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The Health Benefits of Simhasana (Lion Pose)

In this asana, the body and face are manipulated at once to invoke the force and intensity of a lion’s roar. In fact, this posture is thought to be one of the best face exercises you can get. People often overlook another benefit of Lion Pose: it stimulates the platysma, which is a thin, rectangular-shaped muscle in the front of throat. This exercise will keep the platysma strong as you age.

Getting Into Lion Pose:

Begin by kneeling on the floor with knees shoulder-width apart. Cross your right ankle over your left and carefully sit back on your heels. Make sure your feet are pointing outward and your calves are kept flat on the floor. Lift your chest up just enough that you are not slouching and your spine is fully straightened, but don’t over-arch your back.

Now, place both your hands on top of your knees. REMEMBER: don’t slouch as you do this. Widen your palms and press them firmly against your knees. Splay your fingers like a lion’s claws. Inhale deeply through your nose.

This next step is the focal point of Simhasana, but it can also be quite challenging. If you struggle here, be sure to practice your movements in coordination with each other. So, simultaneously do the following:

  • Lower your jaw and open your mouth as wide as possible
  • Stretch your tongue out and curl its tip down toward your chin
  • Open your eyes wide, looking upward
  • Focus your eyes in between your eyebrows or on the tip of your nose
  • Contract the muscles at the front of your throat
  • Activate your hands, splaying your fingers further out

Now, hold this position and exhale slowly through your mouth. Feel the air pass over the back of the throat as well as the contraction of your throat and neck muscles. You should make a distinct “haaaaa” sound as you exhale.

Don’t forget to give your best lion roar. In fact, roar two of three times then retract your tongue. Relax your face, mouth, eyes, throat, and hands. Cross your ankles the opposite way and repeat Simhasana.

Benefits of Lion Pose:

  • Relieves tension in the face and chest
  • Improves circulation of blood to the face
  • Keeps your eyes healthy by stimulating the nerves
  • Stimulates and firms the platysma
  • Helps prevent sore throat, asthma, and other respiratory ailments
  • May help treat bad breath
  • Is said to eradicate disease

The Health Benefits of Uttana Shishosana (Extended Puppy Pose)

We at CNY Healing Arts are proud to present you with this invigorating inversion. A good warm-up or closer to your yoga sequence, Uttana Shishosana is one of those feel-good poses, like Child’s Pose or Happy Baby: simple, sensory, and stretchable.

A beginner’s tip: to activate the leg and hip muscles, place a bolster lengthwise from the knees to the ankles and squeeze. This will, also, help protect your lower back and perfect your posture while in Extended Puppy.

Click here to view a yoga class schedule for each branch of CNY Healing Arts (located in Syracuse, Rochester, and Albany).

Getting Into Extended Puppy Pose:

            Begin on all fours: shoulders over wrists, hips over knees, tops of feet on the floor. Slowly walk your hands out as you drop your chest towards the floor (keeping hips over knees and arms shoulder-width apart).

If you are having trouble with your form, try drawing your navel up and your hips back as you extend the hands forward, in order to keep your hips over your knees. Now drop your forehead to the floor and let your neck relax. You may want to place a bolster under your forehead to support your weight.

Like other inversion poses, Uttana Shishosana changes the direction of blood flow, which can cause headaches or discomfort (especially for people with high blood pressure). If this is the case, the few inches of elevation from a bolster should correct the problem.

Now, press down through the hands and stretch the arms while pulling your hips back toward the heels (keeping a slight curve in your lower back). Make sure your elbows are not touching the ground, but keep your arms active.

You should feel a rather intense inner-shoulder stretch. If you aren’t feeling the stretch, check your form. If all is in order, extend your arms out further and lay your chest on the floor. You should feel a nice long stretch in your spine.

Hold this posture for 30 seconds to 1 minute. When you are ready, exhale and walk your hands in, lifting your body up to a kneeling position. Remember that a sudden change in blood flow can cause dizziness, so take your time when coming out of an inversion pose such as Extended Puppy.

Benefits of Extended Puppy Pose:

  • Stretches the spine and shoulders
  • Calms the mind and invigorates the body
  • Improves flexibility, especially in the spine
  • Relieves symptoms of chronic stress, tension, and insomnia
  •  Strengthens and stretches the arms, hips, and upper back

The Health Benefits of Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose)

We at CNY Healing Arts invite you to try out our version of Happy Baby Pose, also known as Dead Bug Pose. When performed correctly, this posture can provide significant relief to lower back pain or discomfort. The best part about it: as you lie there, this supine stretch works out kinks in your hips, back, and buttocks.

Precautions should be taken when doing Happy Baby or Dead Bug, especially if you suffer from a prior knee or neck injury. A prop, such as a folded blanket, may be used to support the neck while in this pose. Furthermore, a woman should not perform Ananda Balasana while pregnant, unless a skilled yoga practitioner modifies the pose for her separately.

Getting into Happy Baby Pose:

Begin by laying flat on your back. Exhale and bend the knees into the belly. Inhale and grip the outside of each foot with the corresponding hand. If you are performing Dead Bug Pose, hold on to the inside of each foot instead. If you find it difficult to grip your feet, try looping a belt or yoga strap over each sole and holding on to the ends of it. Open your knees slightly wider than your torso and bring them up towards your armpits. If you are performing Dead Bug Pose, your

Stack each ankle directly over the knee so that the shins are perpendicular to the floor. With gentle movements, push your feet up into your hands and pull down with your hands to create resistance. Flex your feet. Lengthen your spine as you bring your thighs into your torso and towards the floor.

