Lifestyle Yoga

How To: Ardha Matsyendrasana

May 10, 2020

Done with some reflection, this pose helps yogis discover blocks in their bodies and in their lives.  You will be able to look at your present and future without the fog of the past clouding your vision.  you will experience clearer vision and perception. (Beyond Asanas, p 33)

In Beyond Asanas I wrote about the Ardha Matsyendrasana in Chapter 6.  Ardha Matsyendrasana literally means Half Lord of the Fish Pose.  Read more about Matsyendranath in the book and find out about the man who learned yoga from Lord Shiva himself.

Benefits of Ardha Matsyendrasana
  • Stimulates your digestive system.
  • Stretches the shoulders, chest, arms and spine.
  • Reduces lower back ache.
  • Trims the excess fat from the sides.
  • Helps us realize that everything that has been ‘twisted’ can be untwisted.

 

Most students focus on the twisting aspect of this posture, but I would encourage you to focus more on the chest expansion.  If you feel that your breathing is labored when you’re in this asana, it means you need to work a little more on opening up the thoracic spine.  If you continue to practice the Ardha Matsyendrasana in this manner, you’re adding stress to an already tight spine.  Find out which variation works best for you in the below video:

 

Participate in our Work From Home Challenge this entire month and win a giveaway at the end of the challenge.  Download our practice tracker and asana sequence below:

Download Practice Tracker

Download Yoga Sequence

 

 

For more information go to:

Medha Bhaskar: https://www.instagram.com/medha.bhaskar/

Amrutha Bindu Yoga: https://www.amruthabindu.com/

Pragya Bhatt: https://www.instagram.com/yogawithpragya/

Lifestyle Yoga

How To: Janu Sirsasana

May 8, 2020

Janu means the knee.  Sirsa is the head.  In this posture sit with one leg stretched out on the ground and the other bent at the knee. (Light on Yoga, p148)

The Janu Sirsasana is my go-to pose when I want to do a more restorative and relaxing practice.  In fact, Geeta Iyengar has included it as an important asana for women during menstruation (Yoga: A Gem for Women).  This is because not only does this posture help to relax the mind, but it also helps to soothe feelings of restlessness and irritability.

Other benefits of the Janu Sirsasana include:

  • Relieving chronic headaches and migraines.
  • Helps to relax the eyes and the mind.
  • Reduces menstrual cramps.
  • Regulates menstrual flow.
  • Gives a great stretch to the hamstrings and calves.
  • Stimulates digestive organs.

Janu sirsasana is usually practiced daily by most practitioners.  I personally prefer a supported janu sirsasana so I use practicing it with props.  There are many different ways you can use props to make this asana feel more relaxing.  Watch this video to see how to do that.

 

Participate in our Work From Home Challenge this entire month and win a giveaway at the end of the challenge.  Download our practice tracker and asana sequence below:

Download Practice Tracker

Download Yoga Sequence

 

 

For more information go to:

Medha Bhaskar: https://www.instagram.com/medha.bhaskar/

Amrutha Bindu Yoga: https://www.amruthabindu.com/

Pragya Bhatt: https://www.instagram.com/yogawithpragya/

Lifestyle Yoga

How To: Ustrasana

May 7, 2020

 

Back bends have never come easy for me.  I’ve struggled with them since the time I started practicing yoga.  Every time I feel I’ve made some headway, I return to practice the next day and realize that was probably just a figment of my imagination.

The key to progress in yogasana is consistent practice.  The key to progress in back bending is safe consistent practice.  I’ve injured myself many times thinking that I should just ‘push through the pain’. I now wish I had taken the time to understand the anatomy of the spine and even focused on basic fundamental movements rather than being in a mad rush to conquer the more difficult asanas.

In retrospect I would have made my daily practice more introspective.  How far can I push myself?  Am I pushing myself enough?  Is this a physical or a mental roadblock?  Am I doing my best to extend the spine?  Am I trying to proactively understand the pain, or letting my teacher do the work to figure it out?  Am I trying my best to make progress, or repeating old patterns?

When we understand ourselves, we know what we need.  Once we know what we need, we can work towards achieving it.  This way, we can take care of ourselves.  (Beyond Asanas, p 131)

Benefits of Ushtrasana
  • Stimulates and massages the thyroid gland.
  • Strengthens and stretches the back, shoulders and arms.
  • Expands and brings flexibility to the chest so the practitioner’s breathing becomes smoother.
  • Tones the abdominal organs.
  • Reduces menstrual cramps.
  • Improves posture and problems of curvature of the back.

(The above benefits taken from my book Beyond Asanas: The Myths and Legends Behind Yogic Postures.)

