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DIGESTIVE/ABDOMINAL GROUP OF ASANAS

This group of asanas is concerned specifically with strengthening the digestive system. In this group of asanas, I have explained yoga for indigestion, constipation and acidity. It is excellent for those persons suffering from indigestion, constipation, acidity, excess wind or gas, lack of appetite, diabetes, disorders of the male or female reproductive systems and varicose veins. It also eliminates energy blockages in the abdominal area.

Yoga for constipation
Yoga for constipation

Awareness: Throughout the practice become aware of the following:

1.  Movement

2.  Breathing

3.  Mental counting

4.  Intra-­‐abdominal pressure

5.  The stretch of the muscles

Periodic rest: Before starting the practice, the body and mind should be calm and relaxed. This state is best achieved through the practice of shavasana. In addition, a short rest should be taken between each asana, lying in shavasana. One minute or thirty seconds should be sufficient but a more reliable guide is to rest until the breathing returns to normal.

No strain: When starting this series, it is not advisable to attempt all the practices in one go, especially the ones which involve using both legs together. It is better to choose one practice at a time and incorporate that into the previous practices. The pawanmuktasana part 2 series requires a great deal of effort and may put a strain on the

lower back. Therefore, be aware of physical limitations and do not strain. Contra-­‐indications: These practices should not be performed

by people suffering from high blood pressure, serious heart conditions, back conditions such as sciatica and slipped disc or soon after abdominal surgery. If there is any doubt, please consult a competent therapist.

Practice I: Utthanpadasana (raised legs pose)

Lie in the base position with the palms flat on the floor. Inhale and raise the right leg as high as is comfortable, keeping it straight and the foot relaxed. The left leg should remain straight and in contact with the floor. Hold the posture for 3 to 5 seconds, counting mentally and retaining the breath. Exhale and slowly lower the leg to the floor. This is one round.

Practise 5 rounds with the right leg and then 5 rounds with the left leg.

This may be repeated raising both legs together.

Breathing: Inhale while raising the leg(s).

Hold the posture and the breath. Exhale while lowering the leg(s).

Awareness: On synchronising the movement with the breath, the stretch in the legs and mental counting in the final position.

Benefits: This asana strengthens the abdominal muscles and massages the organs. It strengthens the digestive system, lower back, pelvic and perineal muscles and helps correct prolapse.

Practice 2: Chakra Padasana (leg rotation)

Stage I: Lie in the base position. Raise the right leg 5 cm from the ground, keeping the knee straight. Rotate the entire leg clockwise 10 times in as large a circle as possible. The heel should not touch the floor at any time during the rotation. Rotate 10 times in the opposite direction.

Repeat with the left leg.

Do not strain.

Rest in the base position introducing abdominal breathing until the respiration returns

to normal.

Stage 2: Raise both legs together.

Keep them together and straight throughout the practice.

Rotate both legs clockwise and then anti-­‐clockwise 3 to 5 times.

The circular movement should be as large as possible.

Breathing: Breathe normally throughout the practice.

Awareness: On the mental counting of each round, rotation of the leg(s) and on the

effects of the asana on the hips and abdomen.

Benefits: Good for hip joints, obesity, toning of abdominal and spinal muscles.

SHAKTI BANDHA ASANAS

(ENERGY BLOCK POSTURES)

This group of asanas is concerned with improving the energy flow within the body and breaking down neuro-­‐muscular knots, especially in the pelvic region where energy tends to stagnate.

The series is very useful for those with reduced vitality and a stiff back. It is especially useful for menstrual problems and toning the pelvic organs and muscles. It can be practiced before and after pregnancy, facilitating the process of childbirth and retoning flaccid muscles. These asanas also eliminate energy blockages in the spine, activate the lungs and heart, and improve endocrine function.

The shakti bandha series may be started straight away if good health and fitness prevail, however, if there are any serious ailments, a therapist should be consulted.

Practice I: Rajju Karshanasana (pulling the rope)

Sit on the floor with the legs straight and together.

Keep the eyes open.

Imagine that there is a rope hanging in front of the body.

Breathe in while reaching up with the right hand as though to grasp the rope at a higher point.

Keep the elbow straight.

Look upward.

While breathing out, slowly pull the right arm down, putting power into it as though pulling the rope downwards. Let the eyes follow the downward movement of the hand.

Repeat with the left hand and arm to complete the first round.

Both arms do not move at the same time.

Practise 5 to 10 rounds.

Breathing: Inhale while raising the arm. Exhale while lowering the arm. Awareness: On the breath, movement and stretch of the upper back and shoulder muscles.

Benefits: This asana loosens the shoulder joints and stretches the upper back muscles.

It firms the breast and develops the muscles of the chest.

Practice 2: Gatyatmak Meru Vakrasana (dynamic spinal twist)

Sit on the floor with both legs outstretched. Separate the legs as far apart as possible.

Do not allow the knees to bend. Stretch the arms sideways at shoulder level.

