Sivananda is one of the schools of yoga worth checking out if you’re looking for an all-around ashram experience. It combines five elements of yogic philosophy: relaxation or meditation, diet, proper breathing, exercise (asana), and positive thinking. In the Sivananda style of yoga, there are 12 basic poses, which are practiced in a particular order. To give you an idea of what the practice of Sivananda yoga looks like we want to explore five of these poses below.
Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana)
Caution should always be practiced when performing yoga poses, and this is especially true when you’re doing more advanced inversion poses like the Shoulder Stand. As the name implies, this pose involves lifting your body up into the air, with all your weight falling on your shoulders. A variation of the Sarvangasana is the supported shoulder stand, in which you place your hands on your lower back to maintain the body’s upright position and use the elbows for additional weight support.
Plough Pose (Halasana)
This pose is also often simply referred to as the back stretch, because it stretches and lengthens the mid back, lower back, as well as your hamstrings. Depending on your level of practice and/or flexibility, you can do a modified version and let your feet hover a couple inches above the ground instead of making your toes touch the floor.
Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
The Fish pose is an excellent back stretch and works wonders for relieving lower back pain. Start by lying flat on the floor, legs outstretched in front of you. Then slowly and slightly lift your torso off the mat, making sure your hip/sit bone remains flat on the ground and lean your head back so that the crown is touching the floor. Rest your arms by your side, with your palms and elbows touching the ground.
Standing Forward Bend (Pada Hasthasana)
The Standing Forward Bend is one of the essential poses to learn if you want to increase flexibility because it provides a good stretch from the mid back, down to your lower back, and all the way down to your hamstrings. The best way to do the Pada Hasthasana is by starting at Mountain pose then lifting your arms up and slowly bending forward hinging at the hips.
Extend your arms out as far as you can and slowly lower your body as you bring your head as close to the knees as is physically comfortable. Always remember to respect your body’s limitations and never work to pain, only to what is comfortable for you.
Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
The Triangle is a good test of balance and alignment, while effectively stretching the legs and working the muscles around the hips. One of the most important things to remember when doing this pose is to always, always tuck in the tailbone and keep your hips forward. Here, you will immediately feel that nice, warm stretch from your leg all the way to your hips. If you can, rotate your head to face the ceiling.
These are only five of the 12 basic poses (and variations thereof) that you will learn should you decide to get into Sivananda yoga. The other seven poses are the Headstand (Sirshasana), Seated Forward Bend (Paschimothanasana), Cobra (Bhujangasana), Locust (Shalabhasana), Bow Pose (Dhanurasana), Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana), and the Crow (Kakasana) or Peacock (Mayurasana).