Ask Yogi Maharaj Dr. Malik

Yogi Maharaj Dr. Malik our Editor (since 2003) is a recognised international expert and an authority on the subject of Yoga. He started his training under the guidance of Yogis from the Himalayan region at the age of six and also received instructions from Sufis, Lamas and Sadhus. He is an accredited Yoga teacher specialising in Kundalini, Hatha and Laya Yoga.

Founder and pioneer of Yogology, a spiritual technology which combines ancient traditions and principles of Laya, Hatha, Kundalini and meditative practices, Yogi Malik began teaching this over 20 years ago. He has spent a lifetime dedicated to researching, teaching and sharing his knowledge on yoga. He is also a practitioner of related alternative therapies, including Shamanism.

Q&A Yogi Maharaj Dr. Malik

Q: What is apana and is this a yoga exercise? -T. Hathaway

Apana is one of the ten ‘airs’ described in yoga. The ancient classical text, the Gheranda Samhita, refers to this as an internal air. Its primary place of residence is the heart.
Yoga pranayama exercises are especially designed to work with vital airs. Many different benefits accrue when the airs are moved around through yoga practice. There are nine other airs mentioned in the Gheranda Samhita – four internal and five external. These are apana, samana, uddana, vyana (internal airs residing at various locations in the body) and naga, kurma, kakara, devata and dhananjaya (external). As you become more advanced in yoga practice, you will learn to identify and work with these airs through various exercises.

Q: I find that my shoulders roll over quite a bit and I have started to feel tension in the shoulder blades. My husband is a dentist and experiences the same problem. I am a mother of three children - nine, seven and three years old. I am writing to know if there is any yoga posture, aside from my regular practice, suitable to help me. -T. Kumar

Modern life is characterised by jobs and daily chores that involve using the arms, back and also the neck. We may not realise just how much we do that. It could be for any number of things such as carrying shopping bags, picking up things off the floor or bending over to undertake tasks. Tension in the shoulders is also a sign of overused muscles and lack of rest. If left untreated for a long period of time, it can result in many long-term health problems such as frozen shoulder. Therefore, it is important to regularly massage this area and practise gentle yoga poses that can help strengthen and alleviate this tension.

Working with the spinal region also helps release such tightness. I would recommend the following posture.

Vrikshasana (Tree Pose)
This exercise is perfect for achieving optimum balance in posture if practised regularly. It is especially recommended for building levels of concentration, confidence, strong spine, strong arms as well as strength in the legs, neck and muscles of the back. It can be used to relieve back pain, shoulder pain, headaches and problems of the abdomen as well as neck related issues.

The upper body receives a natural stretch and the position of the foot resting on the thigh helps centre and ground. It’s a lovely exercise for performing outdoors on the earth barefoot. It can be practised comfortably indoors as well. If you are new to this pose then be careful to remove any furniture in and around where you perform this to avoid any unnecessary trips if you are unable to balance quickly. Don’t worry though, it may be a little daunting at the start but as you practise it a few times, it will (hopefully) become easier to stand without swaying side to side.

How to perform

Stand up with the legs shoulder width apart, spine straight and comfortable. Slowly lift and bend the left leg and place the left heel onto the left thigh and rest it there. The weight of the body should be evenly distributed with the right leg providing the strength to hold the posture. Lift the arms right up over the head and bring the palms of the hands together keeping them slightly stiff. Inhale and exhale deeply and slowly. Hold for as long as you can, preferably five to ten seconds. As you practise this pose regularly, you can hold the pose for longer. Then release and slowly bring the leg down back to the floor. Repeat on the other side with the other foot.

To avoid losing your balance, you can try practising this asana against a wall until you are ready to move away from it. Don’t breathe too heavily as this in itself can cause you to lose balance. Don’t look at the floor as this too can make you wobble. Keep looking into the distance as it helps raise the head and keep it upright.
The more confident you are, the easier this pose will become for you. Try to concentrate your attention ahead instead of wandering the eyes downwards.

Natarajasana/ Lord of the Dance (Dancer Pose)
In the same family as vrikshasana, natarajasana is again perfect for anyone who wants to improve concentration, flexibility and strength in the spine, legs, arms and neck. To perform, stand up with legs shoulder width apart. Stretch out your left arm in front of you and bend the right knee and slowly lift up your right foot. Hold the big toe of the right foot but don’t squash and pull it. Try to firmly grip it as this will give you the ‘spring’ to lift the leg back. Lift the leg back. The right arm should be taken back behind the head. Bring the left arm in front of you at shoulder level. Hold for a few seconds breathing slowly and deeply. Now release the right foot slowly bringing it back. You may wish to alternate and try using the other side of the body. If you are unable to complete the full pose, then it can be modified and adjusted according to your ability. Your yoga teacher will be able to suggest a suitable alternative.

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