Articles derived from yogacharya Sharat Arora (Anand Sagar) Teachings

How Do The Yoga Postures Work (The Physiological Effects Of Asanas)?

Postures deal with the mind, body and spirit. The easiest of these is to understand how they work on the body.

Stretching and elongating is the very first quality of postures.

Every day tensions build up and cause hardness of the muscles. This, in turn, blocks circulation. All yoga postures work on circulation in two ways: by stretching and by blocking it in one part and increasing it in another part. Blood is life: it carries oxygen, glucose, and takes waste matter away. When a muscle works, it uses nutrition and releases uric acid. Therefore, blood is the provider and the purifier.

The circulatory system is connected to the lungs, to the respiratory system, which help clean the blood.

Moreover, the digestive system has to work in order to provide the nutrients e.g. liver which stores the nutrients.

All in all, in order for health to be, all the organs, including the brain, have to work and be in the state of balance, homeostasis.  

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Pranayama - Working with the Bandhas

Pranayama is very subtle. For this reason, in Iyengar Yoga we go extremely slowly with it. With asana it is different – an experienced teacher can see what is going on and correct straight away.   

When you make your exhalations long, feel the abdomen go down. Do not allow the abdomen to go forward at the end of the exhalation. On the contrary, allow it to go straight up. You don’t have to pull it in. It pulls itself in. The moment you stop exhaling is as if you allow your consciousness to sink down toward the base of the spine.   

Your first inhalation will be somewhere below the navel. This is a very important part of the practice, because with it come two bandhas: mula bandha, and uddiyana bandha.

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The Healing Power of Breath

There was a boy who suddenly got such bad depression, he couldn’t go to work, in fact, he couldn’t do anything. He was a young boy of about 25. So, he had to come for three classes a week and within one month he got all his confidence back, got another job and started to work. He didn’t appear at the Institute after that. What did he do? A lot of backbends and some breathing as well. He sat on a chair and was just breathing in a particular way. He wasn’t lying down and it wasn’t even a real pranayama but it worked straight away. This is how powerful your breath is in sorting out your psychological problems, psycho-emotional problems.

Yoga master teacher Sharat Arora
Article derived from the Intensive Yoga Course at the
Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre in Arambol, North Goa, 2002

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Wrong Pranayama Practice - Disorders and Remedies

You will only start to understand the impacts of the pranayama once you have done it for some time.   

If after doing an asana you get a knee problem, you know you did something wrong. Similarly, you will know that you did something in your pranayama, if you cannot sleep or if you are unrestful all day. It is like a turmoil within. You can also get sick or get a sudden fever.

A common disorder that pranayama practitioners suffer from is heartburn. It is a result of a wrong practice i.e. doing the pranayama after excessive eating or before the digestive process is finished. Heartburn is a disorder of the wind, of vayu - the air element, and it is a very important clue telling you that there is something that you are not doing correctly. 

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Sadhana Pada - The Chapter Of Practice. Yoga Sutras, Chapter 2

Sadhana pada: sadhana – ‘practice’, pada – ‘chapter’.

There are three elements of sadhana: tapas, svadhyaya, and Ishvara pranidhana.   

Tapas means ‘concentrated effort’.
Svadhyaya means ‘study of oneself’ and comes from sva – ‘oneself’ and adhyaya – ‘study’. You study yourself through meditation. There is no other way. Some people describe it as reading the scriptures, but if you look at yourself through the scriptures, then you still have to meditate on the truths of what you’ve read within yourself.
Ishvara pranidhana. Ishvara – ‘God’, pranidhana – ‘surrender’. Ishvara pranidhana – ‘surrender to God’. Surrender is not towards someone else. It is the devotion which has to be cultivated within yourself. Patanjali’s practice is non-dualistic.  

So these are the three ways that one proceeds in the eightfold path: yama, niyama, asan, pranayam, pratyahar, dharana, dhyar, samadhi.

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Sharat Arora
03 August 2016
16.10.14 When we do a practice like we do in our Iyengar Yoga centres, we gain understanding, so we increase our awareness about ourselves and about the world. We go inside and the mind slowly stops i...