Before we explore the Sun Salutations, I would like to focus on the benefits of Yoga. Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of this page to download a free handout for The Sun Salutation.
Yoga has been revered as one of the best overall exercises practices that is often safe (when performed correctly and within ones own limits) as it includes meditation, relaxation, control of breath, and various physical postures (asanas) that provide fantastic stability along with mobility which is what the body needs for proper movement. It is actually one of my all time favourite forms of exercise for people and should be performed at least twice a week for maximal benefit. When performed regularly, it is believed to develop harmony between organ systems, leading to better health and a feeling of well-being
Benefits of Yoga
- Decreased muscle tension and increased muscle strength and endurance.
- Improved range of motion and realignment of joints along with increased strength of muscles leads to improved posture and overall balance therefore decreasing the symptoms associated with osteoarthritis.
- Improved depth perception, reaction time, hand-eye coordination, and dexterity, which results in an increase in coordination.
- Strengthening of abdominal muscles, increased flexibility of the lower extremity and upper body results in better posture. This diminishes back pain and relieves the unnecessary loads placed on joints of the back and vertebral discs when faulty posture and weakness of muscles cause pain.
- Meditation and improved physical fitness associated with yoga decreases heart rate and blood pressure, this has been shown to create a more efficient cardiovascular system and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Some studies have shown yoga to decrease triglycerides and total cholesterol in your body. One study that evaluated the combination of meditation, yoga and a vegetarian diet showed an increase of HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and a decrease in LDL and VLDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol).
The symptoms of asthma have been shown to decrease with yoga participation due to many factors. It is the improved posture associated with the practice of yoga that improves lung expansion. The breathing techniques used in yoga help to calm anxiety and facilitate muscle relaxation. In addition, meditation is believed to improve oxygen use and decrease respiratory rate.
Certain yoga postures improve abdominal and pelvic muscular tone. In addition, they increase intra-abdominal pressure and therefore stimulate peristalsis, the movement of your bowels, therefore decreasing the symptoms associated with
Pain can be controlled by decreasing muscle tone, managing stress, depression and oxygen consumption. Yoga has been shown to control stress and depression through its relaxation and breath control techniques. Deep breathing, which includes prolonged expiration, tends to relax skeletal muscles and therefore reduces the perception of pain.
Decreased anxiety and an improved sense of well-being and self-acceptance decreases the symptoms associated with depression.
Meditation and physical activity have been shown to improve coping mechanisms associated with psychological stress.
Improved concentration, attention and memory therefore allowing for more efficient learning.
Before beginning any physical activity it is important to check with a regulated health care professional that is well versed with physical activity to ensure that you do not have any contraindications.
Some precautions before engaging in physical activities
- Avoid exercise if fatigued
- Avoid movements that you feel are painful or excessively stressful
- Avoid activity when on a full or empty stomach
- Definitely avoid physical exercise during an acute illness
When performing various asanas it is important to follow a few simple rules
- All asanas are done in combination with breath control
- Force is never used to assume a posture
- Asanas are done at one’s own pace
- Asanas should not be practiced to the point of fatigue
- Asanas can be modified or assisted as necessary
The Sun Salutation
The Sun Salutation is a sequence of 12 positions performed as one continuous exercise. Each position counteracts the one before, stretching the body, and strengthening muscles while alternately expanding and contracting the chest to regulate breathing. It is considered a comprehensive and ideal practice for physical and spiritual wellbeing. When looking deeper into the origins of the Sun Salutations you will find that it does have some religious and spiritual undertones, performed as a prayer to the Sun, ideally at sunrise and in open air, facing east. That being said, much of what we do as humans offers insight into the traditions and cultural practices of where we come from or where a certain practice originated. To find out more about the Sun Salutation, I would recommend that you visit http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/928.
As a physical movement, it provides an aerobic and dynamic components, and has been shown to improve strength, body composition, and general body endurance. Performing 6-8 rounds will achieve the energy expenditure of light exercise intensity, and a 10 minute practice may improve cardio-respiratory fitness in unfit or sedentary individuals. Practiced daily it will bring great flexibility to your spine and joints and keep you feeling healthy. It is a moving meditation, and promote enhanced focus and concentration while also providing an amazing full body workout. They are wonderful to practice first thing in the morning to awaken awareness and get in a cleansing sweat.
