Get uber-flexible with these yoga poses
In yoga, flexibility is associated with health and youth. Even the stiffest bodies can reach new levels of flexibility through regular practice of certain poses.
While attempting flexibility enhancing poses, however, it is essential to warm up sufficiently. You may do a gentle round of pawan muktasana series or you may attempt some rounds of stamina-building sun salutations or surya namaskars.
In yoga, flexibility enhancing poses are used to work the joints, make the muscles supple and rubbery so they naturally protect you from injury as well as become energy-efficient, and remain youthfully agile. Joints are serviced by these poses while the muscles supporting and surrounding them become stronger, sharing the load placed on the joints.
Also, a sense of joy and child-like playfulness, which most adults lose much soon, are revived in one's exercise regimen when such challenging poses are introduced into one's yoga practice. Thus the overall emotional impact of such poses is enormous.
Shameem Akthar, yoga acharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, demonstrates four poses to help you reach new levels of flexibility.
Catch more of Shameem's yoga writings or upcoming workshops from http://jaisivananda.blogspot.com
(This column only seeks to share the author's enthusiasm towards yoga. Yoga is best learnt under expert guidance.)
Photographs: Jahnavi Sheriff
Gomukh asana (Cowface pose)
Sit on the ground, folding your legs at the knees. Pass your right leg over the left, and adjust your knees so that the right knee is directly over the left one. Now inhale, passing your right hand behind to grasp your left behind your back. Hold the pose, as you look ahead. Breath normally. Relax back to starting position, and repeat the sequence for the opposite side.
Points to note: The legs may not fold up one over another for beginners who need to do it regularly to achieve sufficient flexibility. Some people will also find that holding the hands behind the back is often difficult, particularly the left side for right-handers. But that too is achieved after a few weeks of regular practice. Attempt the pose up to the level you can, gradually builing up over a few weeks.
Benefits: It is a complete body work-out, used as therapy in many ailments. It boosts breath capacity, ups the mood, releases emotional tension.
Ardha padma janu sirsasana (Half lotus in head-to-toe pose)
Sit on the ground. Extend your left leg. Fold your right leg, placing your right foot high on your left thigh as shown. Press your right knee down to the ground. Now inhale. Exhaling bend your torso forward, reaching your hands out to grasp your left foot as shown. Your head should touch your left thigh, but this may be achieved only after a few weeks of regular practice. While holding the final pose, continue breathing normally. Release and repeat for opposite side.
Benefits: The pressure on the stomach massages the pancreas, helping with diabetes control. Develops flexibility. Enhances mental focus. Is calming. Helps treat skin and hair-fall problems.
Shroni chakra (Hip rotating pose)
Sit on the ground. Extend or fold your left leg. Fold your right leg at the knee and it up, as shown, with both hands in a light hug. Then rock the folded leg sideways gently, so your hips loosen up. Ensure your right knee remains up, and does not droop. Continue normal breathing throughout.
Benefits: Same as the previous pose. Prepares you for advanced flexibility poses.
Akarna dhanurasana (Bow-and-arrow pose)
Sit on the floor, with your legs extended. Reach out to hold your right big toe with your right hand. Drag it gently towards your right ear. Then extend your left hand to touch your left food.
Continue breathing normally throughout.
Benefits: Provides marvelous suppleness. Works the uro-genital region. Affects mood positively. Develops focus.