Hold this posture for 30 seconds to a minute. Exhale and release the feet back to the floor. Rest for a few breaths before moving on.

Benefits of Happy Baby Pose:

  • Releases lower back and sacrum
  • Opens hips, inner thighs, and groin
  • Stretches the hamstrings
  • Relieves lower back pain
  • Stretches and soothes the spine
  • Calms the brain
  • Helps relieve stress and fatigue

The Health Benefits of Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

Stressed out? Sick of that stiff, achy back? Our staff at CNY Healing Arts encourages you to give this asana a try. Bhujangasana, pronounced boo-jang-GAHS-anna, can be significantly useful at relieving discomfort in the muscles of the back, neck and abdomen. Furthermore, a little time spent in cobra pose can go a long way towards alleviating stress, anxiety and even depression. The best part: it’s free!

In Sanskrit, “bhujanga” means serpent or snake and “asana” means pose; hence the English, cobra pose. This invigorating backbend was named such because Bhujangasana reflects the posture of a cobra that has its hood raised. If you would like to practice this pose with the aid a qualified yoga instructor, click here to check out the yoga class schedule for each of our centers, located in Syracuse, Rochester and Albany.

Getting into Cobra Pose:
Start by lying flat on your stomach on a comfortable, level surface, preferably a yoga mat. Make sure your feet are together with the tops of them against the floor. Spread your hands on the floor under your shoulders and hug your elbows against your rib cage. Close your eyes and inhale slowly, deeply. Feel the stability in your pelvis, thighs and tops of your feet. Imagine them rooted to the ground throughout Bhujangasana. Exhale gradually before opening your eyes. Continue breathing slow and deep.

As you inhale, steadily straighten your arms and lift your chest from the floor. Be mindful as you extend your arms. Do not fully straighten them if this feels uncomfortable. Rather, extend through and deepen your stretch to create a graceful, even arc in your back. Use the stretch in your legs and back, instead of exerting yourself to gain height and risk overarching the spine. Press your tailbone toward your pubis and lift your pubis toward your navel, narrowing your hips. Keep your shoulders broad, but relaxed, with the blades low on your back.

Lift from the top of your sternum, but avoid pushing the front of your ribs forward. Rather, puff your side ribs forward and keep your lower back relaxed. Try to distribute the stretch evenly along your spine. Breathe calmly and hold here for 5 to 10 breaths. As you exhale, gently release your body back to the floor.

Benefits of Cobra Pose:

  • Stretches muscles in the shoulders, chest and abdominals
  • Decreases stiffness of the lower back
  • Strengthens the arms and shoulders
  • Increases flexibility
  • Improves menstrual irregularities
  • Elevates mood
  • Firms and tones the buttocks
  • Invigorates the heart
  • Stimulates organs in the abdomen, like the kidneys
  • Relieves stress and fatigue
  • Opens the chest and helps to clear the passages of the heart and lungs
  • Improves circulation of blood and oxygen, especially throughout the spinal and pelvic regions
  • Improves digestion
  • Strengthens the spine
  • Soothes sciatica
  • Helps to ease symptoms of asthma

The Health Benefits of Padmasana (Lotus Pose)

CNY Healing Arts encourages you to put this pose to the test. While the concept of Padmasana may seem simple, it is considered an intermediate to advanced pose and may not be comfortable for beginners. In basic terms, Lotus Pose is sitting cross-legged with the spine vertically straight, making it ideal for meditation and concentration.

The religious correlation between Padmasana and Buddhism is rather significant. In Sanskrit, Padmasana is derived from the words padma (meaning lotus) and sana (meaning seat or throne). Interestingly, the lotus, a sacred aquatic plant, is one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols and one of Buddhism’s most recognized motifs. Every important Buddhist diety is pictured either sitting on a lotus or holding one in their hand. Buddha himself has even been shown standing with each foot on a separate lotus. Traditional Hindu texts claim that Padmasana destroys all disease and awakens kundalini (a dormant energy residing at the base of the spine that can be awakened through meditation and yoga).

Getting into Lotus Pose:
With palms down, sit on the floor with legs stretched straight out in front of you. Bend the right knee and bring the lower leg up into a cradle. The outer side of the foot should settle in the crook of the left elbow, while the knee should settle in the crook of the right elbow. Clasp hands outside the shin and hold this posture for a few moments.

To lengthen the spine, lift the front torso towards the inner right leg, but try not to round the lower back. Explore the full range of motion of the hip joint by gently rocking the leg back and forth. Repeat this process with the opposite leg.
Come back to sitting with the legs stretched out in front of you. Now, bend the right knee and bring the right ankle to the left hip crease, allowing the right foot to face upwards. Settle the foot into the hip crease. Repeat this process with the left leg and right hip crease.

Remember not to cross your legs the same way every time your try this pose. Make sure to alternate bringing your right and left legs in first. If you are a novice at yoga, try coming into half lotus before attempting full lotus, this means only coming into one side of the pose at a time. Consistent practice of this pose throughout pregnancy is said to help ease the pains of childbirth.

Benefits of Lotus Pose:

  • Opens up the hips
  • Stretches the ankles and knees
  • Calms the brain
  • Increases awareness and attentiveness
  • Keeps the spine straight
  • Helps develop good posture
  • Eases menstrual discomfort and sciatica
  • Helps keeps joints and ligaments flexible
  • Stimulates the spine, pelvis, abdomen, and bladder
  • Restores energy levels

Click here to view our yoga class schedules at Syracuse and Rochester.