What are the Benefits of Yoga?
Research suggests that Yoga has been practiced for over 5000 years. The poses and stretches are therapeutic and can prevent ill health. Much like mediation, yoga focuses greatly on breathing (pranayama) and establishes the important connection between mind and body. The techniques used when practitioners focus on their breathing whilst stretching in yoga poses can help individuals stay calm in everyday uncomfortable situations. This in turn reduces anxiety and relaxes overstressed minds.
What is the Relationship Between Yoga and Meditation?
Yoga and mediation are very much part of the same family; mediation is a tool used within Yoga, most commonly performed after a yoga asana practice. Meditation helps the body and mind gain a stable condition after the body is filled with vibrations from the yoga. Increasing evidence suggests that when applied together, anxiety and fear can be alleviated, both short term and long term if practiced regularly.
The Easy Seat Pose(Sukhasana)
The Easy Seat pose is most commonly used to begin a yoga practice and is frequently used in meditation. Whilst it might seem simple, getting the form correct in this pose will increase comfort, concentration and deepen the mind body connection.
- Begin by bending both knees whilst sat on your Kindseat, coming into a cross-legged position. Having your hips slightly higher than your legs should increase comfort and improve posture.
- If you would prefer, close your eyes. Imagine a piece of string pulling up through your spine, lengthening it all the way up your body and out the crown of your head.
- Place your hands on your knees, or in your lap, either face up or face down. Having the palms face down is introspective, private and calming. Palms face up is a more open posture, enhancing listening and vulnerability. Choose your hand placement based off what feels most comfortable and authentic to you.
The Hero Pose (Virasana)
The Hero pose, much like the Easy Seat, is also commonly used in meditation. This position can create strain on the knees, ankles and hips, however the Kindseat takes the pressure off these joints, providing comfort and allowing for longer practices.
- Sit down on the Kindseat padded cushion and tuck your legs under the bench, coming into a kneeling position.
- Adjust the height and/or tilt of the seat if you’re feeling any discomfort in your joints. If you are still feeling any pressure on your calves resting on the floor, feel free to place a blanket or mat under your kindseat for your lower legs to rest on.
- Once you’ve found a comfortable stretch in your thighs, place your hands in your lap palms facing up or down, whichever feels most natural.
The Easy Seat and The Hero poses are the most commonly used for meditation with the Kindseat, however there are lots of other stretches and poses that can be easily done from the comfort of your Kindseat. Below you will find Yoga poses which will nicely fit into your wellbeing routine, for both kneeling and cross legged sitting positions.
Easy Seat Stretches
All of the stretches below are variations of the cross legged, Easy Seat pose
The Cow Face (Gomukhasana)
The Cow Face can be applied to both the upper and lower body. However, for beginners this can be intense and so starting with half cow face, only using the upper body, is most appropriate:
- Sit in a comfortable cross legged position on your Kindseat, sitting up nice and tall. Raise your right arm to the sky, your left arm resting by your left side
- Bend your right arm down your back, whilst your left arm reaches up your back. This is to open up your shoulders.
- If your shoulders are nice and open, your hands should meet at the midpoint of your back. Interlace your fingers and gently pull for a deeper stretch. If your hands don’t reach, no worries, don’t force it. Another option is to get a yoga band, a towel, or even a t- shirt and use this to create a bridge holding the item in both hands. Pull for a gentle stretch.
- Do the same again on your other side, raising your left arm up in the air and meeting your right arm from your side. Use a strap or towel again if your hands don’t reach.
If you wish to try the full Cow Face and stretch your hips too, follow this DoYou video giving a full explanation of how to get into the pose:
The Firelog Pose (Agnistambhasana)
The Firelog focuses on stretching the outer hip, it can be quite intense when tried on the floor; with the support of your Kindseat this can be attempted easily.
- Start by sitting on your Kindseat with your legs out straight in front of you, then bend your right leg to create a 90 degree angle. Your shin should be parallel with your Kindseat.
- Then bend your left leg and stack it directly over your right, with your left foot handing slightly over your right knee
- You should feel a deep stretch in your hips. Don’t worry if your top left knee doesn’t quite touch your right ankle, your hips might not be open enough yet. Whilst this should be easier with your hips raised by the Kindseat, you might want to support your top leg further. If you need to, support your top knee with a blanket or yoga block so it can rest easily.
- Stay in this position for five breaths, then repeat the stretches on the other side. One side is usually tighter than the other, so don’t worry if one side feels harder than the other.
