Impact of Our Warriors

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior 1)

Practising this asana brings a whole host of benefits: It strengthens your spine & back muscles and relieves backache, lumbago and sciatica. Tones the abdominal muscles. Relieves acidity and improves digestion. Strengthens the bladder and corrects a displaces uterus. Relieves pain and heavy flow during menstruation.

Skeletal joint actions
Spine Upper limbs Lower limbs
    Front leg Back leg
Extension, slight rotation for chest to face forward, pelvis level

 

Scapular abduction and upward rotation, shoulder abduction and external rotation, slight elbow flexion, forearm supination SI joint nutation, hip flexion, knee flexion, ankle dorsiflexion

 

SI joint counternutation, hip extension and adduction, knee extension, ankle dorsiflexion and foot supination at heel and pronation at forefoot

 

Muscular joint actions
Spine
Concentric contraction Eccentric contraction
To extend spine:

Spinal extensors

To rotate chest forward:

Internal oblique (front leg side); external oblique (back leg side)

To prevent hyperextension at lumbar spine:

Psoas minor, abdominal muscles

To support weight of head as neck extends:

Rectus capitis, longus capitis and colli, verticalis, scalenes

Upper limbs
Concentric contraction
To abduct and upwardly rotate scapula:

Serratus anterior

To supinate forearm:

Supinator

To stabilize and abduct shoulder joint:

Rotator cuff, biceps brachii (long head), middle deltoid

Lower limbs
Front leg Back leg
Concentric contraction Eccentric contraction Concentric contraction Eccentric contraction
To resist tendency to widen knee (abduct at hip):

Gracilis, adductor longus and brevis

 

To allow hip and knee flexion and ankle dorsiflexion without collapsing into gravity:

Gluteus maximus, hamstrings at hip joint, vastii, soleus, intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of foot

To level and center pelvis over feet and to maintain balance side to side (the narrower the stance, the more active and long these muscles need to be):

Gluteus medius and minimus; piriformis, superior and inferior gemellus

To extend hip:

Hamstrings at hip joint, gluteus medius (posterior fibers), adductor magnus, gluteus maximus

To extend knee:

Articularis genu, vastii

To maintain arches of foot without inhibiting dorsiflexion of ankle:

Intrinsic muscles of

foot

 

To allow outer ankle to lengthen without collapsing inner knee or inner

foot:

Peroneals

 

 

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2)

This pose exercise your limbs and torso vigorously, reducing stiffness in your neck and shoulders. It improves your breathing capacity by expanding the chest. Alleviates the condition of a slipped disc, reduces fats around the hips and relieves lower backache. This pose also makes your knee and hip joints more flexible.

Skeletal joint actions
Spine Upper limbs Lower limbs
  Front leg Back leg
Neutral spine, slight rotation for chest to orient to side, head rotated to face front leg, pelvis level Scapular abduction, shoulder abduction and external rotation, forearm pronation

 

SI joint nutation, hip flexion and abduction, knee flexion, ankle dorsiflexion

 

SI joint counternutation, hip extension and abduction, knee extension, ankle dorsiflexion, foot supination at heel and pronation at forefoot

 

Muscular joint actions
Spine
Alternating concentric and eccentric contractions Concentric contraction Concentric contraction
To maintain neutral alignment of spine:

Spinal extensors and flexors

To rotate chest to side:

External oblique (front leg side); internal oblique (back leg side)

To rotate head toward front leg:

Rectus capitis posterior, obliquus capitis inferior, longus capitis and colli, splenius capitis

(front leg side); sternocleidomastoid, upper trapezius (back leg side)

Upper limbs
Concentric contraction Passively lengthening
To abduct scapula:

Serratus anterior

To stabilize and abduct shoulder joint:

Rotator cuff, biceps brachii (long head), deltoid

To pronate forearm:

Pronator quadratus and teres

Pectoralis major and minor (particularly

in back arm)

 

Lower limbs
Front leg Back leg
Concentric contraction

 

Eccentric contraction

 

Concentric contraction

 

Eccentric contraction

 

To abduct hip:

Gluteus medius and minimus

 

To abduct hip and allow hip flexion without collapsing into gravity:

Gluteus maximus, piriformis, obturator externus, superior and inferior gemellus

To allow hip and knee flexion and ankle dorsiflexion without collapsing into gravity:

Hamstrings at hip joint, vastii, soleus, intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of foot

 

To extend and abduct hip:

Gluteus medius and minimus, hamstrings at hip joint, piriformis, obturator externus, superior and inferior gemellus

To extend knee:

Articularis genu, vastii

To maintain arches of foot without inhibiting dorsiflexion of ankle:

Intrinsic muscles of foot

To support inner knee:

Gracilis

To allow outer ankle to lengthen without collapsing inner knee or inner foot:

Peroneals

 

 

 

Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior 3)

One of the favourite poses to improve balance and focus. Teaches body awareness and proprioception as you learn to adjustment your body. Additionally, this asana strengthens the legs, arms, back and core muscles.

