Virasana – Hero Pose

Names

Virasana, Hero Pose

How to sit in Virasana

At first sit on your heels and then move them out from under your buttocks so that your perineum is also in contact with the floor.

Benefits of Virasana

This yoga poses strengthens your thighs, knees, ankles and calves. It is good for digestion and recommended for people with issues of diabetes. Women who start the time of menopause should sit in Virasana to reduce pain and irregularity. It is said to control high blood pressure and is beneficial against asthma.

Tips and Help

Beginners can use cushions under buttocks, knees and ankles if any body part hurts.

Practice Time

3-5 minutes per training session. Practicing for longer time periods can harm your knees.

When to Avoid Virasana

If you have knee problems, pain and weakness in the knees or if your ligaments are worn or torn, you should avoid this position. If you are in doubt, please consult your doctor or physiotherapist and let your yoga teacher know about it.

Viparita Karani

Names

Viparita Karani, legs-Up-the-Wall Pose, Inverted Leg Posture, Inverted Action Pose

Viparita is the Sanskrit word for “inverted” while Karani means “doing” or “making” but also can be understood as “which makes you do”. Viparita Karani thus means “the posture which makes you inverted”.

Viparita Karani is known as a Mudra. There are ten Mudras explained in Yogic scripture and Viparita Karani is one of them.

How to perform Viparita Karani

To perform this posture, lay down in Supta Samasthiti with your body straight, your feet together and the knees straight. Now lift both legs up to 90 degrees so that the soles of the feet point to the ceiling.


Now you lift your pelvis half up and support it with your hands. You do not lift it straight up as in Sarvangasana, the shoulder stand. You could say you are now in ‘Ardha Sarvangasana’, the half shoulder stand.


If you are practiced in this exercise, you can place your hands down on the floor with your palms flat to the ground.

Additional Note for Viparita Karani

It is not recommended using blocks, cushions or blankets under the pelvis and to lean your legs against a wall. This is only an option if you have physical difficulties with this posture and don’t have the strength to lift your pelvis up.


This is how the name ‘Legs-up-the-Wall-Pose’, as it is given here is not actually accurate or correct for Viparita Karani. In a variation for people who cannot go into the original pose, this name may fit but the original pose is not against the wall.


Those who would like to read about its origin in the scriptures and confirm this statement can read it in:
Gherand Samhita, chapter 3, shlokas 34-36 and
Hatha yoga Pradipika, chapter 3, shlokas 78-82 and
Shiva Samhita, chapter 4, shlokas 44-45

Benefits of Viparita Karani

As you lift your lower part up in this yoga pose, you work with your abdominal organs and the movement stimulates them. Through this, Viparita Karani stimulates your digestion and is good against constipation and other digestive problems. Additionally you increase your appetite through this stimulation.


Your urinary system also benefits from this movement as do women’s reproductive organs. With regular practice of this exercise, women can thus avoid menstrual cramps and problems of the premenstrual syndrome as well as the menopause.


As this yoga pose is an inversion, the blood circulation is stimulated and your upper body and head receives a stronger blood flow which supplies the whole area with oxygen. Through this, migraines and headaches, caused by poor blood circulation, can be healed and prevented.


Pimples, boils and acne problems also are reduced by this increase of blood flow. Additionally it is said that such inverted poses are good against losing hair and getting gray hair.


Of course this all makes it also a great exercise for anybody who wants to prevent or deal with high or low blood pressure. Blood and other body fluids stuck in the legs and causing swelling, get into movement again and thus the swelling will reduce. Whoever easily gets cramps in legs and feet can also try this yoga pose as a cure.


As far as your muscles are concerned, this yoga asana strengthens your arms and legs but also your back and your neck muscles.


Through the bending of your neck, your throat and chest are squeezed together and when you come out of the pose, they can unfold with your next deep breath. In this way you help your respiratory system to open to its full extent. The pressure is also said to help men who are suffering from goiter.


You move your joints and keep them active in a rather gentle motion which is good against arthritis.


Through the additional blood flow in your head, you get more oxygen which is beneficial for very problems like insomnia but which also lifts your spirits and helps against depression and anxiety.


This pose is also recommended if you want to clean your stomach, as it makes the water move faster from the small intestines to the large intestines. This is how this exercise is sometimes performed to support the Kriya Shankha Prakshalana.

