Based in the teachings of Swami Sivananda, Swami Vishnudevananda summarized the yoga philosophy in 5 principles or the Five Points of Yoga which make the complex teachings of yoga easier to understand:
FIVE POINTS OF YOGA
1 Proper Exercise (Asanas) – Yoga poses help develop a strong, healthy body by enhancing flexibility and improving circulation.
2 Proper Breathing (Pranayama) – Deep, conscious breathing reduces stress and many diseases.
3 Proper Relaxation – Helps keep the body from going into overload mode, easing worry and fatigue.
4 Proper Diet – Eating simple, healthy and vegetarian foods that are easy to digest notably have a positive effect on the mind and body, as well as the environment and other living beings.
5 Positive Thinking (Vedanta) and Meditation (Dhyana) – These are the true keys to achieving peace of mind and eliminating negativity in our lives.
Asana is one of the eight limbs of classical Yoga, which states that poses should be steady and comfortable, firm yet relaxed helping a practitioner to become more aware of their body, mind, and environment.
The 12 basic poses or asanas are much more than just stretching. They open the energy channels, chakras and psychic centers of the body while increasing flexibility of the spine, strengthening bones and stimulating the circulatory and immune systems. Along with proper breathing or pranayama, asanas also calm the mind and reduce stress. With regular practice one can ensure overall physical and mental health and the possible prevention of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and arthritis. In time, performing the poses slowly and consciously, becomes a mental exercise in concentration and meditation.
12 BASIC ASANAS
1. Headstand (Sirshasana)
2. Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana)
3. Plough (Halasana)
4. Fish (Matsyasana)
5. Sitting Forward bend (Paschimothanasana)
6. Cobra (Bhujangasana)
7. Locust (Shalabhasana)
8. Bow (Dhanurasana)
9. Spinal twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
10. Crow (Kakasana) or Peacock (Mayurasana)
11. Standing forward bend (Pada Hasthasana)
12. Triangle (Trikonasana)
The recommended diet for a student of yoga is a simple and wholesome vegetarian one, made up of natural foods that are easily digested. It keeps the body vital and healthy, and the mind calm and free from restless thoughts. Processed and tinned foods are to be avoided when possible.
FROM 1ST-10TH OF THE MONTH
We practice Sivananda style Kapalbhati and Sun Salutation. We start with the child pose, dolphin pose leading to head stand.
We practice sarvangasana to stretch the cervical and thoracic regions. We practice Plough Pose to stretch the entire spine particularly cervical vertebrae and shoulders. Start with 30 seconds and build to 2 minutes.
We will practice Matsyasana or Fish pose to remove rounded shoulders and stretch the chest open and open up the bronchial tubes. We hold it for half the time that we spent in shoulder stand to equalize the effect on spine and muscles. We follow it with relaxation.
- REGULAR YOGI
FROM 11th to 20th OF THE MONTH
We practice Bhastrika, Sun Salutation and then practice poses leading to SITTING FORWARD BEND – PASCHIMOTHANASANA. The asana is helping to ease the spinal compression caused by standing upright.
Its practice contributes greatly toward keeping your back supple, your joints mobile, your nervous system invigorated, and your internal organs toned. We then practice counter pose Inclined Plane. We practice COBRA – BHUJANGASANA and its variations. We practice LOCUST – SHALABHASANA. With practice, you will be able to raise your legs higher. Eventually, you may even be able to lift your body vertically.
THE ADVANCED LOCUST
This more difficult pose must be attempted only by experienced students of yoga. The aim, in the advanced asana, is to raise your feet straight up and then lower them over your head. This backward bend compresses your vertebrae while stretching the front of your body to its greatest extent. The strength and flexibility necessary for this pose will eventually develop with regular practice. We practice BOW – DHANURASANA. Then relax in Makrasana. Then we practice Rocking Bow. We do full yogic breathing and relaxation.
FROM 21st TO 30th OF THE MONTH
We practice HALF SPINAL TWIST – ARDHA MATSYENDRASANA which gives lateral stretch to the entire spine. After bending forward and back, your spine requires a lateral twist to retain its mobility.
This ability to twist is often the first type of flexibility to be lost. During the Spiral Twists your vertebrae are mobilized; the exercises also allow more nourishment to reach the roots of the spinal nerves and the sympathetic nervous system.
Objective: To maintain sideways mobility in your spine.
We then practice KAKASANA. It is a balancing position in a squatting position. Besides increasing physical and mental balance, the crow develops mental tranquility and also strengthens your wrists and forearms. Practice STANDING FORWARD BEND – PADA HASTHASANA. Standing poses develop strength and flexibility in your legs and hips and equilibrium in your body. The Hands-to-Feet Pose stretches your spine and joints, and increase the blood supply to your brain. The Triangle is the last of the basic Asanas. You must master this pose and its variations before trying the advanced Asanas.
Objective: To make your spine and legs supple and strong.
FORWARD & DOWN
This is similar to the Forward Bend, but here gravity helps to stretch your body down.
We practice Triangle Pose or Trikonasana. The Triangle is a lateral stretch for your trunk muscles and spine, and makes your hips, legs, and shoulders more flexible.
Your body forms a straight line, parallel to the floor. from your waist to your fingertips.
We then practice Sheethali, Sheetkari, Alternate Nostril Breathing and
And Brahmari pranayama followed by Meditation.
Proper Exercise: Yoga Asanas: The aim of proper exercise is to improve suppleness and strength. Each posture is performed slowly in fluid movements. Violent movements are avoided as they produce a build-up of lactic acid, causing fatigue.
Most people use only a fraction of their breathing capacity. Proper breathing focuses on nasal breathing techniques to unlock energy and vitality. Breathing exercises concentrate on exhalation rather than inhalation, to cleanse the lungs of stale air and to eliminate toxins from your body.
The release of tension through relaxation is vital to keep the body healthy. Begin and end each session of yoga asanas with relaxation, and relax between postures. This allows the released energy to flow freely.
Positive Thinking & Meditation
Meditation is a state of consciousness. When practicing meditation, you must first learn how to calm the mind, and focus your mental energy inwards. Meditation can help to relieve stress and replenish your energy. If it is practiced on a daily basis, you will also find it will enable you to think more clearly and positively, and to be at peace with yourself.