The Half Lord of the Fishes (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
This seated twist pose energises the spine whilst stimulating proper digestion and improving posture. This position will stretch your outer hips and thighs whilst opening up your shoulders and chest, making it a full body stretch
- Start with an Easy Seat pose on your Kindseat. Then bring your crossed left leg more central underneath you whilst you lift up your right knee to place the sole of your right foot on the outside of your left knee.
- Place your right hand on the floor next to your right hip for support. Make sure you are sat evenly on your Kindseat, with your sitting bones holding the same weight.
- Inhale, and raise your left hand to the ceiling. Exhale and bring your left elbow down the outside of your right knee.
- Press your elbow and your knee together to create some resistance and deepen the stretch if this feels good for your body
- Turn your head to the right, looking past your right shoulder. If your neck is feeling any strain, turn less and relax into the pose wherever feels most comfortable
- Breathe and hold this pose, twisting further with each exhale
- To exit the pose, inhale whilst reaching the right arm up and unwind the body, returning to Easy Seat as your center
- Repeat this all on the other side of your body.
If you wish to develop further understanding of this pose and its benefits, read this Yoga Journal article for extra guidance.
Hero Pose Stretches
All of the poses below are variations of the kneeling Hero pose which can be easily attempted in the Kindseat.
Revolved Hero Pose (Parivrtta Virasana)
Much like the Half Lord of the fishes, this is a twisting position to stretch out your spine. This is a great variation to the Half Lord of the Fishes if you want something slightly less challenging or you prefer the kneeling position on your Kindseat.
- Assume your Hero kneeling pose on your Kindseat (as explained above) and find a comfortable position
- From here, place your right hand on your left knee and look to the left
- Place your left arm behind you on the floor, twisting as far as it feels comfortable.
- From this position, press the right arm and shoulder firmly into the left knee and twist around as far as possible to the left
- Stay here for about five full breaths and then release back to Hero pose.
- Repeat the same on the right side of your body.
Gate Pose (Parighasana)
Whilst this kneeling pose is very beginner friendly, there are simpler variations which can be used to work up to the Gate pose if the mobility in your hips needs practice. To start with, a simple side stretch:
- Find a comfortable position kneeling on your Kindseat (The Hero pose)
- Once in the right position, place your left hand on the floor next to your left hip.
- From here, reach the right arm up and over, to feel a nice stretch along the right side of your body. Your arms should look like the image to the left. The further you reach with the right arm, the deeper the stretch
- After holding this position, then returning to neutral, repeat on the other side of your body.
If this feels good and you wish to stretch the lower body also, advance onto the Gate Pose by completing the following:
- Start in your Hero pose, kneeling on your Kindseat
- Bend forward and put both your hands on the floor in front of you
- Slide your right foot out to the right side of your Kindseat, extending your leg out straight, pressing your legs, toes and heel into the ground. The sole of your right foot should be in line with your left knee knelt on the floor.
- Come up onto your bent knee and your outstretched right foot, placing your hands on your hips
- Start sliding your right arm down your outstretched right leg, whilst your left arm reaches for the sky
- Look up at the arm overhead and breathe here for as long as you need
- To exit the pose, come back to the Hero pose.
- Repeat on the other side
For a visual aid, watch this short informative video by Sikana about getting into the Gate pose:
If you wish to learn more about the benefits of the Gate pose, read this Yoga Pose page to further your understanding.
Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
The Camel pose is an energising backbend, used for welcoming and opening up your heart, relieving lower back pain. Because of the nature of the pose, you don’t want to rush into it, and the support of the Kindseat should help you take it slowly.
- Come to your Hero pose on your Kindseat, prioritise having your legs hip-width apart. Keep your hips over your knees on your Kindseat. You may wish to make the seat higher for extra support in this pose.
- Inhale, engage your core and lift your chest up, drawing your elbows back towards each other behind you. Allow your ribcage to open up
- You want your chest raised, your core tightly engaged, your spine long and your chin tucked in as you slowly drop your hands towards your heels
- Press your hands into the heels of your feet, keep lifting through your sternum
- If this is too intense and your spine isn’t flexible enough to reach all the way to the feet, place your hands on your lower back with your hands on your sacrum, pushing your hips forward. The image to the left demonstrates this variation.
- If you can place your hands on your heels, lift your shoulders to allow the muscles between your shoulder blades to rise up and cushion your cervical spine. From here, gently allow your head and neck to expand by lowering your head backwards towards the floor.
- To exit the pose, bring your chin to your chest and your hands to your hips if they were down by your feet. Engage your core and use your hands to support your lower back as you slowly return to your original Hero pose.
To understand further about the benefits of this pose, and the risks of rushing into it too quickly, have a look at this Yoga Journal article