Brush Up on Your Sanskrit for Yoga

meditation pic If you practice any form of yoga, you have probably heard some of the basic Sanskrit words associated with the discipline, but do you know exactly what they mean? Many yoga instructors use both Sanskrit and English terms for poses and concepts, so if you’re new to yoga, you may be struggling to build your language skills at the same time you are learning a new routine. The definitions below may help both beginning and intermediate students become more comfortable with mixing one of the world’s ancient languages with their physical workouts.

To begin, there’s asana, which to most practitioners of hatha yoga means simply “pose” or “posture,” as in bhujangasana, or cobra pose. Literally, the word means “seat.”

Namaste is a word used as a respectful greeting, to begin and end a class. Usually said with the hands together at heart level with palms facing inward, it acknowledges the light and divinity that lives within each of us.

A mudra is a hand position, such as anjali mudra, the heart gesture. Mudra, which literally means “seal,” can also refer to a whole-body position.

The word prana refers to the energy or life force that flows through every living being. It can also refer to the breath as the physical manifestation of that life force. Pranayama is the practice of learning to control the breath by consciously inhaling, holding, and exhaling.

“Om” is the most commonly chanted mantra, used as a means of focusing the concentration and attention.

Ahimsa, yoga’s supreme doctrine of non-violence, refers to the practice of refusing to harm any living thing. According to the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, ahimsa means more than simply refraining from killing; it encompasses the notion of refusing to harm another through thoughts, words, or actions.

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How Certified Yoga Instructors Can Build a Client Base

Yoga Entrepreneurship pic With yoga more popular than ever in the United States, many individuals choose to complete teacher training programs, which offer instructor certification. After securing certification, however, instructors have to develop a client base, which often involves teaching friends, family, and others for free out of their homes. Teaching for free allows individuals to gain experience as a teacher, receive invaluable feedback, and create connections that could lead to a paying job.

Budding teachers who do not yet have studio space may need to get creative with their locations, especially in cities. While an apartment may not provide adequate space, parks, rooftops, and other unique locations can attract more adventurous practitioners.

To get the word out, instructors need to learn how to use social media to advertise. Websites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and even LinkedIn offer excellent networking and personal branding opportunities.

Many new teachers can find work leading sessions in nontraditional forums. For example, some companies hire teachers to lead lunchtime or after-work yoga classes. These opportunities can build a following of individuals who would attend classes in a more traditional setting, such as a studio. Once a new teacher has established a client base, private lessons can prove very lucrative as well.

How the Brain Functions During Meditation

meditation pic Several forms of meditation exist, until now, little research has examined if and how these variants affect the body. Recently, researchers from the University of Oslo, the University of Sydney, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have teamed to study exactly how different forms of meditation affect the brain.

The researchers have initially divided meditation into two techniques. Concentrative meditation involves intense focus on breath or mantra while suppressing other thoughts. Nondirective meditation is the term for meditation that involves focus but also allows the mind to wander. The team tested 14 experienced meditators in an MRI machine while they undertook both forms of meditation.

After the tests, the team found that nondirective meditation led to higher levels of brain activity than were seen in subjects at rest. Brain activity was especially high in the parts of the brain that process thoughts and feelings. Concentrative meditation, on the other hand, caused virtually no increase in activity in these parts of the brain.

These results were surprising because they show that brain activity goes down when one focuses. In addition, the results demonstrate how nondirective meditation can actually increase space for processing memories and emotions. Typically, the area of the brain involved has its highest level of activity during rest, making it remarkable that nondirective meditation increases activity levels even more.

What Equipment Do You Need to Practice Yoga?

Yoga Equipment pic Yoga is among the simplest fitness disciplines around, in that it requires little or no investment in costly props, accessories, and equipment. Your own body and its capacity to stretch and relax, and your own mind’s ability to achieve a state of focus and calm, are at the center of any yoga practice. Yet that doesn’t mean you can’t use a few helpful items that can enable you to achieve your exercise goals.

Most yoga practitioners make use of some sort of mat. If you frequent a yoga studio with hard floors, this may be your most essential fitness prop. Avoid slips by getting one with a sticky rubber base that allows you to affix it securely to the floor’s surface. For around $20, you can get a good, all-purpose mat suitable for most situations. Or you could pay more and buy increased adhesiveness, resistance to sweat damage, or deeper cushioning. Eco-friendly models, made from biodegradable or sustainable materials, start at around $40.

You will also likely want a towel to absorb perspiration as you work out, or to serve as a rest for your head.

Foam wedges or blocks can assist you in aligning your body in better form. Some studios provide them, although you can purchase your own for about $10 each. Different sizes of blocks will assist you as you develop your flexibility; for example, if you can’t reach all the way to the floor at first, use a block as a handrest. And cotton straps can additionally be very helpful to secure your legs as you hold stretches. Expect to pay another $10 apiece, and if you are very tall, look for straps at least 8 feet in length.

Some yoga practitioners will want extra equipment for comfort or style, including sandbags for increasing stretches, or folding chairs that facilitate sitting meditation.

Cobra and Upward Facing Dog – Understanding the Differences

cobra pose pic Two extremely common poses, cobra and upward facing dog, are part of a typical sun salutation. Many teachers also invite students to engage in a “vinyasa,” or a linked sequence of poses, which often starts in plank and moves to chaturanga, then cobra or upward facing dog, and finally downward facing dog. Even in more advanced classes, students may begin their vinyasas with the less demanding cobra pose before substituting it with the deeper backbend and more active elements of upward facing dog. However, beginning students often find the differences between these two common and interchangeable poses difficult to grasp.

In cobra pose, the elbows remain bent and the thighs stay resting on the floor. Rather than using the hands to support the body weight, the hands should be pulling the chest forward and you should lift the upper body using the core. In fact, when in low cobra, you should be able to lift your hands off the ground.

In upward facing dog, the hands are situated directly below the shoulders and the arms are straight. The thighs and pelvis are lifted up off the floor, so that the body is suspended from the shoulders down through the tops of the feet. Mixing up these critical differences can do significant damage to your lower back, so be sure to pay close attention to your body positioning in your next sun salutation.