 

Skeletal joint actions
Spine Upper limbs Lower limbs
Standing leg Lifted leg
Neutral spine or axial extension

 

Scapular upward rotation, abduction, and elevation; shoulder abduction; elbow extension

 

SI joint nutation, hip flexion and adduction, knee extension, ankle dorsiflexion

 

SI joint counternutation, neutral hip extension and rotation, knee extension, ankle dorsiflexion

 

Muscular joint actions
Spine
Concentric contraction
To maintain alignment of spine:

Intertransversarii, interspinalis, transversospinalis, erector spinae

To prevent anterior tilt of pelvis and overextension of lumbar spine:

Psoas minor, abdominal muscles

Upper limbs
Concentric contraction
To upwardly rotate, abduct, and elevate scapula:

Upper trapezius, serratus anterior

To stabilize and flex shoulder joint:

Rotator cuff, coracobrachialis, pectoralis major and minor, middle deltoid, biceps brachii

(short head)

 

To extend elbow:

Anconeus, triceps brachii

 

Lower limbs
Standing leg Lifted leg
Concentric contraction Eccentric contraction Concentric contraction
To keep knee in neutral extension and balance on single leg:

Articularis genu, quadriceps, intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of foot and lower leg

 

To control hip flexion:

Hamstrings

To allow lateral shift of pelvis over standing foot

for balance and to keep

pelvis level:

Gluteus medius and minimus, piriformis, superior and inferior gemellus

 

To maintain neutral hip extension and rotation:

Hamstrings, adductor magnus, gluteus maximus

 

 

 

Reference:

Yoga Anatomy-2nd Edition-Human Kinetics (2011) by Leslie Kaminoff, Amy Matthews

The Path to Holistic Health by BKS Iyengar Yoga

 

 

 

 

My Research on Kapalabhati

The Practice of Kapalabhati

The Kapalabhati, involves forceful exhalation and breathing at a high frequency approximately 1.0 Hz, though rates are high as 2.0 Hz are known to more sophisticated yogis. It is a form of Kriya – A kriya is a cleansing technique taught in Hatha Yoga.

Kapalabhati –a high frequency yoga breathing practice, is the steady repetition of forceful exhalations followed by slightly slower, passive inhalations. It is translated to ‘shining forehead’ (kapala = forehead, bhati = shining or splendor, in Sanskrit).

Kapalabhati  is an invigorating breathing practice that clears the sinus, lungs, the nasal passages, and consequently, the mind. With this rapid exhalation, it brings lightness and clarity to the frontal region of the brain. Requiring a rapid contraction and release of the abdomen, it focuses primarily on the exhalation; the inhalation occurs passively and without effort.

Among the many breathing practices found in yoga, many emphasizes on muscular control during inhalation, not exhalation. Kapalabhati uniquely reverses this familiar pattern. In kapalabhati, the exhalation is active, with inhalation playing a passive role.

 

The Benefits of Kapalabhati

Kapalabhati is energizing and warming. It helps to cleanse the lungs, sinuses, and respiratory system, which can help to prevent illness and allergies. Regular practice strengthens the diaphragm and abdominal muscles. This exercise also increases your body’s oxygen supply, consequently, stimulates and energizes the brain while preparing it for meditation and work that requires high focus.

Other known benefits of practising Kapalabhati are that it releases toxins, expands lung capacity, strengthens the nervous system, balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, powers up the third chakra, increases stamina, energizes blood flow and circulation, delivers oxygen to the brain, resulting in improved focused and a natural state of calm awareness, strengthens the immune system, aids in digestion etc.

 

How to practise Kapalabhati

Start by taking a couple of full breaths, grounding the mind and gently awakening the bodily senses. When you are ready to start practicing kapalabhati, expel the breath forcefully through the nostrils (without strain or tension) and simultaneously pull the navel dynamically inward toward the spine, gently contracting the abdominal muscles. Most of the work should be by your lower abdominal area, not diaphragm. As you release the abdomen, let the inhalation occur passively; the lungs will fill without any effort. Immediately repeat with another forceful exhalation, drawing the navel inward again, and then let the inhalation follow passively. This process is repeated in rapid succession—one exhalation per second, or faster. On the final exhalation, completely empty your lungs of the CO2 and then let your breath to return to normal to end.

