Ardha means half. Nava is a ship, boat or vessel. This posture resembles the shape of a boat, hence the name.
1. Sit on the floor. Stretch the legs out in front and keep them straight. (Plate 35)
2. Interlock the fingers and place them on the back of the head just above the neck.
3. Exhale, recline the trunk back and simultaneously raise the legs from the floor, keeping the thighs and knees tight and the toes pointed/. The balance of the body rests on the buttocks and no part of the spine should be allowed to touch the floor. (Plate 37) One feels the grip on the muscles of the abdomen and the lower back.
4. Keep the legs at an angle of about 30 to 35 degrees from the floor and the crown of the head in line with the toes.
5. Hold this pose for 20 to 30 seconds with normal breathing. A stay for one minute in this posture indicates strong abdominal muscles.
6. Do not hold the breath during this asana, though the tendency is always to do it with suspension of breath after inhalation. If the breath is held, the effect will be felt on the stomach muscles and not on the abdominal organs. Deep inhalation in this asana would loose the grip on the abdominal muscles. In order to maintain this grip, inhale, exhale and hold the breath and go on repeating this process but without breathing deeply. This will exercise not only the abdominal muscles but the organs also.
The effects of Ardha Navasana and that of Paripurna Navasana (Plate 36) differ due to the position of the legs. In Paripurna Navasana the exercise is effective on the intestines; whereas, Ardha Navasana works on the liver, gall bladder and spleen.
In the beginning, the back is too weak to bear the strain of the pose. When power to retain this pose comes, it indicates that the back is gaining strength. A weak back is a handicap in many ways, especially to women as they need strong backs for child-bearing. These two asanas coupled with lateral twistings of the spine will help to strengthen the back.
The importance of having a healthy lower back can be realized if we watch old people when they sit down, get up and walk, for consciously or unconsciously they support their backs with their hands. This indicates that the back is weak and cannot withstand the strain. As long as it is strong and needs no support, one feels young though advanced in age. The two asanas bring life and vigour to the back and enable us to grow old gracefully and comfortably.
60 The Illustrated L 211 Siddhasana
Siddha means a semi-divine being supposed to be of great purity and holiness, and to possess supernatural faculties called siddhis. Siddha means also an inspired sage, seer or prophet.
'The Siddhas say that as among niyamas, the most important is not to harm anyone, and among the yamas a moderate diet, so is Siddhasana among the asanas.'
'Of the 84 lacs of asanas, one should always practise Siddhasana. It purifies 72,000 nadis. (Nadis are channels in the human body through which nervous energy passes.)
'The yogin practising contemplation upon Atman and observing a moderate diet, if he practises Siddhasana for twelve years, obtains the yoga siddhis.' (Atman means the Self and the supreme Soul. Siddhis are supernatural faculties.)
'When Siddhasana is mastered, the Unmani Avastha (Samadhi) that gives delight follows without effort and naturally.'
The soul has three avasthas or conditions which are included in a fourth. They are waking,, dreaming, sleeping and what is called Turiya.
'The first condition is that of wakefulness, where the self is conscious of the common world of gross objects. It enjoys gross things. Here the dependence of body is predominant. The second condition is that of dreaming, where the self enjoys subtle things, fashioning for itself a new world of forms from the material of its waking experience. The spirit is said to roam freely unfettered by the bonds of the body. The third condition is that of sound sleep, where we have neither dreams nor desires. It is called susupti. In it the soul is said to become temporarily one with Brahman and to enjoy bliss. In deep sleep we are lifted above all desires and freed from the vexations of spirit. . . . The soul is divine in origin, though clogged with the flesh. In sleep it is said to be released from the shackles of the body and to regain its own nature. . . . But this (that is, the eternal dreamless sleep) is likely to be confused with sheer unconsciousness. . . . The highest is not this dreamless sleep, but another, a fourth state of the soul, a pure intuitional consciousness where there is no knowledge of objects internal or external. In deep sleep the spirit dwells in a region far above the changeful life of sense in absolute union with Brahman. The turiya condition brings out the positive aspect of the negative emphasized in the condition of deep sleep.'
Radhakrishnan in Philosophy of the Upanishads.
This fourth condition has been thus described in the Mandiikya Upanishad as follows:
'The fourth, say the wise, is not subjective experience, nor objective experience, nor experience intermediate between the two, nor is it a negative condition which is neither consciousness nor unconsciousness. It is not the knowledge of the senses, nor is it relative knowledge, nor yet inferential knowledge. Beyond the senses, beyond understanding, beyond all expression, is the fourth.
It is pure unitary consciousness, wherein all awareness of the world and of multiplicity is completely obliterated. It is the supreme good. It is One without a second. It is the Self. Know it alone!'
'Raja-Yoga, Samadhi, Unmani, Manomani, Immortality, Concentration, Sunyasunya (void and yet non-void), Parama Pada (the Supreme State), Amanaska (suspended operation of the mind), Advaita (non-duality), Niralamba (without support), Nirahjana (pure), Jivanmukti (emancipated state), Sahajavastha (natural state) and Turiya (literally the Fourth), all mean the same thing. As a grain of salt thrown into water unites and becomes one with it, a like union between the Mind and the Atman is Samadhi. When Prana and Manas (mind) are annihilated (absorbed), the state of harmony then arising is called Samadhi.'
