Yoga is an ancient discipline that comprises distinct poses or asanasalong with sequences of breathing techniques that heal the body, mind, and soul.
Yoga therapy is a union of the body and mind. It makes you aware of the mind-body connection and deeply rejuvenates it.
Studies show Yoga boosts immunity, relieves your mind of anxiety, depression, stress, reduces inflammation in the body, drops blood pressure, promotes flexibility, good posture, bone health and balance in the body.
Yoga therapy can be majorly divided into 3 parts:
- Yoga Asanas
- Breathing Work
Opening up your Chakras
Chakra in Sanskrit means wheel or disk. There are several energy centres located in the body that are called chakras. They are associated with crucial organs and nerve bundles. It is vital that these chakras be balanced to operate at their best. When closed, you may undergo physical or mental imbalances associated with certain chakras.
The body has 7 major chakras along the spine.
Root Chakra (Muladhara): This chakra is located at the lowest point of the spine. This chakra grounds you, gives you energy to power through obstacles and provides a foundation of life. This chakra is responsible for stability and security.
Sacral Chakra (Svadhisthana): Located below the belly button, this chakra is linked to relating to your own as well as others emotions. It is responsible for your creative and sexual energy.
Solar plexus chakra (Manipura): Located in the stomach part. Responsible for being in control of your life, confidence, and self-esteem.
Heart Chakra (Anahata): Located near the heart as the name suggests. It is responsible for love and empathy.
Throat Chakra (Vishuddha): Located in the throat, responsible for communicating verbally.
Third Eye Chakra (Ajna): Located in between the eyes, responsible for a strong gut instinct, intuition and imagination.
Crown Chakra (Sahasrara): Located at the top of the head, linked to a spiritual connection to oneself, others and the universe. Also linked to one’s life’s purpose.
In the case of an overactive or inactive chakra, either way, it can have negative effects on the particular abilities associated with the chakra. For example, if the root chakra is blocked it can result in self-esteem issues, depression anxiety. Meanwhile, if the root chakra is overused, it leads to living without caution and heightens insecurities.
The location of the chakra that is closed affects the parts of your body in line with it which includes nerve bundles, organs, muscles, bone, and joints. In addition, it also causes an emotional imbalance that leads to added stress, anxiety, anger, sadness, fear.
Extended imbalance of the chakras can result in major health impediments – both psychologically and physically. With the help of yoga postures, breath work and meditation the closed off chakras can be opened up and create alignment of the body and mind.
7 Yoga Asanas to Align your Chakras
- Sukhasana/Easy Pose: Third-Eye Chakra (Anja)
The simplest yoga asana wherein you have to sit cross-legged with the upper body upright and palms on the knees. The is the first pose whenever starting any yoga routine.
Starting with a deep breath in, holding in for 7-10 seconds and breathing out slowly and for as long as you can. Do the same at least 4-5 times with the help of this asana to begin your yoga therapy by relaxing your body as well as mind.
This Chakra is linked to intuition. Working on this chakra opens you up to view different perspectives and shows you the bigger picture.
- Vrksasana/Tree Pose: Root Chakra (Muladhara)
Another easy yoga asana. Stand erect with your feet together. Define a focus point to stare at straight ahead while you try to maintain balance.
As you take a breath in, shift your left foot on to your right calf, then with the help of your right hand place your left foot on the right inner thigh. As you take a breath out, balance on your right foot along with placing your hands on your chest in a folded manner. This asana helps in improving balance.
This asana is great for boosting self-esteem especially in feeling more guarded and stable. This chakra is associated with feelings of endurance and belongingness.
- Ustrasana/Camel Pose: Heart Chakra (Anahata)
An intermediate level of difficulty to this yoga pose. Kneel on the ground with your calves hip-width apart, ground through with your legs and feet. As you inhale, push through the ground with your legs and straightening your back and shoulder. As you exhale, slowly grab your heels by the palm of your hands, lift your chest stretch your shoulders. This pose helps strengthen back muscles and stretch the entire front body.
Doing this asana will bring more joy and love to your life. This chakra brings in feelings of unconditional love, empathy and acceptance. Time to open your heart out!
- Deviasana/Goddess Pose: Pelvic Chakra (Svadhisthana)
This yoga asana is a part of the intermediate level of difficulty. Stand upright with arms by your side. Stretch your feet wide apart to approximately 4 feet with toes pointing outwards. Lower down to the squat position. Spread out your arms and fold them in front of your chest. In this position breathe in and out and try to be in this position for 1 or 2 minutes. The same should be repeated at least 10 times.
This asana strengthens the legs, hips, back and abdomen. Also great for alleviating stress, anxiety and enhancing digestive health, kidney and liver function, and sexual health.
This asana enhances emotional stability and creativity. When the Pelvic Chakra is in balance, you’ll feel creative, optimistic and open to changes.
- Ustrasana/Camel Pose: Heart Chakra (Anahata)
Another intermediate level of difficulty yoga asana. Kneel down on the yoga mat and put your hands on your hips, let your heels face upwards. Take a deep breath in and arch your back slowly backwards and place palms over heels, stay in this position for few breaths. Don’t strain your neck.
