October 2012

Headstands and shoulder stands are the theme of this newsletter. It will also be the theme of Maurice’s next workshop in November.

Contents:

Asanas of the Month
Yoga Tip of the Month
Embarrassing Question of the Month
Yoga Philosophy club???
Patanjali Yoga Sutra of the month
Yoga Quote of the Month
Recipe of the Month
Upcoming Events
Previous newsletters

 

Asana of the Month

The King and Queen of all Asana

Headstand (Sirsasana) is known as the king of all poses, while shoulder stand (Sarvangasana) is known as the queen. Sirsasana develops willpower, intelligence and clarity of thought, while Sarvangasana develops patience and tolerance. Sirsasana tends to heat the body, stimulate the nervous system and tones the neck muscles. While Sarvangasana tends to cool or neutralize the body, sedate the nervous system and release the muscles of the neck and shoulders.

Sirsasana: stimulates the pituitary and pineal glands in the brain, which control the chemical balance of the body. Our growth, health and vitality depend on the proper functioning of these two glands.

By reversing the pull of gravity on the organs, it helps to cleanse them and reconciles problems of the liver, kidneys, stomach, intestines and reproductive system. When done correctly, it helps the spine become properly aligned, improves posture, and reduces muscular stress. The weight of the abdominal organs on the diaphragm encourages deep breathing. Sirsasana can be used to treat asthma, hay fever, diabetes, headaches, anxiety and menopausal imbalance.
Headstand can leave you feeling very stimulated, so to balance this it is advised to practice a shoulder stand afterwards.

Sarvangasana: helps the thyroid and parathyroid glands, which are located in the neck region, to function properly. The firm chin-lock applied during the posture, regulates blood supply. As a result the body and the brain is efficiently preserved in good balance and healthy blood circulates around the neck and chest.

It can positively assist people suffering from breathlessness, palpitation, asthma, bronchitis and throat ailments. It is very soothing to the nervous system and therefore good to practice when one is tense, upset, nervous, irritated, fatigued, or when suffering from insomnia. The change in gravitational pull activates the abdominal organs and can relieve constipation, stomach and intenstinal ulcers.

According to Mr. Iyengar, sarvangasana is “one of the greatest boons conferred on humanity by our ancient sages.”

Alignment is crucial!! It is important to be taught Sirsasana and Sarvangasana by a qualified and experienced teacher. Functionally, we were not made to put all of our body’s weight on the neck bones, whether in flexion, extension or neutral. A healthy headstand or shoulder stand needs strong arms, shoulders, and core muscles to displace some of the body’s weight from the neck and skull.

Despite the limitations of a tight lower back and hamstrings, most yoga practitioners can move into an inversion relatively easily. As yoga grows ever more popular students are enthusiastically practicing sirsasana and sarvangasana across the nation—in crowded classes without props. Headstand and Shoulder stand place tremendous compressive force on the upper spine, which, for those who are vulnerable, can cause nerve irritation and compression to the brachial plexus. People who are already vulnerable in the upper spine from cervical degeneration, whiplash, old injuries, or misalignment, can unknowingly exacerbate the situation.

Preparing for inversions
If you are new to yoga, take your time before headstands and shoulder stands. Work closely with an observant and knowledgeable teacher. Attend class regularly. Learn the fundamentals: Develop balance, clarity, and strength with the standing poses. Find the extension of the spine first in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog); open the shoulders with Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand), Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Balance).

People suffering from high blood pressure, detached retina, glaucoma, hernias, cardiovascular disease, cervical spondylitis, slipped discs should not practice headstand or shoulder stand. It is advisable for women during menstruation to avoid inversions.

Fountain of Youth
The Natha siddhas and other Tantric schools, forebears of the hatha yoga tradition, believed that amrita, the nectar of immortality, was held within the cranial vault, at the seventh chakra, the sahasrara chakra. The valued nectar, meting out our days, dropped down through the center of the body and was consumed in the fire of the torso. Turn yourself upside down, the reasoning went, and amrita would be retained, thus prolonging life and preserving one’s prana. (Yoga Journal Sept Oct 2008)

Caution
People suffering from high blood pressure, detached retina, glaucoma, hernias, cardiovascular disease, cervical spondylitis, slipped discs should not practice headstand or shoulder stand. It is advisable for women during menstruation to avoid inversions.

 

return to top

 

Yoga Tip of the Month
Even if you are regularly practicing inverting, there will be times when the practice is inappropriate.svadhyaya– self study is essential- will the posture benefit you today? It may be helpful to recall the yogic discipline of ahimsa- nonviolence. We practice yoga to decrease suffering and develop our capacity to be fully present in our lives. Why persist in practicing Headstand and Shoulderstand if it causes you pain? Restorative inversions such as Viparita Karani and a supported Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) will give you some of the benefits of Headstand and Shoulderstand, without taxing the cervical spine.

