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I love doing yoga in Nature! I encourage you to take Yoga with you wherever you go in the world and to practice yoga wherever the prana of a place inspires you. You may find, as I have, that combining Yoga with nature appreciation, enriches the yogic experience, and helps you feel a connection with all living things.

Arm Balances

Arm balance poses help build strength, increase body awareness, and sharpen focus. Side Plank strengthens the side waist, enhancing lateral balance and muscle tone. Besides the poses featured here, see also Crow Pose (<em>Katasana</em>) in the Bird Poses Section, as well as Handstand (<em>Adho Mukha Vrksasana</em>) and Shoulderstand (<em>Sarvangasana</em>) in the Inversions section. In addition, the following poses also help build arm strength to help one’s body prepare for arm balance poses: Downward Facing Dog (<em>Adho Mukha Svanasana</em>) and Upward Facing Dog (<em>Urdvah Mukha Svanasana</em>) in the Dog Poses section, and Dolphin (<em>Makarasana</em>) in the Inversions section.

Backbends

These yoga poses or asanas stretch the front of the body, from the shoulders and chest, to the thighs, hips and abdomen. They can stimulate and energize internal organs, including the thymus, heart, lungs, and kidneys, benefiting the immune, digestive, breathing, circulatory, reproductive, and nervous systems.

Bird Poses

Both of these poses, inspired by birds, enhance balance, strength and endurance. Both counteract the effects of too much computer work, Crow by strengthening the wrists and arms and Eagle by providing an amazing upper back stretch.

Dog Poses

Downward Facing Dog (<em>Adho Mukha Svanasana</em>) and Upward Facing Dog (<em>Urdvah Mukha Svanasana</em>) are foundational poses for sun salutations. Down Dog strengthens the wrists, hamstrings, calves and Achilles tendon as well as the entire back and shoulder area. By elongating the cervical spine and neck muscles it can also decrease tension. Upward dog stretches the front body, counteracting the typical forward folding posture so many of us are when we are at work, doing chores, gardening, driving, or even playing a musical instrument. This helps to open our chest, and tone the arms and legs.

Forward Folds

These postures stretch the back body, increasing suppleness in the back, creating space between the spinal vertebrae, lengthening and strengthening the muscles in the back and sides of the legs, and boosting knee strength. They improve circulation overall, and specifically, in the abdominal organs. Forward bending also facilitates exhalation of more stale air out of the lungs. By grounding the body, they can restore a sense of balance, and help to calm the mind.

Inversions

Inverted poses in yoga, if practiced very mindfully and compassionately, can be extremely beneficial for four of the body’s major systems - cardiovascular, lymphatic, nervous and endocrine. By reversing the flow of blood to the heart and within the circulatory system, inversions can prevent or reduce the likelihood of developing varicose veins and haemorrhoids. By “up-ending” our bodies’ relationship to gravity, we can even improve our metabolic function. Although Headstand and Shoulderstand are known as the “King” and “Queen” of the asanas in certain yogic traditions, they are not for everyone. To do them safely, takes careful, guided and consistent preparation and practice to protect the neck and spinal column. Handstands require building strength in the arms, wrists and hands, as well as the abdominals, and learning how to carefully align the spine and pelvis.

Restorative Poses

It can take time and practice to relax into these sweet, supported poses, to calm our busy mind chatter, still our restless bodies, and focus on the present moment. By slowing down our parasympathetic nervous system we can get in touch with a deep, inner sense of peace and contentment, providing an antidote to stress.

Seated Poses

<p>In seated yoga poses, the spine is kept straight, which stretches the spine and surrounding muscles. Thus, seated postures help to relax tense muscles and increase flexibility of the spine. Some seated poses involve stretching and twisting the spinal column, which improves alignment and flexibility. In addition to the poses shown here, there are other seated poses in the Forward Fold and Meditation sections. Seated asanas can help us settle the entire body, relieving stress and enabling us to sleep well at night. When the spine and surrounding muscles are relaxed, it’s easier to release tension and calm the mind and body. This is the reason meditation is so often performed in a seated position. </p> <p>Doing Boat Pose (<em>Paripurna Navasana</em>) is an excellent way to build core strength, focus, determination and balance.</p>