Hatha Yoga Pradipika, chapter IV, verses 3 to 6.
(Khechari Mudra, literally roaming through space, is described in the Gheranda Samhita as follows in verses 25 to 28 of the third chapter:
'Cut the lower tendon of the tongue and move the tongue constantly; rub it with fresh butter, and draw it out (to lengthen it) with an iron instrument. By practising this always, the tongue becomes long and when it reaches the space between the eyebrows, then Khechari is accomplished. Then (the tongue being lengthened) practise turning it up and back so as to touch the palate, till at j
length it reaches the holes of the nostrils opening into the mouth. Close those holes with the tongue (thus stopping inspiration), and gaze on the space between the eyebrows. This is called Khechari. By this practice there is neither fainting, nor hunger, nor thirst, nor laziness. There comes neither disease, nor decay, nor death. The body becomes divine.')
(Nada is the inner mystical sound. Verses 79 to 101 of the fourth chapter describes it in great detail with a variety of similes. Yoga is defined as control over the aberrations of the mind. In order to control the mind it is necessary that it should first be absorbed in concentration of some object, then it is gradually withdrawn from that object and made to look within one's own self. This is where the yogi is asked to concentrate upon the inner mystical sounds. 'The mind is like a serpent, forgetting all its unsteadiness by hearing Nada, it does not run away anywhere.' Gradually as Nada becomes latent so does the mind along with it. 'The fire, catching the wood, is extinguished along with it (after burning it up); and so the mind also, working with Nada, becomes latent along with it.')
1. Sit on the floor, with legs stretched straight in front. (Plate 35)
2. Bend the left leg at the knee. Hold the left foot with the hands, place the heel near the perineum and rest the sole of the left foot against the right thigh.
3. Now bend the right leg at the knee and place the right foot over the left ankle, keeping the right heel against the pubic bone.
4. Place the sole of the right foot between the thigh and the calf of the left leg.
6. Stretch the arms in front and rest the back of the hands on the knees so that the palms face upwards. Join the thumbs and the forefingers and keep the other fingers extended. (Plate 38).
7. Hold this position as long as you can, keeping the back, neck and head erect and the vision indrawn as if gazing at the tip of the nose.
8. Release the feet and relax for some time. Then repeat the pose for the same length of time, now placing the right heel near the perineum first and then the left foot over the right ankle as described above.
This posture keeps the pubic region healthy. Like Padmasana (Plate 53), it is one of the most relaxing of asanas. The body being in a sitting posture is at rest, while the position of the crossed legs and erect back keeps the mind attentive and alert. This asana is also recommended for the practice of pranayama and for meditation.
From the purely physical point of view, the asana is good for curing stiffness in the knees and ankles. In it the blood circulates in the lumbar region and the abdomen, and this tones the lower region of the spine and the abdominal organs.
1. Kneel on the floor. Keep the knees together and spread the feet about 18 inches apart.
2. Rest the buttocks on the floor, but not the body on the feet. The feet are kept by the side of the thighs, the inner side of each calf touching the outer side of its respective thigh. Keep the toes pointing back and touching the floor. Keep the wrists on the knees, palms facing up, and join the tips of the thumbs and forefingers. Keep the other fingers extended. Stretch the back erect. (Back view: Plate 42. Front view: Plate 43)
3. Stay in this position as long as you can, with deep breathing.
4. Now interlock the fingers and stretch the arm straight over the head, palms up. (Plate 44)
5. Stay in this position for a minute with deep breathing.
6. Exhale, release the fingerlock, place the palms on the soles, bend forward and rest the chin on the knees. (Plate 45)
7. Stay in this position for a minute with normal breathing.
8. Inhale, raise the trunk up, bring the feet forward and relax.
9. If you find it difficult to perform the pose as described above, try placing the feet one above the other and rest the buttocks on them. (Plate 39) Gradually move the toes further apart, separate the feet (Plates 40 and 41) and bring them to rest outside the thighs. Then, in time the buttocks will rest properly on the floor and the body will not rest on the feet.
The pose cures rheumatic pains in the knees and gout, and is also good for flat feet. Due to the stretching of the ankles and the feet, proper arches will be formed. This, however, takes a long time and requires daily practice of the pose for a few minutes for several months. Those suffering from pain in the heels or growth of calcaneal spurs there will get relief and the spurs will gradually disappear.
The pose can even be done immediately after food and will relieve heaviness in the stomach.
Vira means a hero, warrior, champion. This sitting posture is done by keeping the knees together, spreading the feet and resting them by the side of the hips.
The pose is good for meditation and prdnayama.
1. Kneel on the floor. Keep the knees together and spread the feet about 18 inches apart.
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If you weaken the center of any freestanding structure it becomes unstable. Eventually, everyday wear-and-tear takes its toll, causing the structure to buckle under pressure. This is exactly what happens when the core muscles are weak – it compromises your body’s ability to support the frame properly. In recent years, there has been a lot of buzz about the importance of a strong core – and there is a valid reason for this. The core is where all of the powerful movements in the body originate – so it can essentially be thought of as your “center of power.”