 

return to top

Embarrassing Question of the Month
Isn’t it scary to do a headstand and shoulder stand?
If you have never been upside down before, it can be daunting seeing other people performing inversions. However the health claims of doing so are astonishing!!Once the fear is defeated, the innumerable benefits can be appreciated.
Not all inversions are as visually dramatic as headstand or shoulder stands. Standing forward bends and downward dogs are also classified as inversions. We begin with the simple inversions and slowly build up our capacity and confidence to go into full inversions.
Among the many benefits, doing inversions can positively impact our circulatory, lymphatic, nervous, and endocrine systems.

  • The circulatory system carries nutrients, water, and oxygen to our cells and takes away wastes such as carbon dioxide produced by the cells. inversions can
    • Stimulate circulation, improving the functioning of cells, organs and glands.
    • Encourage fresh blood to be delivered to your heart.
    • Ventilate your upper lungs, ensuring a more even oxygen- blood ratio, thus improving lung tissue quality.
  • The lymphatic system removes waste, balances fluid, and protects us against disease. Inversions can
    • Strengthen your immune system, and speed up elimination of waste
    • Clear toxins so muscles can relax and resume their capacity to propel the lymph along its path.
    • Increase lymph flow, allowing the body to focus on building new muscle tissue.
    • Reduce fluid retention
  • Endocrine system is responsible for hormone distribution. Inversions can:
    • Stimulate your thyroid and parathyroid glands, which regulates metabolism.
    • Stimulate your master gland- pituitary gland, and promote a positive state of well-being.
    • Help balance your production of hormones, and consequently calm irritability and moodiness.
    • Bring about great relief if your experiencing perimenopause and menopause.
  • The nervous system controls the whole body. It carries messages that tell us to move, breathe, feel and think. Inversions can
  • Stimulate the autonomic nervous system, which regulates the internal environment of the body by controlling blood pressure, muscle tone, water balance, glandular secretion, respiratory rate, metabolism, temperature, biorhythm cycle and heart rate.
  • improve communication between the central nervous system and the structures of the body by keeping nerves free from disc pressure. Nerves emerge from the spine through spaces between the vertebrae. Inversions can elongate the spine, widening spaces between vertebrae, and releasing pressure on discs.

Other health benefits associated with inversions include:

  • Relief from backache, by releasing pressure on discs, providing freedom to absorb moisture from surrounding blood vessels, which allows them to expand and regenerate like sponges.
  • Better posture by strengthening deep core muscles. To hold a straight headstand for an extended period of time, the practitioner must engage the obliques, the rectus abdominus and the transverse abdominus.
  • Improved quality of relaxation,
  • Improved ability to concentrate and remain focused.
  • Enhances hearing and vision by increased flow of blood and oxygen to the head.
  • Improved skin and hair conditions.
  • healthier mobility.

It is essential to go to an experienced and qualified yoga teacher, who is proficient at their own practice, and can provide you with expert instructions.
Inverted asanas reverse the action of gravity on the body. Instead of everything being pulled towards the feet, the orientation shifts towards the head. Doing inversions literally turns your whole world upside down!  Even though it takes a lot of courage, it throw a new light on old patterns of behaviour, bringing about many physical, emotional and mental breakthroughs.

return to top

Yoga Philosophy club???
Some people have suggested starting a yoga philosophy club- meeting once a month to discuss different aspects of yoga philosophy. We’re open to the idea, and calling for expressions of interest. please email us if you are interested.

 

return to top

Patanjali Yoga Sutra of the month

?????????????????????????????????????

prayatna?aithily?nantasam?pattibhy?m||47||
Chapter 2 number 47

Perfection in an asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached.
BKS Iyengar. Light on the yoga sutras of Patanjali pg 150

 

return to top

Quote of the month

“Yoga is known as the disconnection (viyoga) of the connection (samyoga) with suffering” Bhagavad-Gita (2.3.10.115)

 

return to top

Recipe of the Month

Vegetable Dal
1 cup Channa Dal
½ tsp Tumeric
1 cup peeled and cubed potatoes
1 cup peeled and cubed pumpkin
1 cup of peeled and cubed Eggplants
½ tsp Tumeric
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 cloves
½ tsp chillie powder
½ red chillie
3 tbsp oil
1 tbsp chopped coriander
Salt to tastes
¼ cup of Vegetable stock

  1. Clean, wash and soak Dal in water for about 2 hrs. Drain
  2. Add tumeric to Dal, and boil until pulpy (approx 1 hr).
  3. Whisk well and keep aside
  4. Steam vegetables
  5. Add to the mashed Dal. Whisk again so that some of vegetables get mashed
  6. Heat the oil in a large pan. Fry the mustard seeds, cloves, red chillies and chillie powder for a few seconds.
  7. When the mustard seeds start to crackle add the Dal and vegetable mix.
  8. Add vegetable stock, a pinch of tumeric powder. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 mins.
  9. Serve hot, garnish with coriander.
  10. serve with rice

Serves up to 4 people