Standing Poses

Many of the most important foundational poses of yoga are done while standing.  Creating a strong foundational by using one or both feet and sometimes one or both hands helps to build awareness of our bodies in space and to improve our posture and alignment of various joints, particularly the ankles, knees, hips, spinal column and shoulders. Standing postures strengthen and add flexibility to the muscles of the legs and feet, as well as the side body and the core. They open the chest and shoulders, enhancing our ability to breathe fully, and counteracting hunched over positions so many of us assume during daily work and other activities. Standing yoga poses enhance our balance and help us focus the mind.  In addition to the poses featured here, there is Eagle Pose (Garudasana) under the Bird Poses section, the standing positions in the Forward Folds section, and Double Tree (Yugalaka Vriksasana) and Double Warrior II (Yugalaka Vribhadrasana dvi) in the Partner Yoga section. In some yogic traditions, Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) in the Dog Poses section and Dolphin (Makarasana) in the Inversions section are also considered standing poses.

Partner Yoga

Doing yoga with a partner provides a whole new way to experience yoga, as it incorporates trust, kindness, touch, connection and fun. There are at least four different ways to partner. 1. One can work with one other individual or in small groups to help one another gain confidence in getting into challenging or restorative poses. 2. People can do the same pose in an integrated manner. 3. People can even do entirely different poses in an integrated manner, each one reaping the different benefits of the different poses as they each take their turn. 4. One of the most amazing forms of partner yoga is acro-yoga, which adds the element of integrated balances. One person plays the role of “the base”, the other “the flyer”, with a third person there as “the spotter” to ensure safe practice. It is critical to properly align joints to ensure structural stability and strength. Like all yoga practices, it is important to warm up the body by moving in easier poses before attempting more challenging poses. It is also extremely important to show respect and compassion for one’s partner.

Meditation

<p>Just one facet of Yoga relates to the physical practice, i.e. the different body postures (<em>Asanas</em>). Back in 200AD, the sage Pantangali described in his ancient yogic text <span style=\"text-decoration: underline;\">The Yoga Sutras</span> a system of Yoga with eight limbs. The first two limbs consist of suggestions on how to live one’s life by providing fundamental ethical principles to guide our relationships with others (Yamas) and how to best use our energy in our attitudes about and treatment of ourselves (<em>Niyamas</em>). Limb #3 refers to the <em>Asanas</em>. Limb #4 describes <em>Pranayama</em>, or management of breath and our life force (<em>Prana</em>). These breathing techniques of <em>Pranayama</em> support the <em>Asanas</em>, as well as the other four limbs of Yoga, which relate to different steps or facets of meditation. The practices of <em>Asana</em> and <em>Pranayama</em> help to rejuvenate and purify the body while disciplining and stilling the mind. This allows an individual to achieve the control of the senses (<em>Pratyahara</em>) and concentration (<em>Dharana</em>) necessary to meditate (<em>Dhyana</em>) and with great devotion and practice, even achieve a feeling of enlightened consciousness (<em>Samadhi</em>).</p> <p>My husband Ian says he has derived many benefits from meditating regularly over the past few decades. He derives positive energy from meditation that allows him to emanate kindness, calm, competence and impartiality. Personally, while I came to Yoga for physical exercise, it was the meditative aspects of Yoga that have helped me the most in managing the painful losses that inevitably occur in the cycle of life and death (<em>Samsara</em>). Although challenging with the busy lifestyles people lead today, experiencing even eight minutes a day in a state of relative mental stillness helps to relax the nervous system and bring the mind, body, senses and spirit into balance.</p> <p>Meditation can help us relax and find harmony with ourselves, other people, and other beings. A <span style=\"text-decoration: underline;\"><a title=\"daily meditation\" href=\" http://www.blissology.com/community/the-blissology-project/the-4-week-program/2_meditation/\" target=\"_blank\">daily meditation practice</a></span>, along with a daily yoga practice, food awareness, nature appreciation and gratitude, comprise the five Blissology Commitments promoted by yoga teacher, <span style=\"text-decoration: underline;\"><a title=\"Eoin Finn\" href=\"http://www.blissology.com/community/the-blissology-project/]\" target=\"_blank\">Eoin Finn</a></span> that can help create an upward spiral that has the potential to make the world an even better, healthier place.</p> <p>In addition to our home, Ian and I are fortunate to have meditated in several inspiring places in Nature.</p>

Yoga Poses