Contrary to popular belief, the idea of having a day to commemorate yoga was only recently conceived, in 2015, at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGC). Our Prime Minister, in yet another effort to preserve and spread Indian values, suggested 21st June as the day to celebrate the significance of yoga since it is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Inevitably, International Yoga Day caught on fire in these 4 years, effectively educating more and more people about the benefits of the practice.
Yoga has innumerable positive effects on the lives of those who practice it regularly. In the contemporary world, people swear by yoga as an apt form of fitness because it balances out our mental and physical health, thereby expanding our sense of self-consciousness.
If you aren’t already a yogi, it’s never too late to start! In fact, your body will adjust to aasanas faster than any other form of exercise. Our ancient Indian traditional practices have made sure that yoga is as true to our natural processes as can be.
There are three ground rules you should follow before starting out.
The first is – do everything slowly. Even if you’re standing up from a floor position, first turn on your side and slowly lift your body up. Once you’ve been doing this for a while, you’ll realise that every time you make a jerky movement, your body reacts negatively. Soon, you’ll automatically incorporate this into your daily life, and your joints will thank you when you’re 60.
The second – count your breaths. Unlike most other forms of exercise, yoga stresses on focusing your breaths. A single breathe in and breathe out should be taken as one count. And drawing from the previous rule, breathe in and out slowly, the way you would when you are in a completely relaxed state of mind.
The third is the simplest but also the most important – keep your eyes closed. This helps you feel every movement that you make intensely, keeping you conscious and aware at all times.
Here are some simple and effective yoga aasanas, that you can start doing yourself this International Yoga Day.
Shavasana: The Corpse Pose
This aasana requires you to simply lie down, face up, hands and legs slightly spread, and relax your body and mind. This should be done at the beginning and end of every practice and held for at least 10 minutes. It does not just prevent all the sores one might sustain while exercising (hear, hear- gym freaks!), but also helps your body regenerate from the stress of being active all day.
Parvatasana: The Seated Mountain Pose
This one’s for you if you constantly have a backache. It stretches the muscles around your spinal cord, shoulder to waist, relieving stress in the area. It’s also a great healing aasana if you have respiratory issues. It’s a sitting position aasana, which requires you to simply sit cross-legged with your hands together and raised above your head.
Kativakrasana: The Twisting Pose
Another lying down exercise, this works on your back muscles as well. It releases the tension in your lower back, you might even hear a little pop when you’ve your body twisted all the way. This aasana is performed lying down. Fold both your legs and bring your heels close to your hips. Now let them fall (slowly) on one side and turn your head in the opposite side. Stretch out your arms on both sides, and hold for 5-10 breaths.
Vakrasana: The Half Spinal Twist Pose
While we’re on the back (and let’s admit it, our desk jobs make our backs pretty sore and stiff), this twist pose works on your lower and upper back and neck. Done in the sitting position, this aasana is performed with one leg outstretched, and one folded. Lift up one hand and bring it to the outer side of the folded leg. Now bring the other hand behind, near the hips, and place your palm on the mat facing outward. Now turn your back as far as it can go comfortably. Count 5-10 breaths as per your capacity, and slowly return to your regular sitting position.
Brahmamudra: The Head Turn Pose
As simple as it sounds, Brahmamudra can be done anywhere, even on your office chair or while travelling. It helps keep your neck muscles flexible and de-stresses the tip of your spinal cord. Simply look forward, close your eyes and turn your head slowly to one side. Hold the position for 5-10 seconds and bring it back to the first position. Repeat the same exercise on the other side, to the front and to the back.
Vajrasana: Thunderbolt Pose
The posture is not actually as dramatic as the literal translation. It’s one of the simplest but most effective positions. Lay out your legs in the sitting position and slowly fold them in, heels together and toes touching near your buttocks. Straighten your back, place your palms on your knees and relax. You may want to practice this after a guilt heavy meal; it’s an extremely effective way to digest your food.
Swastikasana: The ‘to be’ Pose
This is the most basic form of the meditation pose, where you sit cross-legged, with palms at the end of your knees and fingers in a mudra, thumbs touching the tips of your index fingers. Remember to stay relaxed and make sure that no part of your body is stressed or aching. Breathe in deeply and evenly. Once completed, you’ll notice a shift in your state of mind.
As is evident, starting off with yoga is as simple as can be! Once you’ve mastered these, you can move on to those aasanas that require some more practice and flexibility.
So this IYD, go on, dust off your yoga mat and start your practice! We promise that it will only make your life better.