This asana promotes digestive health, strengthens the back and shoulder and helps to alleviate backache. Promotes flexibility of the spine, improves posture, and relieves menstrual pains.
This asana is great for being more emphatic, cheerful and elated. Once the heart chakra is opened, it is a great help in being more compassionate, getting over past wounds and forming healthy relationships.
- Navasana/Boat Pose: Navel Chakra (Manipura)
One of the more advanced yoga poses that’s great for strengthening the core and the abdomen.
Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet falling flat on the ground. For the half boat pose, lift your feet above and calves parallel to the floor while your knees are bent. Straighten your legs to a 45-degree angle so that your legs and upright upper body form a V shape. Focus on keeping your torso straight and not falling over. With your shoulders back, straighten your arms so they are parallel to the floor and palms up. Lift your chest to balance the weight and maintaining the V shape. Stay for at least 5 breaths and release your legs on an exhale.
Great for bringing in more personal change and power within. This chakra helps to enhance self-esteem, be more productive and take more conscious action in life.
- Savasana/Corpse Pose: Crown Chakra (Sahasrara)
Typically every yoga routine ends with this easy yoga asana that works on relaxing the body and gives time to ponder upon all the asanas performed.
Lay on the ground with your legs not touching and feet falling flat on their side. Arms on the sides and shoulders out with palms open facing upwards. Release all the burden and let your body be loose. Relax your entire body as well as face. Close your eyes and breathe normally Notice your breathing and be present at the moment without letting your mind wander off for 5 minutes. Breathe in deeply and straighten feet, legs, thighs, arms and shoulder. Exhale and lift upper body in a sitting position.
This chakra is associated with beauty. It is a great routine to detach yourself from your ego and feel free. Let’s face it, this is the simplest of the lot and who doesn’t love to lay down?
Apart from the yoga asanas, another important aspect of yoga therapy is breathing practice that promotes the flow of energy.
Pranayam is the discipline of breath regulation. Controlling your breath in various ways leading to healing benefits. Prana means life force and Ayam is controlling.
Pranayam is the perfect yoga for beginners. It consists of distinct breathing techniques that can be performed as is, while meditation or with yoga asanas.
Pranayam’starget is the connection and alignment of the body and mind.
Pranayam comprises of different types of breathing techniques like:
- Yogendra Pranayama- IV
- Yogendra Pranayama-IX
- YogendraBhramari; bee breath.
- Bhramari Pranayama
Especially in the current times, Pranayam is a necessity due to its enormous benefits such as:
Amplifies Lung Function
The swift and moderate breathing exercise strengthens the lungs.
Studies have determined that daily 1 hour a day practising Pranayama for a period of 6 weeks showcases significant improvement of multiple aspects of the lungs. Pranayam is a useful tool for toughening up the lungs and their functions especially for conditions such as Asthma, Pneumonia or Tuberculosis, Allergic Bronchitis.
Pranayam calms the nervous system which improves stress response. Also helps lower anxiety due to increased oxygen uptake during pranayam. Oxygen is energy to the brain and other major organs.
Reduces High Blood Pressure
Stress is usually a contributor to high blood pressure and hypertension increases the risk of potentially life-threatening diseases. Pranayam lowers high blood pressure to a large extent due to its mindful breathing that helps quieten the nervous system and further on reducing the stress response and high blood pressure.
Enhances Quality of Sleep
Studies suggest Bhramari pranayama when exercised for 5 minutes has shown to ease down the heart rate and breathing. This may result in easing of the entire body to help with sleeping. According to the European Respiratory Journal 2019, Pranayama improves sleep quality in cases of Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
There is increased awareness of breathing during exercising Pranayam due to which there is awareness of the present moment rather than the future or past time, which is commonly known as Mindfulness. According to a 2017 study, people who exercised Pranayam experienced increased levels of mindfulness along with better emotional regulation due to the easing down effect.
Enhances concentration and rejuvenates oxygen concentration by helping in getting rid of carbon dioxide. In turn, providing higher levels of oxygen to the brain.
Cuts down cigarette cravings
A 2019 Psychopharmacology Study indicates cigarette cravings for a short period can be cut down with the help of hardly 10 minutes of yogic breathing. A 2020 Study by American Psychological Association found that the negative effects associated with smoking withdrawal can be considerably lowered by exercising Mindfulness-based Pranayam Yoga.
Pranayam can be practised in a multitude of distinct ways using different breathing techniques along with altered yoga asanas. Such as the three listed:
- Form 1: In a cross-legged sitting position, Breathe in through the left nostril with the right nostril closed using the index finger of the left hand. Breathe out through the right nostril with the thumb covering the left nostril and vice versa with the other hand.
- Form 2: In this form, breathe in and breathe out through the right nostril while covering the left nostril with the index finger with varying speeds.
- Form 3: Take a deep breath in for as long as possible with ease and breathe out for as long as possible with added speed.
With daily Pranayam using the right techniques, a greater connection of the body and mind is induced as well as an improvement of the lung capacity and respiratory system significantly. In addition, it alleviates stress and promotes mindfulness. There are significant changes to physical health, brain health and blood pressure – all-around health improves.