Focus Points

You should not focus on bringing your legs further up, as you are not doing the shoulder stand. Instead focus on the bend in your back, feel your abdominal area and the work there and hold your pelvis.

When to Avoid Viparita Karani

You should not perform Viparita Karani, if you are suffering from neck or back injuries or previously had surgery of the back or neck.


If you have eye problems that could react in any way to the additional blood circulation, you should consult your doctor before practicing this yoga pose.


As always, be careful in the pose and only go until the limits of your body, never cross them.

Ujjayi Pranayama

Names

Ujjayi Pranayama, Ocean Breath

How to perform Ujjayi Pranayama

Sit in Siddhasana , Vajrasana, Padmasana or Bhadrasana with a straight spine. To practice Ujjayi Pranayama you inhale and exhale trough the nostrils. Inhale deeply and while you do that bring the back of your tongue up, thus making the passageway for air in your windpipe tighter. You will realize that you are making the sound of the ocean by pressing the air through smaller space than usual. During exhalation you do the same sound again.


The inhalation should last as long as the exhalation so that you are breathing in a steady rhythmus. Another possibility is to make the exhalation of the breath twice the time of the inhalation. You may not have noticed but you probably often do this sound without being aware of it as it is pleasant for your ears and provides relaxation.


There are two possible variations for Ujjayi Pranayama. The first one is to include Kumbhaka, the holding of breath in between inhalation and exhalation.


The second variation is to make Kumbhaka after the exhalation and to hold the breath out.

Benefits of Ujjayi Pranayama

Ujjayi Pranayama is a good pose for providing relaxation to the mind and your senses. It reduces the blood pressure and heart rate.


As it calms the mind it is also a beneficial pose for seniors to relax.

Ujjayi Pranayama is very good for meditation practitioner because you can increase focus and concentration by practicing it. It also purifies and activates the energy within the body and provides us control over the mental and physical body which is why it is also a good exercise for hyperactivity.


When you are suffering from pain, insomnia, migraine or headache you can relieve some of the symptoms by doing this pose regularly. It is also good against heat in the head.
Because of the deep breathing and the intensive works with the lungs this posture enhances the functions of the respiratory system.


You can practice this exercise in your office in the middle of your work. Just take a short break and perform a few rounds of Ujjayi Pranayama and it will refresh your mind and you can start all the things going on in your mind with new strength. You start with new energy and clear thoughts.

Focus Points

Make sure that your mouth is closed and you are breathing through your nose. You should be focused on relaxing yourself instead of being busy doing this exercise in perfection.

Uddiyana Bandha – Upward Abdominal Lock

Names

Uddiyana Bandha , Abdominal Lock, Upward Abdominal Lock

How to perform Uddiyana Bandha

This posture can be performed while sitting or standing. Take a deep breath. Exhale completely until no air is left in your lungs and belly. In both, the standing and sitting position you should place your hands on your knees and lean forward during exhalation which will help you to press all air out.


After exhalation, hold your breath and contract your belly muscles so that your navel is pulled further inside and up, towards your middle back.


Stay in that position until you feel like inhaling. For coming out of the yoga pose relax your belly muscles and straighten your body with inhalation.

Benefits of Uddiyana Bandha

Uddiyana Bandha is one of the three major ‘body locks’ known as Tribandha.
It is a very beneficial pose for your complete respiratory system. It strengthens your diaphragm and your lungs and helps you to breathe easily after practice.

The Apana Vayu, the air located between navel and anus, is regulated which can prevent problems with gas in the intestines. It is also good for Samana Vayu which is the air in the navel region and can cause digestion problems when it is disturbed. Prana Vayu which lies in your heart region will also be regulated and thus acidity and breathing problems are prevented. You see that Uddiyana Bandha is beneficial for your complete torso.


It increases the digestive fire and detoxifies the digestive tract which improves your whole digestion.


Uddiyana Bandha helps against Colitis.


The contraction given by this posture is good for your solar plexus, which boosts your self-esteem and power of decision.


Additionally Uddiyana Bandha is used to increase and strengthen the blood flow in the brain and to regulate the blood circulation in your abdomen. It is healthy for your cardiac activity and the health of your heart. A regular practice can relieve problems with high blood pressure and the heart in general. Its benefits even go as far as to reduce problems with glaucoma.


