Monday, August 14, 2006

Are You Willing To Follow Eight Yoga Exercises For the Lower Back?

By Shelley Hitz


Many people believe that rest is best for a painful back, but actually, what your back really needs when it’s hurt is exercise. Regular exercise relieves back pain by strengthening and stretching the muscles that support the spine and helps to prevent future injury. This is a use it or lose it situation: the more you rest, the weaker your back gets, even if it is hurt. Studies have actually shown that you can heal your back pain faster and get back to your regular activities with just two days of rest. This article will focus on Yoga Exercises. Remember to contact your doctor before beginning any exercise program.


A good, regular yoga practice will go far in relieving the stress and tension that sometimes cause mild back pain, and in fact, studies have shown that yoga is the number one most effective exercise for relieving back pain. However, not all yoga poses relieve back pain, and some can in fact aggravate existing pain, so it is important to know which poses will be most helpful in relieving back pain. It is best to do these exercises under the supervision of a certified yoga instructor, and if you encounter any problems with these poses, you should consult an expert. Even just one or two sessions with a yoga instructor can help, as an instructor will help you with your form and posture during poses. Here are some of the best yoga poses for relieving back pain. Each pose should be held from five to ten seconds, depending upon your level of comfort, and should be done on a mat or other soft, supportive surface.

CORPSE: Lie flat on your back in a relaxed position, arms resting at your sides, palms down, and legs lying naturally, with knees turned out slightly. If it hurts your back to have your knees turned outward, do this pose with knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Breathe in and out for a few seconds while allowing any tension to leave the body.

CAT STRETCH: Start out on your hands and knees with a flat back. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders with fingers spread. Knees should be directly under the hips. Head is held loosely so that you are looking at the floor between your hands. Inhale, and as you exhale, arch your back toward the ceiling, tuck your chin in to your chest so that you are looking at your navel, and tuck your tailbone underneath. Hold, then release back into your original position.

WIND-RELEASING POSE: Lie flat on your back as in Corpse pose. As you inhale, bend your knee, place your hands right below the knee, and draw your leg towards your chest. Your left leg should remain flat on the floor. Exhale and bring your forehead up to touch your knee. Inhale, and then as you exhale, return to your original position. Repeat with the other leg.

SAGE TWIST: Warning for this pose—it involves twisting your back, so you should take particular care not to twist too far or you risk aggravating any existing back pain. This should be a gentle stretch; twist just as far as is comfortable. Sit on the floor with both legs out in front of you. Bend your right knee, lift your right leg over your left, and place your right foot on the floor next to your left knee. Sitting with spine straight, place your left elbow on the right side of your right knee. Bend your left arm so that your left fingertips are touching your right hip, while at the same time, twisting to look over your right shoulder. This is where you need to be careful not to twist too far. Hold for a few seconds, release, and repeat on the opposite side.

PALM TREE: Stand with feet facing forward, arms at your sides, weight distributed evenly on both feet. Raise both arms over your head, interlock your fingers, and turn your hands so that your palms are facing upward. Next, place your palms on your head and turn your head so that you are looking slightly upward. Stretch your arms upwards, and at the same time, come up onto your toes if you can do so without pain. Stretch your entire body upward and hold, if you can. Some people have difficulty balancing during this pose, so just do the stretching part if you need to.

FISH POSE: Lie on your back with knees bent and arms at your side. Arch your back as far as you comfortably can and raise it off the ground by pushing the floor with your elbows. If you can, tilt your head backwards and rest the crown of your head on the floor. Breathe deeply from the diaphragm and hold pose for one minute if you can.

LOCUST: Lie face down with arms at the side, palms down, and elbows slightly bent with fingers pointing towards the feet. Raise your legs and thighs as high off the ground as possible without causing your back any pain. Hold for one second and repeat up to twelve times. This can be a vigorous exercise so you must take care to strain already injured muscles.

BENDING FORWARD POSTURE: Stand up straight with feet together and arms hanging loosely along your sides. Breathe in deeply and raise your arms straight above your head. While breathing out, bend forward and touch your toes if you can. If you can’t reach your toes, grab hold of your ankles or calves. To complete the pose, you should touch your head to your knees, but this may be too difficult for many who suffer from lower back pain. Your movements during this pose should be smooth, not jerky.

