7 Yoga Poses for Balance and Harmony
Written by Carmela Cattuti, LPN, CYT.
I have been a yoga practitioner for thirty years and a yoga instructor for sixteen years. I have experienced transformation in my own life through a consistent yoga practice. Balance and harmony are internal states that manifest externally. Yoga is a tool to access the individuals inner-landscape to witness the process. I approach my inner-landscape with curiosity and a sense of adventure; this creates internal balance so my life unfolds organically and in magical ways.
A daily yoga practice maintains and nurtures a sense of balance and harmony in my life. Some of the benefits of cultivating these qualities are better health, increased confidence, and a deep sense of peace. Any insights uncovered on the mat will transform daily life.
I created the following sequence of 7 postures to bring about a feeling of flow, connection, and stability. I suggest the practitioner do the sequence three times (on each side) then rest in relaxation. The postures can be held for as long as they are comfortable. This sequence is for the novice and seasoned practitioner. It is an excellent sequence to practice in the morning. Begin with the conscious breathing.
Breath comes naturally to us, but we are shallow breathers. In order to reap the revitalizing balancing benefits of the breath, we not only need to breathe deeply, but fluidly. Yoga students will often force the breath so, instead of inviting relaxation and openness, stress is created. When doing a breathing practice we need to have our breath flow organically without constriction. I have included two simple practices below.
Master these before moving on to more involved breathing practices. These will not only assist you in improving the depth of your breath, but will also show you where your breath may be constricted. Once you have integrated these breathing practices bring them into your postures to enliven the poses. You can do these techniques sitting in a chair, in a cross leg position on the floor, or on your back with your knees bent.
Lower Abdominal Breath
You can do this breath anywhere. It is the most versatile yoga breathing technique that balances the body, mind, and spirit. Take a relaxed inhale through your nostrils and balloon out your lower belly (below the navel). Exhale through your nostrils and draw your lower belly in toward your spine. When you inhale again expand your lower abdominal area away from you. Continue this breathing until the practice feels complete. This breath pumps energy into the lower abdominal area and distributes it to other areas of the body. Place your hands on your lower belly and practice this breath, feeling the abdominal muscles move.
You can also lean your spine against a wall, using the wall for feedback as you draw you lower belly back, lengthening as it presses into the wall. The rhythm of the breath can be increased once you've integrated this practice. If you're holding the breath at the top of the inhale or if you're forcing the inhale to grab as much air as possible, stop the process and begin again. The breath should always be connected in the moment and based on the practitioner's breathing capacity.
Three Part Breath
Once you've mastered the lower abdominal breath (you know your rhythm and you're aware when you hold or constrict the breath), it's time to expand your breathing technique. Lie on your back on your mat, knees bent. Inhale into the lower belly, the rib cage, the chest, allowing the entire front body to expand. Exhale from the chest, the rib cage and lower belly. Continue with the breath and allow the body to move. The lower back may lift with your inhale and then come back to the mat with your exhale. This breath moves energy in a dynamic way and is excellent preparation for the physical postures. When you feel complete, release your knees, lie down and breathe normally. Close your eyes and feel any sensations the breath has stirred. When you're ready roll to your right side, come up to a standing position with a wide stance.
The Warrior provides stability and grounding to the human form and is one of the safest shapes to create. The spine is in the center so the effort is in the legs and abdominal muscles. Legs wide (everyone has a different stance), turn your right foot out and your left foot angled slightly forward. Bend the knee over your ankle. Extend your arms up from your shoulder joints, and reach through your fingers. Turn your head and focus your gaze past your middle right finger. Make sure the edge of your back foot is grounded. Draw your abdominal muscles in and engage the thigh muscles. Keep a steady breath, in and out through the nostrils. This pose introduces a sense of balance: rising up through the crown of the head, rooted feet, energy moving through the fingers.
Triangle pose provides a lightness in the body that counter-balances any unwanted change created by gravity. Where warrior provides a connection to the earth, triangle opens a pathway to the spiritual world and higher thought. From warrior straighten your front leg. Move your left hip to the left and bring your right hand on your right leg below your knee. If you're more flexible bring your hand to your calf, ankle, or on the floor. Make sure your spine doesn't curve and keep extending through the crown of your head. The upward arm reaches toward the sky and slightly back, opening the chest. If you would like to look up toward the heavens, draw your chin in and slowly turn your head. If this is uncomfortable simply look forward or down at your right foot.
Half Moon Balance
From the triangle bring your hands to the ground and lift your back leg up to hip height and flex the foot. If you are unsteady keep both hands on the floor, if you feel you are balanced, lift your left arm toward the sky, opening the chest. If both hands are on the ground keep reaching through your flexed foot and lift the abdominal muscles. If you are in the full posture, gradually turn your gaze up toward the sky. As in triangle, draw your shin in, then turn your head. If you need more support, place your lifted foot on a wall to stabilize the pose. Remember that balances are never static. There is always movement.
From Half Moon Balance lower your elevated leg and balance on the ball of your foot. Bend the front knee and bring your arms by your ears, pointing your finger toward the sky. Keep your pelvis facing forward and focus your gaze. Lengthen your spine toward the heavens as you stretch back through your back heel. Feel the oppositional movement through the arms, crown of the head, and both legs. Energy runs through these pathways, bringing balance and harmony to the body.
Intense Side Stretch
From Crescent Moon bring your torso this pose your front leg in a forward bend. If you need to, soften your right knee. Relax your spine over the leg and place your hands on either side of the foot. Breathe rhythmically as you experience. Engage your leg muscles and soften the spine. Draw in the belly and allow gravity to lengthen your torso. This pose is excellent practice to surrender to the process of life and trusting how life moves.
From Intense Side Stretch bring your back leg forward to meet the front foot and bring your feet wider than your hips and bring your pelvis down. You may have to change your stance as you come into your squat. Come on your toes if you need to. Bring your hands into a prayer position or on the ground to steady yourself if your hips are tight. If you'd like an extra stretch for your groin, bring your elbows between your knees, pushing your knees back. This pose releases pent up energy in the pelvis and helps ground energy.
Slowly lower yourself onto your knees and sit on your heels, bring your torso over your legs and extend you arms. Separate your knees as wide as the mat and place your forehead on the ground. If you cannot lower your forehead stay on your forearms. Focus on your breath and begin to release any excess energy. In a few moments your will feel a sense of harmony and peace.
- See more of Carmela Cattuti.
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