Another area that greatly benefits from the practice of this yoga pose is the sexual organs of both men and women. You can practice Uddiyana Bandha for many kinds of sexual problems and dysfunctions.


Women can do this pose to reduce PMS pain during their cycle. It is good for the ovaries and the fallopian tubes and to prevent uterus collapses. If you suffer from irregular menstruations cycles or other genealogical problems this position might be a solution for you if you practice it regularly.


Men may find that premature ejaculation and hydrocele can be prevented with this pose.
Pain of a previous hernia injury can be relieved by performing this pose.


It is also a beneficial exercise for the bladder, the urinal tract and the gall bladder.
As Uddiyana Bandha contracts liver, kidneys, spleen, pancreas and colon, it improves their performance.

When you start practicing this exercise you will quickly notice that it strengthens the abdominal muscles. This naturally gives your belly a nice shape and makes this exercise very effective for losing extra belly fat.

Focus Points

While you are in the pose you should concentrate on pulling your navel as much up and in as possible.

Tips and Help

Perform this posture always with an empty stomach. Doing it with full stomach can give you belly and stomach pain.


Always exhale from your mouth to get all air out of your body.


Do not inhale while trying to keep the posture. When you feel like inhaling, come up and let your belly fill itself with air.


Please take care not to overwork or cross your limits. It could make you dizzy and you even lead to fainting, if you don’t listen to your body.

Shavasana – Corpse Pose

Names

Shavasana , Savasana , Corpse Pose

Unfortunately for this yoga pose a wrong pronunciation of its name has become popular in many parts of the world. Even many known yoga teachers, studios and websites call it ‘Savasana’ instead of ‘Shavasana’.


The correct Sanskrit name is ‘Shavasana’. It consists of two terms “Shav” + “Asana”. In Sanskrit “Shav” means dead body and “Asana” means posture or pose. Literally translated it thus means posture of dead body, acting and lying like a dead body.

How to perform Shavasana

As its name already says, you only need to lie as if you were a dead body to perform Shavasana. Lie on your mat, your body flat on the floor. Let your body completely lose. All your body muscles should be relaxed.


Your hands are lying next to your body with the palms facing the ceiling. Your feet are shoulder-wide apart from each other and relaxed.


Your body should lay like a dead body without any movement. Close your eyes, go inside, focus on your breath and simply relax. Relax your toes, relax your calf muscles, your thighs, your hips, your waist, your abdomen, your back, your shoulders, your arms, your hands, your neck, your face muscles, your eye balls and your tongue. Just relax your entire body and breathe normally. Visualize how you completely relax with each of your body parts.

Benefits of Shavasana

Shavasana is obviously a very good position for relaxation. It is also known as the yoga pose for final relaxation at the end of your yoga praxis. It is beneficial for all kinds of problems, physical and mental.


It is recommended to do Shavasana after yoga practice, as this is position relaxes your body and mind, distributes and spreads energy to your entire body and prepares your body for what you do after your exercise.


Apart from this Shavasana is also very good for reducing stress. It helps overcome depression, is good against, fatigue, nervousness and insomnia. It even helps you to regulate your blood pressure. Shavasana calms down your brain and improves concentration.


Shavasana is suggested against headaches, asthma, constipation and indigestion.
Overall it is a very beneficial pose to relax your body and mind which helps you in many ways in your daily life. You feel more at ease with making critical decisions and more relaxed in stressful situations. You have clearer thoughts and can think more quickly.
Practitioners of meditation like this pose if they want to do a relaxing meditation.

Focus Points

You should not sleep while performing Shavasana. Apart from the fact that you might start snoring in the middle of your yoga group, this pose is for relaxation of the body. It is a way of meditation, aware and awake.

Tips and Help

Make sure that you are not lying on the cold floor. You can also cover your body with a sheet or blanket.


If you feel tension in your back when you lie down in Shavasana, you can bend your knees and pull them tight to your chest before placing them back to the floor. You will feel that your back muscles are now more relaxed and at ease.


If you still have difficulty placing your legs just flat on the floor, you can use small pillows under your knees for support.


If you are suffering from back pain, back injuries or had back surgery, you should bend your knees and place your feet a foot away from your hips. This will support and relax your back.
This is also recommended for pregnant women. During pregnancy women can also use a pillow to raise their head and upper body if they feel like it.