Participate in our Work From Home Challenge this entire month and win a giveaway at the end of the challenge.  Download our practice tracker and asana sequence below:

Download Practice Tracker

Download Yoga Sequence

 

 

For more information go to:

Medha Bhaskar: https://www.instagram.com/medha.bhaskar/

Amrutha Bindu Yoga: https://www.amruthabindu.com/

Pragya Bhatt: https://www.instagram.com/yogawithpragya/

Lifestyle Yoga

How To: Viparita Virbhadrasana

May 6, 2020

The Viparita Virbhdrasana is an asana that I haven’t explored too much as it’s rarely practiced in classes I attend.  As a result, I don’t teach it very much either.  In fact, I wasn’t even sure of the Sanskrit name for this posture before Medha enlightened me.

 

In a practice which has three different versions of the Warrior posture, why would there be a pose called ‘reverse’ warrior.  What does it signify?  Is there a deeper meaning?

 

The most common problem I see when students practice the Virbhadrasana 2 is the tendency to lean the torso forward, towards the leg which is bent and turned out.  But we need to try to keep the chest open and expanded, just like a brave warrior. The way I like to explain it to my students is that a warrior needs to protect himself and in the battlefield is surrounded on all sides by the enemy.  If he leans too much to the front, he won’t be vigilant about the danger that could be lurking behind him.  Therefore, it’s important to keep a long and strong torso, even as one leg is bent to the side.  The Viparita Virbhadrasana helps to correct the tendency to lean forward.

Benefits of the Viparita Virbhadrasana:

  • Great to stretch and lengthen the sides of the torso.
  • Opens the hips, groin and sides of the body.
  • Expands the torso, enabling better breathing.
  • Strengthens the legs.

Watch the video below for pointers for this asana.

Participate in our Work From Home Challenge this entire month and win a giveaway at the end of the challenge.  Download our practice tracker and asana sequence below:

Download Practice Tracker

Download Yoga Sequence

 

For more information go to:

Medha Bhaskar: https://www.instagram.com/medha.bhaskar/

Amrutha Bindu Yoga: https://www.amruthabindu.com/

Pragya Bhatt: https://www.instagram.com/yogawithpragya/

Lifestyle Yoga

The Up Dog and Down Dog Transition

May 5, 2020

I’ve written about the importance of transitions in a previous blog.  The up dog to down dog transition is perhaps one of the most famous transitions in the yoga practice.

In taking care of the spine it is also important to perform dynamic movements.  Although the spine supports the body, it also needs support from other muscles to work optimally.  If your abdominal muscles and sides are weak, the load of the entire torso is borne by your spine and this leads to compression of the back and back pain. This eventually leads to disc bulges, slipped disc etc.

Back pain can be prevented by keeping the spine supple and flexible.  Moving the spine from a concave to convex position i.e curving it in and out – is an excellent way to keep the vertebrae well conditioned and strong.

Adhomukha Svanasana

Adhomukha means face downward in Sanskrit.  Svana means dog.  There are many different ways of practicing this posture.  Sometimes with heels lifted up, other times with the toes lifted.  Sometimes with feet together, sometimes wide apart.  Sometimes with heels against a wall, sometimes with the hands against the wall.  Each variation has its own distinct benefit.

Benefits of Adhomukha Svanasana
  • Provides great relaxation to the body and mind.
  • Makes the shoulders and shoulder blades more flexible.
  • Great to tone and strengthen the legs.
  • Rejuvenates the entire body.
  • Stimulates blood flow to the brain and helps to relieve anxiety and depression.
  • Reduces lower backache.

 

 

It is advisable not to hold this posture for long periods of time when you are menstruating.  However, those with heavy and uncomfortable menses will benefit greatly by practicing this posture between their cycles.

 

Urdhvamukha Svanasana

Benefits of Urdhvamukha Svanasana
  • Great to ease a stiff neck.
  • Rejuvenates the spine.
  • Great for those with sciatica, slipped or prolapsed discs.
  • Strengthens the spine.
  • Expands the chest, so enables better breathing.
  • Keeps the pelvic region healthy.

 

[Practice Tip] For beginners to yoga this posture is a challenge.  Most of us tend to collapse the shoulders and chest, and this puts a lot of strain on the shoulders and neck.  To prevent this, push your hands more strongly into the floor, making sure your fingers are spread wide apart.  Then elevate the chest up and forward.

Watch this video to understand the finer points of this transition.

