This seemingly simple question is quite difficult to answer actually. Answers differ – it depends in who is asking the question, and who is being asked.
Put this question to a traditionalist…and he would surely mention the ‘union’, the melting of consciousness, and a lot more. As a Neo-teacher of yoga, and the most likely answer would involve a lot of ‘posturing’, with a bit of pop spirituality in between. But ask Google, and that’s when it hits the pits. Beer yoga, wine yoga, rage yoga, lamb(??) yoga…the list of quirks is endless.
So, what is yoga?
Vakra means twisted, and hence Vakrasana is called the twisted pose.
The Vakrasana yoga posture helps to tone the nerves around the spinal cord, strengthen our abdomen and stimulate the internal organs.
This yoga asana helps reduce belly fat and lose weight – a major factor in helping diabetics control their blood sugar and lead an active life.
21st June is celebrated as International Yoga Day. Today we look at Suryanamaskara.
The name Surya Namaskar is from the Sanskrit सूर्य Sūrya, “Sun” and नमस्कार Namaskār, “Greeting” or “Salute”. The name identifies the sun as the soul and source of all life.
Surya Namaskar is a sequence of around twelve asanas connected by jumping or stretching movements, varying somewhat between schools. In Iyengar Yoga, the basic sequence is Tadasana, Urdhva Hastasana, Uttanasana, Uttanasana with head up, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, Chaturanga Dandasana, and then reversing the sequence to return to Tadasana; other poses can be inserted into the sequence.
Suryanamaskara sculpture at Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi India
The suryanamaskara is a relatively modern rendering of ancient sun salutations, and also a derivative of Surya Kriya, a way of aligning yourself with the sun and a much more refined process which needs enormous attention in terms of the geometry of the body. It involves a certain level of breath and powerful activation of energy.
hashankasana resembles a ‘Hare’ in its final stages and hence the name. Since it has a calming effect on the body and mind, it is also called Sashankasana, Sashanka meaning moon in Sanskrit.
It is a popular posture to cure any back related troubles and when practiced regularly can be a boon to tired backs and those with back-related pain. It is a beginner’s pose and can be performed by all age groups.
A variation of Shashankasana is Balasana. In Sanskrit, bala means child and asana refers to one’s posture. Thus, this pose is also called Child Pose. It is a ‘counter’ asana for many asanas and is performed preceding and following Sirsasana as it is a resting pose. If perfectly performed, the body faces the floor in foetal position (thus the name). It is also called Garbhasana (or womb pose).
The name comes from the Sanskrit words भुजङ्ग bhujanga, “snake” or “cobra” and आसन asana, “posture” or “seat”, from the resemblance to a cobra with its hood raised.
The pose is described in the 17th century hatha yoga text Gheranda Samhita. In the 19th century Sritattvanidhi, the pose is named Sarpasana, which similarly means Serpent Pose.
The Cobra Pose opens up the shoulders and the neck, stretches muscles in the shoulders and chest, strengthens the arms and also helps treat constipation. It can be significantly useful at relieving discomfort in the muscles of the back, neck and abdomen. Just a little time spent in Bhujangasana goes a long way; especially towards reducing stress and anxiety. It is part of the sequence of yoga postures in Surya Namaskara or Sun Salutation.
Padahastasana is a variation of Uttanasana (उत्तानासन) or Standing Forward Bend.
Pada (पाद, Pāda) = leg, foot
Hasta (हस्त, Hasta) = hand
Asana (आसन, Āsana) = pose, posture, seat
Pada-Hastasana (पादहस्तासन, Pāda-Hastāsana) = feet-on-hands-posture
Padahastasana or the Hand to Foot pose is part of Sūryanamaskāra or the Sun Salutation series. It appears as the 3rd pose and the 10th pose in this series.
How to practice Padahastasana
1. Stand tall in Tadasana.
2. Step the feet hip-distance apart with arms at your side.
3. Exhale and bend forward at the hips while lengthening the spine.
4. Bring the arms down, palms under the feet. If this is not possible, try to bring your hands down and grasp your ankles.
5. Compress the big toes down into the thumbs of the hands.
6. Hold this pose for 30 seconds.
7. To exit the pose, release your hands out of the feet and come back to your initial position (Tadasana).
The name Baddha Konasana is relatively recent, but the pose is medieval, as the meditation seat Bhadrasana (from भद्रा Bhadra, “throne”) is described in the 15th century Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
Bhadrasana denoting ‘auspiciousness’ is a posture that brings the Muladhara or Root Chakra to life. This asana is performed in a seated position and can be held for extended periods of time as it is fairly comfortable. The defining characteristic of the pose is a thorough lengthening of the spine and how it allows the shoulders to drop down in a relaxed manner.