The sun salutation is a simple yoga flow that you can do any time and anywhere, whether it’s the moment your feet hit the floor in the morning, while you’re on your lunch break, or as you’re playing with your kids before bed. A study published in the Asian Journal of Sports Medicine found that sun salutations performed daily helped women decrease body fat percentage and increase strength and endurance.
- Strengthens and awakens the body
- Calms the mind and emotional instability
- Challenges major muscles, lubricates joints and ligaments
- Improves posture, flexibility and balance
- Strengthens cardiovascular system by oxygenating blood
- Tones digestive system
- Stimulates lymphatic system
- Controlled breathing supports respiratory health which calms nervous system and has a balancing effect on the endocrine system.
- Relieves tension, stress and anxiety
Here are a few video representations of The Sun Salutations, both are good and have their own distinct flare:
When considering a Yoga Studio, there are many around the city, however you must find one that resonates with your personality. You will find a few links below. Please visit them, inquire about costs and schedules and if you want my opinion, feel free to ask me.
Different Types of Yoga
The following is a synopsis of the most widely practiced yoga styles. It is only a guide and should be used to direct you in deciding what type of yoga is most ideal for your physical fitness and overall health. If you have any questions or comments feel free to ask me, Dr. Nick.
Hatha Yoga is an “umbrella” term that includes many different types of yoga. As a whole, it focuses on simple poses that flow from one to the other at a very comfortable pace. The practice of Hatha Yoga focuses on breathing and meditation. This form of yoga is ideal for any participant and is especially great for winding down at the end of the day.
This is the most widely recognized approach to Hatha Yoga. It is softer on the body and a more classical style of yoga. Iyengar Yoga is perfect for beginners and those who haven't exercised in a while. It uses props such as chairs, straps, blocks and pillows, and even sandbags, to compensate for a lack of flexibility, which is helpful for anyone with back or joint problems. There is more focus on symmetry and alignment and also meditation. Each pose is held for a longer amount of time than in most other yoga styles, developing a state of focused calm. Iyengar Yoga is more meditative in nature with other benefits including muscle toning, decreasing tension of muscles and easing chronic pain. This form of Hatha Yoga will give you a good knowledge of classic yoga poses so that whatever other style you practice, you will have the basic fundamentals of how to do each posture.
This is the preferred form of yoga for athletes. Ashtanga yoga is light on meditation but heavy on developing strength, flexibility and stamina. The poses are more difficult than those performed in other styles and poses are changed quickly in an effort to build strength and flexibility. This style is suitable for anyone in reasonable physical condition but should be avoided by those who are new to exercise. Even the “Beginners” routines are a physically demanding workout. Ashtanga yoga takes students through a warming up of the body to "activate" the muscles. The series of poses used by instructors of Ashtanga Yoga involves a combination of standing, seated, backbends, inversions, balancing, and twisting poses, as well as sun salutation poses which include standing forward bend, upward dog, downward dog, and various other poses. With Ashtanga, there is a focus on breath control and focal point of the eyes. It is very beneficial for the body to be warm and/or the room to be heated as one does Ashtanga, this will help the muscles to be very flexible, and help the body avoid strains due to the physically demanding style of this form of yoga.
This form of yoga incorporates mantras (chanting), meditations, visualizations, and guided relaxation. It focuses on healing and "purifying" the mind, body, and emotions. Kundalini yoga is designed to activate the kundalini energy in the spine. Kundalini yoga is helpful in individuals dealing with addictions, and many people find it a natural way of releasing endorphins just by breathing and doing the poses. Kundalini yoga incorporates poses with breath control, hand and finger gestures, body locks, chanting and meditation. The specific postures combined with chanting and breathing activates different parts of the body and the brain to produce specific results.
This form of yoga is more spontaneous, flowing, and meditation orientated. Kripalu yoga provides a continuous flow of postures while meditating. It starts with postural alignment and then combining breath and movement, while holding poses for a short time. Following this, meditation is continued, but poses are held for longer. Finally, the practice of poses becomes a spontaneous dynamic movement.
This is a slower, more individualized form of yoga that develops strength, balance and healing, making it ideal for beginners, seniors, people with chronic pain or who are in rehabilitation from injury or disease.
If you want to know if Yoga is right for you, of if you have some injuries that may be preventing you from participating in Yoga or other forms of physical activity, do not hesitate to contact me at your convenience.
If you are interested in started your Yoga Practice, take a look at what Yoga Mat is best for you - Best Yoga Mat