Prasarita Padottanasana

Names

Prasarita Padottanasana, Wide-Legged Forward Bend

How to perform Prasarita Padottanasana

Stand straight in Samasthiti and then now open your legs about 1 to 1,5 meters apart depending on your height, length and capability. Make sure your feet are parallel to each other.


With exhalation you bend your upper body forward and place your palms on the floor in between your feet. Bring your upper body in between your legs and place the crown of your head on the floor. Your feet, palms and head should be in one line.


Keep breathing deeply, hold the posture for 20 to 30 seconds and slowly come up.

Variation 1 – Arms in the Back

While you are standing straight, you can also interlace your fingers in your back, then open your legs and when bending down, you keep your arms straight and move your hands further towards the floor. Let the gravity pull them down while your head is in between your legs. This variation gives you an extra stretch for your shoulders.

Variation 2 – Arms open behind the Legs

Open your legs a little bit less wide and when you bend down, bend your upper body so far, that you can bring your shoulders through the gap of your legs and thus to the backside of your thighs. Now you open your arms wide apart.

Benefits of Prasarita Padottanasana

When you perform this yoga pose, you will notice quickly that it works nicely with your complete legs. It gives strength to your hamstrings and the muscles at the inside and back of your legs. Your calves get a nice workout and your knees get support through the work of the muscles around it. You get more flexible in your hips and groins.


Your back also benefits greatly from this yoga asana. Your spine is strengthened by the workout for the muscles surrounding it, your shoulders become more flexible and your shoulder blades open. This yoga pose is even good for mild back pain.


Through the bending, your inner organs are pressurized and thus stimulated to do their work. Your liver and kidneys get activated and your digestion as well as your urinary tract is stimulated.

For women, this exercise is beneficial due to its positive effect on the ovaries and the fallopian tubes. Also during early pregnancy this pose is beneficial as it opens the hips and strengthens the back.

By bending forward, your blood flow into your upper body is strengthened and thus your brain gets more oxygen which refreshes you, takes away fatigue, improves concentration and can even cure headaches and blood pressure problems!

Focus Points

Focus on the bending of your back and if you cannot come down yet, bring your upper body further down with inhalation and closer to your legs with exhalation.

Tips and Help

Don’t put pressure on your head. You are touching the floor with the crown of your head but you don’t put any weight on it.


If you cannot come down in the beginning, you can place your hands on the floor a little bit in front of your body and shift the weight there to feel the stretch.

Paschimottanasana – Forward Bending

Names

Paschimottanasana, Forward Bending

How to perform Paschimottanasana

Sit in Dandasana with your legs straight in front of you. Inhale and stretch your arms straight upwards. With exhalation you bend forwards. Grab your toes and place your upper body on your legs.


Keep normal breathing.


Sit up with inhalation

Benefits of Paschimottanasana

This yoga posture is a very good exercise for reducing belly fat and extra weight from the hips.


It gives a strengthening stretch and flexibility to your leg muscles and hamstrings and you can feel its work in the muscles from your toes until your neck.


Paschimottanasana is recommended especially for women after delivery as it helps to regain strength and slim shape. Also women currently experiencing menopause, are advised to perform this yoga posture.

Liver, kidneys, pancreas and ovaries are some of the organs that benefit from you doing this posture. It has a beneficial effect on digestion and appetite.


Additionally this posture regulates blood pressure.

Focus Points

Your knees should be straight and while bending forward also try to keep your back straight.


Even if you cannot bend fully until you can place your upper body on your legs, you can concentrate with each breath to go more to the front and more down. Bend further and further.


Take care not to turn your soles towards each other as it will reduce the work of the posture.

Tips and Help

If you cannot reach your toes, grab your legs wherever you can reach them and bend forward as much as is possible for you.

When to Avoid Paschimottanasana

Avoid performing this yoga posture if you suffer from back injuries or diarrhea.

Kapal Randhra Dhauti

Names

Kapal Randhra Dhauti, Scalp Cleansing

Kapal is the Sanskrit word for head. Randhra means hole. The Kriya thus means the cleansing of the hole of the head.


If you are not aware what this means, just think of the skull of a newborn baby. It is soft and at the top, there is a kind of hole. This is the place meant to be cleaned in this Dhauti.

How to perform Kapal Randhra Dhauti

In Kapal Randhra Dhauti, you rinse the top of your head with water. Lean forward and pour water on your head with one hand while rubbing the top of the head with the other flat hand.


