The sun salutation or Surya Namaskar is a set of movements that has been modified to complement different styles of yoga, so the exact positions can vary. The back bend, Parvatasana is an excellent exercise for keeping the back flexible Some practitioners focus on pushing the pelvis forward, others bending the neck back. Try both and go with whatever feels comfortable. Use the movement to stretch the body upwards, keeping the arms by the ears and aim to look up to the sky. If you feel your neck muscles are straining, or if you find yourself looking behind arch the back less.
I’m a runner and experience knee pain. Can yoga help, and what poses should I concentrate on?
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Knee pain can be caused by anything from weak tendons to rheumatism, so you should get the area X-rayed to check that running isn’t exacerbating an existing problem. To naturally strengthen the knees, you should practise Padmasana, the lotus pose. It takes practice to master, but it will help alleviate your knee pain.
I’ve started practising alternate nostril breathing, with a 2-4-4-4 repetition when trying to meditate. A teacher told me this was too advanced unless I wanted to become totally devoted to yoga. What’s your opinion?
Some mornings my back really hurts when I come into the plough pose at the end of an Ashtanga yoga session. Should I carry on or leave the pose out altogether?
It may be that the Ashtanga session is too much for your body. Talk to your teacher and ask if you can modify any of the sequences leading up to Halasana. You shouldn’t need to cut the pose out altogether, but find a modification that suits you. It may also be worth getting your back checked out by your local GP, but also consider whether your mattress could be causing you discomfort.