Yoga! Yoga! Yoga!
the Spiritual & the Physical
By Alana Cahoon
Breathe. Stretch. Repeat. Sounds like you’re washing your hair, right? Close. You’re washing your body. Inside out.
I’ll never forget being introduced to yoga back in the 1980’s. A long haired hippie dude was teaching at a gym in NYC. He wasn’t very good. That experience turned me away from the practice for awhile.
I was a modern dancer at the time and practiced hard core aerobics. I didn’t need to add yoga to the mix.
Today, I couldn’t imagine living without it.
Yoga the spiritual and the physical. That’s the beauty of it. There are meaningful aspects of the practice that bring about a range of health benefits. And that’s what is needed today. More than ever.
The spiritual aspect of yoga is found within its philosophy and meditative practice. The aim being to unite one’s spirit with the Divine. Doesn’t that sound amazing? The meditative practice of yoga is equivalent to samadhi or concentration which brings about self awareness.
As a teacher, I like to begin classes by setting an intention. This acts as the theme throughout the session and is frequently aligned with your spirit such as, ‘I feel calm and relaxed.’
You may have heard of balancing the chakras. This is something I have been doing for most of my life. It’s a beautiful sequence of activating the 7 main chakras or energy centers of the body. These are aligned along your spine, the first located at the base moving up to the seventh at the crown of your head. In addition to balancing these energy centers during meditation, they can also be activated during the physical aspect of your yoga practice.
Some say the practice of yoga began approximately 5000 years ago in India. My course of study suggests less it dates back to the 2nd century BCE with the Yoga Sutras of Patanjala, the foundation for the practice. These were brought to the West in the 20th century. Hatha yoga, which is the form we are most familiar with in the US emerged in India around the 10th century with origins in tantra.
‘What?’ You may be asking. No worries. Meditation is the first step to the spiritual side of yoga. Understanding its roots and beliefs of origin are the next.
You may be fascinated to learn more. If so, there are dozens of books and videos available on the subject. I suggest you peruse several and see what’s a fit. If you learn best by reading, you may want to engage in a book on the traditions such as the Bhagavad Gita or the Upanishads or Yoga Sutras. If you’re a visual learner, check out videos available online. Start with a simple search of Yoga and go from there.
The spiritual side of yoga is found within its meditative practice. This elevates the conscious state to one that is clear and in divine union, ultimately bringing one to a sense of absolute freedom. Ommm.
I believe that the physical aspect of yoga is just as important as the spiritual side and vice versa. A balanced mind body and spirit involves the activation of all.
Typically a yoga class is focused on the asanas. These are the physical poses of yoga. These poses can be held for several minutes which are often found in the yoga teaching of Iyengar. Or they can move from one to the next in a flowing series which can be found in the Vinyasa style.
As a dancer, which do you think is my favorite? Right. Vinyasa!
Hatha yoga is the overarching style predominantly taught in the west. Vinyasa, Iyengar, and even Power yoga are all under its umbrella.
A well rounded yoga class will include focus on the breath, the asana and the concentration. These aspects will stretch and strengthen your mind, body, and spirit.
Today there are numerous yoga studios both in brick and mortar and online. Circling back to my first encounter with yoga, may I suggest not to give up if at first you don’t like the experience. The teaching style, environment and/or personality of the instructor have an impact on your personal experience. Find some one who speaks to you. In mind - body - spirit.
Here are some of the yoga poses you may learn. I’ve noticed that depending on the source, the names may differ slightly. The first word is the basic English name. The second is the Sanskrit name. Have fun saying them and doing them!
Asanas - Yoga Poses
Boat - Navasana
Bow - Dhanurasana
Camel - Ushtrasana
Cat - Marjariasana
Chair - Utkatasana
Child - Balasana
Cobbler - Bhadrasana
Cobra - Bhujangasana
Crescent Moon - Anjaneyasana
Crocodile - Makarasana
Crow - Kakasana
Dancer - Natarajasana
Downward Facing Dog - Ardho Mukha Shvanasana
Eagle - Garudasana
Easy - Sukhasana
Fish - Matsyasana
Garland - Malasana
Half Moon - Ardha Chandrasana
Half Spinal Twist - Ardha Matsyendrasana
Headstand - Sirsasana
Head-to-Knee - Janusirasana
Locust - Salabhasana
Lotus - Padmasana
Low Plank - Caturanga Dandasana
Mountain - Tadasana
Pigeon - Kapotasana
Plank - Phalakasana
Plough - Halasana
Pyramid - Parshvottanasana
Seated Forward Bend - Paschimottanasana
Shoulder-stand - Sarvangasana
Shoulder Supported Bridge - Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Side Angle - Parshvokanasana
Side Plank - Vasishtasana
Staff - Dandasana
Standing Forward Bend - Uttaasana
Standing Half Forward Bend - Ardha Uttanasana
Sun Salutation - Surya Namaskar
Tortoise - Kurmasana
Tree - Vrikshasana
Triangle - Trikonasana
Upward Facing Dog - Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana
Warrior 1 - Virabhrasana I
Wide Stance Forward Bend - Prasarita Padottanasana
Yogi vs Yogini
As a man who practices not only the physical but the philosophic aspect of yoga is considered a Yogi. For all you women out there on the path of yoga, you are on your way to being called a Yogini.
Alana Cahoon is the founder & creative coach of Grow 2 B U, LLC. Grow your business. Expand your mind. Heal your soul. www.AlanaCahoon.com
Alana writes her monthly column 'Mind, Body, Spirt' for RochesterWomanOnline focusing on the balance of all 3 in a creative manner, filled with inspiration.