Practice of Yoga Therapy is key to fitness

School of Yoga explains Practice of Yoga Therapy- An easy to use tool for a healthy life…

therapy practice

Cross section of female anatomy

The earlier article on Yoga Therapy highlighted the importance of equilibrium for health and the role Yoga therapy practice can play to keep you healthy! The great thing about Yoga therapy practice is that;

  • It is easy to do, you can practice it even when you get old or recovering from illness.
  • Yoga Therapy integrates seamlessly into your life, so lifestyle changes required are minimum.
  • You don’t need to spend big money on equipment. All you need is a mat! Therefore, Yoga Therapy practice is universal in capability.
  • Yoga Therapy is an open system. Once you learn the basics, you can develop it in any direction you wish.
  • Yoga is a value system, means it will only add value to your life and its benefits are dependent only on your efforts.

So, Yoga Therapy is “small investment, large return” tool which the ancient Masters of India presented free to Mankind.

Therapy Practice – asanas or postures:

With Yoga becoming popular around the world, many Yoga centers have mushroomed around the world. So, the good news is that learning yoga is no longer a difficult process.

Since information and teachers are universally available, all you need to do is practice exercises (asanas) that every part of the body. Therefore, once you learn the correct set of asanas, then all you need to do is ensure that you do them correctly and regularly.

Many schools recommend various sets and routines of asanas. Also, various ancient texts recommend different routines. This can easily confuse the aspiring practitioner.

In around 1921, Yogacharya Sundaram developed a set of asana routines, which when coupled with diet and meditation and asanas supports rejuvenation from illness and post illness recovery. This was the first attempt by any person to systematise Yoga Therapy and the principles have not changed.

Additionally, Sundaram detailed his views on Yoga Therapy, first in his Tamil book “Yoga Sigicchai” in 1952. Subsequently, this book was translated it into English in 2004 as Sundaram’s Yogic Therapy. Sundaram’s work was the result of over 20 years of research into the application of asana for freedom from disease in an era when doctors were hard to find and the modern diagnostics was not available.

Asana as a tool for Yoga Therapy:

The classical definition of asana is स्थिरसुखमासनम् ॥४६॥ or sthira-sukham-asanam.

The rough translation of this Sanskrit text is, Sthira (static) + sukham (comfortable) + asanam (posture). Asana therefore needs to comply with the following rules;

  1. It should be static, not vigorous or dynamic.
  2. It should be easy to perform and not stressful.
  3. Is should be at one place, with minimal movement.
  4. Yogacharya Sundaram introduced a breathing routine. This increases quality of air intake and awareness (pragnya).

Therefore, asana is a static exercise where the body movement is minimal and the focus is on holding the pose to maximise impact on a specific area of the body. This will result in the practitioner of Yoga Therapy remaining close to the state of homeostasis, which is a condition of the body remaining in balance and equilibrium.  This is what make Yoga Therapy a universal tool for maintaining and reclaiming health at any age or condition.

Asana is supported by kriya and banda.

Kriya (dynamic exercises):  Exercises which increase flexibility of the body. Surya Namaskar and nauli falls into this classification.

Banda (holding position): This exercise is far more complex than the above two types and focuses on smooth flow of prana in and around that area of focus. Uddiyana falls into this classification.

School of Yoga – note to the reader on therapy practice:

Use of Sanskrit words – there is always a desire to make approximations to make the subject more appealing and less forbidding. However, that has been avoided in this site. The reason is that translations are at best approximations which may not present the truth to the reader. However, availability of both, the classical Sanskrit word and its translation will allow the reader to come to an informed judgement. This might make the page slightly heavy for reading, but one could skip the Sanskrit word and move to the translation.

Many teachers get started with warm up asanas and beginner asanas. Yogacharya Sundaram never really did that. Consequently, he got people performing the below mentioned asanas as soon as he could get them to flex. This is the right approach because, by definition asanas are static position and the warm up aspect is already covered in the design of the exercise system. Hence, the most appropriate set of asanas and their sequence have been detailed below.

