Why the ancient art of yoga is the ideal way to start your day and how it’s never too soon to get started
Yoga is the harmonisation of the mind, body and soul. It is an art form that’s many thousands of years old – cave drawings show that yoga was practised more than 5000 years ago. Its main root is in India, but yoga images have also been depicted in ancient Egypt, China and South America.
Yoga covers several limbs, or branches, of teaching.
There are two main limbs:
- The first are called asanas – these are a series of rhythmic and graceful movements of various joints and muscles of the body aimed at attaining a definite posture and the subsequent physical conditioning of the body.
- The second is called Pranayama – this is a Sanskrit word (coming from the classical language of India) and means lifeforce or breath control. This involves breathing activities to produce specific results.
Practising yoga regularly has been scientifically proven to provide many health benefits. Based on the premise that everything is energy, yoga supports a healthy body by working on its different points and lines to maintain a healthy flow of energy, circulatory system and immune system.
Yoga also has a calming effect on the mind and is great for helping to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
Some of the asanas, or postures, however, can look a little difficult or daunting. The good news is many are straightforward and, even better, you’re not competing with anyone. Yoga is for You. It’s about doing as much as you can within a posture – stretching to a point that is comfortable.
So now you know that when you’re practising yoga, you’re doing so much more than a bit of gentle exercise. Get in the yoga mood with our easy guide to one of the most common asanas, the Sun Salutation.
Salute to the Sun
Properly referred to as the Sun Salutation (its Sanskrit name is Surya Namaskar), this is a wonderful yoga activity that balances and energises the body. It links body, breath and mind and revitalises both the physical and spiritual self. It also warms, strengthens and aligns the entire body.
Have fun practising it in the morning when you wake up and observe how it energises you for your day. You may do as many rounds as you wish.
- Stand tall, holding your hands, palms together, in prayer pose at your heart’s centre. Take a few deep breaths and focus on the self, your core, your inner sun.
- Breathing in, circle your hands up above your head, reaching tall to the sun. Look up to the sky through your open arms.
- On an out breath, flow your arms down in a circle around your body to rest on the outside of each foot, with your fingers pointing forwards in line with your toes. If needed you can bend your knees slightly. Let your head hang towards the floor like a rag doll.
- On an in breath, straighten your legs and look forward. Step your left foot back into a lunge.
- On an out breath, step your right foot back to join your left foot, forming a straight line with your body, known as plank pose (Phalakasana).
- On an out breath, bend your knees and lower your body. Keep your knees on the floor and your elbows tucked in near the body.
- Breathing in, push your chest upwards into Cobra pose (Bhujangasana), opening your chest by drawing your shoulders back – take a few breaths here.
- On an out breath, tuck your toes under and push up into Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Savanasana) pushing down into the floor through your hands and feet while your hips pull upwards.
- On an in breath, step your right foot forward between your hands, forming a lunge position.
- Bring your left foot forward to join the right forming a forward fold with your body.
- Breathing in, slowly circle your hands up round your body, and lift yourself to a standing tall position (your head comes up last). The hands join above the head in prayer position.
- Lower the hands to heart centre and take a few deep breaths. Then repeat the sequence, this time starting with taking the right leg back first at the beginning lunge pose.