Yoga has immense benefits for your body, mind and soul, and while all of us may want to practice it, sometimes that’s just not possible. We don’t have the space, the time or the mental bandwidth to dedicate a whole hour to yoga a few times a week. Well, I have some good news for those whose new year’s resolutions include leading a healthy 2017 – yoga can become a part of your daily life, even if you don’t have a full yoga routine. All you need to do is incorporate a few simple things in your lifestyle and you can inculcate the physical, mental and emotional benefits of yoga.
- Vajra Asana/Thunderbolt Pose
This simple seated pose has major benefits. It’s great for your knees, for all the muscles of your legs and to make your ankle joints flexible. It’s also great for digestion (which is why the Japanese eat in this posture). It may be hard to do at first and your ankles will hurt, but if you sit in this posture for just a few minutes every day, you will see how quickly your body adjusts and you’ll be sitting comfortably in vajra asana for long stretches very soon.
Sit with your spine straight. Bring your legs under your body, with your knees bent.
- Your toes should touch each other and your ankles should be bent inward.
*Try to sit in Vajra asana for a few minutes after dinner and before you go to bed.
- Padma Asana
This is the most beneficial and effective of all yoga asanas. The ultimate goal of a yoga asana practice is to be able to make our body limber and flexible enough to be able to sit for long hours of mediation. Padma asana is the preferred asana of choice of all yogis. In the beginning it may be hard to do this, but just a few minutes of practice every day and you will magically feel your hips, pelvis and legs open up. This asana is great for all the muscles of your legs, spine, for digestion and even for circulation.
- Sit in a comfortable posture.
- Take your right ankle and place it on your left thigh.
- Take your left ankle and place it on top of your right thigh.
- Adjust your legs so that they are as comfortable as possible.
- Gomukh Asana
Gomukh asana is a great stretch for our spines. It helps in aligning our bodies and helps in preventing and getting rid of spinal and back problems – such common ailments of our time.
Sit with your back straight, and your right leg bent over your left leg. Your knees are stacked on top of each other.
- Bring your right leg is over your left leg then Inhale and raise your right hand. Now bend your elbow.
- Bring your left arm out to the side and then behind your back to catch hold of the fingers of your right hand.
- Stay here and breathe.
- Now we repeat this on the other side, placing the left leg over the right leg and raising our left arm.
This asana oxygenates your body, energizes your mind and pumps all the stale oxygen out of your body. In Sanskrit, “kapalbhati” means “shining skull” so it gives you that beautiful yoga glow as well.
Come up on your palms and feet, pushing your hips up into the air.
- Your body should be in the shape of an inverted V.
- Your legs and arms should be straight and your body should be balanced.
- Don’t forget to breathe! Yoga is also about using your breath, so make yourself steady and comfortable in the asana.
*Begin by holding this asana for a minute. Then gradually build it up. You can do this at any time of the day or build it into your current fitness regime.
- Child’s Pose
Child’s pose is a deeply relaxing and rejuvenating asana which can reset and recharge your body and mind. It relaxes the legs, the back and the neck.
- Sitting in vajra asana, bring your head down on the floor in front of you.
- Your arms are on your sides. Your shoulders, neck and head should be relaxed.
- Add a twist to this by bringing your left arm out in front of you and your right arm underneath your head and to the left.
- Turn your head to the left so that your forehead is resting on the ground.
- Stay here, breathing and relaxing.
- Repeat the same on the other side
If you’re a passionate yoga practitioner, you’ve probably noticed the benefits of yoga. Maybe you’re sleeping better or getting fewer colds or just feeling more relaxed and at ease. But if you’ve ever tried telling a newbie about the benefits of yoga, you might find that explanations like “It increases the flow of prana” or “It brings energy up your spine” fall on deaf or skeptical ears.
Researchers Are Catching On to Yoga’s Benefits
As it happens, Western science is starting to provide some concrete clues as to how yoga works to improve health, heal aches and pains, and keep sickness at bay. Once you understand them, you’ll have even more motivation to step onto your mat, and you probably won’t feel so tongue-tied the next time someone wants Western proof.
First-Hand Experience With the Benefits of Yoga
I myself have experienced yoga’s healing power in a very real way. Weeks before a trip to India in 2002 to investigate yoga therapy, I developed numbness and tingling in my right hand. After first considering scary things like a brain tumor and multiple sclerosis, I figured out that the cause of the symptoms was thoracic outlet syndrome, a nerve blockage in my neck and chest.
Despite the uncomfortable symptoms, I realized how useful my condition could be during my trip. While visiting various yoga therapy centers, I would submit myself for evaluation and treatment by the various experts I’d arranged to observe. I could try their suggestions and see what worked for me. While this wasn’t exactly a controlled scientific experiment, I knew that such hands-on learning could teach me things I might not otherwise understand.
“…for more than a year, I’ve been free of symptoms.”
My experiment proved illuminating. At the Vivekananda ashram just outside of Bangalore, S. Nagarathna, M.D., recommended breathing exercises in which I imagined bringing prana (vital energy) into my right upper chest. Other therapy included asana, Pranayama, meditation, chanting, lectures on philosophy, and various kriya (internal cleansing practices). At the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai and from A.G. Mohan and his wife, Indra, who practice just outside of Chennai, I was told to stop practicing Headstand and Shoulderstand in favor of gentle asana coordinated with the breath. In Pune, S.V. Karandikar, a medical doctor, recommended practices with ropes and belts to put traction on my spine and exercises that taught me to use my shoulder blades to open my upper back.