Written by Shelley Hitz, Licensed Physical Therapist and Certified NASM Personal Trainer. Sign up for her free Exercise Advice journal at or read more about yoga poses at her website Get your free unbelievable abs ball workout here!

Side Note: Aura Wellness Center will have Restorative Yoga classes on Monday at 6:00 p.m. Starting on October 2, 2006. Restorative Yoga is useful for back pain relief. Visit us at Aura Wellness Center, 21 Park Street, Suite 202 in downtown Attleboro, MA.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Yoga and Spiritual Self-Reconciliation

By Paul Jerard

Yoga is a broad term, but it has many styles that are encompassed within this health maintenance system. Most forms of Yoga address physical, mental, and spiritual health - while some are a little strong in one area, but might be a bit lacking somewhere else.

One example would be Hatha Yoga and its many popular sub-styles. When Yoga traveled outside India, it evolved into non-Hindu cultures who chose to keep the spiritual aspect out of Yoga classes. Yoga is not a religion, but Hindu principles do exist within some Yoga studios.

For example: Yama and Niyama are Hindu principles, but many of us would recognize them as universal principles within all religions. We are all familiar with not stealing, lying, or killing each other. However, some Hindu concepts, such as having multi-Gods did not mix well with Christians, Moslems, Jews, or Buddhists.

Many of these cultures focused on the physical aspects and continued to take care of their spiritual health in their church, mosque, temple, or shrine. This is fine, but technology and materialism have started to destroy the family unit.

When families are not unified, religion is often cast aside. This is not always the rule, but when you go to a local church, mosque, temple, or shrine; make a mental note of how many young families you see. If you see a crowd that is well mixed in age groups - this is a spiritually healthy congregation.

However, if you rarely see any young people, this is a problem. Consider the state of spiritual health within this age group. Now, consider that Yoga is a viable solution for a lack of spiritual health, regardless of the religion practiced. Yoga allows the practitioner to open his or her awareness of spiritual health.

Now, maybe you are concerned that a Yoga teacher, who guides students toward spiritual awareness, might try to convert you to his or her religion. Here is the solution: If you want spiritual health from Yoga - find a Yoga teacher who practices the same religion you do.

Lastly, attend your local church, mosque, temple, or shrine. Seek spiritual guidance from a priest, rabbi, mullah, monk, or minister, in the religion you are comfortable with. You do not have to convert to anything. The answers to spiritual guidance, health, and enlightenment are within your religion.

The sooner we all realize that peaceful co-existence, and tolerance, will bring about world peace, the better. These are the universal principles of Yoga, and they do not conflict with any religion.

© Copyright 2006 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Hot Yoga - Bikram's Twenty Six

how to become a certified hot yoga teacher
By Carina Snowden

Even though the world population has shifted from mainly rural to mainly urban in the last decade, there are still lots of folks like me who live in the sticks. Doing things like taking a yoga class becomes a different thing in our case from driving to the neighborhood gym.

Since I live 40 miles from the nearest town large enough for yoga studios, when I decided to take a class, I was more interested in the schedule than I was the type of yoga. I couldn't afford to be picky if I preferred not to wait around for a couple hours after getting off work.

So I looked in the phone book, and didn't pay attention to anything but the schedule. There it was: M-W-F at 4:00. Perfect. I don't know what rock I'd been living under, but the word "Bikram" writ large across the ad in the yellow pages didn't trigger the term 'hot yoga' in my mind, and that left me in for a big surprise.

I showed up with a comfy pair of sweatpants and a long- sleeved t-shirt. As the woman at the desk was giving me a little orientation information - explaining that the room was heated to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit - I realized that my concept of yoga clothes weren't going to work here. Apparently, I wasn't the first to make this error. Susie told me they had loaners. Now, it's been a while since the last time I wore hot-pants, so when she handed me the little scrap of shorts, I thought, "No way." She said, "Trust me, you'll fit right in."