 

 

Participate in our Work From Home Challenge this entire month and win a giveaway at the end of the challenge.  Download our practice tracker and asana sequence below:

Download Practice Tracker

Download Yoga Sequence

 

 

For more information go to:

Medha Bhaskar: https://www.instagram.com/medha.bhaskar/

Amrutha Bindu Yoga: https://www.amruthabindu.com/

Pragya Bhatt: https://www.instagram.com/yogawithpragya/

Lifestyle Yoga

Supta Marichyasana – Reclining Spinal Twist

May 3, 2020

Marichi means ray of light.  The story of Sage Marichi goes back to the creation of the universe. (Beyond Asanas: The Myths and Legends Behind Yogic Postures, Pragya Bhatt)

Before I begin writing a blog, I like to research the topic a little more.  Surprisingly, there is very little information for this asana online.  Which is ironic because the Supta Marichyasana is practiced widely as a closing posture in yoga classes all over the world.  In writing this blog I had to look at my own experience with the posture and I also asked Medha for hers.  My introduction to this asana was through Baba Ramdev’s yog shivirs, where he endorses this asana as a great way to trim excess fat from the sides.

However, thousands of hours of asana practice later, I would say it’s power lies in its ability to gently stretch the spine, the lower back, the shoulders and the sides of your body all at one go.  Just a couple of years ago it was impossible for my knee to rest on the floor, my shoulders would lift off of the floor, I wouldn’t be able to breathe and it would hurt to push my knee down!

Over the years I’ve found that the key lies in the abdomen and the breath.  The breath must be long and steady and the abdomen relaxed.  Once this is in place it becomes easier for the body to sink into the posture.  Watch this video for more pointers on how to do this asana safely.

 

Benefits of the Supta Marichyasana:

  • Helps to reduce lower backache.
  • Reduces stiffness on the neck and shoulders.
  • Great to keep the spine supple and flexible.
  • Increases blood circulation to the abdominal organs.
  • Gently massages the digestive organs thereby improving digestion.
  • Improves flexibility of the hip, knees and ankles.

 

When to avoid this asana:

  • Menstruation.
  • If you’ve recently had abdominal surgery.
  • When you’re recovering from a back injury.

 

Participate in our Work From Home Challenge this entire month and win a giveaway at the end of the challenge.  Download our practice tracker and asana sequence below:

Download Practice Tracker

Download Yoga Sequence

 

 

For more information go to:
Medha Bhaskar: https://www.instagram.com/medha.bhaskar/
Amrutha Bindu Yoga: https://www.amruthabindu.com/
Pragya Bhatt: https://www.instagram.com/yogawithpragya/

Lifestyle Yoga

How To : Supta Padangushtasana

May 3, 2020

In Sanskrit, supta means ‘lying down’, pada means ‘”foot”, and angustha is the big toe.  (Yoga the Path to Holistic Health, BKS Iyengar)

 

Before I started practicing yoga regularly, back pain was something I dealt with frequently.  Whether because of poor posture or because of menstruation, it would just not go away.  Then I discovered the supta padangusthasana and back pain is now a thing of the past.  You can practice this any time and any where.  I sometimes practice this when I’m procrastinating or just too lazy to start a dynamic warm up.  Also, after a whole day of standing because this pose magically stretches out the tiredness.  When I have the luxury of time, I like to work with different variations of this posture while watching something interesting on TV!

 

The benefits  of the Supta Padangusthasana are:

  • Aligns the pelvic area thereby relieving backache.
  • Stretches the hamstrings and calf muscles.
  • Strengthens the knees and ankles.
  • Tones and relieves pain from the lower back and spine.
  • Relieves sciatic pain.
  • Helps in relieving menstrual pain. (However, don’t practice this while you”re menstruating.)

While the picture above depicts the classical asana, I prefer practicing with props.  The below video demonstrates how you can make this asana work better for you with the use of a few props.

 

Participate in our Work From Home Challenge this entire month and win a giveaway at the end of the challenge.  Download our practice tracker and asana sequence below:

Download Practice Tracker

Download Yoga Sequence

 

 

For more information go to:
Medha Bhaskar: https://www.instagram.com/medha.bhaskar/
Amrutha Bindu Yoga: https://www.amruthabindu.com/
Pragya Bhatt: https://www.instagram.com/yogawithpragya/

Yoga

Supta Baddhakonasana

May 3, 2020

This is a very restful asana that can be practiced even by those who have had bypass surgery. It gently massages the heart and helps open blocked arteries. The pose also improves blood circulation in the abdomen, massaging and toning the abdominal organs.

This is a very restful asana that can be practiced even by those who have had bypass surgery. It gently massages the heart and helps open blocked arteries. The pose also improves blood circulation in the abdomen, massaging and toning the abdominal organs. (Yoga The Path to Holistic Health, BKS Iyengar)

 

The first posture for the Work From Home Yoga Challenge is the Supta Baddhakonasana or the Reclining Fixed Angle Pose. We know the Badhakonasana as the Butterfly posture.  The most common way to practice it is to ‘flap the wings’ of the butterfly.  While that is a good way to increase the flexibility of your hips and thighs, if done too vigorously it might lead to injury.