Keeping the arms straight, twist to the left and bring the right hand down towards the left big toe. Stretch the straight left arm behind the back as the trunk twists to the left. Keep both arms in one straight line. Turn the head to the left and gaze at the left outstretched hand. Twist in the opposite direction and bring the left hand down towards the right big toe. Stretch the straight right arm behind the back. Turn the head to the right and gaze at the right outstretched hand. This is one round. Practice 10 to 20 rounds. Start slowly and then gradually increase the speed.

Breathing: To apply pressure in the abdomen: breathe in when twisting and breathe

out when returning to the centre. To give maximum flexion of the spine: breathe out

when twisting and breathe in when returning to the centre.

Awareness: On the breath, the twisting movement and the effect on the spinal vertebrae

and muscles.

Contra-­‐indications: People with back conditions should avoid this asana.

Benefits: This asana loosens up the vertebrae and removes stiffness of the back.

Therapeutic yoga exercises: Excluding diseases such as glaucoma, trachoma and cataract, the most common eye disorders today are related to functional defects in the ocular muscles exacerbated by chronic mental and emotional tension.The following simple exercises help to alleviate various disorders related to the malfunctioning of the eye muscles such as short and long-­‐sightedness, presbyopia and squint. The eye exercises should be practiced regularly with patience and perseverance. Do not expect instant cure or improvement. It takes years for the eyes to become defective; it will also take time, a few months or more, before noticeable progress will be made. However, improvement will come as it has to many people who have adopted a yogic way of life and gradually reduced the power of their glasses.

Preparation: Before starting the practices, it is a good idea to splash cold water onto the eyes a few times. Hold a little water in the palms above a water basin and splash it onto the eyelids. Do this about 10 times and then begin the exercises. This procedure will help stimulate the blood supply and generally tone up the eyes.

Contra-­‐indications: Those who suffer from major eye diseases or disorders such asglaucoma, trachoma, cataract, retinal detachment, retinal artery or vein thrombosis, iritis, keratitis or conjunctivitis should only perform yoga practices after consulting an eye specialist. Inverted asanas and kunjal kriya should be avoided altogether while the condition lasts. Adopting a yogic lifestyle and a simple vegetarian diet, however, may be of great benefit.

Practice notes: Eye exercises should be performed one after the other in the sequence given. The series should be practiced in its entirety, once early in the morning and/or once in the evening. The most important thing to remember during practice is to be totally relaxed. Do not strain as this will lead to fatigue and tiredness of the eyes. The facial muscles, eyebrows and

eyelids should remain totally relaxed. After each exercise the eyes should be closed and rested for at least half a minute. The practice of palming may be performed at this time. Glasses should not be worn while performing the exercises.

Exercise 1: Palming

Sit quietly and close the eyes.

Rub the palms of the hands together vigorously until they become hot. Place the palms gently over the eyelids, without any undue pressure. Feel the warmth and energy being transmitted from the hands into the eyes and the eye muscles relaxing. The eyes are being bathed in a soothing darkness. Remain in this position until the heat from the hands has been absorbed by the eyes.

Then lower the hands, keeping the eyes closed.

Again rub the palms together until they become hot and place them over the closed eyes.

(Make sure the palms and not the fingers cover the eyes).

Repeat this procedure at least 3 times.

Benefits: Palming relaxes and revitalizes the eye muscles, and stimulates the circulation of the aqueous humour, the liquid that runs between the cornea and the lens of the eye, aiding the correction of defective vision.

Practice note: The benefits are enhanced if the exercise is practiced in front of the rising or setting sun. Be aware of the warmth and light on the closed lids. Never look directly at the sun except for a few initial moments when it is just rising or when it is about to set.

Exercise 2: Blinking

Sit with the eyes open.

Blink the eyes 10 times quickly.

Close the eyes and relax for 20 seconds.

Repeat the blinking 10 times quickly and then again close the eyes and relax.

Repeat 5 times.

Benefits: Many people with defective eyesight blink irregularly and unnaturally. This is related to the state of habitual tension in the eyes. This exercise encourages the blinking reflex to become spontaneous, inducing relaxation of the eye muscles. SIDEWAYS VIEWING

Exercise 3: Sideways viewing

Assume a sitting position with the legs straight in front of the body. Raise the arms to the sides at shoulder level, keeping them straight, and point the thumbs upwards.

The thumbs should be just in the peripheral vision when the head is facing forward. If they are not clearly visible, bring them slightly forward until they come into view. The head should not move. Look at a fixed point directly in front and on a level with the eyes. Fix the position of the head in this neutral position. Then, without moving the head sideways, focus the eyes on the following, one after the other:

a)  left thumb

b)  space between the eyebrows, bhrumadhya

c)  right thumb

d)  space between the eyebrows

e)  left thumb.

Repeat this cycle 10 to 20 times keeping the head and spine straight throughout.

Finally, close and rest the eyes.

Palming may be performed several times.

Breathing: Inhale in the neutral position.

Exhale while looking to the sides.

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