Use water of a pleasant temperature and wash the top of your head. Some people refer to the scriptures’ advice to use cold water for this practice.

One needs to take into consideration however that these scriptures were written in India, a generally hot country where cold water is still not freezing through the influence of the daily sun.

It is thus safe to say that water at a normal temperature is good for use.


In the next step, you massage your temples with your thumbs, both clockwise and anticlockwise.


Additionally and to have more benefit, you can place your middle fingers from both sides to the top of your nose bone, just below your eyebrow. Hold your breath and gently massage your upper nose.


When you have to exhale, stop the massage and exhale with force.

Benefits of Kapal Randhra Dhauti

This technique is very good for calming your mind and brain.

Through the massage you reduce stress and by this can reduce problems of insomnia and even bipolar because you relax your mental situation enourmously.

You clear your thoughts and thus get more and more peace in your complete system.


Problems of headache and migraine are reduced and your nervous system has a chance to calm down, too.

In this way Kapal Randhra Dhauti also helps against depression – it gives you the chance to relax and see things another way! All kinds of stress and its symptoms can disappear with regular practice. Even bipolar disorder can be treated with this relaxation of your mind.


The calming effect is also good for your blood pressure and makes the blood circulate to your head, too. This prevents dizziness and of course the oxygen is beneficial for your brain power, too.


The water opens the pores of the scalp and cleans it.


Practitioners of meditation enjoy doing this technique as it helps you go into meditation easily.

Tips and Help

Also make sure to dry your head after washing will prevent you catching cold. It is recommended to practice this in the morning.

When to avoid Kapal Randhra Dhauti

Take care not to do this cleansing technique when it is cold as you could easily catch a cold.

It is working with the Kapha region of your body and thus the practice could increase the mucus if there is cold air around the person performing it.

Gati Avarodha Pranayama

Names

Gati Avarodha Pranayama, Speed Breaker Breathing

How to perform Gati Avarodha Pranayama

This exercise is called ‘Speed Breaker Breathing’, because in its performance it sounds as if you are just driving over a speed breaker while breathing.


While you inhale, you stop twice for a very short time, so that the inhalation is separated into three parts. With the last part you inhale completely until you are full of air.
You now hold your breath.


In the last step you exhale, also pausing twice and thus separating exhalation into three parts. With the last part you exhale the complete air from your body.

Benefits of Gati Avarodha Pranayama

Just as so many other Pranayama exercises, this one helps you to control your mind and thoughts, to calm down and relieve stress. It helps you to sort out your feelings, to know what you want.


Physically it helps you to regulate your blood pressure.


If you practice Gati Avarodha Pranayama regularly, you increase the length of Rechaka, Kumbhaka, Puraka, which is inhalation, holding and exhalation.


When exhaling, it additionally can help you to get rid of extra gas that has built up in your stomach.


And of course, you can do it anywhere, on a chair, in the office, in a train, on your couch and even in bed!

Tips and Help

Finding an easy and comfortable posture to sit in is good for all breathing exercises!

Dirgha Pranayama – Full Yogic Breath

Names

Dirgha Pranayama, Dirga Pranayama, Full Yogic Breath, Deep Breathing

How to perform Dirgha Pranayama

You can practice the full yogic breathing in any position that you are in. In fact, you should make an effort to make this way of breathing your usual and constant breathing.

The more often you breathe deeply like this, the better it is for you and your system.

Inhale deeply and fill first your belly, then your lungs with air and finally until the top of your chest, so that your shoulders are widened and lifted up.


Exhale in the same way, from the top down to the lungs and in the end from the belly.

Benefits of Dirgha Pranayama

It is scientifically proved that people who breathe more deeply are less prone to stress-related diseases and illnesses such as the burnout syndrome, hysteria and even stress-caused headaches and migraine.


Deeper breathing simply means that you inhale more oxygen than in your usual, flat breathing. You give your lungs room to expand and do their work properly. They distribute energy through the blood in your whole body. The more oxygen you get at once, the more energy you will feel.


This deep breathing makes you calmer, slows down your heart beat and thus prevents you from hyperactivity. You don’t take stress as easily anymore and even in situations of shock you are able to reduce any harming effect by taking a few deep breaths.


Of course it is a natural help for anybody who has problems with asthma and his breathing channels.


There are so many benefits to breathing deeply that you might as well simply try it out and see for yourself what it does to you!