 

Positions of Kapalabhati

Usually, this cleansing technique is carried out in sitting position, in a basic cross-legged pose or Padmasana aka Lotus pose. The hands should rest gently on the knees, palms facing upwards. Fingers in any Mudra.

 

When to practise Kapalabhati

Always practice either on an empty stomach or more than 2 hours after eating. This practice will build stamina if it is done consistently over time.

In the morning: Kapalabhati breathing is an energizing exercise, doing it first thing in the morning for an refreshing wake-up call.

When you are feeling cold: Kapalabhati is also a warming breath, so if you feel chilly, 20 cycles of Kapalabhati can warm you up, even on a snowy day.

Mid-afternoon: If you are feeling a case of the mid-day sluggishness, try 20 cycles of Kapalabhati to energize your mind and body to power you through the rest of the day.

Note: More seasoned yogis can go up to 50-100 cycles. Over 120 cycles can cause a reduction in oxytocin levels.

 

Cautions

Persons with high or low blood pressure or with coronary heart disease should avoid doing Kapalabhati. Those who have problems with their eyes (for example, glaucoma), ears (fluid in the ears), or nosebleed should not practice this exercise. Also, this breathing exercise should not be practiced by pregnant or menstruating women. Stop if you experience any pain, dizziness or light headedness, or unable to maintain a steady rhythm. Our energy moves up and out in unexpected ways, so staying within our pre-set boundaries for experimentation is extremely important. Most importantly, pay full attention to your capacity. Whenever your body shows signs of fatigue, end your practice immediately.

 

Going Upside Down

We should all turn upside down.

I mean, we should all do inversions for our yoga practice. It doesn’t matter whether you are going into a handstand, headstand, shoulder stand, Pincha or downward facing dog – It is a great addition to your practice for the multitude of benefits it brings. I would like to bring our focus to the headstand aka Salamba Sirsasana in this article. In Sanskrit, salamba means “supported” and sirsa translates as “head”.

Headstand is considered the king of yoga poses. It builds stamina, alleviates insomnia, reduces the occurrence of heart palpitations, helps to cure halitosis, strengthens the lungs, improves the function of the pituitary and pineal glands, increases the haemoglobin content in the blood, relieves the symptoms of colds, coughs and tonsillitis. Additionally, it brings relief from digestive and eliminatory problems when practiced in conjunction with Salamba Sarvangasana. Mentally, as inverting your entire body brings a rejuvenating supply of blood to the brain cells, it enhances clarity of thought, increases your concentration span, and sharpens memory. Consistent practice of this asana widens your spiritual horizons. This asana also helps those who get mentally exhausted easily. (2)

Normally, headstand is practised towards the end of a yoga class and functions to allow energy to flow towards your head, activating our crown chakra. While this advanced pose does require much focus, precision, balance and strength, this asana is essentially meant to be a resting pose. (3)

Getting into a headstand:

Kneel in front of a wall and interlace your fingers. Place your interlaced fingers down on the mat with the palms apart so you create a support for your head and place the crown of your head in your interlaced fingers onto the mat. If you’re unsure where, bring your thumb to your third eye in between your eyebrows and wherever your middle finger lands, that’s where the crown of your head is. Make sure that your elbows are shoulder-width distance apart and that your wrists are perpendicular to the floor. Shoulders should be protracted and rotated upwards. Cradle the back of your head with your hands firmly.

Next, lift your knees off the ground and straighten your legs and your spine. You will be in a modified dolphin pose with your head on the ground. Start to walk your feet as forward towards the body then lift your legs. The goal is to get your hips stacked over your shoulders. This is where hamstring and lower back flexibility comes into the game.

