International Yoga Day 2022 (June 21) is just round the corner, and it’s the perfect occasion to incorporate a healthy Yoga routine into your lifestyle. As we all know how Yoga could work wonders for our physical and mental health, but it is certainly not a magic pill and to reap all its benefits, one needs to practice it with consistency. Among the first changes that you would notice in yourself when you begin Yoga is that you will start to have better flexibility and strength. You would notice that many pains and aches that troubled you on a daily basis are going away. Yoga helps build flexibility, stamina, balance, and strength.
While many of us start the yoga practice for fitness, it could be beneficial for our mental health too.
“Ever notice how good you feel—mentally—when you’re practising yoga regularly? When you do yoga, your brain cells develop new connections, and changes occur in brain structure as well as function, resulting in improved cognitive skills, such as learning and memory. Yoga strengthens parts of the brain that play a key role in memory, attention, awareness, thought, and language. Think of it as weightlifting for the brain,” says Divya Rolla, Yoga and Meditation lead, Cultfit.
Meditation can also help regulate your emotions and improve reasoning, decision-making, learning among other things. “Meditation also reduces activity in the limbic system—the part of the brain dedicated to emotions. As your emotional reactivity diminishes, you have a more thought through response when faced with stressful situations. Research also shows that yoga and meditation may improve executive functions, such as reasoning, decision making, memory, learning, reaction time, and accuracy on tests of mental ability,” says the Yoga expert.
Yoga also makes us happier and more content. “The calming effects of yoga practice that many speak about can all be linked to a common mechanism – the Vagus Nerve. The Vagus nerve connects the brain (and hence the mind) to the body. From the base of the brain, the vagus nerve forms connections to – facial muscles, heart, lungs, digestive tract, kidneys and reproductive organs,” says Rolla.
A regular holistic yoga practice includes all 3 – meditation, breathing, and the performing yoga postures (asanas) – tones the vagal nerve. Even a short practice of yoga for 10-15 minutes daily can leave us feeling more content and happy.
Divya Rolla, Yoga expert, suggests 60-minute practise which encompasses a healthy mix of asana, pranayama and meditation:
Before starting the practise, please remember with each pose, go at your own pace. Ensure you focus on doing the posture right, rather than how deep you go into it. You can repeat each pose as many times as you like, as long as it doesn’t feel too difficult or painful for your body. And most important remember to breathe and relax into each pose and do not spring in and out of them. Do the whole practice mindfully.
Let’s start off with the Surya Namaskar, which is an ancient ritual of twelve steps that warms up the body preparing it for yoga practice. That is why it is practised at the beginning of a yoga class. It allows for “opening” of the body as it stretches, strengthens and lengthens all muscle groups.
The Surya Namaskar stimulates prana, life force energy through the body helping to regulate our mental and physical faculties. It is hence a complete practice in itself when done with good alignment and if attention is paid to the breathing practice throughout.
Before a strong asana practice, I recommend doing 6-9 rounds of a Surya Namaskar that you are comfortable with, depending on how stiff your body is feeling.
After the Surya Namaskar, we move on to the Asana practise which will ensure that the whole body, both physical and physiological is addressed:
Asana Sequence – Hold every posture listed below for at least ten deep breaths, focusing on alignment and deep breaths. Release into the pose with every exhalation.
· Supta Padangusthasana A + B + C (Repeated two times each on both sides with the help of a strap)
· Utthita Trikonasana (Repeat two times)
· Parivrtta Trikonasana
· Virabhadrasana 2
· Utthita Parsvakonasana (Repeat two times)
· Parivrtta Parsvakonasana
· Prasarita Padottanasana C (Repeat two times)
· Sarpasana (Repeat two times)
· Shalabasana (Repeat two times)
· Ushtrasana (Repeat twice—once with palms on a block and the second time the complete posture)
· Gomukhasana (Use a strap if you cannot interlock your fingers at the back)
· Parivrtta Janu Shirshasana
· Upavistha Konasana
· Ardha Matyendrasn
· Supta Virasana
· Savasana (For at least 8 mins)
Post the Savasana one can do a simple pranayama to balance the breath and calm the mind. 7-9 rounds of Anuloma Viloma or Alternate Nostril Breathing can be done post which enjoy sitting still for 2-3 minutes before finishing the practise.
“Always remember the key is never quantity or the number of hours you practise, it is just about consistently choosing to get on to your mat daily, even if it is for just 20 minutes. Stay healthy, stay inspired and peace out,” concludes the Divya Rolla.