You’ve spent a lot of time sitting today.  Whether it’s to work or to watch some Netflix, you’ve probably slouched your way through the day.  Sitting for long periods compresses the spine and leads to tightness in the groin.  This tightness then manifests as a dull throbbing pain in the lower back and tight hips.

The benefits of the Supta Baddhakonasana are:

  • Relieves lower backache.
  • Relieves varicose veins and sciatica.
  • Provides relief from menstrual pain.
  • Helps to regulate blood pressure by relaxing the body.
  • Helps improve blood circulation in the abdomen and abdominal organs.
  • Helps to manage indigestion.

Watch the video to understand how you can use simple props to make the posture more beneficial to you. Pay close attention the positioning of the belt and block, else the posture will be uncomfortable for you.

 

 

For more information go to:
Medha Bhaskar: https://www.instagram.com/medha.bhaskar/
Amrutha Bindu Yoga: https://www.amruthabindu.com/
Pragya Bhatt: https://www.instagram.com/yogawithpragya/

Yoga

Working From Home? This Yoga Sequence is For You.

May 2, 2020

They say “sitting-is-the-new-smoking”, and we’ve been doing a lot of that recently. In the last two months, our imposed lifestyle has started to take a toll on us.  Our social isolation, and inability to go out and do things that keep us healthy and active further compound the problem.

And while intense-work load and  stress seems like the main culprit when it comes to health and well-being, there’s another danger that often goes unnoticed: Sitting.

Sitting for hours can contribute to tightness in the hips and legs, in addition to neck, shoulder and back pain and discomfort. Camping out all day on a sofa or a bed, can also create an unhealthy posture in which the back and shoulders hunch down and the neck protrudes forward. The main casualty though is the blood circulation, which leaves aches, pains and disorientation in its wake.

Yoga can be an effective antidote to many of these work-from-home woes. Asanas work entirely on the hips, shoulders and spine – effectively releasing tension and tightness causing by faulty movement patterns. What’s more, yoga is a mind-body practice, which enables us to tap into the calmness between the mental chatter, helping us gain perspective.

I’m doing this challenge in collaboration with Medha Bhaskar from Amrutha Bindu Yoga.  Our last challenge was a huge success and we decided to make this one bigger and better.  This time we’ve curated a “Work-from-Home” Yoga sequence that will help to loosen your joints, free your back and minimize your discomfort throughout the day, making it easier for you to focus on work. This sequence, in particular, works entirely on keeping your spine supple and ready and your mind, sharp.

This sequence is also for anyone and everyone who wants to adopt yoga into their daily routine. For beginners, we’ve put together a series of resources: blogs, videos and a printable version of the sequence that they can look at and practice. These resources describe how to do each asana and has many alignment cues, teacher tips and other fun titbits about the asanas. We welcome you to take a look, and follow along as you practice.

Daily practice is challenging, sometimes even for yoga teachers. In order to promote the habit of yoga practice, we have a downloadable practice  tracker that you can use for the month of May. In this document, you will also find some post-practice reflection questions, in order to make the practice more mindful. 

The fun part about this sequence is that it is a month-long Yoga Challenge. Practice every day and share your trackers with us on social media at the end of the month. If you complete the challenge, we will send you a recording of yoga-nidra that you can use to further your practice.

 

PRACTICE TRACKER

You can print out the practice sequence+tracker, if you prefer to see and do the asanas, and place it where you’re likely to see it, be it your practice space, your dresser, your bathroom mirror, in front of your desk etc.  It’s a reminder to you that all of us need a little help with our yoga practice.  

Over the next few blogs, we’re going to be discussing each asana of the Work from Home sequence at length, giving you new insight into them.

You can download the practice tracker here.  Download

And the yoga sequence here. Download

Please reach out to Medha or me with your queries and we will help! We’re incredibly excited about this sequence and hope it really makes a difference to your work-days.

 

 

 

Teacher in Focus Yoga

Teacher in Focus: Vinay Jesta

April 9, 2020

I met Vinay at a dinner organized by someone in the yoga grapevine here in Bangalore.  During dinner I found out that like me, he used to work for Accenture too, and eventually decided to follow his passion.

Vinay also practices acro yoga and is India’s only level 2 certified acro yoga teacher.  His personal practice consists of hatha/vinyasa yoga 4 times a week with some yin yoga thrown in 1-2 times a week.  He does yoga nidra/meditation daily

Vinay studied yoga in school with his parents too at home but never with strong focus on asana.  He cultivated an interest in asana as he grew up and become more interested in learning more about the body how it functions and exploring its capabilities.  This also helped bring stillness to the mind.

Although hatha/vinyasa is his primary style or practice and teaching, he continues to explore different styles every now and then.

Find out more on https://www.vinayjestayoga.com/.  Don’t miss the awesome videos on the site.