Each week smile in the sky will feature a different yoga pose and 5 physical health benefits and 5 mental health benefits related to it.
This week...bow pose [sanskrit translation: dhanur (bow) asana (pose)].
This is a strong back bend/front opener, eventually the hip bones are the only thing touching the mat. It requires a lot of back flexibility/mobility so please ensure you do child’s pose, a forward bend or other counter pose afterward. This is an intermediate pose so be gentle with your back: strengthen muscle and improve flexibility to build up to this…see this 25 min sequence to bow pose (don’t forget to add the most important pose – Savasana, the final resting pose, for at least 5 mins at the end).
Physical benefit: STRENGTH & FLEXIBILITY: BACK & NECK
Performing this pose correctly involves activation of the muscles in the back – from the base of the spine to the tiny muscles in the neck. It releases the psoas and stimulates the vagus nerve, strengthening and activating the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). See last week’s blog on lizard pose for more on this.
Mental benefit: RESILIENCE
Persisting, breathing and holding the pose just a little longer than you think is possible can have spin-off benefits for your trust and belief in yourself. Over time, practicing maintaining a pose beyond your perceived limits can transfer into improved courage, strength and resilience in other areas of life.
Physical benefit: STIMULATE DIGESTION
The stretch and pressure on the belly can assist digestion - don’t have a big meal the night before practicing dhanurasana or it might be very uncomfortable!
Mental benefit: REDUCE ANXIETY
Stimulation of nerves in the spinal cord may allow for clearer, more effective communication between the brain and body, to allow the PNS to activate and to clear the mind. See here for some simple practices to reduce stress.
Physical benefit: IMPROVE POSTURE
As the legs kick back, shoulders and chest open. Shoulder blades track together behind you, as if you are trying to clasp a $50 note between them. Pectorals receive a stretch.
Mental benefit: RAISE MOOD
Stimulation of digestion, removal of toxins and better absorption of nutrients strengthen the gut-brain connection. Research shows that neurons in the gut communicate with neurons in the brain and can have powerful effects on mood. Rolling around like a child in the pose: front- back, with the breath, or side to side, can often get you giggling: the ultimate panacea for feeling blue!
Physical benefit: IMPROVE BREATHING
Long, deep breathing is crucial in this pose. Inhale - to lengthen through the back; exhale – to release tension and go a little deeper into the pose. Full awareness of the breath is made easier with placing your focus on the belly as it inflates and deflates on the mat.
Mental benefit: MINDFULNESS
The concentration required to maintain this pose allows for awareness of the present moment: mindfulness practice. Experiencing the belly inflating highlights the breathing process in the mind. A curious attitude and a commitment to non-judgment of the self as thoughts present themselves allows observation of the self. Over time this practice can help you develop a gap between action and reaction.
Physical benefit: STRENGTHEN QUADRICEPS
This pose can help you create power in the quads, great for these large muscles and very energising. Ensure your knees are not splaying out, and flexed feet can increase energy through the legs.
Mental benefit: IMPROVE CONCENTRATION
Focusing internally on the space between the eyebrows: the third eye point, or on something in front of you, is an opportunity to practice meditation. Concentrating the attention on one point is an alternative to mindfulness meditation and may increase sustained attention and focus.
To learn more about the mind-body connection and our services, including workshops
for mental health and yoga, offered from March 2017 in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs,
and research consultancy, please see www.smileinthesky123.weebly.com
Next week...one-legged king pigeon pose [eka pada rajakapotasana]