Once you feel stable, lift your legs straight up towards the ceiling. If you feel confident and have done it a few times, lift them both at the same time. Make sure that your body is in one straight line and there is no bent in the hips. (3)

Being in a headstand:

When you stand on your head, the first sensation you will feel is pressure—pressure on the crown of the head, pressure in the arteries and veins, and pressure in the soft tissues of the head and neck. And along with these comes more subtle aspects of pressure—the demand for maintaining your balance and the psychological urge to come out of the posture. These physical and psychological pressures affect every system in the body in one way or another: muscular, skeletal, nervous, endocrine, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, urinary, immune, and reproductive. (1)

In headstand no muscle is in an eccentric movement, but every body part is either stabilizing or contracting. Ultimately, your body will be stacked in a single vertical line. Muscles involved in this pose are the trapezius, the rhomboid muscles, rectus abdominus, the levator scapulae, the pectoralis minor, iliopsoas and flexors, and the serratus anterior. It is important to strengthen them through regular practise of asanas and strengthen training. (4)

Contraindications:

Please do not practise this asana if you have high blood pressure, cervical spondylosis, a backache, headache, or migraine. Also, refrained from starting your yoga session with this pose if you have low blood pressure. Perform the asana only once in a session and do not repeat it – seasoned yogis can hold up to 5 minutes. It is best not to practise this asana during menstruation. (2)

 

Let me end this article with a quote:

“Sirshasana is really a blessing and a nectar. Words will fail to adequately describe its beneficial results and effects. In this Asana alone, the brain can draw plenty of Prana and blood. This acts against the force of gravity and draws an abundance of blood from the heart. Memory increases admirably. Lawyers, occultists, and thinkers will highly appreciate this Asana. This leads to natural Pranayama and Samadhi by itself. No other effort is necessary.”

— Swami Sivananda

 

Reference:

  1. Anatomy of Hatha Yoga: A Manual for Students, Teachers, and Practitioners-Body & Breath Inc (2017) by David H. Coulter
  2. The Path to Holistic Health by B.K.S. Ivengar Yoga
  3. How To Do Headstand – Alignment, Anatomy, Benefits & Preparation by Joschi Monika
  4. Yoga Anatomy-2nd Edition by Leslie Kaminoff

My Yoga Journey and Philosophy

Why did I start yoga? Growing up, I was always the weak kid, full of excuses to skip any physical extra-curricular activities in school, even as an adult, I dreaded going to any fitness classes or would reject any invitations from friends for any sports related outings. I was not fit, strong, coordinated, flexible nor fast. Hell, I would even trip and fall when walking down the streets. My mantra was, ‘Sweating is not my thing’. Experiencing severe menstrual cramps, blocked sinus and migraines was also part and parcel of my life.

My aversion to exercise changed in 2019. I quit the big 4 and had gotten a job that afforded me with a more work life balance. I wanted to be healthier and less prone to falling sick. I joined all sorts of fitness classes. At one point of time, I was attending fitness classes 4 to 5 times per week, mainly because it gave me the feel-good hormones after a frustrating day at work. But yoga was the only exercise I kept going back for more. The saying, ‘Yoga frees our minds from the negative feelings from the stressful, fast-paced nature of our daily lives.’ was something I experienced myself. I would walk out of class with a lighter mind and mood. I was addicted. That was how it all started for me.

In early 2020, the world entered lockdown and we were all made to stay at home. Mentally, it was very draining to be stuck in front of the laptop without any change in atmosphere, day after day. I felt moody and even went through a period of binge eating and drinking. Physically, I could feel my body weakening and becoming less energetic. Luckily, my yoga studio offered livestream classes throughout the lockdown period. Again, the endorphins and serotonin from practising yoga helped to rebalance my mind and body from being stuck at home.

I did not understand why I had this feeling until after starting the YTT with Tirisula, learning that this sense of calm comes from the practice of yoga asanas and pranayamas. Unlike other forms of exercise (I have dabbled with HIIT and spin classes) which strain muscles and bones while increasing heart rate to high levels within a few short seconds, yoga gently rejuvenates the body with poses and breathing exercises at a moderate pace.

The ultimate aim of health is to stay away from illnesses, maintain a functioning bodily system and good mental wellbeing. This can be all achieved when we regularly practise yoga. Asanas balance the respiratory, circulatory, nervous, hormonal, digestive, and reproductive systems. The equilibrium in the body then brings mental peace and enhance intellectual clarity.

I would highly recommend this non-competitive yet nonetheless, challenging sport to all my friends. Yoga is an evergreen exercise which allows us to practise it throughout our lives, no matter the age. Yoga asanas, or poses, can cure physical ailments aka ‘vyadhi’, and redress angamejayatva or unsteadiness in the body. ‘Shvasa-prashvasa’ aka uneven breathing – an indication of stress – is alleviated by the practice of yoga. Additionally, asanas tone the whole body. They strengthen our muscles and bones, corrects our posture, improves our breathing, and increase our energy. This physical well-being has a strengthening and calming impact on the mind.

Yoga is the best! 😊