“Words fail to express the total value of yoga. It has to be experienced.” ~ B.K.S. Iyenger
A ballad with eternal music and perennial flow, yoga is an art form which requires commitment to the self, for the self & through the self. Practicing yoga regularly requires dedication, inclination and aptitude. It is an experience to be lived and felt.
But yoga is never love at first sight or in this case in the first class. Just like a relationship, it needs regularity, communication, patience and loyalty. From third or fourth class, it would grow on you and after 10th class, yoga will consume you.
A committed relationship is what I would say, starts to build. However, in order to reach to the 10th class, we have to start with the first.
Here is a list of 8 asanas (body postures) for freshers to ignite the yogic passion, enjoy this beginner’s lesson in yoga ~
1) Palm tree pose:
A grounding pose, Palm tree posture or Tadasana forms the foundation for many advance postures to follow. Activating the nervous system, it helps in achieving better posture, opening the lungs and strengthening the whole body.
How to: Stand with the feet shoulder width apart and raise the arms above your head. Interlock the fingers with palms facing the ceiling. Now fix the gaze at one point, squeak the abdomen, lift the rib cage and heels up. Stay here for 5 breaths and slowly come down. Repeat 2-3 times in the beginning to prepare the body.
Contraindications: People suffering from head ache, low BP and insomnia should avoid this posture.
2) Hand to Foot pose:
Padahasthasana or standing forward bend pose, works deeply on the legs, it opens up the hamstrings, tones the abdomen, increases flow of the blood to the brain and face (inverted), stretches the spine etc. It is also repeated twice in each Surya Namaskar round.
How to: A great beginner’s pose, start with bringing your feet together and arms on your side. Bring the back forward to 90 degrees, slowly try and touch the hands to the feet first (depends on your flexibility, go slow if you can’t do it initially).
Once the feet touches the ground, only then put the hands underneath the feet and go all the way down. Slowly try to bend the elbows 90 degrees outside. One can also micro bend their knees initially. This is a step-by-step process. Work on one level first and after a few days move towards the second.
Contraindications: People suffering from severe back pain, high BP, heart ailments & hernia should avoid this pose.
3) Plank pose:
Chaturanga Dandasana, is another beginner pose, essential in Ashtanga Yoga and also forms part of the sequence in Surya Namaskar. It is useful in toning the entire body including abdominal muscles and lower back, building arm strength, core strength, wrist flexibility and spinal balance.
How to: Starting with forward bend, gently take one leg back straight followed by the other. Now bring the shoulder just above the wrist. First with elbows straight, this is a high plank. Now, gently bend the elbows to 90 degrees and shoulder a little ahead to come in a low plank.
The hands should be firmly placed with fingers spread & body weight on the toes. The whole body will now be one straight line without dropping the belly. Hold for 10-30 seconds, and then lower your body all the way to the mat and rest.
Contraindications: People suffering from wrist, shoulder or elbow injuries and pregnant women should avoid this pose. If you do not have the strength to do the pose in proper alignment, practice Half Chaturanga where your knees touch the ground.
4) Downward Dog:
Adho mukha svasana is an integral posture in Sun salutations (Surya namaskars) and in Ashtanga Vinayasa. It’s named after the way dogs naturally stretch their entire body. A semi inverted pose, it strengthens the upper body, builds bone density, reduces stress, increases the flow of blood to the brain, boosts the immune system and reduces stiffness in back.
Regular practice of this pose can improve digestion, relieve back pain, and help prevent osteoporosis. It is also known to be therapeutic for sinusitis, asthma, flat feet, and for the symptoms of menopause.
How to: Come in plank pose, as described above and now lift the hips up towards the ceiling. The body will make an inverted ‘V’. Bring the gaze on the navel centre and make sure the fingers are separate & pressed on the floor. This pose is all about upper body strength, so the shoulders are not to be scrunched towards the ears but relaxed.
Contraindications: People suffering from high BP, pregnant women (third trimester), shoulder, wrist & back injuries should not perform this posture.
5) Cobra pose:
Bhujangasana a back bend is a snake-shaped pose. It is useful in alleviating back pain, building arm strength, toning the upper body, reducing weight, improves blood circulation and reduces fatigue and stress.
How to: Lie on your stomach with your toes flat on the floor and forehead resting on the ground. Bring your hands close to your body near the chest, with elbows sticking to the chest area. Spread the fingers, even out the weight, rotate the shoulders back and lift the torso up as you inhale. Remember, the elbows should bend in 90 degrees and stick to the chest. Stay here for 5 breaths, come down and relax, repeat again.
Contraindications: People suffering from back, wrist & shoulder injury, pregnant women or recent abdominal operations should avoid this.
6) Warrior I:
Virabhadrasana-I, it lives up to its name. Just like a warrior has strong, toned body, a broad chest with high lung capacity, shoulder strength and a confident personality. This posture bestows similar benefits – it strengthens the arms, shoulders, thighs and back muscles, all in one go.
How to: Beginning in a high lunge, bring one leg forward and bend the knee perpendicular to the floor. The bent knee should be in line with the toe and not ahead of it. The foot of the leg ahead should point straight whereas the leg behind should be 45-60 degrees facing.
Right leg in line with the left, raise both hands above the head and make a Namaste mudra from the hands. Lastly arch the back a little to create space in the chest & look up.
Contraindications: People suffering from high BP, heart ailments, hip, and ankle injury should avoid this pose. Also, students with neck injuries should not look up.
7) Cat pose:
Every animal has something to teach us in Yoga. Like Marjariasana, a deep back bend that incorporates the feline stretch in your yoga practice. Cat pose is responsible for making the spine flexible, strong and active. It reduces extra flesh from the abdomen and back, improves digestion, as well as blood circulation.
How to: Come into a table top format with hands perpendicular, underneath shoulders & in line with the legs. Also, the hip and legs should be in one line. Now, inhale deeply and look up while you create an arch in your back & raise the hips up. Hold here for 2-3 seconds. Exhale, scrunch the back looking down & bring the hip down.
Contraindications: People suffering from neck injuries should make sure that their head and torso is in one line.
8) Corpse pose:
Savasana, just like most asanas, justifies its name. It is a position of rest and relaxation, and is usually practiced towards the end of a yoga session to bring the body to a normal level. But unlike what we think it is, this is the hardest of all poses. A treasure bestowing a long range of benefits, calms the senses, reduces insomnia, blood pressure, increases concentration and great for meditation.
How to: Simply lying down is not the way to do it. Lie down flat on your back, with legs and feet 3 to 4 feet apart and palms facing upward. Now bend your knees again, fill the space between floor & back, by sliding just the back a bit down.
No movement is appreciated, but in case of discomfort one may move to get into the pose correctly. Keep your eyes closed and feel energised with each breath.
Contraindications: Pregnant women can use a pillow under their head. People suffering from back pain can bend their knees and keep a blanket under their lower back to fill the gap between floor and their back.
Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga. Be steady and easy in a posture, yoga is not about performing it right; it is an art of acceptance.
By accepting the self, showing patience and dedication, this treasure can be utilized to harness immense power& benefits. Practice is the way to this wealth. So roll out the mat, begin today or should I say stop, drop and yoga? Find your inspiration and work towards those goals.