Space in Yoga Practice

In Ayurveda Space is the element in which everything is manifested and within which all other elements are held. Just as sound cannot exist in a vacuum, and chemical reactions cannot take place without oxygen around them, life and we as manifestations of living, cannot exist without space. Without Space nothing can happen. It does not *make* anything happen, rather it *allows* things to happen.  Space is everywhere and yet has no quantifiable existence; it exists only in the distance between entities. Thus, we can use our bodies to both create space and measure its effects.

How do we create space in our yoga practice? Firstly, in asanas we stretch and twist and bend to open up our bodies and release tensions. Tension causes the body to be tight and dense and releasing them brings lightness and softness to it. On a subtler level, within the postures we use our breath to further increase the space created. With each inhale our body literally expands, taking up more space in its surroundings as the space within it increases. On the inhale we are more aware of any tensions present. We then use the exhale to soften those tensions, to relax and let go. With every exhale tension is lessened and so the next inhale will go deeper as more space is found.

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Freedom

What does it mean to be free?

Why is it so important to find freedom so we can live in harmony with ourselves and others?

Freedom in the physical body is experiences when there is a feeling of unending space, comfort, balance and ease.

Freedom in the mind is experienced when there is a silence, stillness and complete connection to everything within and around us.

Freedom in society is to continue being your authentic self and not allowing what you have been told or conditioned to think engross or limit you.

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The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and The Yoga Understanding

STRUCTURAL ORGANISATION OF THE NERVOUS SYSTEM

The central nervous system (CNS) is the computer that manages all the nervous information. This fonction is done by the brain. For its communication the CNS needs nerves. There are two big types of nerves :

  • Afferent or sensory, they carry sensitive information from the periphery to the CNS (ex : the feeling of the centre of the heel touching the ground)

Efferent or motor, they carry motor information from the CNS to the periphery (ex. the message is sent for the arm or leg to bend)

The efferent nerves are divided in to groups :

  • The somatic nervous system is responsible for the volunteer action (ex : I press the centre of the heel down)
  • The autonomic nervous system (ANS) gives the information to the organs, and help them to maintain homeostasis. Homeostasis can be defined as a property of an organism or system that helps it maintain its parameters within a normal range of values. (ex : regulate te heart beats)

AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM (ANS)

The ANS has two arms, parasympathetic and sympathetic. The parasympathetic division promotes maintenance functions and conserves body energy. The sympathetic division mobilizes the body during activity. Both divisions generally serve the same visceral organs but cause opposite effects : while one division stimulates certain smooth muscle to contract or a gland to secret, the other division inhinibs that action. Through this dual innervation the two divisions counterbalance each other to keep body systems running smoothly. The two divisons don’t work at the same time.

PARASYMPATHETIC DIVISION

It is the « rest and digest » system and keeps the body’s energy use as low as possible. It is performing the « housekeeping » activities as digesting food, eliminating feces and urine. This explains why it’s good idea to relax after heavy meal : so that sympathetic activity does not interfere with digestion.
Exemple of action : low heart beats, activate the gastro-intestinal tract, constriction of the pupils.

YOGA UNDERSTANDING :

The location of the parasympathetic system is mainly in two parts :

Sacrum : with a connection to small intestine, rectum, urinary system, uterus and ovaries, sexual organs.

Cranial, base of the skull : with a connection to eyes, heart, lung, liver, stomach, pancreas, large and small intestine, etc.

Any posture working on this two areas will also send information to the organs associated.

The particular asana which stimulates the sympatetic nervous system is Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand).

SYMPATHETIC DIVISION

It is the « fight or flight » system. Its activity is evident when we are excited or find ourselves in emergency, or fearfull situation, etc.

Example of action : rapid heart beats, fast breathing, dry mouth, cold sweaty skin, constrict blood vessels to activate the skeletal muscles, dilated lung, etc.

YOGA UNDERSTANDING :

The location of the sympathetic system take place in sympathetic ganglion just next to the thoracic and lombar vertebras.

Any kind of posture working on this area will also send information to the organs associated.

The particular asana which stimulates the parasympatetic nervous system is Hanging Sirsasana.

Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre
Antione Brandi

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Blood Circulation in Hanging Sirsasana, Variation 3

In the previous 2 articles of this series we have talked about what is happening in Hanging Sirsasana in Variation 1 (With the legs in Baddhakona) and Variation 2 (With the legs in Upavishtakona) and now continue to the Variation 3.

Variation 3 (With the legs Together Straight Up)
Position of the body

  • The head is upside down.
  • The knees are in neutral position.
  • Coxofemoral joints are in neutral position.
  • There is a global traction of the spine.
  • Decompression of the head.
  • The ribs are in inspiration.
  • The shoulders are in full flexion, 90° internal rotation.
  • The scapulas are in upward rotation.
  • The fore arms are in neutral position.
  • The wrist are in neutral position.
  • The belt is pressing on the sacrum and the iliac joint creating a « block » beetween them.
  • The stick is pushing back the quadriceps muscle.

The diaphragm is being pushed up (looking at the body anatomy & physiology point of view and downward – towards the floor – looking from the inverted position point of view) by the pression of the liver, the stomach and pulled down (looking at the body anatomy & physiology point of view and upward – towards the ceiling – looking from the inverted position point of view) by the traction of the heart and the lungs.

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Blood Circulation in Hanging Sirsasana, Variation 2

In the previous article we have talked about what is happening in Hanging Sirsasana in Variation 1 (With the legs in Baddhakona) and now continue to the Variation 2.

Variation 2 (With the legs in Upavishtakona)
Position of the body

  • The head is upside down.
  • The feet are semi-active.
  • The knees are in full or semi-extension.
  • The coxofemoral joints are in abduction.
  • There is a global traction of the spine.
  • Decompression of the head.
  • The ribs are in inspiration.
  • The shoulders are in full flexion, 90° internal rotation.
  • The scapulas are in upward rotation.
  • The fore arms are in neutral position.
  • The wrists are in neutral position.
  • The belt is pressing on the sacrum and the iliac joint creating a « block » beetween them.
  • The belt is pushing on the front of the tensor fasciae latae muscle.
  • The belt in pushing inside the sartorius, rectus femoris and vastus medialist muscles.

The diaphragm is being pushed up (looking at the body anatomy & physiology point of view and downward – towards the floor – looking from the inverted position point of view) by the pression of the liver, the stomach and pulled down (looking at the body anatomy & physiology point of view and upward – towards the ceiling – looking from the inverted position point of view) by the traction of the heart and the lungs.

How this position of the body affects the blood circulation ?

In the second variation there is not a big difference of the blood circulation in the trunk and the upper extremities comparing to the first variation. However the legs are now paralell or almost paralell (depending on the individual person’s flexibility in the groins) to the ground and it puts them into the neutral position in regard to the gravity – and therefore neutral blood circulation.

 

 

Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre
Antoine Brandi

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