Susie continued, giving a few more orientation tips, which started to seem like a set of warnings. "Our first-time students are encouraged to rest whenever you feel you should - kind of take it gradually. The instructors just ask that you do your best to stay in the room for the entire time." What? Were we still talking yoga here?

I'd seen pictures. Sure, I might not be able to balance on one leg while holding the other one over my head at my first try, but come on. How hard could it be to stretch as far as I could go and stop there? Why would I get desperate to leave the room?

Her next suggestion: "OK, I see you brought a bottle of water. That's good, but you'll be tempted to drink a lot, and I recommend you just drink sips - not too much at a time." Hmm. What was I getting into here? It sounded like I was facing some kind of ordeal - not what I had in mind at all since I was thinking of yoga as a peaceful, low- impact way just to stretch and keep my aging body flexible and strong.

Once I was dressed in the little bit of shorts, I opened the door to the yoga studio and was met with a rush of hot, stultifying air. Oh goody. I walked to an open space, spread my mat, lay on my back, and understood exactly what she meant by asking me to at least stay in the room. I was already dripping with sweat, and we hadn't even begun the class.

Ninety minutes and twice through the 26 poses later, I was indeed still in the room. In the non-competitive, supportive atmosphere I had been completely guided to go to my edge, but not so far that I would be turned off by struggle. In fact, I was exhilarated. I lay on my back at the end, eyes closed in the peaceful, very hot room, and knew I'd be back for more.

To find out more about how to become a yoga instructor or see our selection of online yoga instructor certification courses, please use the yoga resources on the right side of this page.

If you are a teacher, yoga studio manager, blogger, e-zine, or website publisher, and are in need of quality content, please feel free to use my blog entries (articles). Please be sure to reprint each article, as is. Namaste!

What Else Should a Hatha Yoga Teacher know about teaching Yoga Classes?

By Paul Jerard

Yoga teacher ethics should be thoroughly covered in all Yoga certification programs. With the current laws about harassment, all Yoga teachers, and anyone who works with the public, should beware. The less said, in your Yoga class about trivial matters, the better.

Just like Yoga teachers often say to their students, “Stay in the moment.” Within your class, “it’s all about Yoga” and anything else beyond that can be open to misinterpretation. Walk the middle path, avoid extremes, show loving kindness, and maintain a standard of professionalism within all of your Yoga classes.

Communication should be clear at all times. You must demonstrate, communicate verbally, and assist, if you have permission to do so. Always ask permission before making a physical assist during Asana practice.

Chakras are the energy centers of the physical and astral body. Yoga teachers know about balancing and cleansing them. Most Yoga teachers are familiar with the seven main Chakras, but there are more. No one should play with “Chakra Awakenings,” with out guidance from a Guru.

Bandhas are the many locks, but Hatha Yoga teachers should know Mulha Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha, and Jalandhara Bandha very well. These are the three main Bandhas.

Mudras are gestures and they are often integrated with specific Pranayama techniques for healing. Not all Mudras are performed with the hands. In Sanskrit Mudra means “seal.” There are many Mudras and learning this is part of a Hatha Yoga teacher’s continuing education.

Kriyas or Shatkarmas are the six hygienic “deeds” or “actions.” A Yoga teacher should be clean in mind, body, and spirit. Every Hatha Yoga teacher is familiar with these six Kriyas.

Meditation is a part of each form of Yoga. It is a tool for clearing, calming, and focusing your mind, but there are also many methods of meditation. Each path of meditation leads to tranquility. All Yoga teachers should practice meditation twice per day. Guiding Yoga students is one thing, but a Yoga teacher’s meditation practice should be regimented.

A Yoga teacher should also be familiar with relaxation methods, specially, stage-by-stage relaxation. This relaxation method should be practiced privately, and Yoga teachers should make their students familiar with this technique.

With all of the above points mentioned, you can now see why the jump from Yoga student to Yoga teacher will take some time and serious practice.

© Copyright 2006 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

How to Become a Certified Hatha Yoga Teacher

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FREE CONTENT: If you are a Yoga Teacher, Yoga studio, blogger, e-zine, or website publisher, and are in need of quality content, please feel free to use my blog entries (articles) – Please be sure to reprint each article, as is, including the resource box above. Namaste, Paul