Anatomy of Hatha Yoga

This compendium by H. David Coulter is a masterpiece of scientific analysis of yoga on the body with copious anatomical illustrations. A great and insightful read on the inner workings of body and how yoga affects it and what benefits you get – assessed scientifically.

I’m listing out the benefits as given for each exercise regime:

Breathing Exercise:
Breathing is the fundamental activity of body and maintains our life. Different breathing includes abdominal, thoracic, diaphragmatic and paradoxical. Best is to move to abdominal breathing than the other 2 – thoracic and paradoxical – both forms of chest breathing. Generally 2:1 breathing is best where exhalation time is twice that of inhalation. Given all the preparation and caution is doing breathing exercises properly and if one is enjoying a balanced life of cheerful thoughts, positive feelings and productive actions, the yoga breathing exercises have the potential for producing more powerful and positive benefits than any other practice in hatha yoga. Breathing exercises that you must never forget to do are

  1. Alternate Nostril Breathing
  2. The Bellows Breath – Kapalabathi

Abdominal-pelvic Exercises:
These exercises called Agni Sara or Fire exercise include leg lifts, peacock pose, A & P Breathing, Uddiyana Banda, Nauli and Dauti. These are essentially improving aerobic capacity and increasing flexibility which is important for physical conditioning & activity. If you’re hungry and tired, but feel great after doing 20 leg lifts and ten minutes id agni sara instead of eating and taking a nap, something obliviously worked – and anyone who has little knowledge of anatomy & physiology can make an intelligent guesses about what , where and how: you increased your blood oxygen and decreased blood carbon dioxide; you stimulated the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and steroids; you stimulated the release of glycogen from pancreas and liver released extra glucose into the general circulation, cutting your appetite and preparing you for getting on with your day. Best for diabetes patients en masse.

Standing Postures:
Exercises include:

  1. Mountain Pose
  2. Side Pose
  3. Triangle Pose
  4. Forward Bend
  5. Backward bend
  6. Eagle Pose
  7. Tree Pose

A few hundred years ago, everyone in agrarian societies walked and worked for hours at a time on their farms, there was little need to begin or end a day with standing yoga postures. But today most of us have sedentary jobs and are sorely in need of more exercise than we can get sitting at a desk. Standing postures coupled with a moderate amount of aerobic exercises such as walking, running, or swimming, can fill the gap. Standing postures develop overall strength and flexibility, mildly stimulate the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, and accustom the nervous system to a range of body positions that are otherwise ignored. They flood the nervous system with information from all over the body, and they integrate the energy of the body from top to bottom and from inside out. they integrate limbs with the torso, and they bring awareness to the respiratory and pelvic diaphragms as well as to the deep muscles of the abdomen, pelvis, and back. You can satisfy yourself of their special value by practicing them in the early morning for a few weeks, and then skipping them for a week, substituting sitting postures, lying down postures, and inverted postures. When you reinstate them into your routine you’ll know what you were missing.

Back bending Postures:

Exercises include:

  1. Cobra Pose
  2. Dog Pose
  3. Bow Pose
  4. Locust Pose
  5. Prone Boat
  6. Fish Pose
  7. Wheel Pose
  8. Camel Pose

back bending, forward bending, twisting, inverted and standing postures each have individual and group personalities. Among these, back bending postures are the most exhilarating and invigorating.  As yoga postures they stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and prepare you for activity. In ordinary life activities, mild back bending relives the tedium of sitting hunched over a desk, the stress from manipulating objects in the environment, and the habit of too much resting and reclining. In back bending you extend yourself, literally and figuratively, by lifting your posture, raising your spirits and preparing yourself for action.

Forward Bending Postures:

Exercises include:

  1. The down-facing Dog Pose
  2. Forward bend sitting
  3. The Child’s Pose
  4. Supine Hip Opening
  5. Pigeon Pose

They are more subdued than the back bending ones. They tend to quiet the somatic nervous system and sympathetic limb of nervous system. They have mildly invigorating effects on the abdominal organs, possibly stimulating the enteric nervous system and thereby enhancing digestion and assimilation of foodstuffs from eth bowel, as well as reliving constipation. They improve hip flexibility and hence important training for postures and meditation.

    Twisting Postures:
    Exercises include:

    1. Neck Rotation – flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation
    2. Thoracic Twisting  – Standing
    3. Supine Twisting – Lying down
    4. Sitting Spinal Twisting

    Twisting postures in hatha yoga complement forward and backward bending by exercising the muscles in more complex ways than is accomplished by the symmetrical movements of flexion and extension alone, and in some cases they exercise muscles that are highly specialized for twisting. Beyond that , the axial compression of the spine and other structures of the torso improves nutrition to the intervertebral disks and squeezes blood out of the infernal organs of the abdomen and pelvis, thus improving circulation in the great supportive systems of the body. For these reasons, twisting postures are essential for a complete practice o and must always be included in any balanced program of hatha yoga.

    The Headstand
    It lifts your spirits wonderfully. If something is drawing you down, turn upside down, and voila-the downward flow is upended into your head. The headstand is also a great morning wake-up. It increases digestive fire, counters depression, and fills you with enthusiasm for meeting your day. But doing this posture is like increasing the voltage in an electrical circuit. Be careful.

    The Shoulder stand
    It is a good remedy for sore throat and nervous coughs, and that vigorous practice of the classic variations enhances thyroid function.

    Relaxation and Meditation:
    Relaxation is normally achieved by Corpse posture. You have to follow the 61-points concentration and relaxation exercise. The best meditative posture is the easy posture but lotus is the best.