namaste = "The light within me, acknowledges and honors the light within you."
We use this to sometimes begin and end a class, it is a manifestation of gratitude towards each and every person who has shared space with us in the yoga room each class.
Om = Pronounced 'AUM'. You may find that this sound is chanted in your yoga class, often at the beginning, the end or both. This is said to be a universal sound and represent all other sounds. There is alot of scientific research around chanting and mantra's at the moment that prove their benefits on the mental state of the mind and the calming effect on the body. If chanting isn't your thing you can repeat the mantra silently to yourself during a meditation session as a point of focus. You may, however, find it quite surprising how it can make you feel if you are in a room of people chanting this word, the vibrations are just beautiful and resonating!
Now to that Ujjayi breath that has you raising your eyebrows!
Sometimes trying to get the breath right while following the movements - 'put this arm here and this leg there, and don't forget to breath, BUT not out the mouth, am i even breathing?' Yes, don't worry, we have all been there! Struggling to follow the movement's, remember your left and right all while trying to breath in a certain way can seem more stressful then relaxing to start with. So here is a little guide for your Ujjayi breath so you can have a little practice at home before trying to tie it into your next yoga class.
Imagine trying to fog up a mirror, feel that constriction at the back of the throat? That is the feeling we want when using our Ujjayi breath. Now try to re-create that feeling while inhaling and exhaling through the nose. You may be able to hear a gentle oceanic sound on you exhale.
Well, because without it, we're not really doing yoga. Yoga is the connection of movement with breath. We aim to move mindfully, listening to our bodies, fluidly moving into poses on inhales and exhales, that is why as a yoga teacher we always cue breathing - a gentle reminder to try and keep using it throughout the practice and bringing the class back into a state of union.
But also because it has a calming affect on the nervous system! If you have ever attended one of my classes i'm sure you have heard me throw out tidbits on the nervous system on multiple occasions! I am a little too passionate about restoring our body to a state of 'rest and digest' instead of the 'fight or flight' response we so constantly live in! All that excess Cortisol, mixed in with the double shot espressos or large skinny lattes we drink to just get through our day isn't doing our body any favours! When in this state of heightened Adrenalin our body pushes its normal functioning to the side in order for you to tackle whatever problem that is perceived - our digestion suffers, our sleep suffers, our memory and in the long term we can even create damage to the Hypothalamus of the brain (the list does go on...). Scary. So this breath work is there is help us tap into our parasympathetic nervous system whenever we like or need. Practice Ujjayi in your every day life a few times a day, or try it in moments of stress - stuck in traffic? running late to work or school drop-off? frustrated with your boss? Breathe Yogis, breathe!
A little at home practice!
Want a little routine to practice at home? Here you go Yogi's, this is our Sun Salutations flow. You will see lots of these within you classes, we use them to warm up and as a little break between sets of postures to create warmth and movement in the body.
A little Sanskrit lesson for you all - I will go through these poses below in order of how they appear with their name and brief alignment description.
Tadasana - Mountain pose - Feet together or hip width apart, hands are usually down by the side fingers spread wide, activation through the hands, arms and legs.
Urdhva Hastasana - Upwards Salute - Hands above head and a gentle back bend. Keep legs engaged and feet grounded.
Uttanasana - Forward Fold - Release the torso over the thighs, hands resting where they land.
Anjaneyasana - Low Lunge - Keep back knee on the ground, toes tucked for knee support. Hands on the ground either side of front foot.
Chaturunga Dandasana - Four Limbed Staff Pose - Low plank or table top option. I advise table top at home, joints stacked and core engaged. Lower down to floor elbows pointed backwards and tucked.
Bhujangasana - Baby Cobra - Cute right? Until you realize how little we use those back muscles of ours! Big toes together, heels apart, activate through the legs, hands off the ground, use an inhale to use the core and back muscles for a gentle back bend!
Adho Mukha Svanasana - Downward Dog - Keep your knees bent, hips lifted, hands shoulder width apart at the front of the mat, engage your fingers to avoid slipping forward. We want to be creating a long back here.
And repeat for the other side!
Hope that helped!