School of Yoga asana practice recommendations:

  • The asanas given below cover every aspect of human physiology, therefore most normal ailments.
  • The asanas can be mixed and matched to cover specific requirements of any ailment.
  • For normal, healthy people, it is recommended that as many of these asanas be performed for a balanced and healthy life.
  • Asanas should be coupled with pranayama and meditation or dhyana for maximum benefit.
  • The detailed instructions are given in the links to the asanas. 

The therapy practice exercises recommended are:

Sl. No.

Asana

Meaning/ translation

Reverse bending exercises: Benefits the upper and lower back, flexibility of the spine, sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves, all organs of the abdomen such as the stomach, intestines, liver, pancreas etc.
1 Bhujangasana  Cobra Pose
2 Shalabasana Locust Pose
3 Dhanurasana Bow Pose
Forward bending exercises: Benefits all organs in the lower abdomen and upper abdomen
4 Pavana Muktasana Air-relieving Pose
5 Paschimotanasana Torso-stretch Pose
6 Halasana Plough Pose
7 Mayurasana Peacock Pose
Upper region exercises: Benefits the entire nervous system, the endocrine system, cardiac and thoracic areas. Impacts the neck, shoulders, heart, lungs and head.
8 Sarvangasana Pan-body pose
9 Matsyasana Fish Pose
10 Shirsasana Head Stand
11 Viparitha Karani Chest Pose
Abdominal exercises: Benefits – stabilises the digestion process, eliminates constipation and gas, 
12 Arda Matsyandarasana Half-fish middle pose
13 Yoga Mudra Yoga seal
14 Padahastasana Hand to Toe Pose
15 Uddiyana Abdominal Suction
16 Nauli Rectus Isolation
Body Reset Exercise: Coming back to the condition of homeostasis
17 Shavasana Corpse Pose

Pranayama – Daily practice recommendations

While there are many pranayama techniques such as sama-vritti (even breathing), visama-vritti (uneven breathing), shitali (tongue curled between the lips), shitkar (tongue curled between the teeth), udgeeta (pranayama with chanting) etc.

However, a pranayama cycle comprising the following schedule is adequate to meet daily requirements;

Pranayama

Cycles

Benefits

Nadishuddhi with kumbaka 5-20 Overall lung functioning, balancing of left/ right brain, balancing of ida & pingala nadis
Bhastrika 20-50 Increases lung capacity, transfer capacity, activates dead alveoli, increases lung elasticity and strengthens diaphragm.
Kapalbhati 20-50 Increases volumetric efficiency of the lungs, strengthens the trachea and all pulmonary vessels. Strengthens the abdominal walls.
Ujjayi 5-20 Improves the autonomous nervous system, the heart, clears ears and sinuses.
Bramari 5-10 Opens the nasal passages, clears all the sinuses, removes mucous.
Nadishuddhi 5 Close with Nadishiddhi to reset the system

Finally, It is important to practice pranayama on an empty stomach and in a clean room with the windows open. Pranayama, when done after asana, increases the effectiveness of pranayama as the entire body has made optimized.

Therapy practice – Meditation or dhyana:

There are many techniques in meditation, but the simplest of all requires the following steps to be followed;

  • Sit comfortably.
  • Let your body relax from head to toe.
  • Become aware of your breathing.
  • Observe your breath at any one place along the path of the breath.
  • Be still. Stop resisting.
  • Seek the silence which occurs between in & out or out and in.
  • Stay in the silence. 
  • Allow the consciousness (chitta) to drift and keep bringing it back to the silence slowly. This will take effort.

Conclusion of Therapy Practice:

To summarise, staying healthy is easy. All it requires is altering some aspects of one’s lifestyle. Though the steps sound easy, but bringing habits under control will require effort. Over time, there will be success.

Editor at School Of Yoga
School Of Yoga is a single point resource for all aspects of Classical Yoga practise. We try to achieve this by placing Yoga's traditional methodology in front of the reader and eliciting his or her experience. We value everyone's Yoga experience and would like you to share and enrich other practitioners so that everyone benefits.
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